Beginners are usually perplexed while choosing between free and premium WordPress themes in terms of their merits and demerits. In order to get an insight into the pros and cons of both the options, we need to delve into these separately. During the course of discussion you will come across the term ‘free themes’ quite often.
It should be understood that these free themes refer to the officially listed free themes by WordPress. Kindly do not confuse these with any run of the mill free themes offered by fly-by-night distributors on the web. Such themes should not be downloaded and installed under any circumstances as this may expose your sites to malicious attacks.
Benefits of free WordPress themes
The very mention of the word free can be the biggest advantage of free WordPress themes since it offers a leeway for creating and launching your site by obviating expenses for purchasing a theme. The very fact that these themes are offered free of cost can also raise few eyebrows since usually free goods are substandard in comparison with their premium counterparts.
It is actually the other way round. Free WordPress themes are subjected to stringent quality assurance protocols including a no-compromise theme review process. Every single theme that is offered as an official free WordPress theme must pass through the process without exception.
It should be noted that the team of theme review process consists of exceptionally gifted folks who are required to test and approve themes prior to inclusion of these themes into the official free WordPress themes directory.
According to the check-list for theme review process every theme is required to meet several criteria such as accessibility, absence of PHP or JS errors, availability of DOCTYPE declaration along with language attributes, and exclusion of unreliable data, just to name a few.
In addition to these attributes, these free WordPress themes are also subjected to standard compliant code with assured support for all standard WordPress features. It is anybody’s guess that developing free WordPress themes that satisfy such rigid criteria cannot be done without involvement of proficient developers.
How can you justify quality themes for free?
Distribution of such high quality themes offered for free need not be judged solely on financial aspects. One needs to take a broader view regarding multiple benefits of giving and sharing. Free themes help theme developers test and enhance their acumen by submitting the codes to be audited by review team and enrich their skills by receiving suggestions for further improvements.
Developers also get an opportunity to test their skills by exposing new themes developed by them to larger audience. There are many more additional advantages including establishing their image and enrichment of portfolio. New developers who design free themes are also able to work on paid assignments of developing custom themes and so forth.
Disadvantages of using free WordPress themes
Restricted support options - Although you are able to seek support of free WordPress theme developers they are not bound to respond to your issues.
Narrow range of features and theme functionalities - You may not be able to use short codes and create buttons, or landing pages with some of the free WP themes even though majority of free themes offer support to standard features.
Lack of distinctiveness - This is quite obvious due to the fact that most of the free themes are extensively used by large number of websites and therefore you will not be able to add touch of uniqueness to appearance of your website.
No ownership - Since free WP themes are non obligatory in nature, you can hardly expect any support in the event of any issue and will have to deal with it all by yourself.
Many users of free WP themes are tempted to down-rate the themes if they find the same short of their expectations. This should be strictly avoided only because you have not made any payment for using the free WP theme.
Instead of giving it a single star rating it would be nice in your part to make a small donation, maybe for a beer. The free theme developers might take pains to add the functionality that your were looking for in the free theme.
Benefits of Premium WordPress themes
You can purchase premium WP themes from multiple market-paces or third party WP theme shops. The most striking advantage of premium WP themes is remarkable customizability. Thanks to the competition, you will be able to get a better deal for your money in terms of number of features. The compelling features can include wide range of color choices, broad scope for layouts and templates, drag and drop functionality and short-codes.
Another important feature of premium WP themes is the availability of regular updates and seamless WP support. You can custom design your site nit only by availing unique premium WP themes but also by customizing these for added exclusivity.
Disadvantages of premium WP themes
Mediocre coding standards - Premium themes are not subjected to stringent review process as mentioned earlier in case of free WP themes. Therefore you may come across themes that exhibit incompatibility with some plugins in spite of looking attractive.
Unwarranted number of features - There can be just too many features as a result of overselling efforts. These unnecessary features may never be required by you still they will be there only to impact your website’s speed.
Trespassing into domains of plugins - Premium WP themes have a nasty habit of crossing over into the zone of plugins.
If you wish to avoid such issues, then it would be better to purchase premium themes from trustworthy developers and theme shops such as Themify and StudioPress.
You should always be able to introspect a bit before selecting a right WP theme.
Are you really going to use a plethora of features, slider, custom theme admin options and other add-ons for your site and are you in a position to arrange for troubleshooting help or have ability to resolve the issue by yourself?
What is it that you are looking for in a theme, a theme that appears professional, uncommon, or a simple and sown to earth layout.
Free WP themes are ideal for individual or family sites and premium WP themes should be chosen by businesses to impart a unique appearance to their enterprise website.