WordPress Free Themes – don’t use them

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WordPress can be used as a free CMS for any blog. Everyone wants to save money, so most bloggers at first will choose a free WordPress template instead of a premium (paid) option. The problem is that most or even all premium WordPress themes can now be found free (because they have been pirated) on the internet and can be installed with ease. There are risks involved, though, which are able to break down your site and your future blogging career as well.

Keep your eyes wide open!

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Please note that if you want to install one of these free WordPress themes on your website, it is better to have a client like WAMP installed and run WordPress locally. You never know what can happen with malicious code executed on your server, so keep your website safe.

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“Free” premium WordPress themes offered on the net often include these common risks:

      • Hidden malware can be found on most free templates available on the internet, including JavaScript and iFrame codes which may break your server.
      • Free themes are likely to include viruses which may harm your data files.
      • There is no technical support for these free WordPress themes.
      • Many or even most may be pirated and hacked templates.
      • Legal actions may be taken against you (or your host may suspend your account).
      • Web spam is the last thing you want Google to see on your website, and infected themes often generate spam.

 

Do you think that you are so lucky that these problems don’t apply to you? No problem–just remember that other several bloggers are using the same template for their blogs. What if your “free” theme includes links which cannot be removed from footer? Most of them will be linked to low-quality websites. Any thoughts about a “free” premium template now?

Let’s take a look at the first 10 results Google lists for “free WordPress themes” search.

1. WordPress.org

There is no doubt that this is the safest place when you are looking for free themes. Since this is the first result listed on Google, many users will use themes from this site, or at least they will try to find a nice one. The problem for the free themes repository at WordPress.org is that 99% of the themes have a design which makes you think it was made in the 1900s. Many of these templates are so old that they may not work with the latest versions of WordPress. Still, this place is totally trustworthy if you want to use a free WordPress theme.

What do we think? This is the best place to look for free WordPress themes.

 

2. Smart themes

This is the next website listed by Google to offer free WordPress themes after wordpress.org. As a top-ranking website with good SEO, it has many visitors, and from what we can see at a first sight all templates here look fresh and well designed. Seems great, right? We downloaded a theme ( SmartPress) which looks nice. The latest release of this template, however, dates back seven months, enough time for the theme to lose some compatibility with the latest WordPress upgrades.

Although SmartPress seems to be a free WordPress theme, as it is listed on the SMThemes website, we found a surprise : The theme is free, but contains links in the footer that cannot be removed. If you want to keep the footer clean, you have to buy it the theme. You can remove the links, but a red bar will appear on the footer claiming that you need to return the links.

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After the template was installed in our test, it was run through the Theme Authenticity Checker (TAC) plugin, and the results were quite OK except for the above issues.

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No encrypted code was found in the SmartPress 2.0 theme and no Base64 pieces, which usually are inserted to mask malicious code. We downloaded two more templates from Smart Magazine Themes, and they looked good – TAC said the themes are OK and found no malicious code found. They were working properly with the latest WP version.

What do we think? You may use these templates, but do it carefully. Check them first on your local machine and stay safe!

3. FThe.me

Free WordPress themes , especially for businesses and magazines, are available at FThe.me. These themes have almost a premium design, and the look and feel is amazing for most of the options. Exploring the themes on FThe.me revealed some tempting ones. Let’s look at the Narochito template, which is a really nice theme.

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Theme Authenticity Checker found 3 static links on this theme. Normally there should be no problem with these links–after all, developers need some backlinks, don’t they? These should be ok as long as they do not point to dangerous websites. This is not the case, however, because the Narochito template points to casino websites, which are not highly regarded by Google.

