The whys and hows of premium WordPress themes


I have just completed a total overhaul of my personal website, changing it from a freelancer-for-hire focus to a minimalist portfolio. Even though I’m a website designer, I chose a premium theme I’d never worked with before, and used it pretty much straight out-of-the-box, doing very few customisations to it.


Well, let’s backtrack a bit. What is a premium theme? Why should you use one? And how can you get the most out of your theme, while still making it personal and unique?

What is a premium theme?

When setting up a new WordPress website, one of the most time-consuming things can be choosing a theme. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by choice, with different features, designs, support, and price making the themes market very competitive.

Broadly speaking, though, there are two main types of themes: free and premium (paid).

I’ve written before about why you should be careful of free themes, so if the wonderful world of WordPress themes is new to you, I suggest that you read that first.

Premium, or paid themes, are just that: themes that you need to pay for. There are many premium WordPress theme “shops” out there, for instance Studiopress, WooThemes, Elegant Themes, and so on. Each of these companies makes a living from developing and supporting their premium themes and plugins.

For my website redesign, I went with a theme shop I’d never heard of before: ThemeJug. Why didn’t I use a Studiopress theme, for example, when I have a developer license and can use any of them? Well, I’ll get into this a bit later on.


Why use a premium theme?

Because there are so many free themes out there, premium theme customers need to see that they are getting a lot of value for their money.

Why should we buy a cow, when we can get the milk for free?

Premium theme shops offer features like quality design, clean code (so your site is as fast as possible), special ways to organise content, ease of use, and helpful support. Most premium themes will have a responsive design, will integrate with popular plugins like NextGEN Gallery and WooCommerce, and will be upgraded frequently with new features, security, and compatibility updates.

For me, I would take it for granted that most of these things would be part of any premium theme. So I would base my choice on the design of the theme, as well as the support available after purchase.

I chose the ThemeJug theme Carajillo for my redesign, because I loved the minimal design. I knew that I would be able to showcase my photographic and design work in a beautiful, distraction-free environment. Before purchasing, I also made sure that the theme had all the features I would expect from a premium theme, most importantly that their support would be top-notch. As long as you can find one that you like, using a premium theme can be a huge time-saver, as you won’t need to do as many customisations and fiddling as you might with a free theme, or one that has a subpar design.


PhotographyHow to get the most bang for your buck?

So what’s the best way to optimise value with a premium theme? There are a few things to take into consideration when you’re adapting the theme to your own website.

Firstly, it helps to find a theme that is pretty much exactly how you want your website to look. This will help you enormously with customisation costs. You might be able to customise it all yourself, or if you have to hire someone, it will probably be more cost-effective if there isn’t much to do. It is much easier to customise colours, the logo, background, and fonts on a premium theme than it is to change the layout or page templates.

Look around for coupons or package deals that will help you get a discount on the price of the theme. I use websites like RetailMeNot to find any current coupons or deals. Price shouldn’t be the most important deciding factor for a particular theme, but it helps to get the lowest price possible once you’ve decided which one you’re going to use!

Once you’ve bought the theme, make the most of their available support by working through the theme documentation, and asking questions in the support forums if you need to achieve something specific with the theme. Most theme shops are very helpful with their support, because they know that word of mouth is powerful! If you love their themes and are happy with their support, you are more likely to recommend new customers.

Before I even started my website redesign, I shopped around for coupons and used the theme demo extensively to see all the available permutations (make sure to click on every button and link!). Once I bought it, I used the theme documentation to help set it up, and asked questions in the support forum when I got stuck with something I wanted to do.

What has been your experience with premium themes?

This post originally appeared on Grassroots Internet Strategy.

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