Leading Premium WordPress Theme Providers Compared

A major reason behind the popularity of WordPress is the easy availability of various readymade themes to help you give your website or blog a unique look. In fact, a search for “wordpress themes” on Google returns over 154,000,000 results.

However, searching for WordPress themes on Google is not the best solution, and this is where premium theme providers come into play. In this article, I shall be taking a closer look at some of the leading premium theme makers for WordPress. 

Why Use a Premium Theme

The benefits of using premium themes over free ones are many. Often, even the best free themes are found lacking in features as compared to premium ones. Not only do premium themes have cleaner code and better features, they also come with proper support and documentation to help you out just in case something does not work.

Naturally, if you are serious about blogging and your budget allows for it, you should consider a premium theme for your blog.

However, when it comes to picking a premium theme, the choices can be overwhelming. There are several theme makers out there — both good and bad. So, how does one decide which provider to trust? This is precisely what I shall attempt to answer in this article.

The Big Names

Before talking about the major theme providers, let us first get a bird’s eye view of each, shall we?

Note: Click the image for a larger preview.

Comparison of Premium Theme Providers

Breaking it Down…

1. WooThemes

WooThemes is, arguably, the leading theme provider when it comes to premium WordPress themes. Some years back, WooThemes also used to offer themes for CMSs such as Expression Engine, though of late they have been focusing primarily on WordPress.

Apart from themes, WooThemes also offers a good selection of plugins and their in-house eCommerce tool named WooCommerce. However, WooThemes began as, and is still known as, a premium theme maker before anything else.

And what exactly does their collection consist of? As of now, there are almost 84 themes in their collection, and the number increases nearly every month. Out of the entire catalog, 16 themes are free. The themes cater to a wide genre of websites, such as portfolio, corporate, magazine and even tumblogs.

The general pricing for individual themes is approximately $70 (there is a 30-day money back guarantee). Though if you are opting for WooThemes, a Club Membership makes much more sense and also gives you access to all the themes.

WooThemes offers extensive documentation, support videos and also has its own help desk for your queries.

Pricing:

  • Standard Membership: $20 per month ($125 startup fee)
  • Developer Membership: $25 per month ($200 startup fee)

2. Elegant Themes

Elegant Themes is another extremely popular provider. It may also be the most budget-friendly. Just like WooThemes, Elegant Themes also has a plugins section, though once again, the themes collection outweighs the plugins.

As of now, the collection stands at 81 themes (none free, by the way), and Elegant Themes claims to have over 176,000 customers.

There is not an option to select just one theme, though you will not really miss that option either — the Club Membership fees is just $39 per year for a Personal License.

Elegant Themes offers extensive and direct contact-based support to its users, but unlike WooThemes, they do not have the detailed videos, separate pre-sales FAQ, etc. Plus, in my opinion, a good number of their themes look identical in terms of features, settings and appearance — it may be just me, but Elegant Themes seems to lack the diversity that exists in the offerings by WooThemes.

Pricing:

  • Personal Membership: $39 per year
  • Developer Membership: $89 per year
  • Lifetime Access: $249 one-time (no annual fee)

3. StudioPress

StudioPress is well known for its Genesis Framework. In fact, StudioPress offers both free and premium themes, though you will need to purchase the Genesis Framework for the free child themes as well.

The collection of themes is huge, and it is backed by another plethora of themes released by the community. Genesis Framework is well known for its customization tweaks, and Studio Press’ collection of themes will not disappoint you either.

The Genesis Framework itself costs $59.95, and if you intend to buy a single theme from the collection, you can get the theme, plus the framework, for around $70 to $80. There is only one Club Membership model, named Pro Plus.

In terms of support, there is a separate help section for theme buyers, and pre-sales questions can be sent using the contact form on the website. There are also tutorials for customers as well as certain code snippets.

Pricing:

4. WPZOOM

WPZOOM has a slightly smaller collection of themes as compared to the likes of WooThemes or Elegant Themes. As of now, WPZOOM offers over 40 themes (including some free ones).

