Well since I've got more time at home and am maintaining no less than half a dozen websites, it's time to jot down what is working and what is not. here are some notes, but the things to decide are:

1. Do you want to use an out of the box theme? These are actually pretty good and below you will see some recommendations.
2. Do you want a theme group? The big advantage of paying a little bit of money is that there are some great prebuilt starter sites that you can just copy from.
3. Are you going to use a custom theme editor? This is the most expensive option, but tools like Elementor are way more flexible and you can do just about any design.
4. Theme group and custom editor. This gives you the most control and many theme groups are now ready for the big editors.

## Out of the box themes

These are either directly from Automatixx the maker of WordPress or they are freemium versions that entice you to join the bigger whole. Personally, I normally just start here, so here are the goto themes I've been using in order of what works for a personal blog:

1. Twenty Twenty. Themes basics. This is the biggest pain. While you can just use the default 2020 theme from WordPress, this is going to leave you with a nice minimal layout blog. It's the go-to choice.
2. Barnsbury. is another "in the box" theme, it has a super clean layout. But it does lack the typical sidebar that many folks use to add more content. It is supposed to be used for businesses that want a Twitter-like responsive layout.
3. Zeros. This is an open-source layout. Like Buzzfeed but much more modern. It features images and then when you trace over them with a mouse, they flip and the text appears. So at first, it looks just like a gallery. This isn't as useful for a blog but is great for an art gallery layout. Otherwise clean and beautiful
4. Buzznews. If you want to get something that looks like Buzzfeed, then this is a pretty good automatic layout site. It's super well, busy, for sure, but kind of a cool look.

Then there are the third party families again in preference for a personal blog.

1. Shree. A simpler layout with a minimal look (unlike Pen) but with a right sidebar. Really nice fonts, the only problem is the Like this seems to always say loading.
2. SwipeWP. Another clean layout, in default mode, the main thing is that the graphics shrink slightly as you scroll, but fonts aren't as pretty as Shree.
3. Shree Clean is a variant of Shree that is even more sparse. Almost too much I think. The size of the graphics on each post is smaller so doesn't quite as well with Unsplash stock photos which tend to be really amazingly beautiful
4. Pen. This is a paid-for system that is a lot like Buzznews, but the sidebar is on the left and it is less busy, but it lets you scan quickly. It also has the sidebar which is great. It does require a plug-in called Pen as well. The main issue is the default buttons are the "old classic" rounded buttons, so it doesn't have the flat look of material design. There are some new fields like phone number that are hard to figure out where it is (hint: look in the theme customization > Contact Information > Phone) and it doesn't have a sidebar that uses the standard defaults, so you have to create your own. It also puts all your social contacts in buttons at the top and bottom which is kind of nice although I find the default animations a little distracting.
5. Ocius. This has a default a slideshow of recent posts which is really nice to keep the interest up. It also uses the default sidebar so you don't have to create your own and you can easily flip between them. The default font is also nice. The main issue is the summary is actually quite short, so this is good for getting people to quickly skim and then read. This works for my own blog posts because they tend to be pretty long and nerdy.
6. Edict Lite. This is part of a family of themes but it is the free version. The nice thing about this is that it incorporates a sidebar really easily, but beware that when you swap themes, unlike many other themes, you lose all the sidebar customization. They have a massive upsell to other themes by the way but I haven't tried them.
7. Ocius Grid. This moves the images off to the left so you get a line that is three pieces. This means that you can see more of the text which is pretty nice, but it deletes all the formatting, so the headers don't look great. This is good if you don't format inside your blog entries (I do a lot, so it's a little confusing).
8. Stratford is for an educational site and the defaults don't work well, the title fonts are big and there are no sidebars.
9. Varia. The base layout is very simple and uses underlines for headers. This is the base of many themes like Barnsbury. Probably not good by itself at least as a default