As you may know, there is only one key component when having a WordPress website, and that is a theme. The only way WordPress will display to the user is if there is an activated theme. With so many different ways to rock a WordPress theme these days, the choices can be overwhelming. In this article I am going to break down the difference in free, premium, customized, child and custom WordPress themes.
Free WordPress Theme
The free WordPress theme is a staple of any WordPress site. When you first install WordPress you will notice you already have a free theme activated in your dashboard brought to you by the kind folks at WordPress. In the dashboard you are able to search for free themes based on color, columns, width, features, and subject. You can play around and activate some themes that you install here. Another way to look for free themes is to browse the WordPress free themes directory. You also can search in Google and download the zipped version of your free theme and upload it in the dashboard, or unzip and upload it via ftp. Free themes definitely serve a purpose, and will never go away. Just make sure the theme author is keeping the theme up to date as WordPress updates or you could have troubles down the road. This is especially true if you download a theme off of the internet. Also it is always a toss up if other plugins will work 100% due to the author’s creation of the theme.
Premium WordPress Theme
Premium WordPress themes are the next step past free themes. Premium themes are themes that cost money, but you get what you pay for. Premium themes normally mean premium features, and have a lot more theme options. This means there is a user interface featured options panel where you are able to control things like a slider ( rotating images), logo, typography, colors, and the list goes on. A lot of premium themes come with page templates as well where you have different layouts for different pages. Another neat thing about premium themes is sometimes they are specific to a certain genre like photography which would have fancy gallery capabilities, or news themes which would have excellent layouts for blogging. Some of my favorite premium themes are Woo Themes, Genesis , and ThemeForest just to name a few. The main thing I love about premium themes is their support and the fact that they maintain the framework so you know your site will update seamlessly as WordPress updates.
Customized WordPress Theme
A customized theme is when we take an existing theme and make edits to the colors, fonts, images, and we also create custom graphics/icons and replace the existing ones in the theme. Customized themes are a great way for someone who can either make edits to the .css and .php themselves or hire a designer/developer to do it for them without spending a lot of money. I actually offer this as a service, and I think it’s a great place to start for a client on a budget. We can make a theme look dramatically different just within a few hours. Because of the custom.css folder we are able to edit the site without disturbing the core files of the theme. That way when you make updates, your site stays intact. I have quite a few examples of customized themes on our site and they are premium themes that have been customized.
Child WordPress Theme
WordPress.org codex explains child themes like this, “A child theme is a theme that inherits the functionality of another theme, called the parent theme, and allows you to modify, or add to, the functionality of that parent theme”. It sounds a little confusing I know, but essentially how we do it is we take an existing premium theme, create custom photoshop designs, slice those up and create a child theme. All of our “design work” sits in a separate folder so the core of the main theme stays intact, but we made it look completely different.
We took the Simplicity theme from Woo Themes seen here:
And turned it into a Child Theme
You can see how it has the same general layout of the logo, navigation, slider, featured sections, and footer, but we redesigned it and gave it a completely different look. To put it simply – Child themes rule. Cutting development time in half by not having to reinvent the wheel of making a completely new theme we are able to give our clients a completely custom site but for a lesser cost. It is a win win for both parties. This is our most popular service by far. The other benefit of the child themes is you still get a totally custom design all while having the same options and features as premium themes because it is exactly that – a premium theme when looking at it in the dashboard. Here are our examples of Child themes.
Custom WordPress Themes
Custom WordPress themes, just like free, will always be a part of WordPress. When a clients design doesn’t fall within a realm of premium themes framework, we create custom themes. Custom themes follow a custom design. We create the designs in photoshop slice theme up and create a custom theme. Developers now have libraries when they can more quickly create a custom theme, but still the process does take a little longer, and with that the cost increases. Custom themes almost always look amazing. I say almost because sometimes when moving from the design to development phase some developers struggle and create a semi functioning theme. A wonderful design doesn’t make a wonderful site if the development is less than great. Just make sure when hunting for a design/developer that you make sure the themes they have developed function as they should.
What kind of themes are you using on your website? Please leave a comment below!