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7 Pros and Cons of a FREE WordPress Theme

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 designs are easy to find in the WordPress directory. These themes are tested for solid code and reliability. You can feel confident using these free themes because they go through extensive testing before they are released to the public.

You can use free WordPress themes to experiment and get accustomed to the platform. Free themes are great for beginners because they help you gain WordPress experience without any extra costs. 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 a 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, such as Melyssa Griffin, 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 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, suitable for WordPress beginners. Design restrictions simplify the process of setting up your site. A streamlined setup 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 setup, 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. You can go from a super girly theme to a corporate theme to a spare and minimalistic theme at no extra cost. 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. They are “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 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 an excellent way to test out a theme if you purchase 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 designers 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 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 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. Otherwise, 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 don’t know what you don’t know. It takes time and experience to develop a working design aesthetic. If designing is not your forte, consult with a professional designer. She can help you build clarity around your brand goals.

Recommended Free WordPress Themes

There are a few free themes on the market that offer above-average features. I recommend the following themes, as I have personally used or currently used them.

Kadence

Kadence is one of the newer themes on the block that is chock full of features not available in most free themes. There is also a Kadence Pro version available. This portfolio site uses Kadence Pro, but some of my other sites use the free version. Key features of the free theme include:
  • Pre-loaded and customizable color palettes.
  • 12 different, professional font pairings and global font settings.
  • Comprehensive layout controls
  • Enhance your pages with the free Kadence Blocks plugin.
  • Integrations with your favorite plugins such as WooCommerce, LearnDash, and Elementor
  • Drag-and-drop Header and footer customizer.
  • Free starter website templates for Gutenberg or Elementor.
  • Optimized for Gutenberg.

Astra

Astra is known for being light-weight, fast and a great base for favorite page builders such as Elementor, both of which I use on another website. Key features of the free theme include:
  • Light-weight theme with super fast loading time.
  • Severaly layout and header/footer options, including transparent header.
  • Includes Google fonts and provides custom font options.
  • Integrations with your favorite plugins such as WooCommerce, LearnDash, and Elementor
  • Global color options.
  • Support in the form of video tutorials, articles, and by request.
  • Optimized for Gutenberg.

GeneratePress

GeneratePress boasts over 3.5 million installations. Known for its clean code and stability, GeneratePress offers a solid foundation for your website. Key features of the free theme include:
  • Light-weight theme with super fast loading time.
  • High compatibility with WooCommerce, LifterLMS, and Elementor
  • Multi-lingual options.
  • Enhance your pages with the free GenerateBlocks plugin.
  • Optimized for Gutenberg.
  • Responsive support.

There are so many variables when choosing a WordPress theme. The choices are virtually endless. Choosing a free (or paid) theme 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.
  • 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.
  • Most free themes come with little to know technical support, so you’re kind of on your own.
  • Some free themes can lack in design, which poses a serious limitation if you don’t have a good grasp of HTML and CSS.
  • The free versions of Kadence, Astra, and GeneratePress offer a bevy of features not usuallly found in most free themes, so they are definitely worth checking out.

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

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