Blog Design / Blogging Tips / themes / Tips

Searching for the perfect theme bloggers do not have FTP access to free hosted blogs and we not able to upload third party themes. However, we have a fabulous selection of attractive themes with many customizable features in the Themes Showcase, which currently contains 154 free themes and 61 premium themes and the collection is growing weekly.

I try every new free theme that’s added to the Themes Showcase in my test blogs. Sometimes I feel the inclination to change themes but there’s always at least one thing I don’t like about any theme.

I’m searching for the perfect theme, knowing it probably doesn’t exist. I do want a responsive width theme because my mobile viewers are growing in number.

Is Your Blog Mobile Compatible? Do you know which sites are getting  the most mobile web traffic across the world wide web? Check out Quantcast ‘s new *mobile web rankings to find out.

Responsive width means the layout adapts depending on the size of the device being used to view your site. When responsive width themes are viewed on mobiles sidebars appear below the posts in order to provide as much space as possible for reading. — Mobile Friendly Theme or Responsive Width Theme?

Note: When you use a responsive width theme you need to disable the mobile theme at > Appearance > Mobile.

I prefer light colored themes and don’t particularly like dark themes but most of the light colored responsive width themes do not appeal to me. However, Visual is a dark, responsive width theme that I do like.

A dark, elegant, responsive portfolio theme with a grid layout, perfect for showcasing your art.

Visual loads fast and smoothly. There are very few markup errors. 12 Errors, 7 warning(s).  It is supposed to  look great no matter what device  one is viewing it on. I have viewed it on a laptop and on an iPad and I liked what I saw.  I used  the MobiReady online testing site’s free service that evaluates mobile-readiness.  In the test I ran this blog was wearing the Visual theme, without the a mobile theme enabled but I was unhappy with the result. If you are viewing this blog on a smartphone or on a tablet I’d like to hear your feedback.

Visual has both custom header and custom background features.  Featured Images will appear just above the post content on index, archive, and search pages at 326 pixels wide with a flexible height. Visual also has a full width page template that removes the sidebar. Though the font colors can be changed on the site title and tagline the color of links cannot be changed.

Is there such a thing as a perfect theme?

Which theme are you using?

Is your theme perfect for you?

Or is there something about it you would like to change?

79 thoughts on “Searching for the perfect theme

  1. Thanks for this post. I found it helpful and informative. With this, and another posts and/or comments of yours I’ve seen, you’ve eased my mind regarding switching themes. It seems I had needlessly worried about making a change.

    I recently launched using Full Frame because I loved the huge images on the home and archive pages. But, after month of real use, I discovered a variety of things related to navigation that have me considering other options. After reading this post and all of the comments, I now like Visual even though you’ve rejected it. Based on your comments regarding dark themes and readability, I think I’ll try to customize it to reverse the previews and content areas to dark text on a light background.

    Since I purchased Full Frame and still like it, that will motivate me to have another blog with content specifically tailored to it. The same thing happened with Shelf on a now discontinued blog.

    • Hi there,
      Visual is a beautifully designed theme. I’m just not a dark theme person is all. I’m currently using Expound and liking very much. However, I’m fickle so that may not last long and that’s why I won’t buy a premium theme. I bore too easily to do that.

      • I’m in the middle of updating my posts, as they were crafted pretty specifically for Full Frame. But, if you care to see a “reversed” visual, I have at least applied a few quick CSS changes to make the content areas black on white instead of white on black.

        • Ah yes, I ought to have mentioned that I did visit and see what you have done. It’s a much lighter and brighter presentation – well done. :)

  2. I don’t like the dark themes either. They look good, but I find the text hard to read. And of course, I have to assume that if I do, then so will visiting fellow bloggers.

    I had a 1 column theme for a while, I liked it but a visitor said it wasn’t user friendly if you were checking out older posts. I listen to my visitors when they’re making sense.

