Theme Seller Reviews: Winners and Losers

Theme Seller Reviews: Winners and Losers

Finding the perfect theme can be confusing and time consuming at the best of times with so many theme sellers out there – 1001 to be exact.

There’s a lot to consider before you hit the “Buy” button. Do you need a single theme or would a club membership offer better value for money? Do you need ongoing support? Do you need a theme that is feature-rich and fully customizable or something more basic and minimalistic?

To help you get a feel for what’s available, we have posted comprehensive reviews of 12 of the most popular WordPress theme sellers – Elegant Themes, WooThemes, Graph Paper Press, Organic Themes, Themes Kingdom, Theme Trust, ThemeZilla, Obox Designs, iThemes, Press75, StudioPress and WPZoom.

For each theme company, we investigated their cost, features, aesthetics, usability, customer support and speed.

Theme Seller Reviews Conclusion

We are in no way affiliated with any of the theme sellers we reviewed. We’re not going to tell you which theme seller you MUST sign up with because everyone’s needs are different. We simply did the leg work to help you decide which theme seller would work best for you.

Check out the reviews in this series:

So without further ado, the results!


Winner: Elegant Themes

Loser: WooThemes

  • Elegant Themes:
  • iThemes:
  • ThemesKingdom:
  • Organic Themes:
  • WPZoom:
  • WooThemes:
  • StudioPress:
  • Graph Paper Press:
  • Press75:
  • Theme Trust:
  • Obox:
  • ThemeZilla:

No surprises here. Elegant Themes offers the cheapest theme club membership plans available at just $39 a year for a Personal plan and access to all 86 themes. That’s just 45 cents a theme. It’s hard to pass up a deal like that.

At the other end of the scale, WooThemes subscriptions will cost you a $199 startup fee and then $29 a month to access their 84 themes, and that’s just for a standard account – developers are asked to fork out more.

It’s interesting to note that charging customer for ongoing support costs has become a trend. It’s worth mentioning WooThemes here as a classic case in point. In August the company upped its prices and redefined “lifetime” support as “two years,” in a controversial move that upset frustrated customers who thought they had paid for support for life. It also spawned the creation of WP Avengers.

While WooThemes was widely panned for double-crossing its customers, it is obvious that offering free lifetime support isn’t a sustainable business model as a customer base grows and support work increases. Other theme shops that offer lifetime support, such as Theme Trust, could well go down the path of WooThemes and end up redefining what lifetime means to them, too.


Winners: iThemes and WooThemes

Losers: Theme Trust and ThemeZilla

  • Elegant Themes:
  • iThemes:
  • ThemesKingdom:
  • Organic Themes:
  • WPZoom:
  • WooThemes:
  • StudioPress:
  • Graph Paper Press:
  • Press75:
  • Theme Trust:
  • Obox:
  • ThemeZilla:

iThemes and WooThemes took top honours in this category for their highly customizable themes.

iThemes’ Builder framework gives you a lot of control over your theme in terms of customizing the layout, fonts and colors. The Layouts and Views section of the framework also allows you to insert and order the different building blocks of your site’s design, such as the navigation, sidebars and any widget areas.

Similarly, the WooThemes WooFramework offers theme options and packages many features with its themes, such as sliders, custom post types and widgets.

One thing that can’t go unsaid is the lack of responsive themes for the theme shops we reviewed. Theme sellers love to advertise how many themes they have, but when you take a close look at them, many are old and lack features that in 2013 are considered standard, like responsive design. You’re lucky to find a third or a quarter of the themes of any theme seller that feature mobile design.

Also, few theme shops are converting their older themes into responsive designs. There would be many people who bought products as part of old “lifetime” packages expecting to get theme updates and are now out of luck because the theme they bought will never be responsive.

Overall, there was a lack of features in themes aside form very basic customization, hence Theme Trust and ThemeZilla taking out last place.


Winners: Elegant Themes and ThemeZilla

Losers: WooThemes and Press75

  • Elegant Themes:
  • iThemes:
  • ThemesKingdom:
  • Organic Themes:
  • WPZoom:
  • WooThemes:
  • StudioPress:
  • Graph Paper Press:
  • Press75:
  • Theme Trust:
  • Obox:
  • ThemeZilla:

Elegant Themes and ThemeZilla offers the most visually appealing themes and both companies have obviously put a lot of work into their designs. It’s interesting to note that Elegant Themes only hired its second designers in July – owner Nick Roach was the theme seller’s sole designer for five years!

Overall, theme shops just aren’t pushing the boundaries of modern design. While some of them offer flat design, there wasn’t a single parallax theme. Aesthetically, theme sellers aren’t offering designs that compete with what’s available on ThemeForest.

It’s worth mentioning that WPZoom sells some fantastic magazine-style themes. They do a nice job of putting a lot of content into a small space.

Also, most iThemes themes are really average or below average, but you really do get an enormous amount of control in terms of setting up page layouts and creating your own layouts.

WooThemes offers a rather boring looking collection, though after our review was published, the company’s Ryan Ray commented that modern design philosophy clashed with other aspects of what a theme should include.

“We often hear that we need to include the kitchen sink in our themes, have four sliders with unlimited options, unlimited color choices in an included stylesheet, fonts, drag and drop, shortcodes, forms, SEO, a portfolio, etc,” Ray said.

Functionality versus aesthetics seems to be something theme sellers struggle with, and in most cases functionality wins.


Winners: Elegant Themes, iThemes, WPZoom, StudioPress, Theme Trust

Losers: Press75, Obox

  • Elegant Themes:
  • iThemes:
  • ThemesKingdom:
  • Organic Themes:
  • WPZoom:
  • WooThemes:
  • StudioPress:
  • Graph Paper Press:
  • Press75:
  • Theme Trust:
  • Obox:
  • ThemeZilla:

Usability was fairly consistent right across the board, though buying and setting up a theme was especially easy using Elegant Themes, iThemes, WPZoom, StudioPress and Theme Trust.

Elegant Themes has a super easy to navigate Members Area where all of the available theme downloads are available and you’re just a click away from the support forums. While, Theme Trust doesn’t offer a members area, the support forums are simple to use and installing their themes didn’t offer up any issues worth hassling suport about.

