When you goolge for “WordPress Themes”, “Premium WordPress Themes” or even “Free Premium WordPress Themes” you will get a huge result list with hundreds of websites. Because WordPress is such a popular plattform with a huge community there are so many people providing Themes and plugins for free or even paid. There are also some sites that provide premium themes you normally have to pay for for free…but beware of the shadows.
Worst Case: Malicious Code can Kill your Site
Most people are unaware of the dangers in using sites that provide pirated software (a theme or a plugin is also a piece of software). An example from Intego, an internet security firm, reported alerts about Trojan horses in pirated copies of both Apple iWork-09 (Jan 22, 2009) and Adobe Photoshop CS4 (Jan 26, 2009). Trojans and other viruses can seriously damage your system. But we don´t talk about iWork and Photoshop, we are talking about WordPress themes. Who would infect a theme with a virus? To be honest: I don´t know but it´s the cruel truth that such things do happen. Your home PC might be secured by an anti-virus software (which is never 100% save) but what about your webspace?
If it is too good to be true, it probably isn’t…
I have seen WordPress sites crashing because there was malicious code in a footer or header file. It was encrypted and an unexperienced user would never recognize it as malicious code. Sometimes it “just” displays “buy Viagra” Links all over your site and sometimes it saves lots of data to your server and exceeds your quota. Your site will go down.
Missing Functions and no Support
These examples are really the worst case and although they happen they don´t happen too often. What is much more annoying and may be more expensive at the end is missing functions and support. Imagine BranfordMagazine. This theme used to be available as a free theme for some years. But when I developed it further and it became more and more professional and popular it simply was not possible anymore to provide a theme and an outstanding support…all for free.
Well I could have continue providing the theme for free and stopp providing support but I feel that´s bad practice and I like to support people with the advanced functions and features of my themes. I´m always proud when someone was able to launch a great looking website based on my themes and I´m happy when my customers are happy. In order to keep the good support (or even make it better) and contiue development I decided to charge money for my themes.
Also very important is continuous development. The web is no static place. It´s moving all the time. Recently WordPress 3.0 was released and it comes up with a whole bunch of fantastic new features. If the development wouldn´t continue, my themes were still usable with the new WordPress version but they wouldn´t make use of the new features.
You still might find places where you can Download copies of my themes, especially BranfordMagazine, for free. But be aware that these are older versions that are missing great functionalities and are not supported by me.
Support the Authors because they support You
Theme and plugin authors – no matter if paid or free – contribute their piece of the cake to the WordPress community and that´s an important piece. Authors of premium (paid) themes and plugins usually put more effort into the design and development of their product. And they usually provide a much better support via email, comments or support forums.
Free themes are absolutely OK and there are many good ones out there. But if you find a premium theme for free that is usally a paid theme, you should be on your guard.
If you are a private blogger you might use a free theme and customize it by yourself because your requirements are not so high and you like to customize it on your own because you have time to do it. But if your requirements begin to grow – maybe because you are running a business – you may ask for seomething that stands out of the crowd and is well supported because you can´t wait for weeks until a problem is solved. If you then have downloaded a “premium” theme from a source that was not the original author because you wanted to save a few Euros or Dollars (or Shekel or Yen…) you might find yourself in a situation that can become much more expensive because you need to hire someone to help you.
I think it´s just fine to pay a fair ammount to get a great product and support. So you always should make sure you get a premium product form the original source to avoid issues. When you decide for a free theme or plugin you should always pick them up at the WordPress theme directory or plugin repository. Always think twice before downloading software, themes or plugins from a source that is not the author or WordPress.org and always remember:
If it is too good to be true, it probably isn’t…