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WordPress Themes BS Marketing Phrases 101

Every time you give a user an option, you are asking them to make a decision. When a user doesn’t care or understand the option this ultimately leads to frustration. As developers we sometimes feel that providing options for everything is a good thing, you can never have too many choices, right? Ultimately these choices end up being technical ones, choices that the average end user has no interest in. It’s our duty as developers to make smart design decisions and avoid putting the weight of technical choices on our end users.

Taken from WordPress Philosophy page at WordPress Codex. If that’s what WordPress, themes and plugins are supposed to be like, according to both Codex and common sense, how come we have all those crazy features and what do they actually mean? Let’s take a look.

2 Unlimited

Unlimited options are bad

Unlimited colors, Unlimited colors and fonts, Unlimited colors and layouts

We, people who designed this theme, didn’t want to bother with its colors, so we added some color pickers that are built into WordPress. That means you, person buying the theme will probably spend hours dealing with those same color pickers, but hopefully the word unlimited gets you to buy the theme.

For Your Inner Picasso

Includes PSD file

With all the flat design trends and most of the design work being done in browsers, does anyone still need these? I mean, sure, they do no harm, but if “includes PSD file(s)” is one of top features, something is probably wrong.

If It Slides, We Got It!

Eight sliders is not better than a good one

Multiple slideshows: 3D & 2D, Huge slider variety, Sliders anywhere you want them!, 8 sliders

99.99% of time these sliders are third party plugins bundled with the theme, which IS the right way to do it. What I fail to understand is why anyone would ever choose a theme based on “slider variety”. You choose a theme, then you have to choose a slider, then you choose the slides. Then your head explodes. How is one great slider plugin any different than that same great plugin plus seven not-as-great ones?

Shortcode is Short for Code that Should Stay Out of WordPress Themes

Tons of shortcodes, Shortcode generator, Lots of lots of shortcodes

Not only do these sound stupid (tons, really?), they also mean you’ll have a mechanism to, without a warning, clutter your posts and pages, something you’ll learn about the hard way once you switch to a new theme.

Typography by the Pound

WordPress typography

300 google fonts + 20 Cufon fonts, 500+ fonts, 600+ Google Fonts, 700+ fonts (Google, Cufon, Fontface)

I hope you see the pattern here, next theme better shows up with 800+ Google Fonts. Actually, that won’t happen soon, because there’s currently “only” 629 Google Fonts. But there was 500 something when 500+ theme was released and 300 something when 300+ one came out. Simply listing all Google Fonts using Google Fonts API means theme’s typography is being outsourced and one of WordPress’ core principles (Decisions, not Options) went down the drain.

It’s Responsive, All Right

100% responsive, Incredibly responsive

How is this different than just “responsive”? Following “WordPress themes font logic” (600 is better than 599), I guess this can make sense. Incredibly responsive has to be more responsive than responsive. Or not?

Will it Blend?

The most complete theme ever created, Easy and fun to customize, Extensive options, Unmatched custom portfolio options, Huge blog customization options, Amazing page builder, Zoom effect included

Just ridiculous. And unmatched, and fun, and most complete ever, of course.

mind-blown

There you have it. Now go and pick a theme based on ways it will present your content, not based on options you’ll probably never even go through.

Images from Wikipedia and Find Your Meme.

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

@slobodanmanic

Web analytics freelancer, data visualization hobbyist
@NiklasHogefjord Thank you! A decent day so far 😁 https://t.co/6WtxzIAwF2 - 5 months ago
Slobodan Manic
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18 comments WordPress Themes BS Marketing Phrases 101

  1. I had a fun time reading this. How about “Fully Responsive”? :)

    1. I believe a lot of people buying from ThemeForest are “web design” agencies, which re-sell them to clients and that’s why themes with all those features already built-in sell very well. They can tweak the theme anyway they want (with those 2unlimited color pickers) and sell it to people who don’t care for best practices or have no time learning about it.

    2. People constantly worry that they’ll end up hungry. The more features I have, the less insecure I’ll be about my future needs.

    3. Uniqueness (another of my theories). General opinion – If a theme can be customized in a way that it can’t be recognizable, I’ll go with that. The more unlimitedness you’ve got, the more combinations.

    1. I guess those agencies could be what causes all the featuritis. We both dealt with one and that’s exactly how it was.

      But still, it’s horrible. If the best way of making a theme that’s better than previous one is by adding one more slider/shortcode/font… then that’s BS, like the title says.

    2. No! We’re an agency and we often buy themes to implement for clients, and we despise all the crazy options they offer. What Slobodan described above applies to us too – we just want it to have the layout that works. If we want something to be blue, we’ll make it blue ourselves! If we want to change the font, we’ll do it ourselves! We don’t need 1000 theme options that create thousands of lines of extra code and extra theme files that we have to wade through to find where exactly the font is managed. Yuck!

      Anyways, Slobodan, loved this post. It’s spot on.

      1. Knowing how you feel about WordPress, not surprised by your comment at all.

        If we look at potential root of this problem, remember all those “how you can do X without using a plugin”? There was so many of them, and a whole generation of WordPress developers learned about WordPress from those. Must say that applies to me as well, but luckily I did realize why that was bad in time.

