Free WordPress Themes and Plugins

Why would I pay for a website when themes and plugins are free?

Yes, it is true that there a lot of free themes out there. In fact, at the time of writing this, there are 5,327 free themes in the repository. There are 11,164 premium themes (not free) on alone and there are probably another few thousand premium themes being sold through other markets.

What about plugins? At the time of this article, the plugin repository contained 53,932 free plugins where most of those also have a premium/pro version of the plugin.

So, why would anyone pay for someone to build them a website?

Well, first let’s ask the question, “Why are there so many free themes and or plugins? Ie. Why would someone give away something they worked hard on for free?

In some cases, the developers are just good generous people that want to share what they have built. In some cases, the developers are trying to get recognized in the WordPress Marketplace or they are trying to get recognized by web development agencies. Ie. it gives them street cred, portfolio/resume pieces and or bragging rights. However, for many of the developers, it is a way of getting their foot in the door for future revenue. For example, many of the free options for themes and plugins also have premium upgrades. What often happens is that the developers give away something that looks really good and meets some of your design or functionality goals, but their ultimate goal is to get you hooked with the free version but eventually get you to pay for the upgrade.

For example, I recently evaluated a free theme and it was really well written and it looked really nice. However, the free version only allowed you to set up three slides, it only gave you access to a few social media options, and only allowed you to choose from a handful of styles. If you upgraded to the $49 premium version, you got unlimited slides and could create multiple sliders. It opened up the ability to include Google Maps, allowed you to change fonts by picking from a list of Google Fonts, and it gave you a color picker so that you could change the color of your theme…

So, you might be saying, “Wow, all that for $49.00”. Well, let me also tell you that even though it provided some great options, it still had issues. For example, the logo had to be a certain size to work correctly with the social media icons and the main navigation menu. If your logo was too big, it caused the menu to wrap to a second line. When I scaled my logo down, you could no longer read the words “Web Solutions”. So, my point is that even though you can find a well-written theme for $49, or less, you are often still limited on what you can do. If you are able to “shoehorn” your design into a free or premium theme, then you are one of the lucky ones. It has been my experience that free and even premium themes only get you about 80% of what you really want or need.

So then you start trying to find plugins that will extend the site to get to what you want. However, with almost 54,000 free plugins, how do you know which one is right for you? You could spend hours, if not days, installing, activation, and testing plugin after plugin. If you get lucky and find one that works, how do you know if it is secure (no back doors for hackers…) and doesn’t cause performance issues in things like page load times. The important thing to remember about adding plugins to your site, is that the more you add, the more javascript and CSS files that also have to load everytime someone pulls up your site.

The same is true about premium themes. The more features they advertise the heavier the site. Also, the more features a theme has might also mean it will be more difficult to maintain. I don’t want to say that is true for every big theme, but of those I have worked with, it is. For example, one of the more popular themes on advertises that it comes with 6 premium plugins and have over 750 theme options so that you can customize it to your liking. Well, the problem with that, in my opinion, is that not everyone will need all 6 premium plugins and on the few sites that I have used themes like this, the client only uses a fraction of 750 theme options. So then you wind up with plugins and theme features that are just in the way and slowing down the site. Sites like these are also more likely to have compatibility issues with other plugins and or bugs that weren’t’ caught in the initial testing, which then means new versions are constantly being released and requires taking update after update.

Well, let me first tell you about themes. With all the options out there, how do you find the right theme for your business? You could literally spend days combing through the free themes, reading about their features and clicking around in the demo sites

of all the free and premium options, good luck finding the right combinations of a theme and plugins that will do exactly what you want and only what you need. The reality of premium themes and plugins is that they are developed to accommodate multiple scenarios so that they can be sold to as many users as possible. Therefore, it isn’t uncommon to buy a theme that has settings & features that you will never use and wind up just being in the way. Not to mention the fact that the larger & more complex a theme is, the slower and often times less secure & stable the theme will be.

Not to mention the time and effort it might take to filter through the various options in themes and plugins doing trial and error.

So, we make a point of knowing which plugins are best in the breed and when we can’t find one that is perfect, we will build one.