Whether you’ve just started using your WordPress website and are searching for the right design or you already have one and simply want to update its looks, finding the right WordPress theme can be a tricky business.
Choosing between custom themes and ready-made templates may boil down to a number of available resources, but the cost difference is hardly the only issue. It’s important to look beyond than just the price and focus on all factors that should shape the final decision.
It’s more than a simple price issue!
Granted, the price is a rather important aspect to most people. Custom designs or custom themes can end up costing thousands of dollars, while premium themes cost way less, with the price ranging from $50 to a couple hundred dollars. Costs are simply what they are, costs. What about those in a position to afford custom themes but aren’t completely sure whether it’s worth it? If that’s the case, then you need to consider the following factors before you start making your decision: experience, support, and updates.
- Experience refers to any practical experience the author of the theme has had in the past. Make sure to check for any previous work, as well as any reviews and always choose the most reputable authors. That said, there’s nothing wrong with being new to the scene, but most people are reluctant to work with someone without any previous experience.
- Support offered by the author is important in case something breaks or you want to further tweak and customize the theme.
- Finally, always make sure you’re getting a theme which is regularly updated, or else you risk the theme eventually “running its course”, which could lead to security issues.
When you’re deciding on a custom WordPress theme, it’s important to properly evaluate the authors’ experience. This means going through portfolios and references, as well as talking directly to the author about the costs, process and the general timeline. An experienced designer should easy provide you with the information regarding the methods and standards they’re using, theme’s plugin compatibility as well as any ongoing costs. With custom designers, their experience should be apparent and any and all issues addressed and publically documented.
Another excellent experience indicator is the status in the WordPress theme community. Customer rosters, as well as comments and reviews, should also be considered. The same standards should be held for WordPress templates. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean that it should be held to a lower standard. If you really like a free theme but aren’t able to verify the author’s experience in any way mention above, then it might be best to look for a different WordPress theme.
What if you want to change your theme and let’s say use a different font? Or perhaps your theme has crashed after playing around with the code. Or you simply want to add some functionality and don’t know whether the theme supports it? This is where support becomes a factor. Fortunately, most custom theme designers and theme vendors offer lengthy documentation for all their themes, as well as a help center or a discussion forum available for members only. All this support should and often does dome free with the theme you’ve purchased. This is the type of service you should normally expect from investing in a custom or premium theme.
On the other hand, free themes represent a large gray area regarding support. If you’re getting your theme from the official WordPress theme directory, make sure to check whether the author is responding to questions in the support section. Although most providers of free WordPress themes monitor and track any support requests they get, you should verify it before investing. Support for custom themes generally depends on the provider, however, there’s a good likelihood that you’ve had to spend additional funds on support in the future.
Finally, the last thing you should consider is how often do designers update their themes in order to keep up with the latest instance of WordPress. Failing to do so can lead to some serious consequences including loss of your website’s functionality, as well as various security threats. When it comes to custom themes, you should consider discussing with the designer whether the initial investment includes ongoing updates. If not, that is an additional cost you need to worry about. Free themes and templates, however, may or may not receive updates so make sure you’ve verified whether a particular theme you’d like to use is up to date before actually using it.
The bottom line
Whether you’ll focus your efforts on finding the best free theme or you’d rather fork out the cash for a custom web design, it’s more than just price when it comes to making that choice. Consider the pros and cons of both when it comes to the experience of the author, ongoing support and future updates. If it all fits the bill, then go with the custom theme. If you are satisfied with what the free theme has to offer, verify it and enjoy. Yes, money does matter, but in the end, all that matters is that your theme is supported, updated and above else, secure.