Commercial WordPress themes or premium themes were once considered the gold standard. These themes made WordPress web designers lives much easier by allowing them to create great looking websites for customers rather quickly. So why on earth have we stopped using premium themes?
Let me start by saying that I am in no way bashing the premium theme market or pointing fingers at any individual theme author. There are still some really well designed and expertly coded themes out there that do stand the test of time.
Here are the main reasons we stopped using premium themes for our WordPress projects:
All in wonder themes
While having a theme that can do anything and look like anything seems to be the best value around, the overwhelm these themes present often zap any bit of clarity you have left in you. Sometimes too much choice can be a bad thing and we have found this to be the case with today’s premium theme market.
Some commercial WordPress themes have become so complex and allow for so much to be customised that the options panel they present is rather overkill. While I do understand that more options mean more flexibility in one sense, for the average admin or even seasoned professional these options can be tirelessly overwhelming.
In recent years most premium WordPress themes have been developed with the sole purpose of being able to cater for almost every industry. Most have several different layout options, installable demo content, tons of add-ons and bundled plugins.
While this often looks like fantastic value when purchasing a theme, the additional code needed to get all this working quite often causes a massive code bloat, which results in a slow website. It also makes it much harder to fix things when something goes wrong.
Poorly bundled plugins
Almost all of the top players in the commercial theme industry now bundle a load of popular commercial plugins into their themes. These often include the likes of: Visual Composer, Slider Revolution, Layer Slider and hordes of others. These plugins in themselves are really good, and the authors behind them are professionals. The problem comes in when plugins get updated by these authors and no updates are available to the plugins bundled within the premium theme.
We have found this to be a major problem with a lot of websites we have either created or inherited which use a commercial theme as a base. Some of the major players include WordPress themes like: Avada, X, and Jupiter. But the same problem is apparent in lesser known themes too.
Similar to the bundled plugin issue I mentioned above, sometimes premium themes are just not updated quickly or regularly enough when a new version of WordPress becomes available. Sometimes a few major versions of WordPress pass by before a theme gets updates and often things tend to break in the process.
While the major players seem to have more regular updates available, the lack of bundled plugin updates causes a huge security concern. Sometimes bundled plugins can go several months before actually being updated to their latest version.
Using a solid theme framework is a great way to build a custom website while not having to start from scratch. Quality theme frameworks off a robust foundation with optimised code, which makes it a great option. Using a top quality page builder like Beaver Builder is also recommended to enhance the functionality and to make it easy to maintain your website.
We made the decision to stop using popular premium or commercial themes because most are bloated, slow, overwhelming and the bundled plugins do not get regular updates. As with most things in life, there are always exceptions to the rule, but for the most part we steer clear of bloated commercial themes.
Have you experienced similar issues when working with premium themes?