Are you ready to start designing your site? Should you choose a Free or Premium WordPress Theme?
Previously, we discussed standard plugins and various types of special plugins that provide an important function for your WordPress site. If you have researched WordPress plugins in the WordPress Plugin Directory, I’m sure you noticed that there are so many plugins to choose from, actually 39,858 plugins as of this post writing. My point is, we could go on and on exploring plugins and their various functions, but I’m sure you are impatient to set up the “look and feel” of your site. At this stage, your “Brand” considerations will definitely rule your choice for a WordPress Theme.
Since I relate just about everything to my real estate background, you have completed about 5 out of 10 steps of building your online Home. You prepared the site, have a solid foundation, have installed the footings and roughed in the walls. Then, when you installed your plugins, you installed all of your utilities. You are making progress! It won’t be long until you are blogging!
Let’s consider first whether or not Free WordPress Themes are a good choice for you and your Brand. By now, you should know what your online focus will be. If it’s still not clear in your mind, I have written a blog post (on my Art Site) with a couple of easy exercises that will help you define your true purpose and focus.
This is very important so that you will be able to set up your WordPress site understanding what your categories, tags, and site functions will be. Then it will be easier to know when “THE” theme that is perfect for you is found. Yes, as an Artist or Creative, the “look” of the site is important, but what you will find that is even more important is the security of your site and how your site functions. This is the true power of WordPress!
Free WordPress Themes
If you have a small hobby-type blog or are just setting up a site for family and friends, it’s fast, easy, and free. If you have a very small budget and you are just starting out, free fits everyone’s budget, or so it seems (read more below). You just have some customizing to do to make it suit your purpose.
A good solid free theme by a great designer can help you with an entry-level online presence until you can afford to buy a quality Premium WordPress Theme. Below are some precautions before you download a Free WordPress Theme.
A few years ago, I was once again starting another website. I decided that I knew enough about WordPress to go ahead and just pick a free WordPress Theme and make a few small customizations and be good to go quickly. Well, that isn’t what happened.
At first, the theme installed just fine. Then, as I activated plugins, it started having errors and issues. Because it was a free theme, there was no support. Of course, the designer wanted me to upgrade to the premium version.
By the time I got done playing with it, I had wasted a few hours and gave up. So, not to be deterred, I tried a free theme from the WordPress Directory (as seen in the top image above). Now, I had much better luck here as far as installing and not having any major issues. I did have some plugins not work with the theme so just be aware that if the theme you choose has an older design or wasn’t very popular in the past, it may not have a compatible code with popular current plugins.
Another factor to consider, what we all want is to have our site be so engaging that people stay on it for awhile and get real value from our content. Free doesn’t always mean “free.” Let me explain.
The theme I chose looked clean, simple, and seemed perfect. I started setting it up. It installed easily and looked like it should when I activated it. When I went to change the footer content, where you put your copyright information, it said, “Proudly Powered by WordPress.” Now, we are proud of our WordPress site, of course! But, WordPress sites are about 24% of all sites on the Internet right now. That means WordPress sites are a prime target for hackers. So, why would I want to advertise publicly in my footer that I have a WordPress site?
I discovered that I was not able to remove this link in my footer. Right next to the WordPress announcement, I also saw the theme designers signature, “Theme designed by ________.” There was a link to the designer’s site. So, right there on every single page of my site, people will be led off my site to another site that doesn’t help my site at all. I do understand that the theme was free, but just follow my train of thought for a moment.
If you go to your Dashboard » Appearance » Editor and take a look at your theme’s Stylesheet (style.css) and look at the top, you will see all of the designer’s information. It is common knowledge that the theme and designer information is there. So the only reason the theme producer has a link in the footer is to draw your website visitor’s over to their site hoping to sell their themes and make your site visitors their new customers.
I’m not saying there is anything at all wrong with this, I’m just pointing out that this is part of the choice to pick a “free” theme. You may find this dialog interesting: You may be trading a free theme for sending traffic to the theme designer’s site. It’s a business decision; exchange a free theme for sending traffic to your theme designer’s site.
If you are setting up a small hobby type of blog, this may not be a deterrent at all. The choice will depend on what it is you are trying to do online.
My Branding and Marketing Consulting business’s purpose is to assist those that want an online presence for their business. For those of you that want to sell online and run a business, I don’t advise using a free WordPress Theme unless you are very experienced with WordPress for several reasons.
- Lack of Support For a Free Theme: As a new blogger or site owner, you will need support. Something will come up and you will need help. If you choose a free theme, as I stated above, don’t expect to get any support. The designer gave you a free theme and that’s usually all they will give for free.
- No Frequent Updates: As stated in item number one, designers typically don’t update their free themes very often, if at all. WordPress Core is updated very frequently. You just may find that the free theme you love, won’t function correctly after a WordPress Core update. So if you are going to choose a free theme, be sure to check and make sure the theme developer is serious about his or her theme and takes care to make sure it is functioning properly for all that have downloaded it.
- Safety: I am not a WordPress Coder or PHP Coding Expert. It will be important that your theme has been coded correctly so that it does function properly and not do things that may harm your online reputation. If your site does not function properly, doesn’t load quickly, behaves in mysterious ways, you could find that you have an extremely high bounce rate. People will come to your site and leave almost immediately.
