I find that many people are still reluctant to pay for WordPress Themes because there are so many free options available. However, many times people don’t want to pay for something because they simply don’t understand what they are missing. Sure, premium WordPress themes are created for people to make money from them, however, they aren’t schemes to get you to pay for something you could otherwise get for free. In fact, many times you won’t find any free theme that will come close to the quality and features of a premium one. That said, there are some crappy premium themes out there – which is why at WPExplorer.com I maintain a WordPress Theme Directory that strives on quality not quantity (I try and include only premium themes I think are really awesome).
This is probably the biggest reason why you should use a Premium Theme. Premium templates tend to be developed with much greater precision and care. The designs are much better looking and the code much cleaner and simplified. Contrary, free themes are many times created in order to get publicity for a given website and are not developed with such care. Almost every premium theme is XHTML and CSS valid which is good for SEO as well as user-friendliness. Most Premium Themes also come with multiple color schemes, design layouts, custom pages and custom post types. This makes the theme much more dynamic and easily customizable to fit your needs.
2. Theme Control Panels
A lot of the Premium Themes also come with extensive theme control panels that will allow you to easily make changes to your site without having to touch any code. Thesis is one of the most well known and popular themes in terms of your ability to change virtually every element of your site via the theme panel. The theme panels makes it really easy for people who aren’t techy or don’t know much about web development. On the other hand for most free themes you will have to digg into the the code to make even the most simple change. For people who create websites for their clients, the theme control panel will help avoid those late night calls from your client when they tried to change something in the code and ended screwing everything up.
One of my favorite things about Premium Themes is that many of them come with some great jQuery enhancements such as lightbox/prettybox on images and video, drop-down navigation bars using Superfish, featured sliders, hover over effects, contact forms with validation and much more. Some even go so far as to simplify their theme panels using jQuery for a tabbed control panel or a theme panel with drop-down containers.
5. Featured Sliders
These days you’ve got to have a cool featured slider. All the top business sites have them. jQuery sliders are a great way to showcase some of your best work, features, services, products or articles. Most premium themes tend to include at least 1 featured slider. But I have seen themes that have up to 10 different sliders, each with tons of customization options and transition effects.
6. PSD Files
PSD files are great for people who really want to get dirty and customize the wordpress theme to meet their needs. Premium themes almost always come with the original and sliced photoshop files so you can make changes to the layout, logo or color scheme much easier. I have only seen a hand full of Free themes that included a PSD.
7.No Hidden or Footer Links / No Encrypted Code
There are some sites out there that are giving away Free WordPress Themes but they do things such as encrypt the footer code or include hidden links in the design. If you are looking to rank well and gain search engine trust it is important to not have any sneaky links in the back-end of your site. Also, if you are a business or you want to create a brand for your website then you most probably don’t want to be linking to other websites. If you purchase a Premium Theme you will not have this problem, you will be able to remove any footer links if they exist and a premium theme shouldn’t have any encrypted code.
This is a HUGE benefit of premium themes. The WordPress code as well as web standards are constantly changing, which is why a lot of the premium themes are updated when needed so that they will always work and be as current as possible. Elegant Themes is one of the sites I most admire in terms of updating their themes. Recently Elegant Themes released a set of shortcodes and WordPress 3.0 features, but not only did they include them in their latest theme but they went through and updated ALL (43+) themes with the new features. So if you were using one of their older themes you can still take advantage of the new and awesome shortcodes.
Every premium theme comes with support. Theme support is really important in case you find a glitch/error in the theme or if you are having problems installing, updating or using it.With Free themes you are almost always on your own. If you run into a problem you most likely have to search on a forum or something for a solution. However, if you bought the theme, the developer will most likely help you out.
7. Theme Documentation
Theme documentation can probably be put together with support, however, I think it should be counted separately because if the theme documentation and screen casts are good enough you may never have to contact the developer for help, rather you can refer to the documentation included with the theme. A lot of free themes actually come with documentation and instructions on how to set up and use the theme, however, often times they aren’t very good, the aren’t included or you may have to pay extra for them.
10. Great For Web Developers
There are many people out there making a lot of money developing websites and a lot of them use the same framework for almost all their projects. Premium themes can make it easy for web developers to create sites for their clients much quicker and professionally. It is much faster and sometimes cheaper to buy a theme and customize it to suit your clients need then to build one entirely from scratch. A lot of people are using themes like Thesis or Elegant Themes to build client sites quickly and easily.
Obviously as a theme developer that depends on selling themes for a living I’m going to say that YES premium themes are definitely worth it. But not all premium themes are created equality so I can’t say that every premium theme is worth it and there are many out there that are absolutely trash. So when looking for a premium theme try and stick with a well branded seller/developer. For example I’ve sold over $2 million worth of themes on ThemeForest and have very good ratings and am highly recommended by my customers. Do a little bit of research before buying any premium theme and if you have any concerns just contact the developer before hand and see if they have any sort of refund policy in place. But NEVER try downloading a premium theme illegally to test it first because that is usually a one-way ticket to getting your site spammed and/or hacked.
What are your thoughts on premium themes? Have you bought any that you highly recommend or have you had any bad experiences with buying premium themes? I’d love to know in the comments below.