Generally speaking, there are two types of WordPress themes: free and paid. Both have their advantages and drawbacks, which may seem apparent at first, but appearances are not all they seem.
First, what is a WordPress theme? Themes determine the styling and functionality of a WordPress website, and can be switched between without altering the site’s content. Currently, WordPress.org has more than 2,000 themes in its theme library – all free. And many of theme are extremely high quality, with all the functionality a website might need.
For instance, this site was created using Fruitful, a free WordPress theme. Although the bones are the same, with a few modifications to the CSS, my portfolio is formatted to fit with my brand guidelines.
The difference between a free WordPress theme and a premium WordPress theme is fairly simple: One requires users to pay for the theme. Generally speaking, premium WordPress themes have more to offer in terms of having multiple layouts, additional widget areas, or a higher level of support. In short, the theme’s designer offers something that makes that particular WordPress theme worth paying for.
Before choosing Fruitful, I was working with a paid WordPress theme. I had gotten an offer that was seemingly a great deal: 10+ WordPress themes for $27. One of these particular themes would cost over $30 on its own. That really is a great deal, monetarily speaking. But, once I started working with the theme, I found that I didn’t really get what I paid for.
For one, that particular theme made it difficult to make changes to the code. And, the support wasn’t very…supportive. When posting to the forum, the designers most common response was to ask for users’ WordPress login information so they could make the alterations or fix the problem themselves. While this undoubtedly makes things easier – I don’t have to dig through code, for instance – it also raises security concerns. One simply doesn’t go around handing out login information without good reason. Making one minor change to the code does not constitute a good reason.
This anecdote isn’t meant as a diatribe against premium WordPress themes. Premium themes can actually be a worthwhile investment, depending on a project’s unique needs and requirements. However, WordPress being an open source program means that there are hundreds and hundreds of talented developers creating WordPress themes on a daily basis, and offering them for free.
Really, it’s all about research. Once a client provides me with the necessary information about its website requirements, I can narrow down the multitude of WordPress themes to the ones that are particularly suited to the project. I try to offer a mix of free and paid designs, but, if I am limited to just paid designs, it will be because the project’s requirements are sufficiently unique as to need more than can be found for free.