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What Are the Most Popular Themes for a Content Website?

Choosing your theme is one of the first tasks for creating a content website, and the choice can be difficult. WPZOOM estimates that over 30,000 WordPress themes are available, and your choice directly affects website design, user experience, and SEO. 

To determine the most popular themes for content websites, we studied our marketplace and consulted third-party data, and the surveyed community at large. What we found were a few themes that were consistently used for the majority of content websites.

Here’s a table outlining theme popularity across our analyzed sources.

Theme Rank on BuiltWith Rank on Search Logistics Rank in WordPress Store Rank in Our Marketplace Rank in Influencer Poll Rank in Facebook Poll
Astra 6 3 4 3 3 2
GeneratePress 6 4 13 1 2 1
Hello Elementor 3 1 3 NA NA NA
Kadence 16 NA 8 2 1 2
Twenty Twenty 4 8 2 NA NA NA

Why Theme Choice Matters

Before we get into the results, we need to talk about what a WordPress theme is, and why it matters.

WordPress Themes are a combination of stylesheets and custom coding that modify the design, layout, features, loading speed, and responsiveness of your website. 

Some (such as Divi) have built-in page designers or other customization features. These can be handy when designing a service or product-based website but often rely on custom scripts that slow load times, impact navigation, and deter visitors from staying and returning.

To ensure the best page experience for readers and crawl bots, your content website theme should be lightweight, fast-loading, easy to use, and responsive across all devices. The main selling point of content websites is the information, and you want to present that in a way that is clear and easy to find for readers.

So now that we know a bit more about WordPress themes and why they matter, let’s talk more about our theme analysis and how we conducted our research.

How We Came Up With Our Numbers

To help readers find the most common and best theme for content websites, we have done some in-depth research in four unique areas:

For theme usage across the entire internet, we are looking at existing studies from Builtwith & Search Logistics (Over 22,707,058 total sites). We also analyzed the ‘Popular’ section of the WordPress download area.

For theme usage across content websites, we are looking at three sources of data:

  1. Results from our Marketplace. (Total of 88 sites)
  2. Surveying our community on Facebook and Twitter. (Total of 90 votes)
  3. Asking influencers for their thoughts and preferences. (Total of 22 votes)

We originally planned to only include our marketplace site data, but we decided that having multiple data points is critical for ensuring accuracy in the study. Although 200 websites are not the biggest sample size, we believe it is large enough to identify trends and insight within the content marketing industry.

What We Found

From studying these data sources, we found some substantial and unique takeaways.

  • Astra is the most popular theme according to Builtwith at a 1.36% utilization rate across the entire internet.
  • Astra was the only theme in both lists.
  • GeneratePress was the most popular theme in our Marketplace at 26% of all sites surveyed.
  • The most popular theme in our Twitter poll was GeneratePress at 46%
  • The most popular theme in our Facebook poll was GeneratePress at 47%.
  • No websites in our marketplace or community polls use a Twenty-Twenty theme.
  • Kadence was the most popular according to our influencer survey at 36.36% of all votes.

The Most Common Themes in General

We wanted to look at as many sites as possible for this study, and to do this we leveraged existing data from third-party websites (such as Builtwith & Search Logistics) and looked at rankings from the WordPress official website

Using these three sources, we have found the three most common themes used across WordPress websites and ranked them below.

*We did not include Divi in this study, as it cannot be downloaded in the WordPress store (being a paid theme). However, it is also one of the most popular themes and is a great option for those looking for a drag-and-drop builder theme.

#1 – Astra

Astra Theme

Rank on BuiltWith – #1 

Rank on Search Logistics – #3

Rank in WordPress Store – #4

The most common WordPress theme across the metrics we analyzed is Astra. Ranking in the top 4 of our three online metrics, BuiltWith stats suggest that 1.36% of all websites on the internet use Astra.

This should come as no surprise for those familiar with the theme, as Astra is a lightweight and easy theme to use, making it perfect for websites of all sizes. It has a great built-in customizer that allows you to easily change headers, footers, and page layouts, so you do not need additional third-party plugins such as Elementor to set up your website.

#2 – Hello Elementor

Hello Elementor Theme

Rank on BuiltWith – #3

Rank on Search Logistics – #1

Rank in WordPress Store – #3

Hello Elementor is a crowd favorite that ranked top amongst Search Logistics polls and has an estimated 1.11% utilization across all websites. 

It is designed by the Elementor team to pair with the Elementor page builder – a major advantage for users who prefer an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop style of customization to create and adjust layouts, headers, footers, and numerous other page elements.

One of the defining characteristics of Hello Elementor is its lightness and speed. As a minimalist and bare-bones theme, it has no unnecessary code that can slow down your website, leading to remarkable load times, and enhancing user experience and SEO rankings.

