There are probably 100,000 WordPress themes out there for the choosing. Take away 50% broken or outdated and another 20% unfinished junk and you’re left with 40,000 usable WordPress themes. Ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but the truth is there are way too many themes to choose from.
Among every theme that is built for current versions of WordPress, there is bound to be a design you like and that meets your needs. This article will help you develop your ability to identify quality themes from the rest. Separate the wheat from the chaff. The cream from the milk if you will.
It begins with a careful eye, and ends with reliance on your gut instinct.
1. Look for the obvious rating
This only really works for marketplaces where the user base moderates quality. Obviously a premium theme provider won’t rate any of their own themes poorly.
2. Read the Discussion and Feedback
Almost every theme designer has a feedback mechanism or a discussion forum. Some providers make these forums viewable for only purchasers. Read these forums carefully and see what the common issues are. More importantly, how fast are the theme developers in responding and resolving issues?
3. Check Compatibility
Well developed WordPress themes are compatible across all modern browsers, operating systems and across commonly used WordPress versions. A quality theme should be backward-compatible to version 3.1 and fully compatible with the latest version of WordPress which is currently 3.4. Cross compatibility should be seamless (ie: no hacks or core modifications required).
4. Check for Comprehensive Documentation and Instructions
Every theme claims to be “well documented“, but what does that really mean? Just including two pages of instructions does not cut it. Look for a long, detailed PDF of instructions. Check every feature you are interested in against the documentation. If anything is missing, confront the developer. Documentation should be detailed enough that you can easily set up a theme, but not so detailed that it takes forever to read. It should be well organized with a linked table of contents as well.
Good documentation should also be written well and grammatically correct. Not everything needs to be written in English, but for documentation that is, it should be correct English. Theme documentation built into the theme itself can be very helpful.
5. Look for Frequent (but not too frequent) Updates
Frequent theme updates mean the developer is committed to ongoing support and quality. But daily updates mean they are quick to make changes without being thoughtful. You can check for update frequency through the WordPress SVN or developer download page.