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So… You’ve purchased your domain name, got your hosting, downloaded WordPress and you’re ready to hit the ground running on your new blog career!
Only to dive into WordPress and realize that you have NO idea what you are doing…
Try as you might, you can’t get your blog design to look the way you want it to.
- Header images
- Pretty headlines
- Setting up columns
- Adding a newsletter sign-up
- Posts and pages
- Menus, headers, footers… OH MY!
You’re looking at someone else’s blog for ideas and banging your head against the wall trying to get your blog to cooperate and look like theirs…
You’re tired and frustrated and wondering if you have made a colossal mistake because you are in way over your head.
Other people (ahem, Alex and Lauren) make it look SO easy, right???
WHAT AM I DOING WRONG!?
We get it, guys. We’ve been there.
I remember spending literally HOURS trying to get our header image to display EXACTLY how I wanted it to.
Alex could hear me huffing and puffing in frustration from the next room.
I would read articles and watch tutorials and desperately try to learn a bit of coding to get the job done. And oftentimes, my efforts would be futile.
So, what’s the deal?
Why is this so hard?
Why can’t you get your blog to look the way you want it to?
First of all, there is one important thing that you must understand during this process:
Every WordPress theme comes with different pre-coded customizations, so every theme will make your blog look a little different and come with certain limitations.
Limitations meaning that you won’t necessarily be able to make your blog look EXACTLY how you want it to.
The themes with the MOST customizations usually cost a little more because of this.
These limitations can only be overcome by…
- Purchasing a new theme
- Using CSS custom code to make changes
- Installing the best blog plugins for customization
- Hiring a web developer to add custom code to your website
We’ve done all of the above at some point or another.
We have paid web designers thousands of dollars to completely re-design both of our blogs (our first health and wellness blog and Create and Go).
WHAT!? Do I need to do this!?
Absolutely not! We earned six figures from BOTH of our blogs using the themes we are recommending in this article — WITHOUT hiring a web developer!
That only came MUCH later when we had plenty of money to reinvest back into our business.
In the beginning, we were just like you.
No monies and no coding skills…
For the first couple of years, we had to do the best we could with our very limited knowledge about WordPress, themes, website coding, etc.
One thing we DID do was spend the money for a great theme to be able to customize our blogs to look the way we wanted them to.
What is a blog theme? And why does it matter so much?
A theme is what is installed on your WordPress blog to allow you to make design customizations. Think of it as what you see on the frontend of your blog — not the backend
These themes have pre-programmed coding that allow you to make these customizations to your blog. Customizations like…
- Adding a header image to your homepage
- Creating columns in your content
- Changing your menu color and display
- Adding your logo
- How your author box, sidebar, and other elements display on your blog
The most important thing to remember is that not all WordPress themes were created equal.
As we stated before, different themes have different coding written into their files and as a result, will allow you to customize different items and also LOOK very different.
Choosing a WordPress theme for your blog is like choosing a car…
Like a great car, getting the right blog theme will take you exactly where you want to go in as little time as possible, and you may even enjoy the ride along the way!
Choose the wrong one and you’ll end up in a ditch on the side of the road with a flat tire and a dead cell phone.
This is part of setting up a great foundation for your blog, along with getting a solid blog hosting plan.
Alex and I have tried quite a few cars on our journey. Some of the best include:
And then there were quite a few more that led us to ditches and dead cell batteries…
Why You Should Avoid Free Blog Themes
Because you get what you pay for… honestly…
As with pretty much ANY software in the blogging world (and elsewhere), free usually comes with:
- Fewer customizations
- Clunkier design
- Less help and support from the provider
- And a whole lot of free headaches
We started out with a free theme, just like a lot of you probably did or are doing.
We would spend hours and hours trying to make our blog look like the design we had in mind — only to find out that it just wasn’t within our theme’s capabilities.
But if this is all that is in your budget, that’s okay!
We just want you to have the right expectations in place when you’re getting started.
You will have to accept that there will be a tradeoff between your blog design and your budget.
And one more parting note on this subject: Know your worth.
By worth, I mean your time.
Your time is an invaluable resource that you cannot get back. You must treat it as such and save it wherever you can — even if that requires spending a little money to do so.
If you save $60 by opting for a free theme but then spend a solid 3 days trying to design your blog, you have essentially wasted FAR more than $60…
Time is money. Please don’t waste it!
It’s perfectly fine to start out with a free theme while you get the hang of how WordPress works and as you are publishing your first post, but just keep these things in mind as you begin to spend more time on the design of your blog.
We’ve written this article to help you navigate this stage of upgrading your blog theme — aka choosing the right car.
The 4 Best WordPress Blog Themes for Beginners
For all of you preferred video learners out there, here is a video on the best WordPress blog themes (plus some extra tips!) from our YouTube Channel below.
Spoiler alert: We aren’t going to save the best for last, here.
These are in order of our preference (recommendations) for beginner bloggers.
1. Divi Theme
This is our #1 recommendation to our course students, so we’re not going to steer you in any other direction.
Divi is currently the most customizable and user-friendly theme for beginner bloggers on the market.
It has a drag-and-drop editor that lets you design your blog and see how it looks in real-time, as you go along.
