Buy a WordPress theme – or rather not?

Web Design May 28, 2020

Should You Buy a WordPress Theme? A perfectly legitimate question, which we will get to the bottom of in this article. What should you consider when choosing a theme? What differences are there. What alternatives do you have to the purchased theme? We create clarity.

What actually is a WordPress theme?

If you are familiar with the WordPress content management system, you will most likely already be familiar with the term “theme”. But what exactly is that? A theme is nothing more than the visual representation of the WordPress website, which is integrated into WordPress in the form of a so-called “theme”. Such a theme consists of HTML, CSS, PHP and Javascript. WordPress themes are often referred to as designs or templates.

There are different versions of a theme: free of charge, directly from WordPress, for a fee on various theme marketplaces, or as an individual development by a WordPress agency. Very important: One always speaks of a theme, no matter which of the aforementioned variants it may be. Why do we say this so explicitly: Strangely enough, over the last few years it has become common practice to call free or paid themes off the shelf a “theme” — but not an individual solution. At least that’s how it got in the minds of some customers and users, which is why we want to clear up this misinformation straight away.

And while we’re on the subject of WordPress myths: We often hear questions like “Can design request X be implemented with WordPress?” Our basic answer to this: Anything is possible. To put it simply, WordPress is just an optical input mask for content, which is then stored in a database. It is up to you how you prepare or output this content optically. This means: There are no restrictions, at least they are not dictated by WordPress. If at all there are limitations in terms of usability, mobile capability or generally in terms of web standards that should always be taken into account.

What is the difference between WordPress themes?

The differences between WordPress themes are undoubtedly not only of a visual nature. Above all, there are big differences and fluctuations in terms of quality and functions. First and foremost, however, a distinction is made between standard themes, premium themes and individual, self-developed themes.

The default themes

The default themes are pre-installed themes that come with the WordPress installation. So the WordPress website is not completely “naked” immediately after installation. Of course, it is also possible to continue using a standard theme. The standard themes are often very slim and are ideal for small blogs. By the way, a new standard theme appears every year with a major WordPress version release. The themes are therefore named after the year — the latest theme is Twentytwenty.

Premium Themes — off-the-shelf solution

The word “premium” may be a bit misleading, but we deliberately call this type of theme that in this article, since this term has now become established. However, these themes are not necessarily “premium” and this designation has no effect on the quality of these themes. Premium themes are ready-made themes that can usually be purchased on specially designated marketplaces. The costs for such a theme usually amount to 40-70 euros. These are not individual solutions, but prefabricated, standardized themes that are implemented for a broad target group and are often sold in thousands.

Custom themes

Another solution to get a suitable theme for a website or an online shop is an individual solution. These are tailor-made for an individual customer, tailored to their wishes and requirements, conceived, designed and programmed. A purchase via a marketplace is not possible. A service provider must be commissioned for in-house development.

Custom Themes vs. Ready-made Themes

Now back to the real question: should you buy a WordPress theme? Or is an in-house development possibly the better choice? The recommendation is clearly the choice of an individual theme — very fundamentally. We explain below why this is so. Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy or use ready-made themes at all. Ultimately, the choice of which “type” of theme is the right solution depends on many other factors. The following lines should provide some clarity.

The advantages of in-house development

The advantages of an in-house development in contrast to an off-the-shelf solution are obvious:

  • The design, i.e. the visual appearance, is completely individual and cannot already be found thousands of times on the Internet.
  • The loading times are unbeatable, since the theme only offers the required functions and visual display options. An off-the-shelf theme, on the other hand, is packed with features and design options — after all, it has to appeal to the general public. This is of course a performance killer. Loading times in particular are an increasingly important factor on the Internet: for users and for Google (topic of search engine optimization).
  • The more complex a theme, the higher the potential security risks: An individual solution is lean and tailor-made and therefore generally more secure. As with the previous point, the same applies here: Of course, this depends on the implementation.
  • Both individual themes and in-house developments can of course be adapted and/or further developed. However, an in-house development is lean – the source code can therefore be viewed quickly and clearly – possibly even for a new developer. The further development of an individual theme is therefore often faster and therefore also cheaper.
  • Quality guarantee and support: An individual solution comes from a service provider such as an agency. With a certain professionalism, these should of course also deliver a high level of quality – in terms of design as well as in terms of programming. In addition, a professional agency should continue to look after a customer in the future. Of course, you can’t expect all these things from a developer of a “mass product”. Although that is less of a point of criticism — for a few euros for a complete theme, you shouldn’t expect more. If you decide on a ready-made theme, quality control in advance makes sense, as there are large fluctuations here.

The benefits of ready-made themes

Of course, ready-made themes also have their advantages and therefore a right to exist:

  • When creating a website, a large part of the work is already done with the use of a ready-made theme. Conception, design and development usually falls flat, although of course you should / have to invest time in the visual presentation of such a solution. Depending on how ambitious you approach the project, 40-70 euros for a WordPress theme is not enough. On the contrary: Projects based on this can also be an expensive undertaking. However, half the battle has already been paid. The costs are therefore significantly lower. However, this only applies if the selected theme has solid source code and already meets the requirements visually and technically – at least for the most part. If you want to make a car out of a bike, you should probably resort to individual development. It is not uncommon for the effort involved in customizing a ready-made theme to exceed the cost of developing it yourself.
  • If you are in a hurry, you will be happy about the points just mentioned: Design and programming are already done. All that remains is to integrate the content and the new website is ready to go. Very important: Of course, this only applies if your own demands are not high. Because even with a ready-made theme, a lot of time should be invested in planning and design if it has to be a bit more ambitious.

Conclusion on themes

For private websites or small business websites, premium themes may be a very sensible solution. Ambitious web projects with high requirements should, however, be based on an individual WordPress solution. Ultimately, there is always the question of the goal: Should it just be a hobby blog or a large online magazine with commercial intentions? Should it be an online shop for a few products or are we talking about 6-digit monthly sales with high competition? Should the website present a small, local business or is it an extensive company website that is used for customer acquisition?

Basically, the question of whether you should buy a theme or not cannot simply be answered in general. However, the message of this article should still have got through. All solutions have their raison d’être, but in the end it’s always a question of one’s own aspirations.

Do you need a WordPress agency? We are available as your experts. Get in touch with us and arrange a non-binding consultation.