The Difference Between Free and Paid WordPress Themes and Should You Pay or Not

Posted by Eyden Haze . on June 5, 2017

The conversation surrounding free vs paid WordPress themes has been going on since people have started using the platform. If you’re reading this article, there is a good chance that you’re hesitating which option to choose as well.

Indeed, selecting a good WordPress theme can be a pretty challenging task. There are an astonishing number of both free and premium themes available from both official WordPress website and third party developers.

So how do you know which one to select?

Even more interesting: should you pay for a premium theme or use a free one?

The answers to these questions will be given in this article to help you to make a wise choice. Here we go.

It’s a Bit Complicated

Many people who use free WordPress themes not fully understand why they should spend their money for a premium one. The purchase just does not seem worth the money because all essential functions are beautifully delivered by free themes.

Indeed, they are right. Partially. WordPress developers ensured that the users of free themes are able to run their websites without an immediate need to go premium. But why to design paid themes, anyway?

Let’s look at pros and cons of free and premium themes to answer that.

Pros of Free Themes

  • They’re free: That’s the biggest benefit that attracts so many users. Even though the word “free” may be associated with low quality in someone, it’s not the case here (at least with themes on wordpress.org).
  • Better compatibility with plugins: As strange as it may sound, free themes are compatible with more plugins that paid ones. This is explained by the fact that they must meet a number of standards before approval.
  • Official review: This advantage applies only to themes downloaded from the official directory (wordpress.org/themes). Each theme there undergoes testing for support of official WordPress features, security, standard compliant code, privacy, etc.
  • Better investment: One can find a free theme that meets all needs without having to pay for all additional (and often unnecessary) features.

Cons of Free Themes

  • Lack of uniqueness: Thousands of other people may be using the same theme because it’s free and easily accessible. As the result, your website won’t have a unique design.
  • Limited support: The vast majority of free themes do not enjoy official support from developers because they are not obliged to respond to support queries.
  • No warranty: If you encounter some problems with your free theme, you’re on your own because the developers don’t provide any warranties.
  • Limited functionality: Many free themes lack additional helpful features such as landing pages, CTA buttons, etc.

Now we have a good understanding of why people choose to go with free themes. What about premium ones? Let’s take a look.

Pros of Premium Themes

  • More unique: Paid themes provide the ability to personalize the design, so your site will stand out.
  • Availability of support: Most premium themes come with support, which is especially important to users without a coding background.
  • Better functionality: For those who need an advanced functionality, paid themes are the obvious choice because they come with various progressive features.
  • Better security: Premium themes are equipped with more advanced security solutions than free ones.

Cons of Premium Themes

  • Fee obligations: A theme with an annual or monthly licensing can burn a hole in your pocket. It could be a problem for those who cannot offset a high cost of the theme.
  • Lack of official review process: The developers of paid themes can ignore the practices and principles of WordPress. With time, this could turn into a problem. For example, a theme can be incompatible with some plugins.
  • Too many features: It is a golden rule of WordPress theme developers to add as many as possible features into them to make them attractive for the customers. However, too many features can affect the loading speed of the website even if they are not used at all.

So How to Choose?

The experts recommend to consider the needs of the business before choosing a theme. Tom Jenkins, a web designer from Awriter, says people who run a personal website or a blog should select free themes. “They will meet all the needs because these sites do not require advanced functionality,” suggests Tom.

In contrast, those who need to run small businesses are recommended to select a premium theme because of extra options and enhanced customization.

Also, there are a number of common recommendations for those who need to choose a WordPress theme. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does it have appropriate security solutions?
  • Do I really need all those features it has?
  • Do I need a basic layout or an advanced professional theme?
  • Is the theme regularly updated?
  • Is the developer of theme reputable?
  • Is the theme SEO friendly?

Let’s see some examples. Twenty Fourteen is a free theme that meets all the requirements described above. It has 400,000+ active installs and a 4.5 rating out of 5 stars.

Next, Divi is a great example of a popular premium theme (more than 330,000 active installs!). It has amazing functionality and unlimited customization features. For example, Divi allows to build the layout as you want without limits and works perfectly on all mobile devices regardless of operating system.

The Verdict

The choice of a theme totally depends on the needs of your business. If you need to run a personal website or a blog – you’ll be fine with a free theme. For more complex tasks, like selling over the Internet, a premium option is certainly a better choice.

Lucy Benton is a specialist in digital marketing and content writing who currently works at Assignment Helper. She focuses mostly on the worlds of technology, gadgets, and the Internet.  If you’re interested in working with Lucy, you can find her on FaceBook and Twitter.

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