What’s Your Perception Of ThemeForest?

Philip Arthur Moore has published a great post that I think strikes a nerve for many. Although the entire article is blockquote worthy, I think the most important point he made is that WordPress developers need to step up their game and stop contributing to the perception that WordPress sucks.

Whether you’re a theme or plugin developer, turning on WP_DEBUG only helps you. It’s a simple step and helps catch general coding errors before shipping products. Later in the article, Moore requested that ThemeForest sellers turn on WP_DEBUG before selling a theme.

All ThemeForest authors need to turn on WP_DEBUG. I don’t care about your GPL choices or your mega-menus or your features arms race towards taking a 70% cut on $40 USD for an unsustainable lifetime of support and free updates. All I care about is that you turn on WP_DEBUG. Your buggy products are hurting WordPress and making everyone in the WordPress community miserable, from support people to developers to consumers. You’re ruining trust in WordPress and you’re making the platform seem amateurish and childish.

theme forest logoThemeForest is a huge presence in the community.  It’s the go to marketplace for commercial WordPress themes for several users, so it’s really important that the marketplace does everything it can to encourage best practices. In fact, their theme submission guidelines specifically state that, “Themes must not have any PHP notices, warnings, or errors – please develop with errors enabled, and WP_DEBUG set to true.” There’s no excuse for ThemeForest themes to generate errors.

That brings me to my poll question.

[poll id=”52″]

Based on everything I’ve read and the commercial plugin developers I’ve talked to, the perception of ThemeForest is that it’s a place to buy good-looking, poorly coded themes. I’ve never purchased a theme from them myself, but have interviewed theme sellers such as Jonathan Atkinson doing their part to try to change this mind-set.

Ironically, the comments on Moore’s post have been disabled which is terrible considering he raised a number of great discussion points. What do you think of his article and the general idea that every developer is responsible for the perception of WordPress?


77 responses to “What’s Your Perception Of ThemeForest?”

  1. Its funny how they operate, when I was spending all sorts of money on the marketplaces, they always answered my emails right away, I was one of the top buyers with over 2500 items bought for clients and myself, they always offered me $100 credits here and there, and other free items like unlimited access to the tuts+ members area, then all of a sudden my account got terminated, and they wont even answer my emails to explain, ive tried contacting collis, and others but get no reply, you would think after spending close to 25k on their sites you deserve something better. So I stick to theme shops who arent involved in a wide spread marketplace. I do agree a lot of the theme developers have nice looking themes, but they are horribly coded, not all though.

    • Oh man, that’s terrible. Sorry to hear about your bad luck with ThemeForest. I’ll try and get Collis or even Stephen Cronin to look at your comment and get in touch with you to see if they can fix that.

        • I remember Chris very well. He was also a very active member of the forums offering advise and opinions (constructive) to both Envato, authors and buyers. I personally have missed him. No idea what happened tbh but I remember him creating another account to just let everyone know in the forums I believe – bad news all around.

          As for DEBUG, it’s a requirement for sure. I did enjoy the article by Philip and read it when it was published. He brings up good solid points along the way. There sure could be instances however when an authors older item (f he has a large portfolio of items) would cause warnings and errors in debug mode. One must remember though, that the majority of authors are individuals, not teams, and therefore issues will crop up, but always best to simply contact them re the issue and they should fix things up.

          Often we see people going the sensational route to complain rather than the constructive – but as I said, I have no idea about his experience or what caused him to write the article, but there it is. It will join the ranks of many other attacks on ThemeForest in general across the internet. I’m certainly not here to defend Envato or any of their practices and decisions. Have they changed over the years? Absolutely. For the better? That’s for another conversation.

          • thanks, I do miss all the great authors I used to speak to as well.

            Your themes were always clean coded, I have a short list of authors whos got some nice clean code.

            You will see a lot of the woocommerce themes though, some of them are pretty on the outside, but a nightmare on the inside.

          • i love how in collis emails when i was spending money, if i never need anything just email him directly, now i cant even do that.


        • Oh I am sure there’s issues here and there – not sure how people screw up WooCommerce in all honesty – guess they are trying to do things they should not or should throw in a plugin. But yeah, talked about that a few times ;)

    • Hey Fris, not sure what happened between you and Themeforest but I know that I bought a huge package from you for $50 (later offered for $25) that contained loads of themes and plugins from just about every shop out there including Themeforest. Shame on me I know but I thought it was legit at the time as you seemed trustworthy. Here is a screen shot from the original offer. Loads of themeforest/codecanyon files were included http://112.imagebam.com/download/_qytdD5zVDYTwSkDzqmWlA/33406/334055341/fris.jpg

      I’m happy to provide the full list here if you have forgotten. Maybe you should explain why you think Envato disabled you?

