Theme Forest is a theme marketplace which sells templates for WordPress, Joomla and standard CSS websites. There are hundreds of templates within the store. The website is owned by Envato, who run several similar graphic stores.
Unlike most other WordPress theme stores, ThemeForest do not actually design the themes themselves. Instead, they take a commission for allowing designers to sell their themes to a large audience. Because of this, there is a great amount of variety in the marketplace. I have personally purchased a few themes from there for projects and I have purchased graphics from some of their sister sites too.
The first theme I bought through Theme Forest was in October. I contacted the developer of the theme because the category links on the sidebar at the top level didn’t work.
I got a reply from the designer saying that out of the hundreds of people who bought the theme, I was only one of 3 people who brought it up and that the other two people didn’t call it ‘a bug’.
I was obviously less than happy about this but in the end I didn’t do anything more about it as the theme was doing the same thing it did in the demo. Unfortunately, you cannot find out problems like this until you install a theme and check the code yourself, so it’s not something you can plan for. However, what I do expect from designers is some sort of professionalism. In the end I simply installed a different theme and moved on.
Last week I purchased my second theme through Theme Forest; the Gallery Pro WordPress Theme by Chris Wallace. It’s a beautiful looking theme and was exactly what I was looking for.
Unfortunately, the plugin which comes with the theme for custom pages cannot be installed as it brings up a fatal error. More importantly, the thumbnail feature used to display images doesn’t work automatically or manually. I contacted Chris right away about this but got no reply so sent another one the next day. Still no reply.
A day later I opened a support ticket at Envato explaining my situation. They replied the next day telling me that they will look into this and asking what version of WordPress I was using. I told them that I was using the latest version of WordPress and awaited their response but none has come as yet.
I have sent another few emails to them over the last 4 days but they have yet to reply to my request for a refund. As it stands just now, this looks to be the second theme I have purchased through Theme Forest which I cannot even use.
I still hope to get a refund but the lack of contact over the last 4 days suggests that it probably won’t come. Although I am disappointed that Chris Wallace (the designer) has not replied to any of my emails, I am more disappointed in Envato as they should be dealing with problems like this in a quick and professional manner.
As you guys know, I sell WordPress themes myself through both BloggingTips and Blog Themes Club (which is being relaunched soon). However I still actively purchase WordPress theme stores from other sites.
If I am launching a new WordPress powered site, be it a large new project or a small 5 page mini site, I look to get the perfect design for the site. Therefore I am more than happy to shell out a little money. The last theme I purchased was the very useful Headway Theme ($87/$164), a great theme for those who don’t like coding or for those who just want to move things around visually.
I think that the marketplace system is great in many ways as it encourages competition and allows a wide range of designs and ideas to be developed. However, I believe the downside from this kind of system is support. Envato (owners of Theme Forest) clearly rely on their designers to provide support for their own themes.
I have only purchased two themes and have received bad support both times (well, bad support and no support) so perhaps I have been unlucky. Even if most people receive good support, I still think they need to look at their whole system. As it stands, there is no rating system or comment area for themes. This means that users have no idea if the theme does what it is supposed to do, if there are any bugs, or if support is good. There are forums mind you, though there are so many themes for sale that it is unlikely that you will find many threads on the design you are interested in.
Should we blame designers for not providing good support? I don’t actually think that we should. Designers who sell their themes exclusively via Theme Forest get between 40% and 70% of the sales price. Most themes cost between $20 and $30. Assuming 50% a sale and a theme price of $25, they need to sell 80 copies to make $1,000. Which is quite a lot when you think how much they could get by selling designs directly.
If a designer doesn’t want to sell a design exclusively, they only receive a measly 25%. What sort of support can you expect from a designer who makes approximately $6 per sale of a premium design?
Support can be very time consuming. With most WordPress premium theme stores the owners put a lot of time into support because they know that customers will return. They also know that poor support will give them a bad reputation amongst bloggers and web developers.
The Theme Forest marketplace works differently. It’s not really in the best interests of designers to offer great support. Since there is no rating or comment system, future profits from sales of their theme aren’t really affected by offering poor support. It’s better for them to spend their time developing their next theme for the marketplace. That is, for a designer to make money on Theme Forest they need to sell a theme in volume so it’s better to spend more time developing themes than supporting them.
The marketplace system aside, I am disappointed by the support from Theme Forest. They seem to be very uninterested in resolving this issue for me and are not responding to my request for a full refund.
They have no control over what kind of support their designers offer customers. Therefore it is up to them to make sure they offer customers great customer support when something does go wrong.
There are hundreds of great themes at Theme Forest. I am not going to discourage any of you from purchasing a theme from there as there are some great themes in the marketplace. What I do strongly advise is that you are aware of how the whole system works.
Be aware that if you have any problems using the theme or if the theme has a major bug or doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do; you may be on your own.
UPDATE – 4 hours later
Phaethon rightly pointed out that there is a comment area for each theme. The comment link is at the bottom of the page. I have never noticed this before as I was looking for the comment area directly underneath the theme info area (i.e. like traditional blogs have).
I still believe that what I have said about there not being a major incentive for designers to give support. The gallery pro theme which I have had problems with has had a lot of complaints from people about the same thing. Also, it doesn’t change the fact that Envato nor the original designer are not returning my emails.
UPDATE – 11th January 2010
Theme Forest have now made amends 🙂