My experience with premium WordPress themes


I have twenty minutes before my next meeting and thought I would use it to write about my experiences with premium WordPress themes.

First, let me say that I have a love/hate relationship with all third party themes and plugins. I have had some really great experiences and some really bad experiences with using themes and plugins developed by other people.

I will start with the ‘greats’

  • Plugins for things like caching, security, limit login attempts, SEO, 301 redirects, CMB2 and Gravity Forms, etc.  LOVE THEM!  Now that being said, I have my favorites that I always use and therefore, know exactly how to use them and when to use them…
  • Plugins for things like document management, calendar of events, and even some of the more complex sliders is where the love/hate comes into play.  For most of my clients, building a custom solution from scratch isn’t realistic because of the budgets, so I often look for plugins to lower the costs.  However, I find that most of the free plugins lack one or two key features and I wind up having to make a few modifications…  Which I actually don’t like doing for a number of reasons which I won’t get into right now.
  • Free themes – LOVE THEM as long as they come from a reputable source.  For the most part, I actually like free themes better than premium themes, but my approach to picking a free theme is to find one that I think will get me and my client to the 50-75% completion mark and then I build anything still needed into a child theme.
  • Premium Themes – Love/hate again.  My experience with premium themes is that most of them are full of features that my clients won’t ever use.  Therefore, I sometimes find them way too complex for my clients to use.
  • Premium Themes again, I will admit that I have some really good experiences with premium themes and even getting support for bugs or change requests.  However, I have also had the opposite experience as well.

On that note, I will move into why I hate premium themes:

  • They are often really hard to make changes to because it takes time to learn the site structure and I am sure that in many cases the developers/designers don’t want others making changes to their product. The reality is that most of my experiences with premium themes are that they don’t usually get us to the finish line and therefore, some degree of hacking/developing on top of the theme is required.
  • Not all theme developers provide good support
  • Most of the time the person who designed and developed the theme, did it for a client that either had some really specific needs or was really flexible on how things worked…  So far, I have yet to find a theme that was a perfect match to any of my client’s needs.  So, depending on budgets we wind up shoehorning their sites needs into a site that isn’t flexible or we go down the route of extending the existing code base with custom code.

To be continued.

Plugins I love:

  • Gravity Forms
  • CalendarizeIt
  • CMB2
  • ACF