You can make your home page look pretty much exactly how you want it to, and they have TONS of resources to help you do so.
They have an extensive library of written and video tutorials to show you how to use their theme and design your blog. More than any other theme I’ve seen.
They also have a no-questions-asked, 30-day money-back guarantee, which is super important. Some things don’t, which means you’re pretty much stuck after you buy it.
With Divi, you can give it a trial run, and if you don’t like it, you can either return it OR you can try out any of the other 70+ themes that come with Elegant Themes — at no additional cost.
Well, for all of this awesomeness, it does, of course, come at a higher price tag. But you can try it before you decide to stick with it.
It’s also a little bit slower than more powerful themes like Genesis Framework (more on that later), but it’s not enough to worry about at this stage.
Who this WordPress blog theme is perfect for: Beginner bloggers who are completely new to WordPress and want full customization of their blog!
So…. basically, everyone who’s not an advanced WordPress user.
Who it’s not for: More advanced users needing fewer customizations, anyone with a pretty good knowledge base of CSS, or anyone willing to pay for help from a web developer.
Next up on our list of best WordPress themes for bloggers…
2. Avada Theme
Avada is what we personally used for the first couple of months on our health and wellness blog.
At the time that we used it, it had fewer customizations than it did today, so we switched to another theme. But they have made a LOT of upgrades to it, and it’s super legit now!
We’ve used it on a couple of blogs since then.
Avada has tons of customizations and also has quite a few tutorials and documentation to help you learn how to use the theme.
It’s not quite as intuitive or user-friendly as Divi, but if you’re on a serious budget, it’s a great second option!
While it comes at a much lower price tag than Divi, the tradeoff is that does come with a higher learning curve.
The biggest downside of this time is that they have a very poor refund policy, in my opinion. They specifically do not offer refunds if you decide you don’t like it or it wasn’t what you were expecting.
So, if you buy this theme, you’ll need to make it work for you.
Who this WordPress blog theme is perfect for: Anyone who isn’t able to stomach the cost of Divi but that still wants a LOT of beginner-friendly customizations.
Who it’s not for: Anyone who wants the flexibility of being able to try a couple of different themes to see what’s right for them.
3. Flash Theme (Free)
Woohoo! This one is free!
Flash, by ThemeGrill, is by far the best free theme on the market that we have found.
It provides quite a bit of customization considering it’s a free theme.
It’s still not going to be NEARLY as customizable as a theme like Divi, but if a paid theme isn’t in your budget, this is a GREAT option to start with.
They also offer a paid version of the theme if you want to upgrade for additional features.
If you want to see it in action, you can check out my personal website that is designed with Flash: laurenmcmanus.com
Who is this theme for: Anyone who just doesn’t have the budget for a paid theme.
Who is this theme not for: Anyone wanting some serious customization on your homepage.
4. Hestia Theme (Free)
Hestia, by ThemeIsle, is another great free option!
Like with Flash, you can make quite a few customizations on your homepage considering it’s totally free.
You can change your menus, your header images, create columns, and all kinds of other good stuff.
They also offer paid versions if you want additional customizations!
Flash is still my favorite as far as free themes go, but give Hestia a try if you don’t love Flash but still need to stick to a free theme!
The Almighty Genesis Framework
We’re not calling this one #5, because the Genesis Framework isn’t technically for the average beginner.
But we still want to discuss it here because you might have heard a thing or two about it — and because it’s currently what we are using on both of our blogs.
The Genesis Framework, by StudioPress, is generally considered to be the fastest theme on the market.
This is why we originally purchased it for our health and wellness blog.
But as we quickly learned, it’s VERY difficult to customize.
We had to purchase the Genesis Framework, then purchase a Genesis child theme, and then purchase a Genesis customization plugin.
And we STILL couldn’t customize much on our blog without custom coding.
AND we had over a year of blogging experience under our belts. We weren’t exactly “new” bloggers at this point.
It’s often marketed by people as a great theme for beginners because it has a high affiliate payout, but in our honest opinion, it’s a terrible option for beginner bloggers.
We only use it now because we have paid a small fortune to have web developers add custom coding to the theme to make it look actually like we want it to.
Genesis is like the Lamborghini of cars… driven by a 5-year old… on the wrong side of the road. You’ll likely end up crashing and burning. Real fast.
Haha okay, it’s not THAT bad…
But beware that there is a MUCH higher learning curve for this theme.
Who this theme is for: Anyone wanting to start out with the BEST and FASTEST theme on the market that is willing to be challenged with a higher learning curve.
Who this theme is not for: Anyone with a budget that needs a lot of customization on their website and would rather get it done in a much smaller amount of time.
Summary of Blog Theme Recommendations
Here is an overview of our WordPress blog theme recommendations to help you get started choosing your car:
- Divi — Most customizable and user-friendly theme on the market
- Avada — Fewer customizations but better for the frugal blogger
- Flash or Hestia — Great free options for the broke newbies
- Genesis Framework — For those of you that have to have the best of the best and are willing to pay for it and work for it
If you found this article on best WordPress blog themes helpful, let me know in the comment section below! Which one did you decide to go with??