An earlier post detailed the advantages and many disadvantages to using a free WordPress theme. In that article I recommended that serious blogs (such as those you plan on dedicating a lot of time to and/or monetizing) should not use a free theme because of the lack of customization options and features. For this post, I will detail a few of the advantages to using a premium theme and what things you should look out for when shopping.
Premium themes: things you should know
Premium themes, like the name suggests, are available only after you pay for them, and can cost as low as $15 to as high as a few hundred. So what premium themes should you consider buying and, most importantly, if you are going to purchase a theme what features are you going to get for your money? The answer to the first question varies depending on what type of website you want to build and what features you need. But with nearly every premium theme, you get a few core features such as loads of customization options, custom widgets and built-in functionality such as social share bars and related posts (this blog’s social share bar and related posts are built-in features).
Other features and functionality include things like sliders, custom forms, eCommerce functionality, built-in ad placement and more. For these reasons, it pays to do some serious research into the theme you are considering purchasing. That’s why it is extremely important to know what features and functionality you think your website will need.
For the most part, professional bloggers tend to prefer premium themes, but there are a few things you should know about when shopping around for one.
Free themes have the benefit of having a star rating right under them, so you know what other users think of the theme before you download it. Premium themes on the other hand usually have no such rating, which makes it all the more necessary to make sure you only buy from known developers. So what are all of the things you should look into when you are searching for the best premium theme?
One of the main reasons why people choose premium themes over free ones is because going premium typically gives you far more customization options. Think things like numbered pagination, primary and secondary color schemes, the layout of your blog page, background color and background pattern, where to display your social icons, where to display your ads (such as right after, or in the middle of blog posts), what fonts to use and more.
For the most part, free themes will come with only a few (or none) of these customization options.
2. Control Panel
The control panel is where you will be setting many of the design aspects of your blog. Every premium WordPress theme has a control panel, most are easy to use, some are too simplistic and a few others are somewhat complicated.
Here is a screenshot of the control panel that MyThemeShop uses:
Control panels vary widely, but my two personal favorites so far are the above (MyThemeShop) and Elegant Themes – even if ET is a bit simplistic. Here is a screen shot of the Elegant Themes control Panel:
You are going to need support eventually, usually for only minor problems. How the support is handled should factor into what theme from what developer you decide on.
For the most part, the basic support you will get from theme developers is this: you will set your username and password and log into the support area (after you have already purchased a theme or a membership plan). Then you will find basic support options like complete theme documentation which may help you solve your problem. If not, then you will probably have access to a forum where you can post questions and have one of the support staff help you with your issue.
Other support options are more advanced. Often, such as with Elegant Themes and WPMU-DEV, reputable companies will have a nifty way for you to grant access to your admin section to support staff who will then fix your problem while logged into your blog.
This goes without saying, but features are something every premium theme should not be lacking. After all, you buy premium themes so that you can get what typically isn’t offered in free themes. Basic features that are packaged in premium themes include custom widgets, social icons that you can display in various locations on your blog, a built-in social share bar, built-in related posts function and some type of ad placement feature.
Where to find premium WordPress themes
WordPress is an extremely popular Content Management System and so you will find no shortage of premium themes. There are thousands of developers, some of them are great, some are ok and others aren’t so great. I’ve been lucky in choosing themes (mostly because I normally only choose themes from known developers/companies) and have never run into a horrible premium theme.
Here are the three places I go when I need to purchase a new theme, in order from where I go first to where I go last:
- MyThemeShop – MyThemeShop gives you the option of buying a single theme (or plugin) or purchasing a membership plan and getting access to all themes and plugins. This place is my favorite shop because they have a wide variety of themes available and their themes are fast and feature rich.
- Elegant Themes – Same with MyThemeShop, Elegant Themes allows you to purchase a membership plan granting you access to all of their themes and plugins.
- ThemeForest – It pays to do research into your theme before purchasing from here. ThemeForest is kinda like Ebay, you have sellers wanting you to buy one of their themes and in many cases the theme is great. But you should do research into the rating, how fast the seller responds to questions or support requests and how often the theme is updated. Typically I won’t buy a theme from ThemeForest unless it is pretty popular one because, assuming it stays popular, the seller will have to continue updating it to keep the $$$ flowing.
Of course there are plenty of other developers/companies that you can turn to. These are just my personal recommendations as I have had success with the above theme outlets and find their themes to be top quality. That goes for only the above two, MyThemeShop and ElegantThemes. ThemeForest themes are all from random developers, so you may get a top quality theme and you may get one that is great but then is never updated. A theme from a reputable developing company is always the best way to go.