How I Choose a WordPress Theme

by Tim M on October 25, 2009

I (and I am not the only one!) spend a lot of time – WASTE a lot of time – mucking around with WordPress Themes.

So far I reckon I’ve spent $500 on Headway (Developer), Frugal (Developer), Thesis (Developer), Obox. And NOW I am thinking about Woo Themes for as Obox’s Press and Through the Lense just don’t cut the mustard (bye-bye, $70USD).

So here’s my take on this. Lots of cats reckon this is a Thesis vs Headway vs Frugal vs Whatever debate. It’s not. This is about finding a theme that is “good enough” for you to get your ideas across. For a photographer, this might be something like the free Autofocus. For a Presser you might want Obox’s Press theme.

What I find about guys like Obox and WooThemes, is that whilst they make some nice themes, they’re purely that – nice themes. I always find I’ll buy them but they’ll be not-quite-right for me. Obox’s Through the Lense theme? GREAT! Except the comments take up 60% of a post’s page width. WTF, right? I want those suckers down the bottom of the page.

Facebook integration? Not so easy.

It’s why, although I get lured by the shiny layout of these pages, I realise that the framework-type themes (Thesis, Frugal, Headway) are what you really want. Why? They’re really good for content management, AND, you can always get a page layout mocked up and then coded cheap on That’s what I do.

So, your key considerations are:

  1. Do you need something favouring substance over style? Where it’s potential sameness with other blogs could be completely irrelevant to readers? Yep? Then get Thesis, Headway or Frugal. I mean Darren at Problogger runs his site on Frugal. ‘Nuff said! Thesis in particular does not have a steep learning curve and is easy to use. I find it lacks the flexibility of Frugal and Headway though. Thesis handles Facebook Connect and comments very well.
  2. Do you need something that ABSOLUTELY KICKS ARSE? Then get someone like Lauren at Creative Curio to really personalise your site. It’s what I am doing for A bog standard WordPress theme, even if it’s paid for, will NEVER do everything you want.


Pay for something that gives you 95% of what you want, and save a bucket of money by getting Headway, Frugal or Thesis “skinned”.

Pay someone nothing (or a small amount) and get a generic theme that will do probably 50-80% of what you need, then bug the shit out of you because it doesn’t do the remaining stuff (which I promise you will turn out to be really important and therefore super annoying).


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