  2. …They’ve lots of inspiration stuff but I usually struggle to find what I want on Themeforest… they could really do with better search functionality and deeper categorizing… a forest of themes indeed!

      • It would be nice, but license type was never something searchable on ThemeForest, so adding 100% GPL as an option would’ve been a bigger project if they were also adding license type as something searchable, right?

        You can get around it easily enough with a Google search though:

        site:themeforest.net/item This item is licensed 100% GPL

  3. Hey Jeff, I was disappointed Phillip turned comments off too. A little rough to point a finger and then disable a right of reply.

    As far as I’m aware, all themes on ThemeForest are reviewed before being added to the library, and reviewers test with WP_DEBUG turned on. That’s in addition to the point you mentioned that ThemeForest tells authors to use WP_DEBUG.

    The problem though, is that there are over 4,000 themes on ThemeForest, and these submission requirements haven’t been around the whole time. Older themes are haunting ThemeForest these days. I hope they do a content review sometime really soon.

  4. Jeff! Saying “the perception of ThemeForest is that it’s a place to buy good-looking, poorly coded themes” right before the poll just might skew the results it a bit… lol… ;)

  5. Hey Jeffro,

    As you know I recently started at Envato as Quality Team Leader for ThemeForest (and CodeCanyon). I think ThemeForest has come a long way since I first came across them years ago, but there’s no doubt there’s still things that can be improved. We’re working on it!

    I can confirm what Japh said: All themes are reviewed before being added and our reviewers have WP_DEBUG set to true. We don’t approve any theme that generates any errors or warnings. So even if theme authors don’t have WP_DEBUG set, we’ll pick it up.

    Older themes may have been added before that was in place, but we’re looking at what we can do to improve the quality of those as well. It’s a huge job, but one that’s on our radar.

    Anyways, I agree with what Phillip was saying in his article – I’d like to see that come true as well!

    • Well hopefully, the long tail effect of those submissions being in place catch up to the themes everyone is using and the perception gradually changes for the better. It would be great if that risk of suggesting ThemeForest to people was as low as possible

      • Part of the problem here is how the heck does the average user know whether the theme they’re looking to buy is top-notch (coded well etc) or a liability? What’s more, it’s not just the code that’s to be worried about, but also the integrity (not to mention their willingness to issue regular updates and bug fixes etc) of the author (some of whom are surely just there to make a quick buck and/or try their luck)…

        • That’s certainly a hard thing when buying anything that requires dedication from the author on a large marketplace of any kind for sure.

          I would recommend looking at their portfolio and comments on their items, see if they are updating items (it’s listed and documented) and also see how long they have been a member etc. You should get a good perspective at that point.

          The rating system is as good (read: bad) as any rating system and is pretty useless so I wouldn’t trust those stars that much.

      • I am glad I didn’t read this post before buying a theme from Themeforest. I went with one of their paid theme options a few months ago, and I have to say the theme and the support has been fantastic.

    • You could just give the old theme makers a deadline to bring the old themes into “compliance” and if they don’t they get the boot.

    • Some of the ThemeForest theme sells like hot cake, primarily because they are number 1, and n00bies like me, on our first time to ThemeForest, tend to purchase them, only to find that they load really slowly, and pull in 200+ requests on our tests on Pingdom :o

      On the other hand, on the same clean installation, a fully set up Genesis and it’s child theme by Studiopress loads up with 20 odd requests!

    • I am buying a lot of stuff on envato and my two biggest concers are
      > POOR (or non existant) instruction – also for them were they swear about the good manuals, when at max they have a “import dummy data”

      > from poor to good costumer service (depending, but usually they reply late, quickly and without care- if manuals were published i think you could cut in half the tickets)

  6. wp_debug only tells us the obvious stuff and that’s the bare minimum needed to be done while performing a theme review.

    But there is much more behind the curtains as Phillip noted.

    Reducing the number of poorly coded themes is possible by encouraging authors to use or at least to go over themes like http://underscores.me/.

    With this you will know that job was done right the first time.

    • Yeah. That’s what I’m basically treading on in my other comment waaaay down (at the end of them all) of this discussion: Good thing are the Theme Review / Theme Guidelines plus the related Theme Check-Plugin.

      If something like this was MANDATORY at TF and other marketplaces, there might be at least a bit of better code being spewed upon us. Additionally, some kind of child-theme check would be great, but well .. cant have everything in one go ;)

      cu, w0f.