In spite of having fewer themes, WPZOOM seems to be growing well and has established a reputation for itself in the premium themes’ market. The support options are plenty, including pre-sales FAQ, documentation, tutorials and forums. WPZOOM also has its own Customization Team that can help you get the most out of your themes.

Their pricing scheme is one of the most clearly defined out there: you can opt for a single theme, which will cost you $69 per theme, including a bonus theme, (or $149 for the Developer version, including PSD and 2 bonus themes). The Club Membership models are as follows:

Pricing:

  • Standard Membership: $9 per month ($199 signup fees)
  • Developer Membership: $19 per month ($299 signup fees)

5. Graph Paper Press

Graph Paper Press creates WordPress themes and eCommerce plugins especially meant for photographers and creative artists. Currently, GPP offers nearly 40 themes (including some good free ones, such as MixFolio).

Apart from WordPress themes and plugins, Graph Paper Press also offers WordPress hosting for its users — the $35 per month plan offers nightly backups, several premium themes, and many other features.

In terms of the theme collection, as mentioned above, the primary target audience includes photographers and other artists. Naturally, the themes belong mainly to the “portfolio” genre.

The pricing is rather simple: you can either purchase a single theme for $75 (with one year of support and tutorial access). Alternatively, you can go for the Club Memberships (all themes and plugins plus video tutorials), which are as follows:

Pricing:

  • Annual Plan: $125 per year
  • Forever Plan: $299 one-time

6. Organic Themes

The sixth theme provider on our list, Organic Themes, currently has over 47,000 customers. Obviously, it is a well known name, which is perhaps most famous for its Structure theme.

You can purchase individual themes for $69, or opt for the membership for $249. Detailed documentation, resources and tutorials are available for customers.

Sadly, the pricing model is too confusing: there is no direct page explaining the details of club membership (such as what you get, what you do not get), and if you click on the Club Membership link, it simply takes you to checkout.

Pricing:

  • Developer Pack: $249

7. Obox Design

Just like many other providers on this list, Obox Design also offers both themes and plugins. The collection of themes, though not actually mind-blowing, has many good designs (including some free ones). Interestingly, a good section of Obox’s themes caters especially to video bloggers.

Support is offered via forums and documentation. The pricing is simple: you can either go for the single pack, which costs $60 and has 2 themes, or the Developer Pack which costs $120 and has 3 themes. Alternatively, you can decide to purchase a membership for $140.

Pricing:

  • Club Membership: $140 for entire collection ($15 recurring per month)

8. ColorLabs & Company

ColorLabs has various themes catering to a wide spectrum of niches, such as eCommerce, real estate, classifieds, job listing sites and even social networks. Beyond that, ColorLabs also offers free themes and plugins.

ColorLabs also offers detailed one-on-one first-time installation support, as well as tutorials and documentation.

The pricing for individual themes varies, with framework themes costing $69 whereas standard themes can be priced either $49 or $59. There are three club memberships available: Enterprise Bundle for 13+ eCommerce themes, Mega Bundle for 29+ multipurpose themes, and Framework Bundle for 10+ backbone and child themes.

Pricing:

  • Enterprise Bundle: $79 (renewal: $59 per year)
  • Mega Bundle: $99 (renewal: $79 per year)
  • Framework Bundle: $89 (renewal: $69 per year)

9. Theme Furnace

Owned by Kooc Media Ltd, Theme Furnace is a relatively newer player in the premium theme providers’ market.

Considering the fact that Theme Furnace is not as old as others in this list, the number of themes in the collection is slightly fewer. There are around 10 themes as of now, including a couple for free ones.

The pricing for individual themes is $49, whereas the Developer Club Membership costs $99 per year.

Pricing:

  • Developer Club Membership: $99 per year

10. DevPress

DevPress primarily offers themes built using the Hybrid Core framework. Almost all the themes are responsive and light-weight. The number of themes in the collection is not high, though — as of now, there are 12 themes in total.

