Dream Theme: Everything You Need to Know About Buying a Premium WordPress Theme

Dream Theme: Everything You Need to Know About Buying a Premium WordPress Theme

You’re looking to spruce up your WordPress site. You’ve browsed seemingly limitless free options, however, nothing pans out that suits your needs. It might be time to consider a premium theme.

Premium themes are built by professional developers and offer you unparalleled support, upgraded features, and an overall higher quality product that you typically can’t get for free.

They also give you the ability to stand out from competitors within your niche. Sometimes you need that extra boost in visibility and a premium theme can provide this for you.

In this post we’re going to cover the different sources you can purchase premium themes from, how to determine if the theme is any good, and other theme bonuses you’ll want to keep an eye out for.

After reading through this, you might determine that the WordPress site you’ve always dreamed of can become reality with a premium theme; making all of your WordPress dreams come true.

Where to Find Premium Themes

When you’re searching for premium themes there are two main avenues you can go down.

Theme Vendors

Theme vendors are markets online to purchase WordPress themes.

When you’re buying from a vendor, you may want to stick to the WordPress Directory of Commercial Themes. This is a specially curated list of high-quality themes WordPress stands behind.

Examples of trustworthy and high-quality theme vendors include Graph Paper Press and Theme Isle (both of which I’ll be going over soon).

Theme Marketplaces

These are prominent online stores where in exchange for elevated exposure, theme developers pay a commission on each sale to the marketplace.

Although the themes in the larger marketplaces don’t go through a strict testing process, the marketplace does a good job of enabling the highest quality themes to rise to the top – usually through a rating system.

Low-quality themes simply won’t get good ratings. If your theme doesn’t live up to its promises, well, there is nowhere to hide.

Below you’ll find a quick breakdown of some of the most popular premium theme vendors and theme marketplaces. While we can’t cover every single one in this post, it’ll give you more than enough to get started. (If you’re really interested, you can continue reading about even more WordPress theme marketplaces.)

  • Superb Themes

    Superb Themes features lightweight and SEO optimized WordPress themes for shopping, blogging, magazines, and plenty more.

    Over 179,000 websites use their products. Themes are regularly updated and they offer premium support.

    Prices range from $67 annually for up to 15 domains, 30+ themes, child themes, and support. However, for a one-time payment of $199, you get unlimited domains, all the themes, lifetime updates, and all the premium features.

    Interested in Superb Themes?

  • Asphalt Themes

    Asphalt Themes is known for its beautiful and bloat-free WordPress themes. They’re 100% mobile responsive and retina ready. A lot of their themes are created for resumes and portfolios.

    They all have dedicated support and regular updates. They also have a “try it before you buy it” feature that offers a 7-day refund without having to worry about losing anything.

    Prices range from $39 for a Pro Version and up to $199 for a Theme Bundle that includes all the themes, features, and unlimited site usage.

    Interested in Asphalt Themes?

  • Elegant Themes

    Elegant Themes offers very high attention to detail. The entire theme selection is unique and gives your site a warm and friendly feel, no matter which theme you select.

    They also have a dedicated support staff who are there to assist you with any questions you may have. They offer a pricing of $89/year or a one-time payment of $249 for unlimited to access their entire collection.

    Interested in Elegant Themes?

  • StudioPress

    StudioPress offers premium themes that run on their own Genesis framework. Genesis is an incredibly popular framework for web professionals.

    A Pro-Plus All Themes Package is $499.95. They also have other theme packages that vary in price.

  • Creative Market

    Creative Market isn’t as well-known as the other marketplaces on this list. It’s much newer and geared towards creative web professionals.

    They allow anyone to set up a storefront and begin selling WordPress themes. If you’re looking for a more personal buying environment, this could be for you.

    The price range is very diverse, with themes ranging from $2 all the way up to $199.

    Interested in Creative Market?

