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The Differences between HTML and WordPress

If you are responsible for developing a website for your business and you know very little about web design, then you may find that the various choices you have when it comes to building your website can be quite confusing. After all, how do you choose between a WordPress site and HTML when you don’t even know what those terms mean? If you are having a hard time sorting through the jargon and deciding which option is right for you, then you’ve come to the right place. Here to help is this rundown of the differences between HTML and WordPress:

Coding versus using a template

One of the most definitive differences between WordPress and HTML has to do with how you execute your site creation. HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is a programming code (or, language) that you use to design static web pages from scratch. For example, in an HTML document, you would see something like this, “

Hello. I am a web designer.

,” representing a single line of text with a header. If you don’t know what all of that means, then you would need to learn HTML to write the code. Otherwise, you could create HTML pages on a platform like Dreamweaver (in which case you should still know a thing or two about coding). WordPress, on the other hand, is a platform for building dynamic web pages (we’ll get to the difference between static and dynamic later), using a template-based format that allows you to easily create websites by adding content and dragging/dropping features you want on your pages.

Static versus dynamic

HTML pages are static, meaning they stand alone and stay the same unless you go in and manually change them. That means that if you want to change the look or feel of your entire website, you will have to open up the file for each page manually and make the necessary changes separately. WordPress pages are dynamic, meaning they are all stored in a single database and linked together in that way that allows you to make style changes with just a few simple clicks from a single user interface. (It is worth mentioning that you can also create static pages using WordPress if you so desire).

Closed source versus open source

HTML is closed source, meaning only you (or the person who wrote the code) can make changes to, or embellish, the code. This is fairly limiting unless you have a very skilled coder on hand. WordPress is an open-source platform, which means that anyone can develop additions (like plugins) that you can apply to your site to make it better-looking, more functional, and highly customized.

When it comes to building your brand, your website is one of your most powerful tools. Make sure you get the best of the best by contacting the experienced professionals at identityXperts to handle all of your web design needs. We can be reached by phone, at (239) 400-0622, or email:

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What Makes WordPress so Popular with the Pragmatic?

It is free

Being free is not a requirement, but it helps. WordPress, first released in May 2003 by Matt Mullenweg, it now being used by more than 300 million websites worldwide. That’s what I call growth. As a result, WordPress is my personal recommendation to anyone considering creating their blog or website.

It is functional

WordPress offers significant functionality right out of the box. It doesn’t matter if your site is a blog or a business site. It is a robust and efficient solution.

Easy to manage

I’ve always been a DIY type individual, and WordPress makes a website easy to manage by yourself.

Easy to learn

There are online communities where you can learn more about WordPress without having to figure it out on your own. Building a website is no more complex than learning to use a moderately complex application like Microsoft Word. Also, don’t underestimate the value of online tutorials. There are many.

Well supported

It’s also easy to find service providers who are experienced with WordPress when you need additional customization or personalization of your blog. Consider yours truly, the Pragmatic Web Designer. I just love to build websites: timely, practical and relevant.

Search engine friendly

Another very compelling reason to use WordPress is that search engines like and love WordPress and rapidly index posts and pages on a WordPress site.


You can find thousands of WordPress plugins which will enhance, and extend your blog or website. They are what make WordPress truly extendable. There are plugins for almost any purpose you can imagine. Plug-ins allow users to customize their website without having to pay a programmer or purchase expensive add-on products.

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The Ashford WordPress Framework is Designed for Heros

Initially the Ashford CMS Framework caught my attention as it is FREE. It is a “high-quality” parent theme with loads of features.  Ultimately, however, I bought the Pro version for $49, a real bargain.  Pro is the best choice for developers with nine must have features like: built-in mobile, mega menus, 250 page variations, 13 colors and 22 web fonts.  I also took advantage of a special bonus offer that includes 2 Pro themes: Axis and Aeon for free.