      • Hey fwolf and Emil,

        We do actually use the Theme-Check plugin when reviewing new and updated themes, although it is modified slightly by the ThemeForest-Check plugin. We also have WordPress Theme Submission Requirements that aren’t too different from the WordPress.org ones. If themes don’t meet those, they don’t get approved!

        The issue is that these have only been in place for about a year. We’re looking at how we can apply these to the older themes on TF, but it’s a huge job. We’re also looking at other options to make buyers aware of older themes etc. I’m not sure when we’ll be doing something on this front or exactly what we’ll do, but we are actively looking into this issue.


  7. I bought a lovely theme which perfectly suited my site and only found out later that others also had problems with it. It was unusable, and the author basically told me to get lost. Theme Forest responded by saying you agree that when you buy you will not get tech support for your product and there’s no guarantee it works.
    I would never, ever go to them again and tbh with the info around now I fail to see why anyone would be foolish enough to use Theme Forest.

    • Sounds like a pretty bad experience :(

      I have to say though, something doesn’t seem right there. ThemeForest don’t guarantee you after sales support from the author for your purchase, but if it is actually broken, they will refund your credit to purchase one that does. That’s their policy as far as I’m aware, anyway.

      • Hi Japh you many be right but there is always *Conditions Apply …. and small tiny written Terms and Conditions

        i have also had bad experience with themeforest i bought a theme called Cacoon – Responsive Business WordPress Theme, [ http://themeforest.net/item/cacoon-responsive-business-wordpress-theme/5062757%5D and you know what it had a lot of issue to customize etc the author collected feedback from eveyone all his clients and then came out with a another theme which had everything exactly THE SAME NO DIFFERENCE BUT CODING AND BUG FIXES called Shocoon – Responsive Business & Shop WP Theme [ http://themeforest.net/item/shocoon-responsive-business-shop-wp-theme/6024267 ]

        the author could not even come with a different design and the Ca was Replaced with Sho Cacoon became Shocoon i have purchased this template and i do not think i will ever use it it is so confusing to customize

        another template Venera – Responsive Multi-Purpose Theme since almost a year he never updated on requesting him that the Revolution Slider and Visual composer plugins have updated a lot in the last one year ….. can you please update those external plugins …… he asked me to get lost in a nice way and mentioned he does it in his part time he has to create new themes no time to update old one …. and thats business he said ……. asked me if i am so good at identifying problems i should create my own theme

        there are many more who talk about business just like him, i do not want to keep writing them here, but there are some ethics people who bought yoru theme supported you so you have to be supportive that essence is lost in themeforest but there are excellent authors who keep providing updates, new features and better coding to their old templates from a long time

        but my personal opinion such business minded people should be weeded out and make it compulsory to keep the bug list public and force the developers to address and do not accept any new theme from them until their bug list is empty and all bugs have been addressed them rather than them abandoning the existing buggy theme and creating a new buggy crap theme and con people …… BUT THIS IS NOT POSSIBLE ENVATO IS LOOKING AT 30 TO 50 % …… so many have to be conned to earn that 30-50% …. others cost ….. :)


        My 2 Cents of thoughts

        • i forgot to mention i contacted Cacoon and Shocoon authors ……. after many to and fro talks finally they apologized agreed to their mistakes and told me it will not happen again in future ……but what bout the 1207 people who bought it …. they could have merged both of them but they did not choose to ….

          And i wrote the same on themeforest Comments about a theme but it is deleted and not to be found … i wanted to warn users not to buy this template but buy the Shocoon as it is much better, people are still buying and they do not know Shocoon exists


    • Hey Henry,

      Not sure when that happened to you, but we definitely seem to offer refunds for broken items these days. At least that’s what I’ve seen happening since I started there (6 weeks ago).

      The item support issue is definitely confusing. Envato support the buying process and the marketplace, but the authors support the items they sell on the marketplace (though not all authors choose to offer support). Most people don’t understand that distinction! We’re aware it’s confusing and support is one of the 8 key things on Envato’s Marketplaces Roadmap 2014:

      Sustainable Item Support
      For ThemeForest and CodeCanyon in particular how buyers get post-sale support has been a big issue. Buyers have an inconsistent experience, authors have been rolling their own tools and themselves feeling unsupported, and there’s lots of confusion over who is supposed to do what. There’s plenty of problems to solve in this area, and we’re building a dedicated team to work on them.

