Clients ask us frequently if we can help them save money by using a pre-built theme rather than designing and coding from scratch. The answer, we’ve found, is: in theory, yes. In practice, not usually. So, we generally steer clear of using commercial WordPress themes.
But that doesn’t mean they aren’t a great choice for some projects. You can save money as long as you recognize the limitations of using a commercial theme. You have to be willing to give up the idea of full control and customization.
This comes as a shock to some people since the theme sellers typically show off galleries of customized sites that look amazing. Most people don’t realize the hours of blood and sweat that someone invested in turning a nice but generic commercial theme into something personalized and fantastic. Those hours are what turns the bargain into a major expense.
More important, though, is the way many themes limit what can be customized. Not a big deal at the outset, assuming you choose your theme wisely, but as your site’s content and audience grow, the theme may make it difficult to make incremental improvements rather than having to kill your site and start over.
The fact that we don’t do this kind of work, though, doesn’t mean it’s not a good fit for some projects. So when I saw WPMU’s post earlier today about their review of commercial theme sellers, I thought it would be useful for some segment of our audience.
(WPMU is sort of a support group for WordPress users and developers. We’re members and have used a number of their tools on various client and in-house projects.)
These reviews cover most of the larger theme sellers and rate them in a variety of areas, from cost and customer service to feature sets, design sensibility, and usability. Click here to learn more.
If you’re considering building a site that you’d like to be a cut above the basics you can achieve at WordPress.com but can’t make the investment in a full custom site, this is a valuable resource.