Obox themes, while having nice themes aesthetically, offer a confusing array of options that would be certainly overwhelming for any new user. Having said this, it’s a trade off between complexity and simplicity in usability, though theme sellers should aim to make themes easy for users to install and use rather than make people work to set up a theme.

Customer Service

Winner: StudioPress

Losers: ThemeTrust, ThemeZilla

  • Elegant Themes:
  • iThemes:
  • ThemesKingdom:
  • Organic Themes:
  • WPZoom:
  • WooThemes:
  • StudioPress:
  • Graph Paper Press:
  • Press75:
  • Theme Trust:
  • Obox:
  • ThemeZilla:

Support offered by theme sellers is basically the same – some offer email support, others have support forums and then there are those that provide both, such as StudioPress.

Theme shop support isn’t typically around the clock, though it’s interesting to note that many companies work beyond their dedicated support hours. For example, StudioPress responded to support questions on a public holiday, as did Organic Themes.

The nice thing about sellers that have forums, and in particular StudioPress, is the community of people who help each other out. In many cases, members jump in to answer questions before support staff and moderators have a chance to chime in. This member experience and willingness to help others that adds enormous value to a theme seller who offers forums. Forums also offer a great way for new members to search through old threads for an answer to a problem, rather than ask a repetitive question.

It’s also worth noting that support hours for most theme sellers is limited to week days EST, which isn’t all that helpful for people who live outside the US – the majority of WordPress users. Shops like ThemeZilla, which is based in the UK, is an exception and offers GMT hours. Elegant Themes offers support around the clock via its forum.


Winners: WPZoom, Graph Paper Press

Losers: Obox

  • Elegant Themes:
  • iThemes:
  • ThemesKingdom:
  • Organic Themes:
  • WPZoom:
  • WooThemes:
  • StudioPress:
  • Graph Paper Press:
  • Press75:
  • Theme Trust:
  • Obox:
  • ThemeZilla:

We tested themes for speed using Google PageSpeed Insights, which measures the performance of a page for desktop and mobile devices and ranks them out of 100.

This is by no means a definitive or entirely reliable test, as a theme can have wildly different results depending on caching and other server and script optimizations.

Having said that, it still offers an interesting insight into elements that affect a theme’s performance, such as good code.

Overall, WPZoom and Graph Paper Press themes performed the best by Google’s standards, while Obox fell behind.

With any theme, though, it’s important to keep in mind that when you install and activate a theme it’s on you to optimize your WordPress site to give your theme the best chance to perform well. Caching, minimizing scripts and setting up CDN can go a long way to improving your site’s speed.

Overall Winner

And the winners are… Elegant Themes and StudioPress

  • Elegant Themes:
  • iThemes:
  • ThemesKingdom:
  • Organic Themes:
  • WPZoom:
  • WooThemes:
  • StudioPress:
  • Graph Paper Press:
  • Press75:
  • Theme Trust:
  • Obox:
  • ThemeZilla:

It’s easy to see why Elegant Themes and StudioPress are popular theme sellers. Both companies offer consistently reliable products that take the hassle out of setting up and using a WordPress theme.

Elegant Themes has established itself as a solid, premium seller of commercial themes with its growing collection of 86 designs. StudioPress is also highly regarded in the WordPress community and many developers regard their themes as easy to work with and having clean code.

Summing up, there are many factors to consider when looking for a theme seller, such as the categories above that we investigated. While this review did pick winners, it’s important that you decide what you need from a theme before forking out your hard earned cash.

If you’re after beautiful and aesthetically pleasing designs you might want to try out Elegant Themes or ThemeZilla. If you’re after functionality and features, WooThemes and iThemes might be better suited to your needs. It’s always a good idea to do your research because every theme shop is different.

Are Elegant Themes and Studio Press deserving winners? What are your favourite theme sellers? Have your say in the comments below.

147 Responses - Luis Alejandre

      I think the title of this post is somewhat confusing. Raelene is talking about theme providers (companies that sell the themes they produce). Certainly they are sellers in the sense that they sell their themes. Themeforest, on the other hand, are sellers, but they´re just that: they don´t produce the themes they sell.

      To avoid this confusion, I would consider the companies reviewed on this post as “theme providers”, while Themeforest sould be considered a “theme distributor” or a “theme marketplace”. Therefore, I would have titled this post “Theme Provider Reviews: Winners and Losers”.

      Let´s take Kriesi as an example. In this case, I would say that Kriesi (the guy) is the author of the themes, Kriesi (his business) is the provider, and Themeforest is the distributor.

      Does anybody agree?


      ThemeForest is a marketplace for many sellers. I think the author was focused on individual sellers themselves as sellers like WooThemes have many themes on ThemeForest themselves. This would make reviewing ThemeForest as many of the metrics which are used to measure the quality of themes would be inconsistent on ThemeForest because themes by different authors have differing code style and quality, admin interface, loading speeds and design philosophy.

      It would be very difficult to review ThemeForest on anything but it’s selection (which is a result of it’s inclusive, curated nature) and ease of use. You couldn’t even really judge it by price as price is subjective based on which theme you’re talking about, how well it sells and how well it’s rated.


    I’m suprised by the references to Theme Forest and Template Monster. They’re marketplaces, not theme developers. Quite a few of the theme developers above sell for example on Theme Forest.

    I guess the article title might be a little misleading though.

    Anyhow, it sounds well researched and having had experience with a few of these developers, I think the results are pretty accurate.

    If you update this in the future or extend the scope, perhaps you could include Themify and Your Inspiration Themes. Both provide great themes and top-notch support.


    Two aspects not covered in your ranking, is usage of custom fields (getting tied to the theme with no escape) and security.

    Elegant themes are extreme when it comes to the number of tables getting made in the db, so you also have a problem with the db getting bloated as a result.

    Also, they are not to great on security. I had three sites hacked as a direct result of no mechanims checking for the latest version of timthumb.php that they used in all their themes while I was still a member.

    The problem with extensive usage of custom fileds tied to the template is that the day you would like to switch to another theme, you might find yourself having lost all the testimonials and such. This should not be handled by the theme, but by plugins.

