WordPress themes, plugins, and development tools. General software and web development tools (for use in WordPress projects and beyond). Background, industry, and sector information sources.

WordPress Themes

There are many beautiful and effective themes available in the WordPress universe. Too many for us to cover in a meaningful list of themes to recommend. So, why have this section on our recommendations page? We use themes in a fairly particular way that rules out most themes as viable candidates for our work, and we'd like to share the shortlist that remains after most other themes have been excluded.

To be clear, many of the themes we don't use are not bad in any way. They're just not for us. They don't offer the kind of openness and process that we happen to enjoy. With this in mind, let's start with the list of exclusions we consider when evaluating themes:

  1. No opinionated themes. These themes are often gorgeous and well-tuned to a specific tone or a particular audience or industry. They are "opinionated" in that their talented creators have made design and layout decisions for the user that are usually quite firm. This firm stance is very appropriate for many users, but less so for those that need control over every aspect of the implementation (including the power to scrap virtually everything and start again at will).
  2. No themes with code tricks. Code can be written clearly, but can also be written so that it is difficult to follow. If we have to work too hard to figure out what key code is doing, we'll opt out because we don't want to pass heavy maintenance fees onto our clients.
  3. No weak Customizer implementations. Good use of the Customizer is key to making many changes on the fly.
  4. No week Theme Hook implementations. Theme Hooks should be plentiful and cover every meaningful area of the viewport.

The preference for avoiding opinionated themes actually drops most themes we've ever seen out of consideration, even when we love the designs showcased in theme pitches. Add in the rest of the above exclusions, and our recommended themes list shrinks down to the following:

  1. Astra Our preferred theme for most Page Builder projects, as well as non-Builder projects that don't require front-end tooling
  2. GeneratePress Our preferred theme-based Page Builder
  3. Sage Our preferred theme for scratch-built projects that also need front-end build tooling

WordPress Feature Plugins

WordPress does a lot out of the box, but it doesn't do everything. Nor should it.

Long before everyone was saying "there's an app for that", WordPressers were saying "there's a plugin for that". Here are some of our favorites:

  1. Caching: WP Cloudflare Page Cache and WP Rocket
  2. Custom Fields: Metabox
  3. Design Helpers: Better Font Awesome and SVG Support
  4. Digital Contracts: WP E-Signature
  5. E-Commerce: WooCommerce
  6. Event Calendars: The Events Calendar
  7. Forms: Gravity Forms
  8. Funnels: CartFlows (can also be used to effectively replace WooCommerce's checkout)
  9. High Definition Imaging: Perfect Images (formerly "WP Retina 2x Pro")
  10. Lead Generation: Convert Pro
  11. LMS: LearnDash and MemberPress
  12. Membership Management: MemberPress
  13. Page Builders: Beaver Builder, Elementor, GeneratePress, and Oxygen (not necessarily in that order)
  14. Search: FacetWP (for filtering and faceted search) and SearchWP
  15. SEO: The SEO Framework and WP Schema Pro
  16. Social Media Feeds: Smash Balloon
  17. Static Sites: Simply Static

WordPress Development Tools

  1. Analyzers and Profilers: Log Deprecated Notices, Query Monitor
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