Love and Hate – Choosing A Theme You Can Age With

Think smart about your theme before you invest time or money!

Last March I changed my hosting company and instead of moving my website, I opted to start over. At the time I relaunched, I carefully choose a framework with a great history for support. Recently I had the opportunity to acquire a video production business, so it seemed appropriate to make some major changes in the new site.

At that point, it became clear to me that the theme and framework choice was at best marginal. As pretty, functional, and fast as my site was, there was this one huge issue that many theme developers saddle their customers with. That issue revolves around how they bundle plugins that the theme depends on.

In a nutshell, many theme developers are allowed to bundle plugins into their themes. This isn’t so bad except that those bundled items are almost never licensed. In other words, you can only get updates on bundled items if you buy a separate license or when the theme developer updates his theme. So what is so bad about that if the bundled plugin seems to be working?

A lot of things….

For example, take a particular slider that was subject to a hack a few years ago. This slider is commonly bundled with themes. When the hack of the slider was alerted, only the owners of a licensed version got the update as soon as it was available. Anyone who used the legal, but unlicensed version of the slider plugin had to wait until the developer updated the theme. You would hope that any developer that bundled that slider would immediately update the theme, but that was not the case. I venture there are still end users who purchased themes that had bundled products hopeless out of date, (but apparently functional).

There are a lot more things that can go wrong, but the fact that you could buy a theme that claims to be loaded with a half dozen premium plugins which are not licensed is a giant, “DO NOT BUY” flag. The exception is if you intend to buy a license.

Then there is the question of how to manage licenses that are really annual or month to month subscriptions. As an end user you may be okay renewing a license for your site on an annual basis. That really doesn’t work for a professional web developer. The last thing I want to do create a website with any product which has one or more licenses that expire. Sadly, developers do it all the time. The end result is that when WordPress updates, a client site might not have the right licenses to keep the site intact or even fully functional. In a worse case scenario, a client site could end up being hacked due to lack of an update!

This site currently used a theme and framework as provided by Elegant Themes. I bought into a lifetime license that allows use of Elegant Themes entire library of themes and plugins. Not only can I apply themes like DIVI across any client site, but as long as my licenses information is not removed, that client’s site will always update in a timely manner.

The theme I pulled was pretty slick, but I should have known better. I’d never be able to use those “pretty” themes on a client site unless I made it clear that client would have to fund their own licenses to insure proper update of theme and plugins.

The bottom line is that choose your theme wisely. Before you buy a theme that is packed with juicy plugins that are usually funded separately, you can assume that no license for those plugins will be included. Before you buy, ask the theme developer what licenses are included and then shop for what those plugins will cost you. By the way, “LITE” versions of themes can also bundle unlicensed plugins. Before you use any free, lite, or even paid WordPress theme or framework, do you due diligence and know what your basic upkeep costs are. Also, in closing if you do use a “LITE” versions of a theme, only do so if you are inclined to purchase it, but be sure what licenses are included as well.