Free WordPress Theme or Paid WordPress Theme?

Free WordPress Theme or Paid WordPress Theme?

Is a free WordPress theme worth using and which would win in the free vs. paid WordPress theme debate? It is not as easy a question to answer as you may think, and much depends on the use to which you are putting your WordPress blog.

Free WordPress Theme or Paid WordPress Theme

That is fundamentally what WordPress is – a blogging content management system (CMS), although it is now used by many as a regular website with rolling content. The continually changing content once offered by RSS can now be incorporated into a website using WordPress as the CMS rather than a regular website. That is one reason for RSS losing its early impetus.

Free vs. Paid WordPress Theme

The question stands: if a free WordPress theme is available, then why pay for one? Many, in fact possibly even most people, use one of the standard free themes provided by WordPress, such as the popular Twenty Ten or Twenty Twelve – and herein lies the first problem!

It is not possible to switch from one theme to the other without the appearance of your website changing, and if WP ever stopped supporting the old Twenty Ten you would have to redesign your site – at least your header graphic, because the requirements for each are different.

Free WordPress themes are not necessarily supported in the same way as their Premium or paid equivalents. Forget the ease of use and range of customization for now, and consider how long you want your site to last. The reason why most businesses use a different CMS to WordPress is that they are not reliant on them for the life of their website.

SEE ALSO: Tips to Choose the Best Theme for Your WordPress Blog.

Let’s look first look at Free WordPress themes, and then compare them with the paid versions.

Free WordPress Theme

Keep in mind that we are discussing themes here and not theme frameworks that enable developers to build WP themes. A free theme usually comes with a standard header graphic that can be replaced with a graphic of the same dimensions. It also comes with a limited capacity to customize the blog.

Unless you have a good grasp of CSS and HTML, and perhaps in many cases also of PHP, then you may find it difficult to change colors and the appearance of your site, and many also limit number of columns available. Although two columns seem fine to begin with, when you start by using a right-hand column for a blogroll and list of posts, you may eventually require regular navigation on the left.

You can’t do it without changing the theme, which might make your entire site look different and confuse your regular visitors. They like continuity – both with the appearance of different pages on your site and with regard to each time they visit your site!

You will also find problems with updates when you use a free WordPress theme. Those who design these with the best of intentions will likely be led in different directions through time, and forget about the free themes that they have offered. You will eventually find your theme failing to resolve with new IE or Firefox versions, or even with new updates to WordPress.

Then you will have to change the theme, which often means starting all over again. This could have a negative effect on any search engine ranking you have achieved. It could also distract your regular visitors who might not like the ‘new look’ that has been forced upon you – and them!

SEE ALSO: Free WordPress Themes for Your Blog.

Paid WordPress Theme

There are many premium or paid WordPress themes available online. These are most popular with those seeking something more unique and a greater degree of customization in their blog site. If you have little technical knowledge, then you will find that paid themes are easier to use than most free themes.

The options interface is generally very easy to use if you want to change aspects such as fonts, colors and headers. You have less need to use plugins to customize your site, and many alterations can be made by clicking a button. You are therefore less likely to find other sites online looking just like yours.

SEO is better constructed with the better paid SEO themes. With free themes you rely on plugins, and many paid themes need the SEO elements changed in the coding. However, with premium WordPress themes it is easy to set your Title tags, and H headings just as you want them. Chris Pearson’s Thesis theme is a perfect example of this. You can easily edit and optimize all on-page SEO elements.

Paid themes also tend to be updated to concur with the latest version of the WP CMS and to keep in line with any browser changes. While you sometimes find older sites that no longer resolve or load, a paid WordPress theme is updated by the originator to make sure that it does load with all browsers and WP versions.

Support with free themes is non-existent, and even with WordPress themes you rely on forums. Forums do not always answer your questions. The better paid themes offer email support should you come across an issue that you cannot resolve yourself.

