- Dec 20, 2016
- by Brad Litwin
WordPress themes enable users to build all sorts of amazing websites, but the process of designing your WordPress website is unlikely to be entirely trouble-free. In fact, perhaps the biggest challenge – finding the perfect theme – can be an exasperating process, thanks in part to the sheer number of options available.
Fortunately, it is possible to break down the massive library of WordPress themes into logical categories. Ultimately, your decision will come down to either a free or premium theme, and then, a single purpose or multipurpose option.
In this article, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of each category, and give you the tools to understand which will likely suit you best. We’ll then round things up by showing you where to find the best theme for you.
The Differences Between Free and Premium WordPress Themes
WordPress is a Content Management System (CMS) that serves as the foundation for your website. Think of it as an empty, undecorated house. In this scenario, a theme would be the equivalent of a set of furniture and a coat of paint.
A great WordPress theme will provide you with the tools necessary to customize your ‘house’ to your liking – all you need to do is pick the one that suits your intended design the best.
To do that, you need to know what your options are. Let’s begin by exploring the relative pros and cons of free and premium themes.
Free WordPress Themes: Pros and Cons
Free themes are the perfect (and only!) choice for WordPress users who have no budget and only need a simple solution. While free themes sound great in principle, as is often the case when you’re not parting with your cash, there are downsides.
Consider for example that free themes often come with little to no support from their developers. Providing support takes time, and free themes (by definition) don’t generate any revenue. That means developers – in some cases – can’t spare the time to provide dedicated support or even update their themes regularly. Irregular updates could, in turn, leave you vulnerable to security issues.
There are, of course, plenty of free themes that are reliable enough to build a website on top of, but ‘buyer beware’ is definitely an appropriate frame of mind to adopt – despite the fact that you’re not actually buying anything!
Premium WordPress Themes: Pros and Cons
Unlike their free counterparts, premium themes do come with dedicated support. In most cases, you will pay a one-time fee for your chosen purchase, although that can vary depending on how many sites you wish to install your theme on.
Premium themes are typically updated more regularly than their free counterparts, and as a natural result, tend to be more secure. On the other hand, premium themes tend to be more bloated, since they pack lots of features that not every site will require. Many premium themes are seemingly on a never ending race to add more features – not always to the benefit of all users.
The Difference Between Single Purpose and Multipurpose WordPress Themes
Once you’ve decided to plump for a free or premium theme, there is another way in which you can narrow down your choice dramatically – by deciding whether you would be best served by a single purpose or multipurpose theme.
You may have an intuitive understanding of what to expect from the two options from the names alone, but let’s take a closer look at the relative features of each, so that you can make a fully informed decision.
Single Purpose WordPress Themes: Pros and Cons
As its name implies, a single purpose WordPress theme typically targets a specific and well-defined ‘subset’ of website. It may focus on a particular ‘type’ of website – a blog, for example – or dig even deeper; say by catering to the needs of a specific industry.
There’s a lot to like about single purpose WordPress themes. Their focus on a single field can provide you with a more ‘bespoke’ end product, and better still, they are often cheaper than their multipurpose relatives. Furthermore, you can often expect higher quality support, because of the relative limitations of the theme.
Speaking of limitations, that’s arguably the only downside to consider with a single purpose theme. If in the future you find that your website needs to evolve to another level, you may find that your single purpose theme can’t do the necessary – at which point, you may need to go in search of something new.
Outstanding Examples of Single Purpose WordPress Themes
To illustrate the points we’ve made above, below we’ve chosen two examples of single purpose WordPress themes.
The Maple theme was designed with blogs in mind. To that end, it comes with over 15 pre-built layouts for different types of blogging sites.
Vlog focuses on the much narrower field of video blogs, and includes eight unique layouts.
Multipurpose WordPress Themes: Pros and Cons
Multipurpose themes are a Swiss army knife of sorts – they attempt to pack as many tools and functions as possible within one theme in order to maximize their market share.
In terms of design, you will typically benefit from an extensive array of pre-built layouts and demos. As for functionality, you can a plethora of features and bundled plugins galore.
With a multipurpose theme you can build just about any kind of website (high-level functionality excepted) to a decent standard. If you pick a high quality offering, you may never have to buy another theme.
Consider however the inevitable downsides of multipurpose themes – their size can lead to bloat, and their propensity to cater for all can mean that any specialized needs you may have aren’t catered for.
Outstanding Examples of Multipurpose WordPress Themes
As we did earlier with single purpose themes, let’s go over a couple examples of multipurpose alternatives to illustrate the points we’ve made.
Divi perfectly exemplifies the all-out approach when it comes to multipurpose theme design. It packs enough features to create virtually any kind of website, and even includes several building modes to make your life easier.
Despite being one of the most popular themes out there, Genesis’ design is remarkably restrained. It doesn’t pack as many features as others out of the box, but it does offer a great foundation to build any site.
How to Choose the Right Theme For You
At the end of the day, if you’re looking for a WordPress theme, there are two important factors you need to consider:
- How much you’re willing to pay. If you don’t have any money to spend, then a free theme is the only way to go. Otherwise, money well spent at this stage will likely benefit you greatly.
- What you’re looking to build. If you know what type of website you want to build, what features it needs, and are confident that your needs are unlikely to change any time soon, a single purpose theme could well be the right choice. Multipurpose themes, on the other hand, give you unrivalled functionality and flexibility.
Depending on whether you want to find a free or premium theme, you’ll be well-served by starting your search at one of the two following resources:
- WordPress.org. The official home of WordPress is the best place to look for free options. Every theme that makes it there is thoroughly vetted, so you’re in good hands.
- ThemeForest. This is the largest repository of premium WordPress themes around. To find the best ones, be sure to check reviews and ratings thoroughly.
While high quality free themes are almost entirely exclusive to WordPress.org, there are a number of reputable independent theme ‘shops’ – such as ThemeIsle, Nimbus Themes, and HeroThemes – that you may want to check out as part of your premium theme search.
Despite the abundance of WordPress themes, picking the right one doesn’t need to be an overly complicated process. Your choice firstly depends on your budget, and then your unique needs.
Let’s recap our thinking:
- If you simply don’t have a budget to speak of, free themes are of course your only choice. That said, premium themes are almost always the superior option, so money well spent will benefit you down the line.
- If you have a clear idea of what you need and are unlikely to change your mind, a single purpose theme could be the right choice for you. If on the other hand you’re looking for a versatile tool, a multipurpose theme is arguably your only option.
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