Should I use a free or paid theme for my WordPress website? Kori Ashton explains the benefits of using a free or paid theme for WordPress.

Full Video Transcript

Hey y’all! Welcome to another WordPress Wednesday. My name is Kori Ashton. I want to compare today what’s better, a free or a paid theme for your WordPress website? Since the beginning of time, (for WordPress) people have asked that question. Should I pay the extra $30, $40, $50 $60 for a theme, or should I just try a free version? We’re going to talk about that today. I’ll show you a couple of ideas that might help you out.

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WP Engine– If you’re looking for hosting, check them out. They know their stuff and they only host WordPress websites. So when you’re ready to need some help and call in for support, they’re your team.

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WP 101– if you love tutorials just like this and you want to nerd out on learning WordPress just like this even more, check out their library of incredible videos. Their team over there have some really cool free options as well as a paid subscription that is so worth the money.

Let’s get into it and talk about free vs paid. When you’re looking at your WordPress dashboard (and you’re going through here and kind of looking at things,) you’ve got an option here for themes. Go into themes. You can search add new if you wanted to. Click add new and go into this library here. All of these are going to be free options for you. Now, if you’re saying to yourself right now, “I can’t see this area or I don’t have that many options (or this space looks different)” it might be that you’re using the WordPress.com version of WordPress. This video specifically speaks to being able to buy a theme from an outside source and upload it here. The only place that you can do that is on the .org version of WordPress. If I’m already confusing you, I’ve got a video that’ll help you understand the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org

Today, talking specifically about WordPress.org version means that you’ve hosted the website on a hosting company like WP Engine, GoDaddy, HostGator (any of those guys) and you’re able to go (if you wanted to) and purchase a theme and install it.

These right here are the free themes that you can use and of course there’s a ton more where that came from. You can use the filter option to come in here and checkout/go look at all sorts of different themes. There’s hundreds (literally) maybe even thousands of themes that you can choose from.

Why would a free theme be great? The first thing is, it’s free. That’s always in the budget right? The next thing is, they are really going to be pretty straight forward (clean and simple.) They’re not going to have a whole lot of crazy bells and whistles; they’re going to be pretty straight forward.

The other thing is that people have a concern about is, “But since I’m not paying for it am I going to get the type of support that I’d like to get if I need help?” Well, the truth is a lot of authors out there will give help for their free supported themes. If you’re looking for help and you can’t figure out how do it, a lot of authors will give you an area to go to a support form, fill out a form, connect with them and get that feedback and get that help.

A lot of them also provide an upgraded or pro version that you can pay for to get the extra bells and whistles that you might see in a demo. Just be aware of that. Know also that a free theme could potentially no longer be supported by their author as could a paid theme, but it’s less likely (especially if the author is making a lot of money on it.)If a free theme author gets inspired to do a different version of a theme or they just see that this theme isn’t really being used a whole lot, that author could (in a sense) abandon that theme and it no longer gets updates. What that means for you is that if you’re using that theme and something starts to break on it, you might not get the support that you need an you’d have to change your theme to keep your website working well.

One of the things you want to look at of course is as you’re looking at any theme, you want to open it up and take a look at the reviews. Be sure it’s got great reviews. Be sure that it’s fully responsive (right) so it looks great on a cell phone. Just make sure overall that you like the features- Do you think your logo is going to look great in that space and it has a nice menu for you for all the different menu options you’re going to need. Just keep that in mind as sometimes a free theme can be a little limiting.

With that said, my favorite free theme right now (as of 2016) is Zerif Lite. Next week I’m going to come out with my ‘Top 10 Favorite Free Responsive Themes for 2016.’ That’s a little sneak preview of one of my absolute favorites.

As for purchased themes- the other thing you can do with a purchased theme is to come in here and upload a theme. If you’ve gone to some other supplier who has WordPress templates or WordPress themes, you can purchase a license to use that theme for one website. One of the most popular places on the market is themeforest.net. Their best selling theme right now for WordPress is Avada. It has been for some time now. It is extraordinary. We’ve done several videos on this particular theme.

With this particular theme and with a lot of paid themes (this one is a $59/US theme) a lot of times what you’re going to get is option overload. Sometimes that’s so overwhelming that you can’t really figure out how to set up the theme to actually get it looking like the demo that you saw because there is just so much you have to tend to. So be aware of that.

Is a free theme better than a paid theme? Sometimes it is- if your budget is less then go with free just to get a proof of concept out there in market; to get familiar with WordPress and how plugins work and widgets work. Just to kind of get your senses around the whole idea of building a WordPress website.

Then, you can go out and invest that $60 one time fee and be able to use that on one website if you wanted to. A couple of other themes might run as low as $40/$30 and they go up from there. I’ve seen some themes run $200-$300. Again, that should be a one time fee, but that only applies for one website. Avada (by far) is one of our favorite themes.

I have a great gal here in San Antonio at our WordPress meetup group that loves the X Theme. Shout out to Bernadette. Hello! We’ve got all sorts of other things here.

Bridge is a pretty great theme.

There’s one called Austin that is pretty great in here too.

What you want to look here is the same thing that you’re looking at when you’re looking at a free theme. What are the reviews? You can go in here and search specifically into Avada. You can see the comments here and kind of see what people are saying about the theme. How quickly if somebody was asking a question 5 hours ago, how quickly did the author respond (so you know that they’re attentive?) If this gap is 5 days or 10 days or they’re not responding at all, you probably don’t want to purchase that theme because you won’t get the support that you’re looking for. So as long as people are responding quickly and people’s overall comments are excited and supportive and saying that it’s a great theme, then go for it! Make the investment, dive out there and figure out how to set it up.

A lot of times these premium themes also have outstanding documentation so that the author will give you a step-by-step tutorial on how to set up a theme. Those types of assets are typically more common in a pro version or paid version of a theme vs a free version of a theme.

I hope this kind of helps you weigh out in your brain, “Should I invest? Is it okay if I just go ahead and stay with a free version? It absolutely is okay. Unless you’re needing some crazy bell or whistle or some crazy, outstanding, weird look that you can’t find in a free version then you might have to upgrade and go with a pro version. Or, upgrade even higher and go with a custom made theme.

That’s what we do here at WebTegrity- we build out fully from scratch, custom themes around your brand or your needs. There are companies around the world that can do that for you as well.

I hope this helps you kind of weigh it all out and I hope you’re having a great WordPress Wednesday. I will see you next week.

Be sure to subscribe to our channel. If you have a question, will you leave it in the description box below or tweet it to me so that I could maybe make a video for you? I’m always looking for ideas.

Have great one.

Bye, y’all!