    • Listening to visitor feedback is always important. I attracted to the look of dark themes but like you I can experience readability issues. I was subscribed to a blog that had a one column theme and I also found it difficult to locate older posts.

  3. I run a UK Business Forum and I think the information on this website is priceless – your blogging tips put others to shame, well done. I just wanted to say a big thank you!

  4. I appreciate the link to all currently available responsive-width WP themes– I know I need to make the jump to same one day soon. I also appreciate your thoughts on changing blog headers once in awhile!! : )

  5. I had to search hard & long for finding a cool theme & I have ! What I have, I haven’t come across a blog that has the same theme yet! So, I am pretty happy but I do feel that most free themes are too much in dark colours like black, brown, dark blue, etc. I had much more choice in My theme is very colourful in the same way that I am.

  6. I use Comet. I am not particularly happy with the font colors but I don’t want to pay for the custom upgrade. I like a font with serifs which Comet has. And it is not a responsive width theme. I keep exploring other themes as they are issued, looking for one with responsive width, but I haven’t found a theme that I like out of the box any better than Comet.

    I am reading your post thru the Reader on my iPad. The theme does not show up when I view it this way. The comments are showing as white text on black, which hurts my eyes terribly to read. So I can’t say that I am looking forward to seeing your new theme with my old eyes.

    • Comet is a nice theme with seven color schemes: (Blue, Gray, Red, Yellow, Green, Teal, and Purple) and four different layout options (two-columns with Content-Sidebar or Sidebar-Content; three columns with Sidebar-Content-Sidebar, or one-column with Content).

      In your last paragraph above are your referring to the Yoko theme which I changed to yesterday? Or are you referring to Visual the dark theme that I have rejected?

  7. Hi everyone,
    As you can see though the Visual theme rocks it’s dark and I could not stand the darkness and the eyestrain involved so I have switched back to using Twenty Eleven.

    Also I couldn’t help myself I’m trying the Confit theme out on my personal blog http://thistimethisspace. Feedback welcomed.

    P.S. Hubby is away and business is brisk. I must humbly beg your pardon as I do not have time to respond to your comments. I’m hungry and must eat now. I’ll catch up with you all tomorrow.

  8. Ooooh, theme talk! TiTi, I always look forward to seeing you put a new theme to good use.

    I chopped and changed from here, there and everywhere as I sought to establish my style when I finally decided I am a blogging minimalist. I love some of the dark themes for photography (and have a dark theme photo blog on the side which I started in a peak of indecision) but don’t enjoy the white reading so I lashed out and treated myself to paying for Anthem. Having done this I suspect I might be sticking with it forever! I am not one for lots of widgets etc etc but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying other bloggers whose work I really enjoy. Strong colours however have me rebounding in a flash, never to return.

  9. I am using the Misty Lake theme at the moment but will probably change it soon. I have used the twenty-something themes, I like the clean light look. I try different ones and change because I think it is good to change looks every once in a while, just not too often. That annoys me when viewing other sites so I don’t do it. I like a single sidebar and a banner picture, comments stuff at the bottom not to the side at the top.

    Is there a perfect theme? Probably not, but if I find it I’ll get back to you. That’s about it really, even if a theme is good, after ten months or so I I’ll change it anyway.


    • I like Misty Lake and I have used it. I will return to using it one day. I think your images look great showcased in that theme.

      Without doubt I like your philosophy of changing once in a while but not too often. However, when I get bored then I start looking for another theme and getting into searching for free header images to go with it. I’m afraid that waiting for 9 months to chnage again is not going to happen in my case.

      As I’m on a desktop it was hard for me to relate to a blog not having a sidebar until my hubby got an iPad. That was a “light bulb” moment for me.

  10. Just recently I changed to the Ryu theme, and I love it. It puts social links, a search bar, and a widget area in a sliding bar on the top, meaning nothing distracts readers from the content. When I first activated the theme I wasn’t thrilled by the design of each entry, with the large italic titles, but I have quickly grown to like the text as it draws attention to the articles. Along with this it has a customizable header with a 50% border radius, perfect for a profile image or a logo. It is also fully responsive. I would consider Ryu the perfect theme for any personal blogger.