      Nick Roach

      I am sorry to hear that you were previously hacked. When it comes to security, the most important thing you can do is keep your themes updated. Years ago there was a vulnerability with timthumb.php and we reacted quickly and removed the file from our themes completely within a couple hours and pushed new versions of our themes (we even gave them to members who had expired accounts). We sent out mass emails to our entire community, published announcements to our social media outlets, our blog, and sent theme update notifications.

      I am not sure what you mean by our themes not have a way to check the timthumb version, as it was removed from our entire collection years ago. In this case, keeping your theme updated would have protected you from attack. The same thing goes for keeping WordPress and your Plugins up-to-date. This is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself from hackers.

      We have put a lot of work into securing our themes code, and we even have our themes audited by third party security companies regularly. To this day, no third party audit as returned any critical problems, and I am confident in our developers ability to produce secure themes.


    Everyone’s asking about “ThemeForest”, but that is not a company that makes themes!!

    ThemeForest is a marketplace for a huge number of independent vendors.

    I’ve purchased and implemented products from ThemeForest, some of which have been great and some of which have been so bad it should be a felony.

    All the stats covered by this article vary widely from one product to another, from ThemeForest. (For instance, on ThemeForest, I think Parallelus makes really awesome stuff, although its UI and code can be laborious to figure out and documentation, while provided, is not sufficiently detailed given the complexity of the themes. I don’t even remember the names of the bad-theme providers I’ve picked up from ThemeForest, since I deleted them in disgust right away.)

    -Aaron Sylvan



      You can get refunds on anything that is not fit for purpose, I would say around 1% of the themes I have downloaded are bad, normally this is due to a new approach to WP back-end edits, visual composers and their ilk.

      Sweeping generalisations without a link to a bad theme, sounds a bit watery to me.

      This subtle TF bashing is strange, surely all these authors sell or sold there at one stage?


    Leaving out ThemForest and Envato in general just highlights to me that this article is written to encourage a movement direct to the theme devs.

    TF or FlashDen as it started add a validity that these authors cannot give, I would never purchase a theme outside of a good market place, so even if these guys make good themes, do they;

    a) Support them, generally no
    b) Update them, again not usually
    c) Patch and offer support, normally through really ropey support forums
    d) Offer refunds, never

    TF is excellent, it is a market place for all, leaving it out here as a technically makes this otherwise very well done report kind of pointless, were you a newbie WP theme person you would be guided very poorly here.

    Do yourself a favor;

    Get your theme there :)

      Raelene Morey

      We’re not encouraging any kind of movement at all.

      It would be remiss of us to compare a massive operation like ThemeForest, which sells the work of hundreds of developers and designers, to these 12 much smaller theme sellers. ThemeForest is a market place and doesn’t produce its own themes, it simply on sells. This is why it wasn’t included in these reviews.


      Are you serious?

      ThemeForest is NOT a theme developer. They are a marketplace. Composed of many different theme developers of various quality. Many of dubious quality.

      Making claims that the theme developers in this review do not Support, Update, Offer Support or even Refunds is simply outright incorrect.

      The theme developers listed in this review are all well established companies, many of which have been around long before ThemeForest, and are some of the most respected theme developers in the WordPress community.

      Because ThemeForest is a marketplace the quality, reliability, and support all varies greatly.

      Being the co-founder of one the most successful commercial WordPress plugins in the industry (Gravity Forms) I can tell you I wouldn’t recommend using a ThemeForest theme until they have fully implemented the coding standards they introduced earlier this year across ALL of their themes.

      I wouldn’t touch a theme on ThemeForest that does not fully comply to their new coding standards. Which means I wouldn’t touch a theme that wasn’t introduced AFTER September 9th of this year (yes, this month) OR has been verified to comply with their coding standards if it was introduced just before this.

      See for yourself, ThemeForest’s coding standards can be found at the URL below and themes weren’t required to comply with these standards until the 9th of this month:

      What does this mean? Don’t touch a theme that doesn’t meet these standards and for the love of god don’t use a theme that was introduced a year or more ago.


      Up until ThemeForest tightening up and introducing coding standards they accounted for 99% (no exaggeration. 99%) of ALL theme related support issues caused by javascript conflicts as a result of being poorly developed and not following best practices. Literally 99%.

      Over time this will get better as ThemeForest enforces coding standards and eventually tightens them up even further.

      HOWEVER because ThemeForest is not retroactively applying these coding standards to existing themes… the problem isn’t going to go away for a very long time. All the themes of dubious quality are still available. They should not have grandfathered these old themes. They should have required they be updated to comply with the new coding standards, otherwise what good are coding standards if you are still selling themes that do not adhere to them?

      Anyone that tries to promote ThemeForest as the end all, be all of themes… or god forbid Template Monster… clearly doesn’t really know what they are talking about.

      Being pretty and shiny doesn’t mean it’s a good theme if it’s rotten under the hood.

      As for pointing a newbie at ThemeForest? That’s just a bad idea. Someone new to WordPress would be much better served using one of the theme developers in this review due to the fact they aren’t going to encounter the issues I described in my comment AND they will get better support than you will from ThemeForest where your experience is going to vary GREATLY from theme author to theme author because ThemeForest itself doesn’t provide support because they don’t create the themes.

      Are all ThemeForest themes bad? NO. But unless you know enough to be able to determine the good from the bad from a coding standpoint, it may be best for you to not make recommendations to strangers or new users. Even if you were an expert you should only recommend the themes that ARE good. Not the entire marketplace. Recommending the entire marketplace and saying all the themes are good is like saying every product in Wal-Mart is good when clearly that isn’t the case.

      Do YOURSELF a favor. Educate yourself on the WordPress development community. Find out who expert WordPress developers recommend. Ask WordPress VIP developers like the guys at WebDevStudios, 10Up, Range, or Humanmade which theme providers they use or recommend. If any of them said ThemeForest I would fall out of my chair.

        Raelene Morey

        Lots of good points. Thanks for your comment.

        Coding standards has definitely been an issue. It’s also why theme sellers like StudioPress – which we rated highly in our reviews – is so well regarded. So many people have commented to us about StudioPress’ clean code. If only all theme authors had such high standards…


          Coding standards are critical. My statistic on the source of 99% of the theme conflicts we’ve encountered over Gravity Forms 4 year lifetime is no exaggeration. They’ve all been ThemeForest themes.

