What to Look For When Purchasing a WordPress Theme
The WordPress platform opens up a world of possibilities – it allows you to install a whole host of custom plugins, themes and other modifications that can help make your website visually unique, fully integrated, and very secure without having to know a lot of code.
So what should you look for when buying a WordPress theme? How do you know which themes and which authors are reputable? What questions should you ask if you have some or even no knowledge of themes?
Note: we used Themeforest as an example when developing questions, so some of the following is geared toward their set-up.
If you have little-to-no knowledge:
- Is the theme by an Elite Author?
Elite Author’s receive this status by having $75k+ or more in sales. The status also usually suggests an active author with quality work.
- How many themes has the author developed?
The number of themes can be a good indicator of an author’s ability and skill set. The more themes they have (especially unique themes), the greater chance you have of getting a quality theme.
- Does the author offer support?
It’s important to have a way to contact the author on the off-chance you run into a bug or need help customizing a specific part of the theme. You can also find answers to your questions by reading over other buyer questions.
- Is the author active?
Active authors will be more likely to respond in a timely fashion if you run into an issue with a newly purchased theme. Look for authors active within the last few months, if not more recently.
- What does the comment section look like?
Don’t just rely on the fact that a theme has many comments, review them and go a few pages deep. Is the author working through problems if someone is reporting it broken? Are the majority positive or bug reports?
- How many times has the theme been sold?
This can be another indicator of good work, however, if the theme comments are mostly about bugs or issues, stay away. High sales and good comments are what you want.
If you know enough to be dangerous, or are knowledgeable:
- How recently has the theme been updated?
Technology moves at a very fast pace. Authors have to stay updated and keep their product active. If it hasn’t been updated recently or isn’t compatible with the latest WordPress version, stay away.
- What are the types of problems are mentioned in the comments?
i.e. ‘How do I change this color?’ VS ‘warning: syntax error: unexpected ‘}’ end….’ Coding issues plague a lot of themes because Authors look to make their themes as robust as possible. Sometimes robust themes lead to a higher chance you’ll run into coding conflicts or sloppy code.
- Does the author have an active support forum?
Slow or no support means you could be left out in the cold if something goes wrong. Don’t buy a theme like this unless you know how to edit them yourself.
- Is the theme compatible with various browsers? (both new and outdated)
If the site needs to support IE8 or older, don’t go for the latest flashy theme. Look for themes with backwards compatibility that can scale down while still looking great.
- Is the theme built on templates or does it use a page builder?
Many themes today use page builders like Visual Composer and Live Composer. If the theme doesn’t have a page builder, make sure you are comfortable using shortcodes and adjusting code yourself.
- Is it built on Bootstrap or some other column/grid type base?
Consider the requirements of your website – does it need to be mobile? If so, look at themes that use mobile friendly frameworks such as Bootstrap, Foundation or Skeleton.
- How customizable is the theme, based on its plugins and designs?
Many themes are poorly developed and limit you to what the author wants. If you are not going to have a copy of the demo content, make sure the documentation explains how to adjust and control layouts, headers, footer and sidebars. Review what plugins come with the theme – some plugins give greater flexibility with customization, so if the theme has solid widget-based plugins, you should be good.
- Is it a shortcode-based theme?
Shortcodes can be very powerful tools. Look through the documentation and review how the Author is using shortcodes, or if they are at all.
- Does it offer an import of demo content?
Themes look amazing when you click that “Live Preview” button, but there’s a reason for that. A designer spent hours making it look just right. Once purchased & installed, the theme does not usually look like the demo – it’s usually a blank canvas. This can leave you trying to recreate the demo, which may result in a lot of wasted time and frustration. Check to see if the theme has demo content available so you can adjust without having to recreate.
- Is it compatible with the latest version of WordPress?
Older themes might rely on older functions that are built into WordPress. If that is the case the theme will break the next time you update your WordPress platform. WordPress is currently 4.3.1 – make sure the theme you’re considering supports up to 4.2 and 4.3.