The State of Premium WordPress Themes

Premium themes are, in fact, great. They mean people can happily spend time building them, refining them and supporting them. They mean that themes can stop being good and start becoming great and even more importantly, the themes can innovate WordPress, the platform they’re all dependant on (we’ll come to that later). In this article we’ll look at what’s next for premium themes and what kind of legacy they’re leaving behind.

Get Rich Quick

Inevitably there are some how want to piggy back on the success of the premium theme market. This, again inevitably, means that some people get a bad deal when buying themes as they don’t know any better. This allows people to label small theme makers as “not to be trusted”, claiming they should only buy from any of a select number of “trusted” names.

It may just be a coincidence, but I’ve often found it’s the “trusted” people making these claims and whether they mean to or not it’s an incredibly clever way of ensuring their position at the top of the market is unchallenged. I don’t think having someone “everyone” has heard of behind the theme company should be a test for whether they’re any good or not. Whether the themes work well should be the test, surely?

Positive Competition

Or is it? The nature of the competition means if someone does something it’s incredibly easy for everyone else to copy it. And so they do. Perhaps without thinking whether it’s a good idea to include that function in their themes.

Purely hypothetically, if themes were all closed source and developers couldn’t just take a look at the competition’s source code, I think there’d be more innovation as people would have to do it themselves instead of just copying what others are doing.

Affiliate Heaven

An affiliate’s heaven. That’s the best way of describing them.

Premium themes have brought a new kind of menace to the WordPress community: the list post filled with “100 Best Premium WordPress Themes”. Posts filled with affiliate links and screens of themes that, frankly, are a little bit rubbish. I’m looking at ThemeForest (the irony!) especially where designers trying to develop often leads to poor results and copying.

On the flip side though, they allow bloggers to share in the success of premium themes, earning a little extra income from supporting something that they (hopefully) genuinely believe is a good product. Some folks are even kind enough to buy advertising on sites like mine, something I and I’m sure others are very grateful for.

Dependency on WordPress

It’s obvious, but premium WordPress themes are dependant on WordPress and the continued success of WordPress. Woo have been the first to branch out into ExpressionEngine and then Tumblr, something I expect others will be doing too.

At the moment though, it’s in everyone’s best interests that WordPress continues to grow and it’s going to be interesting to see how all parties contribute. At this point it’s customary to cite what Woo did with the custom navigation. Trouble is there’s a limit to how many times something like that can be replicated as otherwise we’ll all upgrade one day to find colour pickers and widgets everywhere, something that’s not necessarily a good thing!

It’s all… shiny

Originally themes were designs. Then they became designs with functions stuck on. As I said earlier, because someone did it, everyone else copied. This has led to themes becoming not-quite-as-nice-to-look-at although recently there’s been a shift back to looking good instead of just functioning well. Personally, I think that whilst a theme can function awesomely, it’s not something that all themes need to do or even should do; fundamentally they’re designs and thus that should be the primary function of the theme — to look good.


They’re here to stay, I think everyone needs to realise that very quickly. Personally, I see no reason why there shouldn’t be some option for themes to be installed directly from the admin panel, but that’s something to argue about another day. Do let me know I’m wrong.