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Easy-to-Follow Checklist for Buying a WordPress Premium Theme

Written by Joe Foley on in Resources 3 comments
checklist-header

Sometimes it seems that buying a WordPress theme can be more complicated than buying a car. There are so many choices and so many different things to consider. Do you need Feature X or does this theme come with Feature Y? Will you have control over A, B, and C, and can you move that thing there over to this section here?

Exclusive Content: Download Checklist for Buying a WordPress Premium Theme for easy reference in the future.

Pretty soon all the themes all begin look both the same and different at the same time. It’s enough to make your head spin.

With that in mind, we’ve made a checklist for you. This should keep you focused and clear about what you’re looking for.


Don’t Get Fooled by Nice Photos

The first thing to mention here is this tip: Don’t get fooled by nice photos on a demo site. Most demo sites you come across will have all sorts of nice photos on display. But you need to look past those photos to the features of the theme itself.

OK, with that major warning, on to the nitty gritty of the checklist.


Theme Layouts

The layout of the theme essentially consists of the different sections on a page. By different sections I’m talking about things like the header area, the menu area, the sidebar area, different columns in the content area, etc.

Premium themes these days often give you a number of different options when it comes to layouts, and so this is an important area.


1. Widgetized Homepage (Page Builder)

A number of themes these days come with something called page builders or widgetized homepage. A page builder, like WPZOOM’s own ZOOM Builder, lets you design a page as you like. You can easily add sidebars or columns or sliders or many other things.

A look at WPZOOM’s drag and drop ZOOM Builder.

A look at WPZOOM’s drag and drop ZOOM Builder.

Page builders can be great, but they are also more complicated than “regular WordPress.” They aren’t too hard to work with once you get a handle on them, but you’ll likely need to spend some time getting that handle on them.

2. Page Templates

Page templates are layouts that the theme designer has already built for you. So, for example, they might build a page template for to use as a contact page. They might have another template for you to use for your About page or your Portfolio page.
Of course if you’re theme is specialized, like a real estate theme, for example, then they may have very specialized templates related to that niche.

3. Sidebars

Sidebars (and widget areas) are areas that let you drop in widgets like a “recent post widget” or a “menu widget.”
As a general rule, the more of these you have, the better. They give you more flexibility.

4. Hide/Show Post Info

The ability to easily show or hide information on your post like the author, date, category, etc. is nice to have. There may be many times when you don’t want that info present.

5. Menu Options

How many menu locations are there?
Styling options – Can you control color, text size, etc.

6. Headers

How much control do you have over your header area? Can you change the styling or the location of things?

7. Footers

What options do you have for your footer? Is it widgetized? Can you control the styling of the footer?


Styling for Entire Site

The ability to easily control color is essential for some buyers.

The ability to easily control color is essential for some buyers.

Many premium themes these days give you a number of styling options for the overall site, such as the ability to control the typography and set colors in different places.

Like the page builders mentioned above, however, more of these options is also going to mean more complications. That said, there’s always the option of just leaving things as they are.

The only problem comes when you actually do want to change one little thing but have to wade through a hundred to try to figure out when the controls for that one little thing is.

Most people who want control in this area will be looking for control in the following areas:

1. Typography

Do you have the ability to change the font, the font size, and the font colors?

2. Colors

Do you have the ability to change the color scheme for your theme? For example, if your main menu is blue, can you easily change it to red if you like?

Something else to consider is premade color schemes already in the theme. Are there a number of them? Do these out of the box schemes appeal to you?


Extended Features

Things like sliders are often called in with shortcodes.

Things like sliders are often called in with shortcodes.

There are basically two ways for a WordPress theme to employ a feature (like a slider, for example). It can either be built into the theme, or it can be added with a plugin.

The important thing to know here is that if something is built into the theme, then you CANNOT take it with you if you ever change your theme.

And so that’s something you’ll have to consider.

If you see a theme has a great-looking slider, and it happens to be built-in, then just know the work it took to put a slider together in your site will need to be repeated with a new slider if you ever change your theme.

Many features can be either built-in or in a plugin, but some typically come in one form or another. And so we’ll go over features that are typically built-in first and features that might typically come in a plugin after that.

Just remember, however, that for some of these, you might find them in either camp.


Built-In Features

Having good-looking social media buttons can be important for the overall look of your site.

Having good-looking social media buttons can be important for the overall look of your site.

1. Responsive

Every premium theme you come across these days should be responsive, but some do better than others when comes to mobile devices. Be sure to check what the theme looks like on different size devices.

2. Social Media

Is there a convenient place to enter your social media accounts?

3. SEO

Many premium themes have a special section for SEO, but this shouldn’t be a decisive feature when searching for a new theme, because it’s much better to use a plugin that will preserve your settings when changing themes.

4. Speed

How fast does the site load. You can run it through Google’s PageSpeed tool to see. You can also get plugins to help with speed. But they can be complicated as well. You may need to get help improving your site’s speed, but it will be worth it.

If you find the site is slow, you might want to ask the developer about it. Ask if it’s easy to improve the page speed and what you’d need to do.

