If you've been following my recent post series on WordPress for writers, you might have seen the question of premium themes come up. These are themes you would pay for -- ones not found in the free WordPress theme repository. They're also often more complex than free themes available.
John Soares asked about these kinds of themes. I answered him privately before the series concluded, but I wanted to share that information with the rest of you today.
"Is there a specific premium theme you recommend, one that doesn’t require coding skills to modify?
And what are your thoughts on Thesis?"
- John Soares
Some Thoughts on Premium WordPress Themes
There's no one theme that will work for everyone, so recommending a single premium theme is tough. I can't do it. But I got the impression that John might have been looking for more of a framework given that he mentioned Thesis.
My Experience With Thesis
It's possible that I'm not being entirely fair when it comes to Thesis. But I had an absolutely miserable experience with it, so it's not something I would comfortably recommend to anyone.
No sooner did I get a handle on their development system and get the site up did they release an entirely new version which is really more of a new theme than an update. Your design wouldn't transfer if you upgraded. You would have to set it all up again.
I gave it a try anyway. It was an even bigger pain in the ass (probably because I was already fed up by that point).
I ended up reverting the site back to the earlier version, and then I killed that site in the merger that created All Freelance Writing.
Now I could go back and use the new version on new sites (I purchased the developer's license under the illusion that I'd want to use it for several future sites). I have no doubt I'd figure it out. But after that experience, I don't have any desire to.
That said, I know my dislike of Thesis is highly personal. I'm sure Chris Pearson is a perfectly pleasant person with the best of intentions with Thesis. I know others who love it and swear by it. I'm happy for them. Truly. They're welcome to comment and tell you how awesome it is and that you should all use it. And if you enjoy it too, yay for you!
If not, there's no harm in trying another framework. I have no interest in them at this time, but I've heard good things about Genesis, and I was a fan of the older StudioPress themes, so....
I really didn't intend for this post to revolve around Thesis, so let's move on.
Individual Premium Themes
My preference is to choose individual premium themes for each site -- ones that are already as structurally close to what I want as possible. Then I customize things from there.
However, I usually run sites with more of a website-plus-blog format rather than just a blog. So the kinds of premium themes that appeal to me are probably more bloated than what John is looking for.
Right now my favorite theme developers are the folks at SwiftPSD.com. I am totally in love with them. I run this site on one of their themes, and I'm planning to purchase a license for another one soon for another project. I've been happy with their support. And that's really the key issue. If the support is great, I can forgive almost anything else.
This theme's built-in page builder is great. And it's the first theme admin area that I haven't hated. (I consider most of them evil from a usability standpoint.) Here's their promo video for the theme I use here on this site to give you an idea of what their base themes are like.
The themes might be more complex than what you need for a blog, and that can make them a bit slower than some. I've been able to get around that by disabling and overriding a few things that I didn't need (like those stupid sliders that are in practically every premium theme these days).
While I've been able to speed things up considerably, there is still a lot to be done. So they're not perfect. But I'm happy. And I can be a wee bit difficult to please.
That developer sells their themes through ThemeForest. But you have to be careful. There are some great designers who offer clean code and great support. And there is also a lot of bloated crap with developers who don't give a damn and offer next to no support.
If you look there, check reviews carefully, and I'd look into each developer's off-site support options to see how quickly they resolve issues. Just remember that you might have to kiss a lot of toads in a marketplace like that before you find a keeper.
Plenty of theme developers sell their own themes directly rather than through marketplaces. Here are a few you might want to check out for ideas:
- Templatic (They offer individual and subscription options.)
- WooThemes (I'm hesitant to mention them given the headaches WooCommerce has given me lately, slowing down this site to the point where it had to be removed. As a result, my e-courses on their Sensei system had to be delayed because the premium e-courses need the payment integration. So now I'm stuck with another potentially useless license that I have to replace with something new.)
- AppThemes (These might be a bit more complex than what you'd want for a blog, but they have some cool stuff.)
They do have their own admin panels, but I find they're pretty easy to work with. I rarely dig into the code for anything with them, so that might be more what you're after if, like John, you don't want to have to mess with a lot of code.
What about you? What premium themes would you recommend to John or anyone else looking for a new design for their blog?
Jenn has 18 years experience writing for others, around 13 years experience in blogging, and over 10 years experience in indie e-book publishing. She is also an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.
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