There's no other instrument with as much presence and cultural identity as the guitar. Virtually everyone is familiar with tons of different guitar sounds, from intense metal shredding to soft and jaunty acoustic folk music. And behind all those iconic guitar tones are great sets of strings. Just like a saxophonist changes reeds from time to time or a drummer replaces sticks, putting new strings on your guitar every so often is an important part of owning and playing one.
So, what should you look for in a set of strings? There's no one answer. To go back to those same analogies: every woodwind player has a preferred strength and shape of reed, and every drummer likes a set of sticks with particular balance and tip shape. It's the same with strings: you've got different gauges and different materials to choose from, and ultimately the right ones for you are a matter of preference.
Of course, there are a few ways to narrow down the string options. For starters, since guitars come in different scales, you need a set that's the right length for your instrument. You also need to match the type of guitar: electric strings for an electric guitar, acoustic strings for acoustic. If you play an acoustic-electric, you'll usually be looking for acoustic strings since those instruments use non-magnetic pickups. For classical and Latin guitar types directly descended from ancient gut-stringed instruments, the right strings are generally going to be nylon.
Once you've got your categories narrowed down, then you can start getting into the nitty-gritty differences between strings. For instance, electric guitars will give you the choice between nickel (for authentic vintage sound) and stainless steel (for maximum durability). Some string manufacturers have exotic material options with their own unique characteristics, like Ernie Ball's Slinky Cobalt strings. With so many subtle differences separating guitar strings, you owe it to yourself to browse carefully and look at all the choices on the table before making a decision.
When all is said and done, the only way to know for sure what a certain set of strings will sound like on your guitar is to take them for a spin. For that reason, it's not a bad idea to try out a few different ones that interest you to see which ones you like best - then you can stock up! However you like to approach your string shopping, the amazing selection you'll find here is sure to satisfy.