        For me, a theme author that tries to make the theme do everything is completely missing the point of WordPress and how its community works. Instead of supporting great plugins and using them to add functionality, theme authors opt for bundling it all together, because that way, hey, it all belongs to them! Instead of making a rock-solid theme and then either release child themes (or allow other developers to release child themes) or plugins that add more options, ONLY when needed, they throw every single option they can think of.

        Can’t remember exactly when this was, but I worked with U-Design theme (absolute top seler at that time) on a clients website, and because of how style.css file was called it was not possible to create a child theme for it. So, if you wanted to make any tweaks, and then decided to update the theme, you know what would happen.

        1. Yuck. Sounds horrible. We’ve never encountered that, but we have encountered pretty much anything else. We have started to tell clients: “See that theme that has so many options? Well, all those options also ironically mean that the theme is limited, and we won’t know where or how until we get into it.”

          So too many options actually equals limitations!

  2. Hi guys,

    Totally agree with you here! I am an author on ThemeForest and while trying my best, if I wanted to earn, I needed to do some compromise in terms of how many options my themes offer. I admit it’s far beyond of what I personally would like to see in any theme. So, I’m basically changing my approach here nowadays. Kind of like back to basics. And the articles like this just help me to stay on track.

    But anyway, a lot of my customers actually ask for those 1000000 options. Like it is too much to write a simple line of CSS or use a filter in a child theme. I say no to 99% of additional options requests (depends how complex they are). Maybe this is what makes me not a top seller on TF ;) Even though I rather teach my customer something instead of implementing a simple new option.

    The same goes with fonts. I provide flexible option which kind of mimics the CSS approach. However, I got tons of request for implementing those 500+ Google Fonts… It’s just ridiculous. And people then start to compare with top seller themes… And it’s tough.

    And I myself am not very good at marketing, so when I saw those “100% responsive” and other stupid texts, I thought I would need it to see if this ridiculousness help me sell more. Because it’s always the first few days after the theme is released that matter the most. And I presume these kind of marketing texts are what matters for potential customer. However, I can’t tell if it does as I don’t measure it…

    So, what I’m trying to say here, (I believe) many TF authors feel like they are doing something wrong when they look at top seller themes. And that’s what makes them go sideways a bit… And it only depends on the person when he/she decides to stop this madness and maybe try to go the good way – the WordPress way. But it’s huge risk on TF (and possibly on other marketplaces too) when it makes your living…

    Oliver

    1. Hi Oliver, I feel for you. Unfortunately TF is a marketplace where people go to “find a good deal” and to most people “good deal” = “tons of options”.

      Slobodan, I agree with you in principle but unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world. If theme authors don’t give customers what they want, they go out of business. If they do, customers get overwhelmed and say “WordPress is too difficult”. Stuck between a rock and a hard place. I don’t think this problem will be solved any time soon…

      Still, I had a good laugh at your post :)

      1. While I do agree in thinking this problem won’t be solved any time soon, I can’t say this is a difficult problem to solve. ThemeForest (and other marketplaces) could simply require authors to and warnings next to all their “great theme features”:

        • Unlimited shortcodes – if you deactivate our theme your shortcodes will be visible to everyone visiting your site
        • Portfolio – if you deactivate our theme this section will be gone from both front end of your site and your WordPress dashboard etc.
    2. I completely understand what you’re talking about.

      However, and I feel like I’m repeating what I’ve said many times before, if users want silly options/features that should never be in a theme because they will come back to bite them, then simply giving them what they’re asking for without warning them about potential consequences is not a very ethical thing to do. That’s how fast food industry operates.

      Luckily for us, ThemeForest (who is the one to blame for ridiculous options trend) is taking great steps to end this madness and it does look like selling at and buying from ThemeForest will change by the end of the year.

  3. I can remember that most of the “responsive” and “slider” I tried last year were just working in the demo page, along with a lot of customization, and in reality were just fail implementations…had some trouble with them, at least I learned how to find professional WP tools.
    PS – 2 Unlimited was funny

    1. Exactly! Buying a theme and then making it look like the demo is mission impossible for your average WordPress user.

      Theme demos is something Dragan and I talked about in our weekly review call yesterday. Making the demo look good probably is the biggest factor in theme’s overall success, but just having a nice looking demo that’s extremely difficult to achieve is really bad user experience.

  4. The 2013 theme for WordPress takes us back to the blog, featuring a full range of post formats, each displayed beautifully in their own unique way. Design details abound, starting with a vibrant color scheme and matching header images, beautiful typography and icons, and a flexible layout that looks great on any device, big or small.

    Twenty Thirteen theme description. Is it responsive? Yes, and it probably looks better on all devices than those “fully responsive” themes do. Does it scream “I’m responsive and I know it”? No, because it’s not trying to grab attention using some overused buzzwords.

  5. Hey slobodan, great article anyway…
    What do you think about theme provider such as woothemes, elegantthemes, rocketthemes, yoothemes, etc?
    As we all know that woothemes and elegantthemes (or others) released their products under GPL license.
    They are too, implement custom post type in their themes. Just like sliders and portfolio for example

    1. Woo have great themes, not sure how they handle portfolio, but I know they’ve moved SEO features out of their themes and as you probably know have WooCommerce plugin to handle e-commerce, so they are definitely aware of the right way to do it and even if portfolio now is handled by theme I expect them to either change that in the future or give you an exit strategy.

      Another shop I really think is great is Organic Themes, definitely worth checking out.

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