My friend just bought a WordPress blog that was setup as a WordPress Network (although the network part isn’t currently being used). He first question to me after setting everything up on her web host was… now what?

In my opinion (and experience) it’s usually a good idea to change the theme first. Now, there is some initial investigation that has to be done first to see if any of theme elements are controbuting to SEO or any main functionality of the site. But let’s just hope that the theme is serving the only purpose a theme is meant to serve, and that is to modify the look and feel of the site… the aesthetics if you will. We use plugins for the rest right? I realize that’s not always the case, but in my friend’s case it was, so let’s assume it is for you as well, but please verify.

I hate to say it, but unless you buy from a reputable buyer, you should trust the theme of a purchased WordPress blog just as much as you would trust a free theme downloaded after Googling “free WordPress themes.” In other words, not at all.

Malicious code, affiliate links, and the like can be present. The theme isn’t “fresh” and who knows if it’s being supported anymore. It’s time to move on, regardless if it’s a premium theme or popular theme. If you get the license for the theme in the sale, get a new version and install it as new.

Thesis theme screenshot

What Should I Look For In a New Theme? Does It Have to Be WordPress Network Specific?

Unlike a plugin, a theme doesn’t have to be WordPress Network specific. It may have WordPress Network features but it will work on any site on your network, including the “main” front end site. If you “Network Activate” the theme (like you could a plugin) it will become available to all sites on the network. Just be sure that you have the proper licensing to do so.

Here are the recommendations that I would offer when selecting a new theme:

a) don’t opt for a free theme unless it is from a reputable vendor
b) buy only from reputable sources (like WooThemes, or ElegantThemes)
c) choose a “responsive” theme whenever possible (it’ll “respond” appropriately regardless of screen size and orientation)

Now, I would also suggest to choose a Framework if it’s in the budget.

As per my suggestion my friend chose the Thesis Framework for the main site in her Network, and purchased all the themes from ElegantThemes (you get them all for $40) for the add-on sites in her network. They aren’t all “responsive” but hey.

The Thesis theme is robust and feature rich. There are plenty of skins available and you can essentially design your own with a drag and drop interface. It’s one of the best themes available. Even choosing the Genesis framework is a smart move for a great solid foundation for your WordPress theme.

There are really no more tips I can offer in terms of WordPress theme choice for stand-alone or network versions of WordPress. If you remember anything from this post though, just avoid the “free WordPress themes” available from unknown sites. And go “responsive” whenever possible so the WordPress theme is TV and mobile friendly.