Are WordPress themes free?

Designing your website

Perhaps one of the nicest features of WordPress is the wide range of available themes. Other CMS like Joomla or Drupal don’t even close to WordPress when comparing the number of ready-made themes and templates they have.

Are WordPress themes free or do you have to pay for them?

free wordpress themesThe answer: both. There are more than 3,000 free themes available for WordPress. And paid themes? As of this month, one company alone has 11,647 themes for sale. You get the idea. There are a lot of themes to choose from.

So, if you’re building a new site using WordPress, why would you want to cough up money for a premium option, if there’s a free theme that works?

From our point of view free themes are free for a reason. Free themes often lack options and settings. If you intend to be serious about your online business, in our opinion, a premium WordPress theme is a must-have for your site.

Why use premium WordPress themes?

Free WordPress themes are often basic in style and follow the same structure. They are absolutely fine if you simply want to write content on a blog.

Unique design

However, when it comes to modifying or customising your site or design, free themes are restricted. Premium WordPress themes usually have more time invested into the overall design and that pays off. Free themes are not unique. Some free themes have over 1 million downloads. Many similar types of websites will make use of the same theme. Since there aren’t as many customisation options available, the differences are slight. Your website will look just like everybody else’s.

Functionality that works for you

Theme selection is about more than just picking an option that “looks good”; it’s also about choosing something that works well for your content and website goals. A free theme has limited features and no extra functionality, which many professional websites need. The more advanced your website gets in terms of functionality, the more complex it will be to run and manage. Using a free WordPress theme will make this hard to do well.

While free themes don’t require any money initially, you may find yourself adding plugins to compensate for a lack of features. Many of these cost.

Support where you need it

One of the biggest problems with free WP themes is the lack of updates and support. Most theme developers release a free version and use it to sell a pro/paid version. Consequently, many free themes get updated only rarely. This means they may become incompatible with frequent version updates of the WordPress CMS. WordPress is constantly updating its technology and every few months they carry out a major update. Your themes (and plugins) need to be compatible with the latest version of WordPress. When you are using paid themes, it’s the responsibility of the deign company to release an updated and compatible version of the theme.

You may need to wait for months before you see an update on a free theme.

Security issues

In free themes, you may find many structure bugs or bad coding: the potential for security issues is greater.

Choosing between free vs premium WordPress themes boils down to your expectations and website knowledge. Here are the differences as we see them:

TYPE OF THEME Free WP Theme Paid WP Theme
SUPPORT Not to be relied upon
UPDATES Maybe and could be delayed
TUTORIALS None or basic
SEO OPTIMISED None or basic
DESIGN Very Limited Lots of options and settings
OPTIONS AND SETTINGS Limited Varied
NEED FOR PLUGINS Most probably Less, many are incorporated
EXTENSIVE DOCUMENTATION None or basic
RESPONSIVE Not usually

So in summary …

A free WordPress theme is great if:
  • You just want to start a personal blog.
  • You don’t need any special features.
  • You don’t require any customisation and you’re quite happy for your site to look like the competition.
  • You can troubleshoot any problems you may encounter and know HTML and basic coding.
  • You’re not worried about long-term compatibility issues.
  • Free themes are distributed with no warranties, so if something goes wrong, you are pretty much on your own.
Premium WordPress themes will be:
  • Standards-compliant and up-to-date with the latest versions of WordPress, PHP, CSS, and HTML.
  • Mobile responsive – Google counts this as an important SEO ranking factor.
  • Compatible across different browsers.
  • Customisable.
  • Designed to work well with other plugins.

Talk to our team. We’ll find out what it is you would like to achieve and look at ways of presenting your ideas. Then we’ll design a website customised specifically for you needs.

Got questions about WordPress themes? Email us with your web design questions.