Top Tips for Picking Your Most Suitable Free WordPress Theme

3 April 2021Ashley Maxwell8 min read

Your first WordPress theme should be….ahem….free. Though it seems a little lackadaisical to make your first WordPress theme a free one, you need to consider the way your website is going to develop over the years. In short, you have no idea how it is going to develop and change over the years. You can probably count on one hand the websites that have started out with one design and one methodology and have kept the same one for the lifetime of the website. Here are just a few reasons why picking the most suitable free WordPress theme is your best option for just starting out with your website.

  • ‎Your website will change over the first few months, so there is no point in investing in a paid WordPress theme.
  • Trying out a variety of different “Free” WordPress themes helps you understand what your website needs and doesn’t need.
  • Testing different WordPress themes helps you learn the limitations of various WordPress themes.
  • You are a poor judge of paid WordPress templates before you have experience with a variety of themes.
  • You will need to change your theme based on how your website grows.
  • The stakes are lower during your website’s launch, so you have more room to change and improve.
  • Growing a website rarely means sticking with the first theme you buy.
  • You often need to try several WordPress themes before you decide upon the style you really want, there is no point in paying for a WordPress theme that doesn’t fit your overall brand message.

So, now that you have been convinced to at least try a few free WordPress themes, here are some tips on picking the most suitable WordPress theme.

A Fast WordPress Theme is Great – But Not Easy To Find

Experience is going to teach you not to trust online review websites that claim certain WordPress themes are faster than others. Firstly, in almost every case, the reviewer is being paid affiliate money or sponsorship money for promoting a certain WordPress theme. You can be almost guaranteed that whatever you read is going to be biased in a way that doesn’t suit your best interests.

Secondly, people rewrite articles like this all the time, and the first thing they do is go on Google and start rewriting the first articles they see. That is why certain themes seemed to have picked up this legendary status for being super fast when in fact they are pretty average.

Fast WordPress themes are also very difficult to find because in most cases, the fastest WordPress themes are the ones with the fewest tools and features. Let’s face it, a blank website is going to load pretty quickly. As evidenced by the Blank Canvas WordPress theme.

The blank canvas website theme

What’s more, there are a lot of factors that affect how fast a website runs, including off-page factors that you have little control over. There is a chance that a WordPress template that runs quickly for your friend’s website may run far slower for yours because you have different types of adverts, content, and/or traffic numbers.

The Google developers speed check tool is very good for telling you how quickly your website runs. You should give that a try when you are trying to figure out which WordPress theme runs the fastest for you. If you are having trouble deciphering the information that Google gives you, because it is a little technical in places, there are two tools that dumb it down a little for you. Those tools are Pingdom and GTMetrix. Be warned that they do offer free speed checks, but they want money for added features. Whereas the Google tool is completely free. Ergo, we at are not endorsing the paid tools, we are simply letting you know they exist and perhaps suggesting you try their free tools if you want a simplified version of the Google speed check results.

A Responsive WordPress Theme With Most of Its Features Unlocked

Modern WordPress themes are responsive. This means they will work just as well on mobile devices as they will on desktop devices. It seems like redundant advice telling you to pick a responsive WordPress theme, but there are still older themes on WordPress stores that are not responsive. Worse, are the ones that claim to be responsive, but actually force you to add separate content for your mobile users (usually these types of theme are pretty poorly reviewed on the WordPress stores, so check the one-star reviews on every theme before you download it).

Sadly, knowing which features are unlocked is always a case of trial and error. That is why picking a suitable free WordPress theme early in the game is a little easier. However, with that said, do have some content up and on your WordPress website before you start experimenting with themes. You will need to see what your content looks like after the WordPress theme has styled it. Once you have your free WordPress theme installed, try tailoring your content and your website to the way you like it. Soon, after a little tinkering, it will become apparent which website functions are missing and which are not.

Let’s say that you want a very deep social media integration, which means you want tens of different social media functions set up within your website. Yet, your free WordPress theme has only very basic social media functions. Before you pay for an upgrade, and before you give up on the WordPress theme, check to see if there are any free WordPress plugins that will do the job for you. In many cases, the functions you want within your website, such as carousel image galleries, can be found through plugins rather than through your website themes.

Become a Connoisseur of The One-Star Review

If you are trying to find a suitable free WordPress theme, then shop around. Spend quite a while on the WordPress store and enjoy yourself a little. Maybe create a shortlist of the themes you want to test. And, above all, check all the one-star reviews of every WordPress theme that is even a little bit interesting.

