A theme is the exterior decoration of your blog. It controls how it looks (the colors, typeface, number of columns, sidebars, etc.). There are plenty of themes available (for free) right on the wordpress. org site. Or, you can buy a theme (well, technically you’re buying the support).
Free or paid?
If you can manage the technical stuff OK, or like an existing theme with minimal changes, get a free theme. If you would rather have some support, go for a paid theme.
Prices for a single wordpress theme vary widely: from $1 to $70 for a single theme. Many also offer packages (at higher prices), which include unlimited installations, more support, and/or more themes to work with. For web developers, the package makes sense. For everyone else, you’re probably best off with a single theme.
Many themes, even the free ones, often include some simple customization options, such as a header banner, number of columns, or positioning the sidebars.
Why the price difference?
In some cases, the developers are essentially giving the theme away, hoping to prove their skills, or earn money on custom themes or customization of free themes. In other cases, there are developer packages, which allow you to install the same theme over and over, including updates, and full access to the photoshop files used to create the images.
Or, the theme may include support forums, tutorials, additional graphics, or a basic framework that a skilled developer can build upon.
If you don’t need all those things, there’s no need to pay for them.
On the other hand, if you want something truly unique, hire a wordpress designer. He or she will probably take one of the existing frameworks and customize it to suit your needs.
Free wordpress themes
Many places, including wordpress itself, offer themes absolutely free.
WordPress.org free theme directory – Lots of options here, including the WordPress Twenty Eleven theme created by wordpress itself. Choose by most popular, most recent, or do a more detailed search by features, columns, and colors.
Smashing magazine – Smashing magazine regularly posts free themes. Here’s the 2011 edition.
Free premium themes – A collection of free themes gathered from all over the web.
Paid WordPress Themes
Elegant themes – Offers unlimited access to all their themes for $39.
Headway themes – A base framework, with drag and drop functions. Right now it’s just the base, which technical people can customize. The site says they are working on developing pre-made designs.
Woo themes – (they also have some freebie promotions) – $70 for a single theme, plus two free bonus themes when you purchase. They add two new themes each month (lots of styles offered too).
Genesis themes from Studio Press – Genesis is a framework (sort of like a basic foundation, behind the scenes workings). They then take that framework and build individual themes (what you see when you look at the blog) on top of that. Run by Brian Clark of Copyblogger and Brian Gardner
Theme ForestThemes as low as $1, with user ratings, the ability to search by category (corporate, creative, etc.).
Do you have a favorite theme? Or another favorite source I didn’t mention? Let me know!