The 3 downsides of Themeforest WordPress themes

The 3 downsides of Themeforest WordPress themes

Themeforest is the biggest marketplace for WordPress (and other CMS) themes. However the products are not worth it. We outline the main reasons why here (and recommend going with a Genesis theme if a custom coded theme is not an option).

What’s wrong with Themeforest WordPress themes?

1. They’re bloated
That nice admin interface, along with all the bells and whistles, comes at a cost – the themes can be resource heavy and tough to optimize for performance. I just spent three hours this weekend optimizing a theme that had some issues. I just moved the site to a dedicated server and one page was taking 20 seconds to load.
I proceeded to test the site at both and to see what was taking so long and saw a laundry list of 60+ files being loaded.
It wasn’t all the theme’s fault – half of it was due to a CodeCanyon plugin (a sister site of Themeforest with, among other code, WordPress plugins). I had to optimize the 17 photos on the page and make some performance adjustments on the server. I also added a caching plugin and minifying plugin. When all was said and done, I got the page load time down to 1-2s – not incredible but way better than before.
Where does the theme come into this? Well – it’s calling files that don’t need to be there. There’s a slider on the home page but not on the problem page, but the files for the slider were still being loaded – what a bunch of crap. All of those bells and whistles comes with a price in the form of extra files for each feature. Not all Themeforest themes are guilty, but if you want one of the fully-featured, everything but the kitchen sink themes, this will definitely be the case.
2. They’re poorly coded
I’m not saying they’re not coded well – they’re just not adhering to WordPress coding standards. These kitchen sink themes add a ton of useful functionality in a very poor manner – they are coded into the theme itself rather than as separate plugins. That means that when you switch themes, you lose these functions and edits and have to recreate them again.
I discovered this when customizing my theme (which I did properly via a child theme) – there were a ton of functions and I realized that changes that I would like to keep in case I change themes would be lost. (In a corollary, guess who just learned to a program simple WordPress plugins?)
That means that you’d be married to the theme or face the unenviable task of recreating your edits in a new theme (and presumably in plugins that you’d have to learn to code). So this fully-featured theme is starting to look like a double-edged sword.
But that’s not the worst of it.
3. You can’t use Themeforest themes for a revenue generating website
Y’all know my thoughts on membership websites by now. I LOVE them. Those and other websites that result in passive recurring income are changing lives for people around the world.
And you can’t build them with a Themeforest theme without paying through the nose. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the part of the Themeforest License FAQ I’m referring to:

And how much does an Extended License cost? Around US$3000 (vs $30-60 for a Regular License).


0 thoughts on “The 3 downsides of Themeforest WordPress themes”

  1. Thank you Arp for this article. I was looking for an answer on the Web for the question : which license to use, with themeforest theme, if I want to build a membership site where some users may have to pay to have access to the site. Themeforest Extended License is too expensive (especially if you don’t even know if you will do money with your membership site!). Think about this one : you can have an excellent membership pro plugin for WordPress, such as s2Member Pro for $69, for a single site (and I’m not doing advertisement, this is just an example, because you have other excellent membership plugins on the market).
    I don’t understand why you would pay $69 for the “mechanic” and “$2500-3000” for the look (even if we know that a theme is more than a question of look, but you have the idea…).
    I suppose we can easily find very good themes at a reasonable price, even for a membership site that requires money before we can access the content.

    • You’re welcome! Look at StudioPress, which are themes built on the Genesis framework. Now they are more developer-oriented and you need to be comfy with code but their license is business-friendly. You can even create themes on Genesis and sell them, so there are no issues with membership sites.
      Code-wise there is a lot of helpful snippets all over the web. Or, there are some companies that make Genesis child themes with a little more of an administrative interface but even those will not have as many options as Themeforest.
      In any case – take my recommendation with a grain of salt because I’m super comfortable with html, php, css, jquery, etc so I’ve found Genesis to be great. Unfortunately I don’t have any recommendations atm for more user-friendly themes with good licenses for income-generating sites.

      • Thanks Arp for your reply. I took a look at StudioPress, it seems very good ! Also, I’ve done a little research on the web : and SEEM to offer professional themes at a very good price. I didn’t see any specific “clause” about membership sites (hoping it’s not hidden somewhere…). Finally, it’s good to know that it seems that we have many options, many alternatives. And surely, as you said, to use a theme built on a framework such as Genesis seem to be a good path to take.

  2. Sigh…I wish I saw your article before I bought a theme from them that I can’t even upload to my WP account. And now I have no idea if I’ll get a discount. I really need to be weary of people more. Thanks for the insights anyway. I found out too late too that you can’t make money off of their themes. It made me ask, “WTH is the point of paying for a nice theme? Are we just slaving away at our computers because we don’t need to monetize?”

    • If you downloaded the zip from Themeforest, it may be one that includes the theme files as well as the documentation for the theme. I would try to extract files from the zip and see if the theme alone is in there to upload.


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