Starting up a blog is kind of like buying a house: first, you have to decide what neighborhood you want to live in. (Welcome to WordPress.com. You’ll receive your fruit basket shortly.) Then, you have to figure out what kind of home you’d like to have — that’s the theme you choose. Finally, you fill your new home with stuff; i.e., your content. Step number two can be a bit tricky, so that’s what we’re going to focus on today. Let’s pick a theme!
There are lots of options — 200+ — and you might not always have a particular vision as you’re getting started. Should you move into a minimalist loft, like Publish? If you’ve got a big art collection to showcase, maybe you need a gallery like Hatch or Gridspace. You might like a place with some old-timey charm, like Vintage Kitchen, something with a bit of whimsy like Balloons, or something ornate like Matala.
Decisions, decisions! And within each of those broad categories, there are multiple options. Your loft could be dark and edgy like Vertigo or clean and bright like Watson. Maybe your gallery is going to share space with the written word, so you need something like React. It’s enough to make you want to move back into your parents’ basement.
So what are some guiding principles that’ll get you into the perfect place? Let’s stop torturing the real estate metaphor and get to some concrete tips. Here are the big three to consider when you’re choosing a theme:
No matter how popular your blog becomes, no one is going to spend more time on it than you, so it behooves you to make it a place you think is comfortable, good-looking, and reflective of you. You might admire the bold typography of Blog Simple, but if you’re personally drawn to the softer look of Ever After, you’ll be happier with that in the long run.
Why? Let’s beat down another metaphor: I might admire the woman who can pull off a perfect pair of skinny jeans, but when it comes down to it, I’ll only ever be comfortable in baggy trousers. If I put on the skinny jeans, I’ll be self-conscious and will spend all night tugging at my clothes to get them just so. Eventually, I’ll give up and leave them in the closet (my closet can attest to this).
So it is with your theme. Pick something that doesn’t speak to you, and you’re looking at lots of tweaks to try and make it feel like “you.” Eventually, you may find yourself blogging less and less, and all because you won’t admit to yourself that what you really love is the moody color scheme and delicate scrollwork of Dusk to Dawn. Set yourself up for blogging success by picking a theme you’ll like looking at every day. (Or, if you’re like most of us, a dozen times a day. You know you do. There’s no shame here.)
If you have an idea of your blog’s focus when you’re starting out, you can further narrow down the world of available themes. If you love photography and know you’ll be posting images with most posts, you’ll want to consider themes that will showcase them, like Simfo and Mixfolio. If you haven’t touched a camera since your Polaroid bit the dust but you love writing poetry, there are themes that make your text the star, like Runo Light and Manifest. There are also themes for specific purposes, like Soundcheck for your band’s website or Confit for your restaurant.
What if you’re not sure what your site will be, or you envision yourself posting a bit of this and a bit of that? First, welcome to the 99% of bloggers. Second, the Theme world is your oyster — there are plenty of themes well-suited for housing different types of posts. Chalk! Delicacy! Eight! Twenty Twelve! Take a look, see what kinds of visuals you’re drawn to, and then consider our third pillar: your time and energy.
Your time and energy.
All our themes are designed to be easy to work with, but some can handle more customizing and futzing that others. Some, like the newly-released Cheer, are pretty much going to look how they look. Others, like Twenty Ten, will let you upload a customer header image and make other tweaks to the home page. Still others, like Minimum, have a variety of layout options for your home page and are highly configurable.
How much time and energy do you want to put into your theme, as opposed to the content you’d like to create? Be realistic about what you want to do. The last thing we want is for you to feel frustrated by your site — we want you to stick around and publish. And while we’re confident that we can help anyone work with any theme, we also don’t want you to spend your time on theme options if what you want to be doing is posting about your awesome DIY project. When you’re considering a theme, take a few minutes to take a look at its features and customization options, and let that be a factor in your decision.
There’s more to building a great site than just picking a theme, and you can always add on a custom design upgrade to make all the little details just so. Still, the theme will be the skeleton on which the rest of the site hangs, so make sure it’s one your can not just live with, but love. If you’re still trying to find The One, head to the Theme Showcase and take a look around (you can use the blue “Find a Theme” button to help you filter).
Maybe you want a seasonal holiday theme. Maybe you’re changing the focus of your site. Maybe you’re just indecisive. In any of those instances: you can always switch themes. It’s as easy as heading to the Appearance → Themes area of your dashboard, picking a new theme, and clicking “Activate.” This might not be something you want to do every week, but there’s no harm in trying something new or giving your site a fresh look.
Are you happy with your theme? What criteria did you use to make a decision?