WordPress themes are like cloths and dresses. Just as cloths and dresses can give different look and style to person wearing it while providing basic functionality of covering body, themes provide unique look and feel to your blogs while providing basic functionalities of displaying the content you write.
There are two different types of WordPress Themes; Free themes and paid premium themes. You can always go for free themes but it almost always comes with its own drawbacks like it will not provide help and support you may need down the line, may not have been updated from a long time with all required security fixes, may not support latest versions of WordPress and hence new functionalities, may not be optimized for performance and search engine rankings, etc. The other major problem with free WordPress themes is that it almost always has some encrypted code in it (generally in footer) that you would not know what it does and if you remove it, theme stops working.
So we recommend staying clear of the free WordPress themes unless you are using the default Twenty Fourteen or Twenty Fifteen theme that comes with WordPress Installation. On the other hand paid premium WordPress Themes like Solostream*, StudioPress, Nimbus Themes, etc., not only addresses all these issues of free themes but also often provides additional features and functionalities like drag and drop design customization, responsive layout, SEO optimization, multiple browser support, etc., which almost immediately outweighs the small initial investment.
So what should you look for in a paid premium WordPress themes? Before you jump on to finding the best theme for your brand new food blog, you should understand the basic design guidelines of website usability.
Basic Design Guidelines:
White Spaces: Whatever theme you choose, make sure that it has lot of white spaces around the content and navigation so that it allows breathing room to your content and doesn’t overwhelm or confuse your readers.
Color Schemes: Choose a color scheme that is appropriate for the topic of your blog. For almost all food blogs, colorful photos are the main highlight of the content and they really look outstanding when presented in white color based minimalist themes. If you choose to have non-white color scheme, make sure that you use colors that people generally associate with food. E.g. shades of red, yellow, orange, green, etc. are excellent choice but shades of blue, black, etc., are not appropriate for it.
Readability: Use appropriate type, size and color of fonts that make reading a pleasure and do not put strain on eyes. Never use light text on a dark background.
Navigation: Make sure that theme has clear and consistent navigation scheme that helps reader find the content he/she is looking for without much effort. Horizontal scrolls are a complete no-no and reader should not be required to do vertical scrolling immediately to see the content he came looking for (consider keeping height of logo and header as small as possible so that content doesn’t get pushed down the screen).
You also need to know what kind of theme would be right for your blog. This would help you find your desired theme faster and lead to less frustrations – there are so many options to choose from and believe me, it could take forever to find the right theme with all these options.
Theme Type: WordPress as a Content Management System has evolved from just providing a simple text based blogging platform to powering the some of the biggest websites on internet like TechCrunch.com, Time.com, SonyMusic.com, etc. It currently powers 23% of world’s websites including websites of large enterprises, small and medium businesses, photographers, magazines, local businesses, bloggers, apps and products, etc. This means that there are various kinds of themes that are tailor made to meet the needs of each niche. For food blogs, you can either go for themes that are specifically made for food blogging or choose Magazine Style themes, which have very similar usability and design requirements as for food and recipe blogging.
Now with these design guidelines in mind and the type of theme to look for, let’s look at the factors that should be considered for selecting and purchasing a premium theme.
10 Factors To Consider For Selecting a Premium WordPress Theme
1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO Friendly). Apart from writing a quality and unique content and providing best usability experience to your visitors, SEO is one of the most important factors that would play a critical role in the success of your blog. Themes designed with SEO in mind makes on-page SEO very easy and should provide
- Options for specifying separate Meta titles and descriptions for each post and page.
- Support for major SEO plug-ins like Yoast.
- Display taxonomies like categories and tags.
- Clean and simple navigation.
- Appropriate use of heading HTML tags (H1, H2, H3) that highlight the importance of the text.
Some of these characteristics can be verified by looking at the theme demo, its source code or simply looking at its promotional material.
2. Responsive Layout.
Almost 60% visitors of foodviva.com come from mobile and tablet devices. Responsive themes automatically resize and rearrange segments of the blog based on the screen size of device and provide better usability. It also spares you from customizing the content and maintaining multiple websites for each device type allowing you to focus more on the content than an ever-changing technology. Responsive layout design is also recommend by Google, Bing and other major search engines for better ranking in search results.
To identify whether theme is responsive or not, look for “Responsive” word in its promotional documents.
3. Multi Browser Compatibility.
People access Internet via various kinds of browsers like Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Mozilla FireFox, Netscape Navigator, Internet Explorer, etc. and even though all major browsers follow standard HTML, CSS and Java Script specifications, they sometimes display things differently and may lead to sub-optimal experience for visitors using those browsers. Testing and verifying look and feel on every version of all browsers is very time consuming. All good quality theme developers provide multi browser support and list it in their promotional documents.
4. Page Load Speed and Performance Optimization.
Page load speed is nothing but how much time it takes to render and display the page after user clicks on a link or presses enter after typing a URL in browser. The longer it takes to display the page, higher the chances that visitor would go away to some other site. There are two major benefits of using performance optimized WordPress Themes.
