What you get will vary significantly between sellers. Some are simply selling themes while others are building a business around it and want to provide everything you will need to get the best out of a theme. The prices will differ between the two, although not necessarily in the way you would expect. There seems to be little correlation between the price of the theme and the extras you get, and the extras aren’t always listed, so you may need to ask what’s included.
Multiple Page Templates
Page templates are technically part of the theme and you’ll get them anyway, but we’re including them here because it’s not always clear what kind of page templates are included. When you create a page in WordPress you have the option of applying a page template to it. The templates can be minor variations on the basic theme. For example, it might have the sidebar on the opposite side of the page, or no sidebar at all. Where these templates really start to work for you is when they represent alternative core functionality. WordPress allows you to replace the default home page with a new page. If the theme author has included page templates with different styles of home page, you can apply these to a WordPress page and assign it to your home page to change the way the theme works. If you buy a theme that was intended to be used as a normal website instead of a blog, the default home page might not show any of your posts. If you decide you want a normal blog in the future it’s simple to make the change if the theme’s author has included a blog style page template. If the theme includes any page templates they may be restricted to different styles of home page, or could include more variations such as pages with a featured post at the top, variations on sidebar position, multiple posts in different layouts or any variation of the theme.
Instructions, Documentation and Tutorials
With a new theme comes new ways of putting your content together. Features like adding an image to represent the post, changing the header or using images with captions can be difficult to figure out without a little guidance. The quality of the instructions that come with a premium theme can differ widely. There may be nothing more than a “read me” file in the theme itself, or you could get multiple video demos of the functionality. Although you are not really paying for these instructions, and often they are available free on the website in the form of tutorials (making them an excellent source of information before you buy), they can make the difference between a new theme that works and one that just causes frustration, so it’s worth considering what kind of instructions are available as part of the cost.
Search Engine Optimization
WordPress is an excellent tool for helping your business or blog get indexed on the search engines like Google. A good search engine optimized theme will aid in this effort by highlighting the most important content in a post or page and by using things like good title tags that represent the content on each page. (Check out our 7 Steps to Optimizing WP tutorials here and our post on What is SEO and Why Should You Care?.)
Pre-Built Color Styles
Although this might be an extra option on most themes, having pre-built color styles saves you customization time and might help fit the look and feel you’re wanting better.
Even if the instructions are incredible and you know how to change the header, actually changing it without the original Photoshop files can sometimes be difficult. You may need to find the correct dimensions, figure out what typeface the original is in, replicate all the styles involved, etc., so having a Photoshop file to work from can make it much easier. In some cases a Photoshop file is included by default, and may not even be mentioned as a selling point, which it should be. In other cases you have to pay extra for it and you will need to decide whether it is worth the extra cost. For simple themes where the header is a regular background image, there isn’t necessarily a need for it. But for more complicated themes, especially those where the header text is a key component, it may be difficult to do without it.
Compatibility with WordPress Future Upgrades?
The theme you buy should be compatible with the version of WordPress you are using, but what happens with WordPress upgrades? If a feature is changed in WordPress or a new feature is added (tagging and sidebars are good examples of relatively recent feature additions) the theme should be updated to incorporate it. The question is whether you are entitled to a free upgrade. The themes themselves won’t stand still either. Customer feedback and new trends mean that themes will get new features or change their look over time. You may be entitled to get new versions that have been upgraded for compatibility, or you may be entitled to any new version that comes out, or you may have to pay extra to upgrade to the next version. While it’s easy to save future worries for the future, this is definitely a cost you should consider now.
When you ask people what a premium theme includes, the answer usually mentions support. If you pay for something, you generally expect support if it doesn’t work. How much support and on which issues can vary, though. Some premium theme sellers offer forums to cover basic support issues. These forums usually aren’t something you pay for and they are a way of deflecting support away from the author, but they can also be very helpful for finding your answers.??If there aren’t any forums or they fail to answer your question, you’ll need direct support from the author. If you’re using the theme as intended on a compatible version of WordPress and something simply isn’t working, then basic support is usually available. If, however, you have made changes to the theme or are trying to change it to suit an earlier version of WordPress, it is by no means certain that you will get help. If this is something you’ll be doing then you need to figure out ahead of time if you’ll be able to get support.
Providing support is time consuming and expensive for the theme creator. A few hours a day providing free support can put a significant dent in their income. Therefore you shouldn’t automatically expect a theme author to provide endless support on everything you want to do simply because you have purchased a theme from them. Like insurance there may be fine print. Find out what you will or won’t get and what the cost is.
There’s a lot to consider if you want to get the most out of a theme.
- First, you have to sort out your own needs and expectations.
- Next, you need to assess what a theme has to offer.
- Finally, you need to know what you’re paying for.
The good news is that most premium themes are not very expensive; however, despite being inexpensive, not all premium themes live up to that cost. A little searching should let you know how well respected an author is or if they’re an unknown. Consider your needs, do your research and it will be hard to go wrong.