There’s no free lunch.
Is this really true?
After all, WordPress is free and there are thousands of free WordPress themes (a.k.a. templates).
But, what should you do about the free WordPress themes vs. premium WordPress themes question?
I’ve used many free and premium WordPress templates.
When I started out building websites and blogging, I used free themes. At first, I thought free were great. As I started building my sites and wanting more capability, I grew frustrated.
Ultimately I caved in and bought a premium WordPress template. I never looked back.
However, that’s not to say free WordPress themes are not worth using. I didn’t test every free theme available so I can’t say there isn’t a perfect free theme for your website.
Why buy a premium WordPress template?
1. Embedded links
Many free templates are filled with embedded links… and I’m not talking about a link back to the developer (which is cool by me). I’m talking about links to nefarious sites that you would not wish to link to.
I don’t by any stretch of the imagination suggest all free theme developers do this. There are many outstanding theme developers who simply have a link to their site as designer (some don’t even do this). The trouble is spotting the good from the bad.
I like the fact premium themes come with updates when WordPress updates. I’d hate to build a fantastic site only to have issues arise down the road because new updates aren’t issued.
3. Forum support
I like forum support with my themes. Most free themes don’t come with support. You’re on your own. I like the fact I can jump into a forum and get answers to my questions.
4. Theme features
Generally (and this is a big generalization), you get more features and flexibility with a premium theme. Go ahead and check out the premium theme features and then compare those with free themes. Generally you’ll see a trend that you get more features with a premium template.
5. Attention to detail
Generally, premium themes pay more attention to detail. There are always exceptions, and there are no doubt some fabulously designed free themes. However, generally, I’ve discovered that premium themes have nicer designs.
6. Credit restrictions
I like the option of removing a link to the theme developer. Many free theme developers stipulate you must retain the link or links in the footer to the theme developer’s site or sites. I like giving credit where credit is due, but I also like the option to remove the link if I so wish.
7. Design flexibility
If you’re looking for drag and drop WordPress theme customization technology, you’re best option is to go with a premium WordPress theme designed for easy customization.
8. Code compliance
Most prominent premium theme developers create themes that are W3C code compliant. Many free templates are W3C code compliant, but not all. Can you spot the difference? If not, then rest easy with a premium theme.
9. Future considerations
Once you get familiar with a premium developer, using their other themes becomes very easy. I’ve noticed this with many developers. At first, I spend some time figuring out the backend; however, once I become proficient with one theme by a developer, using other themes by that developer is easy.
That’s not to say you won’t become familiar with a free templates. Instead, most free themes are a one-off or a few by that developer. If you go with a different free theme for another project or a website re-design, chances are you’ll choose a free theme from another developer. This requires learning a different backend.
10. Parent / child frameworks
It’s possible there are some free templatess that are built using a parent and child framework. However, there are some premium theme developers that presently offer a parent and child framework.
11. Finding a skilled web designer
If you intend to hire a web designer to tweak your website, most premium developers offer a list of recommended web designers familiar with their platforms for custom designs. If you go with a free theme, it may be more difficult to find a capable web designer for a particular free theme.
That said, if you’re going to shell out for a web designer, then you can probably hire a web designer who has a developer’s licence for a premium theme and will include that in the cost of designing a website for you on WordPress.
Clearly this article leans toward getting a premium WordPress theme rather than using a free template when considering the free WordPress themes vs. Premium WordPress themes question.
There are many good reasons to go with a premium theme and those reasons resulted in me using only premium themes. That said, there are great free themes out there and you just might find the perfect free theme for your website.
Is there still a free lunch?
Yes, if you happen to find the right free theme. However, even if you go with a premium theme, which generally costs less than $100, you’re not that far off a free lunch for a great website.