I spent $45 on this theme, but it doesn’t do what I want at all! If I want to use a slider, I either have to customize the home page myself or pay outrageous fees to a developer to do it for me. I’m not happy with this theme!
Ok, so I made that quote up, but it’s the combination of comments I’ve seen about premium WordPress themes. There’s a huge frustration when you spend money on a product and it doesn’t work as expected.
Is it the fault of the theme developer if theme isn’t a one-size fits all solution? No. Is it the fault of the theme purchaser if they didn’t understand what they were purchasing? I don’t think so.
We don’t pop out of the womb knowing everything, so today I’d like to spend a little time from a theme developer’s perspective about what a premium WordPress theme is and, even more importantly, what it isn’t.
First, What is a WordPress Theme?
If you’ve been around WordPress for at least a week, then you’ve likely heard the term “WordPress theme.” The idea of a theme is to separate the design from the content, enabling you to switch themes as the wind blows, while your content stays snug in the database.
So a theme, at it’s most basic level, is a collection of template files and style sheets dictating how your content gets displayed in a browser.
What’s a Custom WordPress Theme?
I make websites for people. I talk to them, seek to understand their business, their pain points, and their goals. I take all of those discussions and information, run them through my mental processor (go ahead and think Conky from Pee Wee’s Playhouse), and then build out a custom website. Part of that solution involves creating a custom WordPress theme. Emphasis on custom.
Sure, there are some great premium, or ready-made, themes out there (you know I’m particularly fond of StudioPress themes), but I have no expectation of a theme suiting the needs of a customer out of the box. I often use a premium theme as a launchpad for a customization (it’s a huge time saver for me, and a cost saver for my customers), but the bulk of a project will always be tailoring a theme (and site features/functionality) to match the needs of the customer.
A basic customization could include adding a company’s logo, color scheme, and moving around some widgets. An advanced customization requires complex elements, like integrating with third-party data services or modifying default WordPress behaviors to suit a particular use case. Customizations come in all shapes and sizes.
What are Premium WordPress Themes?
A premium WordPress theme is just a fancy way of saying “theme for sale” (i.e. not free). They might be utilitarian in nature, like my first theme Utility, or perhaps they’re niche specific, like the Winning Agent Pro theme for realtors.
In contrast to a one-off, unique custom WordPress theme, premium themes are made to be used over and over. Certainly they can be customized, but they come off the shelf as is.
Lastly, What Premium Themes Are Not
If someone purchases a premium theme with the expectation of a custom theme, frustrations will happen. My goal here is to lay out what someone can reasonably expect from a premium theme as well as highlight what should not be expected.
Premium Themes (Should) Include
- Quality code
- Documentation to set up a theme per the demo
- Support outlet (i.e. contact form or forums)
Premium Themes Do Not Include
- Custom color schemes or design work
- Custom integration to a third-party service
- Custom code on a per-customer basis
There’s a tricky line between supporting a product (i.e. making sure your documentation is clear and accessible, fixing bugs, answering usage questions) and supporting more general WordPress or technology questions (i.e. “how do I target an element in CSS” or “how will this [random] plugin look?”).
I always want to err on the side of great customer service and go beyond what’s expected, but sometimes the starting expectations are higher than I can meet.
The bottom line is: Premium themes are fantastic, but they are not the same thing as a custom theme. A $45 premium theme will never deliver the same outcome as a $3000 custom theme, unless you’re willing to put in the elbow grease (or hire it out) to take it to that custom level.