There are many free WordPress themes and plugins available. So why buy premium WordPress themes and plugins when you can get them free? Almost every beginner asks this question and it is certainly confusing since many of the free themes are extremely beautiful and are highly rated. Search “best free WordPress themes” in Google and at once you are bombarded with many pages that list some of the best and popular free themes in the world. So why indeed a premium theme? First, let us see what these free themes have to offer.
Advantages of WordPress free themes
- They are free. Just visit the WordPress.org Themes directory and check out some stunning themes there. All these are free for download at absolutely no extra cost. Since they are available for free, a beginner who’s just started out on his blogging journey and who do not want to invest in a lot of money usually opts for a free theme from the thousands of choices available. There are themes to suit every taste and business. The best thing is you can always change to a different theme later when you feel that the present theme does not suit your business.
- WordPress free themes go through a strict review process. All themes submitted to WordPress theme directory by developers from all over the world are reviewed by a team of volunteers before they are approved. They undergo some rigorous checks to test if they have compliant standard codes, support WordPress features, have security features, etc. It’s not as if anybody can get their themes approved for the WordPress theme directory. Only the best themes get through. So when you use a free WordPress theme, you can be pretty sure that you’re using a theme that will work well with your WordPress blog.
- Simple and easy to use. Most WordPress free themes are hassle-free and are easy to use. This is because the free themes have been developed mostly with the beginners in the mind. They can be easily downloaded and installed.
- Compatible with most plugins. The free WordPress themes are compatible with most WordPress plugins.
- Minimalist and light. Most free themes come with features stripped down to the bare minimum and the most necessary ones. In other words, the free themes are minimalist in nature and if coded well, are light. This makes for a terrific loading speed which in turn had positive effects on the SEO.
Disadvantages of WordPress free themes
- Limited functionality and features. The free themes have sometimes serious limitations in terms of the functionality and features. They are notorious for being poorly coded which has serious implications on how the theme functions and the speed at which the site is loaded.
- Regular updates are missing. The free WordPress themes do not have regular updates. New updates are necessary to keep up with the new WordPress versions.
- Security concerns. The free themes do not have regular updates. The result is that your site might lose out on new features and leave it exposed to security breaches.
- No timely support. With free themes, you do not have a guaranteed support from the theme developers. Although the theme developers do help and provide support when the issues are brought up in WordPress forums but they are not obliged to reply to your queries. A simple query might take days to get a reply. In some cases, you do not get a reply at all.
- Too many websites using the same theme. Since they are freely available for download, the free themes are used in many websites worldwide. Most beginner bloggers use the free themes when they start out new which means there are thousands of blogs already using the same theme. This is the reason why we observe that most new blogs look similar and are mirror images of one another. Hence, using a free theme makes your website less unique.
Why WordPress themes are created for free?
If a free theme has all the features needed for launching a blog and are not charged for downloads, then why do developers create these free themes? What is the underlying reason and what benefits do the developers have in doling them out for free? One reason could be the themes are part of an individual’s or a company’s assigned task. When the theme thus created looks good and works well, they are submitted to the WordPress theme directory for approval. Once approved, they remain as a downloadable free theme. Another reason is, developers or programmers launch these themes to improve their craft in using the WordPress platform. WordPress themes are also submitted by developers to improve their brand and for an increased exposure. Sometimes, a developer releases a free version of a theme with limited functionality. This is an upselling tactic whereby the user is encouraged to buy the premium theme which offers full functionality and other add-on features.
Why are Premium themes favourable?
There are no specific criteria as to what constitutes a premium theme. Which is to say, any WordPress theme on offer for sale is a premium theme. It isn’t free. These are built by professional designers with the specific aim of catering to the market for people who desire for a better product even if they have to pay for it. Some advantages of a premium theme are:
- Better built, better quality. Premium themes are mostly better coded and the developers will not create a poor-quality theme that would only mar their reputation. The premium WordPress theme market is highly competitive and you can expect most premium themes to be of superior quality. These premium themes are compliant with most standard WordPress protocols and security protocols.
- Better support. The premium themes come bundled with a guaranteed support. Though the support period is limited, one can always go for a continued support for payment of a nominal fee. Mind you, even the best-rated premium themes are not without bugs and issues and it is highly essential that you get the instant support from the developers directly to sort them out. This is where premium themes outscore their free counterparts.
- Regular updates. Most premium themes are updated regularly for minor fixes and other new features. With a premium theme, you can be pretty sure that your theme will remain compatible with any new WordPress update. The updates are also necessary to plug any possible holes in the security features in the theme. This means, your site will be immune to most hacking and attacks from malicious codes.
- Unique design. Since premium themes are not available for free, the number of websites using the same theme is much less compared to those using free themes. Premium themes also come with many customisable options which make your site unique. If you are looking for a website that is different and wants it to stand out from the crowd, it makes sense to buy a premium theme. From the branding standpoint, premium themes are better than the free themes.
- SEO-friendly. Premium themes are designed with the functionality in the mind and tend to be better-coded than the free themes. Many premium themes come loaded with features that do away the need for extra plugins. To achieve the same functionality, a free theme would have required many plugins. Since a premium theme uses lesser number of plugins, they are light and loads faster. They are SEO-friendly.
So is it a premium theme for me? Or will it be a free theme?
This is not easy to answer. Much depends on what your aim would be and what type of audience you are targeting. The choice of a theme is important as the general look and functionality in your blog or website will determine how effectively you could engage your audience. Creating a good visual impression is vital to make the visitor stay on your page. A theme can sometimes make or break a business. The final selection of a theme will depend on the type of your business, your target audience, the colour scheme that you think is appropriate to your content, the type of information or data that you wish to present, the content, etc.
Free themes can work well for beginners and who wants to get a grip on how the WordPress functions and if he’s not specifically targeting a niche. Even if there’s a well-defined target audience, there are many brilliant free themes that work exceptionally well in most niches. There’s a general misconception that premium themes are always better than free themes. There are many free themes that work way better than some poorly-coded premium themes. If it offers too many functionalities that you are not going to need and if it is going to be costly to avail of the support, then a free theme could be a better choice. Read the reviews carefully before deciding on a particular theme. However, having said that, if one looks at the feature-by-feature comparison between a free and a premium WordPress theme, the latter outscores the former on many counts. So is it a free theme or a premium theme for me? Well, in the end, it’s all up to you to decide.