    • I adore the Ryu theme but the fonts are so large. If one did not have to pay for an annually renewable custom design upgrade to make them smaller I would be using that theme. It’s an example of gorgeous understated elegance that’s so appealing and it loads quickly and smoothly. Hmmmm … now I’m considering using it again.

  11. I’m not a fan of dark themes, either and think you’re wise to switch back. They seem to be more popular with men (this is only my opinion, not based on scientific research!). I used Bueno for a while, then switched to Origin which I’ve been happy with but I’ve taken on board your comments about keeping the same header image – I’ve changed that and added a background image. My blog might now look too fussy but I’ll keep it for a while. I like the idea of rotating header images but I’ve uploaded some images I’m not happy with and I don’t seem to be able to delete them from the blog – so this option isn’t possible for me. For And Other Poems, my poetry blog, I use twenty eleven, pared right back for a totally uncluttered look – since that is the by-line of the blog “simply a blog of poems” and I think that works. I might switch to twenty thirteen when the blog reaches its first year. Thanks, again, for another excellent post and great comments.

    • Hi Josephine,
      That’s an interesting observation ie. more men favoring dark themes than women favoring them. Now that I think about it, I agree with you.

      I’ve uploaded some images I’m not happy with and I don’t seem to be able to delete them from the blog – so this option isn’t possible for me.

      To get rid of any unwanted header images (or any other unwanted images) your remove them from your Media Library. You click “delete permanently”.

      I keep coming back to Twenty Eleven for the same reasons you cite about using it on your poetry blog.

      Happy blogging!

      • You know, since I made that comment, I’ve come across more women using the dark themes so now I’m not so sure. Thanks so much for your advice about deleting the images (can’t believe I was that dumb not to know that). Happy blogging to you, too!

  12. Usually when new themes are released, I do try previewing them with my blog. However some of the new themes don’t even show up. Even after I clear my memory cache.

    Anyway, admittedly I’ve been a bit boggled by the variety of new themes in the past 12 months, which is great. But it takes me time to “clean up” my blog for some themes that I like. Never say never, but right now I just haven’t wanted to invest a lot more hours with a new theme.

    I’m more interested in creating new upcoming blog posts that are captivating and put them in the line-up, for the times in life when I’m busy with other things going on in life outside of blogging.

    I wouldn’t mind reading other people’s experiences of using certain themes for several months and then switching to something else.

  13. As I am a newbie I’ve yet to change my theme as I get used to using WordPress – I have the fresh and clean theme which I really like but don’t think it exists anymore so not sure if this will cause any issues down the track.

    Does anyone know how the images of a post can appear on the front page in the post summary or as this does entice the reader to actually open up the post. Unless that is dependent on the theme used?

    Timethief love your header image really pretty (did you create it yourself?) – However for some reason as I read the posts my eyes hurt .. which is odd as really like turquoise but might be the combination of dark and bright ?- But love that you mix it up all the time – I don’t think your readers would leave your blog it is far too interesting and useful especially for us newbies out there!

    • Not all blog themes are designed to display full posts on the front page of the blog. The Fresh and Clean theme is behaving exactly the way it is designed to behave, which is excerpts only on the front page of the blog. However, it does have an active excerpt box below the post editor, so you can control the length of the excerpt displayed. This is the workaround you can use to override excerpt display on the front page.

      You compose your whole post first in the Visual editor and before you publish it you switch to the HTML (Text) editor, copy the code for the image and as much text as your want to display on the front page, paste it into the Excerpt box, and publish the post.

      This will have to be done on every post.

      No I did not create that header image. Thanks for the blog compliment. I appreciate it very much.

  14. I’ve switched themes twice now. Currently I’m using Greyzed, still new to me but I like it at this point. I do not love switching themes, but I’m also the type of gal who wears twenty year old t-shirts because I still like them.