In the footer we find warnings like “Do not remove these links, or your site may stop working,“ and removing the links leads us to a red message at the bottom of the site directing us to add the links back. When we run a check for hidden links and exploits, here is what we found:

eval(function(p,a,c,k,e,d){e=function(c){return(c<a?”:e(parseInt(c/a)))+((c=c%a)>35?String.fromCharCode(c+29):c.toString(36))};if(!”.replace( [line truncated]

What do we think? This “free” theme includes 3 links to random casino websites, an incorrect message saying that the site may stop working if the links are removed (it didn’t happen), and eval functions which may be harmful for your blog. We suggest that you avoid templates from this site.

4. Newwpthemes.com

New WP themes has a high ranking on the first page of our ”free WordPress themes” query. Its position attracts many users to download templates. Is this a good choice? Let’s see. At a first glance, the themes on newwpthemes seem quite fresh and good looking. We downloaded the NovaMag template and immediately found a number of issues from the download page: For the free version, you will have sponsored links and encrypted files; you will not be able to customize your footer. No support is provided, and you cannot the theme for your customers. There are too many issues here to make a free theme worthwhile.

First, we ran the theme to check its Authenticity:

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The result showed encrypted code there. We are warned, but this still is an issue. There is certainly some malicious code hidden by that Base64 piece of code.

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If you want to decode the encrypted code you can use Otto Decoder, a very handy tool.

What do we think? Trying two more templates led us to the same result: encrypted code and hidden links. We strongly suggest that you avoid these templates.

5. Moonthemes.com

This is another “free” WordPress themes website. A “freebie” is supposed to be offered for free, with no charges and no other implications involved. We were surprised to see from the start on moonthemes.com that the footer links cannot be removed unless we pay a 20$ fee, so this is not quite a free templates provider. Ok, let’s move on, and maybe nothing will happen when we remove the links.

Moving to the download page for the Time Theme took us to an email input and a checkbox for a newsletter. We didn’t want the newsletter, so we input the email address without checking the box. Download? This was not simple–see below:

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This was not our preference, but we agreed in the end because we wanted to test their templates. After the Download link was pressed, we waited almost 2 hours for the template to come. That adds one more issue to consider. Let’s download it, then–but what? The templates are stored on a free file sharing website. How can you provide themes and store them there? They can always get infected, or the files may be corrupted.

After the template was installed, we found 3 more concerns. First of all, 3 static links were found by TAC plugin. Second, one big error is displayed instead of the content: “Fatal error: Call to undefined function the_content_limit()”. It seems the template is not compatible with the latest version of WordPress. Finally, the Save button from admin panel in theme configuration section looks as below:

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What do we think? This theme has too many issues, even though it is a free template. You should not use templates from moonthemes.com.

6. Web2feel.com

The last website from the first page of our Google search on “free WordPress themes” is web2feel.com, a trusted website a few years ago. Let’s see if things have changed meanwhile. I really like the name of this website, and I enjoy using templates that make the user feel that they read more than a simple text there. Hoping for something different, I installed the Gamezine template.

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Well, this is quite embarrassing, isn’t it? Decoding the code led us to some write functions in footer.php, probably importing external php code. Let’s view the first page of our website to see the look and feel. Surprising or not, we encountered an error:

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What do we think? Any theme using base64 code and static links should be avoided. Any theme that raises an error when you view the site should be avoided. This template is not trustworthy enough to use!

7. Paddsolutions.com

We move to the second page of our Google results to check some more websites. We found paddsolutions.com at the top of the page, and we downloaded the Roentgeniumify template. The TAC plugin says that nothing is wrong with this theme, but when we try to remove the footer links, even though there is no notice saying that links should be kept, something goes . . . wrong. As you can see below:

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No warning message regarding the nature of the error is provided–no hint, nothing. A beginning user would not know what has he done in order to roll back the changes and get the site working again.

What do we think? Before using the templates from paddsolutions.com, use the TAC plugin to make sure that no static links or base64 code exists. Also, make sure that changing the footer will not break down your blog.

8. WordPressthemesfree.org

wordpressthemesfree.org is another website from the second page of our Google search of free WordPress templates. Let’s take a look and see. This site seems to have a large variety of templates. We downloaded a car-related template and installed it. Ready?

