WordPress is open source and free – so why spend money on a theme? After all, you have the choice between thousands of free WordPress themes or for a 30-60 € flat rate. But you can spend much more money – if you have your theme customized. A completely custom theme will quickly cost you €8,000 upwards – so why spend that much money when you can start much cheaper right away? The advantages and disadvantages of the respective price ranges can be found here.
The open source community is something wonderful: Thousands of volunteers work for free in their spare time on great software solutions and then give them away. Even more: The source code is openly available and you can have everything adapted by a developer in case of doubt – what doesn’t fit will be made to fit? Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.
When you choose a WordPress theme, you’re cementing the success of your website. Even if you don’t see the consequences until much later – there comes a point when you realize that it was a good or bad decision.
In fact, the price is irrelevant at first: What counts is whether the chosen theme fulfills the intended purpose now and in the future – and what happens if it should no longer be so.
Therefore, it’s best to create a list of requirements for the website – andstrictly separate tasks for the WordPress theme and for WordPress plugins.
With this list of requirements, compare themes – ideally, you will find several candidates that meet your requirements and then have a choice.
Key Theme Requirements
Forget about processes and functions – a theme should represent your design ideas first and foremost. That’s the purpose of a WordPress theme. Important requirements would be, for example:
- Theme corresponds to the design ideas
- High PageSpeed even without additional optimizations
- Regular updates
- Compliance with WordPress standards
- Barrier-free design
- Device and browser compatibility
- Quick and easy setup
- Many options and templates
- Flexible or highly optimized
From 0 € to infinity
How expensive can a theme be?
You get what you pay for – even if there are sensationally good and free WordPress themes, you will need support at some point – sooner or later you will put money in your hand to book a WordPress professional as support or you will pay a service fee to the theme support.
Especially many free themes lure with an easy start – but then numerous addons cost money and lead to the fact that you may even save money with a so-called premium theme for 30-60 € fee.
The same applies to Premium Themes: They have to be licensed according to GPL and open source – basically you pay the fee for Premium Themes only for the access and updates to the theme – but you can just as well – and completely legally – get your desired theme from another source, for example from a friend who already has access to the theme. The same goes for WordPress plugins.
So the answer is: Almost any WordPress theme may cost 0 € – usually you pay for the service around it.
Pros & Cons
As mentioned at the beginning, you get “free” themes without any additional service fee. Especially the WordPress Theme Repository is a free and trusted source – all themes listed there can also be browsed and installed directly in your WordPress installation – likewise updates are very easy as they can be installed directly from WordPress without any detours.
Free of charge – or not
One of the most popular free themes is Ocean WP(Theme Performance Check) – but if you want the footer of your website to be sticky, you need the Personal License for $39 / year – even if you don’t need the other features of the license.
Basically, with this license you do not get a real license, but access to download the extensions and autoupdates from WordPress for the licensed domain. If you would like to use the convenient update function on additional websites as well, you must purchase additional licenses – or simply distribute the updates yourself.
Of course, your fees also support the development of the free base theme as well as the extensions – in this respect, the pricing model is also perfectly fine and has rightly established itself in the WordPress world.
The WordPress Theme Repository
However, a big advantage of free themes is the large user base and – if they are listed in the WordPress repository – are reviewed again by volunteers before release. However, this publishing process regularly leads to delayed theme updates in the WordPress repository.
In addition, these themes must adhere to all WordPress theme standards as far as possible – for our SV100 theme there are rules that we do not want to accept so far, for example that theme settings must be set mandatory via the Customizer and how they should be stored in the database.
Additionally, our highly optimized PageSpeed 100 theme challenges the WordPress theme repository reviewers to review sometimes highly complex code – our theme was therefore rejected for the WordPress theme repository as this is run by community volunteers – while our WordPress plugins easily be reviewed and approved by the permanent WordPress staff.
As an aside, there are numerous themes in the theme repository that may have met the standards in the past – but no longer do. If these are not updated and then re-checked or the examiners simply lack the time for a complete re-audit, the theme quality in the WordPress theme repository fluctuates enormously.
Theme development is a mammoth task – if you put the weal and woe of a website in completely free open source themes, you should at least be a WordPress power user, e.g. to recognize if there is a bug in the theme software – there is usually free support for that. At some point, however, even with free themes, the time will come when you have to spend money – or do it yourself.