- Something else to be aware of; there are those that report that your free WordPress Theme may contain malicious code. I don’t know if this is just a fear tactic or truth because I’m not a coder. So, if you choose to use a free theme, my best advice is to go to the official WordPress Directory (as seen in the image above). I do know they review all free themes for our safety.
- If you have researched and found a few reputable developers on the WordPress site, next review support dialog, and their online reputation to see what others have used their themes are saying about their experience. I would do this for any new plugin or theme you are considering installing!
- Did you know that obscure or untrusted plugins or themes can actually break your WordPress site? Make sure you are researching carefully or you could find your free theme costs you money in more ways than one. It could even get your site banned, blacklisted, or give you headaches with your web hosting company as you try to restore your site and reputation.
- Limited Branding Capability: Because you have chosen a free theme, you will also find that it has limited customization and functionality. This is to be expected. A free theme is just a “teaser,” like a try-before-you-buy version of a Premium Theme. For some, this may be sufficient, but if you want to build a serious online reputation and expect to be taken seriously as a business, a free theme just doesn’t give that impression. I have seen quite a bit where certain free themes are used a great deal and the sites that are using them blend in with all the other sites using that theme. Just changing colors or logos will not be enough of a difference to help you get an edge on your competition!
- Check for Retina-ready and/or Responsiveness: Some free themes may not be ready for the majority of your website visitors. Today, most people are on mobile phones, tablets, iPads, iPhones, laptops and various devices. If you choose a free or cheap theme, it may not look right on various devices so you will lose sales or site visitors.
Please note, I cannot lump all free themes into these generalizations. Some free themes do come with good support, more customization than the majority of free themes, and maybe even more functionality than the typical free theme. I’m just making you aware that if you choose to download and activate a Free WordPress Theme, you will know what to watch out for. I recommend that you download Free WordPress Themes directly from WordPress in order to be the safest for a free theme.
Premium WordPress Themes
A blanket statement: Buy a Premium WordPress Theme to try to avoid all of the above! 🙂 Just consider purchasing a Premium WordPress Theme as an investment in your business. Go to the WordPress Directory, check out Premium Themes that you like. If you are like me, you will start seeing a pattern of themes you like by specific designers. You will be able to narrow it down to just a few designers or theme producers.
Next, check out their support dialog. Do they clear up any support issues quickly? Are there a lot of support issues, what do the issues tend to be? Are their themes compatible with the latest version of WordPress? Also, check out their ratings and online reputation. Do your due diligence on these designers.
It won’t take long until you are able to choose a reputable professional theme designer that you can trust. Then, have fun picking out a theme that has all of the functionality, security, built-in SEO, and attractiveness that your Brand deserves.
There are few cons for Purchasing a WordPress Theme that I can think of readily. But here are a few I have come across in my experience with WordPress.
- Your Budget: One thing might be either not knowing your budget or choosing a premium theme and then finding out later that the price was not all inclusive.
- What I mean is you have to know what your budget is before you set up a business site online. You have to consider all of your expenses. You should have already completed a “needs analysis” for your business and then determined how much startup capital you have. (Most businesses fail due to lack of enough startup capital).
- Be aware that a lot of Premium WordPress Themes that WOW you up front with all of their cool functions, gallery displays, sliders and so on may require Premium Plugins that are not included in the purchase of the Premium Theme! They are add-ons! Some designers are more upfront about disclosing this than others. I have helped set up sites, downloaded and uploaded plugins only to see that they require an API Key (which you only get when you pay the premium).
- Too Many Functions, Features, and Options: Some awesome Premium Themes can be so complex (even with full instructions) for a new WordPress User that you will get a headache trying to figure out what you need, what you want, and how to implement the various functions, features, and options! They give a beginner too many choices!
- Don’t Pay For Functions, Features, and Options That You Won’t Need Or Use: Remember, to keep your site loading quickly, don’t run things on your site that you have no use for. Don’t waste your money.
- Do your due diligence on Premium and Free WordPress Theme and Plugin Developers before choosing a theme or plugin.
- Time is money, too. Free may not end up being free if you don’t do your due diligence! (So I’m saying it several times so you see how important this step is and don’t skip it!).
- Once you find a theme developer you can trust, find a theme with all of the functions that you want and need for your site. Keep in mind, if you don’t find a perfect site, more than likely you can find that feature or function in a safe and quality plugin. So don’t despair!
- Don’t activate too many plugins or you can slow down your site.
- Don’t buy themes that are over-your-head with too many features, functions, and options. Don’t waste your time and money.
- Keep your site clean, fast-loading, and uncluttered to give your site visitor an enjoyable visit to your site.
With all of these serious considerations in mind, now have fun choosing the perfect theme and plugins to represent your Brand!
Have you ever installed a Free WordPress Theme? Did you have a good or bad experience? If you have purchased a WordPress Theme, have you ever had any issues you had to resolve with the theme’s designer? Tell us about it, we’d love to hear!
Thank you for visiting, reading, and sharing my post!
As always, wishing you prosperity and online success,