Professional web designers like me understand that visitors respond to creative, content that immediately communicates the right message. And the first impression is truly the only impression that matters. The above-the-fold, creative content is sometimes called a hero. It is a common feature, but most themes limit its use to the front page. Pro allows you to select from many types of heroes which can be added to any page.  Remarkable.

While Ashford builds awesome WordPress blogs, its advanced CMS features allow you to also build business web sites with built-in breadcrumbs, multi-level drop down menus and advanced pagination. These features keep your site lean and clean. You won’t need SEO, breadcrumb, pagination, social sharing icons, or Twitter plugins.  It’s all built in.  In fact, without modifying any HTML, CSS, JavaScript or PHP code; you can customize over 33 aspects of your site. For example, display your logo, change theme colors, add a Twitter icon to navigation, place a search box in navigation bar or add a category sub navigation menu.

Finally, as someone who uses the most popular social networks in my themes, Ashford includes the all-powerful TweetMeme button and Facebook Share for viral sharing.  I’m one happy designer.

Dr. John Elcik
The Pragmatic Web Designer

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Incredible Flexibility by WordPress Brings Us Specialty Themes

One of the best things about WordPress is its ability to easily adapt into any shape you like. Building an ecommerce site? WordPress will work. Directory site? WordPress can do it. Membership site? Absolutely. In addition to WordPress’ own incredible flexibility, there are a large number of premium themes that are specifically designed for these types of tasks. While you can – with a little knowledge – bend any WordPress installation to your will and create a variety of fully customized sites, it does take some skill. If you don’t have the time or inclination to learn about custom post types, custom fields, and the like, it’s just easier to buy a theme with these functions built in.

Optimize Press

Optimize Press is a specialty theme built to house a membership site. Toward that end, it has an incredible number of custom functions that make structuring a membership site fast and easy. You can set up a sales page, build a beautiful log-in form, add modules and lessons, and be up and running in less than a day.

Of course, Optimize Press – like any premium theme – comes with its own learning curve.

A membership site has three needs: a squeeze page for collecting names and email addresses, a sales page for enticing paying customers, and a membership area where customers can retrieve their lessons. Optimize Press covers all three of these areas separately. You can use different headers on the sales page and opt-in pages, different navigation bars for the members’ pages, and even different backgrounds, fonts, and colors for each.

Optimize Press is not a membership script, but it is designed to work with the most popular solutions, like Digital Access Pass, Wishlist, S2member, and Nanacast. Optimize Press also integrates easily with email managers like Aweber through its squeeze pages. The built-in video module allows you to add a video player using YouTube, Vimeo, or a number of other video solutions.

Creating a members’ area is as simple as adding module and lesson pages. When your users log in, they’ll see a sidebar on the left that includes every module and lesson in your site, making it easy to navigate from one section to another. Unfortunately, this helpful feature is lacking in one area: customization. You have no control over which pages are listed in this sidebar, since Optimize Press is generating it automatically. To prevent pages from appearing here, you’ll need to add a plugin such as “Exclude Pages.”

Another disappointment with Optimize Press is the page-focused nature. Optimize press is designed to be used with pages, not posts, so if you’re looking for a blog, you’d do better to choose another theme.

Premium Press

Premium Press has perhaps the best selection of themes available for specialty sites. Using their themes, you can easily create an online business directory, an ecommerce site, a coupon site, or even an online auction site.

Like many of the other premium theme sites, Premium Press provides fantastic customer support via their forums, where you’ll find the answers to most of your questions. If you get stuck, they also have a very responsive ticket system. Each theme comes with a getting started guide including videos to help you navigate the interface.

Some, like Directory Press and Auction Press, are designed to help you earn money by selling listings on your site.

The themes come with several shopping cart solutions already integrated, so you don’t have to worry about setting up your cart. Some of the supported payment gateways include PayPal,, 2Checkout, and Google Checkout. If you already have an account with any of those providers, setting up your payment processing is as easy as entering a couple of API keys.

Other themes in the Premium Press lineup include Employee Press for building a job board, Classifieds Theme to build a niche ad site, Shopping Cart Theme to sell digital or physical goods, and Real Estate Theme for home listings.

