Choosing the Best WordPress Themes for Blogs: 2016 Edition

By Mark Burns

best WordPress themes for blogs

Blogs: Which WordPress Platfom to Use?

By now you are familiar with WordPress for blogs. However, there are two paths you can take to explore getting started with a WordPress blog. You can create either a WordPress.org or WordPress.com blog, and I would like to clarify the main distinctions between the two before moving on.

Yes these are two different platforms, both created for blogging, and both use similar technical frameworks and both offer almost unlimited theme choices for any kind of website designs.

Now I know why they were having such a hard time picking one. The choices these days are endless.

WordPress the Business

The main difference is that WordPress.com is a commercial type venture. They add your blog as a sub-domain of their site. They offer varying hosting packages from free where they display ads on your site to paid subscriptions that remove the ads.

WordPress and It’s Free World

WordPress.org (WP) is mainly a repository for free themes and plugins and is the organization around which the WordPress code framework and policies are hashed out. This is where WordPress developers submit their themes and plugins. The code is examined and if it meets the basic standards and best practices, it is then added to WP’s repository list for anyone to download.

WordPress.org does not offer hosting; their themes are self-hosted, meaning that you own your domain name and it is registered to you. You buy (rent) hosting wherever you want. You have complete control over what is on your website, at least to the degree your hosting provider’s software/servers can deliver.

Think With The End In Mind: WordPress.org Themes

In this article I will be referring to the latter path, WordPress.org themes. I believe it has more options to expand and grow. It allows for better control, and if everything is set up correctly the site is usually given more credibility in the eyes of the search engines and readers. This is because you have made an upfront investment of money to own your space on the web, which means you made a more serious effort than a free or even paid WordPress.com site user might portray.

This is obvious to the readers of your blog when they see your website address is something like www.bobshikingblog.wordpress.com. A more serious blogger will have their own web address such as www.bobshikingblog.com.

The Best WordPress Themes For Blogs

With that all cleared up let’s get to the meat of the article and talk about the best WordPress themes for blogging, and why.

I have to assume you already know what you are going to write about or at least have an area or even a niche picked out. Or, maybe you are a small business owner and want to add a WordPress blog to your existing site to better connect with your customers. I will also assume that you have some degree of computer and word processing skills to draw from, and are ready to publish your articles.

Whatever your situation, you are at the stage of picking a theme for your blog and need some guidance to send you in the right direction.

Things to Consider While Searching for The Best WordPress Themes for Blogging.

Theme “features” is the most confusing of all the information you have to comb through and often the most technical, and with WordPress blog themes, feature items are the only thing you can really compare apples-to-apples with.

I will try and boil it all down to just the minimum essentials you need to compare, and give you some suggestions for “nice to have” features to help you create a robust website that will last and grow with you.

Must Have Features

Responsive

  • This means that the theme will adjust to the various screen sizes in use today. It doesn’t always mean that it will work perfectly on all mobile devices.

Mobile Ready

  • Mobile ready means that your site will display correctly on all tested devices and that your menu bar will be converted to an icon to open the full menu (usually called a hamburger icon because of its 3 stacked lines that look like a hamburger).

Compatibility

  • Check to see what WordPress.org’s latest platform version is and make sure the theme is compatible with that version.This is important for a couple reasons. Since WordPress is an open source code it is easier for hackers to examine the code and find vulnerabilities, so WordPress.org is constantly making updates to close those backdoors. For this reason, themes can sometimes malfunction and your site will go down while the developer finds and fixes the issue. If you see that a theme is being updated often or they note that is compatible with the last version then there is a better chance that they will continue to keep it up to snuff and safe.

Security

  • This is rarely included in a theme but clean and up to date code gives a theme a fighting chance against part-time hackers. I included it here as a must have because I suggest you install a good security/malware plugin before installing or using your new theme no matter what theme you are using. You can check to see if there are any compatibility uses noted with your security plugin. This info can be found in the theme’s support forum or update logs etc. If in doubt just install the plugin and check for errors or issues while viewing your theme’s pages and functions.

Menus

  • I’m sure you know what a menu is, but some things to look for in this section are customization and placement. WordPress’s software allows for very simple and basic menu options, so make sure the theme offers options above that.

Customization

  • This is a must and in fact, the latest versions of WordPress have a Live Customizer that allows for instant viewing of basic changes like primary colors, main fonts, and basic layouts etc.The best WordPress templates have been designed to optimize the usage of this feature and will include a lot of the theme’s own customizations to be handled in the Live Customizer.Most of the newer themes include this feature, but also have further customization options inside the theme’s own custom dashboard.

Image Compression

  • Inevitably you will be uploading photos and images to your blog and they can really slow things down, so look for this feature to be either integrated into the theme or included as a plugin.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

  • This is absolutely critical if you want to be found on the web. Exceptional themes structure their code with SEO in mind and offer great options with less technical input. However, you should also see if an SEO plugin is included or which ones are compatible. Whether it comes with the theme or you install it…learn it and use it. You will be miles above most bloggers.

