In defense of themeforest

17 October 2011 comment icon0 | Categories: development, opinion

I’ve been keeping a close eye on a number of different theme marketplaces recently. As far as WordPress is concerned, to me there are 2 main marketplaces in the ecosystem today. The first and the biggest by some distance in my opinion is the juggernaut that is themeforest (part of envato). The second is the newer kid on the block Mojo Themes (disclosure: I currently sell themes with Mojo Themes). This isn’t a themeforest vs. Mojo Themes post – it wouldn’t be appropriate for me as I’m currently not a theme seller on themeforest. This is purely a post to dispel some common misconceptions about the quality of product available in said marketplaces.

If it was once true that many themes on the leading theme marketplaces were substandard – this is certainly not the case any more. In fact, it is my opinion that the quality of work being produced and sold on the marketplaces in the past few months is in many cases knocking the socks off many of the leading independent WordPress theme shops. This certainly wasn’t the case a year ago.

Here are some quick samples to wet your theme tastebuds.

Flashlight is simply amazing. It’s sometimes easy for those of us who spend a lot of time around WordPress just how much innovation is going on in the theme development space at the moment. There was a time not long ago where some of the world’s top web agencies would have struggled to implement a design executed with the imagination and creativity applied in themes like Flashlight – and that is even before considering putting a CMS behind it! Now you can spend 35 bucks and you’re immediately transforming your WordPress experience – easy to forget just how far WordPress has come!

Now this is usually the point where many marketplace detractors chime in with many of the following points:

  • marketplace themes are usually coded very poorly
  • you can never get support for themes purchased in marketplaces
  • themes are never updated/patched in marketplaces

MarketPlace code quality

I’ve checked out the code underneath a lot of the best selling themes on themeforest – while I wouldn’t agree with all the approaches taken by some theme authors to achieve some functionality (like excessive use of shortcodes – grrr!) the one thing you can say is that a LOT of time and care has gone into delivering a highly polished product. If you don’t believe me go grab a copy of any of the top selling themes on themeforest or Mojo Themes. It’s a great learning experience. Also Mojo Themes insist that all themes pass the auto checks in the theme check plugin during the approval process. Themeforest operate extremely strict approval processes now and a lot of decent looking themes get rejected on their first pass – a lot of times based initially on aesthetics but also based on pretty rigorous theme code reviews. See a great flowchart about Themeforest’s approval process. Themeforest and Mojo Themes also insist on theme documentation being provided for every theme.

MarketPlace Theme Support

This is also a bit of a misnomer. The top sellers on the theme marketplaces all provide some form of support – in many cases at a level that matches many of the theme membership only support forums charging monthly subs fees. The reality is that top theme sellers realise that strong support is necessary for survival in an incredibly competitive environment. Also, the general quality of documentation available has improved significantly in the past 12 months.

I challenge those who still hold a poor opinion of theme marketplaces to reconsider this opinion. The WordPress theme ecosystem is rapidly evolving. Envato and Mojo Themes have both done an excellent job in making sure that their marketplaces offer a top quality product to their end users. As a long time theme developer who is only now dipping their toes in selling themes via the marketplaces, let me assure you that these marketplaces are not the free for all they might once have been and things are now very different. Standards are rightly being enforced and this is good news for WordPress theme consumers everywhere.

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