      So hopefully things will get better in future. It’s a shame you had a bad experience though.. :(

      • Look at the previous comment about 2 of my experiences from a few

        now a days before i think of buying i see the change log before and then see how the template is updated and new features provided and look at the bug fixes before i think of buying my templates ….. all lot of half learned theme developers trying to make a quick buck

  8. No one has even touched on plugins at Codecanyon. That’s a whole new can of worms.

    Poorly coded crap is the order of the day. Not all of them you understand but I personally have spent quite a bit of cash on various marketplaces. And have had the misfortune of buying junk.

    They also need to do an seo check on their themes. Poorly coded themes are one thing however changing your WP theme for a themeforester one could be the death of a site.

    Some themes are not coded correctly and could see your hard work drop off from Google search results.

    • I’ve bought so many dud plugins from Code Canyon, my team and I jokingly call it Code Canyonero, after the episode of the Simpsons with the SUV that exploded like a Pinto. (http://youtu.be/7ZeFDe44Ddo)

      I’d like to more about this Google/crappy theme connection, if you wouldn’t mind.

    • Hey Ben,

      CodeCanyon falls within my responsibilities as well as ThemeForest. We’re looking at how we can improve the quality of items there as well, although to be fair, since I started I’ve spent more time looking at ThemeForest. But we’ll get there!

      • Hey Stephen,

        If you need a hand on that let me know. Have a load of bits and pieces that turn out to be a little dubious. I think in fairness some of this is down to language issues as well.

        • Hey Ben,

          Just read some of your ideas over on WPin – thanks! I left a comment, but I think I forgot to address the language issue. That is an issue (though also an issue for products received from other places too).

          Anyway, I’ve taken all that on board and I’m happy to hear any other ideas or experiences etc. It all helps! :)

          I used my personal email to comment on WPin (as that’s hooked up to Gravatar), but you always reach out to me there! Thanks again.


  9. I am new in this field, using TF quite regularly, not very dissatisfied so far. Any recommendations on the places I should visit to find properly coded, good looking themes?

    • read my posts above i have provided some tips how to weed out the stupid and my experience which might help you

      also never buy a new theme until you visit the portfolio of the author look at their other templates and their change log and then decide to go with the new template

      as for new authors have a very long discussion with them but then again it is a gamble situation win or loose


  10. Being one of the WPML Contractors I see many different ThemeForest themes on a weekly basis.

    My clients choose those themes, because the theme authors make them believe their themes are compatible with WPML.

    Marketing phrases (that’s all they are) range from “WPML ready (.po files included) to outright pasting the WPML “seal of approval” on the ThemeForest page without actually having received that seal.

    I think the management of ThemeForest does a poor job filtering these kind of practices and it reflects on ThemeForest as a whole instead of the theme author.

    I voted “Stay as far away as possible”.

    The few times I am in need of a design, I simply look for HTML templates, buy a suitable one for 10-15 bucks and do the coding of it myself, starting with Underscores.

    • If there’s a thumbs up option here, I’ll thumbs you up. I think Themeforest is ruining WordPress. That’s why I only look at WordPress.org and WordPress.com to search for themes.

  11. I’ve bought a lot of bits and bobs from the Envato marketplace, including several plugins (of varying quality) from CodeCanyon, and probably half a dozen TF themes, either for myself or for clients. I’ve been thrilled with a couple of the themes, able to work with a couple others, and completely dismayed by the rest. They looked good, but they ran like crap. One broke the registration page. One clashed with a plugin I can’t get rid of. One was creating embarrassingly large page file sizes.

    Additionally, sliders are the Comic Sans of website doodads, and I wish they would run their course already. TF designers love their blasted, of-the-devil sliders.

    That said, there are a couple of theme designers that do consistently good work, offer great support and regular updates, and seem to follow at least some sort of naming conventions within their files. (One theme I purchased had a 300k character CSS file on one line. One line!) It’s a still a crapshoot each time, but the business of selling WP themes is new enough, it’s going to be a crapshoot anywhere.

    I do really, really dislike (and this is not at all Envato specific) the whole support forum model. Nothing says “we don’t want to help” like sending your users to a half empty community that looks like it was built in 2003.

    Anyway, for now, my sites and my clients’ sites make do. I’ve got somewhat of the beginnings of a handle on what it takes to build a theme, I think it’s going to be my new summer project to learn. I’d love to know enough about how themes work to be able to either 1. fix a buggy theme I buy, 2. identify a buggy theme BEFORE I buy, or C. get smart enough to make my own, so I won’t have anyone else to blame if it’s the website version of a very pretty lunkhead.

    I’m inclined to think Moore turned off his comments to push these conversations closer to where they can spur more action than just discussion.

