Which WP theme is the best? Fun With Theme Download Stats – WP Tavern

Which WP theme is the best Fun With Theme Download

Today I set out on a mission to find out which WP.org themes are the most used and why.

Popular WP.org Themes
Which WP theme is the best? Fun With Theme Download Stats - WP Tavern 5

As you probably know, Top 5 lists tend to be highly opinionated and based on vague assumptions and non-standard use cases. I want to assure you that this article is no exception to that rule.

I had to make some very subjective leaps of logic with the data to come to my conclusions. I hope you enjoy being part of this fun conversation.

Astra is the most downloaded theme but does not have the highest usage rate

Top WP.org themes with at least 5 million downloads, ordered by WP Data Dashboard “usage rate”: Hello Elementor, GeneratePress, Astra, Storefront, and OceanWP (better “usage rate”).

  • Hello Elementor. 6+ million downloads, 15% usage rate.
  • GeneratePress. 5+ million downloads, 11% usage rate.
  • Astra: 11+ million downloads, 9% usage rate.
  • Shop window. 7+ million downloads, 1% usage rate.
  • OceanWP. 7+ million downloads, 1% usage rate.

(How is the WP Data Dashboard “usage rate” calculated?)

For more context, “usage rate” is the holy grail of commercial theme developers. In advertising parlance, “usage rate” is similar to “conversion rate.”

A higher “use rate” means that the theme owner's marketing team gets more mileage out of each annoying ad they move to the top of your WP dashboard. That means, potentially, more money in theme owners' bank accounts with less effort.

And, more importantly for us in the larger WP community, a higher “usage rate” on a topic means that more people can actually like that! (Imagine that!) So based on that “usage rate”, Hello Elementor is the most popular theme in the wp.org repo.

oh wait…

The flowers are arranged from short to tall so it looks like a chart.
Photo by Edward Howell on Unsplash

OceanWP and GeneratePress Crush Hello Elementor with User Enthusiasm

Below is an arbitrary metric I created called “enthusiasm span”. This is the number of 1-star reviews divided by the number of 5-star reviews (a lower “enthusiasm gap” is better);

  • GeneratePress. 1378 5 star reviews, <1% enthusiasm gap.
  • OceanWP. 5412 5 star reviews, <1% enthusiasm gap.
  • Astra: 5,297 5-star reviews, 2% enthusiasm gap.
  • Shop window. 122 5-star reviews, 11% enthusiasm gap.
  • Hello Elementor. 90 5-star reviews, 14% enthusiasm gap.
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GeneratePress and OceanWP seem to have rabid followings based on measuring this enthusiasm gap. The Astra also has a large difference in enthusiasm of 2%. But Hello Elementor… 14% – that’s… high compared to the competition.

Theme reviews are of course completely subjective and can be manipulated by marketing pushes.

However, it is also possible that there is a high volume of 5-star reviews actually an indicator of enthusiasm for the subject. For example, OceanWP has 5,412 reviews, while Hello Elementor has only 90 reviews.

What does it say about those particular topics? Who knows?! It's not clear why OceanWP has 60 times the 5-star reviews of Hello Elementor, but surely something good is going on at OceanWP, right?

And maybe Hello Elementor is awesome despite its low-enthusiasm open numbers. Finally, it dominates the “usage rate” metric, which is a metric that the WP Data Dashboard validates.

Perhaps my “enthusiasm gap” metric is a meaningless dribble that I made up on the spot while writing this article and didn't run it through a deeper analysis to see if my assumptions were valid. If you believe this to be true (and I certainly won't deny it), then talk to me like I'm a golden retriever and let me know what's wrong with my amazing mathematical “enthusiasm gap” measurement*.

10 people holding hands on the beach.
CC0 licensed photo by Sanyogg Shelar from the WordPress Photo Directory.

Let the “Best Thread” arguments begin!

To my surprise, my local Minneapolis-St. Paul WordPress User Group community do not agree in my somewhat arbitrary and very mathematical choice for the best available theme. What gives?

Arguing about why one theme is better than another is part of the fun of being a member of the WP community.

