The very best responsive themes are the ones that are 1) affordable, 2) coded well for SEO and performance, 3) user-friendly, 4) pleasing to visitors, and 5) widely compatible with plugins. A you know, responsive means that the page adjusts effectively for whatever type of device its viewed on (e.g. PC, laptop or smart phone). So let’s look at these 5 criteria briefly and then see which responsive WordPress theme meets these benchmarks the best and rises to the top.
If you can can afford to fork over $100 + for a new theme then I’m surprised you’re reading this. When money is no object then its easy to find the best of anything, including the best responsive themes. The trick for most of us bloggers is to find themes and plugins that meet a threshold of price/performance that do their jobs well, that is our baseline.
I would also say that while I’ve used plenty of free themes in the past, there are some inherent advantages to using premium (or paid) themes. I have tried dozens (literally dozens) of the “top free themes” that always seem to pop up on someone’s list. And to be fair, for “free” they are great values. But if you’re in this business to be a money blogger, to make money, then you need to have a theme that meets as many of the 5 criteria as possible.
I used the Thesis theme years ago because at the time it met my needs and most of these criteria, but now with mobile browsers on pace to surpass PC browsers in a few short years (and if even if not, who wants to miss out on so many potential visitors), responsive themes are a must. In a massively crowded theme market developers are pulling out all the stops to deliver the best responsive themes we’ve ever seen, and the competition is driving prices down at the same time. You will notice that I list “affordable” first because it is the most important. I don’t want some rich guy telling me how Maserati is the best car out there when clearly it doesn’t matter to me, I won’t be picking one up any time soon. I stay firmly in the sweet spot when I spend money… there is a point where forking out more money isn’t worth it, where the returns on price diminish.
With many of the free themes you’re dealing with start-ups or new developers, which is fine and they do a great job. But they don’t have the resources (money or time) to put into the development and testing of new themes across a broad range of possible platform combinations. While a theme may be coded correctly in theory, does it play out in terms of site speed and SEO? Is it a truly mobile responsive theme? The last thing you want or need is a sluggish blog or one that crashes constantly or has some other kind of errors that get between you and your visitors.
I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to see blogging beginners searching for “Responsive Theme WordPress Free“. If you read enough posts across the web you’ll see one very clear and common denominator when it comes to themes on money blogs… pay for a premium theme, period. After all, with most of the credible companies you’re only paying one time and then using the theme on as many sites as you can build, so in the case of CyberChimps Pro themes, $39 gets you a top notch theme for ever (lifetime upgrades).
Another point that you must consider is how simple is it for YOU to create awesome blogs in as little time as possible. Time is money, and money bloggers know that getting a multitude of sites up and running is key to making money with your blog. Does the theme offer drag and drop placements, sliders, drag and drop header and logos, portfolio and call-out sections, widgets galore, boxes, easy breadcrumbs, carousels, recent posts and a Twitter bar? With other themes I spent too much time trying to get things right. With CyberChimps I get it right, quickly. When I install a blog for someone I always use CyberChimps themes. As stated earlier, I also don’t have the headache of figuring out which plugins will work with my theme.
This ties in closely with user friendliness and coding, but it deals more with how a theme is designed and how well your visitors can navigate, and also how quick the theme is and whether or not it gives a sense of professionalism (trust). Does the site look and feel good while they browse it? Is it reactive to their mobile devices?
There are some niches were you want a quick selling, hard hitting layout, for sure. However for many blogs you simply have to come across as credible or you’ll never gain lasting visitors and blog subscribers, nor will they click out on your links. In this regard I feel strongly that appearance matters. Your theme must give you the tools to create the layout that works for you and your visitors.
Some would argue that this has more to do with coding, but I beg to differ. A majority of the themes out there use industry standard coding. The distinction is that top-notch developers understand the need for professional blogs to be compatible with as wide an array of platforms and plugins as possible, and they devote an enormous amount of resources to test, tweak and verify their superior themes.
