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Free WordPress Themes vs Premium Themes

Are you someone who loves free WordPress themes or are you a person that loves premium themes? I believe most people will say free themes because they are...free... but are they just as good as the paid versions? Let me take you through some of the pro's and con's and then you can decide which one fits your needs best.

Free WordPress Themes

Just as the heading implies, we are going to talk about free WordPress themes and why you would use them instead of premium themes. The biggest benefit of a free WordPress themes is the cost because there isn't any cost, it's free! Then there's the fact that we have a very large source of free themes over at wordpress.org with their theme directory. I should also mention every theme listed there have gone through an extensive review process before they get approved for going live. This ensures only quality coded themes get in the directory. Free themes are great but often when someone hears that a theme is free, many people will think it's poor quality and not really usable. People are nervous and cautious and stirs the dilema of wether or not you should download and install it. What’s the catch?

Theme Quality

People often feel that free themes are low quality, and in some cases, this is true, but it really depends on where you get the theme from. We also have to ask ourselves how do we decipher quality? Is it code, features, the design, a combination of these attributes, or is it based on something completely different? I personally cannot speak for third party websites that offer free themes, but I am very familiar with the theme directory on the WordPress website. I create and submit themes to the directory, such as our latested PostMagazine theme where it continues to build up popularity. Free WordPress theme - PostMagazine Pro After it was reviewed and passed 100% a few days ago, we now have over 2500 downloads within a few days of it going live! Themes submitted to the WordPress directory are actually held to a higher standard when it comes to code and security.  Design, is a bit more subjective, but I can say that within the last couple of years, design quality  is better.

*You can check out more of our free WordPress themes from Blogging Theme Styles.

The Disadvantages of Free WordPress Themes

Let's take a quick look at the disadvantages of using free themes; although this really depends on what your intended usage is. These are some common disadvantages of using a free WordPress theme:

  1. Design Quality - Design might not be as good as premium themes, but there are some themes that are just as good as premium themes.
  2. Limited Features and Functionality – Free themes often have limited options, features, and functionality. If a free theme has a pro version, then you are in luck if you decide to upgrade, otherwise you might be disappointed.
  3. Limited support options – Free WordPress theme developers offer support through WordPress forums, but support is not a requirement. However, I personally feel we have an obligation to provide support when you need it. There are websites that offer no support to you.
  4. No Obligation – Free themes are distributed with no warranties, so if something goes wrong, you are pretty much on your own. I've also seen themes sit dormant without updates.
  5. Unknown Authors - If you get your theme from an unknown and/or unreliable source, beware of possible bad things happening hidden beneath the code.

Again, it really depends on what you want to use the theme for and what is important to your needs.

The Advantages of using Free Themes

We looked at some of the disadvantages of using free themes, but let's look at the advantages of using them.

  1. Low Cost - Using a free theme to start a new website will give you a chance to build your new venture without  a lot of upfront expense.
  2. Upgrade to Pro - Some themes will include the option to upgrade to the pro version. At Blogging Theme Styles, we give you that option. Every free theme we release, we have a pro version.
  3. Test a Theme - A free theme gives you the chance to try it out before you decide to upgrade to the pro version.
  4. Good Code Quality - If you got your theme from the WordPress theme directory, you can be sure the theme was reviewed and checked for code quality and security.

Premium WordPress Themes

Premium WordPress themes have a lot going for them. However, with all of the premium theme sites out there (ours included) showcasing the benefits of using their themes, it can be difficult to choose the right one. Due to extensive market competition in the premium theme industry, theme shops are always trying to offer you more features. The price range for a premium theme will be $39 to $69, but a good price point will be $59. Many theme shops will also offer you the choice of buying a single theme or signing up for a membership giving you access to all themes. We offer you both.

The Advantages of using Premium Themes

We will start by listing out the various advantages of using premium themes.

