Free website templates are a little bit controversial. A lot of people like them. Some designers will tell you that you’re better off with a premium template designed just for you. I won’t argue. But you could just as well build an HTML website from scratch. Nevertheless, there are advantages to using a free HTML template.
One disadvantage is that free templates require a link back to the designer. This is a customary practice and since you aren’t paying hard money for your template you might as well oblige the link back. But that’s a small price to pay for the benefits.
With a free HTML template you don’t have to build your site from scratch. The shell is there for you. All you have to do is insert your content. If you know some HTML yourself then you can take a free template and move things around a little bit – like rearranging the furniture in your home – and create your own modified template from the existing shell. Depending on how much different your template is from the original you could delete the back link to the original designer.
Still, you have to be careful with free templates as not all of them are very well optimized for search engines. Flash templates, particularly, have issues unless the Flash is minimal. But some HTML templates don’t optimize well. If you find one that isn’t well optimized, scrap it and replace it with another.
Free website templates are a great way to get started if you don’t know HTML or you have limited knowledge and a limited budget. But at some point you’ll probably want to move up to a premium template or custom web design.
My personal thought is if you don’t have the money to hire a designer then it can be a good deal (since its free), but I would recommend that you have an expert review the code to make sure that it is clean from a search engine optimization perspective as well.