For my presentation on WP Themes at the Santa Cruz WordPress MeetUp, Wednesday October 22, 2014


Free vs. Premium vs. Custom:

  • Advantages of free themes:
    • FREE!
    • Many more plugins since they’re so widely used
    • Community Support
    • No-cost experimentation
  • Disadvantages of free themes:
    • Not unique
    • Some are poorly coded (check download/update/usage stats)
    • Lack of features
    • Lack of support
  • Advantages of premium themes:
    • More features, attention to detail
      • Tough competition means theme developers are working hard to make theirs the best…
      • Custom CSS option means no need to hassle with child theme!
    • Better support
    • More reliable
    • More unique
  • Disadvantages of premium themes:
    • $ – $$$
    • Since not part of repository, therefore not “vetted” by them, you’re less sure of quality, issues, etc.
    • Downside of feature-rich is too feature-rich: may be overloaded with lots you’ll never use.
    • May not update automatically (either in WP dashboard or WP Remote plugin).
  • Advantages of custom themes:
    • Unique
    • Exactly what you want
  • Disadvantages of custom themes:
    • $$$ – $$$$$ — typically quite expensive
    • Not likely to be updated without additional expense… repeatedly…
    • May not be as full-featured as either free or premium themes used by many…

What to look for in a theme:

  • Responsive!
  • Recently updated
  • No malicious code (see end of article above for a few tools to check for malcode)

 Where to find themes—and where not to:

  • Free: themes (which are what come up from within WP dashboard) – these have all been “vetted” by WP team, so not likely to have malcode or other major issues.
  • Premium:
  • Do not go searching the web and installing themes from just anywhere! Because WP is the #1 CMS, with tens of millions of WP-built websites around the globe, it is also a top target for malware… Make sure your themes are from reputable sources!

Child themes:

  • WP gives you full access to style.css and all the files that make up a WP site, including theme files. You can customize a site by editing those files directly—but the problem with that approach is those edits are likely to be lost when you update WP or your theme!
  • A child theme allows you to customize an established theme (free or premium) by adding a unique style.css… You can also add custom footers, headers, etc… as much as you want. Since they are your own unique child theme, they will not be overwritten when you update the “parent” theme or WP.

P.S. I just have to share: WP Remote plugin & service:

  • Free plugin available via WP dashboard or at
  • An invaluable tool if you are managing multiple WP sites. Here’s how it works:
    • Create an account at Get an API key.
    • Install plugin on all your WP sites. Activate it and enter your API key.
    • Now you can login at and update WP, plugins and themes on all your sites from one “dashboard”! Awesome!
  • They also offer premium services, including back-up (that can back-up multiple sites all at once, similar to the updates)… I have not bothered to spend the $ to use their premium services.

What else? Q & A & Discussion

Thank you!

And here are some additional articles about WP Themes:

Free v. Premium:

 Theme lists: