Which WordPress theme should I use

WordPress themes free and paid (guide)

It is better to stay flexible and supple with a ready-to-bake WordPress theme. The search for the really good themes is of course time-consuming, the selection seems endless, and you quickly get the impression that they all look the same anyway.

So let's look at the really good themes. There are themes that are designed for pagebuilders, i.e. mainly for adaptability and speed, and which are also easily adaptable without a pagebuilder.

In doing so, I mainly focus on the functions, speed and adaptability of the respective themes.

What criteria should I use to choose my theme?

File size of the theme

In my opinion one of the most important criteria. If the theme has too much junk it will just make the website slow. No user likes to wait, so the theme shouldn't be the bottleneck of loading time.

For a couple of the themes I did a speed test where I took the identical pages and plugins. Only the themes were exchanged.

Support / Who is the developer?

If the developer of the theme has no long-term interest in updating it regularly, e.g. because he only uses it as a hobby, you will be left with your problems.

So the question is, can you customize the theme yourself? Is there a support that can help you in the event of a problem?

integration

Does the theme have a good integration for e.g. WooCommerce or pagebuilder like Elementor or BeaverBuilder?

A page builder allows you to completely customize a website without having to know the code behind it. You can design the page however you want and you don't need any prior knowledge.

Some themes offer a good integration for pagebuilder and are even geared towards it. Other themes, on the other hand, have a page builder integrated directly.

The disadvantage of the integrated page builders is that they are often slow or not always up-to-date. Therefore it is usually a better choice to use a separate page builder. We here at Dr. Use the web for all of our customer projects!

The best free themes

Since the free themes restrict the user, it makes sense to use Elementor. This free pagebuilder can bypass many of the restrictions given by the theme.

1 - GeneratePress

The developer Tom Usborne has created a super fast, designed for pagebuilder theme. The free version already has all kinds of functions.

It is great for customizing a website with Elementor. There is a sitelibrary which contains dozens of templates for finished pages.

Since Tom is only working on this project, the support is outstanding. Even without Premium, you can get help with your problem within 24 hours.

It took second place in my little speed test.

2 - Neve

Neve is a theme that sets new standards in the area of ​​customizability. You can design your header and footer completely individually.

There is also a free template here, which you can adapt to your needs in a short time.

In addition to its speed, it also has integrations for WooCommerce.

3 - Astra

Astra is also designed for page builders. The free version has the largest selection of templates. Thanks to this, in combination with Elementor, the basic framework can be set up in a few minutes.

Astra's unique selling point is the integration of LifterLMS and other plugins for managing online courses.

The adaptability is also very good. In the free version, however, there are no adjustments for the blog, layout and the header.

4 - OceanWP

OceanWP is the most popular theme for a reason. The customizability on this theme is the best of any free one.

Colors, fonts, spacing and much more can be individually adjusted without having to buy a full version. The loading times are still pretty good.

There is no premium version, only some plugins cost money.

5 - Hello Elementor

The theme from Elementor has a very minimalist design. It should be the perfect basis for creating quick and individual pages.

However, in order for it to be able to keep up with the adaptability of OceanWP, Elementor Pro is actually required.

In my little speed test it was the theme with the fastest loading time.

One of the reasons for this is that it was only made to integrate Elementor and my test page only consisted of an Elementor page.

6 - Optimizer

Optimizer uses the variant of a built-in page builder. I wouldn't call it a complete page builder, but rather a possibility to customize the theme.

This puts the theme in a strange situation, because without a pagebuilder it is easy to customize, but much slower than another theme with Elementor.

7 - Fukasava

Fukasava is a minimal masonry blog theme for photographers or any other site owner who needs a lot of photos. It displays your articles in a Pinterest-like manner. Fukasava offers 5 widgets and supports the Jetpack plug-in, with which the so-called “Jetpack Infinite Scroll”, a lazy load variant, can be activated. This means that more and more posts are displayed as you scroll down. The color of the links can be changed and your own logo can be displayed.

Overview page of the theme | Live demo of the theme | Download the theme from WordPress.org

8 - Miyazaki

Miyazaki is a stylish, high-contrast theme with a striking design, suitable for portfolios, magazines and blogs.

With high-contrast colors and large titles, Miyazaki makes a great first impression without sacrificing legibility or usability.

The posts in Miyazaki are arranged in an image-heavy grid, making them perfect for portfolios or blogs about design or photography.

Designed entirely with the Gutenberg editor in mind, Miyazaki has the ability to create complex layouts with large quotes, full-width images, and much more.

Miyazaki offers three types of pagination: “load more”, automated loading of new posts at the end of the previous post, and c) left / right navigation to the previous or following post.

