WordPress Free vs. Paid Themes: Which is Best & Why Buy a Premium Theme?

Rejaul Islam here from Rejaulsoft.com. If you’re using WordPress, a decision that you’re going to have to make is whether to go with a free theme or a premium theme for your design. You might be having a debate in your head about which one to go with you might go back and forth.
So, let’s discuss the pros and the cons of each. I’ll provide examples of themes that are the best for free or paid and hopefully by the end you come to a conclusion that you’re comfortable with.
Let’s start with free. The main benefit is, just that you can get a website up and running for a very low cost. The only thing you really got to pay for is, domain registration and a cheap shared hosting plan and you can install WordPress for free and you can install a theme for free. The last time I looked the WordPress theme repository has over 8 000 themes to choose from. There are going to be great options if you’re not that interested in having an elaborate design. Free themes are very good if you don’t care that much about design and you just want a minimalist website. I think you’ll learn faster if you have a real project out in the real world and you start trying to figure things out by watching somebody else do the work. I started with a free theme, in fact, the first website that I put together was a blog on the NFL and I had a free theme installed on that and I even installed a forum on that website to match the free theme, that’s when I was learning HTML, CSS that kind of thing that’s really the basis of how I learned WordPress. The other advantage of free themes is that you can go from theme to theme I mean if you want to test out 10 or 20 different themes, you don’t have to worry about forking over your credit card in order to do that you can see which one fits your website the best. Obviously, there are some downsides to free themes. The main one is that the developer is under no obligation to update that theme. So a lot of times what happens is, somebody comes out with a free theme and it’s on the WordPress directory but they might stop updating it. It might not have security updates you’re not going to get support. Usually, I think on the WordPress site you can leave a question for the developer but like I said if they’re not getting paid for it, they’re way less likely to answer you. Free themes also have limited features because of that it’s going to be harder to customize, you’re going to have fewer options for customization built into the theme and just overall free themes are more of a cookie-cutter template. Because they’re free, you’re going to have a lot more people online with those same themes installed. Free themes are so prominent, it’s going to be hard to separate your design from somebody else’s unless you dig into the details and get to know how to customize. This is not always necessary, I always like to say that the content on the website is way more important than the theme and I’ve wasted so many hours trying to customize and tweak little things here and there that do nothing to build an audience or get people more attached to your content. If you’re going to go with a free theme what I recommend is, starting with the WordPress development themes. The two most recent ones are 2020 and 2021. A couple more of the most popular ones are Astra, ocean wp, and generate press.
Now on to premium themes, with premium themes you’re going to get a better design. First of all, a lot of times premium themes are built for a specific niche. So, you might have a design that’s specifically geared towards maybe like a food blog or a lawyer website that kind of thing it’ll have features built-in for that business niche. The biggest advantage is, just customer support like I said, with the free themes you have to do everything on your own but with premium themes, they’re probably going to have a better support guide, better documentation, and then if all else fails they should have a contact form or a way for you to contact them to get answers directly from the team. Most theme companies also have software developers in-house so they put out updates more frequently.
A lot of paid themes give you advanced features for building your website, for instance, many of them nowadays are drag and drop. You can get the look you want just by your own creativity and on top of that, a lot of them have pre-built layouts or child themes that you can install. If you’re looking to build professionally with WordPress especially, if you’re looking to freelance and build multiple websites, I really think that you have to go with a premium theme and get to know it very well. I think one of the worst things that freelancers do is just pick and choose different themes for every single client project and you don’t get to know one theme really deeply. It’s better to go with a theme that gives you more customization options and learn how to use every single one of those features available to you because otherwise, you’re kind of relearning every theme and how their customization options are set up because that’s completely up to the developer.
Now, what are the cons of premium themes? A premium theme means you’re paying money so, it might cost the way that most of these themes operate are that you pay a recurring fee. Some of them offer a lifetime but you’re generally going to pay either monthly or yearly and your theme doesn’t stop working once you stop paying but you’re going to stop having access to the customer support and the updates. Then you also have theme marketplaces like theme forest, they’re great for low-cost one-time payments. I think normally a theme on their costs anywhere between maybe thirty dollars to eighty dollars or a hundred dollars, those are more specifically built for a type of business or niche.
So, if you’re looking to put together one website, I think that’s a great option. If you’re looking to put together multiple websites, I think you want to go with a premium theme framework that gives you more flexibility. Premium themes are also a little bit harder to learn. When you go and look at a demo of a premium theme, it’s going to look great and that’s because they spent a few hours customizing every area possible and when you first install it, it might be kind of blank. It’s going to take you some time to get up to speed with how you can customize a premium theme.
The other downside is if you have more options to customize and there are more slick features built-in designs and animations that kind of thing. You may have worse performance versus a very simplistic minimal theme even if it’s free. A free theme might be faster than a premium theme. My favorite premium theme nowadays is Divi and it’s the most popular drag and drop builder on the web for WordPress. Divi is no doubt one of the most popular themes for WordPress freelancers for that reason it makes it really easy to either pick a pre-built layout or do it yourself from scratch.
If you’re looking to maybe imitate another website I’d say the second most popular one is Elementor. I’m not sure if that’s a separate theme, I know they have a plugin where you can add content and drag and drop design kind of like Divi it’s very similar. I think from a design standpoint that the Divi templates and content modules are a little nicer looking than Elementor. But they’re both great options to do drag and drop if you want to customize without learning code and then two more popular options that I’ve never personally worked with are beaver builder and genesis.
I think genesis is probably one of the most popular they’ve been around for a little bit longer than some of these other premium themes and I believe that they were bought out or maybe they partner with wp engine the hosting company.
So, if you like premium WordPress hosting with wp engine they give you the genesis themes with that, so you’re kind of set up to build your website under that framework. so hopefully understanding these pros and cons you’ll be able to make the best decision for whatever website you’re building. A lot of people try and get the perfect design before they write one post or one page. If you want to use WordPress professionally and build websites for small businesses, I highly recommend Divi. I really think buying Divi is a no-brainer for a fact that you’re going to build many many websites.
If you got any questions leave them in the message box below and I hope you have a great day.

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