After having a bad experience with a paid WordPress theme, I realized that there are some inherently bad features to the general concept of paid themes. Here’s my list of reasons why, besides the price, you should never pay for a pre-built WordPress theme.
- You can’t try it on. When I’m browsing free WordPress themes, when I find one that I like, I install it and quickly try it on using the “live preview” feature of WordPress. Sometimes, a theme that looked great in a demo looks totally busted on my blog and I immediately uninstall it. Perhaps the bustedness could be fixed with configuration, but I don’t want to do the work. With a paid theme, you can’t try before you buy. So if it’s busted in some way, you won’t know until after you’ve paid. If you find a deal breaker, you’ll have to try to get your money back from the developer.
- They often require more configuration. For theme developers to justify the price, they often add in tons of bells and whistles. Sounds cool right? Actually, it is often confusing to figure out how they all work and it means more work for you if the defaults aren’t what you want. If you like something highly configurable via checkboxes and menus, go for it. But if you want something that works out of the box, free themes are a better bet.
- They’re bloated. All those bells and whistles mean more code and more database queries. Depending on how the theme works with your caching solution, this can slow down your site. If you want to keep your site code lean and mean, free themes are where it’s at.
- There are so many good free themes. There are thousands of themes available and many pages that rank them. Some of them use standard frameworks like Bootstrap or Skeleton for responsive design. With a little digging, you can find many beautiful and functional free WordPress themes to choose from.
- You can customize a free theme with features built-in to WordPress. You don’t need the bells and whistles of a paid theme to add your own branding and personal touches to your WordPress site. Most free themes have built-in features that allow you to customize. Set a logo, header, and background image using the built-in configuration tools. With the ‘Edit CSS’ feature that comes with some free themes, you can accomplish a lot of customization with just a few lines of css.
Incidentally, this site runs Codium Extend which is simple, responsive, and free. I customized it by adding a background from Subtle Patterns and tweaked the css to change some margins and background colors.
Update: I’m now running WP Foundation (also simple, responsive, and free) with minimal customizations.