    • Hi there,
      It’s so interesting how tastes differ. As we have a blog relationship and as I know you won’t hate me for saying so, I dislike your Greyzed theme a lot and wouldn’t even consider using it. Grungy and grubby to me are synonymous. Also I left the concrete jungle over 30 years ago now and don’t relate. I’m a forest dweller and I feel sorry for anyone who thinks the color of concrete is cool. If you aren’t frog, it’s easy being green. LOL :D

      • LOL, I don’t mind your saying so at all :D I like this one because I like the light gray, with the dark gray sidebar.
        I’m envious of your escape from the city, and would happily paint the blog green to have a truly green life.

  15. I have stuck with the twenty twelve theme but sometimes wonder if I should change, I prefer light and simple themes and do not like loud, noisy themes. I don’t care for the very blue label that says “Post Author” when commenting on Twenty Twelve. I am also grateful that I can have a blog and not have to worry about all that CSS/Html… that I have no clue about!

      • Publish is a very nice clean, minimalist theme. I like almost everything about it but don’t use it because I prefer sidebars on the right rather than the left.

        • I prefer right sidebars as well. But when I used to use Publish theme I didn’t have any widgets, just a menu on the left side. It looked quite nice.

    • @food and tools
      I like the way Twenty Twelve showcases your content.

      I think the best theme choices for foodie blogs are light colored themes. It’s the images of the food that are colorful and that bloggers want to stand out. The “author” ie. byline link can be removed if you purchase an annually renewable custom design upgrade and do the required CSS editing.

      Important note: CSS editing is theme dependent. In some themes, metadata such as dates and the leave a comment link cannot be hidden independently, as they are in the same selector as the other meta data elements such as author, categories and/or tags, which means if you hide one, then you hide them all.

      • Thank you for the information, maybe I will try CSS upgrade at some point. At least I know I can refer back to your site for the information that I will need. :)

  16. I’ve switched twice without noticing any real difference in visits or anything else so I’m cautious about getting involved in change for changes sake, but I’m always amazed by your knowledge of the subjext

    • Some people think any visual changes are disturbing but I think the emotional experience of color and use of text-free and image-free (whitespace) should not be overlooked. Whitespace provides rest for the eyes and mind and increases reading comprehension.

      When browsing through blogs peoples’ eyes gravitate to designs that jump out at them. Depending on how a visitor was raised education and other life experiences will play a role in what types of visitors are attracted to your blogs header design, So time should be spent carefully planning how you want your header to look and what message you want to convey to a new visitor.

      Even if you plan on using type only in your header consider the font, color and message in your header. This is why art directors, book authors spend a significant amount of time designing a book cover. Your blogs header is the first impression that you will make on a new user make sure it’s a memorable one.

      My current headers feature the most favored among cool colors ie. blue and the favored elements found in restful landscapes – sky , air and water. They also feature mellow sunlight. The cool shades of blue result in a calming feel. The warmth of the natural sunlight and concentration in one spot creates a feeling of hopefulness. In the image where there is no sunlight focal point the sky has an open and inviting feel.

      Check out this post: 4 Ways to Refresh Your Blog
      Cool colors tend to have a calming effect on readers. Warm colors tend to have an exciting effect on readers. In the post I pointed you to above the transparent green in the first image is calming and the pale blue sky has an airy feel.

      The green in the second image is more earthy and the range of green is multi-hued. Unlike the airy feeling in the first image the color intensity and the gold in the leaves warms up the cool feel of the green. Yellow and gold are exciting eye-catching colors.

      By repeatedly using the second image in the post, rather than using the first image, I was aiming to a better job of holding read interest. I decided repeating the first image would have have too airy of an effect in a post of that length and would cause the reader’s eye and attention to drift off.

      If you’re wondering if the colors you have on your blog currently go well with the type of blog you’re trying to create, here’s a quick way to see how well they match up. Use the Crayon Color Chart I linked to in the first sentence in this post.

