WordPress is open source and free – so why spend money on a theme?
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.
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:
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
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
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.
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).
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:
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.
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.
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.
About the author
Matthias Bathke is Managing Director of straightvisions GmbH. As a GDPR expert and PageSpeed evangelist, he is keen to develop stable and efficient solutions for our customers.
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