Probably the single most difficult part of launching a WordPress blog is choosing a theme. You could easily spend hours searching for one where the demo looks absolutely stunning, only to discover that there are too many confusing configuration settings once installed to ever get it actually looking that nice.
There’s more than just appearances when it comes to WordPress themes. There’s also ease of use, performance, and SEO optimization. A poorly designed theme can completely destroy a blog. So browse discerningly, and choose carefully.
Since most free themes end up disappointing (and could hurt your SEO), the following themes are purchase only. The investment for these is well worth the cost when you consider all of the benefits you gain from a professionally designed theme.
How to Choose the Best WordPress Theme
Here are the key features you want to look for when choosing the right WordPress theme for your blog.
- A Good Design: Obviously, you want the layout, fonts, and images to be easy on the eyes. Fonts shouldn’t change from one section to another, and the color scheme should be pleasant and accentuate the writing rather than take away from it.
- Good Performance: Things like the size of the scripting files and CSS code can have a significant impact on your site as it grows. So can slow-loading scripting and poorly designed PHP code.
- SEO Optimization: Many theme design issues can affect your SEO, such as usability, performance, well-structured template HTML.
In this article, we’ll measure the best WordPress themes using these litmus tests and provide a rating for each.
1. Soledad Blog Themes
After spending years launching several personal blogs and always hunting for the best WordPress theme, it wasn’t until I stumbled across Soledad that I realized what a truly versatile, all-in-one template looks like.
Soledad comes with 20 demo content folders with all of the templates and sample images you need to launch one of the demo sites that you can then replace with your own content. The theme configuration lets you choose any demo and everything gets configured for you.
There are over 300 layout combinations you can choose from using different configuration options. It is best used for larger blogs that will have a lot of content. There aren’t a lot of simple templates that will work well for personal blogs with infrequent updates.
- Design – 10/10: The ability to start with a fully configured demo template for any topic (fitness, business, etc) makes this theme the cream of the crop as far as design goes.
- Good Performance – 7/10: Pages load quickly. Scripts are minified, but images aren’t optimized. Most of the demo images are large and take a long time to load. You can overcome this by installing an image compression WordPress plugin.
- SEO – 9/10: The fast loading time combined with responsive design makes this an excellent theme for a good SEO foundation.
2. Jevelin Themes
Jevelin is a very modern WordPress theme for anyone who wants to move beyond traditional WordPress sidebar based blogs. Most of the themes are a scrollable list of the latest updates, with a beautiful slider at the top containing featured posts.
Instead of focusing on only blogs, Javelin offers templates for everything from personal profile pages and sales pages to corporate and event pages. There are several choices of formats for blogs, but most follow the general one-page scrollable list of blog posts.
The design is sleek, beautiful, and would imply to anyone who visits your blog that it’s a professional site.
- Design – 8/10: The minimalist design works well for anyone looking for a modern blog style, but won’t be appreciated by someone who wants to offer much more content packed onto the main page, like a magazine-style blog. However individual blog posts include a sidebar.
- Performance – 9/10: Pages load very quickly. Scripts are minified, but images aren’t optimized. Demo pages load faster than most others, which means boosting the performance of your blog with this theme as a foundation should be easy. Make sure to use a CDN.
- SEO – 9/10: The quick load, responsive design, standard font, and nice large images make this excellent on the SEO end of things.
3. Gillion WordPress Theme
If you’re looking for a simple install with your WordPress theme, Gillion is the way to go. Based on WP Bakery, Gillion gives you access to over 50 modular elements that you can add to any page on your site.
Gillion includes about 15 demos that you can install and use as your template with just a single click. The demo pages are very blog-focused and offer a very nice mix between sidebar based front page designs, or the scrolling image boxes so many blogs these days are using.
It includes a shopping cart capability, beautiful social widget functionality, and the ability to customize your site without knowing how to code.
- Design – 9/10: The ability to choose between a minimalist design or a more complex theme is perfect if you’re not sure which you want for your blog. The theme is well organized, beautifully structured, and scores high usability points.
- SEO Optimization 7/10: Poor page load and coding practices that hamper performance earn negative points. However, high usability for your visitors will help site SEO. For smaller blogs, this theme will be sufficient.
