One of the first things you need to decide when you start setting up your new WordPress website is which theme you want to use. Go to the theme gallery and there are more free themes than you can count. If you do a Google search for themes, you will find numerous premium themes that you can buy for your site. So where do you begin?
One of your first considerations is your budget. If you’re just getting your site off the ground this will be a consideration. Free themes have one main advantage, and that’s the price. Well, and that there are so many to choose from! So if you are on a tight budget, you can very easily get your site up and running with a free theme. Some very flexible themes come installed with WordPress too. They look pretty plain out of the box, but they can be turned into a pretty nice site with a little design work. The main thing to consider with a free theme is how often is it updated. If it is not actively being maintained, you may want to find another option.
There are specialized themes for everything, from a simple blog to an online magazine, a car dealership, or a restaurant. The theme can give you a big head start on your site. One word of caution I have with extremely specialized themes is that some of them can give you features that will be hard to migrate to other themes later if you want to change the look of your site. Most use mostly standard elements, but some can make things more difficult.
Premium themes come in a variety of price ranges. Some charge a pay once and done price, and some will charge you annually for membership and support. Some will work better within your budget than others of course. But there is one substantial advantage to premium themes, especially the big-name vendors. That is support. Premium themes normally will provide regular updates, so they stay current with the latest version of the WordPress platform, and the all-important security patches.
If you are a programmer, know a programmer, or can afford to hire one, you can either get a theme built from scratch or customize an existing theme by building a child theme. A child theme inherits everything from the main theme but lets you change the elements that you want to change, or add additional functionality. This gives you a lot of flexibility, but some people do not want to get into making code changes on their sites.
My Personal Choice
I use a couple of premium themes on web sites that I build. They are flexible and can be used to build almost any layout that I need. Between the new WordPress block editor and some readily available page builders, you can create almost any site you want without resorting to a specialized niche theme. And they are both supported well and updated regularly. One of these themes, Astra has a free version. And the paid version simply adds additional features to an already solid theme. So you can get your site started with the free theme, and upgrade to get additional features later.