When it comes to selecting a WordPress theme for your site, it can be tempting to go for the cheaper alternative – a free WordPress theme. If you’re seriously considering using a free theme, you should at least be aware of the disadvantages that come with it in the long run.

Here are some potential problems you could face with a free WordPress theme:

  • Poor customisability
  • Bad documentation
  • Poorly coded
  • No support
  • You could spend a couple of hours customising simple features such as shifting the sidebar from the right side of the page to the left, which could be achieved in less than a minute with a premium theme.

Whether you’re going with a free or premium theme, here’s a list of things you should look out for:

Features Availability and Customisability

On WordPress, some sections of your site (such as your header, navigation bar, sidebar locations, footer, colour scheme) are not easily editable without some coding involved. A robust premium theme can help you to achieve these objectives within a few clicks of a button.

If you’re looking to create CSS3 animations, HTML5 sliders, and Parallax effects without writing code, there are many premium themes with these features already built in with the theme’s framework. Alternatively, there are third party plugins such as Visual Composer that can help you achieve similar effects.

Well Documented

To save yourself from the headache of figuring everything out from scratch, choose a theme that includes comprehensive documentation. Even furniture from Ikea comes with a manual complete with detailed assembly instructions. Which brings us to the next point.

Good Support

Should you still run into any difficulties in setting up your theme, it would be more cost efficient (since time is money) to contact the theme support to solve any theme-related issues. Sometimes it could a bug in the theme that hasn’t been fixed until the next theme update release.

Comes with Demo Content/One-Click Setup

If you’ve ever bought a nice looking theme and installed it, only to find it looked nothing like the demo template, you’re not alone. Without a one-click setup with all the demo content installed and set up, you may have to spend gruelling hours figuring out how to make your new site look exactly like the demo site.

Regular Theme Updates

In order to ensure your site won’t break when you update WordPress, choose a theme that’s consistently updated and compatible with the latest version of WordPress. Outdated themes also risk security vulnerabilities.

Responsive Design

Responsive design is a more cost effective way to achieve a mobile-friendly website. To test whether your site is mobile-friendly, enter your URL into Google’s Mobile Friendly Testing tool.

Due to the surge of mobile users and after Google’s official announcement in 2015 that the number of mobile searches now overtake desktop, making your site responsive is no longer just a trend to adapt to, it’s become a necessity.

Compatible with Mainstream Browsers and Recent Older Browser Versions

Be sure to test the demo theme on mainstream browsers such as Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, and Opera. Also check whether the theme is compatible with recent older browser versions.

Good Reviews

Looking through past user reviews can influence your buying decision and save you time and money. For example, users may comment on a theme that is very buggy (e.g. loads slow due to unoptimised code) and incompatible with a range of third party plugins.

Cost Effectiveness

Be sure to check whether the theme developer provides lifetime theme updates or lifetime support. Most premium themes will offer you lifetime theme updates and limited time support.

Theme Appearance Suitable For Your Industry

When a user lands on your homepage, the first impression has to be really impactful or else you’ll have already lost half the battle.

A corporate theme may not be suitable for you if you’re looking to sell things online and a magazine theme most probably wouldn’t cut it for a real estate niche.

Choosing a WordPress theme isn’t the hardest part; it’s getting it all set up and running smoothly. If you wish to learn how to create a WordPress website from scratch, attend our 2-day hands-on WordPress course.

Dylan Sun is the Founder of Equinet Academy, a Digital Marketing training organisation. Passionate in all aspects of Digital Marketing and Web Design, he extends his passion to helping people implement effective digital strategies to their businesses. Follow his blog at Equinet Academy to learn more about Digital Marketing and Design.

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