There are hundreds – maybe thousands – of themes available for your WordPress site. The majority of them are free to download and use, so why would anyone choose to use a paid theme? To answer that, I first need to explain why some themes are offered for free.
There is generally one reason for a WordPress designers to give away free themes: backlinks. Most free themes you will find require you to leave the footer links in tact. Footer links are the clickable words that appear at the very bottom of your site. They may be harmless links back to the designer’s own site, or they may be something more sinister, like links to online gambling or porn sites. Either way, when you link out to those sites, you’re telling the search engines that you endorse them. In other words, you may be unwittingly associating with sites you’d never visit, let alone give your seal of approval to.
You might say, “But I’ll just remove the links I don’t like.” Maybe. However, these links may be hidden from you, or encrypted in such a way that you couldn’t remove them even if you were willing to violate the licensing terms for the theme you’ve chosen.
Beyond the unscrupulous link-building that occurs with free themes, you also need to be concerned with the code itself. Well-written, organized code will help your site load faster, avoid rendering errors, is compatible with all common browser types, and helps the search engines find and rank your site. Free themes may or may not contain clean, organized code.
Support is another issue to consider when choosing a free theme. If you run into trouble customizing your theme, where will you turn? Does the designer have a forum or support desk? Are they available to answer questions? Unfortunately, free themes often fall into the unsupported category simply because the designer is busy with paid work and can’t justify the time or energy to provide ongoing support for unpaid clients.
Lastly, you need to consider when the theme was last updated. WordPress is in a constant state of improvement and upgrades, and themes will need to be updated to accommodate the changes to the core files. Free themes rarely get updated, and may actually stop working with the next WordPress upgrade, forcing you to change themes more often than you’d like.
By contrast, paid themes offer:
- A support system, often through user forums populated with designers and developers who are experts in the theme.
- Updates to correspond to WordPress upgrages.
- Well-organized, professionally written code that complies with the latest web standards.
- Integrated functions like search engine optimization and hyperlink redirects to eliminate the need for additional plugins.
- No hidden or sinister links from your site to “bad neighborhoods.”
While it might seem silly to pay for a WordPress theme, when you consider all the downsides to using the free ones, I think you’ll agree that you definitely get what you pay for.