  12. I have used theme forest quite a few times now (nowhere near 25k) for clients and have not had to many issues. However I will say sometimes I am unsure of the theme if it will work the way I want it or due to a number of negative comments I will try to find a free version online to get a feel for it and if I am happy with the test then ill buy the them. Its saved me in the past from some very bad themes. It would great to see some try before you buy service maybe for a time period if it could be implemented with out being abused.

    • nice thought this will put some fear into the developers and make sure they do not provide some shitty product

      but all that said it is very difficult to address and it will be abused and there will be no control

      suggestion :- envato should start to provide virtual environment for testing for 2 to 3 hours to the potential using vargent as everything can be automated and then delete that install this may be the only possibility without abuse thought then its their call ….. the theme demos do not show the trouble of customization …..


  13. My one rule when buying something on Themeforest and Codecanyon (elsewhere as well): follow the mob. Only themes and plugins with thousands of satisfied customers attract my attention, and I will only purchase if the author has an active, professional support system. I learned my lesson early on; there are several duds in my Downloads section. Since following my new rule I’m basically satisfied.

    • Not always the mob. Look at Avada. Most popular theme, and I think Newspaper is better. Avada has the most sells, and Newspaper doesn’t. I have tried both.

  14. To me, it’s a marketplace, I look every now and then as there are some nice designs there with flash and jump, but my end result is that I get people at times desperate as the theme is non-supported on update.

    I think a lot of the developers are small and can’t run updates around what they need to for all of the things they need to offer to sell the themes.

    I’ve dealt with a few of the developers (when I get somebody coming to me to iron out things that have gone badly awry), I think they (the theme devs there) just aren’t big enough to be forecasting what is going to change when in core and even with updates to major plugins they market around an roll them out fast enough. Added to that, some try like hell, some just don’t, so it’s a lot to weed through.

    I most commonly get people from a situation where the theme centers around a major plugin that updates around core and the blowup point is where the update comes from the major plugin dev as they are wanting to inject their UI stuff and other things in the same update.

  15. Well, I say Themeforest is a great repository of premium themes for those who know EXACTLY what they want. However, their lame classification and ranking system makes it pretty difficult to browse through different themes.

    The Good: A good collection of nearly all premium themes at one place

    The Bad: Gimpy search, defective ranking system, poor theme categorization

  16. I’ve used Theme Forest and Code Canyon over the last four, five years. I treat it the same way I treat the WordPress plugin directory. Proceed with caution…

    I’m using a plugin from Code Canyon at the moment which is seriously slowing down a website for a client. Have had to come up with a custom solution for the problem.

    In other cases the theme or plugin has worked out alright. I think you just have to take the rough with the smooth. Given how big Theme Forest is they can’t possibly keep everything in check. I’d use the service more often if the quality was higher. Taking the time to research the theme author or the code used just takes too much time.

  17. I think the more important question is, as we all continue to raise our prices on themes, what’s Themeforest going to do with their $40 themes when $40 isn’t the average price anymore? TF buyers are conditioned to expect a certain type of theme, i.e, one with massive feature sets, at a super low cost point.

    • The average price of a ThemeForest theme has also been rising, so I’d expect that to continue too.

  18. Themeforest should raise the bar to push developers to the best theme quality. They have the power, but they think too much in cash flow instead of quality investment. Secondly their is no mandatory support policy. This is an insane combination of self-interest.

    Posting on their forum about the lack of support by theme developers generates a tsunami of comments. They will refer to the Envato policy and treat you as a nag.
    Professional theme developers hiding behind this policy is fatal for innovation!

    If you only charge $50 to $60 for a theme, how can you provide decent support? So the revenue model fuels the need for selling selling selling instead of investing in product quality and customer support.

  19. I have bought and worked on approximately 35 themes from themeforest in the last 4 months, all of which are themes added after the improved themeforest changes (Nov 2013), I can say that 90% of them are still very poorly coded, out of the 35 I am happy with 2. I really think themeforest is hurting the greater WP community at this point because it leaves a wake of bad products and hard to maintain sites.

    I typically use a themeforest theme for the design and not the code, it’s unfortunate that theme makers feel the need to code in the kitchen sink when most of them have a very basic understanding of PHP, JS and even WP.

    Some of the major problems I find across the board:
    Very poorly named, poorly structured, and uncommented code.
    Unable to use child themes because of how theme is coded.
    Unable to easily change urls because of how theme settings are coded
    Large plugin-like frameworks attached to themes
    Plugin functionality in themes (event managers, review systems, booking systems, e-commerce, etc)
    Poor security practises
    Too much javascript and reliance on 3rd party scripts that load on every page
    etc, etc.

