How do you choose a Premium Theme (WordPress)?
My problem is that I'm afraid to invest money in a Premium WordPress theme, only to discover after working with it that it doesn't have all the features I want. The descriptions are usually quite general, and I'm assuming that each theme has potential for customization, but you don't know until you start working with it.
I'm basing this on my experience this past week experimenting with the free WordPress themes. (I'm working on InstantWP, so I didn't have to take down my website, thankfully!) I have played with about six different themes and I like a few things in each theme, but can't find one with all the elements that are on my priority list. For example:
The things I like about the Attitude theme is that it has a full-width header, and cool social icons in the header. It also gives you several different layouts to choose from for individual pages - left sidebar, right sidebar, 2-column, etc. It has a slider feature that I really like . . . for the homepage. Unfortunately, however, the slider also displays on the blog page and I don't want it there , but that's the way it's built into the theme and I haven't figured out how to change that. This is a huge drawback. So, after hours of working with this theme, I'm searching for yet another.
I have more stories like this for five other free themes I've experimented with. I'm hoping that a Premium Theme allows for more customization than the free themes. But, I can't be sure, and this brings me back to my problem, which I stated at the beginning of this post: Will I end up buying several themes before I find the one that will work for me?
Any advice for how to go about this process?
It really depends on the theme and I will admit that it may be hard to know exactly until you get it. For example, I use Prose by StudioPress. It's one of the few StudioPress themes that has more customizations in the admin panel like changing the font size, font style, etc. without going into the code.
Try to look for themes that advertise they are "fully customizable" or a "variety of admin panel options" or something like that. But most of those fancy features are usually built into the core and you need to know PHP to edit.
One suggestion is to email the developers before you buy and ask them about certain features if you are interested in a theme.
That's one reason I recommend getting a theme that looks almost exactly like you want it out of the box because customization may be tricky. But I know that's often hard to do. Great question though!
Thanks for the quick response, Lisa. I never thought about e-mailing the developer.
There was actually some real value in experimenting with the various free themes. It helped me know what my priorities are and I can now send that list to the developers of the few themes that I've identified as candidates.
Thanks for the excellent advice!
You might try really barebones themes like canvas from woothemes. Themes like this allow to pretty much build your own theme on their framework.
An additional consideration
I would second the advice that Lisa gave here and add this note. A major consideration now should be to use a mobile responsive theme. Studio Press is making more and more of their offerings over to meet this standard and Prose now qualifies.
With a huge percentage of users now accessing the internet through mobile devices this is becoming almost essential in my opinion.
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I have purchased and customized several premium themes. Even as close as some of them came to what I was looking for, I have almost always had to customize in the php code or stylesheet. Premium doesn't necessarily mean it will allow you more customization via the admin panel. It may just come with more 'bells and whistles'. You can customize both the free and premium themes just the same, as long as you know how to do it. All good advice here though - and as Lisa said, definitely contact the developer with any questions prior to purchasing. Many of them will even assist you after the purchase as well. For example, you can ask them 'how do I remove the slider from the blog?' and they can give you insight as to what code to remove/change from what file. You will need FTP access to access certain files, however.