Free vs. Premium WordPress themes…which is best? The answer lies more in the purpose of your website and your level of needed support.
Pros of Free WordPress Themes
First off we do not recommend downloading or installing free themes from anywhere but the WordPress Theme directory. The themes in this repository are held to a strict review process and must adhere to high code standards and gain approval before they are released. So when we talk about Free Themes we are talking about the ones you see in the WordPress dashboard.
- Duh, their FREE…and in this case free doesn’t mean they are inferior quality. There are some good free themes to choose from. Free lowers the barrier of entry to set up an online presence.
- You are getting a good quality theme to get started. Free WordPress themes are tested for compliant HTML, CSS and other coding, must support standard WordPress features, and must pass security and privacy requirements.
- Security Since the free WordPress themes go through a strict review there is a reduced risk of a security breach. All bugs and loopholes are tested thoroughly so that the users are free of malware.
- Lots of designs to choose from.
- Easy Installation.
While free themes are good options for personal blogs, hobby sites, or family sites there are some disadvantages when using them for business applications.
Cons of Free WordPress Themes
While some of these cons may not be an issue for some we feel for a business site they present problems for beginners who do not have a technological background.
Common disadvantages of using a free WordPress theme:
- Limited to NO support – While there is limited support offered through WordPress.org for free themes the developers are not obligated to answer your questions
- Limit on-going updates – Since these themes are free it is uncommon for these themes to be continually updated for new versions of WordPress or plug ins that may take your site down entirely. If you do not have coding experience you will not be able to fix the problem.
- Lack Features and Functionality – While free themes take advantage of standard WordPress features they lack some of the features available in Premium templates, like button, shortcodes, modules, visual editors, etc.
- Cookie Cutter Website – Because Free themes lack features and functionality of Premium themes you are limited in options to change the visual appearance and will end up with a website that looks like many others
Pros of Premium WordPress Themes
Unlike free themes, premium WordPress themes are themes you purchase from third-party developers.
- Support and Updates. One of the most important advantages of premium themes is they are paid for, which allows for a support staff that is dedicated to the quality of the theme you have purchased. A dedicated development and support staff means consistent improvements, bug fixes, security patches released, support for current versions of WordPress, and new and improved features and functionality on an ongoing basis.
- More options to customize your website. The premium theme market is competitive and that competition is an advantage for premium template users. To stay relevant premium themes, include features such as drag and drop builders, visual builders, custom predesigned websites and layouts, unlimited color, font and visual options, custom buttons, pre-designed forms, and many other features.
- Your site stands out from the crowd and looks more professional. Because you pay for a premium theme there are less websites that use them. In addition, the amount of customization options available means a better chance your website will not look just like many other sites out there.
Cons of Premium WordPress Themes
Not all premium themes are created equal.
Here are some common issues that can be a disadvantage.
- Poor or Bloated Code – Premium themes are not subject to the same review process as the free themes in the WordPress repository. This means that you may find a beautiful theme that takes forever to load or is poorly coded and incompatible with some plug-ins.
- Too much of a good thing – While lots of features may sound like a good thing it can sometimes be so overwhelming when trying to learn a new theme. You may not need all the features a premium theme offers.
- Improper inclusion of Plugins – some premium themes will include functionality reserved for plug ins or include plug ins they do not own the rights to or support.
Things to look for when choosing a premium theme…
The easiest way to find a good reliable premium theme is to purchase from one of the trusted theme shops and developers.
Look for a theme that had good reviews and a high number of installs. That means more people have bought it and more money is available for ongoing development.
The two well-respected premium WordPress theme shops that we recommend are: Elegant Themes and Themeforest
Remember that when you are purchasing a premium WordPress theme, you are not hiring that developer to set it up for you. You also don’t have an exclusive license unless your pay big bucks for it and no warranty.
Most good theme shops will give you provide comprehensive documentation and support forums where you can get more help if needed. This preferential support is what you are paying for.
Any good theme shop should have a good support system, documentation, and help available for you to set up your theme.