  1. Support - Support is important, so premium themes should include some form of support, either by email, tickets, or a forum.
  2. Design Quality - Visual design is better than their free counterparts. In most cases, if you see a theme that gives you a  "WOW" feeling, then you know you have a premium theme.
  3. More Features - Premium themes offer more features, functionality, and flexibility.
  4. Code Quality - Code quality can be a challenge. If you have a pro version of a free theme that you installed from the WordPress theme directory, you can be sure the code is going to be based on WordPress standards and quality.
  5. More Effort - Theme shops selling premium themes are going to put more effort to make sure you have a theme that you will enjoy.
  6. Theme Updates - Premium theme shops will guarantee that your theme is kept up-to-date and will always fix any bugs and issues right away.

Disadvantages of using Premium Themes

It's hard to believe there are disadvantages of using premium themes, but there are. Not all premium themes are alike and not all theme shops are alike.

  1. Prices - Pricing can be high for some themes and a little out of reach for some people.
  2. No Theme Review - Unlike themes from the wordpress.org theme directory, third party theme shops do not submit their themes for review. Code quality and security can be a big unknown to many people. This means that theme shops can ignore WordPress code standards.
  3. Theme Bloat - This means that a theme will  have more features and functions than you need. It also means that a theme can be saturated with scripts and stylesheets that could slow down your website. Too many features can also be overwhelming for many users, so try to find themes that don't make using them too complicated.
  4. Theme Licensing - This could result in the limitation of how many websites you can use the theme. Some shops might restrict how you can use the theme unless you pay more money to extend it.

How to Choose the right Free WordPress Theme

If you are wanting to use a free WordPress theme, we've given you some pro's and con's to give you some help.

  • Only use a free WordPress theme from a reputable source. We can easily say that themes from the official WordPress theme directory are recommended because every theme goes through an intensive review process. A little shameless promotion here, but our themes have that advantage.
  • Make sure the theme is kept up to date by the developer. When you are browsing themes on the repository, check out the "Last Updated:" posted date and the version.
  • Does the author provide support? Some shops or authors of free WordPress themes do offer support. We feel this is very important so whenever you need help, you will get it. Also read previous support requests and look to see if the author responded and if the issue(s) were solved.
  • Reviews and ratings will also help. If the theme has any ratings or reviews, check them out and see how people are rating the theme and read what they have to say. If you see low ratings, read why they gave it a low star and review and then you can make a judgement call for yourself.

Guidelines for Choosing a Premium WordPress Theme

If you have decided to purchase a premium WordPress theme instead of a free WordPress theme,  then you are probably opting for a safer bet. To make sure that you end up with a great premium WordPress theme and not just an expensive mistake, I've listed out a few things to consider:

  • Web Designers - If you are a web designer, theme shops offer a huge advantage with premium themes they built. All you need to do is decide which theme shop and which theme to purchase. Even better to sign-up for a theme membership that gives you access to all themes.
  • Theme Guarantee - One thing to look from a theme shop is to find out if they offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee. This will normally be in a form of a refund policy. Only the top reputable theme shops will offer this benefit -- Blogging Theme Styles has one.
  • Only go with reputable premium WordPress theme shops and authors. The theme market is saturated with theme authors and many who do not care about quality; they care about sales. Read reviews, pay attention to reputation, even contact them and see how long they take to get back to you. Find the authors and shops that appear to stay active with a regular flow of new theme releases.
  • Great Looking Themes - If they offer themes that appeal to your needs without all the extra fluff that you don't need, then you more likely found your theme (or theme shop).
  • Don't get sucked in with a million features - This is bloat and most of what is offered, you truely won't need. The idea of showcasing a mile long list of features is to create the WOW factor and gets you to buy. Except after buying it, you realize it was a mistake.

In Summary

This was probably information overload, but when it comes to deciding on free WordPress themes vs premium WordPress themes, I can easily say your choices are not limited. It all depends on you and your specific needs and what is important to you and what isn't. I've love to get your feedback on free WordPress themes versus premium themes, so feel free to share this on your social network and post your thoughts.

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