If you're shopping around for a WordPress theme, it's easy enough to find many of the popular ones available for free – but there's a dark side to these "free" themes.
It's technically legal for third parties who didn't create a theme to sell it themselves, if it's done within the terms of the GPL license, but it's still unethical to sell someone else's work as if it's your own creation. It's also very risky, because the things hidden within these themes can also cost you the trust of your visitors, and possibly your entire site.
With that in mind, here's some of the value you miss out on when you don't buy your wordpress themes from the people who created them (or from authorized third parties like studiopress.com) – and some of the ways you're putting all of the value you're creating through your work at risk, too.
Btw, we're previewing our newest theme, Cook'd Pro, in the images you see in this post. Make sure you're signed up for our emails, because you're going to want to know the minute this one is released!
Remember the giveaway where I upgraded everyone on the original Foodie theme to Foodie Pro for free, at a cost of over $100,000 to me? Totally crazy, but it happened – and if you're not on the email list for people who are buyers of my themes, you'll never hear about it when I do crazy things like that. Bummer, right?
Have a question or need to report a bug? If you want support for a theme you're using, you'll need an authentic receipt for an authorized seller. The people who buy themes from us are our customers, and we have to focus on supporting them first, and invest the rest of our time into improving our themes and creating new ones.
(Not to mention, many of the theme updates we release fix issues with the old versions that are available for "free," so there's no reason to support these older versions at all when fixes are already available!)
No Theme Updates!
If you don't buy your theme directly from us, not only will you not be able to get support when something breaks – you also won't be notified when we proactively fix bugs we find in our themes. And when a new version of your minimalist theme containing all of the latest fixes and updates is released, you won't have access to it so you can install it on your own website.
You'll be stuck with the version you have, which means you'll either risk breaking your theme when you update WordPress, or you'll have to avoid updating WordPress to avoid that risk. That's a pretty sticky situation to put yourself in.
You're Putting Your Site, And Your Visitors, At Risk!
When a new version of WordPress comes out, we always update our themes to guarantee they're compatible with it. While you could just avoid updating WordPress to guarantee your grey-market version of a theme keeps working fine, not installing WordPress updates is way more risky than not installing theme updates.
If you avoid installing a WordPress update that contains a fix for some security vulnerability the WordPress team has discovered, it's only a matter of time before a "bot" crawling around the web, looking for vulnerable sites like yours, quietly uses that vulnerability to infect your site – and often anyone who visits the site, too – with something really nasty.
Even if there isn't anything malicious in the "unofficial" theme you're using, some of the people selling these themes hide backlinks to other shady or dishonest things in the footer of the themes, and they do so in a way that's hard to recognize even if you open the theme files and try to remove the code. If you want to avoid being a free billboard for discount pharmaceuticals, avoid these themes.
Buy From The Source, Host With The Best
While the business of selling themes may be a bit of a grey area, the reasons you should avoid unauthorized third parties "generously" giving these themes away for free are pretty black and white. Before you buy, make sure you do your research and guarantee that you're getting your theme from the source, so you don't have to put all of your hard work at risk.
Finally, when you do build your WordPress site, build it on the best host you can find – one that you can trust to have eyes on your site's security at all times. Our favorite, and the one we use for our own work, is BigScoots, a managed WordPress host that includes automatic WordPress updates and security fixes in every hosting plan.
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