Why should you consider paying for WordPress themes if they’re offered completely free?
Ahh..Wordpress themes… it seems silly to have to pay for them, right? All you have to do is take a look over at WordPress.org and you’ll find their theme directory filled with over 2,600 themes to choose from (which seems to grow on a daily basis). Not to mention additional websites such as Woothemes, Siteground or Themeforest that add even more free options. Getting your hands on one is as simple as a download and a quick upload to your WordPress admin dashboard. But there are actually many advantages to investing in WordPress paid themes, especially if you own a web business that’s earning money.
However that isn’t to say you should run out and invest in a premium theme straight away when starting out a site. It’s not essential and in fact I don’t really recommend it (unless you don’t mind spending the extra money). It’s great to start with free themes to get a handle on how they work. It also won’t cost even a penny to experiment with the plethora of available options.
All free themes are not created equal
Some free themes are great, produced by professionals and kept updated on a regular basis. Some great free themes worth checking out are Twenty Twelve, Point (featured right), Pagelines and Weaver II.
However, any Tom, Dick or Harry that knows how to write code can produce a theme compatible with WordPress and put it out on the web for anyone to download. If it isn’t written very well, it can leave any site that chooses to install it vulnerable to malicious attacks. In addition, if the theme isn’t kept updated and left to rot (so to speak), it could eventually become incompatible with a later version of WordPress and your theme could break.
You don’t want your theme code to break. If it does, it could be extremely difficult if not impossible to fix. Be really careful when choosing a free theme and make sure you use a popular, well known theme that is produced by WordPress itself or another professional company – MyThemeShop, for example, makes awesome free themes.
Still, within the range of available free themes the options for customization remain rather limited. If you want the best ease of customization, a paid theme will always be your best bet.
Paid WordPress Themes are about more than just good looks
Really, the switch from a free to paid theme is almost entirely not about appearance at all! Keep in mind the way your theme looks is secondary to the content you have. A good theme is one that displays your content in the foreground and keeps extra fluff to a minimum. A theme that has too many bells and whistles can actually end up hurting you more than anything. (Find out how to build a blog that converts)!
So why, you may ask, if it isn’t a matter of looks, should you even bother going for a paid template?
#1 – They make your life easier, especially if you don’t know the first thing about HTML and CSS
If you’re unfamiliar with HTML and CSS, you’ll probably find it a pain to do any real customization to free themes. Changing the coding of your theme within the editor can be a bit dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing, and you always run the risk of messing it up, which could ultimately break your site.
The good thing about paid themes is that they usually offer much more intuitive options for customization. You can change and add many features simply by clicking a few buttons. Many times they’ll include extra features within the framework that you’d have to rely on plug-ins for with free themes (and you never want to rely on too many plugins)!
If you’re trying to run any sort of ecommerce site (selling your own products), paid themes designed for that functionality will make everything much easier.
#2 – Offer quality, unique templates
I know I said earlier it wasn’t all about appearance, but it is still a small factor to take into consideration. Free themes tend to be generic (and everybody uses them) so investing in a paid theme can help you stand out from the crowd.
There’s just so much more selection of awesomeness with paid themes!
#3 – Responsive design makes them compatible for mobile browsers
Did you know that a third of web traffic comes from mobile devices? I’m sure that statistic is soon to increase as mobile usage only continues to rise, so having a theme that is mobile responsive is really more of a necessity than a recommendation. Your visitors will leave in a heartbeat if they can’t read or navigate your pages, so having a reponsive theme is essential.
With a paid theme you can rest assured it’ll look great on smartphones and tablet type devices.
#4 – Guaranteed updates will prevent your site from breaking
Theme updates are needed on at least a semi-regular basis, otherwise coding could break if it becomes incompatible with a new WordPress update. There’s no promise of regular updates with a lot of free themes, so you need to be careful what themes you choose to install. Pay attention to the ratings and the last time it was updated before you install a free theme.
Since you’re paying to use it, premium themes will continually be updated and you won’t have to worry about anything going wrong. Just pay attention to what kind of updates you’re given with the theme – some provide lifetime updates while others only will for a year.
