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:
- 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).
- 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.
- No weak Customizer implementations. Good use of the Customizer is key to making many changes on the fly.
- 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:
- Astra Our preferred theme for most Page Builder projects, as well as non-Builder projects that don't require front-end tooling
- GeneratePress Our preferred theme-based Page Builder
- Sage Our preferred theme for scratch-built projects that also need front-end build tooling