This post was originally published in September of 2010 on my old Site “The Blue Jeans VA”. It was time for an update, a lot of things have changed in 4 years!
Selecting a theme is a dangerous proposition, at least it is for me :). Themes are fun! Looking for just the right theme can be addicting and time consuming, then again I can be quite the nerd.
There are so many to choose from Free Themes, Bulk Provider Themes, Premium Themes, Custom Themes, Frameworks, is your head swimming yet?
Well, this week we are going to take a closer took at Free Themes, where to find them, what to look for and what to consider.
First things first… Free Themes are fun – looking at all the options, the creativity of designers and incredible array of features. And they are everywhere, you would be hard pressed to not find something that would work for you. The best place to start is to look at the WordPress Theme Gallery itself.
Back in 2010 if you went to Google and typed in “free WordPress Theme” you would get about 66,200,000 results (0.20 seconds). That should do it don’t you think?
But no! When you do the same search in 2014, you get 79,000,000 results (0.32 seconds). Who knows where that count will be in a year from now.
If you are new to WordPress, just learning and getting comfortable with using it with a tight budget, free is incredibly enticing and will seem like a great place to started. Yes, well, erm, no. Sorry but it really isn’t anymore. To be honest, unless you personally know the creator of the theme, or are using the default themes from WordPress itself, often times it is not even safe to use any ole’ free theme you find out there on the Wild Web.
Here are some things to be aware of:
1) Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth – There are some wonderful themes out there… but there are also many that are, well, junk. Take a few minutes and do some research. Google the name of the theme, see if there are any comments about it. Definitely go to the WordPress Support Forums and do a search on the name, see what others have encountered, good and bad.
2) Be prepared – You may (and probably will) run into trouble and free themes rarely come with support. More than once I have had to strongly suggest a client spend the money, invest in their business and pay for a quality premium theme instead. You really do get what you pay for.
3) Code can be messy – Over the years of diving into countless WordPress websites, I have come to appreciate the value and elegance of Beautiful Code. Now I am REALLY sounding like a nerd. I can’t tell you how many times over the years that I have run into some of the most ugly, messy, disorganized code imaginable. This takes so much longer to diagnose a problem, change font size, color or style a widget section on a sidebar. I’m not a coder and I don’t play one on TV but I can find my way around and troubleshoot most themes. There have been times I’ve had to throw in the towel and get help from a coder or work with a client to move them to a new theme.
Generally speaking the better the code on the backend of your site the better experience you will have on the front end of your site. From page loading, to navigation, to using the blog post editor.
4) Customizing… maybe – The great thing about Free Themes is that with all the options out there you probably can have something that is move-in ready. Try to customize it by changing colors, graphics, or logo/banner and you will most likely run into problems and since free rarely comes with support, you will probably end up paying someone to help you.
5) WordPress Upgrades – Each new version of WordPress comes with changes to the code and structure and with a Free Theme you have no guarantee that the theme developer will be keeping up with those changes. I’ve come across more then one website over the years where the WordPress version updates caused the site to crash because their Free Theme was not being updated and kept current.
Resource to checkout:
Responsive – Free WordPress Theme – I haven’t used this one personally but have heard super positive things about it from resources I trust. This is one free theme that might worth taking a closer look at!
As you can see… I’m not a huge supporter of free themes. There are some good ones out there but they are few and far between and I know that in the end that they usually cost a lot more in the long run then if you spent the money on a premium theme.
Next up we will take a closer look at what I call “Bulk Theme” providers and what options might be available for you.