There are many great themes for WordPress that are completely free. They can even be really functional. But the catch is that often comes with a few downsides that can be very costly in the long run. In this article, we will go through how you choose the right paid (premium) WordPress theme and discuss why you should never use a free theme on your website.
Do not underestimate the fast and competent support from the developer. Website owners can, on several occasions, find themselves in tricky situations that can not be solved without the help of the developer of a theme that they use.
Themes that have a separate support page (often a forum) allow you to get help with changes to the theme so that you can give your visitors the experience you choose. And in addition, you can report bugs and issues that need to be bug fixed with an update.
Premium WordPress themes often cost less than a hundred dollars and can save you a lot of time. In addition to the design, there are themes with several flexible functions and plugins prepared that easily allow you to build your own page for, for example, hotel booking, job advertisements, or a fashion store. But it can sometimes still mean that you need to spend some time adapting and deactivating parts of the theme so that the page does not become slow.
1. Use themes from a well-known professional developer
There are tons of websites that sell so-called Premium themes for WordPress and today there are even companies with several employees who work full time to further develop and provide support for purchased themes and plugins for WordPress. As with much else on the web, some pages that you find through Google searches may look serious, but not all themes that appear at the top are the most user-friendly, secure, well-documented, and up-to-date themes available. The large websites and sites for WordPress themes that allow private individuals and companies to set up themes for sale have some demands on quality and security for a theme to be included, and the companies, which is why, for the best security, it is wise to look for plugins on WordPress’s own website. But in addition to WordPress, there are many other trusted and reputable sites where you can find themes, including:
- Theme Fusion
2. Compare ratings and the number of downloads
This can often be taken for granted, but a large number of purchases combined with a higher rating suggests that many users have purchased the theme and are happy with it. A larger user base also increases the chances that you can also find answers from other users in the theme’s support section or on other forums or blogs around the web should problems arise. It can often be worth spending a little extra money on a good theme where you do not have to spend time on sudden restrictions or bugs later on.
The more popular themes tend to be updated more continuously for improvements, new features, and security fixes than any free themes. This is not so strange as there are more users who justify updates and the theme creators want satisfied users to buy more licenses or buy their other products and services.
3. Is the theme user-friendly?
Something you should look for immediately when you choose a theme to buy is if there is built-in support and settings for custom CSS. The former makes it easier for you as a developer to start from the theme’s design to add some changes and custom blocks with design when needed and the latter is more for simpler tweaks directly in WordPress admin without the need for FTP upload.
If you are a WordPress developer, the design is not locked, but it saves some time if it is easy to change right from the start. Many themes also have a special section in admin that allows users to change fonts, colors, and sizes without having to know any code – this is also something that is usually appreciated by customers who want to test some other minor changes to the design later.
Some themes contain several different layouts and can be customized whether you want a nice blog, company page, or store. For example, if you have a start-up company and maybe first just want to start with a simple landing page, and then expand with a blog section and your own store in WooCommerce, this is great!
But otherwise, it can easily become sketchy and include a lot of extra code in the form of style templates and scripts that make the website more complicated, slower, and make it even harder to administer as there are more choices to keep track of. In the latter example, it may then be better to choose a theme that focuses on exactly what you need and that has a smaller “jack of all trades” mindset.
4. Does the theme offer support and are there any common problems with the theme?
An advantage of the most popular premium WordPress themes is that they have fairly fast support, both where you can ask questions before your purchase and where you can get answers if something goes wrong after your purchase. In addition to the fact that they can have support, some may also have their own support forums or even go so far as to offer paid support from a technician to help if you should have really frustrating problems.
The support part for the theme can be good to look through to see if there are any common problems for the theme. This is especially good if you have a special feature you have in mind for the page as it is not clear if it will work with the theme based on its description, such as translation with WPML or if it is a special plugin you intend to use.
5. Test demos
It can be good to play around in the demo for the theme and see that everything looks ok, but also if you have the opportunity: to test it in different browsers and resolutions and in the mobile. You don’t want to pay for a Premium theme where it later turns out that the developers have made some small mistakes and forgot to adapt parts of the design for mobile and some themes that seem promising can even give error messages in your browser console if you take a look at the demo.