Support is offered only using the forums and not through email, though pre-sales questions can be sent via email.

Pricing:

  • Club Membership: $40 per year

11. WPMU DEV

WPMU DEV offers much more than just themes: a membership entitles you to over 160 themes. I guess that should be enough to impress anyone, right? Well, if not, you also get over 140 plugins and unlimited, live and manual support.

A single theme costs $19, and the membership costs $39.50 for new members per month. In terms of usage, WPMU DEV’s themes serve a wide audience: you have magazine themes, blogging themes, corporate and portfolio themes, and even photoblogging themes!

In terms of support, you can get one-on-one replies as and when needed, in addition to detailed tutorials, manuals, docs and videos.

Pricing:

  • Full Membership: $39.50 per month

Need Some More?

Before winding it up, how about taking a look at some other names that, though not the leading ones out there, still deserve a mention?

No. of ThemesPricingAffiliate ProgramDocs/ManualsForums
UpThemes21+$39 per year for Standard MembershipYesYesYes
Blog Oh! Blog15$150 per theme for Developer LicenseYesYesNo
YOOtheme30+€249 for Developer LicenseNoYesYes
ThemeZilla20+Variable (sold via ThemeForest)NoYesYes
Gabfire Themes22$59 Standard License (single theme)YesYesYes
Theme Junkie30$149 for Lifetime MembershipYesYesYes
The Theme Foundry12$200 per year for Pro MembershipNoYesYes
Chimera Themes15+$67 per year for Developer Club membershipYesYesYes
FlexiThemes16$69.90 per year for Club MembershipYesYesYes
Gorilla Themes20+$49.95 per themeYesYesYes
Aloha Themes20+$47 per themeYesYesYes
iDesignEco20$49 one-time+$9.99 monthly for Club MembershipYesYesYes
Templatic45+$299 one-time+$9 monthly for Club MembershipYesYesYes

Conclusion

There you have it — a comparison of some of the top premium theme providers!

One thing that really bewildered me while researching this article was the fact that many theme makers did not offer email support. Plus, most of them did not even have a ticketing system in place, and forums were the only medium of offering support (refer to the first table above for details).

Agreed, not everyone has the support staff to provide detailed help via Twitter or live chat, but in my (humble) opinion, your customers deserve more than just a forum! A ticketing system or email support is almost a must-have nowadays — at least that’s what I learned from my tenure in the web hosting industry. Even basic shared hosting customers who are paying $2.95 per month are entitled to email support.

The second interesting point is related to refund policies. WooThemes, StudioPress and a few others offer a generous 30-day refund policy. However, many providers, such as WPZOOM, do not offer refunds due to “the tangible nature of goods being sold.”

Lastly, most of the premium theme providers offer membership clubs for buyers. If you are looking for just one theme for your blog or website, a membership might not appeal to you. However, if you need access to multiple themes, you can opt for a club membership. Apart from gaining access to the entire collection, you also get PSD files for each theme (note that certain theme providers have separate club memberships — in this case, PSD files are available only to developer club members), plus regular updates as well as all future themes. In terms of pricing, you have to first pay a signup fee (one-time), and thereafter a monthly/annual amount. Thus, for WooThemes, you will have to shell out $200 signup fee, followed by $25 per month for Developer Membership (this gives you access to all the themes in the collection, along with PSDs).

What if you cancel mid-way? Most theme providers do not refund the signup fee, though if you have paid the monthly amount for the entire year, and cancel after 6 months, you will be refunded the monthly fee for the remaining six months. For example, if you paid $150 signup fee plus $120 (at $10 per month) for twelve months, and decided to opt out after 4 months, you will be refunded $80 (a total deduction of $150, plus the fee for four months during which you were a club member).

Another useful pricing model is the Lifetime Membership, which requires you to pay a fixed amount up front and gets you lifetime membership benefits. As noted above, Elegant Themes follows this Lifetime Membership model and the pricing is $249 one-time.

Which is your favorite provider when it comes to premium themes? Share your experiences with us in the comments below!