          It’s great that ThemeForest is taking steps to remedy these types of issues and the coding standards they are implementing a huge step in the right direction.

          But unless they retroactively apply these standards and require theme authors update their existing themes or they will be pulled… it doesn’t completely fix the issue. The bad themes in their back catalog are still going to greatly out number the good themes.

          As I mentioned, I wouldn’t touch a ThemeForest theme unless it was introduced on our after September 9th of this year when the coding standards began being enforced.

          I linked to it above but for anyone that still didn’t see it, here are ThemeForest’s new coding standards:

          You can be sure that older ThemeForest themes pretty much aren’t going to meet these standards. Which is sad, because these aren’t really standards. Most of these are just WordPress best practices and something that theme authors should have already been doing.

          The problem is many (NOT ALL) theme authors on ThemeForest aren’t experts. They are designers who know just enough code to be dangerous. And by dangerous I mean break shit.

          A theme isn’t just a design. It consists of a lot of code. Not HTML. PHP. I don’t know about you, but I want to be sure that the theme I purchase was developed by an expert. Not some designer who wants to make a little money on the side and doesn’t really know code.

          Bottom line?

          Don’t buy a ThemeForest theme unless it was introduced on or after September 9th, 2013.


        Exactly! I’ve been caught off guard by nice looking but poorly coded many times. I can’t tell the difference. So, when WP changes, the theme needs to be easily updated. The only guarantee is a Theme developer subscription site. Theme marketplaces will fail frequently. The pricing models are completely different and do not provide incentive for developers that sell on marketplaces to update, because units are sold as a commodity and a la carte. Whereas, theme developers that sell via subscription MUST continue to update to ensure renewals. Sure, marketplaces help by curating, but it’s not a guarantee.


    All the folks criticizing the exclusion of Theme Forest probably read the title and nothing else. If that’s the case I understand your complaints, because yes, they are a theme seller… They do not, however, fit in with the companies reviewed here since they are a marketplace with thousands of developers, as opposed to a company who builds and supports themes.

    On a different note, the article mentions that there wasn’t a single parallax theme. I’m pretty sure WooThemes has one called Scrollider.

    I hate to don a tin foil hat, but I am surprised at how poorly you stack WooThemes. I get that they are the most expensive… But the market is clearly willing to bear the cost because of the quality. Any chance it’s because they are your biggest competition in the theme space? I think the reviews were fairly sound overall but it’s hard to overlook the potential conflict of interest.

    All in all though, great work :)


    ElegantThemes? Really?

    Have you ever used their themes?

    The moment you want to create a normal website, you run into problems, the sites become slow and unresponsive.
    They don’t provide support for issues anything more complicated than CSS background-color…

    Look around their forums and see how many people are swearing at the lack of support.


      Yeah, I bought their membership and then realized their many themes are basically locked down. Almost 0 customization possible. And any question to do with code editing they claim ignorance and editing code, even talking about the code, is not part of support.

      I do think their themes might be good for an absolute newbie who wouldn’t know code if it were written on his or her face.

      My pick for good support would be InkThemes. They’ll answer any code question quickly. The only issue is, coding is the ONLY way you can change anything.

      On themeforest, I am quite impressed with Codestar, Mo3aser, and Themeva. Bebel has some good stuff too (very easy on server resources BTW). Parallelus’s stuff looks good, lots of customization built in, but their code is server intensive.

      Out of the box, Mo3aser’s are great. Great UI panel too. For muy taste, I like Codestar’s C-Star design best as the theme employs a short code editing interface that ain’t pretty but highly manipulable. Themva’s themes use Visual Compser now… I don’t really like visual composer.

      Umbrella Studios “Listings” was the worse theme I have ever bought as I couldn’t even create a site out of it and the instructional notation in the page builder was too poorly written (I think the developer can barely speak English) that all I got was frustrated with that purchase.


          +1 +1 +1 +1 +… oh your get the idea…. I save them for clients who are hooked on skin-deep looks over substance (shiny object syndrome) and let’s face it, the work they do is visually excellent.

          I have had coders spend so much time editing (to no avail) to grant a truly unique look using an Elegant Theme… I reference them like art on now – inspiration in design and nothing more.

          I hope they reduce the bloat and create some real admin functions that allow some true creativity as many of the themes available on ThemeForest provide (no, TF are NOT a theme package creator, I know I know)


      When you say: “The moment you want to create a normal website, you run into problems, the sites become slow and unresponsive”

      We presume you mean that their themes don’t work for YOU.

      That “The moment you want to create a normal website, YOU run into problems, the sites become slow and unresponsive” for YOU.

      It is perhaps a big mistake to suggest that, because you have issues with a theme or the provider, that the rest of the WP world will experience problems too.

      Yes, I have used/using Elegant Themes, and will continue to do so, because, they work for ME.


      I actually find ET outstanding and very good value. If it doesn’t work for you then that is fine but to openly slate them because it doesn’t fit your need is a little harsh.

      Every bit of support I ever needed, I got.

      +1 for ET from me and I have tried the lot.


          LOL quite possibly. Although I certainly do not.

          I like ET for many reasons actually. To name a few:

          -Decent pricing

          – The designs (at least the latest ones) look so current in comparison to ET’s competition. Sorry folks but I have used every single company linked to in these comments and quite frankly, they generally look crap. The newer ET themes don’t look like themes, they look like one off’s.

          – I have hundreds of clients that have upto 10 page websites. It takes me about 3 hours from start to finish with ET.

          -They seem to be churning out new themes at a steady pace.

          – Whenever I have needed support, it has been given in a quick and concise manner.


    This is a marketing article, this is by no means real. It seems there are a lot of WP devs and theme ppl going, huh what about ThemeForest and a lot of other ppl saying oh but they dont make themes.

    The title was in fact;
    Theme Seller Reviews

    There is no mention of coding practices, MVC HTML5 frameworks, stuff like that so this is not a technical review but more of a commercial review.

    So I would take from this that the end result for the user is that they find the best place to buy themes, not the the best maker & exclusive seller of themes.

    For choice and comeback it’s themforest, for unknowns it’s direct to the author imo.