  • Themify

    Themify is an easy to navigate marketplace that offers a large selection of themes to choose from. They offer themes for every occasion and are actually priced affordably.

    You can get access to all of their themes and plugins for $89. If you’re looking for the most value out of your dollar, Themify this is worth checking out.

  • ThemeIsle

    ThemeIsle has over 80, user-friendly and customizable themes. The theme options are modern and offer options; everything from starter sites, medical, portfolios, and plenty more.

    The prices start at $49 for a Personal plan and up to $129 for an Agency plan. Each option has support, custom layouts, and blog booster. For the more premium packages, there is priority support, white label, and more.

  • Graph Paper Press

    Graph Paper Press is trusted by over 297,000 users worldwide and has 46 premium themes to choose from. They specialize in business, blog, eCommerce, magazine, video, photography, and portfolio style themes.

    The prices vary from $8.25 per month or lifetime membership of $399. Each price option includes unlimited access to all 46 themes, website license key(s), automatic updates, and support.

    Interested in Graph Paper Press?

  • ThemeForest

    ThemeForest is one of the most well-known theme marketplaces. It’s also part of the Envato network, which provides a host of other high-quality WordPress solutions, such as plugins.

    ThemeForest is huge and caters to just about every niche of website; from personal blogs, to corporate sites, to mom-and-pop shops, to everything in between.

    The pricing is also variable, but tends to lean towards the mid to higher end of the market, having prices that range from $40 to $60.

Keep in mind all prices are subject to change. Also, many of these websites offer discounts and have special promotions, so be sure to check for details.

Where Not to Buy Themes

Any of the above resources are great places to start browsing and ultimately buy a theme. However, there are a few places you’ll want to steer clear of.

It can be tempting to try and find premium theme discounts or free downloads. This mistake can be very costly. Remember: you get what you pay for.

You may come across a site that looks reputable and is offering a free download of the theme you’ve been thinking about purchasing. However, before you take the plunge and click Download, remember that these themes could have malicious code built-in. Uh-oh.

These spammy sites will usually upload a cracked version of the theme and offer it for free and unsuspectingly prey on those who download.

Aside from being hacked, a low-quality theme will raise a few other red flags.

For instance, one secret sign most people overlook is the correct spelling of WordPress. Although it’s a very little thing, theme developers who spell WordPress wrong, by substituting a lower-case “p,” are either careless with details (not a good sign) or aren’t active developers within the community.

Stand by this simple rule of thumb: If a theme seems too good to be true, it probably is. If a theme is trying to do too much, chances are it isn’t going to be very good at what it’s doing. Find a theme that does exactly what you want and nothing more.

Learn How to Crowdsource for Theme Quality

Although top quality theme vendors sell fantastic products and are worthy of consideration, one of the advantages of purchasing a theme from a marketplace is that you’ll have plenty of independent data to help you in your decision making process.

When you’re exploring theme marketplaces, you may feel overwhelmed at the sheer variety of choices available to you. Luckily, you can use social proof to determine if a theme is going to be a worthy investment.

Also, check to see if there is a trial period. Sometimes those are offered, so that way, if the theme isn’t a good fit, you can get a refund from your purchase.

Understanding the Theme Rating System

Let’s start with a disclaimer: Theme rating systems aren’t perfect and shouldn’t be used as the be-all-end-all of your decision-making process.

That being said, just like reviews on Amazon, if a theme has hundreds of four and five-star reviews, you can assume that it’s a solid theme. Perhaps not right for you, but right for plenty of others, which is a good start.

Conversely, if a theme has dozens of one and two-star reviews, you should probably pass on that theme, regardless of how you may feel about it subjectively.

Use a theme’s ratings as a yardstick – not the be-all and end-all, but an important element in your decision-making process.

Diving into the Comments Section

The comments section will enable you to gain insight into the experience others have had with any given theme.

Sometimes the comments section will act more like a simple support forum, while other times you’ll find nothing but praise. The comments section will help to illuminate potential flaws and show the responsiveness of the theme’s developers to simple requests.

