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Blog Themes, Free Or Paid?

Posted by on Dec 4, 2014

On Monday I wrote about how I got hacked last year and what I had to go through to fix everything because it also ended up taking out some of my other websites for awhile. I also mentioned in that post that it was due to some free themes that I’d downloaded years earlier that I never used, but forgot to remove from my blog at the time.

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This brings us to the discussion about paid versus free themes. Often you’ll read where some blogging “professional” is telling people that a paid theme will help you make more money because it’ll work better with your keywords and thus Google will love you. They’ll also tell you that if you want to look like a professional you’re going to need to get a neat photo icon to pop on there to help your branding.

I agree with only one part of this; you want to have a blog that looks nice and professional. It turns out that you don’t have to go the paid route to get that, although you’re probably going to need some technical expertise or a couple of friends to help you out. I’m telling you this one from experience as someone running 5 blogs.

What makes a blog look professional? That’s kind of a tough question to answer because there’s no one way to look like you know what you’re doing. Instead, let’s go from the aspect of what makes you look like you don’t know what you’re doing.

First, colors. If people can’t read what you have to say then you’re just wasting time. Hey, my favorite color is red, but a bright red background, no matter the color of the print, is going to freak people out. The same would apply if I had red print against almost any color. This blog stands out because my print color is burgundy; how many other blogs have you seen using that color? But it fits well with the overall color of the blog if you ask me.

Second, your header. You want something that’s at least a little bit unique. In my case I use the banner that’s also at the top of my website. Some people use colors, some have images created that fit well up there. Going with the WordPress header is quick and convenient but truthfully, so many other people use it that you not only won’t stand out from the crowd, you also won’t look very professional. If you don’t care and just want to write then it’s fine. But if you hope to do business, you’ll want to change something up.

Third, your sidebars. There’s nothing wrong with pimping a product or two on your sidebars, but being too busy can be distracting for people who you hope are there to read your content and learn more about what it is you do or can do for them.

With all of these things, if you go the free route then you’re probably going to need some help, at least initially, to help you get it right. If you pay for your theme then your learning curve is much easier and you can get some expert help. Still, you’re paying for it whereas you might not have to pay a friend. Or you might if you want a nice fancy business logo.

What I want to mention in closing is that even paid themes can get hacked if you don’t keep up with software changes. WordPress is great because they’re always updating for security, but if you’re not updating your blog, the theme won’t matter. Decide whether you want to spend more money or more time getting your blog correct, and then go forth and write.
 

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14 Comments »

Joseph:

Hello Mitch,
There are a lot of stuff of site getting hacked as in the past when I was completely a newbie my site got hacked and the sad part was I had never taken any Backup. And the site was Gone forever.

Now Back to themes for my blogs I used to have free themes in the past but never happy with the design and hiring a Web designer was out of my budget.

This was the reason I chose paid theme now the best part is its been regularly updated as well I can do basic customization just by dropping a support ticket.

All the themes and plugins should be updated as soon as any update is available, Plus if any plugin is out dated we should remove it as well.

That was my 2 cent I thought to share why I prefer paid theme over free themes, over to you Mitch

December 5th, 2014 | 10:21 AM

Thanks for your contribution Joseph. Overall I think it comes down to preference more than anything else and your reason for going the paid theme route works pretty well.

December 5th, 2014 | 11:19 AM
william T:

Hi..you share really great experience as blogger and a newbie I have lot to learn…

Coming to blog themes as Joseph said paid works best but yes it’s always on ones preference what one needs and also budget is the top reason one may chose to get paid or free theme.

December 5th, 2014 | 5:15 PM

Well, you have to first have a blog, then pick a theme. I went to your site & didn’t see one there. Still, one always needs to be cautious.

December 6th, 2014 | 6:56 PM

Hey mitch. I use wordpress as my primary CMS as is is really great. It has tons of themes and plugins which make blogging much easier. I have been using Thesis framework on most of my sites and free themes on others. I like both. but yes it comes down to personal preference. I use thesis for customization and speed and free themes on blogs that are event based
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December 7th, 2014 | 12:35 AM

Greetings Aakash,

First, how come you use a woman’s avatar when you’re a male?

Second, I’ve heard from people on both sides of the Thesis thing as to how easy it is to use. Some find it easy like you, while others are frustrated by it. Frankly, I’ve never even looked at the paid type of theme; maybe one of these days.

December 7th, 2014 | 1:31 AM

You know me Mitch, I love my theme and I paid for it. It actually does make me money too. It’s paid for itself many times over in theme sales. Once people see what the theme can do they don’t mind paying for it.

That’s not why I bought it though. I wanted a theme that was easy to customise so I can make it look the way I want it to, The them I use does that and so much more. You talk about colours. I can select any colour I want for just about any part of the theme. You may have noticed how every post is a different colour. There’s not too many themes out there that will a allow you to do that.

I think another plus is that if you get the right theme, one that the developer continues to update, you don’t have to worry too much about someone hacking it.
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December 9th, 2014 | 10:35 PM

Pete, I know how to make every post a different color via this theme; I just know it would be a very bad idea. lol Still, it works well for you, but you’re also not the average bear. There’s lots of folks who have purchased paid themes, found them difficult to use and gone back to the regular WordPress theme. Some folks pay others to handle it for them, which can be costly.

Overall, I don’t think it matters one way or the other unless a blogger is ready for customization or true monetization. I’d like to see people get serious about the writing part first before spending lots of money that they’ll never recover.

December 10th, 2014 | 12:35 AM

Ah, but it can be recovered if they pick the right them and then promote it to their readers?

As to the colour, I’m talking about the background of the post and not just the text. I can also change the colour of the link. And all at the click of the mouse.

Also I know about purchasing the wrong theme. My first theme did not live up to the expectation although I still use it for my load ob bs blog. Can’t let good money go to waste now can we?
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December 10th, 2014 | 1:17 AM

That’s kind of what I’m talking about. I did it on a different blog once, where I recoded the entire post so everything had a different color within the post. It was an experiment that I left up for about a month, then went in and removed all the code to put it back to what people might expect.

And yes, if you’re promoting them it makes sense. It’s always easier to promote something you’re actually using.

December 10th, 2014 | 12:41 PM

Good point there Mitch, by the way, for you Mitch, in making a blogsite, which do you prefer, a paid one or a free one?
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January 15th, 2015 | 4:21 AM

No real preference. If you can code it doesn’t matter.

January 16th, 2015 | 4:51 PM
Arslan:

Hey Mitch! I totally agree with you. You made it correct by telling the newbies that we don’t need a paid theme in order to get premium looks. Yes we do need expertise in these stuff so even a free theme can work so well for any blog just by keep making it secured. Great sharing 🙂

June 10th, 2015 | 8:02 PM

Thanks Arslan. Definitely folks need to worry about security and find ways of protecting their blogs when using free themes.

June 11th, 2015 | 1:13 AM
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