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Theme Checklist

My ultimate advice when searching for themes: Plan nothing. The fewer preconceived notions of layout and content stucture you have, the better.

In general, do not try to find a theme based on an existing design. Work from the theme first, and map your content to the demo one-to-one as best you can.

How to test

  1. Select a specific demo site rather than the splash page. For example: Avada for Travel, X for Church...or something like that. That is the demo content you will use.
  2. Make sure demo content is included with theme download.
  3. As you vet, think "do I have content for that section"? Often times themes look flashy because of the amount of content in their demos (often fake, Lorem Ipsum content, too). If you do not have the same type and same amount of content for your site, the theme will be more challenging to work with.


Check for:

  1. Last updated vs. original upload (Same day? May not be great at updates. 5 years old? May be an outdated codebase).
  2. Documentation and Support
  3. Number of downloads (Only 20? Maybe hold off.)
  4. Developer credentials (Have they released themes before? Do they make money from themes, or is it a side project?)


  1. Responsiveness - open in Inspector

    • Characters per line on large screens
    • Open device view in Inspector, or use simulator
    • Child menu items
    • Image dimensions on small screens
    • Do sliders hold up?
    • LOOK AT IT ON YOUR PHONE (or a simulator)
  2. Code

    • Script requests (can see traces of plugins here) - how many are there?
    • How many stylesheets? Also indication of plugins.
    • Inline styles and div soup
    • !importants and overridden styles
    • Signs of heavy options panels and page builders
    • What is what? Posts vs. page vs. custom post types
    • Check for console errors
  3. Performance

    • Run both the demo page and the theme landing page through
    • Speed index less than 4000 (which is still high!)
    • Page weight
    • Throttle Network in Chrome
    • Turn off JS - can you still see content?
    • If you have several windows of the theme open, is your fan running like crazy?
    • In the Network tab, how many requests are there and how large are they? Pay attention to stylesheets and scripts in particular.
    • Are the scripts and styles minified? This is something you can take care of, but it is an indicator of quality.
    • Enable paint flashing. Does the page turn green when you scroll? That's bad.
    • Responsible webfont and image loading i.e. FOUT, responsive images, etc. This theme by Theme Foundry is a great example!
  4. UX & Accessibility

    • Is the scrolling janky?
    • Does everything animate in and make you want to vomit?
    • Is the typography easy to read? Many themes have small text on grey backgroun
    • Are hover states on mobile disruptive? e.g. thumbnail captions.
    • Are sliders touch sensitive? Does the text resize appropriately?
    • Are there loading icons? Usually is an option to turn these off, but still...try throttling the network to 3G and you'll see what I mean.

Opinionated Recommendations

  1. Do not use those counter things unless it specifically works for your content.
  2. Disable loading icons.
  3. Do not use Revolution Slider or any of those gigantic sliders or UI feature plugins.
  4. Scroll-Jacking should go away forever.
  5. You don't need parallax.
  6. Don't animate in every piece of content on the page.
  7. One video background per page, please, or better


These are some resources for themes and the like - they aren't all tried and true, so be sure to vet on your own!


Theme Shops

Theme Repositories that are not Theme Forest


Child themes are great, but keep in mind there are no grandchild themes, so if you use a ready made child theme you won't be able to create a child theme. So meta...

Speed Testing Tools

Useful Plugins and Services


Does the theme cut it? A checklist to check for theme quality.



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