Each theme is customized specifically for the market, so you’ll have trouble if you try to take an established site and update it to a Premium Press theme, but if you’re starting a site from scratch, you can save a lot of time and energy – not to mention frustration – by opting for a Premium Press theme right from the beginning.

One thing that’s lacking in the Premium Press themes is integration with email management systems like Aweber or Constant Contact. Instead, all email is handled via WordPress, which, if you have a busy site, could cause your deliverability to suffer.

iThemes Builder

iThemes Builder is the latest generation of premium themes, and offers some impressive features to support both developers as well as site owners with little knowledge of or desire to learn the finer points of php and html. Developed by the makers of BackupBuddy, this theme framework has a solid team behind it, and comes with a good support system.

Unlike the other premium themes we’ve looked at, iThemes Builder has two distinct options: pre-built child themes you can tweak, and a completely blank slate you can customize as you like. While that might sound a lot like Studiopress, there is a major difference. iThemes Builder comes with a visual drag-and-drop interface where you can add “modules” such as widgets, sidebars, and header sections.

Themes are created using two tools: the layout engine and the style manager. With the layout engine, you’ll be able to easily move your sidebar, add a footer, or change the size of your header. As you add each component, the final layout will appear on the right side of the screen, so you can know immediately if you’ll like it. Once the layout is complete, switch to the style manager to customize colors, fonts, graphics, and more.

All the heavy lifting is done behind the scenes, and all you need to do is point and click. You can create a simple blog with a single page structure, or a complicated ecommerce site with many page styles and customizations. All without ever so much as looking at the code.

If you find all the choices overwhelming – and you might – then you have the option of starting with a child theme template and customizing only the pieces you want. You’re free to change just the colors, fonts, and header if you like, or you can use the child theme as a starter to make an entirely different looking site.

Unlike other premium themes, iThemes Builder is licensed on a yearly basis, which means if you want to continue using it, you’ll need to purchase it every year. Of course the themes you build with it will continue to work even if you don’t renew your license, but you won’t be able to build any new themes (or make changes to existing ones). This last point is a sticky one for the pragmatic designer.

iThemes Builder does not work with other themes. You can NOT use it to customize Studiopress themes, for example, or change the layout of a free theme. But if you’re looking to build a totally unique theme, or need to easily create a site with custom page templates, iThemes Builder might be a good solution for you.

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Premium Theme Options for the Pragmatic

Aside from the two big players already talked about, there are other places to purchase quality themes. Two of our favorites are Theme Forest and Woo Themes.

Theme Forest

Theme Forest is a kind of marketplace where developers can list their themes for sale. They pay Theme Forest a commission between 30% and 50%, depending on exclusivity and volume of sales.

WordPress themes begin at about $20, but the typical price is $35. Because Theme Forest is simply a marketplace, there is no guarantee that the themes you find there will be of a certain quality, so you need to do your due diligence. Theme Forest does not offer support for the themes they sell – for that you need to go to the developer itself – although they are good about refunds should you run into a problem.


WooThemes is another premium theme vendor. Unlike Theme Forest, WooThemes develops their own themes, so the quality is consistent. They also offer a little different pricing structure. All themes are $70 each, and with that, you have license to use that theme on as many sites as you like. Or for $150 you also receive the layered PSD files for easy customization.

If you have a lot of sites, though, or are a WordPress developer, the best option is to sign up for their Theme Club Subscription. The signup fee is either $125 or $200 (depending on if you opt for a developer membership or not), plus $20 – $25 each month. This gets you instant access to all 100+ themes WooThemes currently offers, plus 2 new themes each month.

In addition, if you choose the developer option, you’ll also receive the complete PSD files for every theme you download, making it a simple thing to completely update the theme and make it fit the style of your blog or website.