Reading the Support Forums

Some theme marketplaces have dedicated offsite support forums, while others actually have support within the theme marketplace.

Similar to the comments section, it’s important to browse the support forum – even though you might not know what you’re looking for – as it will help you to judge what will happen if you do run into an issue.

Plus, you can ask any questions here that might help you decide whether to purchase or not.

The key elements you’ll want to look for are:

  1. A quick response time to support requests, and
  2. In-depth responses.

Viewing the Showcase, Demo, Preview or Live Examples

A theme’s showcase will show you what’s possible. It can be useful to see what other people have done with the theme you’re thinking of purchasing. This will help get your creative juices flowing, and you can see if people with high-caliber websites have vouched for the theme in the best possible way – by using it.

If a large, successful website is using the theme you’re thinking of buying, it’s probably going to be a very good theme.

Basing Your Decision on the Developer

When a new theme is released to the market there won’t be a ton of reviews, comments, or other indicators of social proof. This is when it can be helpful to look into the developer behind the project. If the developer has a steady string of high-quality themes behind them, you can bet this theme will be up to the same standards.

On the other hand, if you are looking at a developer’s very first theme, you may want to wait until other people have given the theme a run-through before choosing.

Defining Theme Elements to Look For

There are standard theme features that are must-haves when purchasing a premium theme. Without these elements, you’re going to end up frustrated more often than not.

  • Standards-Compliant: A high-quality theme will be up to the latest web standards. A good idea is to run the demo version of the theme through W3C Validator, which will give you an indication of whether the theme is well-coded or not.
  • Responsive: Responsiveness is becoming more and more of a necessity with every passing day. If you’re not on the bandwagon already, now is the time to hop on.
  • Compatible: Browser compatibility depends upon your audience. If you have a more tech-savvy user base then you may not need support for older web browsers, but if you cater to an older audience you’ll want to offer support for the browsers they use most.
  • Customizable: If you can’t figure out how to make simple aesthetic changes to your theme – even with the help of documentation – you may want to consider another option. The backend of the theme should ideally be intuitive or have tutorials to walk you through the tougher parts.
  • Integratable: Okay, I made that word up, but you get the idea! Sometimes your website demands you integrate with other WordPress plugins, such as BuddyPress. If this is the case then make sure your theme fully supports the plugin integration.

WordPress Theme Side Dishes

Beyond the elements mentioned above, there are other theme extras that will make your life much easier.

  • Theme Documentation: Even if you’ve set up a few themes in the past, having extensive documentation will help you get your website up and running in record time.
  • Support Forums: If you’ve done your research beforehand, you’ve probably already checked out the support forums to gain valuable insights. Check both their response time – no one wants to put in a support request and have to wait weeks for a response – and the quality and comprehensiveness of their response.
  • Community:  Some themes also have dedicated communities and actually build a tribe around their themes. One great example of this is StudioPress. They’ve taken the time to nurture a community around their work, and as a result, they have dedicated theme evangelists.
  • Tutorials and Education: Similar to having documentation, some themes actually come with in-depth tutorials. If you’re a very visual person then it’s recommended you find a theme with a resource collection.

Wrapping Up

So, when it’s time to upgrade your website, consider a premium theme. If you’ve been using a free WordPress theme, you’ll be blown away by the added gloss and functionality (plus support).

And for a further look at more premium WordPress themes be sure to read our article on leading Premium WordPress themes compared.

Also, with a premium theme, consider including our premium plugins, hosting, and our own 24/7 support for a site that really shines.

At the end of the day, make sure that you take your time with this decision and take note of your needs, so you can choose the right theme for your business.

A premium theme might be just a click away — and exactly what you need.

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Aileen Javier
Aileen Javier A past writer for WPMU DEV
Does your site run on a premium theme? What are your favorite WordPress theme marketplaces? Share in the comments below.