Although WP Hacks was originally setup with WordPress Hacks in mind, based upon our readers needs we’ve invested a lot of time over the past year and a half into researching WordPress themes and providing you with a large selection of WordPress theme galleries.

Back when this website was launched the premium themes market didn’t exist yet, so we had originally placed our focus on the different types of free WordPress themes.  The result was a bunch of galleries broken down into types.

Since that time, a second market has emerged known as premium WordPress themes (premium was the term originally used to describe a more advanced or higher quality WordPress theme).   Over time we adapted and now offer a variety of both types of theme galleries.  

I always felt there is a market for both types of themes in the WordPress community, but some shoppers don’t know which of the two they should be looking at.   Add in the fact that too many designers over the past year have released low quality themes under the “premium” business model, and a lot of people have been left unhappy with their purchases and an overall loss of trust in the premium themes market as a whole.   

So, if you were shopping for a new WordPress theme for your website or blog, what should you be looking for?   Based upon the individuals needs of the shopper, there are a variety of factors that should be considered, but it mostly boils down to three essential factors:

  1. Price - Is the theme free?  If there is a cost associated with the theme, am I getting the right value for the price?   In the price category, free WordPress themes are always going to have an advantage, but there are a few downsides to going this route.   Free themes usually require you to leave the link in the footer, while many premium themes do not.   Many free themes are also unsupported, so if you aren’t comfortable hacking your own theme, it may be worth the price to purchase a supported theme.   There is also minimal risk of sponsored links or malicious code showing up in a purchased theme. 
  2. Quality – Another obvious point of comparison between free WordPress themes and premium WordPress themes is the quality of the themes.   There are a number of high quality free WordPress themes and (as mentioned above) there are some low quality premium themes.   When looking for your theme, the designer or design companies reputation is everything.   Does the theme I want offer control panel options, cross browser compatibility, or widget support? Are there multiple layouts and color choices to choose from?
  3. Support – Although support isn’t going to be relevant for some people looking who have the ability to customize their own theme, for most shoppers this should be the most important factor.   Some free themes offer support from the designer, but most do not.   If you decide to purchase a theme, you are usually paying as much for the support as you are for the acutal theme!   Does this designer have trustworthy testimonials?  Do you know any existing customers who are happy with the support they are receiving?  

What do you value most when shopping for the right free or premium WordPress theme for your website or blog?  I know most of the WordPress theme designers read this site and will see your feedback, so let us know in the comments!

Kyle Eslick is WordPress enthusiast who took his passion for WordPress to the next level in 2007 by launching WPHacks.com as a place to share hacks, tutorials, etc. Connect with Kyle on Twitter or Google+!

  1. I personally feel that there is no point of going for premium theme if anyone don’t need the support.

    People should always draw the requirement before hand like:

    # 2 Column or 3 Column
    # Footer or non Footer
    # Color
    # adsense optimized
    # Magazine style or non-magazine style

    These are some basic thing that we need to decide and this will help to sort down our search for nice theme.

    Another thing to look for is there any rules or limitation with that theme.

    Personally I will suggest go for theme which have exclusively Support forum dedicated for it and this will also help you to find any error if there is.
    Read the forum first and you will get the reviews and you can see the how much support theme author is willing to give.

  2. I will also consider the functionality supported by the theme and whether the theme get it right for the SEO.

  3. Joi says:

    When it comes to themes, I honestly feel that if you are completely serious about your online image, a premium theme has become as important as having your own domain.

    Does that mean that blogs which have been dressed with designer clothes(premium themes) are necessarily better than other blogs? No, of course not. But I do think it reflects on their owners.

    It’s the same mindset that causes realtors to drive amazingly nice cars, models to wear fashionable clothes, etc.

    They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but we all do anyway. A great number of people scroll to the bottom to see if there is a link to a free theme or the name of a premium theme. One of the definitions of premium is “Of exceptional quality or greater value than others of its kind.”

    I just feel that if you want others to know that you’re serious about what you do and that you’re successful at doing it, this is the definition you’d want to shoot for.

    As for what I want in a premium theme, it’s all summed up with two words: Thesis Theme.

    It’s a beast. The support is absolute perfection. There are certain communities online – MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, etc. One that is as strong as any is one you won’t read about – it’s the Thesis community. People who actively seek to help one another attain their goals. Everyone wants everyone else to succeed and to look fierce while doing it.

    This is one of the most important things I was looking for in a theme. I wanted the developer to CARE about people who purchased his theme – not forget them the minute the money cleared.

    I also wanted a theme that was clean and easy for my visitors to read. They typography was very important, because I don’t want anyone to be inconvenienced or hindered in any way. I everything to be as comfortable for them as possible. No clicks, no whistles. I just want them to have a great experience.

    I also wanted a premium theme that allowed you to customize the pictures, headers, layout, etc – this keeps every blog that uses the theme from looking the same.

    Finally, I wanted a theme that had seo on its mind – with everything I need built in, because frankly I don’t want to have to research dozens of plugins, compare them, test them, and then hope I’ve chosen wisely.