- Higher ranking in search results – all major search engines look at how fast your website loads as one of the parameter for ranking your website.
- It requires lesser CPU processing time and resources on server and less rendering time on client’s browser, which means that you can pay less for smaller server and still be able to serve same number of page requests, saving you a small but significant hosting cost in long run.
Many premium themes providers do not pay attention to this. We recommend choosing a theme like Genesis that is also optimized for performance.
5. Optimized for Monetization.
If your aim is to earn a side income from food blogging or make it a main source of income eventually, pay close attention to where can you display advertises and which different sizes can be displayed on different pages and parts of website. Check whether you would be able to display following top performing high demand ad sizes.
- 336 x 228 – Large Rectangle
- 300 x 250 – Medium Rectangle
- 728 x 90 – Large Banner
- 160 x 600 – Wide Skyscraper
Other preferred sizes
- 300 x 600 – Half Page
- 468 x 60 – Half Banner
- 250 x 250 – Square
- 200 x 200 – Small Square
Most of the premium WordPress themes are designed with ability to display these ad sizes and seamlessly blend with the overall lay out.
WordPress itself as a platform is secure enough and provides security patches quickly to protect your blog against any known or newly discovered vulnerabilities. However, themes also include a php code in it and that can introduce new vulnerabilities that are not present in the platform itself and will not be fixed by platform updates. A good paid theme like Genesis should adhere to the best practices recommended by WordPress. A quick glance around paid themes shows that not all developers specify whether their themes adheres to the recommended best practices or not. So if you really like a particular theme but it doesn’t specify that, ask that question to the developer directly or buy this recommended Genesis Framework and child theme.
7. Customizable Layout Design
Depending on your preference, you may want to have different one column, two columns or 3 columns lay out with flexibility to apply it to all or only few selected pages of your website. Almost all these recommended premium themes provide more flexibility and options than you would probably ever need.
8. Color Schemes
Color schemes provide great opportunity to give your blog its own identity and differentiate it from other blogs that use same themes. Ideally color scheme of your blog should be same or similar to you logo. Almost all themes provide few predefined color schemes to choose from but what you need to look for is whether it has recommended CSS class designs or not that would allow you to change color scheme with minimal technical effort if predefined color schemes doesn’t meet your needs.
9. Widgets Support
Widgets allow you to display your content like recent posts, popular posts, related posts, email subscriptions, social media icons, etc., in predefined places holders like side bar, header, footer, etc. Higher the number of options for placing widgets in different locations the better.
10. Licenses, Support, Updates and Source Files
Before finalizing and purchasing the theme, look at what kind of license do they provide? Can you use theme for only one website or unlimited number of websites?
Being able to get immediate support after purchase is critical if you run into any issues or discovered a bug.
How about updates? Would you get them free or would you have to pay for them? Software’s evolve and sooner or later you would come across a situation where your WordPress version and theme versions are not compatible. Having lifelong free updates is definitely recommended, as it would not block you from upgrading to latest version of WordPress.
Sometimes you may want to do additional customizations on the look and feel of the theme and having access to source code and Photoshop files (.PSD) would make things lot easier.
Where and How To Find Themes That Meets These Criteria?
If you want to save some time on doing the same research that we have done in last 3 years, here are the 5 recommended themes that meets most of the above-mentioned criteria and tailor made for food and recipe blogs.
StudioPress’s Genesis Framework and its Foodie Pro child theme: Meets all of the criteria mentioned above. Its modern design is open and airy. Plenty of white spaces will allow your food photos to be centerpiece attraction and multiple lay out options allows having different look and feel for different pages.
Solostream Themes – Foodviva.com is using Solostream’s WP-Clear theme (we have done lot of customizations on top of it). We love it because of its neat and clean minimalist design that also allows displaying various ads to monetize your blog without impacting customer experience. It is also cheaper than the Genesis Framework. It’s a best value for money theme and we highly recommend it if budget is an issue.
Petit: Clean and simple layout with multiple options to give customized look and feel to your food blog. Enables you to show star ratings below each recipe name and provides custom short codes to display ingredients and directions in custom reader friendly design, a big plus.
Food Recipes by ThemeForest: Has an in-built support for displaying Recipe Photo, Ratings, Cooking time, etc. in Google’s search Results (Schema.org rich snippet support) and allows guest recipe publishing with front-end login; good if you have multiple people contributing to your blog. One caveat though, it has only two lay out options – full page and with single side bar.
Food Blog by Nimbus Themes: Photo friendly layout with in-built support for SEO friendly Recipe Card. It also has custom CSS capabilities that allow you to tweak your theme’s CSS easily without having to get into the theme templates and without need for understanding underlying technicalities. The downside of this theme is that it provides free support only for 1 month and if you need more of it then you need pay per month after that.
*Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links are affiliate links in this post and we will earn a commission if you purchase through those links.