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Frameworks Make the Best Premium WordPress Themes

WordPress is known to be one of the best platforms for websites and blogs. There are several possible ways how to create a WordPress-powered website: you can take an HTML template and then add code to it or take a basic WordPress code and start designing around it. But you can also take a framework to create a theme and this is considered to be one of the most efficient ways. Frameworks are produced to ease and speed up the process of designing and coding your personal theme. Below you can see two of the most efficient WordPress frameworks for the Pragmatic Web Designer: Genesis (StudioPress) and Thesis.

Genesis (StudioPress)

Genesis is a very plain theme by itself. It contains all the functions and pages necessary, but initially there is very little customization in terms of colors, fonts, and header. Think of it like a blank canvas on which you can begin to paint.

In WordPress, we recommend you do your “painting” with a child theme. And Studiopress offers a wide variety of child themes to work with. Lifestyle, Copyblogger, News, and Executive are some of the most widely known, but there are lots of options to choose from in nearly any style.

The advantages of using the Genesis framework include price, support, and availability of information. Plus, their licensing structure is very fair.  For example you won’t have to spend more money for every site you build – a distinctive advantage for designers on a budget.

The Studiopress forums are very active; you should be able to get all your questions answered quickly just by visiting the appropriate forum. You’ll also find many Genesis developers online, so if you run into a problem that’s not addressed in the forum, a Google search will probably turn up the solution. This is just one bonus of working with a popular theme framework.

Another bonus of working with Studiopress themes is that they have a variety of plugins available to make customizing your site easier. You’ll find custom sliders, social media plugins, and more.  Just do a search for Genesis in the WordPress plugins repository.

The one disadvantage of Studiopress themes is that finding and downloading them  can be awkward. You have to log into the forums and visit the “Child Themes Download” board to find the files.

Licensing for Studiopress themes is pretty straightforward. You must purchase a license for the Genesis framework. This theme must be installed on any site using a Studiopress theme. You must also purchase the child theme you wish to use. For example, if you want to build a site using a typical theme Genesis theme, you pay $79.95, which includes Genesis and your theme. If you already own Genesis, you pay only $24.95 for your theme.

Once you purchase a theme, you are free to use it on as many sites as you like, whether they are your sites or those you’re building for clients. The only stipulation is that you cannot pass on support to clients or those who buy your site. In other words, if they want access to the support forums, they’ll need to purchase their own license.


When Thesis arrived on the WordPress scene, it was one of the only premium themes available. DIY Themes, the developers of Thesis, marketed it on the grounds that it would make creating fabulous WordPress sites easy. And this is largely true due to a built-in dashboard that allows you to make a great deal of changes without ever looking at code. You can change fonts, colors, layout, sidebar width, and a number of other things just by checking boxes and choosing new colors. It also provides a place to add custom code for tracking purposes, so you don’t have to go digging around in your header.php file.

The problem is, even if you do all that, it still looks like an out-of-the-box Thesis installation. If you want to do any real magic, you need to have a much better understanding of WordPress than does the average user.

For example, simply removing the Thesis attribution in the footer requires you to add a snippet of php code to the custom functions.php file. This code is easy to find online, but for a beginner, it can be pretty intimidating to alter that file, especially with the dire warning they give you about what can happen if you mess it up. And virtually every significant change you want to make with Thesis will require you to do some kind of editing of this file.

Like Genesis, Thesis has a large community of users. Their support forums are extremely helpful, with many talented developers freely offering help on their own time. You’ll also find thousands of Thesis tutorials online. If you’re comfortable with php and css, and willing to tackle a bit of a learning curve, you can learn to turn a standard Thesis site into something truly unique. Check out their showcase of “Killer Customizations” for proof.

The Thesis team claims that its code and structure is such that it offers superior SEO and “lightning fast load times.” It’s true that Thesis comes with built-in SEO options, so there is no need for a third-party plugin like All in One SEO or Platinum SEO. As is, Thesis is a pretty simple framework that probably does load faster than most themes, but once you’ve done with remodeling, you might find that claim is no longer valid.