#5 – Unlimited Support
Paid versions of themes will come with access to support if you ever need any help. You’ll get access to helpful, active forums, theme tutorials plus the ability to fill out support tickets for help with whatever problems you encounter. Free themes don’t offer the same sort of support system as paid themes do.
#6 – Better Security
Poorly coded themes could leave sites vulnerable to malicious attacks, so that is yet another reason why it’s very important to be selective about which free theme you choose to install. Paid options are professionally designed so you can sleep tight and not worry about dodgy coding ruining your site!
Best places to buy WordPress premium themes (my personal recommendations)
These themes feature the Genesis framework, which is an excellent foundation for any website. It uses html5 markup and features schema within the code, making it super SEO friendly. In other words, it will help search engines read and find your blog more easily, leading to better rankings within Google (and other search enginges). Not to say this lets you off the hook when it comes to putting in the effort to get your blog ranked, but it definitely helps you get there more easily.
For the Genesis framework + child theme, the price range is around $100. The range of child themes is large enough that you could probably find a decent fit no matter your niche. I like them because they’re pretty clean and simple, yet still manage to pull off a professional appearance.
They offer a returning customer discount as well, so if you ever decide to purchase another theme from them, you’ll get a pretty decent price cut, between $10 – $20.
Visit StudioPress Here
MyThemeShop is a bit less expensive as you can purchase a single theme for $35. They offer pretty sweet packages that provide access to all their themes ($67 for basic membership and $97 for developers), but it does come with an additional $9 monthly price tag. It may not seem like much, but over the course of a year that adds up to over $100… so unless you run tons of websites or design sites for clients, you probably don’t have any need for a monthly membership.
Visit MyThemeShop Here
Great site if you want to purchase a bargain package of premium themes. Currently, $39 gives you access to ALL 42 of their premium themes with unlimited support. But that will only provide you with updates for a year. If you want lifetime updates, it’ll cost you a one time fee of $99.
However, as of August 1, 2014 they announced they’ll be raising their prices to $49 and $199 respectively. I realize now as I’m writing this that it’s less than a week away… so if you want in, GET IT IN NOW!
Still though, $199 for 42 themes + lifetime updates and support is not a bad deal, especially if you are in need of several themes.
Visit Theme Junkie Here
What I really like about all three of these options is that they provide lifetime updates for every theme you purchase. Many other paid theme vendors will make you pay a yearly fee for access to continuous updates, so you’ll end up paying much more in the long run.
Premium WordPress designs are certainly worth the money, but aren’t a necessity for everyone
Paid options are great for business owners and professional bloggers, but even then starting out with paid themes isn’t necessary. It’s good to experiment with free themes in the beginning and get a feel for what types of designs you like working with so you don’t waste money on themes and just end up hating the end result. Installing a new theme with WordPress is so easy that changing themes really is no big deal.
Personally, I had my websites for an entire year before I invested in a theme. I waited until I was earning enough money to be able to throw it back and invest further into my business, and I’m glad I did. There’s no point in shelling out money for non essential things if you aren’t making any yet.
But it remains completely up to you and what sort of starting budget you have to work with. If you find yourself with limited funds, paid themes shouldn’t top the list of priorities.
At what point did you start using paid themes, and do you think they’re worth it? I’d love to hear you opinions and experiences down below!
Wendy are you familiar with Customizr Pro? It is supposed to have great mobile capabilities?
I have heard of it but never used it. I think most sites are already optimized for mobile these days – does it give you special features or something?
Thanks very much, for this post. Personally I have been going back & forth; keep the free or move up to a paid.
After reading your whole post I now see great advantages that I had not thought about before.
Thanks again for helping me make a very important decision.
If you are serious about your website or blog, paid themes are definitely worth it. I agree that you should start with a free one till you get a feel for how they work and then upgrade. The differences in your dashboard may be subtle but they just seem to function better. Great post!
Yeah I agree… definitely function better and love the additional customization features. Coincidence or not, I actually noticed a boost in my rankings after switching to the Genesis framework!
My new site (on the premium theme) isn’t quite 8 weeks old yet but my Webmaster Tools stats are looking decent. I’m definitely going to have to take a look at the Genesis framework in the future. I’ll take any “edge” I can get for better rankings 🙂