This article was sponsored by Artbees – creators of the Jupiter WordPress theme. Thank you for supporting the partners who make SitePoint possible.
WordPress is the world’s most successful Content Management System. It powers 28% of all websites. A massive 59% of sites running a CMS choose to use WordPress. The software is open source and free to use. So why should you consider paying for a commercial WordPress theme?
There are a vast number of WordPress themes available. Some are paid products but many are offered at no cost. Many are excellent. Many are terrible. Purchasing a premium theme can provide a level of reassurance and a guarantee of quality which transforms WordPress into a glorious, fully-customized, customer-focused experience.
What should you look for before hitting that BUY button?…
1. A Good Feature Set
Does your chosen theme have all the features you need now and into the near future? Perhaps you only need a gallery today but do you have a persistent nagging worry your client or boss will eventually ask for a fully-featured shopping cart? Can you add a portfolio or pricing table? Are you able switch designs on a single page or throughout the site?
Artbees Jupiter provides more than 140 template designs which cover every niche.
2. Without Stuff You Don’t Need?
Some themes include every widget the author could find. This may not be a problem if they add value and remain disabled until required. What you don’t want is 57 free snippets discovered on dhtmlgoodies.com in 2006 which use different libraries and appear on every page regardless of whether you use them or not. It will degrade the user’s experience and prevent a…
3. Solid Performance
By the end of 2016, average page weight reached almost 2.5MB. WordPress must take some responsibility for this excessive bloat! Too many themes contain bandwidth-hogging payloads, unoptimized images and futile widgets which make your site slow and costly to view on a mobile network connection. A responsive design does not necessarily equate to a responsive experience.
4. Client-Facing Functionality
But will the theme remain…
6. Service and Support
It’s one thing to release code into the public domain without warranties. It’s another to provide 24/7 assistance for everyone who wants it. (Including that demanding person who expects ongoing lessons in web development and systems operation).
Premium themes are more likely to offer a level of assistance when you inevitably run into development or usage problems. Email and telephone support is ideal and you may be able to obtain advice from the theme’s community forums if it’s popular and used by enough people.
The theme’s developers are more likely to address problems because they don’t want their support team inundated with bug reports. Therefore, your premium theme will receive…
7. Ongoing Updates and Fixes
Free or cheaper themes may be written once but never updated. The developer will eventually move on to something which pays their bills. Will the bugs ever be fixed? Will the theme be updated as browsers evolve? Will it continue to operate in the next release of WordPress?
Those creating premium themes have a commercial reason to keep the code up-to-date and fix problems when they arise. This should lead to…
8. Guaranteed Compatibility
WordPress updates rarely break your site but all themes and plug-ins require maintenance over time. Check the date of the last code change; this will reassure you the theme is current and compatible with the latest WordPress code base and browsers. You’ll then have fewer reasons to worry about…
9. Security and Privacy
WordPress themes and plug-ins contain executable PHP code the author deemed necessary. Are you sure that code has been thoroughly tested on multiple installations? Are you certain it was developed without malicious intent? Do you know whether it’s accidentally leaking your private login details or wiping posts?
A premium theme will always be more credible than a ZIP file you stumbled upon while browsing the web. Few people consider security until it’s too late but, the downside of WordPress’s success is that it has become an attractive target for hackers, spammers and con artists. Don’t let your domain and web space fall into the hands of criminals by choosing a dodgy theme!
Ultimately, the theme’s price is important — but do not forget to consider your own costs. A premium theme can be considerably cheaper than “free” if it requires no additional development, fixes are frequent and updates are easy to apply.
Expect to pay something for quality. Creating a robust WordPress theme takes considerable time and the developers should be rewarded for that effort, the subsequent updates and the support they provide. A premium theme should guarantee your website operates now and into the future. It may work out cheaper in the long run.
Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.