Just within the last week we have seen 3 issues with different website owners that have utilized a ThemeForest theme on their WordPress website. Each issue was unique – but the common factor with all the issues was the themes they were using – all purchased from ThemeForest. We believe WordPress consultants and agencies have an obligation to provide clean, well coded-themes to their customers – but when it comes to ThemeForest, this is not always what you are getting.
That is what prompted us to write this post – to help you see the side of ThemeForest no one talks about!
We are not bashing every theme on ThemeForest — we are sure there are some good ones on there, actually the one we profile in this post is not that horrible — but to have to sift through all the bad ones to find them is a chore.
Then there is also the fact that most non-techies will not know what to look for to determine whether a theme is good or bad. This is where we come in!
WHAT IS THEMEFOREST?
If you do not already know, ThemeForest is a huge marketplace of pre-made themes for sale for a variety of CMS platforms as well as HTML websites. ThemeForest is owned by Envato which has several different websites under its brand like CodeCanyon, AudioJungle, GraphicRiver and more.
They are a leader in the marketplace – but those that typically purchase themes from them are not aware of the dangers that are lurking in many of the themes that are made available on the site. The WordPress theme you may be eyeing up may look all pretty – but behind the scenes may be something scary.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH THEMEFOREST
Yes, I personally have had many themes purchased over the years from ThemeForest…..I have never used them for website clients and never will – but for my own personal use they were fine for what I needed. I have purchased photography themes and blog themes mostly – so I know first hand the good and the bad.
2 Dogs Media has also helped several clients who had ThemeForest themes that just stopped working – mostly due to lack of updates and compatibility issues with plugins.
In the last year or so I have personally seen some level of improvement, but am still leery of using them for anything other than personal use.
WHY IS THEMEFOREST SO POPULAR?
It is simple – the themes are a hell of a lot more affordable than a custom developed website and by gosh most of the themes on there are well — pretty damn pretty to look at.
They have themes for any niche — and come with all the bells and whistles you can ever need. All this for the low low price of oh let’s say $68 or so.
To unsuspecting website owners – they get a great looking website with lots of great features for one low price. What is not to love?
Well, we are going to tell you.
And just like a friend….we are going to hopefully help you see why you should not consider ThemeForest if your business is important to you!
When it comes to a website – no two should really be alike. Every business or blog has its own unique personality, target market and goals. In our opinion – using a template that looks like hundreds of other websites is doing your business a disservice.
For example, one of the biggest sellers on ThemeForest is Avada with over 300K themes sold. While you can customize it quite a bit – most do not because it is not as easy as they make it seem, so many websites using this theme all look the same. Just some food for thought.
One of the largest issues with many ThemeForest themes is all of the plugins that are needed to run the theme. In the past a lot of theme developers used to actually not even separate the plugins from the theme code – but thankfully that has changed.
But many themes still require you to download several plugins to have the theme working properly – many of these plugins are from CodeCanyon and run off the theme authors development license. This means you have to rely on the theme author to do all plugin updates as well as theme updates since you will not be able to access the plugins personally.
Here are some examples:
- Some have custom plugins written by the theme author which may not work with any other theme — so in essence if you change your theme in the future, whatever functionality that plugin is offering may become obsolete. See screenshot below which shows the “Goodlayer” plugins that are required. Those are author written plugins and will not work on other themes.
- Visual Composer — it is a bulky plugin that requires a lot of memory to run and has had its fair share of complaints for speed and lock up issues. It is also a plugin that inserts “short codes” into your content when you use the creative layouts. So if you do remove it at some point and want to use the default WordPress editor – you will be left with a lot of short code to remove.
- Layer Slider and Revolution Slider are 2 others that are often included – both of which we are not fans of either for coding and load times. There was even an issue several years ago with Revolution Slider having a big security vulnerability – and if you had one of these themes, you would have to wait for the theme author to update the theme in order for your site to be secure. When a vulnerability like this happens in a plugin you want to be sure YOU can control how fast it gets fixed and not have to wait on a third party.
- Many of the themes include WooCommerce and BuddyPress — most will never need these, but the code is there whether you need it or not in turn affecting site speed and number of files required.
Here is a peak at the plugins that were required for our test theme we used for this article – this is actually not too bad, but the plugins are custom from the theme author – which like we mentioned may cause issues if you move to a new theme or custom built.
You can see they also REQUIRE Contact Form 7 — which may not be the contact form you want to use. While you do not necessarily HAVE to install this plugin…the nagging notice below will probably never go away.
Another common coding issue in ThemeForest themes include custom post types. For example if you have a limo website you can have a “cars” post type -if you have a business website you can have an “employee” post type. But often the authors of themes will code these post types right into the code – when you change themes then these post types will disappear and you will need to do them over in your new website.
A better scenario is for you to use a plugin to create these post types like Advanced Custom Fields – or even a custom plugin with your post types that you can easily move to a new website. Hardcoding them into the code is a bad idea!
To put things into perspective – Slobodan Mani, a WordPress guru who is very familiar with the WordPress Review Team guidelines and has contributed to that team a couple time has made this statement about some ThemeForest themes:
There’s no way around it, some of the stuff sold at ThemeForest would never, ever make it into WordPress.org repository of free WordPress themes. Let me say that again: Some of the themes sold at Envato are not good enough to be given away for free.