Thesis’ licensing structure is different from Studiopress, and has been the source of controversy between Chris Pearson (creator of Thesis) and Matt Mullenweg of WordPress. Basically, you can purchase a license for one single site for $87 or for unlimited sites that you own for $164. If you want to use Thesis on client sites, there is an additional $40 charge per site. If your client wants access to the Thesis support system, they will need to purchase a full license.

For developers, Thesis is a good choice. It’s well supported, well documented, and can be designed to match absolutely any style you like. For the average WordPress user, though, Thesis is a bit intimidating, and you will most likely end up with a site that looks just like every other Thesis installation. Ouch!

Dr. John Elcik
The Pragmatic Web Designer

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Some Premium WordPress Themes Bring to the Table Their Uniqueness

Pragmatic offers website design, graphic design, website hosting and search engine optimization

Anyone who uses WordPress for internet publishing eventually dives in to change the code around a little bit on their theme. Maybe you wanted to change font color or size, or maybe you wanted to remove a footer. Maybe you’ve gone so far as to change the width of your content and sidebar. With a free theme, those are fairly simple changes that you can do in the core files.

However, when you start using premium themes it can get a little sticky – but there is a reason for that.

One of the major benefits of a free theme is that it gets updated fairly often. You don’t need to worry about incompatibility with a new version of WordPress, because a good theme developer will make corresponding updates as needed to keep everything working.

But now, if you’ve made changes in the code, they’ll be overwritten when you update to the newest version of your theme, and all your style tweaks and custom functions will disappear.

If you’ve got a high quality theme, this won’t be a problem, because you should never have to do any editing to the core files. Depending on the theme, you will either create a child theme, or simply use a few custom files that don’t get overwritten when you update to a new version.

What most theme developers are doing now is working with child themes, as they are the simplest solution to adding uniqueness. They work by letting the theme’s core files run most of the layout and function, and adding custom files if necessary. For instance, let’s say you like the way that the WordPress Theme “Twenty-Eleven” looks, but it only has one sidebar and you want two. You would simply build a child theme that has a second sidebar without recreating all the theme files. Just include the files you need to do what you want; then call over the rest of the files you need from Twenty-Eleven. If the theme gets updated to a new version, it’s not a problem for you, because your customizations are saved in the child theme and won’t be lost.

This is something you can do with any theme, obviously, but it’s more pressing with the premium themes because they do get updated so often. What’s more, most premium themes are difficult to edit because of the way that they’re coded. Because they’re so much more versatile, with custom functions built into the files, the coding can be quite complex. It’s much better to use a child theme than to have to puzzle out the code in a dozen php files when all you want to do is widen a sidebar!

Another major advantage that you get with premium themes as compared to free themes is developer support. Most of the premium themes have forums, and some have very active communities that are great places to get help when you’re having any sort of issue with your theme. You’ll also find that the developer sites usually have a help desk, where you can get your questions answered fairly quickly. When you’re having a problem getting your site up and running, that’s an advantage that just can’t be denied.

You can see that there are a lot of reasons to choose a premium theme over a free one, and a lot of designers and developers to choose from if you do decide to go premium. While there are some potential downsides – like the cost – the benefits of using a premium theme tend to outweigh them. Better (and built in) SEO functionality, the ability to quickly build and deploy specialty sites, and great support systems are just a few reasons you might choose a premium theme for your next website. But my favorite is the possibility to bring their “uniqueness” to my customers.

Dr. John Elcik
The Pragmatic Web Designer

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The Hidden Costs of Using a Free WordPress Theme

Pragmatic offers website design, graphic design, website hosting and search engine optimization

WordPress is one of the most popular platforms available for web publishing and blogging. And it’s no surprise; it’s easy to learn. You can change the style and appearance of your site in no time at all, simply by choosing a new theme – and your content and images will fit right in where they belong.

The hard part of course, is choosing the right theme; there are so many available it makes picking one difficult. lists thousands of free themes, and you can find many more by searching with Google. And if you’re willing to spend a little money, you can find thousands more premium themes available.

