So you are ready to build your website (or a client’s) and you decide to checkout ThemeForest – the largest marketplace of WordPress themes. ThemeForest can be a great place to find a theme because has an enormous variety of themes, it’s relatively cheap, and each theme can be bought individually without a subscription. These advantages do come at a price though, the abundance of themes are often made by individual developers or small teams whose quality and support can sometimes be less than satisfactory. This is especially true if you have bought WordPress themes from high quality theme clubs such as WooThemes or ThemeShift. In fact, ThemeForest does not require developers to provide any support for the products they sell. So if you buy a theme and the developer chooses not to provide support, you are SOL. I still use ThemeForest quite frequently, but there are a few indicators that a theme will provide more flexibility, less bugs, and better support from the developers, saving you hours of frustration.
Number of Sales
Under the price of each theme, you will see the number of sales each theme has made. While you may not want to use a theme hundreds of others have used, most WP themes are so flexible these days that they can become inextinguishable from the next customer with customization. When a theme has a large volume of sales and has not received a poor rating or significant negative comments, users have likely not experienced too many problems with the theme.
Number of Ratings
Just like any other online ratings, these can hint at a high quality theme, but should be taken with caution especially if only a handful of customers have rated it. Just because they have not experienced a bug or frustration in setting up the theme, does not mean you will not. Regardless, the ratings number provides a good idea of how much exposure the theme has received and thus testing by many people.
The date a theme was created should affect how you perceive the theme’s ratings, sales, and comments. Like any brand new technology, new themes almost always have bug fixes or additional features added a few days after the theme has been launched. Furthermore, unless a theme states it is compatible with your version of WordPress specifically, the older themes may have bugs or quirks when combined with the latest version of WordPress.
Does the theme say ‘Fixed’ or ‘Responsive’? If a theme is fixed, it will not format itself based on different size devices such as mobile and tablet. In this day and age, all sites should be built responsive, never with a fixed width. Not only does a fixed width ruin the user experience, but Google will penalize your site ranking if your site is not responsive.
User comments may be an indicator of specific issues or bugs with the theme. The comments can not only help you steer clear of a theme that has some flaws, but show you potential issues that you may run into while setting up the theme.
Planing to build a shop using WooCommerce or a social network with BuddyPress? Make sure the theme you choose supports any major third party plugin right out of the box. Otherwise, you will spend hours or pay a developer to spend hours integrating your theme to work with all of your planned plugins. If you don’t, the plugin will still probably work somewhat, but won’t match the design of your site and ruin the user experience. Some examples of plugins that require theme support include:
- The Events Calendar
- WMPL (WordPress Multilingual)
- Events Calendar Pro
- Easy Digital Downloads
- Aesop Story Engine
ThemeForest themes are notorious for using the latest and greatest technology, thus they drop support for browsers quite quickly. This may not be an issue for your website if you know your visitors are upgrading their browsers, but for sites in general, I still support IE11 on specific projects. Most ThemeForest themes have been dropping support for IE11 which would be cutting support for about 15% of all visitors on the web. Sometimes the themes look fine on browsers not listed, they just aren’t as pretty, but sometimes, themes were really not made compatible with older browsers.
WordPress Software Version
Checking out the WordPress software version is extremely important because it will affect your satisfaction with the theme. A theme built for WordPress 2.5 may have been excellent for WordPress 2.5, but installing it on WordPress 3.0 or above may cause errors, otherwise it will just not support some newer features such as Menus, Custom Post Types, or Custom Backgrounds to name a few.
Themes that state they are well documented often provide more information on setting up the theme, troubleshooting, and how to get support if needed.
Number of Themes Created by the User
While a developer could be making several low quality themes, more often than not, the developer has improved over time as they get more comfortable with producing WordPress themes specifically for Themeforest.
A note on page builders
ThemeForest is filled with themes built for various page builders. Some of these are third party licensed visual builders integrated with the theme while other page builders are built directly by the theme developers. I highly recommend avoiding a theme that is built with a proprietary page builder. This would be you entirely at their mercy if any bugs arise or if they go out of business. At least if you use a third party page builder like Beaver Builder, Visual Composer, or Elementor, you can still switch themes while using the same builder. This is not entirely objectives, but I have found in ease of use and performance the commercial page builders rank in this order:
- Beaver Builder (requires a separate plugin license outside of your theme)
- Elementor (requires a separate plugin license outside of your theme)
- Visual Composer (usually bundled in with your theme license)
Hope this guide was useful and don’t be afraid to purchase more than one theme and try theme out. At a cost of $40 – $60, it is well worth ensuring you have the right theme in place for many years to come. In addition, if a theme isn’t working for you, don’t hesitate to switch to another theme before it gets too late in your project. If you are already having multiple errors or issues not related to user error already, imagine working with that theme for several years.
Have questions on a theme you are looking at or need a list built for you? Feel free to reach out to us anytime.
Good luck with your search!