It is possible to rate WordPress themes by categories, such as the top 10 free WordPress themes or the 10 most popular eCommerce or magazine themes. In fact, the internet is full of such reviews, most of them – certainly not all of them – quite useful and well thought out.
But is it possible to make a shortlist of the very best WordPress themes across all categories? Like, say, the top 10 best themes overall?
The simple answer is no. There are, literally, hundreds of thousands of WordPress themes out there and no central rating authority. Actually, even a central authority would not be able to rate themes across all categories because each theme category has its own needs and operational dynamics. You cannot, for example, rate a directory theme against a profile theme.
Still, it would be nice to know which themes have a claim to being the best across all categories. One way to do that would be to look for the themes, across all categories, which have earned the trust of most users. That would mean tracking sales – which in WordPress themes also means downloads and subscriptions. The best selling or most downloaded themes must be very good or they would not be bestsellers, right?
The problem is that not all theme developers report their sales or user data on their sites. And that, surprisingly, includes some big theme clubs and developers who obviously have huge numbers.
The next best strategy would be to look for the themes that developers themselves consider the best. That is what we have done in this review. We have shortlisted the leading theme developers by reputation, sales and track record, and taken a close look at the themes they consider their best. For purposes of fairness and variety, we have selected the one theme that each leading developer touts as their best. Our calculation is that a major developer can only tag a theme as the most popular or the best in their portfolio only if it is their best seller or most liked – or most sophisticated, most effective or best constructed theme.
We have, in effect, taken the themes that undisputed experts in WordPress themes consider the best. Here is what we got:
The Top 10 WordPress Themes by Developer Ratings
Virtually all leading theme developers have one theme that they rate as their most popular or the ‘best’ of all their themes. A few back their claim with sales, downloads or user rating data. All of them, however, give detailed features of their best theme.
As you would expect, all the leading themes have a few common denominators. They are all responsive, for example, and have social media integration and SEO optimization. They also all have eCommerce features although they take varying approaches on that. In other words, they all have the features a WordPress user may consider standard in a modern, user-friendly theme.
Still, each theme is unique in its own way. Here’s a summary of each theme in our list of the top 10 WordPress themes by developer ratings – in no particular order:
Divi Theme by Elegant Themes
The DiviWordPress theme’s developers, Elegant Themes, consider this to be ‘the smartest, most flexible theme’ in their collection.That is a big compliment.
But why do users love the Divi theme? First of all, it is a multi-purpose theme. That seems to be one of the features defining all leading themes. Second, the Divi theme comes with the Divi Builder, an infrastructure platform that allows users to customize their website to their own preferences without having to write code. A good user interface also seems to be a key feature in all leading themes.
In this case, the genius of the Divi Builder is that it reduces all design elements into visual building blocks that a user can pick and drop into place. For example, it comes with a large menu of modules – completely designed, ready to use images of website features – like contact form, purchase cart, call to action, blog, blurb and pricing table. You simply pick a module place it wherever you want in your site and you are good to go.
Additionally, the Divi comes with 18 ready-made layouts that are also customizable. That earns the theme quite some marks because it gives users a starting point from which to ‘design’ their own themes. It is like having 18 themes in one – and still have the option to create your own theme by tinkering with any one of the themes.
The Divi is also exceptionally secure. It has a Safe Mode seal from Sucuri.net, and the assurance that it has been security-tested and found to have not a single code issue.
Canvas Theme by Woothemes
Woothemes rates Canvas WordPress theme as their ‘most popular and hard-working theme’. That is quite an achievement considering that the developer has 55 themes, all of them quite good.
The theme’s major selling point seems to be the user interface. Canvas comes with an easy to navigate options panel that has 100+ customization options that makes it a breeze for users to quickly change design and layout.
The theme also scores well in flexibility. It is a multi-purpose theme that is easily adaptable to any type of website. But it makes it easier for user to begin customizing by packing ready-to-use templates for every conceivable type of website, from magazine and portfolio layout to eCommerce business layout. In other words, you do not just get the options to customize the Canvas theme to your liking but you also get the basic infrastructure to start building your choice of site.
The Canvas theme also scores highly for being sensitive to the needs of both experienced and inexperienced WordPress theme users. Besides the ready to user version of the theme, there is a child theme version for those who already know how to build their own website.
