I’m no pro but I’ve been knocking around on my self hosted WP installation for a couple of years now. I can take apart the pieces of a theme, re-engineer existing CSS, bang out php and other stuff but I’m not a graphic artist nor a designer. On my self hosted install, I use a great, free theme (Web 2.0) which is now unsupported and highly tweaked for my use. When I was asked to help another volunteer based organization retool their web site, I thought of using WordPress as a CMS because I didn’t want to be the webmaster in the traditional sense with workflow going through me. Since I had a budget, I decided to use a premium theme, specifically The Station from WooThemes to get up and running quickly.
The premium theme market for WordPress seems to grow by the day. I’m not sure how I wound up with WooThemes but I’m happy I did. When you’re thinking about using or choosing a premium theme, here are a couple of items to consider:
- You are going to have to tinker with the theme files. If you think a premium theme will be 100% ready to go for your use, you’re mistaken. You’ll have to know some basic WordPress template and conditional tags to get your site just right.
- Consider using a vendor with a sizable portfolio of themes that use a common framework. That way if WordPress makes some structural changes, the vendor will make the their theme framework adapt to new WordPress features quickly.
- You will have to create template files if you use WordPress as a CMS. When selecting a premium theme, make sure the theme has multiple format templates so if you want a full width page (important in a CMS), you don’t have to create it from scratch.
- In many cases, you don’t want to make too many modifications to the theme’s functions.php file. When the theme updates, you could lose your mods if you didn’t use good practices making the changes. Look for a theme vendor who publishes recommended practices for making modifications. That’s good support.
Remember, when you buy a theme, you’re not just buying the creativity of the theme designer, you’re buying support. Make sure you understand what kind of support will be provided before you buy. So far, I’m very happy with WooThemes. Their support is excellent (via forums) and they’ve got a nice array of FAQs. Their code is formatted very well with extensive commenting. Makes tweaks and mods very simple.