One of my first projects as a freelance was to make the website of a Tech Blog.
At that time I was at the University and we were dealing with SEO, dynamic web pages and Social Media things. So as a good aspiring Marketer I was smart, and instead of using a CMS that will provide me with much of the work done, I did it all from scratch.
At first it seemed like a simple topic and, in addition, it had some very nice PHP frameworks that had recently come out.
What better opportunity to try a new technology and leave my client open-mouthed!
But the thing went wrong, very wrong. I managed to finish the project, but it took a long time and the result left a lot to be desired, considering that there were content managers (Drupal, Joomla or WordPress) that had more than 80% of the project requirements already done.
I promised myself that I would never, ever screw up like this again. Look, I had heard the famous phrase “don’t reinvent the wheel” a thousand times, but it was smart and I had to learn the lesson with sticks.
Nothing more far from reality. I think it takes about 3 months to screw up again. This time it was not so loud, since I used WordPress as a base to do the project for my client.
So this time, instead of being smart, I was stingy. I had to make a games page and I thought the best thing would be to use a free WordPress theme (template) and modify it to suit the client.
Back then, premium WordPress themes were starting to sell. Some of them even had an options panel to modify various design aspects and save a lot of time.
Why do WordPress free themes end up being so expensive?
Before going into flour, I want to clarify that I am going to generalize, because if one does not generalize, one cannot speak of almost nothing.
I already know that there are exceptional cases, and surely there are free and premium themes that do not fit in what I am going to tell you below. But friend, if I don’t generalize I can’t continue writing this post. If you still want to put your finger in my eye, I’ll wait for you in the comments.
On the other hand, here we are always talking about themes for WordPress.org (the version of WordPress that requires hosting), not WordPress.com (the version in the cloud, without own hosting).
The differences between these two versions are great and, if you did not know about these differences, I recommend reading this post:
Having said that and free of trolls, let’s go to the trouble!
I am going to discuss the different aspects that, in my opinion, have to be taken into account when choosing a template, and the reason for choosing a premium theme in each one of them.
I want to clarify that for me the design is not a pretty logo, a colored background or the latest Google Fonts typography.
The design (at least on a blog / website) consists of presenting the content in the most appealing way for the user.
The objectives can be various: increase sales, the number of leads, page views, etc. But what design does not have to be under any circumstances, is a decorative-dissuasive element.
That said, you can stop by the WordPress theme repository and see how many of them meet this premise. I do not want to be a judge and part but since I choose a free theme I keep the default template (currently Twenty Twelve). It is simple, minimalist, well optimized for SEO and no frills.
Now, I find it too flat , as if I hardly had any calls to action (“call to action”) that guide me through the content. In my opinion, simplicity taken to the extreme can give the feeling of something unfinished, lacking in detail, “pixel perfect” that experts say.
In this sense, payment items tend to have a more careful finish and do not give that unfinished product feeling. Personally when I make a WordPress template most of the time I dedicate it to polishing those little details that make the difference. If you allow me, I think that mediocrity (of medium quality, not as a pejorative connotation) and excellence are separated by a fine line that not all of us are able to cross.
Sometimes I get a little frustrated when creating blogs and web pages with WordPress.
Not so much for the fact of creating content, since this is extremely easy, but for the difficulty of modifying the blog and leaving certain aspects to my liking: typography, logo, links, footer, etc. At least in my case, I always feel the need to have to install a lot of plugins or get my hands on the code to mount it to my liking.
In this sense, I think that premium themes play a very important role, since most have a very complete panel of options to modify the options without having to stain your hands with code and complicate your life. I mean things like modifying the footer, adding a logo, changing the color of the links, and those little details that make a blog unique and personal.
Also, if you work for clients, tell me one thing (here between you and me):
How many times have you received an email from a customer telling you to change the logo, the color of the links or any design aspect?
How many times have you received a call from a client saying that he has sent you an email to change the background color, the logo…?
The latter (especially) I would charge, except for the invaluable help of the premium templates, since many of them have options in their panel to change the design completely. In this way you avoid that your client bothers you every time he has his creative awakening.
Here I don’t feel like I have the authority to say whether free or premium WordPress templates are better or worse in terms of security . Because we can all make mistakes and screw up, therefore any theme (free or premium) may have a mistake. However, if you are paying for a paid template you can demand solutions. Also, keep in mind that by downloading a free theme, the developer of the theme does not have to update it or worry in the least.
Of course, a lot of eye and caution with what you download for free and where you download it.
It is very common for some templates to include malware or links hidden in the template itself. With hidden links I don’t mean a link in the footer linking to the author of the topic. This is a common and not reprehensible practice, since the author can claim authorship of his work in the form of a link.
What I mean by hidden links, is that many people instead of paying $ 40 or $ 50 for a premium template, look for that same template in warez forums, p2p networks, etc.
What these people do not know, is that to save a few euros their website will end up full of links to Russian websites wanting to make friends, viagra, and other fauna of the deepest Internet .
What seemed an innocent way to save $ 50 ends with a ban on Google, the loss of confidence of your users and who knows if there are any legal problems?
There are many who insist on killing SEO, but what do you want me to tell you … to me every day the big G sends me visits, and that at the end of the month is sales. So if you allow me advice, I devote some time to choosing a WordPress template that is not a disaster for positioning in search engines.
Just warn you that there are a lot of topics with real aberrations at the SEO level: duplicate menus, invented HTML tags, absence of alt tags, divitis and a long etcetera that you should not allow yourself. If you are addicted to free and it does not even occur to you to buy a premium template, my recommendation is clear: Twenty Eleven is one of the best SEO templates you can download.
In Spain, and especially in Valencia, we are lucky to have the best SEOs in the world, so I encourage you to leave your opinion in the comments.
5. Shortcodes and Widgets
I don’t know if it’s my thing, or if you also have this obsession with being more efficient and productive. Every day I have more things to do, more projects in mind, more collaborations and less time to lose. For this reason, I am very pissed off having to do repetitive tasks over and over again.
So I always look for WordPress themes that have a wide variety of shortcodes to save time and sleep better at night. Also, the best WordPress templates (usually premium) have integrated widgets so you don’t have to install the typical plugins: social networks, popular posts, advertising, etc. Everything is included in the template so you don’t waste your time and patience.
As far as widgets are concerned, it is also worth noting that if you buy or download a good template for free, you can avoid having dozens of plugins installed. Being already included in the template itself, your blog will load faster, and this is something that your users will like a lot. You would be surprised to know how many of your users leave your blog if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.
It is known that all of us who are in this Internet are a bit geeky, but there is never an extra help. For this reason I think that the crown jewel of paid templates is the support: access to forums, video-tutorials, extensive documentation, etc. In short, knowing that there is someone who can help you whenever you need it.
But not only that, I think that one of the most important reasons to choose a template is to have the guarantee of updates over time. Imagine that you install a template, configure it and start publishing. All right, right? Now imagine that after a while the developer of the free template decides not to continue providing updates. It is in your perfect right, and in fact you just have to go through the WordPress repository and see the number of plugins and templates that have been abandoned by its developers.
If you want guarantees of not being hung and the possibility of demanding support and updates, in my opinion paying 40 or 50 $ is worth it.
There are very good free and premium templates, but be careful , it will not be that to save a few euros you will be banned from Google, waste your time, get hung up with a template without updates and end up paying dearly for something that you thought was free.
Of course this is just my opinion, a generalization and of course I am willing to debate with you in the comments.
What do you think? Have free WordPress templates come out expensive? Do you have any opinion about it?
If you want to participate, leave a comment below so that we can know your experience using WordPress templates.