Premium themes are generally higher quality than the majority of free themes; what’s more, they tend to have support that isn’t available with free ones. With a free theme, you pretty much get what you pay for, and if you have a problem you’re on your own. But premium themes often have forums and developer sites where you can get help and updates.

All the same, it can be hard to convince yourself that shelling out as much as $100 for a premium theme is worth it when there are so many well designed free ones out there. It doesn’t take much CSS knowledge to personalize a theme, either.

But what many don’t know is that free themes do come with a cost – you may not pay with dollars, but you will be giving up backlinks.

Any website developer or internet marketer knows just how important backlinks are. If you want people to find your site in the search engines, you need to work hard to build links to it through a variety of means, like social media, article marketing and guest blogging. With no backlinks, your site may as well be invisible.

And if you take a look at your “free” WordPress theme, you will probably see some links down in the footer. Many web designers use this as a way to increase interest in their portfolio as well and bring traffic to their own site. That seems pretty fair, really; they provide you with a free theme, and all you have to do is leave that link there to let people know they did it for you.

But of course, this is the internet, where you can always count on someone to take advantage of a good thing. And it wasn’t long before less scrupulous site owners started offering free themes with footer links – except these links go to sites that offer porn, gambling and other less savory sites.

Now, if you think the theme is awesome, you might think it’s still worth the tradeoff. But having those links can actually create problems for your site. You see, the search engines pay attention to the places you send links to; they may actually be hurting your position in the search engine rankings. In fact, linking to these kinds of sites may even get your site de-indexed. No free theme is worth that price!
Most free themes will have a license that requires you to leave the footer in place, but you may decide to try and remove it anyway. Good luck; the designers are already on to that trick, and encrypt the files, making them hard to find to remove. And if you do, they can break the theme.

There’s another price you may be paying for your free theme. While it may look pretty and run well now, what happens with the next WordPress update? If you’ve been using WP for long at all, you know how often they update, often with security features to keep you safe from hackers. Premium themes get updated to stay up to date with WordPress, but free themes rarely – if ever – get updated. You may be one update away from having the theme fail on you.

Another issue is plug-ins. Having a plug-in conflict with your theme is frustrating, and it’s even worse with a free theme when you’ve got no support desk to help you out. No one should expect a developer to offer much support for a theme he’s not being paid for; so unless you are ready to trouble shoot code and fix problems yourself, you’re probably better off purchasing a premium theme.

Dr. John Elcik
The Pragmatic Web Designer

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Alternatives to Premium Themes

Pragmatic offers website design, graphic design, website hosting and search engine optimization
If you’re still not convinced that a premium theme is right for you, there are a couple of other options worth checking out. All are free and offer a good support system, important no matter which theme you ultimately choose.


The first is a free theme called Atahualpa. Off the shelf, Atahualpa isn’t much to look at. It’s a simple three column theme with a header and some not very appealing colors and styles. But once you log into your dashboard, you’ll see the power that Atahualpa has.

Within this theme you’ll find an extensive customization panel that allows you to easily change everything from your header to the way lists are displayed. Choose a single column theme or add up to five sidebars.

The makers of Atahualpa, Bytes for All, maintain a popular forum just for users of their theme, so you can easily find answers to your questions. In addition, there are a lot of users of Atahualpa on the Internet, so a Google search will find a lot of answers as well. There is also at least one paid guide (independently published) created just for users of this versatile theme.

Twenty-Ten and Twenty-Eleven

If you’re going to go with a free theme, you really can’t do better than the themes that come bundled with WordPress. Unlike the bundled themes from a few years ago, Twenty-Ten and Twenty-Eleven are modern and elegant looking right from the start. Great layouts (including your choice of left or right sidebar), pleasing typography, and minimal styling all combine to make not only a nice looking theme, but also something that’s easy to tweak to your own liking.

Before you begin customizing either of these themes, it’s critical that you set up a child theme. Since these come bundled with WordPress, they will be overwritten every time you upgrade your site, so if you make changes to the theme files themselves, you’ll lose your customizations.

