December 21, 2016

Should I buy a theme from ThemeForest?

Published: 21 December 2016 

When you’re using WordPress for your business, chances are you’ll want to personalise the website with a customised theme. There are so many free WordPress themes to pick from, but sometimes the best option is to go premium and purchase one. There are numerous advantages to buying a premium theme, including increase quality, functionality and security, to name a few. However, you don’t just have to buy the themes from WordPress. There are various other options, including ThemeForest.


ThemeForest is part of the Envato Market. It launched in 2008, and is the world’s most popular WordPress theme marketplace. It boasts that it offers 28,522 website templates and themes from as little as $2. The website is essentially a marketplace for developers who can list their themes for sale. ThemeForest then gets 40% of the revenue from the sale, with the developer only getting 60%. This means that you are not viewing the work of just one company, who produce all the themes. Instead, you get to view a range of work from hundreds of thousands of developers before making your choice on which theme to purchase.

Before you dive in and buy a theme from ThemeForest, there are some pros and cons that are worth considering:


Choice of themes


ThemeForest has a huge library of themes. Not only that, but it includes ratings and total sales from each theme, to give users a peace of mind. ThemeForest offers such a diversity of themes that is unrivaled by marketplace or theme developer competitors. If you didn’t think there was enough to choose from already, roughly 5-15 new WordPress themes are added per day. So if you can’t find that perfect theme, maybe give it a few days and try again.


One of the major problems with buying a theme on ThemeForest used to be the lack of support. When things break, generally it’s the best option to get the assistance of the developer, which was not always a viable option through ThemeForest. After-sales support was not compulsory, and customers generally got support from the ThemeForest comment section.

This changed when Envato announced a new support policy. This meant authors could choose to include six months worth of support in their theme. Buyers also have the option to extend that support option to a full year. The author would get 70% of the revenue, with the other 30% going to Envato. While this is a clear improvement for ThemeForest, it can still be confusing for customers. If you know you’re going to require support, before purchasing a theme, make sure to check whether it offers support or not.


Poor coding practice

This is the number one gripe users tend to have with ThemeForest. Many of the themes featured on ThemeForest do not have high quality coding. Just about any web developer can sell their theme on ThemeForest, meaning not all themes are equal. Put simply, this can cause a lot of functionality and aesthetic problems for your website. This can be a big problem when themes are paired with plugins.

In September 2014, more than 1,000 themes sold on ThemeForest had a security vulnerability found in the WordPress Slider Revolution plugin. This meant remote hackers were able to download any file from an affected website’s server, and gain full access to their website. Because ThemeForest sells work from developers, and not just it’s own products, it was up to each individual developer to patch the problem. Some were quick to do this, others not so much. The problem was also resolved in the next update to the plugin. This security problem caused those within the WordPress community to call for themes and plugins to be separated.

Perhaps the best takeaway statement comes from Slobodan Manic, who stated:

“There’s no way around it, some of the stuff sold at ThemeForest would never, ever make it into 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.”


>While there are advantages to be able to see and purchase the works of many developers all within the one website, there are also disadvantages. One common downside to ThemeForest is the developer’s who create a theme, sell it, and will then move on. They won’t continue to develop or update the theme. This isn’t necessarily a problem if the theme is well made, or you have the technical capability to update the website when necessary. However, if you’re planning on using the theme on a long term basis, then eventually it could become outdated and easily break. If the developer is no longer updating the theme, you won’t receive any support or upgrades.

There are a few tips you can initiate to limit the chances of this happening to you:

  • Research the author: what is their history? Do they have a current portfolio? If their last piece was released years ago, there could be a chance they have moved on.
  • Number of sales: if this theme has got a high number of sales and is continuing to get sales, then there’s a good chance the developer has not moved on.

Theme lock-in

This one is important if you plan on switching your WordPress theme any time in the future. Generally, that’s a pretty smooth and straightforward process, but not necessarily with the themes from ThemeForest. So what is a theme lock-in? As defined by Justin Tadlock:

“The lock-in problem is when a user is forced to continue using a theme because their data would be lost to them if they switched to another theme.”

Why would you be stuck with the one theme? Themes offered on ThemeForest can be deactivated at any time. This also deactivates shortcuts and any customisations made by the WordPress user. Generally, themes are for display and presentation, while plugins are for a website's functionality. This isn’t necessarily always the case with ThemeForest, as plugins are sometimes bundled in with themes. So when a theme gets cancelled, so do your plugins. This means your website can very quickly end up looking messy and not functioning correctly.

This can be attributed to poor coding practice, and the fact ThemeForest themes and plugins do not have to undergo the same rigorous scrutiny that themes on WordPress do.

If you’re considering switching your theme, but in doing so you’re going to lose functionality from the tied-in plugin, then chances are you’re going to stick with the theme you have.

To avoid being stuck with the one theme, you should consider using non-theme-specific shortcodes, which will continue to be able to be used if you switch themes. Same goes for plugins. You should also consider not using theme-specific functions.

In the end, we can’t tell you whether or not to spend your money on a theme from ThemeForest. While it is the biggest theme marketplace, the themes can also be of lower quality than those offered on WordPress. ThemeForest now offers support, but can also have developers abandon their projects at any time. New themes are constantly added, but you may get stuck with that one theme, especially if your plugins are tied in. These are some of the factors that are vital to consider before buying a theme from ThemeForest.

Ben Maden

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