One of the main reasons so many people opt to use WordPress (in the 12 years since it was released, WordPress has become the most popular CMS in the world, with 74.6 million sites depending on it in 2014) is the easy availability of readymade themes that can quickly and easily give a website a professional design.
But all theme providers were not created equal. While some are all about beautiful design, others are more focused on functionality, and while some can easily be tweaked by a relative WordPress novice, others require experienced developers to really get the best out of them.
Here, we compare five of the most popular WordPress theme providers so you can decide which one’s right for you.
WooThemes, one of the best known and most respected WordPress theme providers on the market, is great for people looking for functionality as its themes are some of the most feature-rich around. This means it’s easy to tweak the layout and, if you want a relatively simple website, you won’t need to install loads of plugins as most features you’re likely to need are already built into the theme.
If you are looking to create something a bit more complex like an e-commerce site, though, WooThemes is also a great option thanks to its industry-leading WooCommerce plugin, which is available for free and perfectly integrates into any WordPress website.
When it comes to themes, these vary in price from around $39-139 or you can bag the whole lot for $399.
ElegantThemes, which was launched in 2008 and has since grown to cater for more than 200,000 customers, is all about beautiful design. Think bold titles, high resolution graphics, unique fonts and easily changeable colour schemes.
But, while design is number one at ElegantThemes, functionality doesn’t lag too far behind; the themes options page, ePanel, allows users to customise their site according to their preferences, and is even relatively easy to use for complete WordPress newbies.
ElegantThemes is also one of the best value theme providers on the market, with access to all 87 of their themes starting from $69.
In contrast to ElegantThemes, design isn’t the top priority for the guys behind StudioPress, but it hasn’t been left behind either. In fact, we think StudioPress offers the best balance between form and functionality of all the top WordPress theme providers out there.
Not only are their themes, which are all built on the popular Genesis Framework, exceptionally functional and fully SEO optimised, they also boast striking, clean designs perfect for commercial websites.
StudioPress themes do come at a price, however (you need to buy the Genesis framework first, which is $59.95, and then a theme on top of that), and we’d recommend working with a Genesis specialist like Jo Waltham at CalliaWeb if you want to make any major tweaks to yours.
themeforest isn’t actually a theme provider, but a marketplace (the largest one on the net, no less) of WordPress premium themes. The problem with this is that, while there are some great themes on offer, many created by world-class WordPress developers, it’s hard to know which ones are good and which ones aren’t.
So, if you’re looking for something unusual or interesting with specialist or unique features or designs, themeforest is definitely worth a look, but we rarely recommend our corporate clients to go theme shopping here. It’s just a bit too risky.
Want to make your life really easy? WordPress.com itself offers a pretty good selection of Premium themes, although these are more suitable for blogs than business websites, as neither the design nor the functionality is on a par with providers like WooThemes, StudioPress or ElegantThemes.
If you’re just getting started out though, look no further! Prices range from around $50-80. There is one caveat, though – you’ll need to host your site on WordPress.com, which is great for blogs but we wouldn’t recommend it to our corporate clients because there are quite a few restrictions.