      Formatting also makes a huge difference to whether or not reader attention can be gained and maintained to the end of a post.

      Eye tracking studies reveal we typically scan blogs in an “F” shaped pattern similar to two horizontal strips and one vertical strip which form a shape resembling the letter “F”. –

      Oh my! I have to quit this and click submit. I’m creating a tutorial post in a comment box. I apologize for getting carried away.

  17. which theme is this?i currently use hatch,to showcase my content and photos,my folllowers like it very much.However I would like a theme similara bit fifferent.

  18. My theme is perfect for what I am doing now and I am pretty sure it will be perfect for where I want to go with it. I have learned so much from the tips here that I am going to reinvent my blog. I plan to lose the clutter and make the blogs intention clearer. I like your new theme because it is easy to navigate. I like the way there are categories under the header then the more complex topics at the side. I also like the white on black. It is restful.

  19. Wow, it’s going to take me a while to get used to the theme change :)

    For me, I constantly test out themes as well. There are always elements of many I’m drawn to, but something ultimately doesn’t quite click for my specific style of blog. I really like the clean style of my current Theme Runo Lite. I wish the quote font is smaller and link colours was free. Other than that, it’s perfect.

    But maybe I’ll test out Visual too…

  20. Dear TiTi,
    I used to be the fidgetey widgetey type :) Being a creative person, like you I often got bored of themes. Its only after I started thinking from the point of view of my readers and the kind of message I wanted to portray that picking themes and colors became easier. Till the theme was about what I liked, I used a lot of pinks, purples and reds. But now, my main motive is to heal and calm…hence the pastel shades. I dont like clutter on the I try to keep the widgets to a minimum{hard for the fidgetey widgetey in me ;) }.
    Although I am happy with my theme, its far from perfect. I make do….I find the cost of the premium themes too steep, and that too there is no guarantee I will be satisfied with them too.
    For now though Splendio is fine. But I am constantly on the look out for that perfect theme….tell me when you find yours…I might just try it.
    Much Love,
    p.s. I am not a great fan of dark themes, so this particular change of your theme, I am not a fan of. Love the header though :)

    • Hi Zeenat,
      I like Splendio and I see you enjoy color as well as I do. Splendio has lots of customizable features that allow you to change the appearance. It has a Showcase Template featured posts, footer widgets, etc. There’s a lot you can do to change it up if you feel the urge to.

      Like you I’m not inclined to purchase a premium theme due to the cost and due to the fact I get bored with themes so easily. So we will continue on the hunt for the perfect theme together despite that fact the odds are against us finding it. If I discover it I’ll definitely tell you. lol :D

      Love always,

  21. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve changed themes — in every case because sooner or later I decided there was some feature I just could not live with. I’ve been using The Morning After for maybe two years now and that’s a record. With the CSS upgrade I’ve been able to tweak just about everything to my liking. I stil fiddle with details, but am not likely to change themes again and start the process all over again.

  22. I’ve changed themes 3 times now. Each time a bit cleaner in look and feel. I don’t like it when it’s too busy. And gifs running in the background are not good. They slow my computer.

    By the way, someone told me about this: It’s a useful tool for determining how responsive your theme is.

    • You are such a gifted photographer. You black and white images look fabulous on the dark version of Ryu. Interestingly enough I have no trouble reading the light text on the dark background in Ryu. It’s the size of the font that I find too large to use for my purposes. Otherwise Ryu is a lovely theme. I like the way the widgets are so cleverly hidden.

  23. I had a hard time reading the post on my i-phone, and had to re-read it on my mac. The white type is small and difficult to make out; the light blue was a little easier. I don’t know if a different font would help or not. Also the nested/indented comments are a problem – they don’t wrap properly in a discussion (they get so narrow that they just go down in single/double letter column).

