ATTENTION: If you ever thought about looking for free WordPress themes or premium themes, and you can’t choose between them, then this article is for you.
Free themes vs. Premium themes – this is an old but still relevant discussion for WordPress developers and designers. Why? Look around you or ask a friend, and you’ll find that you’ve joined a very interesting and controversial talk.
The same happens if you search on Google, or go for a walk around LinkedIn Groups, Quora or any other social group. However, in this article, I’m not going to make a debate about this topic. Rather than that, I’d like to help you guys with aguide to choosing the WordPress theme that is the best for you and your project.
Here is what we’ll talk about:
PART I: Free vs. Premium themes: what advanced WordPress users think about them; the upsides and the downsides.
- Tips for choosing a good, safe and right-for-your-needs free/premium theme.
- Recommendations on choosing free and premium themes.
- Your own opinions and experiences regarding this topic.
Now, let’s jump in!
Free WordPress Themes vs. Premium WordPress Themes
WordPress is an Open Source project which is available to the community for free. Moved with this same spirit, there are thousands of WordPress themes and plugins that have been released for free. Don’t we love that?
IT Air – A clean, simple and free business portfolio theme
First, let’s see what free WordPress templates are in the eye of WordPress pros now.
You don’t have to spend a single penny on free themes – your money is still safe and sound in your pocket. There is no price tag on free themes. And if you don’t like the theme, you can just switch to another free one at any time without regret.
With free themes, you can enjoy free and unlimited experimentation from theme to theme until you find the right theme that satisfies your needs and tastes. Plus, if you need support while playing with a free theme, you can always look for support from a WordPress Forum or WordPress Groups on social media networks (LinkedIn has many active, big and supportive groups for advanced WordPress users like WordPress Experts, WordPress Developers, WordPress Web Designers).
Additionally, highly skillful WordPress developers and designers usually find free themes easy and basic enough for them to customize or add more bells and whistles to make a good website.
There may be no price to obtain a free template, but to use a free template, there is still a price to pay. You never know how many ugly things there might be beneath what looks like a good-and-nothing-to-lose free theme.
High risk of vulnerable security. Many people download and use free themes but don’t know what advertising links and other bad juju will show up on their website.
I admit that there are many kind developers who contribute great free themes for the community. But, although there are many good gurus, there are many who aren’t kind. They offer free themes as a way to gain something else, like advertising their links or hacking someone’s website.
Malicious code and spammy, phishing links not only put your site at great risk but might also get your site penalized by Google’s Search Engine algorithm. Plus, many free themes are poorly coded by amateurs which might leave you in a crazy rage when optimizing your site because free themes are more likely to have compatibility issues with plugins than premium ones.
Too simple, no stand-out features. Well, you can’t expect more from a free template. It’s free and you’re using it – other people also are using it, thousands of them! Especially the best free WordPress themes, which have been downloaded an unbelievable number of times.
Also notice that free themes provide you with very basic features and functionality. If you want to have a multi-functional website with a rocking appearance – design it by yourself, or go buy a premium one.
No top-notch support. No regular updates promised. Although you can get advice and support from the WordPress Community, there is a high possibility that you will be on your own to solve any problems.
The next thing is that free themes don’t come with regular updates. Using a free theme means that you may have to use an outdated theme while WordPress itself is constantly being updated. Isn’t it scary that someday you’ll be all alone on an abandoned island with an old theme having compatibility issues and screaming in vain?
WordPress premium themes are here to stay. Why so? You rarely find a free professional theme to employ for a large project, for example, a corporate website.
By purchasing WordPress premium themes from reputable theme providers, you are guaranteed to have a stand-out-from-the-crowd theme with advanced features and functionality, such as sliders, styling options, custom widgets, etc.
Well-designed and coded by professionals, premium themes are fast loading, high quality and easy to control. Added to that is a personalized support service. Got an issue with your premium theme? Report the issue, then someone else will do the slog work of patching the problem for you.
Unlike free themes, premium themes have more regular updates announced on a fixed schedule for its users to download. Being in a long-term business, premium theme providers know how to take into account the feedback from their customers and continuously improve their themes. Therefore, premium themes always get better and better for the sake of users and to compete with other theme providers.
Honestly, with so many good points, there are really fewer bad points to talk about in a professional theme.
However, this doesn’t mean that all WordPress premium themes are perfect.
First of all, premium themes cost. Go to ThemeForest and take a look at the popular WordPress themes, and you’ll see that a premium theme generally costs from $40 to $60. You’ll have to spend money to get the theme; therefore, you’ll have to do a careful calculation so you won’t overspend your project’s budget.
Next, you won’t have the chance to switch easily from one template to another like you can with free templates to choose a satisfactory one. This will require you to take a thorough look at the theme’s demo, description and other preview sources before purchasing.
Lastly, for savvy WordPress freelancers, sometimes a premium theme is just too much for them. Premium themes usually support a larger framework and offer multiple backend options that free themes don’t. But do you always need these when you have the ability to do something the same and in a simple way?