        Charlie Pryor

        niall_flynn is, in multiple instances, advocating for TF like a hard-core fan… maybe even as an employee would. Which is fine, except for the part where they don’t understand that Themeforest isn’t comparable to anything listed above in the article. Themeforest doesn’t have the best features. Themeforest doesn’t have the best price point. Theme forest doesn’t have the best coding practices, or anything.

        Why? Because Themeforest doesn’t create any themes. You can’t have the best of something when you produce nothing for yourself.

        They allow other people to sell them… if they want to be mad, they should be upset that their favorite TF author wasn’t included in the list… that would be more relevant.


    Very useful – thanks!

    Any possibility of considering a similar exercise for Shopping Carts?

    In this age of Feed Management, Google Merchant Center, Google Shopping, Product Listing Ad Campaigns and so on, the right choice of your Cart provider has never been more important for eCommerce Merchants who need to be able to manage their feed data intelligently to drive paid search campaigns (like my Clients do).

    Thanks in advance :-)


    I’ve used Elegant Themes and iThemes and I disagree with your assessments. I found Elegant Themes hideously difficult to work with and their technical support was nonexistent.

    iThemes and its Builder concept is flexible and well supported. I’ve built hundreds of websites for clients using Builder and I would never go back to that wobbly thing called Elegant. If I could have gotten my money back from them, I would’ve.


    Reading some of the comments here, I had forgotten why I rarely bother commenting anymore…

    I see many polorized views that fail to take into account the difference in nature between the various distribution channels when it comes to themes (and other WordPress resources).

    Sole designers, Agencies, Marketplaces … these are not the same, do not have the same T’s & C’s, etc.


    Unfortunately I scanned the article for Themeforest, didn’t see it, so I didn’t read the article. I think a lot of people are interested in Themeforest’s rank. This isn’t the first time I’ve read an article at omitting Themeforest, so what’s the deal between Themeforest and


      ThemeForest is a marketplace. Not a theme company. They don’t develop themes.

      The theme developers in this review sell themes that they themselves developed.

      Think of ThemeForest as Wal-Mart. They sell things other people produce and don’t support them. That’s it. They aren’t a theme developer and thus wouldn’t be reviewed.

      Many of the theme developer in this review do in fact offer their themes on ThemeForest also. WooThemes, OBOX, Themezilla… you can find their themes on ThemeForest.

    Caspar Hübinger

    The number of times I read “ThemeForest” in these comments sheds a bright light upon the grade of education of WordPress users. As the author has stated very correctly, ThemeForest is a marketplace for sellers, not a seller themselves. They provide the stand, you bring the fish. You sell your fish, you pay for their stand.


    I’m not sure I understand the scoring system used here. For speed, something which is not subjective (but arguably pointless for review as any theme with a decent cache + CDN plugin can do well), GraphPaperPress wins the section with 4.5 stars for their pagespeed score of 81 and 89. ThemeZilla is awarded 3 stars for a pagespeed score of 87.



    Where the is themes? and why not?

    I have personally tried ALL of the theme providers listed and many more not listed – and the only one that has it all together “imo” is the folks at MSMW.

    I sell the number one commercial RETS real estate plugin and have to also build on every theme that a customer brings to us that they’ve already purchased from the internet – and as a result of dealing with all of the crap theme foundations – I went ahead and bought the MSMW developers license because they actually HAVE the best over all theme foundation – period.

    And “NO” I am in “no way” affiliated with them at all.

    Brad Griffin

    When I was a “younger” WP user, Elegant Themes worked. Then about 6 months into using them, I stopped. Their support, as mentioned, is indeed horrible. If your at the point in your WP learning curve, where all you need is help on how to change the background color, then …good. Because that’s about where the support stops.

    Some of you folks are being passionately petty about ThemeForest. That’s cool, it’s your comment, do what you want. But I do think that there is a simple reason, dating back a few years, and being blatantly obvious, …as to why ThemeForest / Envato wasn’t mentioned.


    Does WPMU “corporate” make all of the themes and plugins, or are they written by individual authors? …& then distributed via WPMU? (sound familiar)

    Does WPMU have a significant amount of resources devoted to upper and more advanced WordPress users? Absolutely! …just like tutsplus over at Envato?

    …I can do the comparison all day, but I’ll stop there.

    Does WPMU in any way shape form or fashion compete with Elegant Themes? (…pardon me while my Texan comes out a bit) HELL NO!
    WooThemes? maybe we’re getting close, but still not quite at the level of WPMU.
    iThemes? Please! WPMU’s demographic is way beyond that.

    So, let’s say you’ve got a good business model set up. You’ve got a site that get’s hundreds of thousands of page views every day; You’ve built a good business model; Priced yourself into the upper echelon of affordability; and now… Your writing a blog post reviewing all the these theme providers (actual authors or distributors – either way, they PROVIDE the themes)… If you were in WPMU’s shoes, would you mention ThemeForest?


        Yeah because that’s exactly how SEO works (sarcasm intended). is a news website. They simply reviewed the top theme shops to provide their readers with useful information. Of course news always is a little bit biased, but I assure you their agenda wasn’t to try to rank for those themes. If you Google iThemes for instance, I’m fairly certain Google’s algorithms are smart enough to recognize that the top position goes to iThemes and not WPMU who simply mentioned iThemes in a blog post. But good thinking. Keep those ideas coming (sarcasm intended, again..).


      Seriously Brad? You really can’t understand the concept that Themeforest is a DISTRIBUTOR and not a Theme author. The whole point of this review series is to review the themes, the support, and the usability, of theme AUTHORS! Each individual author on Themeforest has their own themes, and their own support. So don’t you think it would be a little bit retarded to compare a huge distributor to individual authors?? I certainly do. That’s like trying to compare Walmart with Apple by asking who makes better computers. Walmart sells all kinds of computers, including Apple’s computers, but Apple makes and sells just their computers. You can’t compare the two because you’ll be comparing apple’s with oranges (no pun intended).

      Let me address another one of your idiotic statements (there’s quite a few in your little rant). Elegant Themes has great support. Their support is intended to help you use their themes. If you’re trying to customize the heck out of it, then that doesn’t fall under the scope of their support. You need to actually learn web design instead of trying to take the lazy way out and have someone do the work for you. But I’m glad you started your rant with this statement because it let me know early on in your rant how truly unintelligent you are.

