Navigating the premium theme market doesn’t have to be difficult.
Premium themes offer a host of benefits compared to their free counterparts. You probably have many reasons for seeking out a premium theme.
Maybe your free theme isn’t cutting it anymore, or you’d rather go straight to the top with your very first theme. Premium themes are built by professional developers and offer you unparalleled support, upgraded features and an overall higher quality product that you simply can’t get for free.
Premium themes offer 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 – in comprehensive detail – 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.
Where to Find Premium Themes
When you’re searching for premium themes there are two main avenues you can go down.
Think of vendors as small teams or individuals who you’ll be buying a theme from.
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. (Having said that, there are some notable omissions from the list.) Examples of trustworthy and high quality theme vendors include Graph Paper Press and Theme Isle.
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 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, there is nowhere to hide.
Below you’ll find a 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.)
Let’s kick off with our own themes, shall we? Our new theme platform Upfront makes customizing the design of your site so easy, you’ll never need another theme.
The three themes we’ve released so far are ideal for business websites, but can also be customize to create any design. In the coming weeks we’ll be releasing even more themes, as well as a theme builder to help you make the most of what Upfront has to offer.
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.
WooThemes serves up a wide variety of themes and is a great choice if you’re looking for a theme for your online magazine, personal blog, small business, personal portfolio or even corporate-level website.
Most of their themes range from $39-$99, and there is the option to access every theme for $399.
Elegant Themes offers a 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 pricing of $69/year to access their entire collection. Very good value indeed!
StudioPress offers premium themes that run on their own Genesis framework. Genesis is an incredibly popular framework for web professionals.
Most themes will cost you $99, while you can get access to every theme for $399.
MOJO Themes offers an impressive selection of over 1,000 WordPress themes. They are priced similarly to other marketplaces with a range from $16 to $58.
One unique feature of this marketplace is that all theme authors are required to provide ongoing theme support, free of charge.
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.
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 for $79. If you’re looking for the most value out of your dollar, Themify this is worth checking out.
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.
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.
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 choice available to you. Luckily, you can use social proof to determine if a theme is going to be a worthy investment.
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, 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.
The key elements you’ll want to look for are:
- A quick response time to support requests, and
- 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. Currently, this means the theme uses HTML5, CSS3 and works flawlessly with the latest version of WordPress. 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.
When it’s time to upgrade your website, there’s no better option than a premium theme. if you’ve been using a free WordPress theme, you’ll be blown away by the added gloss and functionality.
But 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.
Does your site run on a premium theme? What are your favorite WordPress theme marketplaces? Share in the comments below.