Free versus paid: this is an age-old debate that dictates so much in our daily lives. When is something that’s free good enough? It is worth spending a few bucks for something that (may) be better? Indeed, there probably isn’t anyone out there who hasn’t at one time or another been vexed by these very questions.
When it comes to building your new and undoubtedly brilliant website, you will absolutely run into this dilemma. And seeing as though the WordPress platform dominates the site-building industry with a more than 26 percent market share, there’s a good chance that’s the platform you’ll be using.
If that’s the case, the first hurdle you’re going encounter is choosing a theme that will dictate the look, feel and functionality of everything readers will ultimately experience. And nearly all web-design experts agree that, with a new startup site, going with a free theme is the logical choice—you can always upgrade to a paid theme after you get your proverbial feet wet on the WordPress program. There are thousands of free themes available, most of them well-styled to current design trends and perfectly attractive to your visitors who aren’t really going to know the difference anyhow as they will—hopefully—be more interested in what you have to say or sell or promote. And free themes have another advantage: they’re often much easier to learn to use than paid versions, an important consideration for someone who is a newbie to WordPress design.
However, there are of course some downsides to free themes. To begin, they typically use a very simple structure and design which, unfortunately, may mean that your site looks similar to others utilizing the same theme. And because they’re free they often don’t carry with them options for intense customization. So it may very difficult to make your site stand out from the crowd if you simply don’t have the tools to do so at your disposal.
Additionally, free themes often don’t come with a very important backend element: customer support. So if you have a problem with your site that is theme-related, you’ll have to cull through WordPress forums to find an answer. Also keep in mind this: free themes are free for a very good reason, mainly that, because they aren’t designed to make money for the developer there’s good chance that updates will be slow coming to the market because, really, why would someone spend their time updating a theme that’s not going to generate any revenue. This is an extremely important consideration when you remember that, as WordPress makes updates to its core platform, your free theme of choice may suddenly become incompatible post-update.
That said, there are some distinct advantages to grabbing a premium paid theme. To begin, think about what you want your site to be. For example there are millions upon millions of WordPress sites for freelance photographers, but what makes one stand out from the others? What makes a user stay on one site versus another? This is where customization is important, and getting a photography website noticed away from the pack most likely requires paying for a theme that is loaded with options that can do just that.
Also, premium themes are great if you’re trying to create a very specific niche in a very specific market. In this case you should get a theme that showcases your product or service in a unique way and that creates a good specialized fit. From drag-and-drop builders to unlimited color palettes, multiple layouts to templates loaded with customizing options, a paid theme can truly help you create a look and feel to your site that is wholly yours. And lastly, premium themes come with regular updates and great backend customer support, so you won’t find yourself floundering if you’re unable to figure out a particular element to the theme or looking for an answer to a problem.
In conclusion, experts coaching WordPress users on which paid to theme to get offer this advice: if you’re just starting out to the platform begin with a free theme and learn what it can do. Often you’ll find that a free theme is just fine for your needs. And beginning with a free theme will also teach you about what its limitations are, so that if you do decide to upgrade to a premium theme you’ll go in knowing what look, feel and options you want, which will save you a lot of time during your search.