5. Ad Spots

Are there places to add advertising code or banners?

6. Logo

Is there a spot to easily add your logo?


Plugin Dependencies/Compatibility

In this area we’ll go over things that are often found in a plugin form; however, your theme might also have them built in. Just remember that built-in means you can’t take it with you if you switch themes.

Some premium themes these days include premium plugins from other developers too. We highly recommend you to avoid buying (why?) such themes, because most of the times no one will guarantee after some time that a 3rd party premium plugin will continue to work after a major WordPress update.

Themes shouldn’t bundle plugins, especially premium plugins from other developers. However it’s a good practice to keep themes as simple as possible in functionality, and let users add extra functionalities by installing 3rd party plugins or different features from Jetpack.

You might look for themes that support popular plugins like:

  • Gravity Forms
  • WPML
  • WooCommerce
  • Jetpack (Infinite Scroll, Comments)

Cost

You will likely find all sorts of pricing options when you go searching for a theme.

You will likely find all sorts of pricing options when you go searching for a theme.

Premium themes, by definition, are going to cost you. But there are a number of different options you usually have here.

1. License

Licenses typically come in either a “personal license” or a “developer’s license.”

Personal licenses typically offer you support for one site only while a developer’s license will include support for multiple sites.

2. Number of Themes

Of course you will probably have the option to buy a single theme, but many theme designers also offer multiple themes for a single price. Or they might offer a “theme club” deal where you pay an ongoing fee, but you get a new theme every month.

An example of this would be WPZOOM’s own theme club.

3. One Time vs. Subscription

You can buy most premium themes for a set price and then you own the theme forever. That typically comes with one year of free upgrades and support.

After that year is up, however, there is no more support and no more upgrades.

As keeping your themes up to date is extremely important both for security reasons and for the functioning of your site, you will probably need to factor in whatever yearly fee is charged for the updates and support.

A few developers may sell lifetime licences for one set price upfront.


Support & Updates

wpzoom-support

Support and updates are two of the main things you’re paying for when you buy a premium theme. You’ll want to try to check out how well the theme developer manages both.

Many will have a forum you can check out. You can also ask to see their changelog to see how often the themes are updated.

Here are some things to consider in this area.

1. Response Time

Do they answer questions in a reasonable amount of time?

2. Problem Solving

Are they able to actually solve the problems of their users, or is there a lot of run-around?

3. Support Channels

Do they have a forum, a ticketing system, phone support? Will they answer your questions on social media?

4. Theme Instructions

Do they have premade instructions for the theme that will teach you how to use it? How comprehensive are those instructions?


Look for a Trustworthy Developer

thumbs-up-340pxBecause updates and support are so important, you’re going to want to choose a developer that is going to be around in a year, two years, even five or ten years down the road.

While everyone has to start at some time, going with an established developer is always the safest choice.

People jump in and out of the WordPress theme development game all the time. So just be careful there.

Here are a few ways to check how established a developer is.

1. Google

Search for the company’s name in Google.

If they are REALLY well established, then Google may give them an extra link section right on the search page itself.

For example, when I search for “wpzoom,” you can see the extra links that Google has included below the homepage URL.

wpzoom-in-google

Of course this is not the final word by any means. Plenty of perfectly legitimate theme developers will not get these extra links showing up in Google.

2. Themes

How many themes do they have?

3. Support Forum

Look at their support forum if they have one. Are there people there? Are questions being answered?

4. Social Media

Check their social media accounts. Are they established there?

5. Ask

Ask others. Go online and ask others if they know about the developer.


Big Decisions Require Clarity

Buying a theme is a big decision, not necessarily because of the cost, of course, but because your website will be your home on the web. It will reflect back on you and/or your company.

Hopefully the information above will help you get clearer about what you’re looking at, what you’re looking for, and what you might need to make your site what you want it to be.

We’ve gone over a lot here. And I realize it might still be a bit overwhelming. So we’ve made up an easy-to-read “checklist” version of the info here for your convenience. You can pick it up here:

Exclusive Content: Download Checklist for Buying a WordPress Premium Theme for easy reference in the future.

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3 Comments

  • I always recommend that people only buy from developers listed in the WordPress Commercial Themes directory (WPZOOM is listed of course ;) ). Buying from a seller listed in that directory reduces risk for the buyer.

  • Lots of good tips, thanks. It will be helpful for people to read these tips in conjunction with my article How to choose a WordPress theme which contains further tips about how to choose a theme that will work for your content, and which has all the features you need but without unnecessary bloat. In practice, I find it really hard to implement these tips on themes from anywhere other than ThemeForest. I try not to use themes that are too bloated, but most free themes – and the themes on marketplaces other than ThemeForest – contain very little information about how flexible the themes are. For example ThemeForest themes clearly state whether the theme comes with flexible layouts (e.g. a page builder plugin or shortcodes), whereas themes from other sources have nice demos but no information about whether these layouts can be changed to suit your content. I find it really frustrating as there’s no way of knowing whether the theme is suitable! How do you get around this problem?