Then there are the hundreds of included fonts, color changers and other backend tools that just bog down your website. Styling should be done through your stylesheet — not with extra code to allow you to push a button.
JQUERY and JS scripts are also a common problem and can directly affect various plugins that you may install in addition to the theme – but these are more advanced issues that most website owners are not aware to look for!
LACKING IN UPDATES
WordPress releases many updates throughout the year to keep your website secure, address bugs and to provide new features. When WordPress does an update – then the ThemeForest author needs to do an update to ensure that their theme works flawlessly with the latest WordPress version.
This does not always happen.
This is a pretty common question across the board – “Why does my ThemeForest theme not look like the sample when I install it?” Most themes are so complex that it will take a lot of work to get it to look like the same you may see on the sales page!
Even as web developers – we have found many of the themes to be pretty confusing to setup. From complex page templates to scattered admin areas and widgets – sometimes you just do not know where to start.
Sometimes the instruction that are included are also less then helpful — some we have seen were not even updated to the latest theme version in the interface so what we would see in the admin does not match the images in the PDF help file. Others you could tell English was not their native language and could be difficult to understand.
Here is a related article:
Did you know a theme can just be be removed? Well, it can!
In the screenshot below you can see 3 that are in my personal account where the theme has been removed for whatever reason. Items can be removed by the author or the Envato staff for any reason — and even if you did NOT download it right away, they owe you nothing. So if I purchased Raindrop — and did not download it right away – it can still be removed and I would be out the money.
You can of course try contact the author to see if you can get the theme sent to you of course – and then there is the fact that you should DOWNLOAD the whole theme package immediately after purchase! But not everyone does – and not every theme author will respond to you if you request it be sent —– so it is something to be aware of.
So how does the removal of a theme affect you?
It means no more updates – no more support and if your theme has an issue you would have to hire someone to help you figure it out.
One thing I can say from experience very few real web developers will look at a ThemeForest theme and try to fix an issue — they will probably tell you to scrap it and start over! Some of them are just coded that badly.
SPEED ANALYSIS – GTMETRIX
Below we are going to show you with images why we highly suggest you stay away from the ThemeForest themes. Hopefully these images and small notations we add will be enough to help you see the issues clearly!
NOTE: We just chose a random theme we had in our Envato account – again, this is not saying every theme on ThemeForest is bad – but an overview of why you should use caution and do your due-diligence. This theme actually is a little better than some we have seen and read about in terms of code and speed, but still has some issues. Because we knew what to look for in finding themes we found one that we knew would not be that bad — but it still doubles download time and file loads!
- The site we are running these tests off of is a brand new site – there is no content on it and no images uploaded
- No plugins at all are installed outside of what comes packaged with either theme tested
- We ran the test on GTMetrix
- The website being tested is hosted on a dedicated server with Liquid Web – results would probably quite different on a shared hosting company like GoDaddy, Bluehost etc.
THEME TEST 1: Genesis Framework with child theme
Load time: 1.2s (how quickly the site loads)
Page size: 156kb (how many bytes are on the content of the page)
Requests: 21 (how many files, images and scripts need to be download for the site to render)
THEME TEST 2: ThemeForest LimoKing theme
Load time: 2.5s (how quickly the site loads)
Page size: 785kb (how many bytes are on the content of the page)
Requests: 41 (how many files, images and scripts need to be download for the site to render)
GT METRIX RESULTS OVERVIEW
So as you can see by ONLY adding in a ThemeForest theme we are adding 1.3s to the load time and and extra 20 requests for different pages of code. We have not even added any content, images or plugins that our website may need. This is a pretty dramatic increase.
While the speed itself in this specific test is not horrible — the increase in files and page size are not a good way to start off your new website.
RELATED ARTICLES YOU SHOULD READ
Here are a few articles – that you can take a look at that will offer even more insight. Be sure to always read the comments as well – some good stuff hiding in there!
WHAT OTHER OPTIONS ARE THERE?
In a call I had the other day with someone – they asked this specific question! I did not realize that many website owners are not aware that ThemeForest is NOT the only place to get themes! Of course our recommendation is always to go with a custom developed theme by a reliable WordPress Web Design agency, but we do understand that cost may be a factor!
Below is a list of other recommended themes you can choose that are better coded and and have a following behind them. If we are personally using them, we have included an affiliate link. We would NEVER use an affiliate link on any service or product we do not use ourself. (Which is why any ThemeForest link does not have an affiliate codes).
WHAT IF I HAVE MY HEART SET ON A THEMEFOREST THEME?
Then by all means – buy the theme that you love! We are not saying do not buy a theme from them but that we cannot recommend it and encourage you to be cautious when you do!
Here are some things to make sure you look at before handing over the money:
- Research the theme author
- How long have they been selling on ThemeForest
- Take a peak at all the themes they offer
- Review the themes and see the amount of reviews they have
- Look at the reviews carefully – sort by lowest first, newest etc. so you get the full scope of the reviews
- Check the number of sales and how recent the sales are – the more sales and more recent sales is a decent sign
Jill Caren brings over 12 years of WordPress and SEO experience to help you improve and grow your website. She has spoken at several events on SEO and has been published in several top SEO publications. You can contact Jill here.