To buy or not to buy a WordPress theme. That is the question.
Or: why buy a Premium (Commercial) theme when there are so many free WordPress themes out there on the ’net?
And with all those choices out there, what’s the best way to pick a theme, free or otherwise?
When setting up your website with a self-hosted theme via WordPress.org, you can go to the Free WordPress Themes directory for over 2,000 free themes. There are also free themes from a multitude of companies and independent coders — a quick search online and you have an overwhelming number of free choices to sort through. All you need to do is make a choice, click Download, activate your new theme and you’re all set to start building your website.
Sounds simple, right? But there are more elements to consider before you click that Download button.
WordPress is an open source blogging tool and content management system. Combine that foundation with a theme from another company, plus plugins from a variety of other companies, and you end up with many different pieces of software cobbled together from different sources. That’s true whether the theme is free or not.
The Issue: all those pieces may not work together seamlessly.
If you choose without first doing some research to ensure you’re getting a good, efficient theme, you may end up with a website whose pieces start to fall apart.
The Basics of searching for a WordPress theme:
|FREE THEMES||PREMIUM THEMES|
|THEME OPTIONS||thousands of options||thousands of options|
|PRICE||no cost||cost can range as little as $5 to $150+|
|SUPPORT||little to no support provided
(generally download and do-it-yourself)
|forum support + potential support
directly from the designer who created the theme
|EXTRA FEATURES / THEME CONTROL||limited options for making modifications (may not be able to customize color schemes, fonts, or overall layout)||more features & style options, along with documentation on how to use those features (helpful for you, or the designer sets it up for you)|
|THEME UPDATES||may not have any updates||should have regular theme updates|
Details to consider in choosing your theme:
Quality of Theme Designer. If possible, check the reputation of the seller/designer to make sure they still support your theme of choice and offer good service. How long have they been around? If you plan on using a theme for more than a year, it’s nice to find a company and theme design that will stick around.
Theme Updates. When was the theme last updated (fixing any issues; tweaking, streamlining and improving the theme)? If it hasn’t been updated in a long time, the theme may be less likely to work well with the latest WordPress software updates. This could mean your website will load at a slower rate or have more issues displaying your content. Check the Changelog or Last Updated dates.
Support and Documentation. Do they provide documentation for setting up the theme? Do they provide a place to request support help if you hit snags as you set up their theme? Do they have a refund policy? If there’s a problem with the theme, you want a company that provides theme support, issues support and thorough documentation for set-up. Tip: Check reviews, comments, seller’s website and profile for signs that they’re active in supporting the themes they create and offer some support.
Variety of Features and Modification Options. Does the theme have just the basics or do they offer a good number of extra features that can help make your website unique? Can you easily change the colors, fonts, or other elements of the theme? Is their theme in keeping with up-to-date standards and practices, like responsive web design (meaning: your theme should look good and work well on desktop computers and mobile devices like tablets and smartphones).
Security. If the theme isn’t updated regularly to sync up with the latest WordPress releases, your website may be vulnerable to security breaches.
RECOMMENDED! Currently, we at 9 Planets recommend StudioPress Themes because of their clean coding, ease of customization, reliability, documentation and support. Elegant Themes is another good choice for reliable themes with lots of extra features. With theme sites like these, you can still set up the site yourself but you’ll be able to follow documentation that comes with the theme (something that’s not usually the case with a free theme).
If you need help choosing the right theme, we are happy to help!