Why I Don’t Use Themeforest Anymore
A recent article from WP Tavern on what the WP community thinks about Themeforest encouraged me to write about why I no longer use it for themes.
UPDATE: Here’s a new post from WP Tavern that just came out today (Feb. 25, 2015). It’s an awesome read regarding Themeforest. http://wptavern.com/envato-continues-to-rake-in-the-cash-from-wordpress-themes-packaged-as-complete-website-solutions
What is Themeforest?
Themeforest is a massive marketplace for all types of designs for websites, including static HTML/CSS templates and themes for the major content management systems. With the immense popularity of WordPress, the WordPress section of Themeforest is understandably the most popular. WordPress users can grab all types of themes, ranging from all-purpose/general themes to niche themes, such as themes for photographers and churches.
Why Themeforest isn’t as Great as it Sounds
For new and novice WordPress users, Themeforest seems to be a gold mine. Why wouldn’t it? It’s got thousands of themes that look nice and even incorporate all types of functionality. This means that many users can grab a theme that meets most, if not all, of their needs. I admit that I loved Themeforest when I first started learning WordPress but that was before I got into development and became knowledgeable. I now know from experience that Themeforest is loaded with mostly poor quality themes that sell because people love all the flashy design features, shortcodes, etc.
There are a few main reasons why I do not use Themeforest anymore and will not in the future. First, I have grown to cringe at the thought of bloated theme administration panels that let users customize their website by simply inputting some numbers and selecting some fonts. Sure, these admin panels make for easy editing but almost all of the options can be substituted for some simple CSS. Instead, themes become incredibly bloated with hundreds (or thousands) of lines of code that allow for such easy editing. Not only are the theme files larger, the database becomes larger in order to save those options. All this added bloat for things that could be done with a couple dozen lines of CSS.
Second, most of the themes are poorly coded and have basically no flexibility. What do I mean by flexibility? Take the Genesis Framework for example: Genesis is probably the most flexible theme you’ll find on the market thanks to all of its available hooks. Those comfortable enough with code can control every area of their site with true flexibility. Not a single theme on Themeforest offers this type of flexibility. This means that you will need to hack the theme’s files and attempt to navigate the shitty code to make changes that would be very simple with Genesis.
Finally, the types of themes from Themeforest create something called “theme-lock”. Theme lock occurs when a WordPress user cannot change his or her theme without gutting most of the site’s functionality. Once the theme is deactivated, it deactivates things like shortcodes and custom post types that were registered by the theme. Without these features that the user has heavily incorporated into the site, things fall apart. Page/post content will display the literal text for theme-dependent shortcodes and custom content will disappear. In a nutshell, this makes the entire site a huge mess and a major pain in the ass to clean up. Any code that creates functionality belongs in a plugin, not a theme. Themes are for display ONLY.
UPDATE: Another huge reason for why I don’t use Themeforest anymore (I was reminded by Denis’s comment below) is that Themeforest’s licensing is inconsistent. Rather than every product being 100% GPL like WordPress plugins and themes should be, there are varying license options and this creates uncertainty when it comes to using it. For example, some parts of the theme are GPL while other parts may not be. I don’t like using products that are not full GPL in the first place and the Envato licensing terms for themes and plugins are not something I like or support.
There are three theme providers that I recommend as alternatives to Themeforest themes. I use them all for different purposes so I will list them based on use and user ability:
- Genesis Framework – Genesis is my #1 favorite theme. As it’s name indicates, it is a framework that is built on top of with the use of child themes. It is the most flexible and fun to work with. The community is also phenomenal. However, you will need to be comfortable with some code (mainly actions and filters) to really get the most out of Genesis. Read why I use Genesis and you should too.
- Headway – Headway is an awesome theme builder that lets users build any type of layout imaginable visually (no code required). It’s good for beginners who have some familiarity with WordPress or are willing to learn enough to become comfortable.
- Elegant Themes – I’m a personal fan of Elegant Themes and that all started with Divi, one of the most popular theme’s available for WordPress. The designs are beautiful and the support is great. I recommend Elegant Themes if you are a beginner or for building a quick, simple site that looks awesome right away. Before using Divi, though, make sure to consider theme-lock and read Chris Lema’s post on how Divi operates behind the scenes and potentially changing your theme in the future. You need to be mindful of future changes to your website and how themes like Divi will impact those changes.
The main thing to remember about all of these vendors is that they are well-known and you can rest easy knowing you’ve purchased from a trusted source rather than some (possible) fly-by-night developer on Themeforest.
What do you think of Themeforest?
Before I end, I want to point out that this post is my general point of view but it happens to be shared by many in the WordPress community, especially those who know what they’re doing. I am not saying that EVERY theme/product from Themeforest/Envato is crap. While I might purchase something if I really liked the thought of it, I’ve pretty much written off purchasing from Envato because my reasons for not doing so greatly outnumber the benefits.
If there are any WordPress developers out there who use Themeforest themes for client work, I’m interested in knowing your reason for doing so (for the sake of conversation).