2010 WordPress Theme Buyers Guide – Part 2

Right so now that we’ve covered the different types of wordpress themes there are , we hope you have a clearer idea about which type of theme is right for you. In Part 2 of the 2010 WordPress Theme Buyers Guide we’re now going to take a closer look at why should even consider buying a premium wordpress theme.

Dude, why should I buy a wordpress theme? – there lots of free ones out there already!

Yes there are lots of free wordpress themes out there. Free wordpress themes are one of the key building blocks of the vibrant wordpress community. The fact that you can install wordpress and get your hands on some world class quality themes without paying a penny is one of the main reasons why WordPress has become the most popular publishing platform on the planet. As long as there is a free and open spirit in the wordpress community, there will be free wordpress themes. For those running a simple blog or hobby site, a free wordpress theme is exactly what you need. Why spend money on a blog that you just want to be a simple publishing platform to make your voice heard – that’s just loco – keep it simple and stick with the free themes – unless you’ve got lots of spare cash weighing you down 🙂

On the other hand if you’re using WordPress to power a blog or website which is a commercial venture then you should consider the benefits of a premium wordpress theme.

Benefits of Premium WordPress Themes

It’s the Quality Stupid

Over the past 3 years we’ve seen an explosion in the number of websites which have sprung up selling premium wordpress themes. Prior to this premium themes did it exist but the vast majority of themes were free. Roll back about 3 or 4 years and the vast majority of wordpress blogs/websites were powered by free wordpress themes which by and large had a very similar look and feel. Yes there were exceptions to this – I’m generalising a bit here. But by and large we had a lot of blogs which were immediately identifiable as being powered by WordPress because chances were the blog was using a free wordpress theme you had seen somewhere else. What’s happended over the last 3 years is that things have changed a LOT. Premium theme designers and developers have continuously been pushing the envelope when it comes to producing high quality, unique themes which has significantly raised the bar that we now judge ALL themes by – both free and premium. I think Premium theme designers have had the net effect of raising the standard of free themes – which is a major plus for the community as a whole. This is an often overlooked benefit of having the a healthy commercial ecosystem developing around WordPress.

Typical wordpress theme circa 2007
Typical wordpress theme circa 2007
2010 Free WordPress Themes Evolved

Premium wordpress themes have transformed the quality of wordpress themes for everyone. Designers who release free themes have learned from the premium theme shops about how to design world class themes that users want. In turn, premium theme designers have also benefited from the hundreds of excellent designers who have responded to produce the next generation of excellent free themes. Ultimately this healthy competition has meant that the innovation curve for wordpress themes is rising steeply and continues to do so – more than for any other open source publishing platform.

Again I’m also going to generalise here a bit and state that Premium WordPress themes from the well known theme shops do tend to be a higher quality than a lot of free themes. Before you flame me I said a lot – not all! There’s a natural reason for this too – premium shops want to produce a product that delivers value for the buyer. It’s not good enough to produce a nice design – the underlying code has to be of an excellent quality to compete with the best free themes. There are of course some really poor themes for sale out there too which don’t come to close to the quality of the best free themes.

Support Support Support

For me this is where the real value for most users will be when they buy a premium wordpress theme. Always make sure your vendor offers support as part of the purchase price. Free themes are great – but what happens when that new version of Internet Explorer launches and breaks your wonderful blog just as Digg starts sending you bucketloads of traffic after you write that wonderful Jerry Maguire style memo? Yes, you may be lucky to be using a free wordpress theme that has an active support community – but what if you’re not? What if you don’t have the skills to fix that new annoying browser bug which is costing you business? This is where the premium theme sites are worth their weight in gold. WooThemes has a very active support community which means you can get quick answers to your problems just when you need them. These support communities can also be invaluable when you starting customising your theme to your requirements. With many premium wordpress theme shops switching their theme distribution licenses to be GPL, their support structures have become their unique competitive advantage. With many theme shops reporting that switching to GPL has not had an adverse impact on their business – quite the opposite in many cases – it would seem that customers also believe that support is one of the main advantages of buying a premium theme. In fact, some providers will now let you purchase support services for themes they did not originally design – again showing the value of solid support structures.

Other benefits to premium wordpress themes

  • Theme Clubs – A lot of theme shops now operate theme clubs where you can pay a little extra and get access to lots of different themes – which is a really great option if you operate multiple websites or just wish to experiement with different themes
  • Theme Option Panels – Yes, lots of free themes now have Theme Option Panels but the premium shops are really on a major innovation drive here to differentiate from free themes. In fact, many premium theme developers are now developing fully fledged theme frameworks in their own right to offer users even more flexibility for managing and customising the look and feel of their websites.
  • Artwork Source Files – Want to make some changes to gradients and colour schemes – most premium themes will include the original PSD’s used to create the design in the first place – in fact you should always make sure that this comes with your theme.

I would now also advise that you only buy themes that fall under the GPL license as this gives you the full freedom to use the theme as you see fit (e.g. multiple sites, servers, etc. ) once you have purchased it.

Recommended Theme Shops

  • WooThemes – Prices range from $70 – $200 depending on the the package you order. Continually producing the best premium themes on the market. Their work is world class every time. Excellent designs and creativity. Excellent markup/CSS standards. Best in class theme options panels. The Star Package for us is the Developer Package which is currently $150 and gets you 4 themes with support, and PSD source files.
  • StudioPress – Prices range from $59 – $249.95 – Some really innovative things coming from StudioPress at the moment with the Genesis Theme framework. Excellent themes in general. Big proponents of the GPL license. The Star Package for us is the Pro Plus All-Theme Package which is essentially an “access all areas forvever pass”. Excellent value if you intend using lots of themes in the long run.
  • Obox – Prices range from $50 – $100. The relative new kids on the block – producing top quality creative designs with excellent markup and options panels.

There are lots of other Premium Theme Shops out there but if I was to pick only 3 – these would be my Top 3 in that order. Go check ’em out.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of the 2010 Theme Buyers Guide when we take a look at the top 10 traits of a world class wordpress theme.


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