WordPress is the most popular content management system out there. It started as simple blog software, but today it allows you to create almost any type of website. It is easy to use, so anybody can build a website. It has a huge community, so you can get help if any question comes up. Last, but not least, there are thousands of themes and plugins that you can add to change the look of your website or to add a function you need.

You will come across free and paid themes and plugins. You may wonder why both types exist, and which option is better. In this article, we will look at the pros and cons of each type.


Most people use free themes and plugins. There are various reasons why developers offer their products for free. For a start, having multiple products looks good on the developer’s portfolio. Free themes and plugins are usually offered on “as is” basis, so there may be backlinks to the developer’s website or some sort of branding for better brand exposure. Last, but not least, a product may be offered for free with the option to upgrade it to a paid version once you are familiar with its basic options.

We recommend that you use free themes and plugins only from the official WordPress repository. Any piece of software that is uploaded there undergoes a thorough review to make sure that it meets the WordPress community standards in terms of security and privacy. If you need a theme or a plugin from an external source, make sure it is a trusted company. Unfortunately, free themes and plugins distributed outside of the WordPress repository may be created with the intention to spread malicious code.

Here is an excerpt from the Plugin Guidelines on wordpress.org. If you are interested, check out the entire document here: https://developer.wordpress.org/plugins/wordpress-org/detailed-plugin-guidelines/


  • Free. For many people, this is one of the main reasons to choose a theme or a plugin. If you want to build a personal website or you simply want to try different themes or plugins to see which one will suit your needs best, it makes sense to go for the free option.
  • Simple and easy to use. Free themes and plugins are usually easy to set up and use as they are not meant to offer complex functions. They are often easy for developers to create as well.
  • Include most (or all) basic functions. Any free theme/plugin you add to your website will usually include all basic functions that you want. If you want to change the look of your site or need a simple caching plugin, for example, you don’t have to pay for additional advanced functions that you will never need.
  • Lots to choose from. The WordPress repository includes almost 60,000 plugins and more than 12,000 themes. While some of them are better than others, you have lots and lots of high-quality themes/plugins to choose from for your website.


  • Limited features. Free themes/plugins are indeed free, so developers don’t have an incentive to add advanced features, or they keep them for a paid version of their software. You will be able to use basic functions of the themes/plugins you have installed, but you will not have access to fine-tune them. Here is an example: a backup plugin may allow you to create a backup, but not restore it; or a theme may change the look of your website, but its advanced customization options to edit fonts, upload responsive logos, and add custom code may be hidden.
  • Limited support. Free software often comes with limited support. If you have any questions or encounter a problem, you may or may not receive support from the developer. If you use a popular theme/plugin, it will be more likely to receive support, but the response time may be longer compared to people who use a paid version of the software. An alternative is to look for the answer/solution on discussion boards.
  • Limited updates. Many themes and plugins are created as a one-time project, or they are maintained only for a short period. They may not receive feature/security updates, or even compatibility updates that will allow them to work with the latest version of WordPress. It is not uncommon for a website to stop working properly after a WordPress or a PHP version update simply because a theme or a plugin has not been updated accordingly by its developers.
  • Not unique. If you use a free theme, there is a chance that a number of websites will use it as well. The chance is even higher if you use an industry-specific theme. Since there are few customization options, you will not be able to change the look of your site much compared to other sites that use the same theme.
  • May have bugs. Developers do not spend much time creating and testing free themes and plugins. This is why there may be bugs, which may not get fixed, especially if the developers stop maintaining their software. Of course, this is not the case with popular themes/plugins or the ones that have a paid version as well – after all, why would someone pay to upgrade buggy software? Nonetheless, this is something you should keep in mind as free software usually comes on “as is” basis.

As a WordPress-oriented hosting provider, we offer a number of tools that will allow you to manage your website or test any free or paid theme/plugin with ease. Using our WordPress manager, you can create as many on-demand backups as you need in addition to the automatic backups that our system creates.

You can update the WordPress core files or add any theme/plugin you would like, and if anything does not work as planned, you can restore your website with a couple of clicks. Of course, you can create a staging site with a single click as well, so you can easily test or update any free or paid theme/plugin. Setting a staging website as live afterwards is just as easy.

There are two types of paid plugins and themes. The first one includes a free version with the option to upgrade. This can happen by entering a license code or by downloading and installing an extension that validates the status of the theme/plugin. Many of the themes and plugins that offer such an option are available in the WordPress repository, while upgrades are available within the theme/plugin or on the website of the developer.

The second type of premium themes/plugins is offered only as a paid version, without a free/trial option. Such themes and plugins are available only on the websites of their developers or on marketplaces such as WordPressIT or ThemeForest. You will not find paid software in the WordPress repository.


  • Support and updates. Paid themes/plugins are updated often. New functions are added, old ones are improved. If anything comes up with installing or using the theme/plugin, you can contact the developer to receive timely support. Depending on your request, you may even get help with customizing functions for your website. You will also receive regular updates, and premium themes/plugins are updated more often than free ones.
  • Access to advanced options. Apart from the price, one of the main differences between free and premium themes/plugins is that the latter give you access to many advanced options. These may be additional core functions or tools to fine-tune the theme/plugin basic options.
  • Customization. Premium themes and plugins usually allow you to customize them much more than free ones. They often include integrated options to change the look of certain elements, or even their behavior. You can also add custom code using the theme/plugin options without risking losing the changes when you update them. The alternative is to search for a specific file and edit its code manually, which can be a huge inconvenience.
  • Bundled with other software. While this is rarely the case if you purchase a plugin, premium themes are often bundled with multiple plugins that are required for the proper operation of all theme functions. These plugins are often premium ones as well, so purchasing a theme will often save you a lot of money that you will otherwise have to pay for the bundled plugins if you purchase them separately.
An example of a paid theme with a number of premium plugins bundled with it.


  • Too many options. Sometimes developers add lots of options to the themes/plugins they create to justify the price they ask for. Often there are options you will not need, including functions that are not even related to the primary purpose of the theme/plugin you have installed.
  • May not be that good. If a software product is paid, it doesn’t mean it is good. If you purchase a theme/plugin which you haven’t used before, there is a chance that you may not like it, or it may not have the options you need. In addition, premium themes/plugins do not go through the same review process as the free ones, so there is no guarantee that they meet the official WordPress coding standards.
  • More difficult to use. Premium themes/plugins may be more difficult to work with as they are sometimes intended to be used by more experienced users. Advanced features often require more in-depth knowledge of functions, terminology, or PHP code.

What about using nulled themes/plugins?

A nulled theme/plugin is a pirate copy of a paid theme/plugin that does not require any form of activation. You may be tempted to use one, especially for a personal website and in fact, many people do that. The only thing we can say about using nulled software is a huge NO. Saving a few dollars can cost you your entire website or worse. Nulled themes/plugins often contain malicious code added by the software pirates. You can never be sure if your website won’t be exploited to spread malware, to flood another website, or to be used as a backdoor for an unauthorized party to gain access to your hosting account and to do even more damage.

So, which option is better?

Whether you will use a free or a paid theme/plugin depends on the type of website that you would like to build. You should also consider things such as features, support, compatibility, and cost.

For a personal website that doesn’t need many functions at the front end or in the dashboard, you can go with the free option. There are thousands of themes and plugins you can choose from, so you can always find one that will suit your needs. They are also a good choice if you simply want to test something. You will have the basic set of functions for such a website.

If you want to build a company website or have an important project, it is worth paying for a theme/plugin. The additional customization options and the timely updates and support are worth every dollar you will spend. Many themes are bundled with premium plugins, so you can get even more out of your purchase.


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