What Are Nulled WordPress Themes and Why To Avoid Them
WordPress is a very versatile and beginner-friendly platform, and as such it allows even the most inexperienced users to create websites with relative ease. However, while making a site might prove to be simple, creating a quality one and maintaining it can be quite costly. This can drive WordPress users to try cutting any seemingly unnecessary costs to save some money, especially if they are on a tight budget.
Some could get tempted into using nulled themes and plugins instead of the premium versions. This might get you the functionality of those WordPress products, but there are hidden dangers with nulled plugins and themes that you need to be aware of. In this article, we will discuss what the term “nulled” means and which are the reasons against using nulled WordPress themes.
You should know, even though we will be focusing on WordPress themes, the same points apply to nulled WordPress plugins. Without further ado, let’s see what all the fuss is about.
What are nulled WordPress themes?
A nulled WordPress theme is a copy of a premium WordPress theme that is not obtained from the theme authors but from a third-party website, which is not associated with them. Often, these copies are slightly changed to make the theme work without a proper license key.
Even though this can be interpreted as piracy, there is a certain level of legal ambiguity involved. This is because these products are often issued with a General Public License (GPL), which allows for its public distribution. To counteract that, some premium themes are issued with mixed licenses, so some parts of them are protected by copyright laws. In such cases, this unethical practice could even have legal repercussions for the ones using nulled themes.
Legal ambiguity aside, there are other reasons as to why you should avoid using nulled WordPress themes. Most of them aren’t obvious at first glance but can hurt your website tremendously. We’ll take a look at what those are below.
The reasons for avoiding nulled WordPress themes
Now that you understand the concept of nulled themes in WordPress a bit better, we can explore the reasons why you should avoid using them. We have sorted the points into six separate sections. Given the potential legal ramifications of engaging with nulled themes, we advise you read these points carefully. Then you can make the call on whether nulled WordPress themes are worth using or not.
Security and privacy issues
Since nulled WordPress themes don’t come from reputable sources, they can contain various kinds of malware placed within the files. Furthermore, the malicious code is often disguised to appear normal, which makes it very hard to detect.
This code often creates backdoors to your website, which hackers can use to further infect the website or extract valuable information. With it, they can block your access to your website or, if you are running e-commerce and membership websites, extract all the confidential information on your users and customers. This includes names, emails, passwords, website credentials, and credit card data.
Needless to say, there’s no shortage of ways this data could be abused. While the consequences for your users could be dire, you can expect your share of trouble as your website will get a bad reputation that will cost you both current and any potential future customers.
Nulled WordPress themes can also be detrimental to your website’s SEO. There are a lot of reasons for it. Most often, nulled themes contain spammy links to other, often inappropriate, websites and could even redirect users to those websites.
These links are often coded not to appear while you are logged in, which makes the issue that much harder to detect. However, search engines will spot it easily and, as a result, your website’s SEO rankings will suffer. Furthermore, spammy and misleading links will increase your site’s bounce rate and create a negative user experience, which can ultimately hurt your revenue.
And if you don’t manage to remove the malicious content, your website could be de-indexed completely. In that case, it could take months to rebuild the SEO ranking you had before.
Absence of updates and new features
WordPress theme authors regularly update their software to keep it more secure, fix potential bugs, and keep it compatible with the latest versions of WordPress. If you are using a nulled WordPress theme you won’t have access to those updates.
To be precise, you won’t have access to automatic updates and you won’t receive notifications when an update is available. You won’t be able to ask the theme authors for the update, as you don’t have a valid license to use their themes. Instead, you will have to constantly find new ways to update your theme manually, which could be quite stressful and time-consuming. It will be only a matter of time before your nulled WordPress theme becomes outdated, or you experience compatibility issues with the WordPress core files or with plugins, which can break your website.
Even if you avoid all of that, you would still be taking a big risk by not having the latest security fixes that could be included in the updates. Since theme authors make all security fixes publicly known in their changelogs, without those updates, you will be leaving an open backdoor to your website that hackers can exploit.
Finally, theme authors often include new features or improvements to existing ones with each update. Those features are designed to improve different aspects of your site, and by not having access to the latest updates, you will be missing out on them.
No access to theme support and documentation
If you are experiencing any issues with your current theme, asking for support from the authors is often the way to go. However, one of the prerequisites for receiving support for premium WordPress themes is having a valid license. Since nulled WordPress themes don’t include a license, you won’t be able to count on professional support.
Instead, you will have to spend a lot of time searching online across numerous forums to find the solutions to your issues. Furthermore, different themes have different learning curves so it could prove challenging to get even a basic understanding of all the features and functionalities of a theme. You would have to study the theme’s documentation for guidance regarding all the important aspects of it. Additionally, most premium theme authors will have supplementary material like knowledge bases and video tutorials. This means they might be reserved only for verified customers, which will leave you unable to access those resources.
Discourages theme developers
A premium WordPress theme takes a lot of time, money, and effort to create. Usually, it requires a full team of developers working on it. And, their job doesn’t end there. The same team is required to manage premium support, write documentation, work on further theme improvements, implement new features, and do a lot more besides. By using nulled themes you are actively disregarding the effort that went into creating your theme and reducing the income of the people who worked it. This can often discourage authors and drive them to give up on creating themes or even updating existing ones. If that happens to you, it can lead to you having to change themes often. Overall, the unethical practice of using nulled WordPress themes is harmful to the whole WordPress ecosystem.
Availability of free alternatives
If you haven’t been convinced by any of the previous reasons, the last one might appeal to you. The biggest, if not the only, argument for using a nulled WordPress theme is the amount of money you can save. But, there is a very simple counterargument to this—the availability of numerous free WordPress themes and plugins.
Instead of using a nulled theme, you could simply browse the WordPress repository of free themes to find the one that suits you best. Given the wide selection of themes, it’s quite easy to find one that has a good design and offers the kind of functionalities that you want for your website.
Even if you don’t find your perfect match among the themes, you can search through the WordPress plugins repository for a plugin that provides any missing functionalities or design options. In this case, you should look for both free and freemium plugins.
Since testing suitable themes and plugins and getting used to them requires a bit of time, we advise setting up a local environment using XAMPP, MAMP, or WAMP. The local environment will allow you to try out those free themes properly and see if they are a match for you before creating your website locally. Then, you can migrate your site from localhost to the live server and have a safely functioning website using free or freemium WordPress products. This will help you avoid the disadvantages of using nulled WordPress themes while saving you money at the same time.
Simply put, nulled WordPress themes are pirated versions of premium WordPress themes. Even though they are legal to use thanks to some ambiguities in the laws, they are not worth the risk.
Nulled themes pose a lot of threats to any website that’s built with them. They can contain malware that hackers could exploit to gain access to your website and its data, or redirect users to inappropriate websites. Malware is usually very hard to get rid of and you won’t be able to rely on the help of theme authors to do it. Furthermore, you will also be forced to deal with any compatibility issues or misunderstandings regarding the theme’s features on your own.
The bottom line is, with the wide range of free WordPress themes and plugins available to choose from, using nulled themes is almost pointless.