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Free vs Paid WordPress Themes: What's the Best Option for Your Next Project?

Free vs. Paid WordPress Themes: What's the Best Option for Your Next Project?

Free vs. Paid WordPress Themes

The WordPress community developed thanks in part to a love for the platform's incredible customizability. And while a high level of customization is generally seen as a positive development, that doesn't mean it can't be an overwhelming concept. One of the most pressing questions for those new to WordPress is the difference between using WordPress themes, free vs paid.

Here's the thing

For many who are just getting started with WordPress, the thinking around using free vs. paid WordPress (at least in terms of themes) probably revolves around the fact that if there's a free option, that works perfectly.

Why would you pay someone for a premium option? This mindset generally matches the startup advice suggesting that people who want to start a new blog or website keep costs low, so they don't have excuses on the way to launch.

Sure, this advice makes sense, but it doesn't necessarily reflect long-term strategic thinking. There are many advantages associated with investing in premium WordPress themes. Certainly, there wouldn't be a market for them if there weren't already plenty of people willing to buy and use them.

Many questions remain the same:
  • Is a premium theme essential to have a beautiful website?
  • Does a premium theme guarantee that your website runs faster?
  • What are the downsides of sticking with a free theme?
  • Free / premium WordPress themes? Which is the most suitable for a given project?
Fortunately, you will find the answers to all these questions and more below. Let's take a look at the free vs paid WordPress theme options:

Free WordPress themes

It's pretty easy to find free WordPress themes - you can take a look at our guide to the best WordPress themes here - after installing a new instance of WordPress on your web host. You will find the official WordPress themes directory options by navigating to Appearance> Themes> Add New Theme from WordPress Control Panel. 

Note that this is not the only place to find free WordPress themes. There are also thousands of other free theme options available on the internet (more on that later).

free Theme WordPress

That said, the real advantage of choosing a WordPress theme is that they are officially approved, which means that any theme submitted to the official theme directory is subject to strict scrutiny.

The theme examination process begins with an automated WordPress plugin that tests the WordPress theme against strict coding rules. If approved, the submitted theme will be manually reviewed by WordPress theme developers. After these two steps have been brilliantly passed, a topic is available to the public in the official topic directory.

Free WordPress Themes: Advantages of use

Why would anyone choose to use a free WordPress theme? The reasons are numerous:
  • Free is always a good thing for new website owners and great for those constantly experimenting or looking for a change from time to time. Premium WordPress themes require payment, and many of these don't come cheap! In fact, according to CodeinWP, the average price of a premium theme is $ 57.54. Some theme sellers don't accept returns, so if you don't like the theme you've purchased, or it's not compatible with your mu-plugins, you may be stuck with something that can't be used.
  • The options listed in the official theme directory, free themes, are officially approved through a multi-step process in WordPress.
  • Free themes tend to be fairly minimal in design because they don't have a ton of premium features and widgets. If your website doesn't use many plugins, this could contribute to an accelerated WordPress website (which will improve your technical SEO ).
  • Free themes are generally built with beginners in mind and are simple and easy to use. Before approving a theme, WordPress developers make sure that the themes in the theme library can be used by a beginner as part of their testing process. These free themes are generally compatible with most WordPress plugins as well.
  • In addition to the official WordPress theme directory, Bloggerpost also recommends Just Free Themes and MH Themes for their great selections of high-quality WordPress themes for free.
free Theme WordPress

Twenty Twenty is the latest in a series of free themes offered directly by WordPress developers.

The Cons of Free WordPress Themes:

Since there is no such thing as a free lunch, there are quite a few heists to consider when it comes to using a free WordPress theme:

  • A free theme has limited features and no additional functionality, which many larger and more professional websites require.
  • Some free themes have over 1 million downloads! Free themes are not unique compared to high-quality themes. Since anyone can download them without the payment barrier, many other websites will use the same theme. There are no longer as many customization options available on free themes as there are on high-quality themes. The differences will be negligible, and users will probably start to realize these themes' repetitive functions.
  • A good part of the WordPress repository themes is rarely updated, making them incompatible with frequent version updates of the WordPress CMS.
  • Free themes are not supported if there is a problem. There are so many free theme contributors that WordPress can't keep track of who the theme's author or developer is. You have to rely on third-party help ( WordPress forum, Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, paying a web developer), and there is no guarantee that you will get a quick response (or any) if you are not paying someone to have it. Help you.
  • Free themes not found in the official theme repository could be miscoded (have errors), which could also make your site vulnerable to security issues.
  • A word from the wise: Not all free themes are created equal (there are different WordPress licenses), so when downloading a theme, it's best to know what you can legally do with it.
free Theme WordPress

CyberChimps is a business theme with over 1 million downloads and over 80,000 active installs.

Why Do Companies Create Free WordPress Themes?

WordPress themes are certainly not easy to make, so why are some people offering them for free?

One situation could be that the free themes are for the portfolio of an individual or company. Others create free themes to improve their craft and to enhance their experience with the WordPress platform.

