When it comes to launching blogs and Websites, small businesses often go with Wordpress, and for great reasons: it's customizable, widely-used and - best of all - free. In addition to the core product, there are tons of free plugins and themes available that make building out the ultimate site a cinch.
Sure, we all love free stuff. But just because there are hundreds of free options within reach doesn't mean you shouldn't be willing to spend a few dollars.
As we wrote a few weeks ago, free Wordpress themes can come with security exploits. An analysis done by Siobhan Ambrose on the WPMU.org blog showed that most Google results for the query "free Wordpress themes" led to themes containing security exploits that enabled the inclusion of malicious code hidden in one or more of the themes PHP files. In other cases, themes can come with SEO spam baked right in, which can in turn hurt your own site's search rankings.
To be fair, most free Wordpress themes do not contain vulnerabilities of this sort. As Ambrose recommends, you can safely download legitimate, free themes from Wordpress.org, Smashing Magazine and Woo Themes, among others. But in general, premium themes are probably less likely to come with security issues than free ones. If problems do arise, many premium themes come with technical support to help troubleshoot them.
Let's face it: In many cases, when a site is sporting a free Wordpress theme, you can tell. A surprising number of business sites even go with the default theme or another very popular option. For personal blogs, this can be forgiven. For businesses, it can look unprofessional.
Even though there are quite a few free themes that look premium, on the whole, the ones that cost a few bucks are more professionally-designed. It's worth investing a little bit to help your site stand out in the cookie-cutter crowd.
We rounded up six especially attractive Wordpress themes for small businesses, but that's only a small sampling of what's available.
We can't overstate the importance of design when it comes to business sites, especially if your site is used to sell products or capture leads. When a crummy-looking site or bad user experience can mean the difference between a completed transaction and a disgruntled would-be customer, investing in a good design is worth it.
While It's Not Free, It's Also Not Expensive
Small businesses are justifiably a budget-concious lot. That's what makes open source products like Wordpress so appealing. Yet while premium Wordpress themes are not free, they're still pretty cheap. Consider it could cost thousands of dollars to get a professional design firm to give your site a facelift, paying $20 or $50 is a drop in the bucket.
A membership to the high-quality theme directory Elegant Themes only costs $39 per year. A subscription gives you access to over fifty premium themes, with new ones being released all the time. Other examples include WooThemes, Premium Wordpress and Theme Forest.
Customization and Documentation
Anyone who knows their way around HTML, CSS and basic PHP can customize pretty much any Wordpress theme, but many premium theme developers make it easier by providing detailed documentation and, in many cases, the original Photoshop PSD files for easy graphics manipulation.
Another perk of premium themes is that many of them offer more options for customizing your site's appearance from the Wordpress admin. For example, Elegant Themes come with their own settings area called ePanels, from which you can control graphics, color schemes, SEO settings, advertisting, the site's navigation and some aspects of its layout. Many of these things are typically only editable at the theme level, which obviously requires some coding ability.