#3 – Twenty Twenty-Three

Twenty-Twenty Three Theme

Rank on BuiltWith – #4

Rank on Search Logistics – #8

Rank in WordPress Store – #2

For the sake of simplicity, we selected Twenty Twenty-Three for this study, which on its own is not as popular as the other two, but when combined with its other two most popular versions, Twenty Twenty-Two, and Twenty Twenty-One combine for an estimated 0.83% utilization rate across the internet (According to BuiltWith).

This popularity comes with a caveat though, as all fresh installations of WordPress include a Twenty Twenty-X theme, so many of these websites are likely basic WordPress sites with no content.

A primary selling point for using a Twenty Twenty theme though, is how it pairs with WordPress’s Gutenberg Block Editor, enabling an easy-to-use page builder without needing to download additional 3rd party plugins such as Elementor.

The Most Common Themes for Content Website

The above information can be helpful if we are building a service-based website or a dropshipping store, but if the selling point of our website is the information, we need to prioritize themes that are fast and responsive.

A fast-loading theme reduces bounce rate and improves on-page SEO. The theme must also be responsive, considering the increase in mobile browsing and the range of screen sizes.

For this part of the study, we greatly valued our community polls, marketplace data, and a small survey on established content website managers. You can find the links to the community polls above, and the stats from our marketplace and community poll are illustrated below.

#1 – GeneratePress

GeneratePress Theme

Rank in Motion Invest Marketplace Stats – #1

Rank in Community Poll – #1 (Facebook & Twitter)

Rank in Influence Survey – #2

In our survey, GeneratePress was by far the most popular theme for content websites. The theme is used in more than 25% of our marketplace listing (at the time of data collection), making it the most popular theme for a content website. Its usage according to our stats and survey results were:

  • Used in 26.32% of Marketplace Sites
  • Used by 31.82% of Surveyed Portfolio Managers
  • 46% of votes in our Twitter poll
  • 47% of votes in our Facebook poll

Its popularity is not new, as it has been a mainstay in the industry for years, thanks to its less than 3 MB install size, making it one of the smallest themes available, contributing to lightning-fast load times.

GeneratePress is compatible with popular page builders like Elementor and Beaver Builder and provides robust stability and security. It also regularly undergoes updates, ensuring your site is stable, secure, and compatible with the latest WordPress versions.

#2 – Kadence

Kadence Theme

Rank in Motion Invest Marketplace Stats – #2

Rank in Community Poll – #3 (Facebook & Twitter)

Rank in Influence Survey – #1

The second most popular theme for content websites, according to our study, was Kadence. With over a 10% utilization rate in our marketplace, Kadence is a popular choice for content websites. 

Its usage according to our stats and survey results were:

  • Used in 11.84% of Marketplace Sites
  • Used by 36.36% of Surveyed Portfolio Managers
  • 16% of votes in our Twitter poll
  • 15% of votes in our Facebook poll

The main selling feature of Kadence (in our opinion) is the combination of speed and design customization. It compares similarly to GeneratePress in terms of speed but has a much more in-depth theme customizer tool.

What stood out to us during our study was the popularity of Kadence in our influencer poll. It was the most popular theme, with many preferring it over GeneratePress due to its better header and footer builder.

#3 – Astra

Astra Theme

Rank in Motion Invest Marketplace Stats – #3

Rank in Community Poll –  #2 (Facebook & Twitter)

Rank in Influence Survey – #3 

Astra ranks third in our content marketing theme popularity study, which speaks to its overall usage across the internet. Its usage according to our stats and survey results were:

  • Used in 6.58% of Marketplace Sites
  • Used by 13.64% of Surveyed Portfolio Managers
  • 18% of votes in our Twitter poll
  • 32% of votes in our Facebook poll

Astra is a great option for content-based websites, as its theme customizer allows users to adjust almost any element of their website. Much like the other two themes listed, it is responsive and adapts to different device sizes.

See Also – Astra vs Kadence

What to Look For in a WordPress Theme for a Content Website

When choosing a WordPress theme for your content website, there are a few things to look for. Here is an overview of the top considerations, and how our most popular choices compare to one another.

Loading Speed

Loading speed is arguably the most important aspect of a theme for a content website. Most content websites have a fairly straightforward layout and feature a lot of text, images, and often videos too. This means the theme needs to be capable of loading these elements quickly to keep users on the site. 

GeneratePress, Kadence, and Astra all excel in this respect, but how do they compare with each other? We added each theme onto a fresh installation of WordPress and ran them through Google Page Speed Insights to find out.

Astra

Desktop Performance
Mobile Performance

GeneratePress

Desktop Performance
Mobile Performance

Kadence

Desktop Performance
Mobile Performance

Overall, all three were very close, but GeneratePress scored the best, and Astra scored significantly lower on Desktop performance than the other two (we even triple-tested it).

A big contributor to the difference in speed is the file size of the themes. We downloaded and extracted them all, and this is what we found.