Metrics like “usage rate” and “enthusiasm gap” add context in much the same way that “Free Throw Percentage” does in basketball or “Reviews per Game” in football. That said, these numbers don't tell the whole story, but they can certainly lead to some fun conversations.

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Random Best Topic Reviews Minneapolis-St. Paul WP User Group.

I asked members of my local WP user group what their favorite themes were. Below are some of their opinions.

“Beaver Builder (specifically using the Beaver Themer plugin) because it's almost as powerful as creating my own theme (which is what I was doing before Beaver Themer was released), but with the quick, easy, and powerful features of Beaver Builder : I'm never coming back.” – Barbara S.

“Impreza”. – Aaron H.S

“I also use Beaver Builder/Themer, but not the theme. I have always used Genesis and still do. I'm using the Mai Theme as my base, which is terrifying for a developer who never intended to use it with the builder. Sometimes I try to use the block editor on the main page, but it's still clumsy and unclear to me. I love the Mai theme because there are large fonts and spacing and the navigation is very well done.” – Jodi S.

“My favorite theme is either Hello Elementor (the vanilla theme when building a website with Elementor) or just using bricks.” – John W.

“+1 for the Impreza! Build 20-30 sites with it.

  • $59 one time purchase.
  • Comes with WP Bakery Page Builder which is my go to. Love the backend editor? Extremely intuitive.
  • Theme options are highly integrated with WP Bakery and include drag-n-drop Header/Footer builder, Reusable Blocks, Grid Builder and Template Builder.
  • When used with ACF, I never have to touch the code because WP Bakery has a Custom Field element that pulls in any ACF field I want.
  • Comes with several Slider Revolution, ACF Pro.
  • Theme support is incredible.

My 2.7 cents.” – Matt C.

“My favorite theme is Enfold. They have a really nice drag and drop system and the theme is super versatile. Good customer support and good performance improvements as browser changes are implemented.” – Beth B.

“I've been a user of Divi since almost the beginning. It also has a drag-and-drop system and visual interface that allows editing from the front end as well as from the console.” —Lisa D.

“I used the Astra theme a lot. Got a lifetime license for Astra Premium and Astra Pro, which was worth it for the quick customization.” – Donna

“We have been using Astra a lot for the past three years. It has great benefits and a few unfortunate drawbacks, but overall it's a win for us. Astra is a more traditional theme than Genesis, easier to create child themes, but has a huge depth of hooks, making it just as flexible and customizable for our customers as we found with Genesis years ago.” – Eric C.

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“GeneratePress is a powerful lightweight framework.” – David S.

About data

I used WP Data Dashboard as my data source.

The WP Data Dashboard pulls raw data from the WP.org API, then gives each theme a “usage rate” to determine if people actually like the theme enough to use it. (See specific calculations).

“While data from the data has its limitations and needs to be taken into account, the available numbers give a pretty clear picture of what users actually want to use,” said Hendrik Lührsen, founder of WP Data Dashboard.

For example, the Twenty Fifteen theme has a very high number of downloads, but very low “active install” numbers. therefore it has a very low “usage rate” on the WP Data Dashboard.

Conversely, the Twenty Twenty-Three theme, being a relatively new default theme, has both a high number of downloads and a high number of “active installs”, giving it a high “usage rate”.

“The major update to WP is the download of the Twenty theme,” said a member of the WP Core team. “Even though the theme may not be used, it will get a lot of downloads.”

Therefore, for the purposes of this article, I'm ignoring all the default “Twenty” themes because their downloads are inflated;

Two final caveats about the data.

  1. Downloads can be inflated by posting more theme updates, marketing efforts, purchased reviews, etc.
  2. The number of downloads is correct, but the “active_installs” data point is set to 1,000,000. So we have no idea if a topic has 1,000,000 or 5,000,000 installs. For example, Astra and Hello Elementor each have one at least 1 million active installs.

However, this is the best data we have, so let's have fun with it.

What is your favorite WP theme?

Keep it light and share what your favorite theme is and why in the comments below.

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