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 a lot more money – if you have your theme tailor-made.

A completely individual theme will quickly cost you €8,000 upwards – so why spend so much money when you can start much cheaper right away?

The advantages and disadvantages of the respective price ranges can be found here.


What belongs in a theme?

Are you unsure and need a check of your website? As a full-service WordPress agency, we cover the entire portfolio.



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. What’s more: The source code is openly available and you can have everything adapted by a developer in case of doubt – what does not fit is made suitable? Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.

When you choose a WordPress theme, you’re cementing the success of your website. Even if you sometimes see the consequences much later – at some point there comes a point when you realize that it was a good or bad decision.

The price is actually irrelevant at first: What counts is whether the chosen theme fulfills the purpose now and in the future – and what happens if it should no longer be so.

Therefore, it is best to create a list of requirements on the website – andstrictly separate between tasks for the WordPress theme and for WordPress plugins.

With this list of requirements, you compare the themes – ideally, you will find several candidates who meet your requirements and then have the choice.

Key Theme Requirements

Forget about processes and functions – a theme should above all reflect your design ideas. 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 take money in hand to book a WordPress professional as support or you pay a service fee to the theme support.

Especially many free themes lure with an easy entry – but 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 must be licensed under GPL and open source – basically you pay the fee for premium themes only for 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 an acquaintance who already has access to the theme. The same goes for WordPress plugins.

So the answer is: Almost every WordPress theme can cost 0 € – usually you pay for the service around it.

Pros & Cons

Free Themes

As mentioned at the beginning, you get “free” themes without additional service fee. Especially the WordPress Theme Repository is a free and trustworthy source – all the themes listed there can also be browsed and installed directly in your WordPress installation – just as updates are very easy, as they can be installed directly from WordPress without detours.

Free – or not

One of the most popular free themes is Ocean WP (Theme Performance Check)– but if you want your website’s footer to be sticky, you’ll need the Personal License for $39/year – even if you don’t need the rest of the license’s features at all.

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 want to use the convenient update function on other websites, you have to purchase additional licenses – or simply distribute the updates yourself.

Of course, you also support the development of the free basic theme as well as the extensions with your fees – in this respect, the pricing model is also completely fine and has rightly prevailed in the WordPress world.

The WordPress Theme Repository

A big advantage of the free themes, however, is the large user base and – if they are listed in the WordPress repository – are checked again by volunteers before publication. 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 via the customizer and how they should be stored in the database.

In addition, our highly optimized PageSpeed 100 theme presents the reviewers of the WordPress theme repository with the challenge of checking some highly complex code – our theme was therefore rejected for the WordPress theme repository, as this is led by volunteers from the community – while our WordPress plugins can be easily checked and approved by the permanent WordPress employees.

By the way, there are numerous themes in the theme repository that may have met the standards in the past – but no longer today. 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 good and woe of a website into completely free open source themes, you should at least be a WordPress power user to recognize e.B. whether it is a bug in the theme software – there is usually free support for this. At some point, however, even with free themes, the time will come when you have to take money into your own hands – or have to lend a hand.

Pros & Cons

Premium Themes

At some point, the term “premium themes” has prevailed, but you only refer to themes that cost money. So where does the premium term come from?

Premium themes should offer buyers a special added value – because why else should you spend $ 30-60 when there are also completely free themes?

Licensing Law

Similar to the paid addons of the free themes, you only pay for access to the software and manufacturer support for premium themes – someone from your circle of acquaintances already uses your desired premium theme? Then he can send you a copy completely legally and morally beyond any doubt – this is how open source works according to the GPL license.

It would be ideal not only to compare several themes anyway, but also to test them before you decide on one – if you would give in to this impulse, the comparison would quickly cost you several hundred euros in “access costs”.

Too cheap to be true?

Nevertheless, there are platform providers who give you heavily discounted access to copies of premium themes and plugins – these simply buy access to the top 1000 premium plugins and themes, upload them and the updates regularly to their own portal, offer them at a great discount without support – the completely legal, but parasitic business model is ready – not very trustworthy and possibly still provided with malicious code.

Most premium themes are overweight

Now you buy the cat in the poke at Premium Themes – so the theme authors have to find something convincing without the possibility of a free basic version so that you can pull out your credit card.

Especially multi-purpose themes, such as the best-selling Avada,have grown historically over the years and should be suitable for every purpose without exception, regardless of whether you want to implement a one-pager, artist website, company presence or online shop – multi-purpose themes want to do justice to all this.

Countless functions that would be better off in plugins usually only have to be deactivated when you do not need them – instead of leaving them deactivated by default. Unfortunately, in contrast to our SV100 theme, only very few WordPress themes are fully modular.

This means that even if you deactivate unnecessary features in Avada, some of them are still loaded – on the one hand in the backend, which slows down WordPress overall, on the other hand also in the frontend, which makes the PageSpeed a big challenge. It is not without reason that Avada performed by far the worst in our PageSpeed theme comparison.

Just don’t look under the hood

At the programming level, we developers usually experience a jungle of spaghetti codewhen making adjustments, so that our own adjustments to the theme – even with all the child theme functionality and filters – often end up in a dead end.

Even if premium themes like to advertise with SEO and PageSpeed optimization, the reality is different: The focus is not on technical excellence, but on mapping as many functions as possible. 5 New features read better for the inexperienced than 10% optimized and saved code ballast.

Multi Purpose

Due to the high number of functions, these usually have to be kept alive for years – updates are supposed to work on thousands of websites. While in case of doubt we can completely rewrite an outdated function for our theme and thus ensure that the best implementation always prevails, premium themes have to offer a basis for countless installations – but even then it often crashes with updates.

