Why You Should Not Use a Free WordPress Theme

May 13, 2016

If you’re interested in using content marketing to broaden your online reach, you’re going to need to a content management system (CMS).

Of all the CMS options available, WordPress is by far the most popular. It is also the most popular way to build a website online.

So it’s the best way to build a website, and the best way to blog, sounds pretty great, right?

Before you jump in, make sure to read this post or you might commit the most common epic WordPress failure. Trying to do it all on a free WordPress theme.

Let me explain more.

Why You Should Not Use A Free WordPress Theme

While there are plenty of excellent themes on the market, there are also some free basic themes that you can apply to your site.

It might be tempting to save a few bucks and use a free basic theme, but in doing so, you’ll just hurt your brand. Trust me on this! I have created hundreds of WordPress sites.

Here are a few reasons why you should never use a free, basic WordPress theme.

  1. They Usually Don’t Have All the Bells and Whistles

Your site is going to need the same features that your competitors are offering. Basic themes usually don’t have those features.

For example, if your site requires a mega-menu, fancy spinners, or AJAX page loading for a rich user experience, don’t expect to find those features on a basic theme. Besides that, basic themes usually offer a less-than-spectacular assortment of widgets and sliders that more professional templates provide (for free).

The overall aesthetics of professional themes are typically far superior to free basic themes. They’re created by people who are trying to make a living off of WordPress themes, and it shows.

One more thing, what do you think the motivation is of the people who create free themes? They want something right?

Usually they do one of the following:

  • Sneak a link in the theme back to their website
  • Have a widget on theme you must use that benefits them
  • Use it as a way to upgrade to their paid theme

  1. First Impressions Matter

A basic WordPress theme isn’t likely to leave a great first impression.

Why? Because it looks basic. It doesn’t offer the professional aura of a more sophisticated theme developed with a corporate audience in mind.

The old saying applies here: you get what you pay for. If you want a basic WordPress theme because it’s free, then it’s going to look and feel like a free theme to people who visit your website.

The last thing you want is for somebody in your target market to look at your website for the very first time and say “Meh” when they see your lackluster theme. Instead, give them the “Wow!” factor with a design that looks like you’re ready to do business.

  1. Lack of Support

Even the most sophisticated themes require some tweaking. Very rarely does a theme work exactly as you want it to right out of the box (almost never actually).

That’s why you need support. You should be able to ask the theme developer questions about how to make changes. You might even have to point out a few bugs.

Support is especially valuable if you’re not a professional web developer. If you don’t know much about PHP, CSS, HTML, or JavaScript, then you’re not in a very good position to make changes on your own. You’ll need the assistance of someone who’s knowledgeable in those subjects.

You won’t likely find great support with a basic theme.

On the other hand, most professional theme developers offer support as part of the deal when you purchase their theme. The support might be limited by time (for example, you might only get three months of support), but you can usually extend the support for a year by paying a nominal fee.

You’ll only make your life more difficult if you get a bland theme that you’ll struggle to update on your own because the author doesn’t offer support. Get a great theme with quality support.

  1. Not Necessarily Responsive

It can’t be said often enough: mobile marketing is essential. It’s no longer an option.

That could pose a problem if you opt for a basic theme. Some basic WordPress themes are old and might not be responsive.

The word “responsive” is geek-speak for “it works on any device.” A responsive website is user-friendly and looks professional on any platform – whether it’s a smartphone held in portrait mode, a tablet in landscape mode, or a laptop computer.

You probably won’t see state-of-the-art responsive development on a basic WordPress theme. That means people who access your site from a mobile device could have trouble navigating around it. When that happens, they’re going to leave your site and go visit the more responsive web page of one your competitors.

That’s why you should opt for a professional, responsive theme over a basic theme.

  1. Professional Themes Don’t Break the Bank

Think you can’t afford a great WordPress theme? Think again.

The best-selling theme on ThemeForest has a 5-star rating and more than 22,000 purchases. It also costs only $ 59.

If you’re running an e-commerce site with Ecwid or WooCommerce and WordPress, the best-selling e-commerce theme on ThemeForest also costs only $ 59.

Other Important Things to Keep In Mind

To complicate this a little more, just because you buy a premium theme does not mean you are set.

All WordPress themes need some level of customization to look professional. Generally, this means they will need to modify the design, develop new templates and basically re-code the theme so that it fits your website.

At the end of the day, you can almost never have a professional looking website with a free theme.

With a paid theme, you at least have a professional foundation to build a quality website based on the WordPress content management systems.

I Would Recommend the Following

  1. Hire a designer and developer
  2. Ask the developer what theme he uses
  3. Ask for some example sites
  4. Get your designs done
  5. Install WordPress on a high-end WordPress hosting service like Wpengine.
  6. Install the theme your developer is most comfortable with (let him choose the theme)
  7. Get your site coded up correctly
  8. Make sure you launch your site on HTTPS

Do it Right the First Time

A basic WordPress theme isn’t your best option if you’re serious about digital marketing. Instead, make the (very minimal) investment in a professional theme and give yourself all the advantages of a great online presentation up front. Also, make sure to follow the steps I provided above.

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