Why I just say no to ThemeForest themes

ThemeForest seems like a great idea.  A huge website selling WordPress themes.  I know when I first got started, I was like a kid in a candy store browsing all the different themes to choose from.  Some were so cool and versatile.  I have purchased 17 themes from ThemeForest since 2010.  How many clients are still in ThemeForest themes?  Three.  How many need a theme change?  Two. Only one client is in a ThemeForest theme that I feel good about.  And, had I been using Beaver Builder when I designed their website three years ago, I would have never used the  ThemeForest theme they have now.

First of all, for those that are just getting started, ThemeForest describes itself as “ThemeForest is part of Envato Market. At ThemeForest you can buy and sell HTML templates as well as themes for popular CMS products like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. Items are priced on the complexity, quality and use of the file; the total price also includes a Buyer Fee.” To me, it’s the Etsy of web design. Theme creators sell their goods through ThemeForest. This gives you access to many different themes and theme providers. They also sell plugins and other CMS themes, along with email marketing solutions. The theme creators themselves are varied, from heavyweights like Theme Fusion (Avada) to brand new theme authors.  There is a rating system that shows how many  have purchased the theme. You can see their ratings, view their support comments and get a pretty good idea if the author is established or new, good or bad, etc.

You might be thinking, what’s bad about this?  It sounds like a great way to find themes for clients.  Here are three main pitfalls of using ThemeForest themes:

  • Most have enormous code base.  This not only can slow down the website’s performance, it makes navigating the CSS and PHP cumbersome.
  • Support is inconsistent.  You are not going through one support forum.  Each author has their own.  This can be very frustrating when you need to fix something for a client.
  • Complicated design means complicated designing.  While I’m often blown away at the features of some of the themes on ThemeForest,  their complex features can really be a drag to get working cross browser consistently.  And no one ever uses all the features available, yet that code bloat is still present on your website.

I will often get the cold call that “I just purchased a theme on ThemeForest and need someone to fill it in for me”.  I always say, I’m not the right person for that job.  I don’t want the headache of figuring out the coding patterns in the theme and following up with support if I need to.  And I’m not a fill-in-theme-designer.  To me, that’s simply data entry and not part of what makes me love my job.  I’m a designer and designing is what I love to do.

Choosing a framework like Genesis is a much better way to go for a web design freelancer.  Or, like many of my colleagues, using a page builder can open the doors to creating your own custom looks without the constraints of a theme at all.

I still cruise through the themes at ThemeForest for inspiration and to keep up on what new design trends might be happening, but I refrain from making theme purchases.

Do you use ThemeForest?  What’s your experience?  Is it different from mine?  Please share in our Facebook group!

RESOURCES:  Chris Lema – Not all Premium WordPress Themes are Equal


About WebCami

Cami MacNamara has been designing websites since 2002 from her home office in Seattle, Washington. Her career started as a way to be a stay-at-home mom. Certification soon followed and persistence paid off. Cami has designed 500+ websites and wants to share what she learned along the way. Look for her at WordCamp Seattle. Follow: WebCami.com / Twitter / Instagram


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