4. Newspaper Blog Theme
If you’re launching a blog that you plan to update frequently and offer lots of interesting content for readers, Newspaper is a great choice.
It’s one of the most popular WordPress blog themes for a reason. You’ll see a lot of big sites using this theme because of how professionally done the design is, and all of the impressive features that it includes.
The theme includes over 80 demos and includes an intelligent ad system. It’s based on the tagDiv Composer which lets you build your front page without any coding. This tool has 100 elements available to choose from. And with over 800 pre-designed templates for all important pages (including 404 and search), you’ve got SEO covered well.
- Design – 10/10: Page elements in this theme are beautiful. The demos and templates let you build almost an entirely different site depending on your tastes. Any reader will be impressed by this theme.
- Performance – 10/10: Pages load quickly. Coding is completely optimized for performance, so you don’t have to worry about bogging down your web server with this theme.
- SEO Optimization 9/10: With the volume of content you can include on your main page and the optimized performance, this them is a clear SEO standout.
5. CheerUp Personal Blog Theme
For a personal blog, CheerUp stands above the rest. With very stylish font selections and a strong personal feel to the design, this theme will make readers fill as they know you on their first visit.
CheerUp is very intuitive to use, even for someone who’s new to blogging. It’s beautifully designed and responsive to mobile visitors. Choose from 13 designs for a blog layout that matches your own personal style. The layout configurable blog layout using grids and slider choices lets you customize the theme in thousands of ways.
The backend design is also very robust and compatible with a wide array of modern browsers. This means that the theme will serve you well for years to come.
- Design – 7/10: This theme is ideal for a niche group of users, but may not be perfect for everyone.
- Performance – 10/10: Pages load faster than nearly every other theme on this list. All code is minified and browser caching is well leveraged.
- SEO Optimization 9/10: Extremely good performance, efficient coding, and a very user-friendly design put this at the top of the list on SEO.
6. MagPlus Magazine Blog WordPress Theme
Most of the themes demos available from MagPlus are definitely magazine style, but you’ll find plenty of great personal themes available as well. There are over 40 demos you can download to save time.
It also comes with a custom cache system that will make your site run faster. It’s advertised as “SEO optimized”, and includes over 160 “elements and modules” to further customize your site.
When you use this theme, you get the best features in the theme industry. You’ll have a professional slider, various headers and footers to choose from, and non-coding customization tools. Another important feature is the professional typography that will help you make your font as consistent and professional as possible across the site.
- Design – 7/10: Excellent variety of demo styles means this theme is suitable for anyone.
- Performance – 7/10: Images are not scaled, and HTTP requests per page aren’t optimized. If you use these theme a CDN service for images will be critical.
- SEO Optimization 7/10: Theme code is SEO optimized by the designer. However, speed and efficiency issues may dampen SEO results.
7. Flow: For Creative Types
If you’re looking for a non-traditional blog theme, Flow will impress. This theme lets you have a blog that looks a lot like Pinterest. Articles are featured in the main panel with a large image, title, short description, and a Read More button.
The old theme (still available) used a full screen of this format. But the new style features a left sidebar as well as a right sidebar. This lets you add more organization and a personal profile.
This theme will impress either as a personal blog or a larger magazine-based blog. There are 8 demos to choose from, offering one-click installs. Customization is also very simple. And since Flow is a responsive design, you can be confident people will enjoy your site from their mobile phones.
- Design – 10/10: The aesthetics of this theme are what make it stand out. It’s a design that won’t disappoint any visitor.
- Performance – 5/10: Large, non-scaled images, poor caching, and excessive HTTP requests drag down performance quite a bit. A CDN service will be necessary to optimize image load times.
- SEO Optimization 7/10: Performance will hurt SEO. But since the design lends itself to more titles on the main page and a professional layout, SEO will be similar to most blogs online today.
Choosing Your Perfect Blog WordPress Theme
Picking the right WordPress theme for your blog is always hard. You never know what you’re getting until you download and start to play around. However, any of the themes on this list are easy to use, professionally designed, and well worth the investment.
And if you’re looking for more about WordPress, check out our article on the top 10 WordPress plugins for your website or blog.