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79% of Bloggers Pay Nothing for their Blog Design

Posted By Darren Rowse 23rd of July 2009 Blog Design 0 Comments

Over the last few weeks the poll I’ve been running here on ProBlogger has asked people about who designed their blog. The results are in and it looks like that the vast majority of bloggers are not paying for themes.

61% of our readers are using free themes in some way – either using a default theme that the blog came with (11%), downloading a free template (21%) or taking a free theme and tweaking it (29%).

18% of our readers are designing their blogs completely on their own and while the market for premium themes does seem to be growing only 13% of you have paid for a theme.

The lowest response of all was for people to pay for someone else to design a blog for them (8%). That brings the total of those paying for their design in some way to 21%.


Total Votes at the time of publishing these results: 2513

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. I would have thought that fewer people stayed with the default theme instead of getting a new one.

  2. I use both the Flexx and Thesis themes, so I am in the 13%.

    I am surprized by 1/3 using the free themes. Maybe they have changed but when I first started blogging, the free ones seem so difficult to change things – hence I went for a premium theme.


  3. Not surprising at all.

    Anyway, there are a lot of free templates these days that are just as good as the premium ones.

  4. I think it’s very cool that 47% of people had some level of involvement in designing their theme – getting their hands dirty a bit.

    I didn’t feel the need (or havet the time) to completely reinvent the wheel, so I took a theme (Elements of SEO) that had a majority of what I was look for and have repeatedly tweaked it over a period of several months – to the point where the designer of the base theme probably wouldn’t realize that his theme is the chassis for mine :)

    I’ve entertained the idea of buying a premium theme, but up to this point, I’ve been able to tweak or use plugins to give me all the design elements I’m looking for.

  5. Nope. Nothing suprising about this poll.

  6. That doesn’t seem surprising to me. Especially since so many people use them in conjunction with a website (which people probably do pay to have designed for them).

    I would suspect that most bloggers are somewhat tech-proficient and could customize their own theme if they wished, since it’s fairly easy to do. Unless you’re running ads and looking to set it up similar to this one, there seems little reason to pay someone else.

    All the best!

  7. I fall under this category because I just make my own theme. I’m getting pretty good at it as well.

  8. There is no surprise if people use free themes.
    I think you are a problogger now but in starting days you also didn’t paid any penny for design.
    Wordpress themes are available in tones for free download then why poeple waste anything to purchase.
    Just read about some eminent Bloggers from India they are still using free Themes and having best reader base.
    So why should someone waste money?

  9. It was not really surprising, so it tells us that people do not want to invest in a unique theme for their blog.

  10. i think most basic blogger will use free themes, because they don’t know if they will blog over a long time. so the invest is not necessary.

    but i think if you will blog over a long time, you will invest something in a unique blog design.

  11. I think the result is easy to understand. Basic blogger cannot afford that money because they don’t have any income from their blog.

  12. Interesting. I tweaked a paid premium theme on my blog. I’m curious to know what program you use to make those great charts. They look very professional.

  13. You have to consider how involved some bloggers are with their site and how much time and money they want to invest. For those starting out there are plenty of free themes that fit the bill and are quite impressive.

    The more involved one gets because of traffic, increased revenue or the fact they start taking more interest then the more money they will spend.

    An interesting number to know is out of those who responded, how old are their blogs. Will the newer blogs use free or default themes?

  14. I agree with the majority because I do think it is not needed to have a high profile designed template, because I have a blogspot.com address and till I move to my own domain the template of blogger remains. I think the free theme is much classy looking with the customized header than some of the wordpress blog templates. I think my template shines a serious light about making money online. My totally focus is on the content.

  15. I think everybody would love to get their own custom kickass theme if it only weren’t so expensive. But you do get what you pay for, and some bloggers are quite talented themselves!

  16. I’ve personally never paid for my blog theme. It’s a lot more rewarding if you make it yourself or tweak it somehow.

    Great post!

  17. Wow… people are amazing! I think it is great for all of the people that design their own themes! That is very difficult. Great survey results.

  18. I use a free WordPress Theme with a Customized Header option. The Header I did myself in GIMP – so yes, it’s totally free. I am not terribly tech savvy beyond this type of customization though. Use of most WordPress Plug-ins beyond the included widget options for my theme elude me. The new design seems to have improved readership and even aided in my blog gaining approval into BlogBurst so I must be doing something right!

  19. I’d love to see a follow-up survey that correlates data between whether people pay for theme design and how much money they are making from their blog. Are the most successful bloggers using a free theme or are they spending money to differentiate?

  20. no surprises here, especially from ProBlogger readers (serious indies mainly).

  21. Awesome post Darren

    I am in the 29% because I took a free template redesigned it.

  22. I would say that Bloggers are cheap until they reach a certain point were they can begin to pay more for services. And all the free wordpress themes encourages using the free stuff.

  23. I also use a slightly modified default theme on one blog and a modified free one on another blog.

    It is not really surprising as most people don’t make any money from blogging so don’t feel inclined to hire professional template designers or buy an off the shelf template.

  24. I think the more important question is the correlation between successful/profitable blogs and their design.

    My guess is that fewer of the default WordPress.com and Blogger blogs are actual businesses than those that use Thesis or another premium theme.

  25. It would be really interesting, and of more value, to compare this poll with how successful the blogs are in each category. Success could be measured by the amount of hits, subscribers or money making potential.

    The question being; is buying a premium theme a sound investment?

