Millions of developers, bloggers, and e-commerce site owners use WordPress as the platform of choice for their websites. With the popularity of the number one website framework in the world, WordPress theme developers constantly release competitive products in the market, providing thousands of theme options for website owners to choose from.
A WordPress theme may fall under one of two main categories: premium and free. Both carry advantages and disadvantages, but most users are prone to debate against the use of free themes. On the other hand, proponents of free WordPress themes pose a very logical question: Why pay for a theme when I can get the same quality for free?
To provide sound answers to this question requires us to explore the pros and cons of choosing free themes and to determine whether there really is such a thing as a free lunch in the world of WordPress. Let’s take a look at both sides of the coin.
Advantages of Free WordPress Themes
The first obvious advantage is the fact that you don’t need to spend a dime. Free themes can be downloaded, installed and set up without paying anything. Users who find that the themes don’t work for them can easily uninstall and choose from other selections. It’s that easy to shift from one theme to the next without having to worry about purchase costs or money-back guarantees.
On the other hand, most premium themes are expensive. For this reason, your first choice is often the final choice. Premium themes don’t give you enough breathing space to experiment with other options without burning a huge hole in your pocket.
Most themes are conveniently placed within the WordPress admin interface itself, and choosing themes from the WordPress repository spares you the trouble of finding a third-party theme store or marketplace.
If you opt for free themes, it is really recommended that you get them from the WordPress theme directory. Downloading themes from other providers may result in compatibility and security issues.
Compared to premium themes, most free WordPress themes are compatible with a lot of plugins and apps. This may be attributed to the simplicity of most free WordPress theme codes. This makes integration and importation in your website smoother.
Ease of Use
Free WordPress themes are generally easy to use and are particularly helpful for beginners or for users who are not inclined towards technical coding. Because these themes are user-friendly, they allow for customization without much need for technical assistance.
Disadvantages of Free WordPress Themes
Most developers create free themes for fun or for the purpose of introducing a teaser to a premium version. Here are some of the disadvantages of using free WordPress themes:
Lack of Warranty
Some free themes may not work properly and you can’t do anything about that because a lot of them don’t come with warranties. This can be frustrating and you will find the process of selection, setup, and installation a waste of time.
Spam Links and Malware
Free themes are infamous for encrypted spam links and, worse, malware. Some themes carry malicious codes and using them may pose a real threat to your site’s security. These themes can also negatively impact your site’s overall efficiency and rankings.
To avoid these repercussions, be sure to choose a theme from a reliable and legitimate provider.
Free themes tend to look either too bare or too flashy. Either way, they lack the professional look and quality you would want for your website. The offered layout schemes are lacking in creativity and uniqueness. You will notice that they offer the same general “look” with very minimal tweaks.
Lack of Support
Unlike premium themes available in ThemeForest and other popular theme developers, most free WordPress themes don’t offer customer support services. This is a real disadvantage because users may need troubleshooting assistance during the installation or integration process. With free themes, you usually don’t have a timely and responsive support service to rely on and you are likely to be stuck with a general FAQ list or theme forum.
Limited Features and Functionality
Limitation is one of the worst disadvantages of free themes. They offer the most basic features that restrict site functionality. This means you have to purchase other plugins or add-ons that are not guaranteed to work well or integrate smoothly with your chosen theme. In the long run, you may incur higher costs in terms of money, time, and effort.
Generally, free WordPress themes present lower overall quality than the premium ones. The latter are designed by professional developers who are paid for value. The revenues generated by paid themes allow for more regular updates on features, security, customer support, and other areas.
As with anything in the world of commerce, we get the value for what we pay for, and this seems to apply to WordPress themes.
Considering the discussion on the pros and cons, it would seem that the disadvantages outweigh the benefits. The last point, in particular, tends to bring us to the conclusion that it’s not possible to get a high-quality theme for free.
The good news is that it isn’t necessarily true. The trick is to get the best value out of free WordPress themes. This means you have to exert a little more effort in the selection process, particularly by following these tips:
- Start with established theme developers that offer free and premium themes. This will ensure proper integration of themes to your WordPress site.
- Choose a theme from a reliable and legitimate source, preferably from the WP repository itself.
- Consult reviews or forums, and check for recommended developers who are known to update their themes, provide support, and offer optimum features. You would want to choose a top-rated theme because high ratings strongly indicate that the theme has proven its reliability and quality.
- Select a theme that works well with different browsers and have no integration or compatibility issues.
Some of the free themes known for excellent quality and responsiveness are Twenty Fifteen, Twenty Twelve, Storefront, Shapely, Illdy, Activello, Customizer, Colorway, Saga, Perfetta, Parabola, Sparkling, Freak, Arcade Basic, Evolve, and Socially Awkward. There are so many others that work as well as their premium counterparts.
Ultimately, you can get top-notch quality out of the free stuff. You just need to take some time to study the theme’s features to figure out what’s best for you. With a little work, your site can look as professional and superior as can be without having to spend too much (or at all).