        Brad Griffin

        John…. wow. All I can say is, “Bless your little heart!”

        “…don’t you think it would be a little bit retarded to compare a huge distributor…”

        First, there is a beautiful little boy with Down Syndrome whom I love. I’m pretty sure your use of the word “retarded” is a wonderful and public reflection of your character. Politely send me an email, and let’s meet for lunch someday, and I will happily address your character on a more personal note.

        Again, John, I think some people do ‘start’ with Elegant Themes, but, once you get into the code, one will find some …issues.

        “…You need to actually learn web design instead of trying to take the lazy way out and have someone do the work for you. …”

        Exactly John, I’m incredibly lazy and I use themes to do ALL THE WORK… which is exactly why I mentioned tutsplus. Because surely all the people who read, contribute, and frequent that site are obviously lazy and have no clue about any type of coding whatsoever.

        I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, (and if you’re cranium can’t quite comprehend this, …well that’s your job to publicly comment and show the character – again) WooThemes contracts out with individuals, just like WPMU does.
        …just like ThemeForest does
        …just like a lot of theme providers do.

        If you don’t like it, don’t get it, don’t want to see it, don’t want to accept it, dude… that’s your problem! …please don’t make it mine!

        I do think it’s quite funny that ThemeZilla is using UDesign from ThemeForest for their own site. [smirk] HA! [/smirk]

        So, John…. When’s lunch buddy?


          Okay I’m going to ignore everything else for now and just address the issue at hand.

          Themeforest DOES NOT contract anything out. They simply let others sell in their marketplace and they take a cut of the money. Yes WooThemes and WPMU may contract out the design of their themes, but that’s irrelevant. They are the ones that manage the design. They are the ones that support their products, and they are the ones that make the profit. Themeforest however has hundreds of individual companies that create themes and sell them on Themeforest. The individual companies give their own support. Themeforest does not manage their design in any way. All they do is approve the code to make sure it’s up to their standards. So all this to say, you can’t compare Themeforest with individual theme shops. They are completely different things.

          Maybe this is a bit advanced for you. Let me know if you need me to bring this down a bit. I’m actually pretty good at explaining things at the 5 year old level.

          Oh and nice comment about Themezilla haha. You got called out big time haha.

            Brad Griffin

            Let me demonstrate how this works John. I publicly made an error (much like name calling on your part), and I have no problems, qualms, or hesitation on correcting my error.

            The menu looked eerily similar to UDesign, and, after looking into the theme a bit more, clearly it’s not UDesign. I was mistaken – Any questions?

            So, what I hear you saying is that “Themeforest DOES NOT…” (nice use of all caps) “…contract anything out.” Great, so a theme author does not have to fill out a 1099, does not have to report their earnings from sales at ThemeForest, and does not enter into a contract with “Envato Pty Ltd”.

            …sounds like a contract to me! (In reality, it IS a contract – 100%)

            “Themeforest does not manage their design in any way. All they do is approve the code to make sure it’s up to their standards.”
            John, Google the word “pluralism”

            “Okay I’m going to ignore everything else…” Why is that John? Why deflect? Why not just say, “Hi, my name is John and I’m a lurking troll with nothing better to do.” Wouldn’t that be easier?

            “I’m actually pretty good at explaining things at the 5 year old level.” …um… Everyone can clearly see that when you call people “retarded”. But… thanks for publicly solidifying and clarifying that for everyone to see.


            Oh my, you are truly hopeless. Yes Themeforest has a contract with their authors, but that is a completely different thing than what we are discussing. You mentioned Themeforest “contracts” out to individuals just like WooThemes does. Your statement is false. Themeforest does not HIRE designers to build them themes so that they can sell them and make all the profit, as well as support them. If you really think that’s what they do, then there’s no point in me arguing further. Themeforest is simply a marketplace for other theme authors to sell their own themes. This is seriously not that hard of a concept. WooThemes and WPMUdev are independent companies that might hire (or contract out) designers/developers to help with their themes. But this is nothing like the business model of Themeforest. I don’t think you need an MBA to understand that.

            My name calling was intentional and not done in error, so it’s not like your themezilla mistake. hahaha

            Brad Griffin

            It’s the argumentative process that I don’t think people are understanding. If you argue that ThemeForest should not be on here – that’s fine. But then you simply must that some of the other entities that were reviewed should also not be included – otherwise all this debating, arguing, and bickering falls to pieces.

            Let’s look at ThemesKingdom: Do the owners of TK create some of their themes? Absolutely! Do they also contract out some of their work? Sure! And the contracted author then sells those themes via ThemesKingdom. TK’s corporate staff is busy making sure that they promote their site while other people create themes to sell on their site.

            …and can you look around, across the board, and find that most of these “Theme Sellers” do the exact same thing!

            So, if someone believe that ThemeForest should “not” be in this article, then that same belief holds true across the board. Hence, many of these “Theme Sellers” would be completely excluded.

            Is Themes Kingdom (just an example), and a good number of other “Theme Seller”s the original author of the theme? Sometimes yes, and sometimes…. absolutely not!

            Are there theme authors who are on paid staff at ThemeForest? Yep! Are there theme authors who sell their work outside of ThemeForest? Absolutely!

            Not to break this down “on a 5 year old” level… but let’s try to stay pragmatically grounded in reality here. The title of the article is Theme Seller Reviews
            …not “Theme Author Reviews”
            …not “Theme Author-who-contracts-their-work-via-a-third-party entity Reviews”
            …nor is it “Corporate Themes-who-have-individuals-send-in-their-themes”

            The title is “Theme Seller Reviews”.

            Does Envato / ThemeForest “Sell Themes”? Absolutely! And are Envato and IncSub playing in the same league? You bet! Is IncSub / WPMU (or Envato) in the same league as the Theme Sellers that they reviewed (Elegant Themes, ThemesKingdom, WooThemes, ….)? Nope!

            I’ll say this again… I completely agree with WPMU deliberately not putting ThemeForest on here. If I were on staff at WPMU, I wouldn’t mention Envato / ThemeForest either! It’s competition, plain and simple.

            But for folks to argumentatively bicker about the reasons ThemeForest should not be on here? Sorry, you’re argument has too many holes in it to hold any water!