Image Compression

  • Inevitably you will be uploading photos and images to your blog and they can really slow things down, so look for this feature to be either integrated into the theme or included as a plugin.

Nice To Have Features

Templates

  • This term is often used in theme features to describe the types and numbers of “theme templates” they offer or include, but it also refers to page templates and is sometimes called “skins”.Basically, different theme templates make your site have a generally different look and feel to it, while skins mostly just change the color schemes.The term ‘Page template” can get a little confusing because WordPress blog templates can have many different pages or all the pages combined into one, but, mostly they are referring to basic website pages like Homepage, Contact page, and Terms of Service page etc. Some themes will include pre-built templates for those basic pages that will match the theme’s basic layouts.

Visual Appeal

  • In 2016 a gorgeous looking website shows your creativity and makes you look like you spent lots of time and money on it. This can sometimes elevate your status as an authority blogger. However, too many bells and whistles will clutter your site and detract from the blog content itself. So unless you are an artist and need a showcase blog then keep it elegant and simple.

Layouts

  • Layouts are similar to templates except a single theme can have multiple layouts of the same template – each page template may have a one, two, three, or even 4 column layout etc. to choose from.

Lead Generation Options

  • As a blogger you may want to start a newsletter and to do that you need your reader’s email address and permission to send it. Good themes have this option built in(called optin form or lead gen) but there are plenty of plugins specifically designed for that.

Page or Content Builder

  • This a relatively new feature (usually in the form of a plugin) and it gives you almost unlimited ways to display your content. They come in a drag and drop format so if you want to put a block of text beside an image just drag a text element onto the page and paste in your text, upload the image or use a link in the image element…save and you’re done. The drawback to this is that you can spend too much time playing and creating than getting your message out.

My Choices for the Best WordPress Themes for blogs in 2016:

#1 -Blogging Theme | Blogline | Developer: trippleS | Sold By: Themeforest | $59

Blogline wordpress blog themes

This is a brand new theme just released in August 2016. New themes are hard to judge if they going to be popular or not because there are usually no download or sales stats. However, this developer has been selling a lot of themes on Themeforest for over 3 years, which indicates that this theme could be another winner.

This is a clean WordPress blog template. Writers, authors, and travel bloggers who want to share their ideas and adventures will like the layouts included in this theme. It has some unique post formats to choose from like Audio or Video formats, link post, and a quotes post format as well as the standard, gallery, and multiple single page post formats.

Main Features:

  • Page Layouts – full-width and boxed
  • Homepage Styles – 12 to choose from
  • Headers – 5 different layouts, plus 2 topbar styles, plus a sticky header feature
  • Sliders – uses Owl Slider with 5+ Slider Styles
  • Lead Capture – MailChimp newsletter compatible, and Contact Form 7 plugin supported
  • Post Formats – Standard, video, quote, image, audio, gallery, link, and 3 single page styles (full-width, left side, right side)
  • Demo Content – includes an XML file to import demo content
  • Language Support – translation ready
  • Icons – FontAwesome icons ready
  • Pre-built Pages – contact page included
  • Fonts – google fonts ready

#2 – Magazine Theme | Newspaper| Sold By: Themeforest | $59 | Sales: 28,000+

best paid themes newspaper 7

Newspaper is one of the best WP blog templates for a news, newspaper, magazine, or publishing site. This theme is geared for any blogger but with plenty of options to go pro when you are ready.

With an integrated best practices for SEO, and it’s easy, simple and fast. Newspaper version 7 also supports responsive Google Ads and Google AdSense for the option to add some steady income to your wallet.

This theme has more customization features than I can list here. It includes the industry standard page builder plugin Visual Composer, so you can definitely make your site unique with this theme.

There is also a mobile version included that auto-detects a mobile user and delivers the mobile site instead of a converted full-screen version.

Main Features

  • Responsive – will also automaticly adjusted to mobile version
  • Customization – too many things to list, they are very into creating a unique look for you. The devleoper has focused its customization for the best news and magazine style.
  • Translations – dozens of languages preloaded
  • Speed – uses an integrated “lazy load” – images only load during scrolling when needed
  • Menus – customization includes, text font & icon customization, plus sticky menus
  • Page Layouts – comes with Visual Composer a drag & drop styling page builder
  • Gallery – includes a built-in custom lightbox
  • Background – allows for full width customization
  • Store/Cart – WooCommerce optimized intigration
  • Posts Display – 7 day popular, plus advanced block viewing (mini-loop post display in block form)
  • Fonts – extra font support, Google Fonts, font stack, TypeKit, and WOFF files
  • Article Review System – tables and ratings for article reviews
  • Live Search – instantly suggests article related to what is typed
  • Video Thumbnail – embedded thumbnail downloads for articles
  • Duplicate Article Checker – auto-checks if 2 of the same articles appear on the homepage

#3 – Personal Blog | Bridge | Developer: Qode Themes | Sold By: Themforest | $59

best wordpress themes for blogging

Bridge comes with 200+ demo templates (21 blog styles) that are fully customizable and come with accompanying sets of inner pages making them websites all on their own. It has 500+ customization options and useful shortcodes. Plus it has unique page elements for amazing infographics (long narrow informational images).