Altitude Pro Theme by StudioPress
Altitude Pro WordPress Theme is not exactly the most popular StudioPress theme. By the developers own account, previous sales and downloads rank Parallax as their best theme. But Altitude Pro Theme is the undisputed, upgraded successor of Parallax, which makes it better.
Like Parallax, the Altitude Pro is a sleek, sophisticated theme that grabs the eye. But the secret behind its superiority is that it is a combination of a powerful theme and the Genesis Framework. The Genesis is the signature platform behind all StudioPress themes and a big hit with users. Think of it as the user interface feature that matches those of the other leading themes in our list.
In this case, the Genesis Framework integrates SEO, responsiveness, security features, widgets and layout options into the Altitude Pro – besides also simplifying customization to allow users to pretty much create their own versions of the theme.
The Altitude Pro is additionally strong because of its easy content management systems, advertisements and monetization features.
Themify Corporate Theme
The Corporate WordPress theme is the top featured multipurpose theme at Themify Themes. That essentially makes it the developers leading theme. A sign of the theme’s superiority is that it is based on the theme that the developer’s site, themify.me, uses. That is first of sorts.
The Corporate theme is a multi-purpose theme that is particularly adaptive to the needs of businesses, portfolios, photographers and web apps sites. But, like the other leading themes, its main selling point seems to be a special user interface. In this case, the secret is the drag and drop Themify Builder which allows users to create an unlimited number of layouts by simply dragging and dropping modules on a page. The modules include text, images, videos, ads, and dynamic content such as queried posts, contact forms, and shop products.
The Corporate theme also comes with a visual innovation that is all its own – and which will probably become a must have theme feature across the board. That is the video background feature which allows a video to play continuously in the background of any text or image presentation. The video background feature which was first tried in the Music theme is now sleeker and smoother.
The Builder also has over 60+ animation effects that can be applied to the module appearance.
Highend Theme by Mojo
Highend WordPress theme is the top theme in the weekly top popular items list at Mojo Themes. Like the other leading themes, the Highend theme also comes with astriking user interface: the drag anddrop Visual Composer Page Builder. This builder is the reason why the theme ranks among the most flexible and easy to customize themes.
The Highend theme also has an interesting innovation of its own. It’s almost as if a theme has to have an at least one unique innovation to make the list of the developers top 10 list. In this case, the Highend theme scores by packing multiple templates, each template serving as a theme on its own. Future templates are included in the mix – users of Highend get to access new templates whenever they come out, at no additional cost. In the developers own words, ‘it’s like having a dozen premium themes’ for the price of one.
An added advantage of the theme is that it also covers the experts versus new WordPress theme divide by including a child theme for those already proficient in theme customization. In addition, the theme also takes care of the emerging trend of video backgrounds best associated with Themify themes. In this case the backgrounder feature includes capability to use images, color and parallax in the background.
Auto Trader theme by Themefuse
The Auto Trader doesn’t sound like the sort of multi-purpose theme that would top a major developer’s list. But it is featured first in Themefuse site’s list of most popular themes, which suggests it is in fact the developer’s best theme.
A closer look reveals why. Like all Themefuse themes, the Auto Trader works on a pretty powerful admin framework that allows extensive, one-click customization. That explains its high user interface rating – you can change everything from colors and animations to background and sliders.
The theme also stands out for the rare feature of multi-category internal search and filter capability. The feature, which is appropriately called ‘seek’, allows users to search through hundreds of products by filtering and searching by several categories or keywords.
But perhaps the most unique aspect of the Auto Trader – and possibly a big part of the reason it is so popular – is that it comes with a marketing rather than technical innovation. The theme’s developer, Themefuse allows users to road-test the Auto Trader theme for free on the site’s test-lab sub-domain.
Avada Theme at Themeforest
If a global vote was to taken to identify the most popular WordPress theme of all time, Avada would win. Avada is the all time best seller at the largest WordPress themes market in the world, Themeforest, with over 100k downloads. It is also the fastest selling theme of all time. And that is in spite of having a limited one-domain license.
Why the big fuss about Avada? Flexibility and power, that’s why. In the words of one prominent enthusiast, Collis Taeed, the CEO of Envato, “Avada is the Swiss Army knife of WordPress themes. It does everything.”
That is another way of saying it is extra-multi-purpose in the sense that it can be customized to serve any type of website. That is also an indication that it has a good user interface – that is, it is easy to customize.