A theme can be coded great and even be validated by W3C, but it must use conscientious and industry-friendly compatibility testing. This goes, once again, to the point that premium themes trump free themes in almost every regard. Can you save a few bucks and go with a free theme? Sure, many people do. However, in the end you’ll want to move to a Premium theme anyway, and do you really want to chance disrupting your site at precisely the time when it’s making money for you? Of course not. Skip the headache and do it right from the start.
Best Responsive Themes
So now that we understand the criteria off of which we’ll judge the top themes we’re looking for, which ones stand tall in the responsive category?
As you’ve guessed, I’m a huge fan of CyberChimps and the iFeature 5 Pro theme in particular. I use it exclusively by choice after having used and tried so many free and paid themes. CyberChimps has other themes as well that may work better for you, but they all share common characteristics which make them my leader of the pack. Right now this theme is on sale for instead of the full $89. Or, you can team up with CyberChimps and get all of their themes for a mere $97, which is an outright steal based on what you get.
With CyberChimps I quickly discovered that their coding is top-notch and they take it seriously, which is why they’re always updating their themes, something free themes don’t do very often. Based on the Twitter Bootstrap and coded with HTML5 and CSS3, the themes are as solid as I’ve found and very friendly… I haven’t come across a plugin yet that doesn’t work on my blogs. As one of the leading developers I also know that they’ll be here next year and beyond.
If you use the free SEO Doctor browser plug-in it gives you an overview of many important site values, and then a ranking which is based on important SEO criteria. If you have it up while browsing this or any of my other blogs you’ll see that my sites rank in the 98 – 100% category for the most important SEO metrics. Granted much of that has more to do with me than the theme, but it points out that you can develop some really effective blogs with these themes.
Another Top Choice For Best Responsive Themes
While I love CyberChimps, Elegant Themes brings A LOT to the table. For starters they have an industry shattering price point! All of their themes are top-notch professional themes, to be sure, but to own 84 of them for $69 is actually absurd and will eventually crush many of the smaller developers, meaning those small developer themes are likely to have little or no future support. Part of my equation is exactly that… which themes will keep updating and supporting their customers. The last thing I want to do is to have a money blog need a complete makeover in two years because the theme is no longer compatible.
Perhaps one of my favorite from Elegant Themes, and worthy of being classified as one of the best responsive themes, is the wildly popular Nimble theme. It is loaded with customizations and awesome color and font combinations that say professional all by themselves. Not to mention the site layout which is geared towards pleasing your readers and directing them to the sweet spots. All of this comes with Elegant Themes’ impeccable customer support and simply amazing theme coding for maximum compatibility and SEO speed.
Of course, with Elegant themes you don’t have to choose Nimble, for one price you get them all! Which I still find unbelievable and I wonder how much longer they’ll offer this deal.
Others Who Qualify For The Best Responsive Themes
There’s a newcomer to the field of responsive themes and its name is Karma. Available at ThemeForest (a massive repository of brilliant themes), Karma is making waves and getting a lot of attention.
This theme is not only responsive, but its SEO optimized and compatible with WOO Commerce. It comes with loads of options for customization and something you rarely see, video training for help setting up the perfect blog with Karma. It’s also capable of translating your site into almost any language! The downside, and why it’s ranked third place here, is that the theme will set you back $59 for a single site license, whereas the first two are for unlimited sites and in the case of Elegant Themes you get a whopping 84 top themes for about as much. So while Karma is awesome, it’s price point causes it to lose the race in my opinion, but if you love it as much as other people it may be worth it to your and your blog… the theme is awesome.
I am positive that you’ll see Karma being used more and more by professional bloggers and those who know. I would feel good setting up and running a blog on any one of these three top themes.
Honorable Mentions – Another from ThemeForest that deserves a nod is the Flare Responsive Theme, which is simply brilliant with amazing colors that make it perfect for blogs which are image heavy or otherwise need to be eye-catching. And finally, if you’re using the Magento eCommerce engine then you must check out the exclusive collection at ThemeForest for a top performing Premium Magento Responsive Theme, I haven’t found any more specifically suited to that purpose.