The admin panel is comprehensive yet easy to use.

Main Features

  • Demo Templates – 1-click imports
  • Animations – both CSS3 page element and Ajax page change transitions
  • SEO – integrated support with fully optimized code for search engines
  • Responsive – Retina ready, and optimizes for all screens and devices
  • Admin Panel – comprehensive and easy to use
  • Fonts – comes with 700+ Google fonts
  • Menus – unlimited menu and header layouts
  • Page Layouts – includes the industry standard plugin Visual Composer for making your own designs
  • Slider – comes with premium plugin Layer Slider
  • E-commerce – WooCommerce compatible
  • Languages – translations ready and compatible with WPML (WordPress Multi-lingual) plugin
  • Tutorials – Step-by-step videos

#4 – Theme Packages | Thrive Themes | Sold By: Thrive Themes| $67/single site $97/unlimited personal sites

wordpess blog templates

I don’t usually recommend theme packages because there are so many other single themes out there that offer great value for a specific application, but there are some folks out there who want an all-in-one place that offers perfect integration between all aspects of running a WordPress site. This is particularly true for those planning to grow their blog into a business.

Thrive Themes is more than a set of WordPress themes for blogging, it is a complete business toolkit. And, is designed for the blogger who wants more than one blog or one website. It is also not just a set of themes or even a studio that offers themes and plugins. Thrive Themes also has a monthly membership package that gives you all the tools to create great blogs for any niche for you personally, or for clients.

The themes are conversion focused, to capture leads and make money. They have a great drag and drop content builder that allows for unlimited customization of pages and posts. They offer landing pages, lead generation tools and clever widgets. Their drag and drop builder is designed less like a page builder and more like a content builder. It allows you to see what your changes look like on a live view of the page or post.

Main Features

  • Themes – currently 10 WordPress blog templates
  • Content Builder – a true front-end content editor (WYSIWYG). This means not having to go to a preview page to see your changes.
  • Many marketing and conversion boosting CTA (call-to-action) elements
  • Social proof and testimonial elements
  • Content reveal timers – allows CTA’s to appear at just the right time
  • Content boxes that grab attention, great for reviews and summaries
  • Pricing tables – if you offer services these are professional and responsive
  • Countdown timers – perfect for letting your readers know about an expiring event or special offer
  • Table of contents element – for those long-winded posts with lots of sections
  • Lead generation element – great for getting readers into your newsletter
  • Styled bullet points – small image icons help make your lists look better
  • Tabs & toggles – great for condensing (hiding) content with single-click navigation

#5 – Minimalist Theme | Twenty Sixteen|Developer: WordPress.org | Sold By: WordPress.org | $Free

wp blog templates

I’m going to get a lot of flack for this one but there is no other WordPress blog theme that fits the “minimalist” bill better than this one. This theme comes straight from the original stable and has the purist thoroughbred bloodline. While it is often overlooked because it comes already loaded when you install the WordPress CMS (content management system) software on your hosting.

It was built for blogging only and has no extra bells and whistles to boggle your mind. WordPress’s Twenty Sixteen theme has a fluid grid design, which comes from the mobile first approach of web development. Mobile first simply means the theme was designed for mobile devices from the start since they do not have the computing resources and browser power that laptops and desktops do. This makes it fast and mobile user-friendly, but will expand to the larger more powerful machines.

The options and features are barebones (hmm…dare I say minimalist?), but you can be sure there is a plugin that will allow you to change and add whatever functions or elements you want and there are a lot of good free ones.

Main Features

  • Layout – optional right sidebar with the traditional and ever-popular horizontal masthead. This makes the design a familiar place for visitors, instead of them having to figure out how to navigate around
  • Customization – default color schemes to choose from (for the color matching challenged individuals)
  • Sidebar – standard blog navigation, recent comment snippets, article archives, and category listing

Conclusion:

This article was meant to discuss the needs and features that the Best WordPress blog themes should have.

I have tried to keep the list short but still cover what most blogger types would want in a theme.

I have looked at these themes from the point of view a publisher as well as a web designer with an emphasis on the publisher. Most people who want to have a blog are not code geeks like me and just want to write, so most of my selections stayed away from the themes that require heavy lifting in that area. However, I did take into account that there will be a few of you that will venture into the geek zone from time to time and I am sure one of these will be a good fit. I have a list of great free WordPress portfolio themes here.

On the subject of minimalists – there are tons of themes that claim this moniker, but from the purist’s point of view they add too much to their themes and call them clean and simple. So really, why not start with something that truly is simple and clean, to get used to using WordPress without all the distractions and grow from there.

The post Choosing the Best WordPress Themes for Blogs: 2016 Edition appeared first on Blogtrepreneur – For Busy Entrepreneurs.

      

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