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.
Breaking it Down…
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.
- 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.
- Personal Membership: $39 per year
- Developer Membership: $89 per year
- Lifetime Access: $249 one-time (no annual fee)
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.
- Pro-Plus All Theme Package: $349.95 (does not include community-made themes)
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:
- 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:
- Annual Plan: $125 per year
- Forever Plan: $299 one-time
6. Organic Themes
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Enterprise Bundle: $79 (renewal: $59 per year)
- Mega Bundle: $99 (renewal: $79 per year)
- Framework Bundle: $89 (renewal: $69 per year)
9. Theme Furnace
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.
- Developer Club Membership: $99 per year
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.
- 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!
- 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 Themes||Pricing||Affiliate Program||Docs/Manuals||Forums|
|UpThemes||21+||$39 per year for Standard Membership||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Blog Oh! Blog||15||$150 per theme for Developer License||Yes||Yes||No|
|YOOtheme||30+||€249 for Developer License||No||Yes||Yes|
|ThemeZilla||20+||Variable (sold via ThemeForest)||No||Yes||Yes|
|Gabfire Themes||22||$59 Standard License (single theme)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Theme Junkie||30||$149 for Lifetime Membership||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|The Theme Foundry||12||$200 per year for Pro Membership||No||Yes||Yes|
|Chimera Themes||15+||$67 per year for Developer Club membership||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|FlexiThemes||16||$69.90 per year for Club Membership||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Gorilla Themes||20+||$49.95 per theme||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Aloha Themes||20+||$47 per theme||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|iDesignEco||20||$49 one-time+$9.99 monthly for Club Membership||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Templatic||45+||$299 one-time+$9 monthly for Club Membership||Yes||Yes||Yes|
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