5 Reasons Why You Should Pay for Your WordPress Theme
My theme for October has been investment. Investing your time, emotion and cash in your business as well as your audience. Part of your business is marketing. If you don’t invest in marketing, you might as well plan to fail. Marketing looks different for every business, but chances are one of those marketing avenues is a website. I’m going to talk a little bit about free vs. paid WordPress themes.
We’ve all heard that infinitely wise saying, “You get what you pay for.” I could not be more true in the case of a website. If you do it yourself, you’re either sacrificing loads of time (assuming you are a first rate developer on the side) or you are spinning your wheels looking for corners to cut and ways to get stuff for free. If you’re paying someone … I hope you’re paying them well and that you hired a professional.
I develop in WordPress. WordPress is also super popular among the do-it-yourselfers out there because it’s free. Many of the themes and plugins are also free. That does not mean you should use them. I do not ever recommend using free themes and here are 5 reasons why:
Free themes do not offer support. If they do, it’s in a forum where you may or may not find the actual author or the theme. Chances are they check in every few weeks to give a vague answer. They have no investment in this product or in your business. I’m not saying they might not be great people, but they aren’t getting paid. If you weren’t getting paid to do your job … well, how much effort would you put into it?
A great theme will be updated monthly at the very least. The multi-theme I use is updated a little less than this, but they release patches (tiny updates) more often. If your theme author isn’t updating their core files on a regular basis then you have no way of knowing with which new version of WordPress (or some plugin) your theme might break. And if it’s free, it will eventually be incompatible with either WordPress core or a plugin you have installed that does update regularly. It’s also worth noting that if you do update that theme and you or your developer have made any customization to it’s core files (code) they will be lost when you update. Paid themes often include a child theme so that you can edit some of the core files without losing those customizations when you update.
Free themes sound great when you’re in a hurry and have a limited budget. Maybe this is a great “getting started” option for you. Eventually, though, you’re going to need a different page layout or need to expand your content past simple pages and posts. How many page templates does your free theme offer? How user friendly is the customization panel? Are you using a lot of shortcodes or html in your pages to get the layout you want? Does it slow down your server and keep your viewers waiting? A free theme might get you out of the gate, but it won’t meet your needs for very long if you plan on growing your business and the online content that it offers.
A free theme might not cause any issues right after you install it, but wait a few weeks. When one of those plugins or WordPress updates their core files …. that free theme could break your site. Compatibility is a huge concern with WordPress. Because of the nature of open source platforms, things don’t always go as planned. Not all developers pay attention to industry standards. Not all authors are in touch with one another working together to make their products work as packages. You might install one plugin or a new theme and your whole site goes down and you don’t know why.
5 User Experience
Free themes are often pretty bare bones so user experience isn’t always an issue, but many of them are not in line with W3C standards. Some code might be bloated or outdated. This means that it might slow down your server or not play nice with your plugins or WordPress. Developers who write code for free have no real investment in their product. Sure, they’ve put in a few hours putting it together, but they aren’t asking themselves how it helps your business or your audience. They’re just doing it for fun, which is great … until it breaks.
What themes do the pros use?
I use what’s called a multi-theme or a power theme. I know a few WordPress developers who love these and we all use a different one. There is no defined page layout. I can create any layout I want for each individual page using a drag and drop admin interface. It does require a certain level of technical skill and a familiarity with this type of interface, but it’s not so difficult that many of my clients don’t update content themselves.
Remember that quote, “You get what you pay for”. It’s not a lie. A professional developer has invested a gazillion hours in their product and they charge money for it. That money pays for their time answering support tickets, updating core files and making sure your website doesn’t break. It’s worth some investment.