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The current state of WordPress themes

WordPress has come a long way from its humble beginnings as Blogging software, it has grown into a full blown, very capable CMS.

It currently boasts a massive market share, claiming to power over 23% of websites on the internet.

Because of this growth, the WordPress themes marketplace has exploded, it has grown exponentially year on year, it seems like every other day a new marketplace selling premium WordPress themes pops up looking to get in on the action.

Don’t get me wrong, this is to be expected, it’s just a standard case of supply & demand.


What’s wrong.

But, this is where a few issues start to arise.

You see, people see some of the top selling themes on the popular marketplaces and decide they want a piece of that pie, so they create very similar themes, in the hope of becoming the next big seller.

They then decide that they need to stand out in an already saturated marketplace, so they add an abundance of features to their theme, 100 header variations, 600 Google fonts, 5 sliders, 400 demos and more…

What’s wrong with this I hear you ask? Isn’t this what the end-user wants?

No. The end-user usually doesn’t really know what they want, they just see a product that seems great value for money, so they purchase.

What they don’t realise is what’s going on under the hood.


Not fit for purpose.

These themes are bloatware, loaded with things that will never be used, things that hamper website performance and load-time, sometimes even security issues.

For instance, recently, I’ve had the misfortune of having to work with some of the top selling themes on ThemeForest for clients who have been struggling with their SEO.

It’s no wonder they were struggling, one of the themes in question loaded over 20 CSS files and over 30 JS files, no concatenation, no minification, nothing. It was loading assets for 4 different sliders, even though only 1 was in use.

The reality of this was that the page size was over 8mb and a load-time of nearly 3 minutes.


Ease-of-use.

Another issue with these types of themes is ease-of-use and user experience.

They make bold claims like “the easiest theme ever” or “super easy to use”.

Nonsense.

Honestly, I’ve been building websites for over a decade and the way some of these themes are built require a PHD in rocket science to understand.

Crazily complex page-builders which make things harder, not easier.

Theme options in multiple locations — 2 or 3 custom option panels, then more options in Customiser…

It’s a ridiculous situation, why not use the native functionality built into WordPress?

WordPress Customiser for options and WordPress Shortcodes for code. Simple.

If you can’t build a theme like this, then you’re doing it wrong.

You’re building a ‘theme’, not a CMS.


Cowboys

The final problem is unscrupulous, fly-by-night cowboy ‘developers’ looking to make easy money.

And don’t think this just means the one-man band in their spare room type. Some agencies are doing this as well.

They pop on to one of the theme marketplaces, grab a theme that’s close to their clients brief and away they go.

The prospect of spending £50 on a theme, then selling it on to the client for £1000+ seems too appealing.

The issue with this, is 99% of the time the ‘developers’ don’t actually know what they’re doing.

They manage to install the theme, but then struggle if something doesn’t work as intended, or if their client wants any custom modifications.

This gives genuine agencies & freelancers a bad name, I’ve worked with many clients who’ve been ‘burned’ by people like this.

Oh, and before you mention it. Yes, this site is built on WordPress and yes it does use a WordPress theme, but, the theme in question is bespoke, built by me, from scratch, around my very own WordPress framework, which again, was built from scratch, by me… 😉


Conclusion.

None of this is the fault of WordPress itself.

The popular theme marketplaces need to step up and put a stop to the madness.

Theme developers need to stop building bloatware for the hope of massive sales and actually put some thought into it.

And finally, if you’re looking for a new website, be sure to checkout who you’re hiring and what you’re actually paying for.

Do you really want to pay thousands of pounds for a £50 theme you could have installed yourself?

About Scott

Freelance Web Designer. Developer. SEO Consultant. WordPress Evangelist. Theme Creator. Reviewer @Envato. Founder iKreativ, LoveThemes, NakedApes & Creator of Workless

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