WordPress Themes: Expectation vs Reality

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How do you select a theme for your WordPress website?

Let me guess. And let me know if I am wrong.

  1. Go to theme marketplaces
  2. Search for top-rated themes
  3. See the 5000+ various demos that the theme provides. There are 3000+ different layouts for the header, 9000+ layouts for the footer. (Enough sarcasm I guess :D)
  4. See which one has all the graphic elements and design that you want
  5. You are excited, and you purchase the most beautiful looking theme.

But what happens then?

You upload the theme and then create the page, assign it as a homepage and view it. But it doesn’t look like at all like the demo. What went wrong?

Now you are running helter-skelter looking for documentation. As you read the documentation, you realise there are several customisations settings that you need to do to get the desired look.

The whole purpose of buying a prebuilt theme is defeated.

The sheer volume of the settings you have to do is overwhelming.

How do I know this?

Because I have purchased such themes quite a lot of times, and every time I had to jump through various hoops to get the desired look. It’s not what I wanted. I wanted a ‘look and feel’ the same as the demo site.

The other option that such themes provide is importing the data that will make my website exactly like the demo. But what happens, in this case, is, there are too many unwanted pages created. It imports too many images that I don’t want in my site.

So, the first thing that I have to do now is, get rid of the redundant pages. Setup the menu again. Remove the unwanted images.

And if you are not a techie person, this becomes a tedious task.

Did I sign up for all this?

No. I didn’t.

All I wanted was a readymade template where I just had to fill in the blanks and not write the complete essay.

When I followed the instructions, did all the customisations, the website still didn’t look like the one shown in the demo. I always had to hack CSS somewhere to get the desired look.

I am not saying all the themes are like that. Unfortunately, the themes that I purchased had these issues.

So, what do I do now?

I avoid the themes that come with all the bells and whistles.

One this I have understood from developing over 100 WordPress websites is, don’t go for a theme that is loaded with customisations.

What you and I need is a theme that is clean, devoid of any bloat, doesn’t rely on the obnoxious amount of plugins. And if you need to use WooCommerce then a theme that supports WooCommerce.

I once purchased a top-rated theme, and when I installed it on WordPress, it asked me to download more than seven plugins because they were needed for the theme to provide all its functionality.

And when we are trying to speed up the website, having to install these additional plugins is a big turn-off.

Which themes do you suggest?

There are a couple of themes that are lean, devoid of bloat and are fast enough to consider.

1. Astra

Astra is a theme that doesn’t come with a lot of customisations, which satisfies my criteria for the theme. Additionally, it plays very well with the page builders like Elementor and Beaver Builder. Since I use Elementor a lot, this is an additional benefit for me.

Astra is compatible with WooCommerce too. So I am covered on that front also.

There is a free version of the theme available. More often than not, the free version is sufficient. But if you need some additional features, then you can opt for a paid version.

2. Genesis Framework

Genesis is a framework. And multiple themes are built on it. The themes developed by them are slim and are very attractive. This is a costly option, though.

The framework itself costs around $60 and then you have to purchase a theme built on top of it. So the whole package goes for around $130.

You don’t have any free option for Genesis.

But the quality of the theme is so impressive that it’s worth doing it.

Closing thoughts

Don’t be under the impression that you will be able to develop site exactly as the demo of the premium theme without jumping through some hoops. Also, don’t think that a theme with all the bells and whistles will be easy to use.

So, go with a lean theme, and you won’t be disappointed.

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