7 Pros and Cons of a FREE WordPress Theme

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WordPress is a website platform that helps you easily create blogs to full-fledged websites. WordPress is split into two branches: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. This article focuses on WordPress.org, the self-hosted website content management system (CMS) for which both free and paid WordPress themes are available.

Make sure to check out Part 2 of this discussion: 6 Pros and Cons of a PAID WordPress Theme.

Pros of a FREE WordPress Theme

Get started lickety-split

Using a free WordPress theme helps you get started more quickly. Free themes are easy to find in the WordPress directory. These themes are tested for solid code and reliability. You can feel confident in using these free themes because they go through extensive testing before they are released to the public.

If you are new to WordPress, free themes are great because they help you learn about the platform without any extra costs. You can use free WordPress themes to experiment and get accustomed to the platform, learn how to navigate the interface, add plugins, set up pages, and write posts without the pressure of getting it perfect because you paid for it.

Practice makes perfect

Free WordPress themes are perfect for creating basic sites, portfolios, or temporary projects without investing much or any money. If you are beginning blogger or solopreneur you might have little to no capital. Don’t let the lack of funds keep you from starting your website. Many well-known online business influencers started their blogs on a shoestring budget and upgraded after their blog and biz took off. A free WordPress theme works for the budget conscious who just want to test the waters.

Simplicity encourages success

Novice WordPress users can get acres of mileage out of a free WordPress theme. Free WordPress themes benefit novices for all the reasons previously mentioned. Free themes have a limited number of options, which helps a WordPress beginner. Design restrictions simplify the process of setting up your site. A streamlined set up encourages success once you complete the website.

Free WordPress themes are relatively simple and easy to use right out of the box. Provided that the theme has adequate documentation for set up, you should be up and running pretty quickly. Also, if you have finicky tastes and like to switch things up, you can easily toggle between different themes depending upon your needs. At no extra cost, you can go from a super girly theme to a corporate theme to a spare and minimalistic theme. The choice is yours.

Cons of a FREE WordPress Theme

Some of the distinct advantages of using a free WordPress theme are also disadvantages on the flip side.

Beware of the “lite” version

WordPress often features themes that are “lite” versions of a paid theme. Lite in the sense that you get fewer styling options and little to no technical support.

Often, these themes are just a developer’s attempt to lure you into paying for the full version, complete with all of the bells and whistles. You really have to be clear about the purpose of your website and if it’s worth upgrading to a paid version. Conversely, using the free version is a good way to test out a theme in case you do end up purchasing the full version later. Just be aware of this bait-and-switch when it comes to free themes.

Limited styling options

One of the downsides to free WP themes is that they have limited styling options. By limited, I mean that the developer might only give you the option to change one or two accent colors on your site. Or you might only get two widget areas on your home page versus five. For some people, that might be all they need. For others, this limitation can hamper your web design and visitor experience.

Little to no technical support

Developers rarely provide technical support for free themes. Theme companies usually reserve technical support for customers who purchased the full theme. You might not even have access to a forum or the ability to submit a support ticket because you opted for the free version. Remember, the free theme is the dangling carrot created to lure you into becoming a paid customer.

Average Design

Many free WordPress themes just don’t look good. Just take a look at WordPress’s theme directory, and you’ll see what I mean. Aesthetics are subjective, but many DIYers and WordPress novices just don’t have a good design sense and might not even know what to look for in good web design. They might go for a free theme that features their favorite color rather than a theme that provides a sound user experience.

You can overcome average design if you have some HTML or CSS skills. However, you’re stuck with what the theme designer gives you without basic coding knowledge.

This is part of the learning curve of WordPress and web design in general. Sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know. It takes time and experience to develop a working design aesthetic. If design is not your forte, consult with a professional design. She can help you build clarity around your brand goals.

Overall, what do I Recommend?

Honestly, there are so many variables when choosing a WordPress theme. The choices seem endless. Choosing a free (or paid) theme all depends on where you are in your business, who your audience is, what you are selling, and where you want your business to be in the next couple of years.

Some key take-aways

  • Consider a free theme if you’re just getting started with WordPress.
  • Also take into consideration the purpose of your site and who you intend to attract to it.
  • There are many free themes and free plugins to play around with. Experiment without breaking your bank.
  • Beware of the “lite” versions of themes and plugins and be ready to deal with the limitations of both if you’re not willing to upgrade.
  • Free themes come with little to know technical support, so you’re kind of on your own.
  • Free themes can lack in good design, which can limit you if you don’t have a good grasp of HTML and CSS.

Make sure to check out Part 2 of this discussion: 6 Pros and Cons of a PAID WordPress Theme.

 

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