Image Credit: niallkennedy

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Comments (24)

  1. I’ve got memberships at both Organic Themes and Elegant Themes, and OT’s support has been exemplary, whereas I’ve had to wait days-on-end for half-, and sometimes blaming, answers from ET support. I also find ET’s custom-built Theme Options to be cumbersome, redundant and confusing. Maybe that’s just me.

    Just speaking as a fan of Organic Themes: I don’t find their pricing model confusing at all. I think you summed it up perfectly: “You can purchase individual themes for $69, or opt for the membership for $249.” Also, in the penultimate paragraph of your conclusion, I believe you meant Organic Themes, not Elegant Themes. :)

    • ET’s support is terrible, let’s just say it. After waiting days for an answer, as you mentioned it’s often an unhelpful answer which makes it obvious they didn’t read your question carefully. And when you ask if there is a way to enable some common functionality (which some of their themes curiously lack such as submenus, or banner slides that actually link to the articles they pull the featured images from, etc.) A typical response is “you can hire a programmer to implement that for you”. No customer service skills whatsoever.

      Contrast that with the support from providers like MySiteMyWay for instance where, if their theme lacks a certain functionality (especially glaring omissions), they will get it into the next release OR they will help you with code examples to do it yourself.

      Some might say “what do you expect for $39/year?” I say “exactly.”

  2. The StudioPress All Theme package is probably the best deal in WordPress. I have no connection to them other than being a satisfied customer but I think it is important for new WordPress integrators to think through the realities of running a business and of having frustrating support problems soak up hours that you should be using to make money.

    Less experienced integrators are usually attracted to surface gloss and, in their different ways, WooThemes and ElegantThemes provide plenty of shiny and wow, but are not particularly easy to adapt and can demand unpredictable chunks of time to maintain, not good when you are trying to keep clients happy. The same goes for ThemeForest.

    Once you really get going, and understand the importance of solid frameworks backed up by deep support, the Genesis framework is by far the best option upon with to base an actual Web Design business.

    Something which really should have been highlighted in the review is that the StudioPress Pro-Plus All Theme Package, which includes the Genesis framework + 43 themes (and growing), gives you lifetime updates, upgrades and support.

    It might seem expensive at $345, but the equivalent WooThemes theme club, which excludes their WooCommerce products, costs $200 + $25 per month … a staggering $300 every year. In 5 years time, the StudioPress package is going to seem like the best decision you ever made, not least because the sites you create using the Genesis framework will give you far fewer headaches and soak up far less of your time in maintenance and support.

    The 43 inhouse themes give clients a broad range to choose from, while the solid framework and excellent support means that you can, with relative ease, adapt them to meet whatever your vision is.

    Meanwhile, the “community themes” are third-party examples of what other theme designers have built upon the Genesis framework, they only cost $18.71 each if you already own the framework (the same as the inhouse themes if bought individually) and, again, you get lifetime updates and support.

    By all means, experiment with different theme providers, but give your business a solid foundation by getting to grips with Genesis first.

  3. Thank you for this round-up. What I would really find useful though, as alluded to by WordSkill, is an examination and comparison of the “under the hood” quality of these theme providers. How standards and WP compliant are they? How clean and easy to maintain is the code, etc… all questions pertinent to WP based web businesses and others interested in more than personal blogging.

  4. I am an Elegant Themes and WPMUdev customer. Elegant Themes are good-looking but I echo the sentiment that they are more trouble than they’re worth most of the time. I’ve never had an install where I didn’t require assistance from their VERY underwhelming support system. I keep the membership because it’s so cheap but I wouldn’t pay a dime more.
    WPMUdev, on the other hand, is worth every penny, right down to their white-label support videos that you can just pass on to customers.

  5. Hmmm, not even a mention of RocketTheme. I’ve used Organic and Woothemes, but I also like Rocketthemes for their built in tools. Might want to take a peek at them for your next project.