  • Astra – 18.9 MB
  • Kadence – 7.99 MB
  • GeneratePress – 2.6 MB

Just based on those numbers alone, it’s easy to see why GeneratePress performed the fastest out of the box. It is the smallest size and quickest to load. Although the performance of Kadence and GeneratePress looks identical, if you look closely, you will also see that the FCP and LCP are slightly faster with GeneratePress than Kadence, but the difference is .1 seconds max.

Theme Customizer

Each theme has a unique customizer section that allows the user to change elements such as the site design, header/footer layout, and more. However, not all customizers are created equally.

In our research and testing, the one that shined brightest was Kadence, which gives you complete control over colors, fonts, page layout, headers, footers, post style, search result appearance, and so much more.

Astra also has a great theme customizer, with separate header and footer builders, and design template options for your blog and pages.

GeneratePress had the fewest options and was a lot more limited when it came to headers, footers, and page layouts.

Theme Customizer
Image of the Free Version From Each Theme Customizer

While most content websites have a relatively simple design, a few customizations can greatly enhance user experience. And when it comes to customization, we found it much easier to make changes using Kadence and Astra, compared to GeneratePress.

Responsiveness

All three themes are coded to be responsive, and text and elements will naturally adjust to fit the device screen size. We tested all three themes on a fresh WordPress install and all of the page elements, widgets, text, and menus adapted perfectly.

Example of Responsiveness using GeneratePresss.

With that being said, when you add plugins or make coding changes, there is a chance that new customization may cause formatting errors. Therefore, always create a backup and test thoroughly before updating or adding new designs to your content website.

Regular Updates & Support

Keeping your WordPress theme updated is crucial for performance and security, as updates often include new features and performance enhancements that keep your site running smoothly and efficiently. 

If the theme does not receive regular updates, it can lead to broken functionality with the WordPress core files, or plugin files. Beyond this, outdated themes can leave your site open to malicious attacks, threatening your data and users’ information.

The good news is that all three theme options we have highlighted receive regular updates to ensure optimal performance and fortify the website’s security. Check out the links below for changelog and date information.

Compatibility With Plugins

Astra, GeneratePress, and Kadence are exceptional WordPress themes in their own right, but sometimes websites require plugins for data tracking or site optimization. When this happens, having a theme that is compatible with the majority of plugins is very beneficial.

We are happy to report that all three themes are compatible with many of the top plugins, including:

  • BeaverBuilder
  • Elementor
  • Gutenberg
  • Classic Editor
  • Yoast
  • WP Fastest Cache
  • Updraft
  • WooCommerce
  • And More

The ability of Astra, GeneratePress, and Kadence to function well with popular plugins is an added benefit that gives your site more flexibility, improved user experience, and better website performance.

Which Theme is Right for You?

Now that we have highlighted how the themes compare in the most essential areas, you’re probably wondering which theme is for you. Here is a quick summary that highlights the ideal particular use case for each theme.

Astra

Astra is a great choice for beginners and non-technical users and quickly allows you to design a simple and user-friendly content website. It can scale up (meaning it is compatible with many plugins), and it remains one of the most popular themes on the internet, so finding support will be easy.

GeneratePress

For those who love a lightweight, superfast loading theme, GeneratePress is the best option. It gives you the best performance but comes with fewer customization features. However, if you know a bit of CSS, you’ll hardly notice that they are missing.

Hello Elementor

Hello Elementor is perfect for those who prefer to create unique and captivating designs that highlight their service portfolio. This theme is ideal for creative professionals, freelancers, and agencies looking to build highly customized websites.

Kadence

Kadence is a top option for bloggers and offers a balance between advanced customization features and fast load times. If you value the speed of GeneratePress but want the customization options of Astra, Kadence is the perfect middle ground.

Twenty Twenty

The Twenty-Twenty theme series is an ideal choice for those who want to work within the WordPress ecosystem as much as possible. This theme is suitable for those who want to customize their design, but prefer using Gutenberg Block Editor for their website layout and design.

Is The Free Version Enough? Or Is it Better to Go Pro?

All of the themes listed above (except the Twenty-Twenty series) have a free and paid version. The free version is great for getting started, offering core functionalities and decent customization options.

However, as your site grows, it is often worth it to invest in the paid version for the advanced features, enhanced customization options, and dedicated customer support.

Upgrading your theme is not a necessity, but the additional features and support can situationally benefit user experience and SEO.

Our Final Thoughts and Picking a Winner

What we have learned through our research, community polls, and surveys is that the bulk of content websites run on three themes – GeneratePress, Kadence, and Astra. All three of them look very similar out of the box, and there are only a few small differences between them.

If we had to pick a winner, our vote would be on GeneratePress. It performed the best in our speed test and is the most commonly used theme in our Marketplace. But you really cannot go wrong with any of these options.

We hope that this article and information have been helpful to you. If you are curious about theme choice or have additional information to share, get in touch with us through social media and we can carry on the discussion.

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