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What makes a good WordPress theme for a niche site?
For me, it’s clean design, clean code, and very lean in features.
I’ve tried a whole bunch of different themes over the years, but it’s been a while since I went browsing around the free section.
A couple of years ago, there was a clear distinction between a free and paid WP theme. Free themes were either really bare, and/or poorly designed.
That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.
Of course, there still are some really poorly built themes out there, but I was surprised to see how much the selection of free themes improved both in design and function.
What I look for in a theme
Obviously, design is the main factor. But functionality and code are equally important.
I’ve found simple 2-column blog layout themes to perform best with Adsense.
But a good design is just part of the equation. A good theme is one that is light, fast, and has just enough options for what you need (like these ones).
For instance, a fancy new business theme might have a nice design.
But it also usually includes things like parallax sliders, built-in shop and checkout functionality, an option for a forum, and perhaps even a bunch of different shortcodes.
I like to go with bare-boned themes – ones that have exactly what I need and nothing more.
That usually means just a simple blog layout, with maybe a featured post section, and a sidebar.
Medium-inspired with 2-columns.
2-column with a full-width header image.
Always full-width across the page.
Clean, minimalist and all-white.
Compact 2-column with a full-width featured slider option.
Beautiful with clean typography and spacing.
A clean, 2-column content grid.
9. Simple & Clean
A bold 2-column theme.
10. Pro Blogg
2-column content grid with an elegant featured post slider.
A simple and clean 2-column theme with nice, big padding.
Very elegant with compact widths.
Wide, versatile with a full-width slider.
Pretty and elegant with 3-column grid and content area.
Very beautifully designed with just the right amount of functionality.
Left-columned sidebar, large clean fonts and spacing.
A wide, 2-column layout with large featured images.
Left-sidebar, left-edge theme.
A very nicely designed theme with separate left and right screen background colors.
A clean, medium-sized content WordPress theme.
My favorite theme in this list. Great design and layout with clean typography.
22. HarmonUX Core
A standard 2-column layout.
24. Clean Retina
Full-screen header image, with 3 featured post/page section on the homepage.
Minimalistic, white theme with 2-column grid and no sidebar.
A wide content area.
27. Rara Clean
A bare-bones, clean theme.
3-column masonic grid on the homepage.
Another compact theme with clean, elegant design.
A spacious blog theme with a full-width slider on the homepage.
A colorful magazine theme for sites with lots of categories.
A minimal blog theme with fancy use of typography and borders.
A very narrow one-column theme with no sidebar.
A simple 2-column grid layout.
A professional-looking blog theme with a sleek featured post slider.
A super clean blogging theme by Dessign.net
Are these themes Adsense optimized?
Yes, in that they do have the best layouts and designs that perform best with Adsense.
But apart from that, there’s really no such thing as a fully “Adsense optimized” theme. Optimization depends on your ad placement, not how a theme is designed.
Things like font-size, font-family, font and link colors can be easily edited for any theme and they shouldn’t be a major factor in your decision.
For some more tips on Adsense optimization, read this blog post.
What’s the difference between a free theme and a premium theme?
There are a few major differences.
The biggest being quality.
Since premium themes generate revenue, the authors need to make the extra time, care, and effort to make their product the highest quality possible.
That means extensive documentation, reliability of usage, and A+ support.
With a paid theme, you can have peace of mind knowing that your theme is well-built, will be updated frequently, and is backed by support if you need it.
I recommend going with a paid theme if possible
Your niche site is going to be your business. Get serious about it and at least give it a professional design with good functionality.
They won’t cost you much.
They’ll run you around $20-$50, and that’s just a one-time fee. Because you use WordPress, you have the luxury of using themes instead of having to pay thousands of dollars to a web designer.
Here are a few of the places you can find some beautiful, functional WordPress themes.
The first two, ThemeForest and Creative Market, are marketplaces. The others are individual companies.
What’s a marketplace? It’s somewhere multiple theme developers upload their themes for sale. They do go through rigorous approval processes so you can be assured they’re high quality.
Obviously, this means that there are more options to choose from.
That doesn’t mean all free themes are poorly coded and built by people who don’t care.
You just have to be fine with not having any real support if you run into any issues.
Be careful of WHERE you download free WP themes
You should never download a free theme from a site you don’t know or are unsure about. Some free themes out there have malicious code built into them, and installing them can cause you a lot of headaches.
I personally would only recommend you download from the WordPress repository or from a reputable paid themes company (most paid theme companies offer free themes as well).
Which WordPress theme should you use?
Any of them!
It depends on what design and layout you prefer.
They’ll all work. I would be comfortable using any one of these themes for my own niche sites.
My personal favorites from this list are #1, #10, 19, and #21.
What about you?
What theme do you use on RankXL?
I get this question almost on a daily basis, so I’ll answer it here for anybody else wondering.
RankXL uses a custom developed WordPress theme designed by yours truly. I’m not a professional developer or designer, but I love playing around with CSS and HTML.
It’s my hobby. I’m constantly browsing web design blogs, looking for inspiration, and playing around with different designs.