Thoughts on Paid WordPress Themes and Their Drawbacks

It’s no secret that we think WordPress is a great thing. Nashville Interactive uses it as the CMS (content management system) on 90% of projects we do. While it’s a very flexible and easy-to-use system, there’s a trend of developers and agencies using pre-fab, paid WordPress themes to build their client’s websites. While this isn’t all bad, Nashville Interactive strongly advocates building custom themes that serve specific goals. Here’s a quick look at why these paid themes aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

They Try to be Everything to Everyone

Don’t be fooled by the big bullet points with exclamation marks that tout “1203 Different Layout Options!!!” and “23,300 Available Widgets”. Basically what those “benefits” mean is: This theme is super complicated to setup & configure and you’ll have a ton of extra features cluttering up your admin area that you’ll never use! Being “flexible” often also means that the website doesn’t perform well due to all the unnecessary overhead.

Developers Often Aren’t Savvy with WordPress Best Practices

Being able to develop one theme and sell it to thousands of people for $35 sounds like a great way work smarter not harder but smarter is a relative term. Many theme developers are out to make easy money while they sit back and relax. Good for them but not so much for you. Half-heartedly cranking out overly complex and yet poorly built themes is the scenario I see more often than not.

Updates Can Wreak Havoc on Your Website

Paid WordPress Theme development means buying a theme that will release periodic updates to enhance functionality, security etc. Sounds great right? Well it might not be. Even if your WordPress website developer follows best practices by creating a child theme and doesn’t modify the paid theme’s files, updates will reveal how shoddily built the theme is. The theme developers will realize that they didn’t do things in the most efficient way when the theme was built and will make changes that will override your custom edits. Go ahead and cough up a few more bucks to get those issues fixed.

Technical Support is Hit or Miss

Decent theme developers will offer support options. Often those options involve annual fees for continued support and if you’re lucky you can get email support. If you’re not lucky, you have to sift through thousands of forum posts and wait days and weeks for lack-luster vague replies regarding your issue. Sometimes it’s just easier to call and talk directly to the person who developed your custom theme.

They Really Don’t Save That Much Time on Design & Development

A custom WordPress theme developer will have a “blank” base theme that he or she will work from. This is a blank slate that they know well and will significantly speed custom development. Paid WordPress themes are often so complex that it takes several days just to figure out how all of the “time-saving” features work. Don’t be afraid to get a quote for custom WordPress theme development when starting your project.

You Can Achieve a More Unique Look With Custom Theme Development

Many clients say “it looks like a WordPress site”. To be clear, WordPress is simply a content management system and the front-end of your website can look any way you want it to. WordPress itself does not lock you in to particular styles. This “WP Look” sentiment stems from the thousands and thousands of “developers” who basically purchase a theme, configure it and done. It’s easier for them and hopefully cheaper for clients (but that’s not always the case with certain agencies)

Again, paid themes aren’t necessarily all bad but do yourself a favor and get a quote on custom design and development for your website project and be sure to ask the developers if they use pre-fab, paid WordPress themes or if they develop from scratch based on your specific project needs.