  6. One of the vendors you didn’t mention who I think have gorgeous themes and have very good customer service is ThemeFuse:

    http://themefuse.com

    As for Elegant Themes I had a friend I was helping select one of their themes and is was so poorly coded that we threw it out and used another theme. To be fair I only looked at one of their themes about a year ago but don’t know if they’ve improved since then.

  7. I echo the elegant themes criticism. The themes look great in the demos but when I try to put them into practice the results are tough to achieve without support. There are two theme clubs I use that are very good that are not mentioned here.
    http://rockettheme.com is very good as I use them for Joomla but the gantry framework is nice and they now offer very stylish wordpress themes. I also use http://themify.me and I really like their themes. They are easy to use.

  8. ….and no mention of Headway (which I don’t get on with ) or iThemes (which I do), yet you promote their BackupBuddy Plugin. Could it be there are just too many premium theme providers to do a proper analysis?

    • Both of those were already covered in a couple of theme framework roundups last year. I think they’re in a bit of a different league, being “drag and drop” frameworks, as opposed to just theme providers (although Genesis comes close to fitting in that category though).

      • Then perhaps the article would have been better for a definition of what was being reviewed and why, as well as those excluded, with links to reviews of those covered elsewhere. I am left with a post that feels incomplete, especially as its starts by suggesting that it will offer an opinion as to whom you can trust. Leaving such premium “framework” themes out entirely suggests perhaps not, rather unfairly, I suggest.

  9. To be honest, after looking at the portfolios from all those providers, it’s pretty obvious to me that all the best theme developers are now on Themeforest. Not hard to figure out why given the prices charged on that site per theme….

    WPMU is a different beast with services far exceeding those of a standard theme club.

  10. I quit reading after not seeing Themeforest in the first chart (I clicked to this story from the WPMU email JUST to see how they stack up to others) – am I missing something as to why they weren’t included?

    • ThemeForest is a marketplace of thousands of providers, only some of them WordPress theme providers. How on Earth would you fit them into a comparison that is all about the distinctive house styles, coding practices and support quality of WordPress-only companies?

      Such a comparison would actually be brutally unfair to ThemeForest – their very structure means that there is no real incentive for marketplace sellers to offer meaningful support or code that will be robust, and I say that as someone who actually uses a ThemeForest theme on his main business site.

      WordPress theme companies succeed by building their reputations over time, whereas any marketplace is hit-driven. That results in lots of interesting design experiments but, also, lots of unhappy customers. The recipe for success there is to keep moving and keep creating themes, based upon the latest trends, knowing that if you can stand out and break into the top ten for that week, you can increase your sales by 100X. Some sellers may try to give good support but, really, once your sales have started to decrease, you are better off working on your next shot.

      Again, I sometimes use Themeforest themes, for very specific purposes, but anyone basing a Web Design business on them is a moron.

  11. I used to think that themes with extra functionality to do “cool stuff” were fantastic. I soon realised that they actually created much more of a headache.
    My current way of thinking is to have a solid framework from a company with a reliable support network…then build (or buy) child themes…and use plugins for the extra functionality.
    With that in mind, i think the only sensible option (at least for me) is Studiopress. Great support from the company, a multitude of brilliant users who openly share their ideas…and of course, no monthly fees to pay :-)

  12. No mention of ThemeTrust? Good support, although I’ve only had to use it once as their themes work great out of the box or you can modify the crap out of them and they keep on ticking. Definitely a leader in responsive themes.

  13. Yet another one niche free- of cost and premium themes at http://www.apptha.com. It has provided clean and clear eye catching theme designs with demo pages. I also use apptha themes to my website this theme designs very clear. His customer supports very quickly and affordable prices and deals.

  14. TemplateMonster was not mentioned, but in my opinion it offers an experience no other theme provider does, like explaining the technologies used to build the theme (HTML5, CSS3, LESS, Ajax etc, animation technologies, sources available and tools/software needed), gallery types (Accordion, Carousel etc), large search options.

    I wish all providers would offer this type of concise yet complete presentation, instead of nice marketing phrases.

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