My boss gave me a new project the other day, it was a website that they had purchased from somebody, they wanted all content, links etc to remain the same they just wanted to “Give it a new coat of paint” and move it to our own web hosting account. Luckily, the website was WordPress based, easy I thought, just slap a new theme on it and move it to our own web hosting.
First stop was the theme, I had a quick google search for some free themes, picked one I thought looked pretty good and applied it to the website, took me all of 30 minutes (this included a coffee break and a brief chat by the water cooler).
I emailed my boss to let him know I was done and to let me know what he thought, thinking I’d just get a “good job” or something similar, however I received an email back saying that he did not like the new design because of the copyright notice in the footer, placed there by the designer of the theme (which was fair enough, I thought, as they were providing the theme for free). I explained to my boss that this is normal practice with free themes and he made it quite clear that he’d rather pay for one that did not have the copyright notice of another designer on his website.
In the end we paid $150 for a theme, that another member of staff had found and to be honest, wasn’t a touch on the one I originally picked, it just had no branding, which meant my boss was happy but this was not the end of the issue for me. In the pub that evening I lead the discussion on whether the brand issue should really matter. As a business would you rather save money and buy a cheap (or even free) theme that has branding or pay more for one that does not? Can free/cheap themes be as good as more expensive ones?
One of my colleagues mentioned that his dad runs a small model aircraft club that uses the cheap web hosting provider HostPresto! that comes complete with a website builder, he proceeded to show us the website and it looked good… clean and simple, yet effective design, not cheap and nasty (which is what I think of when I think of website builders bundled with web hosting packages). The template used was one of 800+ free templates that come with the web hosting and if the rest are anywhere near as good as this one then I don’t know why you’d ever pay for a template again!
What do you guys think? Would you rather spend more on an unbranded, professional design/template for your website? Whether it be WordPress, Joomla, Magento or a custom build, or would you rather save the cash and use one that some nice designer has made free on the condition you display their branding in the footer?
Written by J.J. Stone