All in all a great theme that really sets new standards for (free) themes.

9 - Chaplin

Chaplin was created from the ground up with the new Gutenberg editor. Creating attractive layouts with multiple columns, media and text is quick and easy.

All fonts and colors in Chaplin can be changed in the WordPress Customizer, which makes it easy to give your website a unique look. Chaplin supports all fonts in Google Fonts.

10 - Hamilton

Hamilton is a minimalist WordPress portfolio theme for creatives.

Whether you want to present illustrations, graphic works or just blog posts with lots of pictures, the minimal layout and the finely tuned typography put the focus where it should be: on the content.

Dark mode support

Hamilton has a dark mode that changes your site from dark text on a white background to white text on a dark background with one click of the mouse in the WordPress customizer.

The default WordPress image gallery displays very well in Hamilton. If you want to stack multiple galleries with different numbers of columns on top of each other, they will all be combined into impressive, complex image grids. Perfect for the picture-heavy portfolio.

11 - Eksell

Eksell is a portfolio and WordPress theme built for the Gutenberg block editor. It includes several pre-made block patterns. Various color schemes can be set in the customizer, including for dark mode. Eksell also offers a search overlay, sticky headers, a social menu with icons, and last but not least, it shines with fast loading times. To the demo.

What speaks against a free theme?

In most cases, the free version restricts the user in some way.

The developers also want to earn money, so it is understandable that they are restricting either the range of functions or the adaptability.

The following list contains all themes that shine with particularly good performance and functionality for being free.

The best paid themes

How did the paid themes differ from the free themes? As already mentioned, the developers are keeping particularly cool and useful features for the Pro version.

There is always maximum adaptability. You no longer have to look for detours or tinker with your own solution with extra CSS or HTML.

In addition to the minimalist themes, there are now also those that focus on exactly one thing. This means that no page builder is required and the page is still quick and adaptable in its niche.

For anyone who does professional web design or site owners who want full control, a paid theme is a must.

GeneratePress Premium

I use the paid version of GeneratePress on all of my websites because for me it is the best compromise between minimalist design (maximum speed) and good customizability.

Unneeded elements can simply be deactivated, global rules can be set up with ease. For example, a certain layout for all blog posts.

The theme is perfect for using Elementor, but can also be completely customized without a pagebuilder.

Thrive themes

Thrive Themes has possibly the most comprehensive package. There is practically everything you need to build a website and a funnel.

The theme publishers offer a drag & drop page builder for their theme (ThriveArchitect) and have countless plugins on offer.

Landing pages, websites and shops can be built with it.

The price is quite steep, however, because in order to be able to use all plugins, you have to buy the Thrive Membership, which costs between $ 20 and $ 70 per month.

I haven't personally tested it extensively yet. Many people swear by it and some say there are too many bugs if you really want to push everything.

They are currently letting the development drag a little, but are expanding their online course area very strongly.

Elmastudio: 24 minimalist themes

Yes, this is not one theme, but up to 24, but the themes are relatively similar. The style of the pages is similar.

This means that they are all well optimized, but they differ greatly in terms of their layout.

So here you can choose a suitable theme for your blog, portfolio, etc. A page builder is then no longer required.

Enfold

This theme managed to be pretty fast despite the integrated page builder. Enfold also shines with a particularly large selection of templates.

A good integration for WooCommerce is also given. In addition to the large selection of themes, Enfold also has many tutorials to get the most out of the theme.

Conclusion

There are three basic options:

  1. A fast theme + pagebuilder (Elementor)
  2. Theme with integrated page builder (Enfold)
  3. Theme without page builder, which is tailored to the respective niche.

Recommendations for option 1

Completely free:
Test GeneratePress / Neve / Hello Elementor / OceanWP and install Elementor. Then decide on the theme that suits you best.

Since all themes are free, you have the opportunity to test and get a feel for the respective user interface.

Premium:
GeneratePress Premium / Astra + Elementor Pro

Recommendation for option 2

Free: Optimizer

Premium: Thrive Themes / Architect

I don't recommend Divi because it's just slower than Thrive.

Recommendation for option 3

Free: Neve

Premium: one of the ElmaStudio themes

My winning combination

Personally, I find the first option the most attractive. It's super fast, offers a lot of customization options and allows you to get started completely free of charge.

That's why I use GeneratePress Premium + Elementor Pro for all of my websites.

Another note on our own behalf. Most of the paid themes listed below have an affiliate link. Quasi a kind of permanent promotional item. So if you buy a theme via the link, we get a few euros. Thanks in advance for that!