WordPress Theme Design – Free vs. Premium vs. Custom

16 Sep 2013, Posted by EPoff in Blogging, Web development, Wordpress
Wordpress Theme Design

First let me say that regardless of which design you choose, you should definitely adopt a responsive design. If you are unfamiliar with what a responsive design is and what it can do for you, read my last post:  Responsive Web Design Trumps Mobile Specific and Desktop Only Designs

Free WordPress Themes

So, as a web developer you might think that my first thought would be to suggest a custom design, right? Not necessarily. I think there are plenty of good FREE WordPress themes that will work for many sites and businesses. These themes can be customized enough to include a personalized logo and usually some photos or images that are specific to your business. Three of my favorite free Responsive themes are listed below.

1. Responsive Theme – As the name suggests, this theme is fully responsive. This theme is easy to set up and easy to customize. It comes with great documentation and if you are wanting to customize using your own child theme, it even offers a free child theme download to help get you started. This is one of my all time favorite free themes and I have used it as a base to develop several sites.

Free Responsive WordPress Theme

2. Customizer Theme – This is a wonderful theme that is fully responsive and offers a great deal of customization. It’s very flexible, easy to use and has good documentation. It also supports a variety of languages.

Free Customizer WordPress Theme

3. Simplify Theme – This theme is also responsive, includes certain customization features such as background colors and menus and is a great looking theme. This would be a great theme for a small business looking for a clean look.

Free Simplify WordPress Theme

Premium WordPress Themes

What about a premium theme? A premium theme is typically a basic theme that is a little more customized and often comes with some built in plugins ready to go – like sliders or specialized widgets. Premium themes can help streamline the development process and can keep you from having to fish around finding plugins and widgets that will work with your theme. Premium designs usually have a few more design elements and are sometimes (not always) more customizable so you can add more of your own flare to the site. These are great options for small to medium sized businesses that don’t want to look like every other free WordPress site out there but don’t want to spend a fortune hiring a developer to customize. Premium sites can range from as little as $19 to a few hundred dollars, depending on what your needs are. Most premium designs work right out of the box – you install the theme into your existing WordPress site, set up a few basic features – Theme Options, Widgets, etc. – and your site will be looking spiffy within a couple hours. Below are two choices that offer a variety of options for under $50.  Some may cost a little more, but most are very reasonable for a premium design!

1. CyberChimps Responsive WordPress Themes at Cyberchimps.com offers a variety of premium themes, including Responsive Theme Pro which includes a variety of skins, out-of-the-box support for most plugins including WooCommerce, custom typography and dedicated pro customer support. Other premium themes are available as well. The Responsive Pro Theme is currently on sale for $30.

2. ThemeForest offers premium WordPress themes typically ranging in price from $30-50.  Many of the themes are responsive, multi-browser compatible, and widget ready.  There are a variety of themes to choose from and many business specific themes.

Custom WordPress Themes

So when do you dive in and get a complete custom solution? The answer to that depends on your business model and goals. Typically, I would recommend that medium to large businesses hire a designer/developer to create a unique look and feel for their customers. Also, businesses that are small but are driven by their brand may also want to have a custom site developed.  Typically, custom sites can be developed for as little as a couple of thousand dollars to as much as a hundred thousand dollars depending on your needs and what you want the site to do. When I do custom work, much of the takes place on the administrative side as well as the front side. The WordPress environment can be customized to help owners enter more complex content. Management of the site can be made easier with custom plugins and scripts. There are lots of great things a developer can do to make the admin side more customized for business needs. And today’s WordPress can be used as a complete content management system including custom admin support and full e-commerce integration. A custom design can also make a WordPress site look like an “business site” and not look like a “blog site”.

To sum up here’s a quick guide for when you should use each type of WordPress Theme.

  1. Free Themes (Cost $0) – For Personal and Small businesses with little need to customize beyond logos and images.
  2. Premium Themes (Cost $20- $200+)– For Small and Medium businesses looking to customize their look. Also premium themes tend to be more turn-key including relevant plugins and widgets pertaining to your particular business needs.
  3. Custom Themes (Cost $1000+) – For Medium to Large businesses looking to further promote their brand with a unique look and feel.