But the main reason why the Avada is such a hit is because it has basically improved on what the other leading themes have. That means, above all, an extra effective user interface. Actually, the Avada has at its core not one but a bundle of user interface tools that allows the user to customize and recreate any type of website quickly and easily.
The bundle includes the Fusion Builder, a drag-and-drop tool that allows users to create their own versions of websites intuitively. It also includes a Shortcode Generator that does the coding for whatever design options a user chooses. Then it has a powerful admin panel, an in-built mega menu and a special plugin, the Fusion Core, which works in the background to enhance performance.
To complete the picture, the Avada also packs CSS3 animations, bbPress and Woocommerce compatibility and 3D layer slider. And a child theme is thrown into the mix just in case.
Storefront theme by Gavick
The Storefront WordPress theme is rated by its developers, Gavick Themes, as their ‘most flexible webstore theme.’That, of course, makes it an eCommerce theme, which makes it an exception on our list. The other leading themes as flagged by developers are multi-purpose.
But it is not difficult to see why the Storefront Webstore theme is special. It has all the features of a modern eShop theme but throws in an inspired twist. Rather than stick to the usual approach of placing features in their logical places, the Storefront takes the logic of a real-life store and places important features on the front page. For example, the front page has a tab-based display that displays products from multiple categories and instantly adds them to the cart. That is special because, usually, carting does not happen on the home page. And, to make matters easier, the cart updates in real-time without going through page refreshing.
Similarly, customization happens right at the front page where you can create the key features directly, including slideshows, tabs and parallax backgrounds.
Also at the front page is the News Show Pro widget that allows users to add products or post reviews to any page in the site – anywhere, that is, including in the usual widget areas.
Showstopper by Templatic
The rather flamboyantly named Showstopper WordPress theme is described by its creators, Templatic, as ‘the ultimate multipurpose WordPress theme.’ That gives the theme some claim to being the best in that stable.
Like the other leading themes, its strength is in the user interface, in this case a homepage that is literally multipurpose. The homepage has 6 content areas, each of which can carry multiple widgets. In other words, you can display products, portfolio items and blog posts at the same time. You can even ‘append’ an entire page to the homepage by simply creating a custom link.
But perhaps the main reason why the Showstopper is so popular is because it packs outstanding online store features even as it remains multipurpose. For instance, the theme has a store management feature to sort out the products, a coupon module to quickly set discounts on any product and an in-built multiple shipping and tax feature. You also get a one page checkout feature to make sure your shoppers have no excuse not to buy, plus a products user ratings system. And a social media feature that allows users to share products.
In addition, the Showstopper theme comes with a free, custom WooCommerce plugin with multiple product marketing settings that allows users to choose from or combine physical marketing, digital marketing and affiliate marketing. There is, too, a payment system that allows you to process payments. Quite simply, the Showstopper has everything you would need for an online commerce theme.
Again like the other leading themes, the showstopper has excellent page customization flexibility. The theme’s mega menu, for instance, allow you to go beyond simple drop-down menus and introduce structures with multiple columns.
And, unlike most leading themes, this one has the confidence to allow users to test drive the complete version of the theme before purchase.
Make Plus theme by the Theme Foundry
Make Plus is not even a theme. It is a plug in. But it makes it into our list because it is a plugin to the Make WordPress theme, a theme described by its creators, Theme Foundry, as ‘our most powerful and flexible theme yet’ and, just to be clearer, as ‘our flagship theme of the future.’
The Make theme is indeed a cut above the normal themes. It is a multi-purpose theme with a flexible drag and drop page builder that hugely improves user experience. It also has strong features, including eCommerce support and excellent publishing capabilities. And, astonishingly, the Make theme is free.
The ‘Plus plugin’ becomes important because it adds special functionality to the Make theme – and moves it from the free category to the premium themes category. The result is a theme with a genuine claim to ranking among the best.
The business features of the Make Plus theme are particularly notable. The page builder, which is this theme’s version of the all important user interface, is extra versatile. For example, the page builder comes with a dedicated WooCommerce section with the option to add eCommerce functionality to individual pages. The drag and drop feature is similarly more sophisticated, allowing users to mix and match different layout features into a totally custom website. Page customization is further enhanced by the builder’s widget support feature.
At the same time, the Builder comes with a post-list section supported by dynamic widgets to take care of online publishing. The effect is that every page can be made to look different, including having unique sidebars, toggle dates, authors, meta, and featured images.
The Make Plus theme also comes with a child theme for theme developers, complete with over 150 filter hooks.