Free or premium WordPress themes?

Getting Started

So you’ve just installed WordPress but you’re not particularly keen on the free template that’s currently showing. So what’s the first thing you do? Head over to the WordPress free theme repository….where you’re met with quite literally thousands of different themes. And that’s not the end of it, a simple Google search of the term ‘Free WordPress Themes’ churns out around 17.5 Million results. It’s at this point you might find yourself asking if you should be considering paying for a premium theme from an established developer which does exactly what you’re looking for. Before you do, it’s worth reading up on the pros and cons of using free and premium themes and making an informed decision.

The ‘Don’t Use Free WordPress Themes’ argument…

When trying to choose whether you should be using a free or premium theme, you’re likely to come across various articles telling you a whole host of reasons why you shouldn’t be using free themes and that it’s better to part with your hard earned cash for a premium theme. First of all, lets think about the likely origin of these articles and who will benefit most from it…..the premium theme developers of course. What better way to convince you to pay for a theme than to plant that seed of doubt in your mind that a free theme is’t the way to go. Lets look at some of the main reasons not to use a free theme:

They’re poorly coded…

As with any debate, there’s two sides to this argument. Firstly, its worth noting that any free theme available at the official WordPress repository are screened by the ‘WordPress Theme Review Team’, a panel of experts who check the themes conform not only to WordPress standards but official W3C standards as well. Free themes available from third party sites are not tested and therefore could leave you site open to security vulnerabilities. Therefore if you do decide to use a free theme, it’s recommended that you use one from the repository.

The second point that also needs to be made here is that premium themes available from third party sites are also not checked by the WordPress Theme Review Team, and so there are no guarantees that because you’ve paid for the theme that its coded any better than a free one.

There’s no support…

While this argument does have some merit it isn’t strictly true. Every free theme available on the repository has its own Q&A forum where you can ask the developer questions should you run into trouble. This also allows you to see how involved the developers have been when other users have posted questions which should help you to make a decision whether to use the theme or not. On top of this there’s also the main WordPress Support Form where other users can help you out as its likely that someone will have asked the same question you have as some point.

WordPress Theme Support

Developers of premium themes are likely to offer more support for their themes as any negative feedback from current users would be highly detrimental to earning any new business. However there’s no guarantee that supports will continue as they develop new themes or move away from theme development altogether.

Lack of features…

It’s hardly surprising to find that free themes do not have as many features as premium themes. But is that necessarily a bad thing? If you’re new to WordPress and just looking to create a simple blog without getting bogged down in unnecessary features and options, then a free theme from the repository is a good place to start. You can then use additional plugins to create any additional features you require providing they are supported by the theme.

If you’re looking to purchase a premium theme, then it’s likely you already know what type of theme you’re after and what features you need to allow you to maximise your sites performance and functionality. such as sliders, e-commerce, styling options, and custom widgets, among other things.

Rarely Updated…

WordPress is constantly being updated to help improve security, features and functionality, meaning that whatever theme you have installed needs to be updated as well to continue to perform at its peak. Premium theme developers are more likely to update their themes to suit to continue to make them desirable and appealing to the paying public. Free themes updates are much rarer and this is clear to see in the repository where some themes haven’t been updated in over two years and this is the risk you run should you choose a free theme.

Malicious Code and Encrypted Footer Links…

Unfortunately there are many people out there that will use free themes to their advantage by placing malicious code and scripts into their themes. There are free tools out there that can check your site for these but by this time it’s usually a bit too late and you’re back to square one and looking to find another theme. The best way to protect yourself from this is to always use themes from a reputable source such as the repository or an established developer. If you’re concerned about malicious code on one of your themes, try the Theme Authenticity Checker (TAC) which is available for free from the WordPress Plugins site.

WordPress Theme Ahenticity-Checker

Theme Authenticity Checker will scan the code of any themes you have installed to check it does not contain any malicious code.



Free or Premium WordPress Theme?

The Decision…

So you’ve read through the pros and cons and now its time to make a decision between a free or premium WordPress theme. It’s at this point where you’re on your own and need to make an informed decision, so here’s a quick list to try and help you narrow down your choices:

  • What features do you need? Sliders? Gallery?
  • Can it be customised easily? Does it already suit your style of will you need to adjust it and how easy it is?
  • What genre does your site fit into? There’s no point in buying a theme tailored for an e-commerce site if you’re not going to use those features…
  • Is there support available? Is there evidence to show the developer will help you in your hour of need?
  • Is the theme updated regularly? Has the theme been updated recently to meet the latest WordPress updates?
  • How unique do I want to be? Free themes are typically used by thousands of other users…