Trust me, I know how cool all of the themes are on sites like Themeforest, Pagelines and Elegant. They’re downright tempting and always look so pixel-perfect in the demo, even the mobile layout looks perfect!
The truth is, most WordPress theme authors are damn good sales people. They might not cold-call or make door-to-door visits but they can sell and they know exactly who their customer is.
A premium theme purchaser is typically an experienced marketer who may be a generalist, strategist or technologist but is not a designer or master of any particular skill. He/She knows what they want, at least in broad strokes and will sacrifice certain things if they can find a “good enough” fit for the website they have in mind.
Premium themes help the generalist by offering an all-one-solution. They help the strategist by offering a variety of plugins that can make the website perform and designers usually like premium themes because they come with art direction and many times the default theme style will be good enough for a design. This frees up time for the designer to work on logos, headers or other areas of the website design. In short, premium themes solve creative, technical and financial needs for customers who want a WordPress website. Or do they? We’d contend they don’t solve anything and decided to write today’s post discussing a few reasons to avoid premium WordPress themes.
They Never Work Like The Demo Does
Although aesthetically pleasing, most premium themes will not look the same when the demo content is replaced with client content. We joke around the office that premium themes are like the products we see in SkyMall, they always look super cool and handy but when you buy something and it arrives, it’s always much different from what the picture described. Premium theme marketplaces are just like the SkyMall product catalogs. They get you excited with an awesome product demo that has been carefully laid out by an expert, many times requiring hours of maneuvering and customizing settings only to come back and change them again…and again…and…you get the picture. This kind of WordPress development is a product of poor planning and is lazy. Bad branding decisions like this will lead to failure in differentiating your business from the others in your marketplace. Avoid settling on the design of a premium theme and allowing it to dictate what your brand looks and behaves like online.
Premium Themes Are Slower and Poor for SEO
Premium themes, in my experience anyway, load slowly. It’s all the features they cram into the theme. The shortcodes and custom page/post types that bloat the code and slow the page speed down also hurt your SEO. Some themes are just poorly coded. Search engines like Google and Bing are now factoring in page load speed when they rank websites. Using a premium theme can not only lead to design and functionality limitations but it can also cost you precious search engine rankings and in turn website traffic that could lead to sales. Why put all of the work in, planning, design, development of a new website only to find out that it does not do its job? It’s just silly to place your website SEO ranking and user experience in some theme author hands.
An Inconsistent Content Management Experience is Frustrating
When I first started building WordPress websites I was doing it on the side. I was cheap and to be honest, produced some pretty awful looking websites. My approach was to buy a premium theme and then replace the elements in it with what my client wanted. Sometimes it worked great, other times it was a disaster. Furthermore, it was difficult and confusing for me to remember where everything was! Since I was using a wide variety of themes, from different authors, I had several feature sets and website configurations to manage. This made it difficult for me and for my clients to manage content. If you’re a company that changes themes with each new website launch then you’ve probably experienced what I just described. By electing to avoid using premium WordPress themes in favor of a framework, you’ll only have to learn one set of configurations, etc. One framework provides a consistent method of content management that can be taught. Furthermore, fluid business processes can be designed and even automated as the framework is developed. This consistency leads to a comfort level that makes it less of a hassle to manage content on a website.
Sometimes helpful for inspiration or talking points with clients, premium themes should not be leveraged for website development. Aside from the fact that they’ve been built by someone else they’re rarely a complete solution.
Because even premium themes are just that, themes, not full-solutions.