Choosing a WooCommerce theme for WordPress can feel like a minefield; many factors exist, from design to user experience to functionality. However, one aspect of choosing a theme is vital: security.
Some themes are more secure than others, and there are some key factors to consider regarding safety for you and your site visitors. Even expensive premium themes may not have the best security credentials, so learning to filter through themes is very important.
We’ll examine theme security, why it’s so important, and some crucial points to consider when choosing a safe theme.
What Is Theme Security, and Why Is It So Important?
When choosing a theme for your business, it’s easy to focus on visuals and user experience. While this is important, of course, it’s vital not to overlook the security credentials of a theme.
When we talk about theme security, we mean safety from both your perspective and the point of view of your future customers or site visitors. A theme should be safe to download, install, and run and secure for customers to browse.
This is especially important for WooCommerce themes because you’ll deal with sensitive payment information during checkout.
There are a lot of themes to choose from, but not all of them follow best practices when it comes to security. A secure theme will offer regular updates and support. It should ideally have solid reviews from other users, too.
Updates and Theme Security
Updates are hugely important when it comes to theme security. Regular updates are beneficial for a few reasons, but safety is one of the critical points. In addition, updates can help you to avoid security breaches: hackers can find vulnerable spots in outdated themes, allowing them to create problems from site downtime to malware.
The best themes for WordPress can develop vulnerabilities without regular updates. WordPress states that out-of-date themes create 6% of vulnerabilities. Developers tend to use open-source code to create themes, which hackers can use to create problems like:
- Leaking personal details, including passwords and card details
- Installing malware, which can be passed onto site visitors or customers
- Flooding the site with traffic, causing it to slow (or even creating downtime)
The chances of this happening are low, but it’s not worth taking the risk. Instead, always look for a theme with regular updates to improve your site security.
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The Importance of Theme Updates
There are other reasons why it is essential to keep your theme updated, which include:
- Improved functionality, leading to a better, faster, more enjoyable user experience
- Bug fixes to iron out any minor problems flagged up by users or noticed by developers
- Ensuring compatibility with the latest version of WordPress (as WordPress is updated, some themes will require minor fixes for the theme to work correctly)
- Improving speed with performance optimization fixes
- Improving mobile responsiveness by including compatibility fixes for new mobile browsers, ensuring your website runs efficiently on all devices
That last point is significant: when comparing and choosing a responsive theme, focusing only on themes that have been recently updated is vital.
For similar reasons, updating any plugins you have installed is important. According to WordPress, this is important because outdated plugins cause 90% of known security breaches.
It’s a good idea to check your plugins from time to time, and either update or swap out any old, outdated plugins. Again, hackers can use vulnerabilities in plugin code, so updates are super important.
Premium Themes vs. Free Themes
You may be wondering if there is a difference between premium and free themes regarding security credentials. Ultimately, there are free themes with excellent support (for example, WooCommerce’s Storefront is free and is regularly updated).
On the other hand, just because you have paid for a theme doesn’t necessarily mean it is automatically secure. However, some paid themes do include support and updates as part of their pricing, and they will make that clear on their website.
Whatever you decide, choosing a theme from a reputable site is a good idea. WordPress and WooCommerce have a selection of themes to choose from. We’d also recommend sites like ThemeForest, which prominently displays user reviews so you can see if there are any issues.
A good paid theme should offer free updates. For example, Neve is an incredibly popular theme offering 1-click updates and support for users.
Support is another crucial factor when it comes to security best practices. Not only does decent support and documentation make it easier for installation and customization, but it also offers troubleshooting support.
Being able to gain support quickly if you feel there has been a security breach is vital.
How to Choose a Secure Theme
So how can you find a secure theme for your WooCommerce business? There are a few key points to consider:
The Importance of Reviews
Choosing a secure theme is easier if you can access genuine user reviews. For example, on ThemeForest, you should be able to immediately see a theme’s star rating, and clicking on that should bring up more detailed reviews:
If there are any security issues, you can spot them here: real users should (hopefully) report any big problems in the form of reviews. Of course, it’s not a given that everyone will leave a review, but it’s worth browsing them to ensure everything runs smoothly.
Plus, while you’re there, you can check out how easy the theme is to use, how fast it is, and what customer support is like.
A good theme will have evidence of recent updates. For example, if you’re browsing WooCommerce theme on ThemeForest, you should look for this:
The ‘recently updated’ is super important here. Choosing a theme with a recent update ensures it will be the best option in terms of security.
You can also look for the changelog for a theme, which should give users a full breakdown of all the updates they have undertaken and why. For example, for the same theme, you can see their updates in detail:
This may be found on the theme website (this example is from the theme Porto). The easiest way to see this is to Google ‘your theme + changelog’, which should bring up the changelog quickly.
Some of this may not be the easiest to look at if you’re not technically minded, but just being able to visualize the small, regular fixes by theme developers should give you some reassurance that they understand how to keep their theme safe and functional, even with rapidly developing web and mobile browsers.
It’s also a good idea to ask questions about the theme developer. For example, have they developed any other themes? Are they a ‘known’ theme developer or fairly new?
Of course, all theme developers have to start somewhere, so writing off a developer’s first theme isn’t necessarily a good idea, but trying to gain as much information as you can about a developer is important.
For example, if a theme you are looking at has no reviews, you can find that theme’s developer and see what the reviews are like for their older themes. This way, you should be able to avoid any obvious red flags from user reviews. For example, if that particular developer has had issues with security before, you’ll find out before investing in their themes.
Using Plugins for Theme Security
You can use plugins to check the security of your theme. There are a few to choose from:
WP Hacked Help
WP Hacked Help is a simple scanning plugin to check for malware in your theme. It costs $89.99 at the time of writing, including malware and virus cleanup. It’s easy to use with a pretty fast response time.
Theme Authenticity Checker
The Role of Firewalls and Security Plugins
You can choose a firewall to protect your site; this offers an extra layer of protection, so even if there is a vulnerability within your WordPress theme, the firewall should keep threats at bay. For example, Musupu IP Threat Blocker is a great one (you can read our full review to find out more).
You can read more about valuable plugins in our guide to the 3 Best WordPress Security Plugins to Lock Down Your Site.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some commonly asked questions about theme security:
Can WordPress themes get viruses?
Yes. If you use an old, outdated theme, hackers can potentially come in with malware, which may go on to impact your customers (which is why regular updates for themes and plugins are so important).
Is it safe to use a nulled WordPress theme?
No, in our opinion, it’s not safe to use an abandoned WordPress theme as they are likely to be vulnerable to attacks.
Is WooCommerce secure?
Yes, WooCommerce is designed to be secure for you and your website visitors. However, choosing a safe WooCommerce theme is very important.
WooCommerce WordPress Theme Security: Our Final Thoughts
It’s worth noting that theme security is only one part of the puzzle regarding protecting your site: there are many steps you can take to improve security, which you can read about in our 20 Proven Strategies to Improve Your WordPress Site Security guide.
The key things to look for in a secure theme are:
- Updates – regular theme updates are vital for ensuring your theme is compatible with the latest version of WordPress and being up to date with the latest best practices in theme security
- Support – good support from the theme developer is helpful in the event of a security problem
- Reviews – good reviews will soon flag up any security problems within a theme
You can also use plugins to check your theme’s security and download security plugins, like firewalls, to add another layer of protection.
Ideally, you should run regular checks to ensure that your website is both up-to-date and secure.
If you’re new to WooCommerce, check out our Complete Guide to WooCommerce: it will tell you everything you need to know about the platform and how to use it.