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There are many, many providers you can choose to download a free Joomla template from, however it is very important to make an informed decision about any free templates you decide to install on your Joomla website.
On the surface, choosing a free Joomla template seems like a very visual decision, i.e. Does the template look nice and suit my needs? You expect to get what you see in the screenshot, but ultimately you can never completely tell how a template works (free or paid) until you install it on your website to see how well it works with your particular Joomla configuration. By configuration here, we mean the makeup of your website in terms of components, modules, plugins and even the layout of your standard Joomla content items.
Here's a few pointers to consider when you're looking for a good free Joomla template...
Part 1 - Free Doesn't Always = $0.00!
Just because the initial cost of the Joomla template is free, does not mean it won't actually cost you anything to get up and running on your website.
Firstly, there's the cost of the time you spend researching, installing and trialling various free templates. Obviously, your time is not free - so you need to manage this process as efficiently as possible. The simplest way to do this is to minimise the amount of time you spend downloading and installing free Joomla templates only to find they don't work with extension XYZ. The easiest way to do this is to check for reviews or feedback for any templates you're interested in. Get some leverage off other people's good and bad experiences with the template. Make sure there is some positive feedback about the template before you spend valuable time installing it.
An important note to make here is that you should ALWAYS backup your entire website (and Joomla database) before installing any additional Joomla templates. If possible, work on a test copy of your website, so that your users don't have to be exposed to your trials while you find the right template. It can be very confusing for users when the look and feel of a website changes from day to day, or even worse - while they're using it!
Regardless of how well the Joomla template is designed and built, there will no doubt be some level of customisation required for the template to work 100% effectively with your Joomla setup. This can be as simple as adjustments to modules and module positions, however often you'll find that the template hasn't been created with consideration to a specific component your Joomla website uses for part of its core functionality, e.g. Mosets Tree, or JoomlaWorks K2.
At this point you need to weigh up the costs of getting the free template extended to work nicely with these components, or decide to re-enter the template finding phase again. More often than not, creating additional template overrides for a Joomla template is a relatively quick and painless exercise, so if you find a template that suits 95% of your criteria, then it's often worth paying to have the template meet that last 5%.
Giving credit where credit is due
One link to the developer's website is enough - make sure the template isn't littered with links back to their website, or to any other website that they may be affiliated with. Very often these links are contained in the HTML code behind the scenes, so unfortunately it's not immediately apparent they exist. Again, try to find feedback from other users - this can help highlight any untoward hidden links or code contained in the template.
Hopefully this hasn't put you off downloading a free Joomla template. To be honest there is a lot of junk free templates out there, but conversely, free doesn't always equal poor quality either. There are plenty of well designed and developed free Joomla templates you can download. Make sure you check the developer's website for a list of template features and considerations. If there isn't mention of such things, or you can't find any reviews or positive feedback, chances are it's not worth looking into using.
Stay tuned for Part 2!