Unpacking the package…

Installing the theme…

The package could not be installed. The style.css stylesheet doesn’t contain a valid theme header.

Theme install failed.

 

Maybe this was a mistake, so let’s look at another template, a real estate theme this time. Install theme. Do you think it worked? Not at all. Guys, you have a big problem. It seems that the required information at the beginning of the css file (like theme name, description or author) is missing. The technicians from wordpressthemesfree.org do not comply with the latest development directions.

What do we think? What do you think? We cannot recommend themes which are not working for you, guys, so you’d better avoid this provider too.

9. Themesbase.com

This site really offers a big collection of nice WordPress templates. What I don’t like, from the beginning, is the fact that they are displaying premium templates from other providers on the FREE themes section using affiliate links. I really don’t like that. As a regular user, I would prefer to be informed when I am clicking on affiliate links. Browsing through the themes, I found 3 free themes provided by themesbase.com. The first of them, Creamy, seems OK. The second template was Nullified, which has 4 static links. Finally, Business Blog was the template which made us think that this provider is not a good one: The zip file contains only 2 images and footer.php. What can we do with this? It’s useless.

What do we think? This site includes affiliate links hidden without any notice, templates with static links, and incomplete themes. These are clearly enough issues for us not to recommend themesbase.com.

10. Fthemes.com

Finally, the last one. We are really exhausted with installing and analyzing themes. They haven’t even been good themes, and we’ve found nothing useful so far. Let’s see: These templates look quite nice, and the main site has a very professional design. We still have hope for this one. Along with wordpress.org, this could be a good one.

We took the Comite theme, and here it is what Theme Authenticity Checker claims:

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No need to say again that base64 encrypted code is almost always malicious, and since you are not a security expert (are you?), we think that you should avoid themes using base64 code. The potential for abuse of this piece of code is very high. The authors are not always attempting to include malicious links, but you’d better stay safe!

What do we think? You should not use free themes from fthemes.com!

Let’s take a look at our conclusions of the analysis of the first 2 pages in Google results for free WordPress themes:

  • Safe themes: 1
  • Almost safe themes: 1
  • Themes to be avoided: 8

Most of the themes we recommend avoiding use base64 encoding for their themes, and since there are millions of users using these templates, we think that the risk potential is very high. You are looking for free themes, and if your results include several spam links on your footer section, Google will not love this!

There are plenty themes on WordPress.Org safe to use, and especially if you are a beginner, this is the best place to search for them. Stay safe!

What are your options now?

Since only one website in first two pages has proper WordPress themes for free, moving to the 3rd page and so on would be a waste of time. You have two options:

  1. Use premium templates from trusted providers, such as themeforest.net or woothemes.com. They have some themes at very low prices, so if you are a beginner, you will find inexpensive and useful templates there.
  2. Choose a web development company to create your own template designed using your personal requirements. This choice will give you a unique theme not repeated on other blogs.

If you still want a free template, we have a solution for you: Our WordPress template can be provided completely free of charge if you want it. This way you will have the opportunity to check our skills in WordPress theme development before using our services.

3 thoughts on “WordPress Free Themes – don’t use them Leave a comment

  1. There are some really good themes for less than $100, Studio Press, Elegant Themes for example. It is worth the money if you want more than a basic design, but even the standard 20111 and 2012 can be lovely, and safe

  2. I’m a big big believer of only using themes that are paid for. And paid for through WordPress.org eyes times do you use thesis which I know cannot be found through WordPress.org however I believe that they are high enough quality that I’m not getting scammed. However like that tend to gravitate towards Genesis as a top then wpstartbox.com and sometimes Woo themes I don’t believe start box is found in WordPress.org Considering they were purchased by web dev studios and made their bed rock theme of choice it’s good enough for me.

  3. One thing I really don’t like free themes most of them place links on the footer that can’t be removed. If you do so, the theme will crash. As what you’ve mentioned, they encrypted some under it.

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