Last Tuesday evening I was hanging out with few fellows from the WordPress community. At some point of time I, Obenland, Kirk and Siobhan got into the themes territory and I shared my opinion on the WordPress theme markets and directories.
Whenever my company receives a request for proposal for a small/mid-level site, we tend to navigate users to a set of themes for them to pick from while using the site. We don’t have a dedicated in-house designer so it makes more sense for us to focus on the development and start from a decent theme and go from there (child theme with all required additions from the client).
For the last few years I have been browsing several places for themes.
WooThemes – you all know them, and they have quite a few themes to pick from. My subscription allows me to pay a few bucks a month and have constant access to all of their themes for updates and new sites to be built as well.
ThemeForest – before anyone tries to punch me in the face, let me explain. ThemeForest have tons of themes, and as a developer I’ve been impressed not once and twice by various innovative aspects of the admin creation, page templates switching, custom scripts for tons of things trying to bring new features around the limitations of WordPress. I would definitely label some of the authors as being fluent in creativity and being constantly on the cutting edge, implementing things before they even become trendy.
Elegant Themes – a collection of themes with various options and decent look-and-feel.
Mojo Themes – another market, actually a network of resources together with a marketplace, similar to ThemeForest in practice.
Unfortunately, I have struggled with themes from each and every market from the list. Incompatible themes with plugins (or even throwing notices/warnings on activation), non-satisfying code quality (awful at times, ThemeForest new authors in particular), messy concepts of responsive design, poorly handled or coded theme options, failing performance.
The WordPress.org Theme Directory
The WordPress.org Theme Directory is well known for it’s support for installing free themes from within every WordPress.org installation. It’s quality level is carefully controlled by the industry, or rather the Theme Reviewers Team. I have reviewed over 100 themes as a part of the team (and few dozens for clients) to ensure that the quality matches the industry standards and takes them to the next level.
However, due to the limited number of reviewers and the hundreds of requirements, in addition to the free concept of releasing themes, there aren’t as many impressive resources as I would like to see. Most themes are simple blogging themes, there is no much innovation in business, CMS, magazine, commerce-supported or whatever themes there and the design seems to be mostly outdated, as the majority of the authors are mainly developers (to keep in tact with the development standards). There are some exceptions, of course, but it’s also hard to find a jewelry in the pack of reviewed themes.
My preferred theme vendor is WooThemes. My blog here runs one of their themes, so do few of our business sites and many sites for our clients. I am happy with the WooThemes community and their activity when it comes to support and communications, and the unified theme framework is easier to manage. We suggest a large number of themes for clients without having to learn everything from ground zero while building a new site.
Still, I have been disappointed with some details – visual and code related – and knowing several of the ninjas from WooThemes I’m pretty sure that these are no-brainers for them under normal circumstances.
Today, they announced the new pricing structure. I support that idea with a 100% confidence that it would lead to a higher quality and attention to details in terms of code quality and performance and improvements in the responsive implementations.
WordPress resources are cheap, way too cheap even and all themes and plugins need a price boost. We need to support our authors as much as possible. Paying 30-50-70 bucks for themes and plugins worth tens of thousands or more is hilarious. This is bothering as hell, together with the level of support provided by premium experts – it is practically free.