Others create free WordPress themes to get noticed, to advertise something, or to increase brand exposure. Free themes incorporate the use of links in the footer, connecting the theme instance to the original web page developer. Everyone who downloads the theme and uses it exposes their audience to this link, driving more traffic to the developer's website (and creating SEO backlinks ).

free Theme WordPress

Although not technically in the footer (the common web design heuristic), developer Jack Harris shares a piece of Case Neistat's fame by creating a partnership between the YouTuber and himself.

Another reason people develop free WordPress themes is the ability to make upsells. WordPress's freemium type model (free and premium simultaneously) implies that a developer offers a free theme for the user to test it but offers some limited functionality.

People who need more have to buy the premium version of the same topic. It's really a great risk-free way to sell the premium version of the theme because it provides users with the ability to try it out before fully committing to a purchase.

Although you never want to believe the worst in people, another reason people develop themes for free is so they can use them as an opportunity to put their malicious code on other people's websites.

How to Locate Your Free High-Performance WordPress Theme

Before a free theme enters the WordPress repository, it has been extensively verified for several issues, namely:
  • Accessibility
  • Code
  • Basic features and functionality
  • Presentation and functionality
  • Documentation
  • Language
  • Licensing
  • Name change
  • Options and Settings
  • Plugins
  • Screenshots
  • Privacy
  • Sales, credits, and links
  • Style sheets and scripts
  • Templates

There is a higher risk of malicious code for free themes that you find outside of the WordPress repository than if you simply purchased a premium theme. Here are some ways to check if your free theme might be too good to be true:

  • Do a Google search. Type a query for the website or the topic's name to see any negative Twitter posts about it online.
  • Check the topic of files for viruses. VirusTotal is a free online tool that you can use for free.
  • If you have the patience and time for it, you can manually go through the theme files. The most common places to find fraudulent backlinks on a topic are the CSS file and footer.php.
  • Check the authenticity of the item. There are several WordPress plugins that you can use to do this, such as Theme Authenticity Checker, Exploit Scanner, and Theme Check.
  • If you have already uploaded the theme to your WordPress site, do a global analysis of the website using Google Safe Browsing. Add you are the domain name to the end of this URL: https://transparencyreport.google.com/safe-browsing/search?url= ) or make use of Sucuri, which is a security company that offers a free site scanner.

VirusTotal is just one tool that you can use to analyze a WordPress theme without any hassle.

When to Use a Free WordPress Theme vs. a Premium Theme

Topic selection is about more than just choosing an option that "looks good"; it's also about picking something that works well for your content and your website goals.
  • Simply use a free WordPress theme if:
  • You want to start a personal blog.
  • It doesn't matter if your website looks the same as most.
  • You are looking for only basic functionality.
  • May be fine with just a little bit of support (great if used primarily for simple blogging functionality)
Alternatively, use a premium WordPress theme if:
  • You are going to use WordPress for a business website (or are thinking of expanding your WordPress website to include complicated functionality like e-commerce in the future)
  • You want your website to look unique.
  • You want your website to be able to support many different features.
  • You don't know how to troubleshoot and need a dedicated support team.

Many of the premium themes and plugins are available online for free. But we recommend that you do not use products from these sources. These are the main reasons: Why You Should Stop Using Bypassed WordPress.       Plugins and Themes.

To help you make an easier decision, you must first define what your website is. If you are looking for a specific functionality like a photography portfolio, food blog, or commerce site, you will have to choose a WordPress theme that will work for this purchase.

Know that the more advanced your website becomes in terms of desired functionality, the more complex it will be to run and manage. Using a free WordPress theme will make this difficult to do right.

What You Get With a Premium WordPress Theme

As with premium hosting, you should think of premium WordPress themes in terms of business investment. After all, there's a reason premium themes have premium prices — they offer premium features, too!

Think of a premium WordPress theme as a good boyfriend/girlfriend/partner.

When you find the perfect option, not only do you have access to a fully functional theme, you can also get support, frequent updates, more freedom (in terms of customization options), and security (less virus and third-party threats). Best of all, a premium WordPress theme stands out as much more unique than a free WordPress theme.

Here are some defining elements to look for in a premium WordPress theme:
  • Standards Compliant: Updated with the latest versions of WordPress, PHP, CSS, and HTML
  • Responsive: A good WordPress site is increasingly necessary because Google counts mobile responsibility as an important ranking factor.
  • Compatible with different browsers
  • Customizable
  • Works well with other plugins

Top 18 High-Quality Theme Sources

Not sure where to start your search for the perfect premium WordPress theme? The following Theme Providers are all Bloggerpost approved:

  • MyThemeShop
  • CyberChimps Themes
  • Elegant Themes
  • MH Themes
  • Artbees Themes
  • Proteus Themes
  • Prothemedesign
  • ThemeForest marketplace
  • Pixelgrade
  • Themeisle
  • Accesspressthemes
  • Meridianthemes
  • Male Themes
  • Premiumcoding
  • Anariel Design
  • TemplateMonster
  • SKT Themes

Free Vs Paid WordPress Themes

A free or premium WordPress theme has its advantages and disadvantages, but choosing which one to install depends on your websites' needs and the website owner's budget and aesthetic preferences. Know that you are completely OK to start with a free WordPress theme and upgrade along the way when the need arises. It is their world. We are just living in it.

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