    Mike Johnson

    I have been developing sites for over 10 years and seeing WooThemes as a top pick for features simply blows me away. What features? StudioPress is very short on Features as well which you indicated, but most WooThemes can’t be hardly customized at all. I have run into so many roadblocks with their themes I stopped using them.

    StudioPress with Genesis 2.0 is fast. On load using the Metro theme I had a score of 87 with a page load time of .820 seconds.

    I could go on and on. Nice series here for SEO though. I am sure you guys will get a lot of traffic for people searching for Reviews on these other competitors of yours.


      Mike, apparently you never used their flagship theme, Canvas. Their other selections are limited in scope, but Canvas is nearly on par with Genesis in terms of functionality. I use it and I personally have the ability to… let’s see:

      Built in tabbed widget that includes the most popular posts

      Related posts list that is added in your meta field (or anywhere you like via short codes)

      Their version of QuickPress that you can use for Tumblr styled blogging (with the caveat of requiring custom fields)

      A magazine template, a business template, an all widgets page template, archive template, sitemap template, etc.

      Ability to adjust layout per page or post (single, sidebar, 2 sidebars, etc)

      Extensive list of shortcodes you can use to add and modify the look even more. Filters, hooks, etc.

      Built in lightbox, built in slider and Tumblelog features that allow you to format posts of certain types (video, asides, etc) to a certain point (I avoid the use of custom fields here and rely on CSS instead to sure portability in case I ever switch themes)

      With WooDojo I’m able to extend the functionality of the theme even more. The only theme that can compare to this (with the possible exception of Headway) is not a theme but a framework, namely Genesis 2.0. One of these days I’ll take a real dive into it to see if there’s actually something they offer that WooThemes doesn’t via Canvas, but so far, I haven’t really seen anything to induce me to switch over. It can be boring, but specifically with Canvas anyone with competent CSS skills can create rather pleasing looking themes that hardly look anything like the default look of Canvas.

      I think Elegant Themes look GORGEOUS by the way, but the lack of functionality and autonomy is what killed it for me.

      BTW, I’m lucky in that I was a long time user of WooThemes, so I’ve been grandfathered into their previous pricing policy. I don’t think it’s fair to say they double crossed their customers because they really didn’t. NEW customers are the ones that will have to agree to the new (and more expensive) terms, but pre-existing customers didn’t suddenly get our licensing switched out from under us.


    Good job on the reviews…. I know you can not possibly cover everyone but there are some smaller lesser knows out there that deserve attention for what they can bring to the table. is an excellent place to go. Their new Themify Builder for drag and drop is top notch, especially for those of us that need help with our building. Johnny on the spot customer support. And pricing is outstanding @ $89 year for developer level is equally excellent. Easy to use, good selection, low pricing that most anyone can afford ($99 lifetime), fast customer support.

    Will check out ThemesKingdom



      At Last, somebody has made the sensible comment:

      “I know you can not possibly cover everyone … ”

      Most of us have personal favorites, and it would be impossible for theme reviewers to include every one of them – impossible.

      Raelene is likely taking a note of providers being suggested here for future reviews, and, I have suggested Themify already.


    So I specifically made an account here to warn people against the ratings given in this article.
    In my experience (and I’ve set up my fair share of WP sites) Themezilla easily is one of the best companies on the list. Sure, they have office hours for support, but at least they will go to great lengths to help you out.

    Also, from a developer point of view I prefer Themezilla and Woothemes as the codebase is far more concise. This might not seem like a big deal to non-developers but it proves its use in the long run as it will not cause issues with plugins, upgrades, loading times, etc.

    What I don’t understand is the praise for Elegant Themes: I personally think their themes are particularly difficult to work with and the customer support is sloppy at best.

    Overall I think this article offers little perspective: not all these companies have the same goal for the themes they sell: Themezilla offers highly stylized, out of the box working themes for creatives, Woothemes does pretty good if you want a build in webshop, Studiopress is the place to go if you’re looking for a sturdy framework (but you’ll have to get a designer to make it look a bit better), … You can’t expect to compare these companies without going in depth about the purpose of the themes they sell, trying them out on a site, asking questions via support and working with the themes from day to day. I’m sure some of the results you found would be quite different with some more research.


      Man, with all the complaining on here from Themezilla’s founder and now a fan you’d think that they were crucified in the review! I just re-read it and it seem like an overall positive review. Nobody was perfect in every category. And the review opens with 3 items under “The Good” and only 1 under “The Bad”.


      Agree about Elegant Themes. Every themes provider review seems to rate them the highest, but I wouldn’t use their themes on any important site at all.

      I’ve seen bugs that screw up the home page completely for all users, and support that never fixed the problem (work around in place & I gave up trying to get it fixed).

      The menu system is unintuitive and not helpful – I found I was making most changes manually as it work and was quicker.

      They are useful if you have a very budget and similarly low requirements.

      This article seems very biased. I’d trust Woo about Elegant any day of the week.


    Thanks for this list! I’ve tested about 1/2 of these and agree with what the results were. I do like Easy to use and alter, $39 a year for all themes, good support and they seem to be updating their older themes to be almost all Responsive (even if it isn’t mentioned to be responsive). From memory, I’d say about 1/2 of their themes are responsive (could be more). I am not affiliated with this company, just a theme company I tested out on one of those ‘deal fuel’ posts and so far, I’m pleasantly surprised with what I found there :)

    Tim Hyde

    Well lots of opinions here. So here are mine in case anybody is really that bothered:

    ThemeForest – are not “Theme Developers”, so its crazy that people think they should be included. Hats of to TF for making so much money out the WP market. But all arguments are well versed elsewhere as to why TF has been bad news most of the time for the WP world.

    There are a handful of good developers publishing on TF, so you could have included some of them perhaps.

    One important point to make is that every theme developer has their own approach to building themes, often using their own frameworks and options pages etc. They also have different approaches to how users should approach building their sites.

    Users coming to a StudioPress theme from a WooThemes theme have a learning curve if they want to get past the basics. As a smaller developer with my own dev store at, my themes too have their own distinct approach, which based on feedback, some users absolutely love, others I’m sure take time to adjust to if they have used some other framework. Though we aim for simplicity based experience gained since 2005 when there weren’t any “premium” themes!