Ignore the positive reviews because you cannot be sure if they are paid for. Instead, look through the one-star reviews, and you will see a rainbow of WordPress template problems that you couldn’t have imagined. There are people complaining about themes that cannot be uninstalled, and people complaining about bait-and-switch deals, uncancellable demos, and website crashing bugs.

Obviously, you cannot take every negative review seriously. It is just like restaurant reviews. You cannot always believe “Karen338” who claims they brought a live rat out in her soup, and now she wants the minority staff member fired. Still, if you see negative reviews, give them some thought, especially if you see more than one person complaining about the same thing. Never allow yourself to be bowled over by the positive reviews, and always be wary of template themes that have lots of installs and no (or very few) reviews.

A Secure Theme That is Still Supported By Its Developers

If the theme has been updated within the last year, then that is a good sign. Many often only update when new developments come out, such as a new website coding language update, or a fundamental WordPress update. Suffice it to say, you want some sort of indication that the developers have not completely abandoned the theme.

The problem with finding a secure theme is that it is pretty difficult without seeing the code, and even then, you need a working understanding of website coding to be able to identify the insecure elements.

Most people secure their website after they have installed the theme. They start by downloading and installing a fairly well-reviewed theme that doesn’t have too many damaging one-star reviews. They install WordPress themes that they downloaded from reputable theme stores and companies. After installation, a good WordPress user works hard to secure the theme with reputable plugins, good working standards, and by keeping things updated.

In most cases, you are going to have to secure the website yourself. You cannot rely on your WordPress theme to do most of your security for you. However, you should keep an eye on reviews where people have complained that the theme interferes, corrupts, breaks or conflicts with other security programs because that can be a sign of danger. Also, do not rely fully on the security tools that come with the free WordPress theme. You may be able to trust the ones you pay for, but you have no idea how reliable the security tools are that you get for free from the theme itself. For example, how do you know that the random password generator is actually random? Simply keep your wits about you. There is nothing wrong with being a little paranoid when it comes to website security.

Required, Desired, and Mandatory Plugins

On your quest for the most suitable WordPress theme, you will mostly find WordPress themes that do not mention plugins. In many cases, your free WordPress theme will suggest a plugin or two, and it will probably give you notifications on the matter until you dismiss them. Then, there are the more nefarious WordPress themes that claim they are free, but you need to download plugins in order for the website to work correctly.

On some occasions, the need for mandatory plugins is born from the developer being lazy. They figure, why bother coding for a bunch of functions that a plugin can do for free. Then, there are the developers who give you a hobbled WordPress theme and tell you the only way to make it supreme, is to buy the plugins they suggest. It is a cheap and sleazy move, but it not against the WordPress store rules, so you will have to endure it.

Then, there are the WordPress themes that suggest you buy two or three plugins, but you have to ask yourself why. They often have nothing to do with the WordPress website as a whole, and in many cases, they add nothing of real value to the website. For example, there was a blogging theme that was pushing a live-chat plugin, and a plugin for turning panoramic images into 3D models on your website. How many blogs would need such features? It is more likely that the developers WordPress theme wasn’t selling as expected, so they made it free and agreed to promote a few plugins for an affiliate fee, or perhaps an upfront payment.

Final Thoughts – Avoiding a WordPress Theme That is Unsuitable

We pooled our experience at Vertanet and came up with the Top 9 Reasons Why Your WordPress Theme is Unsuitable. Since you have made your way through our advice on finding the most suitable free WordPress theme, we suggest you look at the nine reasons why your WordPress theme may be unsuitable. It will help you gain a broader understanding of how valuable some WordPress themes are. It will also help you understand the sort of brow furrowing annoyances that people have to deal with when they are picking WordPress themes.

As a very final thought, a lot of what was nestled in this article is 100% accurate and very usable information. Yet, unlike our other blog posts, it is not exciting or invigorating information. The text isn’t sterile or dull, but it covers issues that are more like “Need to know” information, rather than “I can’t wait to know” information.

Yet, with that in mind, do not approach the WordPress theme shopping process in an unenthusiastic manner. Yes, following the tips in this article is a little dry. It isn’t a jeep ride across sun-bleached African plains, but the act of shopping for free themes is actually fun. Think of this article as the safety session you have to go through before they let you out on the paintball course.

If you are in the right frame of mind, you can spend hours picking, choosing, trying out, tinkering, rejecting, and trying again with different templates to find the most suitable free WordPress theme for your website. As mindful as you need to be when choosing your theme, don’t forget to have fun…because it is a lot of fun!