Over the past two years, I think I’ve spent a few hundred dollars purchasing WordPress themes for various reasons. The downside is, I’ve only used a few of them. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to buy something that looks great in the display case but no matter what you try, it doesn’t look that good in practice. With that in mind, here are 7 tips for both theme authors and customers for a better shopping experience.
Design First – In a recent poll conducted on WPTavern.com, I asked what the most important selling point was regarding purchasing a theme. Not surprisingly, design came out on top. When I go shopping for a theme, I already have an idea of what I want my site to look like. So, I take notice of not only the design but the layout or structure of the theme. I’ve become pretty good at modifying existing designs to the point where they look like something custom.
Must Have A Demo – This picks up where point 1 leaves off. I’ve been to a few commercial theme sites that preach all the stuff their themes have to offer with pretty pictures and the works. But, no demo. The bottom line is, if there is no demo of the theme in action, I’m moving on to something else. Demos are also used as a way to gauge the quality of code within the theme by other developers who may be looking at purchasing the theme to use as a base for their clients. I think of demos as a way to try before you buy.
Support – You can’t even begin to think about purchasing a theme unless you know for certain you’re going to receive quality support. I remember coming across a really slick design that I fell in love with but because I couldn’t access the forums without being a paid member, I couldn’t get a feel for how good support was. Sure, the email and forum support could have been top notch but since I had no way of knowing that before hand, it was a risk I wasn’t willing to spend 75$ on.
What I Saw And What I Have Are Different – This has to be one of the most annoying aspects which comes after the purchase of a theme. What I thought looked great in the display case turns out to be a nightmare to configure. This is the number one reason why I haven’t used the majority of themes I have purchased because I can’t get them to look the same they did in their display case or it’s to hard to make them look the way I envisioned them to.
Some of this problem lies on my shoulders though. As I shop around for a theme, I see something I really like and inside of my head, I envision how I would change things around to fit the idea I have in my head. After making the purchase, I find out that it’s too much trouble to go through to get the idea from head to paper so I don’t use the theme.
No Refunds – Equally as annoying but at least understandable is the fact that there are no refunds on downloadable products in the WordPress community. It makes sense considering once the product has been distributed, the business loses control over that products distribution and if they were to refund that money, they would go out of business really quick. This just means that it is very important that you cross your T’s and dot your I’s before going through with the purchase.
Resource Files – Unless it’s specifically stated on the purchase page that you get access to the source files such as PSD, font files, etc ask the theme author if these come with the theme or not. If they don’t and that particular theme uses a graphic for a logo, it will be difficult to change unless you have Photoshop experience or know someone that does.
Have A Showcase – At least a few times during my shopping trip, I’ll browse around to see if there is a showcase available which shows examples of the theme in action. I enjoy looking to see how people have modified the theme as it gives me a sense of what I would be able to achieve. If you’re a commercial theme author and you don’t have a showcase, you are really doing yourself a disservice.
Share Your Tips:
That rounds out my list of 7 tips for both commercial theme authors and customers. Thank goodness I finally found a theme I can invest my time in and not worry about changing every three months. I’m interested in hearing what sort of tips you have to share either as a customer or for commercial theme authors.
Once you’re done here, pop into the forum and let us know what are the top three preferences for choosing a theme.