  20. I honestly stopped buying themes on TF for about two years now. All of them are bloated with thousands of options and long manuals. So now I use a great framework (wpjumpstart) and just build my design from a child theme for my customers. To me this is the best way to go for a freelancer. You work with one solid framework or parent theme and setup your own child theme with all your personal additions. So now I only look at Themeforest for inspiration and ideas.

  21. The places to download any theme, regardless whether it is paid or free, is one where the user community is large, robust and free to express themselves fairly… WP.org is perfect for that. Without a large mass of users good and bad reviews become hit and miss.

  22. Nine times out of 10, someone will contact me regarding a bug in my plugin and it will be an issue with a theme from ThemeForest. After getting the person’s site working, they’ll admit that they tried to contact the theme author but didn’t get a response. I usually don’t mind because it’s a learning experience but some people are abusive because they become frustrated and don’t know how to fix things. On the other hand, it’s understandable if someone goes hyper and gets so excited because they can’t read or understand the error message – some messages are very cryptic. They just understand that the site is tossing an “error” – which might be a notice.

  23. I just purchased a theme last week through ThemeForest expecting to have my site up in a day or two… I have not been able to get the slideshow to work, have reached out to the manager of the theme with him constantly telling me disable this plug, that plug… the only plugs I have are the WP plug and the music that I downloaded from Code Canyon. I have disabled everything and the slideshow still isn’t working and the manager of the theme refuses to believe it’s his theme. I can’t figure out what to do now… I’ve asked for a refund from Envato over a week ago and never heard from them. So if ThemeForest is this bad why are they allowed to sell themes without the consumer being warned ahead of time? And what are legitimate theme builder market places? Mojo Marketplace? I’m looking for a really great photography theme with a fullscreen cability and slideshow capabilities. ThemeForest seemed to have so many to choose from. Ugh! I got stuck with a lemon!

    • Stuck but not burried. Don’t give up, they generally take a week + to answer. You purchased a template, it does not work, author is not interested in providing very basic support rendering the product not usable. Unless on the product page it states clearly that the author does not provide support you are correct to expect his assistance if the template does not work out of the box. Don’t let them brush you off. As for the author, scared to think what his theme is like, if debugging your site in a browser is beyond his capability.

  24. Most agencies like to use ready-made premium themes from ThemeForest. And in each and EVERY case I had to use them, I also had to rework them. About 80% are not child-theme ready, and its a PITA to get them working properly. Also, ALL claim they are i18n-ready, esp. those for WooCommerce, but so far, ALL I tested broke when acutally using ANY kind of translation plugin (even the most “loved” WPML).

    Not to mention each and everyone is cooking up their own framework, which in 90% of the cases is NOT easily enhanceable, so they mostly seem to work for themselves, getting the money shovelled back into the respective developers wallets (or IMNSHO out of the window).

    The stakes for getting your theme onto the official WP theme repository are much higher, and THATS A GOOD THING. If ThemeForest would ACTUALLY PROPERLY test the themes they sell, market or whatever you might want to call it, AT LEAST at the same level, well.. yeah, 50% of those money-making machines wouldn’t even get in. More time to for us developers who have to work with that stuff to ACTUALLY work on the site our clients want to get up and running, and not to be pestered with bug-ridden, horrible xt:Commerce-like roll-your-own-crappy-frameworkish code of yet another moron trying to reinvent the wheel.


    cu, w0lf.

    • that’s the crux of the issue and why TF is still around. people still want / expect both of those things in one item. cheap or works well – choose one.

  25. From a very cheer for Envato attitude, I went down heh, kinda stuck with it as some of the authors I do value sell exclusively with them, be it plugins, themes or other stuff. It used to be and feel like a community, now it feels like every other corpo-greedy-ignore-the-end-user business.

    There are some brilliant themes on TF, there are some abominations as well.

    Envato does not handle constructive criticism well, over the years I’ve been around, the general level of coding has become rather ‘ugly’. Was wondering the other day, if the reviewers actually get paid or is it volunteer work. At times they will neat pick single lines but demonstrate rather limited knowledge themselves and once confronted with arguments they tend to fall back on automated responses. Other times, it seems they don’t even bother to unzip the package, just flag it and get it over with.

    But what bothers me the most, is that they are quite happy to keep on selling items who’s authors are nowhere to be seen for months. As a buyer, it’s quite frustrating. On more then one occasion I had to resort to rather threatening emails to get a refund on an item bugged beyond reason. Strangely enough, the mention of Australian equivalent of OFT, seems to have done wonders towards their attitude.