Luckily, there are a lot of tutorials out there to help you learn exactly how you can create a child theme using either Twenty-Ten or Twenty-Eleven. You can also check out the WordPress forums for tips and tricks to working with these two themes.

But the best reason to choose them is because you will never have to wonder if your theme will break next time you upgrade, or if it won’t be compatible with a plugin, or if it will simply stop being supported in the near future.

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Premium WordPress Themes

Pragmatic offers website design, graphic design, website hosting and search engine optimization

One of the reasons WordPress is so popular for web publishing is because using it means it’s incredibly easy to change the look and functionality of your site. Time for a makeover? Just upload a new theme, activate it, and voila! You have a whole new site with all your content and pictures right where you left them.

Changing the look of your site might be as easy as clicking a button, but choosing the right theme is not so simple. There are many thousands of free themes available on, and many hundreds more are revealed with a simple Google search. And those are just the free themes. Paid – or premium – themes open up a whole new world of possibilities.

With premium themes, not only do you – usually – get a higher-quality, better written theme, but they also come with support you won’t find in the free versions. User forums, help desks, and extensive documentation are all a part of the premium theme landscape, where with free themes, you’re most likely on your own if you run into a problem.

The Real Price You Pay for a Free Theme

With all the free themes available, it might be hard to imagine a situation in which you’d be willing to spend $25 or $50 or even $100 on a so-called premium theme. Certainly there are some beautifully designed free themes available, and with a little knowledge of CSS, even a beginner can tweak a theme to make it unique.

But free themes aren’t really free. They all have a price tag; it just isn’t expressed in dollars and cents. Instead, the price of a free theme is in backlinks.

Every website owner knows about the importance of backlinks. You depend on other sites linking to you to help raise you up in the SERPs, bring in more traffic, and make more sales. You work hard to build your backlinks through guest blogging, social media, article marketing, and a hundred other tasks you perform every day. Without those backlinks, your site would sink to the bottom of page 12 in the search results – or worse.

That’s why, when you see WordPress themes offered for free, they almost always contain links in the footer that you are required – according to the license – to keep. Web designers looking to build their portfolio and drive traffic to their site might build a theme and offer it for free, provided you keep the link back to their site intact. That’s a pretty reasonable price to pay if the theme fits with your site.

But designers aren’t the only ones out there offering free themes. It didn’t take long for some ethically questionable site owners to catch on to this new way of building backlinks. Now it’s not uncommon for free WordPress themes to come with links to gambling, porn, or even prescription drug sites embedded in the footer.

If you really like a theme, you might be tempted to ignore those tiny links, but doing so might put your site at risk. Increasingly, search engines are taking note of which sites you link to, and by allowing links to these “bad neighborhoods” you could be hurting your own search rankings – even to the point of being delisted by Google and others. That’s a pretty hefty price to pay for a free theme.

Typically, the license that comes with the theme will require you to keep footer links intact, but even so, you might be tempted to simply remove them. Theme designers know this, and to combat it, have begun encrypting their files, making it impossible for you to remove links you don’t like without breaking your theme.

Beyond unwanted links, there is another price to be paid for free themes: poor design and support. While many free themes are created by good developers and designers, many are not. While it might not seem like a big deal as long as the theme works well and looks good, it can turn into a nightmare very quickly.

WordPress is constantly changing. Every two to three months a new version is released. Sometimes the changes are minor, sometimes they are major, but they almost always include security updates that are a must-have if you want to keep your site from becoming a target to hackers. Unfortunately, many free themes are never updated, meaning they may or may not continue to work once you upgrade WordPress.

Even worse, you might run into a plugin conflict with your free theme, and have nowhere to turn for help. It’s understandable that a developer who releases a theme at no charge won’t be able to provide much support, but unless you’re prepared to take on that task yourself, you might be better off sticking with the premium themes that do offer support, and that do get upgraded in response to changes from WordPress.