Test the speed
If you have looked around among some themes, you have probably soon seen that many of them follow the trends with large areas and images, animations, and a lot of scrolling. It can look cool but in many themes, it results in a lot of content that needs to load and many different scripts that need to be downloaded, which can make the page slow to load and not offer the best experience in mobile phones or devices with slightly poorer performance
Therefore, it can be a good idea to run the demo page for a theme through a service like Pingdom Tools or PageSpeed Insights to see the page’s performance and if there are a lot of parts that need to load.
Unfortunately, it is a bit misleading sometimes with demos for themes as they like to load up with all combinations of design and functions at once on the home page or several of the subpages to show everything that is possible with the theme, but they often also have a little more tuned pages for e.g. test forms that can be tested. The best thing is if you can test one of the links on the demo page that most mimics the design you think you will want.
6. Are plugins included and are they necessary?
Several paid premium themes for WordPress usually offer one or more popular plugins at no extra cost. See if any plugins are included and whether or not they are necessary for you and your needs.
In summary, the right paid theme for WordPress that you should choose is one that:
- Is from a reputable supplier
- Has a high rating, several purchases, and a stable user base with satisfied customers
- Fits the purpose of your website without a lot of confusing administration due to designs and features you do not need
- Has good support from the creators and from other users
- Is fairly fast and does not have a ton of style sheets and scripts that slow down the page speed
- Has established and necessary plugins if they are included at no extra cost
Why it is wise to invest in a premium paid WordPress theme
When you are looking at a paid WordPress theme, you may not think you need all of the features it offers. But as your website grows, you will be more and more attracted to being able to use them. And over time, there is a good chance that you will get value for money after all.
It becomes a limitation not to be able to create nice landing pages, use shortcodes and so on. Why have a super-advanced WordPress theme if you still can’t use it fully just because the free version is slimmed down?
Okay, what if I use a free theme that does not have a premium variant then?
Not everyone needs lots of features. Free themes can be smarter with extensions for WordPress, so you can always go that route if you want. Just keep in mind that it can slow down your site and make it slower if you install many extensions.
Our advice is that if you download a slimmed-down version of a premium theme, you can just as easily choose the paid version directly. You will probably do so sooner or later, so why not take advantage of all the premium features right away? Your visitors will thank you for that, but maybe not your wallet.
- Your website will equal thousands of others if you don’t choose the premium theme
- Without a unique design, your website will be just one in the crowd on the internet
- Premium themes have more options to change the look you want
- Create a landing page that matches the content of your website
Chances are high that your website will look just like thousands and thousands of other sites when you use a free WordPress theme. There are two reasons for this (and not necessarily a negative one depending on what the purpose of your website is).
The first is that many people are drawn to free themes because they do not want to pay for a premium theme. And that means that many sites get exactly the same look as yours. You do not get a unique profile online and thus become more difficult to distinguish from the thousands of others who are similar to your site.
Secondly, the opportunity to create a unique landing page that helps you drive visitors to the right pages on your blog is often lacking. Good premium themes have lots of settings and features that allow your site to get exactly the look you want.
Our advice: Choose a premium theme that can create stylish landing pages for your visitors. That means having to use extensions.
Some of the main issues that can come with free WordPress themes include:
- Lack of maintenance with few updates
- Themes that are not updated risk getting into trouble more often
- A good developer maintains his theme regularly
- Without bug fixes, you will quickly have problems with your WordPress theme
It is important that you choose a theme that is updated regularly. There are several reasons for this.
No theme is completely free from bugs and vulnerabilities. As they are discovered by the developer or users, updates must be released that fix them.
When WordPress is updated with new versions, there is a small risk that your theme will not work properly. Internal changes to the platform may require that your theme be updated to work properly, and if the developer does not, you will be forced to change the theme.
Larger developers with several premium themes on the market keep a close eye on how WordPress develops. Oftentimes, they release quick fixes when problems are found and something needs to be changed before a major WordPress update fixes this good time.
Choose a premium theme with a regular update history. There are expensive themes that have not been updated in a whole year, and these you should of course avoid; just like with free themes.
Our advice: No developer is perfect and not all themes are updated regularly. Whether you choose a free or premium theme, you should check the update history carefully. How often is the theme updated?