A couple of weeks ago, I have stumbled upon an interesting analysis regarding “free WordPress Themes”. While this is specific to Themes, I believe that it also applies to just about anything free. Maybe, this is one of those moments that I should take the time to say that although there are a vast amount of “top notch” free something out there, not everything free is good and reliable. So when recommending something free, ensure that at the very least it comes from a reliable or vouched by a credible source. If you want to know, why you should never recommend anything that you have not used yourself or know of someone you trust that did, you will want to see this example.
Free WordPress Themes (the upside)
Why not? Free Themes are all over the place and some of them are really, really good. For people with a low budget (not necessarily), this is an option that is very appealing, as you can get from simple to super advanced, SEO optimized, featured pack themes that makes you wonder why even buy one. You can even get free wordpress theme frameworks, where in some cases include free child themes, skins, and more. A friend of mine dubbed them, “Freemium” (free premium wordpress theme). Are they recommendable? Of course they are, and more specifically if you found them “inside” the WordPress.org (highly trusted) repository.
Free WordPress Themes (the downside)
This is the scary part as being a non tech savvy guy, like me, you might neglect this “big” tiny detail, that can make you think, a lot of times over, before hitting that install button.
The main problem and scary part of Free WordPress Themes is its source. Where did you find them? How much do you know about their developers? Do they have “undercover” agents, waiting silently to one day, cause harm and do damage to you? Come to think of it, this applies to almost everything “free” you bump in to the internet.
I don’t want to go further on this one right now, as I would ask you to jump over to MPMU.org and read what Siobhan has to say. In a nutshell, she searched for the term “free wordpress themes” and analyzed each website that appeared on the first page of Google. Really, if you are into free WordPress themes or getting readu to install one, please read it (you won’t be sorry), otherwise you will not understand the rest of this post. Then come back here (link opens new window).
Alright then. If you read it well, now you understand why I said “interesting” (almost scary actually), and the underlying truth is that “malicious” stuff exist, and it is something that you should always be aware of.
1) Avoid as much as possible to install free WP themes that are not included in the WordPress.org repository. I know that there are not a whole lot of “sweet” themes over there, but it s a safe haven for free themes (good to start).
2) If it is not included in the WP repository, find out more about the developer. Maybe he/she/they have plugins that are in the WP repository and that is an indication that they could be trustworthy. Read ratings, reviews about the themes, ask people or friends who have them installed and … You got the point, just research as much as you can and then decide.
3) Backup, Backup, Backup.. How many times do we see this. Are you doing it? N0, do it. Yes, do it regularly. Also, and as a matter of precaution, old school teaches us to rely on automated stuff 99% of the time. The remaining 1% tells us to make a “full manual backup” at least every two or three months, depending on the amount of data you have. Here you can find some recommended backup WordPress plugins.
5) Not sure what theme to use? Here are three free themes that are in the WP repository, that I can recommend: TwentyTen Based Themes (simple), Magazine Basic Based Themes (intermediate) and Arras and BomBax (advanced and highly customizable, but easy to use). There are more of course, but these are good to begin.
6) Consider investing in Premium themes that are tested, proven and are being used by countless top rated bloggers. Premium themes are no longer expensive as they used to be and considering that you get free updates, high grade support and all that, a $50 – $100, one time investment is nothing compared to what you can loose. Some of the themes, I recommend are Thesis, Genesis, Headway (aff links) or the more affordable Elegant Themes (very good choice). I have them all and I am very satisfied with all three themes. If you are in between Thesis and Genesis, here’s a great post that can help you decided – Thesis Vs Genesis.
Is it worth the risk? You are working hard to develop your website and maybe even building your business around it. You do not want to compromise your hard work and find that one day, scary things happen. Whether you decide to go for a free or premium WordPress theme, just run the checklist of things to look at first.
What say you? Are you using a free or a premium theme? Please tell us what theme you are using. This serves the purpose of themes being recommended by “people” who are already using them and are satisfied with it. Thanks for you contribution.