So, you’ve rounded up a handful of potential responsive themes for your website, but since each one offers different features and styles, it’s hard to compare those responsive themes like-for-like and make a final purchasing decision.
If that’s a challenge you’re facing right now, this guide is for you.
It’s no secret that having a mobile-friendly website is imperative for the success of any business, but with such an endless array of options, committing to just one is a challenging process.Below, we’ll talk you through those final few key steps to whittling down your choices and picking the very best responsive theme for your website.
How to Compare Responsive Themes and Decide Which One to Buy
Choosing the one WordPress theme to use out of the countless options available all comes down to asking the following crucial questions.
1. Is it Compatible With the Latest WordPress?
There have been many times when we’ve found responsive themes that we thought looked fantastic in the demo, only to find out later that said demo was running on an out-of-date version of WordPress.
This is problematic.
Updates to the core WordPress software are rolled out several times a year to, among other things, ensure the platform’s security, stability, and integrity.
If a responsive theme has yet to be tested for compatibility with the latest WP updates, that could lead to two possible issues.
First, it may negatively affect the same user experience vital to your website’s success, causing interactive elements to malfunction or otherwise making the site more difficult to use.
Second, it could leave your site vulnerable to malware and other security threats since outdated software is often a prime target for hackers.
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Fortunately, most reputable developers will provide details about updates and compatibility.
On ThemeForest, for example, you can look in the theme details panel below the pricing information and see both the date it was last updated and the software it runs on.
When comparing responsive themes, find this information and keep in mind that the more recently a theme was updated, the better.
2. Is it Responsive?
Even at a time when mobile-friendliness is absolutely essential, it still surprises us the number of themes we come across that claim to be responsive but don’t fully deliver what a truly responsive theme should.
To sum up, a responsive theme should include features that allow it to deliver quality design and flawless user experiences regardless of the device, screen size, or screen orientation on which it’s viewed.
Yet there are still themes that work great on desktops, laptops, and iPhones but whose developers seem to have forgotten entirely about Android devices, meaning the theme simply falls apart when viewed on, say, a Samsung Galaxy.
With that in mind, your next step should be to compare your responsive theme options in terms of how responsive they actually are.
Do they look good and work well on all types of screen sizes?
Do they still deliver when a user turns their iPad from portrait to landscape?
Will they provide the same quality experience no matter whether a user visits your site on Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, or even Microsoft Edge?
In our complete guide to testing responsive themes, we outlined all the ways you can answer these questions.
Still, if you don’t have time for that right now, we recommend accessing the Responsive Design Mode in Firefox and Chrome, which you can do by right-clicking on your theme, tapping Inspect, and then selecting the small icon that looks like two overlapping smart devices.
You can then use this as a simulator to test how that theme responds on all different devices.
3. Is This Theme Fast?
Now that you’ve tested for compatibility and responsiveness, you should be able to start narrowing down your choices, eliminating any themes that don’t make the grade.
With that done, the real head-to-head comparison begins by testing for the fastest theme.
Since page load speeds play a vital role in everything from SEO to overall user satisfaction, the responsive themes that deliver the best performance (particularly on mobile) should be in top contention as you get closer to making a purchasing decision.
The easiest way to do this would be to take the URL of the site’s demo and run it through speed-testing tools like Pingdom and Google Page Speed Insights.
Keep in mind, however, that this isn’t 100% reliable as other factors, such as hosting servers and the amount of dummy content on the demo site, will also influence performance. A more thorough but time-consuming option is to use the free version of your preferred themes (if one is available), install each one in turn on your own hosting server, and test which performs the fastest.
4. How Well Does This Responsive Theme Meet My Needs?
If you’re at the point of comparing responsive themes to make a final decision, there’s a good chance you’ve already looked at a few that seem generally well-suited to your needs.
Maybe you used search filters to find themes related to your specific niche or that include certain functionality, but now it’s time to dive a little deeper and examine which theme will allow you to meet the needs of your visitors as easily, efficiently, and effectively as possible.
There are three main areas to look at here:
A. User-Friendly Design and Customization
If you’re new to WordPress and need a beginner-friendly way to customize your site, you may prefer to use a theme compatible with visual site-building tools like Elementor or Beaver Builder.
If you’re a seasoned pro, you may prefer an option that simplifies the process of editing the CSS and adding custom code.
B. Range of Customization Options
Look too at what customization options are available and consider what impact these options (or lack thereof) will have on your ability to deliver first-class user experiences.
This is particularly important if you’ve had your eye on a free WordPress theme, as many of them will restrict your access to specific customization options until you shell out for an upgrade.
C. Content Types and Layouts
Finally, compare your themes in terms of how well they’ll help you present your information, products, or services.
Are the product page templates on that eCommerce theme designed to showcase your products in the best possible light, with all the information customers need and a well-placed Add to Cart Button?
If your goal is to grow your email list or generate leads, does the theme allow you to place an accessible signup form and CTA in the hero section?
Do blog page layouts offer the optimal way to showcase your particular type of content?
Whatever your particular needs are, the themes that meet them the best are the ones you should prioritize in your decision-making.
5. What Support is Available?
Support is an important yet often overlooked feature of responsive themes.
After all, even experienced WordPress users can run into issues when getting to grips with a new theme, so it’s good to know that help is at hand.
There are two things to compare here.
The first is access to thorough and clear documentation that talks you through the set-up process and guides you to self-troubleshoot common issues in an easy-to-understand way.
In our experience, the best theme developers offer well-documented themes, arming website owners with all the information they could need to get the most out of that theme.
The second is, of course, support itself.
Do the theme developers respond quickly to support requests? Are their responses helpful?
You can usually compare the support quality for various themes by looking under questions or comments on their marketplace page.
Here, proactive developers will frequently respond to users, so this should give you some idea of what to expect if you ever run into trouble.
6. How Much Does it Cost?
There’s a reason why we’ve saved costs until last.
Although pricing is always important when making any purchasing decision, when it comes to responsive themes, things aren’t always as clear-cut as they may first seem.
In other words, it’s rarely as simple as saying the theme with the lowest price is the best one to use.
Sure, if you’re on a severely limited budget, it may be the one factor determining which theme you use. However, if you can be a little more flexible with your checkbook, then the real question you want to ask is this:
Is this the best value for my money?
After all, there are plenty of free responsive WordPress themes out there, but as we’ve already mentioned, many place restrictions on certain features and customization options, while most free themes lack any support outside the standard documentation.
So, when putting your favorite themes head to head, what you’re really looking for is the one that offers the best combination of optimum responsiveness, performance, ease of use, and suitable features at the best possible price.
Comparing Responsive Themes: How to Decide Which One to Buy
As you can see, picking just one theme out of the thousands available involves much more than first meets the eye, but if you’re deadly serious about the success of your website, then taking the time to test for mobile-friendly design and performance will undoubtedly prove to be time well spent.
The same can be said for paying attention to things like the date of the theme’s last update, its layout and content features, and the available customization options.
As you go through this checklist with each of the responsive themes you want to compare, you may find it helpful to give each one a score in all of the above categories.
When you’re done, you can round up all those scores to come up with the average total for each one. Doing so should reveal the one theme that stands head and shoulders above the rest, making it the ideal choice for your website.