Functionally, everything that is possible is offered – technically the lowest common denominator is chosen. In the end, with most purchase themes, you get a piecemeal of different components that do everything, but nothing right.

Single Purpose

One solution would be to consciously opt for a single purpose premium theme – after all, there are themes that have been specially developed for specific areas of application or industries – for example, online shops for fashion, designs for photographers or websites for hairdressing studios.

Be sure to pay attention to the amount of purchases or installations – if the theme author is not particularly successful, the further development and maintenance is not worthwhile for him – in the worst case, you will no longer receive updates after a short time and your theme will no longer be compatible with the next WordPress update.

Now it can get expensive, because then you either have to hire a developer to fix the problems you encounter or you have to do a website relaunch.


Don’t fall for advertising promises – a premium theme sells in quantities. When it comes to creating a working prototype for a website with an appealing design, premium themes are actually the price/performance winners. For minor problems, there is support and often quite good documentation.

But don’t expect to get better theme quality with a premium theme – on the contrary: selling premium themes relies on featuritis: the more, the better. Sounds great at first, but in the long run it is enormously burdened.

Pros & Cons

Individual Themes

At the latest if you work with screen designers and really want to present yourself individually, you usually need an individual WordPress theme. Forget PageBuilder or frameworks like Bootstrap: You have commissioned a screen design and the actual website should map it as accurately as possible later.

Realistic budget

Plan a realistic budget for theme development right from the start: although the individual theme creation usually works with a basic theme (with us always SV100), which takes a lot of standard work – in the end, however, every adaptation means real effort.

With a three-digit budget, you usually do not get an individual theme, but possibly a (premium) theme that is strongly bent to your needs.

Instead, plan with at least a mid-four-digit budget. If there are many different elements on your website, numerous content pages, or additional processes and features need to be developed as plugins, mid-five-figure budgets and more are also required.

After all, no WordPress power user is sufficient for this anymore: You need skilled workers, more precisely senior and junior developers, who recognize logic errors in the design templates, master responsive design, PageSpeed, technical SEO and programming in the frontend (design) and backend (functions).

Creating value

Here, too, the quality can of course vary greatly: The hourly rates vary greatly according to competence level and location. In the same way, freelancers have a different service portfolio than web agencies. You can also spend 10,000 – 30,000 € and end up sitting in front of a non-functioning disaster – some projects also end with the service provider not reacting at all.

But let’s assume that your web design agency works great and you get a high-quality custom WordPress theme for your website, then it should offer you the following advantages:

Technology sovereignty

Finally no more restrictions. If you want to have something changed, you should hardly hear a “is not possible”, but a simple effort assessment – after all, you now have as free a basis as possible and the theme no longer has to please everyone, but above all you.

When an exciting new technology comes onto the market that is important for your theme, it can at best be implemented in the short term – and if successful, it can be adopted permanently. New functions are usually cheaper to implement than if a developer first has to familiarize himself with a foreign theme. Especially with regard to PageSpeed optimization, individual themes offer the most possibilities.

Support available

Depending on the service provider, you can commission permanent maintenance or support and upket of the website and the theme – and thus also have a permanent technical contact person who understands you and the needs of your company.

Do not underestimate the effect that an expert can contribute as a service provider and stakeholder of your company – so with a long-term cooperation, your company is always in the back of your mind when new technical possibilities open up. They have fixed contact routes to get support at short notice.

Deadweight effects

Ideally, the basic WordPress theme is constantly being further developed by the WordPress agency in parallel. You then benefit from regular updates from structural improvements that you would not have wanted to finance alone. This approach, which we also follow with our SV100 WordPress theme, combines the best of all worlds:

  • The basic theme is and remains free and is then optimized to enable individual websites – without unnecessary ballast.
  • Free addons speed up development and create standards between the WordPress agency’s various client websites.
  • Some premium addons extend functionality as needed – without scraps of features you don’t need.
  • You remain fully flexible – Thanks to open source and a solid basis, you can also change the service provider later if it should no longer fit. Your website will continue to receive updates through the freely available basic theme.

We have already invested several thousand internal development hours in our WordPress theme SV100 – mostly out of the desire to implement a functionality particularly well or to get a stable framework for later website orders.

Just the certainty that we can confidently implement any screen design without compromise – also with PageSpeed 100 – makes everyday developer life easier.


An individual WordPress theme costs effort and thus money. Don’t be under any illusions: you pay many times more than if you simply adapt a theme from the retort to your needs. At some point, however, real effort drivers come with the mass theses or you end up in maintenance hell.

But you have the certainty that you have created real added value for your company with your individual theme – a tangible advantage over your competition.

Keep in mind that on average, you should invest about 4% of your annual revenue in technology building – a custom theme for your WordPress website will pay off from Go Live and solve some problems that you won’t know about at Buyhemes until it’s already too late.


Which way is right for you now

You are an association or a startup and have to pay attention to the costs? For no-budget or low-budget projects, free or premium themes are ideal. See these as technical prototypes for your website.

Especially if you do a lot yourself at the beginning, you will learn the basics of WordPress quickly and quickly become a power user – ideal to address the right questions and problems later in an individual theme development.

At the latest when you run advertising campaigns for your website or invest in SEO, an individual WordPress theme is suddenly worthwhile: Because of the high degree of optimization, click prices and conversion rates can be improved eminently.

With our PageSpeed 100 WordPress Theme SV100, we deliver technical excellence for companies that see their website as an important channel for their success.