Are WordPress themes free?

updated on 31 August 2021

WordPress Themes are an important piece of a WordPress site. It provides the look & feel of a website and also let the WordPress administrator manage the layout of the website. Some themes are really simple and extremly limited, others are are complex and requires hours of trainings to grasp their full potential.

The same goes with the range of price for themes. Some are free, some are a hundred dollars, there is all kind of themes for different purposes and goals.

Free WordPress themes (are bad)

No, free themes are not bad!

No, they are not bad, actually some of the best themes are just free. It all depends what you want to do, what is your project.

Remember when you first install WordPress, it comes with 2 or 3 free themes. They are delivered with the original installation and you automatically use one of them when you first run WordPress. These themes are developed by the WordPress team itself and are blog oriented. You cannot really use them for an online business project. I’d say there are better options for that purpose.

Free themes are straight forward and often dedicated to one specific goal:

  • a lean blog
  • a clean online shop
  • a basic portfolio website
  • a simple waiting page

The list is much longer but you get the idea. Most free themes are one track minded. They serve one purpose and they usually do it in a simple fashion and fairly well.

Basic Free themes

Basic or standard free themes are usually made by independan developers or the WordPress team. They help you start your online journey without paying a single buck. And it’s great. It has to stay like this, because they are a great opportunity for people to test an idea, a business or simply publish a personal blog for free. These themes are not as well updated and maintained as payed themes would be. But they are great way to dive in the WordPress universe without risks. You’ll soon discover that they are really limited. Operating layout modifications on them will quickly requires you to modify files and code some PHP or CSS. If it something you are not willing to do and have no time to learn, then multipurpose themes are a great solution for you.

Boilerplate themes

They are a special kind of WordPress themes and I noticed most of them are free. They are intended to be used by developer and serve as a base or skeleton for a tailor made website. They are free because they come with a set of guidelines, opionated decisions about design, organisation. They are a good starter and it’s not recommended to use them as such.

Payed WordPress themes

All WordPress themes are not free. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to you. You usually get what you deserve for what you payed. There is no magic. Rare are the free themes being better than successful for pay themes.

The payed themes can be categorized in two groups:

  • multipurpose themes
  • niche themes

Multipuprose themes

The multipuprose themes do more than a simple customization of colors, fonts and images of your theme. They provide a full framework to customize the layout. They let you update the header, the footer, the sidebar. Most dimensions can be changed and you can create your own layout for a variety of contents. They are like a super theme, that let you create endless unique themes. Two websites using a same multipurpose themes can have a totally different look, and you’ll never know they actually are based on a single and same WordPress theme.

But obviously with such functionalities and flexibility, it will requires more training and reading more documentation to fully enjoy and take advantage of a multipurpose theme. It’s usually worthwile if you didn’t find any theme that meet your expectations, or if you are a WordPress developer who want to use and reuse a same theme for all your clients. You’ll save a lot of time building new websites with unique look, because you already know the core basics of the said theme.

Niche themes

Some themes are dedicated to a precise market, or for a unique profile. You can for example find niche themes for haircut salon, carpenter, doctor or online clothes shop. The niche theme do one single thing and should do it really well. You’ll have less flexibility to customize it, and you’ll have to stick to what the theme has to offer.

Niche themes are usually for pay. But, of course you can find some themes for free. They will try to sell you extra options, capabilities or additional plugins, subscriptions so they actually survive. As you start to understand, there is nothing completely free. If you want to save time, you’ll to pay for that.

Switching a theme is easy

Spoiler: No it isn’t. It can be extremely hard and painful. So remember before going too far, you constantly have to reevaluate the limits of your theme. If you feel like your theme is too limited, operate a change quickly to a more powerful more versatile solution like a multipurpose themes or hire a WordPress developer.

Starting with a free theme is a great feeling but if you want to have a pleasant journey using WordPress consider carefuly your theme because it will become increasingly difficult to change it the more you customize it.

TLDR: WordPress themes can be free!

Let’s make it short, WordPress themes can be free and you’ll find a fair amount of good themes on the WordPress theme repository. They are simple and not so customizable but they let you go online for free. A myriad of payed themes are waiting for you once you want to scale up and move to a customized layout with more features to add custom block of content. These for pay themes are either “super theme” and can let you customize with extreme flexibility your theme but requires more training time. Or for pay themes can be super specific and have a great aesthetic to serve one specific purpose or a specific market. They will be easy to set up and start but will have little potential to change the layout or even customize header or footer.