Before anything else, there are some really good themes at ThemeForest. Unfortunately, they are the exception.
A quick look at ThemeForest’s top selling themes will tell you that ThemeForest authors are forced (by competition or audience demand — hey, all they’re asking for is a faster horse, right?) to throw in as many non-theme features as they possibly can. So they keep adding them, and adding them, and adding them…
That bubble has to burst some day and what I’d much rather see is WordPress.org helping Envato deflate it before it gets out of control. Even if it takes something as ridiculous as another WordCamp ban to get it done.
Last week Alex King suggested it was insane to sell WordPress products at Envato marketplaces. Unless you’re an established name in WordPress circles and already have an audience to sell to I strongly disagree with his claims. It’s much better to earn 50% of something than 100% of nothing. Problem I have with Envato is a different one – quality of products they offer.
ThemeForest Themes and WordPress Theme Review Team Guidelines
I’ve been a freelance WordPress developer for four years. Guilty of my share of poor code in the early days and proud of constantly trying to improve my coding skills. Work I’ve done ranges from developing themes from scratch, using all sort of frameworks and starter themes (100% faithful to Underscores these days) and modifying existing themes clients had purchased. Lately, most of those themes were bought at ThemeForest.
What I’ve also done is read WordPress Theme Review Team guidelines numerous times and contribute to the team (only twice though, and not proud of that low number). Still, I do know what WordPress Theme Review Team considers a theme that’s good enough to be given away for free.
There’s no way around it, some of the stuff sold at ThemeForest would never, ever make it into WordPress.org repository of free WordPress themes. Let me say that again: Some of the themes sold at Envato are not good enough to be given away for free.
So, with all the WordPress.org vs Envato GPL drama and arm twisting that’s been going on lately, how on Earth is no one talking about the damage Envato is doing WordPress by messing up users’ expectations? You know, all the shortcodes, custom post types and all the other “plugin territory” features themes sold at Envato have.
From WordPress Theme Review Team guidelines (updated on 2013-2-1):
Since the purpose of Themes is to define the presentation of user content, Themes must not be used to define the generation of user content, or to define Theme-independent site options or functionality.
Find me ten ThemeForest themes that would pass this. There’s lots of other violations I ran into and it makes me wonder what theme review process at ThemeForest looks like.
I guess if your product is weak, the only way to stay competitive is to offer more of it for same amount of money, or less. But I don’t get why Envato allows this.
Why This Should Not be Ignored
Average WordPress users are not only unaware of differences between WordPress core, good themes, crappy themes, plugins and “themelugins” (those ugly theme/plugin mutants that will screw up your website when you switch to a new theme) — they don’t even care.
To them, WordPress is “all of the above”. And the day they get tired of that $40 theme, decide to start using another one and everything falls apart it’s WordPress they will blame. Who wants that to happen?
I’d love to see Envato hire Chip Bennett, Scott Reilly, Emil Uzelac, Pippin Williamson, and/or some other folks from WordPress.org review teams as consultants, even if it’s just for a few weeks, so they can train Envato staff and review their process. As a seller at CodeCanyon, I wouldn’t mind Envato using my earnings over that period to pay these guys. It would make both buying from and selling at Envato marketplaces so much better.
So, is it insane? It could be, if you’re not sure what you’re buying is coded well. Did you ever run into crappy products at Envato? Or you think they’re fine and do-it-all themes are good for users?