When starting out with WordPress, the tendency is to look for free themes to start your website inexpensively. Are there situations where a premium theme makes more sense than using a free theme?
Downsides of Free WP Themes
There are many different free themes that provide various appearances to a site from newspaper to magazine to eStore. However, you have to be careful about where you source the free theme. Some things are not as they first appear.
It is very easy for a rogue theme developer to surreptitiously include links to sites that they own. These can be colored to match the background color, so they are not visible to the casual observer but will be seen by search engines. Links to drug-related sites, gambling, and other less attractive niches may be used which could badly affect the ranking in the search engines.
In a worst-case scenario, it's also possible that a sophisticated theme can email your WP passwords and other private information for later exploitation.
For these reasons, a free theme should always be sourced from known theme creators who have been in business for some time. Our free evolve theme has been offered for some time, recently upgraded too, and Theme4Press is known as a provider of quality themes.
Benefits of Premium Themes
As the developer stands to benefit financially based on the number of purchases, more effort is expended to design a beautiful theme with as many state-of-the-art features as possible.
This may include an attractive Retina Display icon pack, one of the more popular sliders like Revolution Slider, a theme editor to create pages with custom designs, Google Web Fonts, and more.
Each of the additional plugins included with a premium theme is supplied within the single premium theme price. Individually, for a retail buyer, they would cost hundreds of dollars to purchase separately in order to add them to an existing theme, so whether you utilize all the plugin features or not, this represents a real bargain for a premium theme that may only cost $35-60.
Premium themes will usually be updated regularly to resolve any bug fixes. They will also keep up with new versions of WordPress that add new features and address security vulnerabilities. This ensures that a premium theme from a respected developer will remain secure and updated.
Thorough Beta Testing
Premium themes are tested pre-launch to ensure that they will be fully compatible with a range of different computing setups. This includes various browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Safari.
Testing may include desktop platforms like Windows and OS X, but also mobile platforms (with different screen sizes) such as iOS and Android, and sometimes also Windows Phone and Blackberry.
Popular plugins will often be tested with a new theme to ensure they will be compatible (cuts down on support tickets later).
By comparison, free themes are pushed out at no cost. There is little time to test thoroughly because the developer may not have access to different operating systems or mobile platforms, and the theme is provided “as is”. There will often be no support offered, not even as an extra where support is provided for a low fixed cost (like in the case of our free theme, evolve). Whether the theme will be updated in the future is also anyone's guess.
Essentially, with free themes, you get what you pay for.