Themeforest is a theme marketplace where you can purchase themes for your WordPress website. But are they really a great option? Find out why you should use caution when considering these WordPress website templates.
Affordable? Yes, but you get what you pay for.
While they may seem easy – sometimes these themes are really difficult to setup.
Many themes are hard to get support for and refunds are rarely offered if you are not happy.
I am going to start off this Themeforest review by saying I never recommend their WordPress themes and I do not work on any websites that use them. I have not tried or tested any of the other template options that they offer, so this review is only for WordPress specific themes.
But since we know people are going to use them for their WordPress theme option, I wanted to outline how to properly vet a WordPress theme and why I recommend you actually choose another option for creating a website.
There was time back in 2018 that we had seen 3 issues in one week with different website owners that had Themeforest WordPress themes installed.
Each issue was unique – but the common factor was that they had purchased their theme on Themeforest.
This was about the same time we decided to no longer work on any websites that had a Themeforest theme installed.
We believe WordPress consultants and agencies have an obligation to provide clean, well coded WordPress 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.
Because it is so easy to start selling on ThemeForest it makes it more vulnerable to web design themes that may not be as good you hoped. While the standards for selling on the marketplace have been tighter in recent years, there is still a risk that you will take when purchasing one.
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.
There are themes for ecommerce, businesses, portfolios – everything you can image! No matter what your business or niche is, there is probably a theme that may seem perfect for you.
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 people who had ThemeForest themes that just stopped working – mostly due to lack of updates and compatibility issues with plugins. Some of these were ecommerce websites which had issues with the latest Woocommerce plugin version so those were much more complicated to resolve.
In period from about 2017-2018 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 It 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 — damn pretty to look at.
The theme creators do a great job at marketing WordPress themes by making them look gorgeous and flexible for a variety of uses (a multipurpose theme they call it), but that is part of where the trouble comes.
There is a thing called having “too much”!
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!
THE GOOD: What To Like About Themeforest
Of course affordability for what looks to be an amazing website design is why most people are drawn to Themeforest. You can get a killer design with all the modern bells and whistles at a fraction of the cost of a custom designed website, and of course we see the appeal of that as an option!
Typically the designs are gorgeous and are filled with wonderful imagery and font use and “modern” touches like moving parts that really drawn you in.
If you are looking for simple website for a business as a “place on the” web to visit like a restaurant or band or other business that has a following and just needs a quick website to promote your latest updates, Themeforest is a great option.
Envato market also has a large global community that can really help you in terms of support with managing, creating and updating your theme.
If you have a business that you are looking to grow long term and will need to grow with you – then for the reasons below we cannot recommend it.
THE BAD: 6 Reasons To Avoid Themeforest
1. Branding Concerns
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.
2. Code Bloat
One of the largest issues with many WordPress themes from ThemeForest is all of the plugins that are needed to run the theme – from a page builder to gallery – whether you need them or not you have to install them.
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 creator 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 will have a custom WordPress plugin written by the theme developer 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 page builder 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 an 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 developer – 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!
3. 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.
We had a client who had purchased a theme on Themeforest a few years before they contact me. There was a known vulnerability in a script called TimThumb that their WordPress themes used – ultimately the client was hacked because the theme developers never did an update to the theme to adjust for the needed update – actually they developed a new theme that they referred us to buy instead when we asked about an update for this issue. This specific client decided to redesign the website which we did with StudioPress and has not had an issue since!
4. Difficult Setup
This is a pretty common question across the board – “Why do our ThemeForest WordPress themes not look like the sample when we 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 – but they do not tell you that!
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.
Below is a related article about how difficult it can be to achieve the look of the demo website you may have fell in love with!
So before you purchase and WordPress theme from Themeforest be sure it comes with great installation and setup instructions!
5. Theme Removals
Did you know a theme can just be be removed from Themeforest with no notice? 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.
6. Speed Analysis – GTMetrix
Below we are going to show you with images why we highly suggest you stay away from the ThemeForest and Envato market for your WordPress templates. Hopefully these images and small notations we add will be enough to help you see the issues clearly!
Of course this will also be affected by the WordPress Hosting you have – hosts like GoDaddy do not do as well with templates from here as some higher end hosts.
NOTE: We just chose a random premium WordPress 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.
THE UGLY: Themeforest Around The Web
Here are a few articles – that you can take a look at that will offer even more insight. Many have a rating that will put Themeforest well below where we would want to see a theme be rated.
Be sure to always read the comments as well – some good stuff hiding in there!
Trustpilot Reviews – 2.5 stars
What Other WordPress Theme 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, typically have a great rating and have a large 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 Really Love A ThemeForest Theme?
Then by all means – buy the theme that you love – but check the rating for the theme!
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 developer – check what their rating averages look like
- 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
- Do a rating check on the internet by typing things like “themename theme sucks” or “do not buy themename” or even search the theme developers name – this will help you see what people are saying so you can make sure they are one of the better options
- Check on Reddit and Quora – do a search for the theme name and see what pops up
- While most do not offer any kind of lifetime update – you will want to know what your options are for updates to ensure your theme stays updated