    And one more thing, in Australia, it is illegal to refuse a refund directly to where it came from – that is a credit card/payment system. The little Envato funds trick is at the least cheeky. Most of us can’t be bothered to insist to have the money return to the card and they are taking full advantage of it.

    It’s a little sad – you build something awesome, provide a first class platform for devs and clients, you grow it, and then instead of continuously improving, you lower your standards and milk it as much as humanly possible.

    Sometimes I do wish I had a similar mindset – though on the other hand, I’d rather treat my customers fairly, have less money, and no trouble sleeping ;)

    All this attitude does, is encourage authors and buyers to work together behind the scenes. Wonder if they ever stop and think there might be people that use them as a meeting place, only to take their business out of their claws at first chance.

    Additionally, considering the sheer volume of available products, lack of certain quality of life features is quite surprising – proper search on all market places, proper forums and a searchable comments system which results don’t just take you to page 1 of 1000. The recent not so fortunate redesign of the website, that would probably not even get by their weakest reviewer in the state it was released in, just boggles my mind – you have access to hundreds if not thousands of very talented developers and designers – how do you manage to screw up your own project that much?

    • Hey Mag,

      I’m probably not the best person to address most of your queries, but I can certainly address this part:

      Was wondering the other day, if the reviewers actually get paid or is it volunteer work. At times they will neat pick single lines but demonstrate rather limited knowledge themselves and once confronted with arguments they tend to fall back on automated responses. Other times, it seems they don’t even bother to unzip the package, just flag it and get it over with.

      I recently started at Envato and lead the team of reviewers for ThemeForest.

      The reviewers do get paid! And we’ve just employed a couple more. The reviewers are skilled (and they are all good people!). We have processes in place and guidelines to check against. We use a variation of the Theme-Check plugin to automate some of that. We do unzip every package before they get approved.

      But yes, at times we can be inconsistent. That will always be a challenge when you have different people checking lots of different items. We’re working on it! We have processes which should help, but a large part of the problem is that, until recently, we were understaffed. With high volume and limited resources, comes increased pressure and increased chance of mistakes, etc. We’re only human after all! That’s why we’ve employed more reviewers. We want to make things more consistent and we recognised that we need to better support our reviewers.

      And um, automated responses, yeah. When you have a high volume of items coming through and see very similar issues arise again and again, the efficient thing is to work out some common responses. That saves time which can then be spent on other things (eg reviewing!). Most businesses do this – but it’s fair to say that most of our auto responses could be a lot better and more helpful! It’s on the list of things to address!

      There are other things we can improve too. Once again, we’re working on it.

      I will also say that since I’ve started with Envato, I’ve actually been surprised how important the company values are to them. Their main value is “When the community succeeds, we succeed”. They really believe that and make decisions based on that. That’s not to say they get it right all the time! It’s impossible to keep everyone happy when running such large marketplaces and growing so quickly will result in issues. But it’s been refreshing to me to see a company that puts the community before $… #viewsfromtheinside.


  26. I’ve used Envato for years to purchase everything from WordPress themes to sound clips. It’s an invaluable marketplace.

    I agree that a LOT of the themes in Themeforest are rushed to market. You really have to do your homework and read the comments both with the theme, and look at how the developers handle their own support.

    Generally, if there are any initial bugs, I only need support once or twice. After that I assume down the line I’m on my own, and I’m fine with that.

    There are a few developers that have stellar support, and still push updates on themes I’ve purchased 2-3 years ago. Typically I buy from the same developers for this reason.

    If I had an issue with many of the themes there, it’s that they try to be everything for everybody and include too many unnecessary style settings and options that even a noob should know how to do with CSS.

    Other than that, I live Themeforest. You just can’t trust every theme just because it looks good.

    • [quote]You just can’t trust every theme just because it looks good.[/quote]

      Yeah, and thats the main caveat with this: At most – esp. the big – theme market platforms, you don’t know the code, you just have to assume it might be looking good, only by looking at its output. Nowadays, I assume the code will be crappy, and in 90%, it IS crappy.

      IMNSHO the thumb rule is: Agencies like that TF grabbag stuff, so it’s not your fault if they want to stick with it – but for direct clients, you use PROPER build themes from smaller-sized markets or buying it directly from their authors. Nowadays, smaller in size usually means the opposite: BIGGER in getting you what you need, ie. GOOD & reliable support, properly-done QA / code reviews, and in most of the cases, solid code to work with.

      cu, w0lf.

  27. I look very carefully at who the author is. I go by the author first, design second. I know they’re buggy sometimes, especially when the author is trying hard to be 1337, but the end result seems to justify the means.

