One of the best things that come with using WordPress is being able to switch between thousands of free theme with the click of a button. This allows vastly customizing the look of a website, while preserving the content.
Sounds interesting, right? That’s only until you realize the potential problems that can arise from using free WP themes at random.
After reading this article, you may decide it’s best to either stick to Twenty Twelve (the default WordPress theme) or otherwise hire a professional programmer to customize your blog’s layout. Let’s look at the biggest reasons why that is so.
Hidden Malicious Code
The first and foremost reason why free WP themes can harm your website is because they may sometimes include hidden malicious code. This issue can lead to all kinds of trouble down the line, such as making your website vulnerable to attacks and exploitations by hackers. The worst part is that you may not always realize this is going on.
Real world example: I’d been using free WP themes for over 5 years, but my first major alert only happened recently. My server kept crashing for no apparent reason – and once I asked the support team to investigate what was going down, they tracked the problem down to malicious code in the theme I was using in one of my blogs. Even though it was an old WP website which I barely remembered anymore, turned out some of the malicious code in that free theme was actually the source of performance issues across my entire hosting account (and subsequently all of my websites were affected).
Embedded SEO links
Even if a free WP theme does not feature malicious code per se – often it will be ripe with hidden SEO links, embedded by the author for their own rank manipulation purposes. While the author of a theme is naturally entitled to link to their own website, many developers take things to the next level by including random keyword-specific links that amount to nothing short of spam. Having these links in your website – which aren’t always visible, except to search engines – on can bring about unexpected penalties that may cripple your search engine traffic. What’s worse is how often you may not realize this is going on at all!
Unapparent Programming Blunders
Even if the coder who programmed a free WP theme did not harbor any malicious intent; even if they did not sneak in any exploit or self-serving link scheme… you can always count on plain old programming blunders to ruin your online reputation.
You see, just because a theme *looks* fine, it doesn’t mean everything is fine. Under the hood, all kinds of wrong can stem from poor coding – anything from making your website slower than it should be, to actually having a broken layout or incompatibility issues across specific browsers and operating systems.
Free WordPress themes are just fine for the hobbyist webmaster. But for anyone who’s the least bit serious about their web properties, the folks at Dom’s Tech Blog recommend either sticking to the official Twenty Twelve theme that comes with WordPress, or otherwise either hire a coder to design your theme, or simply purchase a theme from a reliable source. If you just get a random free WP theme because it looks good enough, you may be unsuspectingly building your web castles on the virtual sand.