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Why a Public WordPress Theme Should Never Do a Plugin’s Work

Before buying a WordPress theme for your next website, you must go through this checklist:

  1. Ask yourself: What’s more important, the unique content I plan to create or theme’s look and feel I’ll share with thousands of people?
  2. Ask theme author: What happens to my content if I decide to replace this $50 theme with another one?

The answer to first question is obvious to most people. If you’re serious about your website you know nothing beats content. If you’re not, either don’t bother with it at all or get a free theme instead.

How WordPress Themes Can Mess Up Your Site / Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?

You’re still reading, so you’re probably still trying to pick the perfect premium theme. Let’s skip the pick-a-theme part and fast forward a little bit. Twelve months later, your site has one hundred posts, twenty pages and ten portfolio projects, as custom posts. Most pages and some posts have fancy buttons in them, some have multi-column layouts, all this thanks to custom shortcodes your theme implements.

If you’re lucky your baby also has SEO features and allows you to add Google Analytics code without installing a plugin.

Everything is great, but you’d like to freshen up your website, what better way to do it than buy another $50 theme? It worked so well last time. So, you go through pick-a-theme process again, download the theme, upload it, activate and… what the hell?

Why is My New WordPress Theme Broken?

But it’s not broken, it’s just incompatible with your “not compatible with anything other than your old theme” content. You see all the shortcodes as weird text and you can’t access your portfolio projects from WordPress dashboard. You CAN fix this by spending a few hours removing shortcodes from all posts and installing a free plugin that allows you to register exactly the same custom post type theme authors used for portfolio.

A week later you notice Google Analytics reports no traffic at all. A month later you notice search engines don’t love you anymore. So…


And you know what the funny part is? Sending this email:

Screwed by a WordPress theme
Which is funnier than asking Ford why ride doesn’t feel the same after you sold a Focus and bought a Honda Civic

You Can Avoid All This by Knowing the Difference Between Themes and Plugins

Before buying, print out theme’s features list and figure out which ones you need even after switching to another theme. Then scratch those from the list. If you still can’t believe what you’re getting for only $50, buy the theme.

Some of the features you might want to scratch:

  • SEO functionality
  • Gazillion custom shortcodes
  • Anything that uses custom post types
  • Custom widgets (unless you’re willing to lose them when switching)

I guarantee you that for each one of those there’s a free or extremely cheap plugin that can do it better anyway. A whole bunch of WordPress experts agree with this.

Saying Good Bye to a WordPress Theme Should Not Be Painful

If you can’t switch to a new theme without messing up your content, something is wrong. Here at ThematoSoup we see WordPress as what it is – an extremely easy to use publishing platform. If a WordPress theme or a plugin makes it more difficult than it should be to use WordPress – it sucks, shouldn’t be used and people should be warned about it.

Do you have some horror stories you’d like to share?

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Slobodan Manic
I love working with WordPress and doing it the right way. Themes and plugins I develop have a common #1 goal: Keeping it as simple as possible for users to publish their content.
Slobodan Manic


Web consultant with 10 years of experience in web development and web analytics.
Slobodan Manic
Slobodan Manic

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3 comments Why a Public WordPress Theme Should Never Do a Plugin’s Work

  1. Exactly. I totally agree with your point of view but at a marketplace like Themeforest, every author would try and make the most perfect theme ever with loads of extra functionality and blah. All theme makers, like to assume that no buyer would ever need to switch to another theme.

    PS- Isn’t a theme from you guys yourselves due or something? :D

    1. Abhimanyu,

      The thing is that the most feature packed (or bloated) theme is not also the most perfect one.

      A theme maker who asumes that people who buy his/her theme will never switch to another one either suffers from God complex, or, well, let’s call it “even worse”. And those that knowingly make their themes in a way that makes it difficult for WordPress users to switch, unless they note that, they’re frauds.

      I worked for a company that used Awake theme (the U-Design of yesteryear) and absolutely messed up their website with all the stupid shortcodes and other “powerful features”. About a year ago, they wanted to switch to another theme, we assessed how much time that would require and they decided to stick with Awake. I don’t know about now, but they hated it a year ago.

      P.S. Our theme is not due, it’s long overdue :) We’re working on it, implementing all these things we’re writing about.

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