    Some comments above criticize the lack of features in themes. Well, actually I think the ThemeForest-type marketplace encourages bloated themes. There is a real need for themes that are much lighter and with more standardised interfaces.

    But I guess all these comments will drive more traffic to the TF site!

    Even more interesting would be to compare some of these with free themes on Do they have enough features? Do you get support if you ask? Are they less bloated?


    While the ratings are helpful and I agree that most of the themes are workable, you lost complete credibility with me to not have included Thesis (DIY Themes) in this review. I understand all the history over the last few years but the fact is that Thesis is still the choice of hundreds of thousands of WordPress site owners around the world. Is there an explanation of why you did not include them?


    I’m confused as to why you haven’t included Thesis also, I looked for it right away. Thesis was one of the first (maybe THE first) theme framework, and for those who liked to do a little coding (but not full development), we/they could customize that theme like no other theme of it’s day. I know there’s been a lot of controversy around thesis in the last couple of years, but isn’t that even more reason to do compare it alongside all the other themes?


    Thanks for the review, it’s interesting. Like many, I’m surprised not to see Thesis here, even though I’m not a huge fan. And yes, of course Themeforest can’t be included, because they’re a clearinghouse for zillions of small companies, many of which have nothing in common.

    And even though I definitely get around a lot with theme companies, you managed to include 3 companies I’ve never heard of. I guess that’s a good thing? :-)

      Raelene Morey

      Glad you like it! There have been some cynical comments from people here saying that we’re chasing SEO, but the truth is we’ve got new writers as WPMU and we’re focusing up providing more interesting and quality content for our readers. This review series is something we’ve been wanting to do for a while because there’s nothing like it out there that isn’t affiliated.

      That’s an interesting idea about WordPress support providers. I’ve noted it down.


    I think opinions here are so different just because of the level of expertise each commenter has in the WordPress scene. For example, the more skilled will prefer theme frameworks while the less skilled will stay with ready-made and easy to setup themes.
    About Elegant Themes, a few have pointed out their disappointment about customer care or theme customization: well, in the late months, ET has introduced a very practical “Custom CSS” field in their ePanel, and the team usually gives effective suggestions on how to change, remove or add style or structure features to each theme with just a snippet of CSS code to copy and paste (and eventually change in numeric values) in that field.
    The existence of the ePanel in particular, which is common to all of ET’s themes, makes them stand out from the croud and make our site developers’ life really more enjoyable.
    And I’ve not yet mentioned the various templates, the shortcodes and the theme style options (besides the SEO ones, and others included and easily accessible in the ePanel).
    This, at an average price of 39 cents for each theme, makes ET themes a real bargain to say the least.
    I’ve written a popular book in my country about becoming a webmaster using WordPress, and my sites practical examples have been done using ET Themes, despite I’ve introduced readers to all the other theme offers in the initial chapters.
    And of course I’m using ET themes with sucess in lots of sites for my Italian clients, in some cases for rstyling of old HTML or Flash sites and their conversion to WordPress. No need to say how satisfied the clients are… :)

    Rick Cano

    First of all, I’d like to thank Raelene for putting together a very well written article. Secondly, I don’t agree with all the findings but thats another matter all together.

    I was not surprised that Elegant Themes and Studio Press were Tops in just about every category. This list had an entirely different result even 5 years ago…so that tells me that WordPress is growing and evolving. Thats good for business, No?

    No “Theme” provider can be all things to all people. That’s why custom wordpress designers like myself continue to thrive. If every theme provider…provided everything under the kitchen sink I would be out of business in a New York minute.

    We’re all in a business setup and configured by “each other” in the open wordpress thanks again Raelene for your contribution and in supporting my business. :)



    To be honest I’m kind surprised by the Elegant Themes bashing. Sure, their code or support isn’t on the same level as for instance StudioPress, but for that kind of money it just can’t be. I have a feeling most of you are forgetting you only paid $40 for all those themes.

    I’m guessing any freelancer that buys their membership will get the money back on the first project. If you can’t do one project in a whole year and can’t make $40 off it – you’re in the wrong business.

    Mike Mancini

    I have been searching for a good theme shop for months and after be a member of Elegant and Woo Themes I have not found the answer to my needs. I am now considering Themify because they have a good range of themes and their layout builder is really nice. It allows you to edit your page on the front end which is cool. I still haven’t decided but Themify seems to cover all the bases for me. Range of themes, good tech support (I hear), layout builder, and an affordable price. It should have been on this review.

    pablo rey

    I liked the review really usefull. Becouse of these I founf ThemesKingdom (BTW one of the more positive “title” in the post, and then any mention… Jack of all trades? Not bad, bought it :)

    respect of themeforest… may be a review of some top rated developers… but, don claim for any developer left out :)

    I use ET and yes they are rigid, you can minify CSS, the support is fast… but seems they ned new css… Elegant CSS, these are the additions:

    One little point, here, in some latin american countries, the dollar is quite expensive, so many theme sellers sell their themes at a price that is higher that what we could get.

    I don want to bother you Raelena, but I have a suggestion: you evaluate the speed of the theme, and many point the fact that it higly dependes on the optimization work done on the site, not a matter of the theme.

    But, there are things that you could test, like the MySQL calls in a simple post page, for an instance.

    A last thing dont know why theme sellers dont offer a stripped down version of their themes, they could do for the sake of “twikeability”, a CSS map, the recomended dimensions of the images…

    yes looking at you elegant boy! :) , but ET seems to be evolving nice, they even are making some .psd to change the sliders.

    Thanks for all

    PD: free themes reviews, wpexplorer, fabthemes….


        Hey Mike, no I haven’t, I will have to check into that. Personally I am a bit leery of drag and drop because of the end result with proving the code. It affects the page load times and gets a negative eye from google. But we will prove that plugin and write a review on it when we are through. They have a short code generator and a skins generator. You can use the skin generator to switch skins and colors of the themes. It allows you to test what works and even better with a/b testing. After the creation of the child theme we code because we do custom work for clients and most of our sites. The themes come about 960 px and real easy to widen to 1200 if needed. For the most part I use those and code the rest. The options and flexibility are just out of the world.

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