Deciding on WordPress themes can be one of the most important choices you can make for your website. By definition, a WordPress theme is a collection of templates and stylesheets used to define the appearance, display, and often the layout of a website. While the theme leaves your content the same, it changes the way the website and its content is rendered.
WordPress themes directly affect the website visitors, from the web site navigation all the way to the visual display of the website information and message to the end-user. The placement of widgets, sliders, the look and feel of a website, and everything related to small and minute details about your WordPress theme will affect UI and your visitor’s experience. Each and every WordPress website needs to have an active theme, be that a free or premium WordPress theme.
Types of WordPress themes
Generally, there are three types of WordPress themes:
- Free WordPress theme
- Premium WordPress theme
- Custom WordPress theme
Free WordPress theme
Like the name applies, Free WordPress themes are 100% free. There are literally thousands of free WordPress themes available online. The easiest way to find some of them is via the WordPress.org themes directory. If you manage to find a free theme that suits your website needs, and even better, suits the website thematically (the design and assets align with your website topic and purpose), you could have a finished product in a matter of days free of charge. The only caveat with free themes is that you have to be really careful with which one you are going to use.
Some of the free WordPress themes are top-notch, being developed by professional development companies that know what they’re doing, while some of them are developed by upcoming web developers who don’t always develop a WordPress theme with good practices. The result of that could be a website with slow load speeds, built with bad coding practices and/or with bad page builders, plus the user support is lacking or in some cases non-existent. All in all, while free WordPress themes are great, you need to be careful with their selection and usage.
Premium WordPress themes
Premium WordPress themes are of higher quality than the free counterparts developed by more respectable WordPress development companies for which you have to pay. The license price is usually between 50$ to 100$. Some of the main advantages of using premium WordPress themes are:
- Higher-quality code
- SEO/WooCommerce optimized theme
- More optimized code for better performance
- Better user support
Another added benefit of Premium WordPress themes is that they are usually shipped to you with bundled plugins (for example Contact Form 7, WooCommerce) and are built on one of the more popular WordPress builders (Beaver Builder, Elementor, Divi …). This means that it will be easier and faster to develop a finished website. The main plugins are basically already set up, and changing the layout and the design of your page via the WordPress builder is simpler and faster than changing that through code alone.
Custom WordPress theme
Custom WordPress themes are basically built from scratch without the use of any already finished template components and without any WordPress builders. They’re the most time consuming and the most expensive type of theme to develop, but the main advantage is that they are totally flexible. You can have a unique website built just for your needs and target audience. The development of the theme does not limit the technology, builder, external theme support, and updates. Meaning the only limitation is your vision, designer/developer skills and imagination, and most importantly budget and development time.
The other advantage of them is that they’re built with only the most necessary technologies and plugins, which results in a cleanly built and more efficient website regarding speed. Plus the website is not reliant on theme updates because the theme is owned by you, you manage and update it.
Choosing the right theme
Choosing the right type of theme is crucial and it really depends on your project situation. Some key questions you should ask yourself are:
- How fast do I need to publish the website?
- Do I want a completely unique visual look and feel of the website?
- What is my budget for it?
- Do I need an easy and intuitive page builder for future changes?
- Do I need the extended customer support for it?
To help with answering these questions, here are some of the main pros and cons of Pre-built (free and premium WordPress themes) along with the pros and const of Custom WordPress themes.
Pros and cons of Pre-built WordPress themes
- Faster to implement
- Fully responsive out of the box
- Use case-specific
- Value for money
- Easy to customize
- Technology compatibility errors
- Design uniqueness
- Dependence on theme developers for theme updates
- Limited customer support
- Too many unnecessary features
Pros and cons of custom WordPress themes
- Completely unique design
- Full control during the development process
- Using only the necessary features and/or plugins
- Not being dependant on external theme updates
- Support and maintenance controlled by the development company
- More controlled code quality and better website speeds
- Time-consuming for development
- The most expensive way of building a website
- Not really user friendly for client customization
- Optimization time is longer
Theme selection for your website is really important. Which of these options is right for you? As usual, the answer really depends on your specific case. If you have limited funds and development time, and you just want to publish a website fast, without the need for extensive customization, a free WordPress theme might be your best option. On the other hand, if you want a more extensive customization option and still deploy the web fast with a more optimized code, a premium WordPress theme would suit you. Lastly, if you want a completely unique website developed just for you, with the best possible performance, a custom WordPress theme should be your choice.
The options are many, but the choice is yours, so pick carefully!