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Premium WordPress Theme Buyer’s Guide: What To Look At Before Purchasing A Theme

Last Updated on September 11th, 2019

Published on July 10th, 2018

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Ok, so you’ve been through the whole rigamarole of wondering why buy a premium WordPress theme. Now, you’ve finally decided you want to crack open your wallet and buy a paid theme. But…

How do you actually make sure you’re going to get your money’s worth? If you’re going to drop ~$60 on a premium theme, you want to know that it’s going to:

  • Work for your site right now
  • Keep working for your site in the future

To help you choose a premium WordPress theme that meets those criteria, we created this WPlift Premium WordPress theme buyer’s guide.

In it, we’ll cover all the factors you should look at when purchasing a premium WordPress theme for your site.

Eight Things To Consider When Buying A Premium WordPress Theme

Some of these are rough rules rather than absolutes. But if you consider all the factors on this list, you should set yourself up for a happy experience with your chosen premium WordPress theme.

1. Read The Reviews (In Detail)

Thankfully, you don’t have to do all the work yourself. Most theme marketplaces include public reviews that you can use to help in your decision.

If you’re looking at a ThemeForest theme, you can see the reviews in the right sidebar:

premium theme buyers guide reviews

If you’re considering a theme from an independent seller, things can be a little trickier because most sellers don’t have public reviews on their site.

One trick is to see if there’s a limited free version of the theme at WordPress.org. If so, you can check out the reviews there.

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While this isn’t a perfect solution, it can at least give you a basic idea of the core quality of the theme.

And no matter where you’re reading your reviews, this is important:

Don’t just look at the star-ratings. Actually go in and read the comments. Sometimes people will point to specific negatives (or positives) that can help with your decision in a way that a simple star-rating can’t.

Takeaway: Always read the reviews so that you benefit from the wisdom of the crowds.

2. See How The Demo Looks On Your Phone Or Tablet

Nowadays, pretty much every WordPress theme is responsive, which means that it works on mobile devices, desktops, and everything in between.

So…you’re not checking whether your theme works on mobile devices. Instead, you want to make sure that you like how it works on mobile devices.

That is, even if a theme offers responsive design, you might not like how the responsive design looks, which is a huge deal because mobile traffic now accounts for over 50% of website traffic:

responsive desing

Takeaway: Make sure you love the mobile design of your theme as much as the desktop design.

3. Run The Demo Through PageSpeed Insights/Speed Test Tools

I should be clear that this is not a perfect check because sometimes developers have lots of analytics scripts running that you won’t have on your site.

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But basically – you want to get at least a rough idea of how performance-optimized your chosen theme is. And if you don’t have access to the theme files yourself, the next best way to test is to use the demo site.

To get started, run it through Google PageSpeed Insights. This will give you a rough idea of how optimized it is. Again – “rough”. For example, don’t worry too much if Google complains about unoptimized images – you can always fix that by compressing your images once you download the theme:

pagespeed insights

Then, you can give it a run through GTmetrix or Pingdom Tools to view more performance data:


Takeaway: While testing a demo site isn’t the best environment, you want to get at least some idea of how optimized your chosen theme is.

4. Run It Through Browsershots, Too

You probably use one web browser for everything. But your visitors will use a variety of different browsers, and you want to make sure that your theme looks just as good in their browsers as it does in yours.

Don’t worry – you don’t need to download every single browser to test your chosen theme.

Instead, you can use a free tool called Browsershots to make sure that your chosen theme’s demo site looks right on multiple different browsers:

browser shots

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Takeaway: Use something like Browsershots to verify cross-browser compatibility.

5. Look For A Live Showcase To See Your Theme In The Wild

Demos are a great way to get an idea of how the theme looks, but they’re still just a demo – not a real-world scenario.

I always find it helpful to look at a live theme showcase to get a better idea of how my site will look.

Most popular themes have some sort of live showcase that you can find by googling “[Theme Name] showcase” or “Examples of [Theme Name]”:

examples of avada

If you can’t find something with that, you can try WPShout’s method as an alternative.

Takeaway: Try to find live examples of your theme to get a better understanding of how it looks in a real-world environment.

6. Double-Check The Support/Updates Policy

The WordPress standard is that most products come with ~one year of support and updates (or 6 months of support, for Envato products).

But you’ll want to verify the exact policy that applies to your theme. Specific things to look for include:

  • Some themes give you unlimited updates for life, which is a huge plus.
  • The scope of support that you get. Some developers offer more limited support than others.
  • Support channels. Is it ticket-based? Is it a forum? Is there live chat?

Takeaway: Make sure that you’re getting support and updates for at least ~a year (or 6 months for Envato).

7. Ask Important Questions If Needed

If there’s a must-have feature that you’re looking at, it pays to ask the developer some questions about how it functions before you make your purchase.

Let me give you an example:

I was recently looking at a theme that had this neat “upvote” functionality. I loved it – but I knew there were issues with this type of functionality and caching.

So – I reached out to the developer and asked if the upvote feature would still work with WordPress caching. The developer confirmed that it would not.

That was a big deal for me!

You don’t want to run into those types of surprises after you’ve already made your purchase.

So – if it’s a must-have feature and you’re not sure how it will work with your setup – don’t be afraid to ask the developer before you make your purchase.

Takeaway: Ask questions about important functionality to make sure it will work for you.

8. Don’t Fall For Nulled WordPress Themes

Finally, one thing that you should never do is download a nulled version of a premium theme.

Nulled themes are swimming with malicious codenot something you want on your site.

If you really want a way to try a theme before buying, you can consider one of the many GPL clubs out there. While people will debate the ethics of GPL clubs – they are at least legal and have a financial incentive to ensure clean products (because they still charge a small fee).

With that being said, I still always recommend purchasing from the developer because:

  • You get support and automatic updates
  • It helps support the developer’s work

Takeaway: Don’t use nulled themes as a shortcut for paying for a premium theme.

Three Starter Spots To Find Quality Premium WordPress Themes

Now that you know how to choose a premium WordPress theme, we’re going to finish out this article by sharing a few good spots to purchase premium themes:

  1. StudioPress – recently acquired by WP Engine, StudioPress makes the popular Genesis Framework, which encompasses a large number of quality premium WordPress themes.
  2. Elegant ThemesElegant Themes makes the popular Divi theme, as well as a number of other quality themes.
  3. PixelGradePixelGrade makes a number of quality themes with a strong feel for great design.

This is, of course, not a complete list. You can find plenty of other great premium WordPress theme shops. Those three should get you started on the right track, though!

Have any other questions about purchasing premium WordPress themes? Leave a comment and we’ll try to help out!

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Colin Newcomer is a freelance writer and long-time Internet marketer. He specializes in digital marketing, WordPress and B2B writing. He lives a life of danger, riding a scooter through the chaos of Hanoi. You can also follow his travel blog.