    I subscribe by email to my own posts (the theme is Twenty Twelve) so I can see what they look like mobile- I also open up post in different browsers (Safari/Chrome/Firefox). I am “graphically challenged” so I try to keep my posts as simple as possible. Sometimes I am blown away by the beauty of other blogs; I think my strength is in my writing, so I will stick to that.

  24. I’ve switched about 3 or 4 times in the past 2 years. A few months ago I switched to Comet and have been enjoying it. However it does not have a footer widget area which is a bummer. But I agree with you…I’m not sure there is such a thing as a perfect, free theme.

    • I really like Comet on your blog. You have done some nice touches that coordinate the color scheme so well. I like the switch to the lighter colored gray diamonds image background that you have made. Your images look great in that theme.

  25. I am always experimenting with themes and would love to have a different one every week! However most people say that it’s good to have continuity so i keep coming back to Sundance which i love. Having said that i quite like this one so i might have to go and have a try … :)

  26. I started my blog with the Vigilance theme which I loved and used for almost 3 years. I needed a change, was away from active blogging and wanted a new theme to cheer me on! I read your post on responsive theme (thank you) and tried out a number. I finally settled on Yoko. I like it and will probably keep it a while. The way Yoko cramps paragraphs when you bullet a post irks me. But other than that, I’m pretty satisfied. I would like to use the custom menu feature and will work on that in the coming month.

    There are so many themes. I blog about books and I post quotes and poems often, so how a theme formats quotes is very important. It’s been easy therefore to eliminate themes by looking at how the quotes look.

    Thanks for the tip to disable the mobile theme.

  27. I also like the responsive width feature and have been using it since day one. I didn’t know I needed to disable the mobile theme. Great tip! Of course there are lots of things I’d like to change (e.g. having the text display properly for the titles of my widgets). I try new ones to see how they look but always end up reverting back. Hopefully someday I’ll find a new one that’s a keeper.

  28. I am using Confit. Two of my daughters picked it separately, and even though I was going to use a completely different one, I went with their choice. They were right. It’s good for my style.

  29. So many themes it’s mind boggling….like a candy store. Probably most start out with one theme , find their wings and morph to another. Some seem to change themes like seasonal clothing. Some develop a brand and keep the same one. In any case it’s great to try on different ones once in a while – like a new haircut?
    Besides finding a theme that matches the blog concept, readability is important.

    • I am guilty of changing themes frequently and changing headers, backgrounds and font colors to match. I’m a visual person ie. an artist and I get bored with themes very quickly.

      Like you I have heard I have heard that changing themes is off-putting to readers but 8 years of blogging stats don’t support that contention. When I visit blogs that have the same headers for ages, presumably for branding purposes, I wonder why bloggers do not change them because that kind of branding equals boring to me. I assume they aren’t visual people.

      I’m visually challenged and readability is a major factor for me. When I visit blogs that are designed for readability and see the blogger has destroyed that by using multiple font styles or colors or a variety of mismatched images in their posts my eyes have to work overtime to focus. Witnessing smaller images that do not have text wrapping in place and are sticking out like left aligned or center aligned sore thumbs on a single line with the text below them is annoying to me because my eyes are not able to track smoothly and have to keep refocusing. Struggling to read such blogs is so tiring. Unless the content is outstanding I simply give up and read other blogs.

      • I have left blogs because of all the visual noise – some people don’t realize what it does. Artist may be more sensitive to it – or it may be the younger bloggers are more use to distracting images.

        Most people change themes as their blog matures – or gels – or they get bored – it’s been fun to see how it seems to strike in waves – all of a sudden everyone’s different. Nothing like variety to keep things fresh.

        • I too have left blogs that were too visually noisy. It’s hard to focus on the text when there are visual distractions that don’t have play an illustrative role in posts. I can’t speak for younger bloggers as I’m not in their demographic. It seems to me that dark themes are more appealing to those under 45 than they are to those who are over that age. It will be interesting to see if I get any feedback on the theme change to switching to Visual.

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