WordPress provides an incredible theming functionality, which enables it to produce stunning looking websites. WordPress themes are available in two general categories – Free themes and Premium themes. Each one of these two category of themes have their own benefit and drawback. In this post I examine these in some detail. I sincerely believe that this will help you decide on which one to go for in your next or existing wordpress blog.
Are free wordpress themes really free? As implied by their name these theme come free of cost. You don’t pay a single dollar for their usage. Just download them from wordpress site, install on your blog and start using them. There are literally thousands of free wordpress themes available on the site and they come in 1 column, 2 columns, three columns and almost every color scheme. On the face these theme look the most desirable option for a wordpress beginner but consider these points and your perception towards free wordpress themes might change.
2. Difficult to modify: The free wordpress themes provide basic functionality, limited widget areas, shallow documentation and relatively not-so-clean code. This doesn’t mean any disrespect to the theme creators but when it comes to customizing these free wordpress themes to suit the needs of the blog or website, it requires coding effort, which has its own learning curve and secondly if you like to go for support from the theme creator you’ll often have to shell out money from your pocket.
3. Compatibility issues: Compatibility of free wordpress themes is also an issue. With latest plugins being developed at a fast pace themes are often found lacking in keeping pace with them. Again to make the theme compatible coding effort is required and if you are not adept enough you’ll have to purchase the talent.
4. Functionality: Free themes generally lack complex functionalities like e-commerce and integration with third party payment processors. This means to get the functionality new code has to be written, which again means money to be spent.
5. Support: Most of the free theme providers have lots of issues on their plate. Support is just one of them. Releasing new versions, making patches to existing themes and maintenance of existing theme already takes a lion’s share of their time. The support queues are huge and they often do not commit any time duration to address the support ticket.
These troubles faced by free wordpress themes users prompted many developers to use the wordpress theming opportunities to create good looking and more functional themes. Many premium theme providers have mushroomed to provide theme frameworks (Genesis and Thesis etc) and standalone themes with various functionalities.
The advantages of wordpress are fully exploited by these developers to create themes which offer e-commerce sites, directory sites, membership sites and lots of other complex websites. Extending the core functionality of wordpress, which was earlier better known as a blogging platform, these premium theme developers are making it easy for users to extract a content management system (CMS) like functionality from it.
Premium wordpress themes come at a price – Ranging from $30/site usage license to $150 and more these theme providers charge anything depending on the popularity and functionality it provides. There are professional developers behind the scenes of these premium theme providers and with it comes professional support, good documentation, keeping up with the upgrades, compatibility issues and ability to get more features if you are able to pay the price. This makes creating a feature rich website with wordpress a cakewalk for the average users and allows them to focus more on there business or main purpose instead of scratching their head around over technical snags and getting the right functionality.
From the facts mentioned above things clearly tilt in favour of premium themes for the speed and hassle-free environment they provide to create a particular functionality around wordpress. The themes look elegant and give a professional outlook to your web presence. Free wordpress themes, though give a hard time to a new user to use wordpress fully, provide a huge variety for any wordpress users to try their hands and if they have the knowledge and skills to create the desired functionality, free wordpress themes are a real good option to have.