Standards Compliance

The free themes that come with WordPress have been designed and coded to comply with the standards of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Many free and paid themes are not compliant to these standards. When you use a theme make sure that it is compliant with W3C standards, and others such as the current XHTML and CSS versions. Many plugins will reduce the standards compliance of free and paid themes.

SEE ALSO: WordPress Tips for Making an Awesome Blog.


There are many other differences between a Free vs. paid WordPress theme, though those above are the major ones. However are they worth the price you have to pay for them? If you are simply running a personal blog, then no! However, if you are running a commercial website with a blog attached, then the support and regular updates are worth the money alone.

You can be sure that your website will be bug free and of high quality – otherwise the developer will not be long in business! If you want a smart-looking site where 1001 and more do not have the same, then it is worth the price for a paid WordPress theme.

A free WordPress theme is good for an amateur site run as a blog or offering individual products (mini-sites). In between … try the free theme first then decide yourself on the free vs. paid WordPress theme debate.


  1. says

    Hey Rajesh great in-depth post. Price is always a barrier if you are just starting out and don’t have much money to buy a premium theme.

    I would suggest the beginners to first get a free theme from the and after some months when they’ve made significant money from their blogs they should go for premium themes. Otherwise spending too much money earlier on different things will just add to the burden.

    Ram Shengale recently posted – The Only Thing You Should Remember When Writing Guest PostsMy Profile

  2. says

    As long as the code for free theme is clean, i think there is no harm in using a free themes. there are a lot of free themes out there which can be modified as per requirements. If someone choose to go for a paid theme it should rather be a theme platform like thesis, genesis, headway because these themes offer advantage that other themes cannot. never choose a paid theme for how it looks in the demo, it almost certainly wont look like that when you actually install and populate the data.
    avinash recently posted – Buy Reebok Aviator Sunglasses at Rs.699 from SnapdealMy Profile

  3. Asser Yassen says

    I’m totally agree with avinash. Never choose a paid theme based on the look of the demo. It won’t look the same on your site with your own posts and images.
    I think that the features and the quality of support are the most important factors. If you are a coder, choose a theme framework like thesis and genesis. They give you a good basis to create your own (child) theme.
    If you are not a coder but somewhat familiar with WordPress and shortcodes, choose a theme framework like dottoro. It has a tons of features and provides a highly flexible environment for creating almost any kind of website. And its visual editor is amazing.
    Finally, if you just started to learn WordPress, choose a free theme and install some plugins to get more familiar with WordPress.

  4. says

    I also want to ask something “Never Buy Free Themes”.2 months before i download a free premium theme for my wordpress.But that theme is full of casino links in hidden mode.And when Google update page rank then my pr goes 3 to 0.It was a shocking news for me.After it i analysed my site from a professional and he found 2 casino links..So friends always go with paid themes.If you want free theme than first check full theme and then install it in your site.Thank you
    sunil recently posted – World’s Best Top 10 Browsers Of 2012My Profile

  5. digiee says

    avinash i have just started blogging and currently using a free theme. this blog is is really helping me to fit my steps into the world of blogging.
    would you advice me to stick with the free theme or should i go for a paid one. i am just a beginner.
    digiee recently posted – Standard Lasso ToolMy Profile

  6. Fabi daps says

    I always go for paid themes as it usually comes with some SEO features. though Free themes are good too.

  7. says

    Nice article. I’ve always found it difficult to configure paid wordpress themes. They look great but they tend to have too many features for my liking. I’ve bought only a couple of themes till now but I had to contact the theme creator a lot of times to get it right. On the other side, with free themes most of the times the customizations are easily available on public forums so it is much easier for me to make those changes and ask my doubts.
    Jessica Yale recently posted – Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini up for pre-order on Samsung India’s official eStoreMy Profile

  8. Danielle says

    I totally agree with your statement, if anyone is blogging just for the fun of it then there are thousands of free and exciting WordPress themes they can try instead of premium ones. Here I found quite good ones.

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