  26. Went with premium. I was spending too much time tweaking and not enough time in the business I’m in. Learning to let go, delegate, and outsource is a challenge.

    I know too much about theme design already. :)

  27. Hi, Basically I am a web designer and can design web-pages in valid xHTML/CSS! I have completely made the codng of my blogger theme at my own! My friend (and ao-owner of our blog) gives me every graphics and color scheme! Currently learning to make WP themes :)

  28. I payed about $100 for my blog design but by tweaching a free wordpress template.

  29. Completely agreeing with what my fellow blogger friends said above in the comments. I would like to add on a fact that although many first time bloggers with zero income go for free themes however they dont realise that investing in a premium theme like thesis ( which is highly customizable ) would hugely help them and their blog to grow at a faster rate, but again spending 100 dollars without any hope of recovering it anytime soon isnt a thing done by every blogger ! I too use a free theme ( tweaked according to my own needs ), it seriously hurts to spend 100 bucks ‘just’ for the theme.

  30. I am not actually surprised by the results of this particular survey, but what continues to amaze me are the companies who have paid a professional designer to build their web site and then they go ahead and drop a free template on their blog. Where is the continuity sense in that? Why not just hire a designer to build your entire site in WordPress?

  31. Have never bought a wordpress theme.

    Have designed about 12 of them.

    Would be curious to see what they are like when you buy a professional one, maybe there are some things I’m missing.

  32. We are not just cheapskates! (we may be cheapskates, but that is not all we are.)

    In the micro-evolution of many of us, we started blogging as an experiment. (can I do this? what works? what doesn’t? etc.) Of course I had to spend some on getting my domain and such, but there were free options for theme and plug-ins.

    Next, I needed to do things that I couldn’t get for free, but still in the experiment stage of the blog. Thus me and others like me, learned how to tweak our themes and alter a free plug-in or two so that we could do what we needed.

    And then when we are finally committed and have been blogging for a year we know how to tweak our theme. (Heck I could make and sell them.) So why pay someone now?

    And there we are. Most of us using a theme that we tweaked into what we wanted.

  33. I know this.
    Free blogging is more popular.

  34. I use free theme for my blog, but amazed to know the results
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  35. I like starting with a free theme, because it gives you a good reference point, but after that I have to start tweaking it right away.

  36. Interesting thing to know! I use default free theme!

  37. I did origionally start with a free theme and I changed it considerably to meet my own needs but it did get to a point where I just wanted something which completely met my needs in exactly the way I wanted. I found I couldn’t get this from a free theme.

  38. I designed my theme myself, as well as some plugins. I couldn’t find anything out there that really met the criteria of what I wanted in terms of both aesthetics and functionality. Being a software developer with good knowledge of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, SQL, and Photoshop didn’t hurt though. The hardest part was probably styling it for multi browser compliance.


  39. Yes, that’s what I would have expected. Slightly surprised at the 11% default theme.

  40. One of the designers at my work is doing a design for me – in exchange for a slice of any money I make from the blog heh :)

  41. I think that, in order to be a good blogger, you need to know how to tweak layouts yourself… I don’t understand why people would pay for a layout. I use a default free theme, personally.

  42. I work for a small business that designs and implements websites based on WordPress, but even our company wouldn’t recommend bloggers to buy a theme if they are able to do a little tweaking (like creating a personalized banner, and adding the necessary plug ins) and differentiate themselves from other blogs using the same free theme.

    The reason? A little bit of customization goes a long way to create a “brand” and have people remember your blog. But a quick survey among our team (composed of technical and non-technical people), 8 out of 8 would never subscribe to a blog or visit one repeatedly because of the visual quality of the site.

    When we come across a new blog, we may well say “nice design!”, but the decision to become a reader will have nothing to do with the theme, and everything to do with the quality of the content (and the educational or entertainment value of it).

    Unless you have money to spare and like the idea of having a unique design for your blog, using a free template will probably make more sense for the majority of bloggers.

  43. I designed my own blog using the free themes. But I changed the layouts a little on the templates.

  44. I was surprised at how many people stick with the defualt layout.

  45. I used to have a very arrogant approach, and thought that what I write on the internet is so worthwhile that the formatting is largely irrellevant. It doesn’t matter what the pages look like, it’s what you write that matters. Except of course, that’s not really true!

    I think it’s important that pages look good – if they do they are more likely to hold the readers attention. B

  46. I belong to the 8% who hired a web developer to design a layout, Although I just paid her pretty cheap. I paid her Php4K (~US$80) inclusive of the domain name, hosting plan for 1 year and the blog design. I also asked her to embed adsense codes in the blog theme. So I think with all those efforts that she made, the payment I made was worthwhile.

  47. Not too surprised. There are a lot of great, easily customizable themes out these days. I’m not sure if that was the case a few years ago (I can’t say either way as I’m relatively new at this). That could be one of the reasons free/customized themes have a large percentage of people.

  48. I once read an article where non slick (professional) websites do much better at converting readers into buyers than super fancy ones.

    I always have been a fan of minimalism. So by choice I always tend to stick with the default and add minor changes.

    My latest website took 2 days to customize. I change alot and not much.

  49. I paid for a premium theme (thesis) and tweaking it a little bit. So, which category shall I in?

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  50. i had my template designed, and basically it was a barter. i had a default template (twice) but was getting tired of the same old thing, but wasn’t really impressed with all the freebies out there.

    i wish i could design my own, but i just don’t have the time atm to learn how to do it….

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