Tips To Choose Free WordPress Themes
Where To Get Reliable Free Themes?
One important thing: Pick free themes from trusted, safe and reliable sources of free themes. The good news is that there are many high quality free themes out there for you. (Thank God, good people do exist!).
The WordPress theme repository is always the number one, largest and most trusted source for grabbing free and good WordPress themes. Here you can easily find themes that meet your needs by using the tag filter.
Using themes from here, you don’t have to worry about malicious code, and can go to get help from the community anytime.
You can always download and use the best free WordPress themes from InnoThemes. The team – which includes both designers and developers just like you – understand that you value your work and reputation towards your client more than anyone. Therefore, we share with you our clean, simple and professional themes for free.
Use them and let us know what you think so we can improve our work (yes, even though they’re free) to bring better themes for the community.
Smashing Magazine is another good place for finding free WordPress themes. The themes are always reviewed and released by The Smashing Editorial so the quality is good. No threats. No restrictions (feel free to customize and use for commercial websites).
If you are a fan of Web Designer Depot like me, you’ll see they do a “The best free WordPress Themes” collection each month. Like Smashing Magazine, all free themes will be examined and checked before they pick them for the collection.
So Web Designer Depot is also a good place for free WordPress themes for you.
Some other good sources you may want to take a look at:
Best Practices To Choose Free WordPress Themes
Safe free themes come from safe places. Remember what I said earlier? Get free themes from trusted and reliable sources of free themes listed above.
Check for malicious code. There are a lot of tools to help you do an X-ray scan for strange embedded code in your chosen theme. Try decoders or theme-checking plugins to have a safe theme to use!
- Otto’s decoder
- Byterun Decoder
- PHP Decoder
- ROT 13 Decoding
- Codes by Decodethe.net
- Manual base64 decode
- opinionatedgeek.com (base64decode)
Tips To Choose Premium WordPress Templates
Where To Get The Best Premium Themes?
When asked, without hesitation, the first marketplace that comes to my mind is ThemeForest.
The name says it all. It is a large forest of quality themes and you’ll find yourself lost if you don’t know clearly what type of theme you’re looking for. Here is my list of good e-commerce marketplaces which sell the best WordPress themes:
Best Practices To Choose Premium WordPress Themes
Many WordPress professionals suggest that one should try a company’s free themes first and then go on to buy the paid-for ones if the free ones work as they should.
And since we have to pay for premium themes, carefully examine them before hitting the Purchase button. Although premium theme providers make the ‘ready meals’ for us to enjoy and tell us clearly what we’re going to get with their themes, still we have to:
- Check all links: Start with the menu of the theme. Click, click and click. Test all menu item links and other navigation links to see if they display as they should. Click on all the articles too.
- Test that “100% responsive” feature: A premium theme must be responsive! Test that by re-sizing your browsers and see how things shift around.
- Try theme on a real mobile device: It’s always better to test your chosen theme on a mobile to see the precise performance of the theme here. It should look good and nothing should break out of style on your mobile.
- Check the update frequency and provided support. Make sure the theme comes with regular updates (ideally within less than 3 months) and the support from theme provider is responsive so you won’t have to wait in frustration for them to help fix a minor bug.
- Opt for easy to customize themes. Even if you are a battle-tested coder, go for a theme that is easy to use and modify. A professional theme which does not require exceptional coding techniques to customize is a great choice. You’ll be able to save time for other important tasks.
So, Should You Use Free Theme Or Premium Theme?
Which answer do you have for the question: Free Theme or Premium Theme?
Keep this in mind: Don’t choose a theme solely on the cost. The answer to this question must be based on your goals: What do you need? What are you going to build for your client? How much is your budget? How much time have you got for your project? And how good you are at accomplishing this project within the given time?
If you are building a blog or a not very big project, then a free theme is the more appropriate choice since you are unlikely to need all the bells and whistles of a premium theme.
But if you’re about to build a complicated website, such as a corporate website, a business or popular blog, then you’ll definitely need to consider premium themes. Free themes can’t provide you with the advanced features you need to create a professional impression for your site’s visitors. Premium themes help you better in telling people that you’ve put great effort into it.
Especially, when you do not have enough time to build everything from scratch or your budget is tight and can’t afford to hire someone skillful to build things for you, so premium themes will save your time and money in this case.
Some good advice is passed on among advanced WordPress theme users: you should try a company’s free themes first and then go on to buy the paid ones if the free ones work well. Pick a theme that is the closest to your ideal theme, consider if you can easily get it modified to walk that last step to your theme nirvana.
Make a wise choose and keep your peace of mind through the whole project!
We’ve just gone through the whole story of free themes vs. premium themes. It’s all clear about what we’ll get with each choice, when, where and how we should make our choice. Now I think it’d be even greater to hear about your choices and opinions on free/premium WordPress themes. What have you been using for your project and which is better, from your experience? A free theme or premium theme?
This blog I wrote for InnoThemes.com. You can find the original link Here. Featured image designed by InnoThemes.