The WordPress content management system powers approximately 20% of the worlds websites and this popularity is in large part owed to its user friendliness and versatility, both inherent and extended via plugins.
WordPress is particularly suitable for beginners not only due to its intuitive and easy to use interface, but also because there is a large developer and support community and a great many free addons to help with aspects of design and feature enhancement.
A great example of this, besides the plugin system, is the variety of free WordPress themes and templates which are available, enabling people of all abilities and experiences to create visually impressive and feature rich websites.
However, with such a large community there are bound to be products which are better or at least more suitable than others, so much so that deciding which free product to use then becomes a headache itself, and a possible misstep if you get it badly wrong.
Here then are the top 5 things to look for in a free WordPress template/theme:
1. Responsive Design
A responsive design simply means that the theme, and any website created using it, can adapt to the screen size of the device used to view it. This is achieved using a fluid grid system whereby different elements can expand and contract based on available screen size.
With more than half of internet traffic originating from mobile devices ensuring that you're website displays properly on mobile and tablet is crucial.
2. Multiple Page Styles
The majority of modern themes will offer a range of page layouts for you to choose from with different menu options, content block placements and header designs.
This means that if you like certain design elements such as the typography, for example, but you aren't a fan of the menu or header there will likely be a configuration that you do like.
3. Social Media Friendly
One of the best ways to increase traffic to your website is to promote your material on social media platforms. This is why you should look for a theme with inbuilt social sharing functionality, especially the big names like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google Plus.
4. Widgets & Widget Areas
Widgets are a great way to add instant functionality to your page. They come in all shapes and sizes from the basic content block to side bars and recent posts.
Being able to add widgets and widget areas to different parts of the page is a great way to customise your theme and create the page layout you want. A good theme will include widgets to suit a range of functions and the ability to add widget areas to different parts of the page.
Updates & Support
There's nothing worse then choosing a theme and investing time in customisation and content creation only for it to slowly decline into obscurity as updates and support is withdrawn and compatibility problems inevitably arise.
Ideally choose a theme with automatic updates, a crucial time saver and one less thing to have to think about and secondly, you want a theme which is updated regularly and benefits from a large support base so you can get help should you need it.
A free WordPress template offers beginners and inexperienced or time crunched users alike, a means of customising and creating their own website in a fast and efficient manner without the need to understand code.
With hundreds of free templates to choose from the deciding factor should be the aesthetics, i.e. how it looks, the variety of features and the support and updates which are available.
No two themes are created alike and even though we're looking at a free template its still a good idea to spend some time to search for the highest quality product you can find.