  28. I’ve been luck so far, only one or two issues in the past. Now I spend a lot more time reading the comments before buying. Luckily my need over all have been pretty basic. That aside. What are some alternative locations other than WordPress.org for themes and plugins?

  29. I’ve been using Envato for a few themes and plugins over the last year as a WordPress site designer, not a developer. I take the time to research the product I’m purchasing. If the developer’s demo page is poorly designed or the comments raise red flags, I stay away.

    My success rate for themes and plugins is pretty good. I look at the ratings with a discerning eye. I ask pointed pre-sale questions to see if the developer is quick to respond and can communicate well. Currently, I have no need for multi-language or eCommerce so that is a big help.

    I also buy and/or use themes and plugins from theme/plugin shops and ones found on the .org repository.

    Mostly, I find a theme that I like and use it for several sites, tweaking the css as I go. I would like to code my own theme, but just don’t have the time. I’m a designer. I understand code but don’t want to deal with it unless I have to.

    Theme Forest and Code Canyon have provided me with some products that my clients have been happy with and are invaluable in some situations. I can let go of the duds because I took a chance on a low investment.

  30. Here’s what I posted on Moore’s Google+ after the article. I also believe (even tho I love them) it is Automattic’s fault to not come up with a Themeforest alternative…

    (Comment on Moores post):
    I think an issue with pricing comes with Themeforest’s price dictation. Since Themeforest is so big now, it is difficult to price a theme higher. Ultimately I think it is Automattic’s fault to not come up with a MarketPlace for Themes, similar to Envato’s.
    We both know that the problem and the money lies with people new to WordPress. They buy cheap, because they are not sure (and it’s available cheaply). Bigger companies usually understand the value of their website and go with larger scale development agencies, whereas the smaller companies treat their web presence similarly to their plumbing and just go with the guy who offers it the cheapest, until they become big enough to understand the value of it.
    Hope this makes sense, just my two cents…

  31. One word: Aveda. the theme has sold hundreds of thousands (millions?) of dollars worth and it’s one of the worst codebases I’ve ever seen. It may pass WP_DEBUG, but it’s still insecure, uses outdated methods and overall is just an embarrassment to theme developers everywhere. But it’s so profitable I doubt Envato would do anything about it. It has high ratings, but do you even know if the person leaving the rating is qualified, or knows what a problem under the hood could be?

    Years ago I decided that I would never work with a TF theme regardless of circumstance. I’ve violated that rule twice and been burned both times. While I’m sure Envato is trying, I think it’s too little too late.

  32. Hey Norcross,

    When we review themes, we have WP_DEBUG set to true, we use a variation of the Theme-Check plugin and we do some other checks as well. You’re right, that won’t catch everything, but it’s a reasonable start, as are our theme submission guidelines. And we’re looking into how we can improve things further.

    The main problem is that these have been in place for about a year. Older themes, including Avada, were added before we introduced all of these checks and guidelines. We’re looking into how we can apply these to the older themes as well, but it’s a huge job. We’ll get there eventually.

    I will say that if you, or anyone, notices any security issues with a ThemeForest (or CodeCanyon) product, please let me know either through Twitter or stephen dot cronin at envato dot com. We take that seriously.

    The ratings are the same as ratings anywhere (including on .org). The people leaving the ratings are mostly just average users who won’t know what’s going on under the hood. So that’s more just a popularity signal from the user perspective.

    Personally, I’d love to see a quality signal that informs buyers of a theme’s quality. The problem is that going to be really hard to do well (how do we put a score against quality?). It’s not worth doing if it can’t be done well. So we’ll have to see about that, but it’s on my radar too.


  33. I’ve been a happy customer of themeforest, codecanyon etc for years purchasing many great themes and plugins – however I’ve noticed lately – say in the last twelve months I’ve purchased badly supported and broken themes/plugins/apps. Mostly envato support has been great to refund but recently they have been slow to support and I have not been happy with how they hold their authors accountable. I have just been informed that they will not credit me on an item that is really broken and to add insult to injury when I went to the author for support, they deleted my request for support of his forum – Now I consider it a reasonable request to fix a theme! Anyway because I have esculated to Paypal they have suspended my account – what happens with all those dollars invested in purchased themes and the updates – I can’t get access to them – WHAT A RIPOFF. I’m also asking for support on two other purchased themes and an app directly with the authors – right now to no avail … I’ll take these further too … what gives with selling broken products on Envato guys ??
    PS. I consider myself quite capable of working with themes and coding – not your average user


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