  4. Susan says:

    Free themes can work for serious bloggers also. Possibly working with a free theme and molding it to your needs is great for those that feel comfortable doing it. What I like about premium themes, is that some come with special functionality not seen in free themes (until a few months later). So, it can be quite nice to have, plus the additional support is a nice plus.

  5. Dieta says:

    The right theme is very important. If your website doesn’t look clean and neat many people will leave right away. The same if you pack too many ads around the posts. Good design won’t necessary bring you more readers but the bad one will definitely cost you couple of them.

  6. Dev says:

    Lots of things depend on choosing a right theme. Like
    2 Column or 3 Column or 1 Column
    Color selcation
    Adsense optimized theme
    Magazine style Theme
    Have to test a lot then i can choose a better theme for me.

  7. MiK says:

    Or simply use a wordpress theme generator like this one : http://www.theme-generator.net/wordpress. You don’t need to know anything about web coding, the engine takes care of that :p

  8. George Serradinho says:

    I use to use a lot of free themes but the support was slow and some times non-existent.

    I opted to go for One-Theme.com who has been great with feature requests and support. They are currently testing there OnePanel plugin which is a plugin which would be an admin interface which you can use all there features on any theme. A theme is an important way to get your image across, even newbies should think along that line.

    Thanks for the info.

  9. Premium Theme Info says:

    I think if you want to buy a premiu wordpress theme, the support is the most important.

  10. I agree with sentiments earlier in the comments. If you are just starting out you should find a theme you like and ease into dabbling with the CSS. Once you get accustomed to it you can really make it your own to the point that it is unrecognizable as being the original theme.

    I would say also that you should think about the number of columns you want, but if you are unsure to go with 3. It is generally easier to remove a column by just removing the call for it (usually in the footer) and tweek some CSS.

    I have found this from my personal experience and accomplished just what I described. I have linked to the original theme in the footer on my site so you can compare the original theme to the current look. You would never guess it started out looking how it did.

  11. For me, I look at a few things.

    First, I look at the bones of the template. Will it allow me to do what I want (1 or 2 sidebars, menu layout, etc). I want to make sure the key things I wish my visitors to see are in the right areas. I usually have a vision of what I want before I even start looking for a template (design-wise). Then the search begins to find a template which fits my vision.

    Second, I look at reputation. When someone or a company has an already established record and everyone likes them, it’s a good chance you can trust the code – which brings me to my next point.

    We need to be careful which themes we use. Remember, we are trusting someone else’s code. If they code it wrong or are sneaky, they could code in spying elements, which isn’t good. Luckily, I haven’t come across this just yet. (Same goes with Plugins).

    As for price, as long as it’s not much over $100, I’ll pay for it if it’s what I want. One of the worst things you can do if you’re trying to make money and start a business is try to think you can build everything on free. It’s a way of thinking I really wish people would start reconsidering.

  12. Sulumits Retsambew says:

    Support and future upgrades is one of my main concerns while making a decision. I also love easy to customize themes – these make me free from problems of finding someone to make desired changes.

  13. Nuwan says:

    One of a major advantages of a primimum theme is the support for changes and enhancements. We rarely get the support for the free themes.

  14. sjones says:

    Finding the right wordPress theme is not difficult if you are know what are after.
    Premium WordPress themes are good but can be costly. Personally I only use free wordpress themes on my web sites. I usually alter the theme slightly (mainly the color) to suit my needs by changing the css style sheet.

  15. Ahmed says:

    Free themes can look like premium with simple customization if used for personal blogs. Premium Themes are recommended with an advanced or professional use.

  16. heyetsizlik says:

    I will also consider the functionality supported by the theme and whether the theme get it right for the SEO. ;)

  17. Steven says:

    Personally I wouldn’t even consider a free theme for a WP site that I expect to make money from. The premium themes offer more than support which I agree is usually not even needed. The main reason is a professional design, followed by XHTML/CSS valid, cross-browser compatibility, and absolute attention to details (including SEO)… updates too. Most (not all) free theme designer don’t have a reason to be that intentional about their work. I’m not saying there aren’t exceptions, it just takes a lot of time to weed through free themes to find those exceptions.

  18. david says:

    I totally agree that price,quality and support are most important factors of themes and templates. In my own theme gallery those are most important factors to me, because i would like to provide only quality themes to people. Like every time i bought from Theme Forest i have needed support because of different bugs.

  19. Ben Troy says:

    I spent a good deal of this week switching four blogs over to various child themes within the Genesis framework. There is a good deal of tweaking to be done but I could not be more pleased with the results! It is an outstanding way to present a web site. I only wish I had done this sooner. In fact, I signed up fpr all the affiliate programs (Studio Press, Premise, & Scribe) Thanks!

  20. Devepo says:

    Finding the right wp theme is not an easy task. It may take a few hours or even days to review everything that is on the market. However, it’s important to review as many themes as possible to determine which of them suits your needs best. There’s a handy application at themeshaker.com/ for reviewing a large number of themes that I use.

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