If you are in the market for a WordPress theme, you’re probably considering the thousands of free and premium WordPress themes in the market.
In this post, we’ll discuss the differences between (most) free vs. premium themes.
Free WordPress Themes
These are usually simple in design and typically follow the same structure of the default theme. If you just want to release content, then a free theme is suitable for your needs.
However, with free themes, there are limited options / settings built-in to make modifications easier. Additionally, most free themes do not come with color schemes / styles to change the look of your site.
These are more advanced and almost always come with options panels / theme settings which can be configured quite easily.
Additionally, it is common that a premium theme come pre-packaged with several styles so that you can alter the look of your site. the advanced style of themes that are more unique, stylish and in high quality. Though, these additional features come at a cost.
A lot of premium WordPress themes can be found at Themeforest.
Free Themes vs. Premium Themes
Premium themes generally have a more time invested into the overall design.
Given you have to pay money, one would reasonably expect that the design of a premium theme overshadow that of most free themes. This is not to imply that some free themes are not well-designed, but simply that quality design is a requirement for a premium theme.
If you are a blogger or site owner who wants to portray an unique brand, then it is worth the money to purchase a premium theme. With premium themes, you’ll be getting themes that are designed with this in mind. Good design is a definite plus to maintain or attract visitors.
As with any software that requires payment, premium themes are usually well-coded and inherently of higher quality than free themes. This is due to various factors.
- Sellers need to ensure their themes are bug-free otherwise buyers will ask for refunds or submit complaints
- Sellers want to minimize the need for trouble-shooting so it’s in their best interest to eliminate all issues within the theme and constantly update them for new WordPress releases
- Sellers that release low-quality themes will tarnish their reputation and consequently make less sales
When it comes to theme quality, premium themes are the way to go. There are certainly free themes, such as TwentyTen, that are also of high quality, stable and frequently maintained.
The Options Panel / Theme Settings is a major difference between free vs. paid themes.
Most free themes do not come with an easy method to update the theme. However, with almost all premium themes, you can count on the fact that there will be a panel to configure your theme settings. The options panel will provide areas to configure categories for different content areas, adding Google Analytics code, and/or social media settings.
There are hundreds of possible settings, and each theme varies. The Theme Options panel does make life much easier for non-techies, as well as folks who wish to just get their sites online quickly.
When using a free theme, it is a good idea to pay attention to the theme author’s updates.
In most cases, free themes are not frequently updated to stay in sync with WordPress releases. This may lead to security vulnerabilities.
Additionally, some free themes are released with good intentions, but the authors may not be as well-versed in coding standards as some premium theme authors. Hence, the potential for security issues is greater with free themes. At least with premium themes, one can rely (hopefully) on the theme support forums for updates or to ask questions related to such topics.
Finally, almost all premium themes come with customer support normally in a forum.
This is a major difference as you have nowhere to turn to for questions when it comes to free themes. Most of the premium theme forums I visit are quite active, and the information provided is extremely helpful. This support is included as part of the theme purchase price.
It only makes sense that the time and effort required to run a forum and develop a premium theme be compensated to some extent.
The big difference between the free and premium WordPress themes is through their quality, uniqueness and style.
In my opinion, as long as themes are reasonably priced, a premium theme is a smart choice for your next site. If you are looking for quality themes, go through our themes section for recommendations.