For those that follow some of the more prominent members of the WordPress community, you have probably noticed that those at the top have become a very close group. I’ve always felt that this is a wonderful thing, but it has the side effect of making it difficult for a newcomer to break into those ranks and earn the respect of their peers.
One of those up and coming designers who is trying to get noticed is Roy Guan. A few months ago Roy entered into the crowded premium themes community with the launching of his website, Theme Junkie. In order to grab a foothold within this very busy space, Roy has managed to find a niche within a niche, offering all of his premium designs for under $30.00. In only about six months time Theme Junkie has already made available a large selection of premium themes as well as two free themes.
Below I wanted to take a moment and feature a few of my favorite designs already available from Theme Junkie:
Over the past year the premium themes market has continued to grow and expand, causing designers to search for ways to separate themselves from the competition. Because many buyers choose to customize the design to meet their personal needs, it only makes sense for the focus of designers to instead turn to building custom settings pages that allow for a ton of flexibility.
These settings pages have become very complex in many cases and can offer a variety of features, including selecting where you want your sidebars placed, how many sidebars, which color/design style sheet should be used, or it can also offer simple things like places to enter your custom RSS feed, twitter feed, and Google Analytics code. As I’ve watched these control panels evolve over this past year, it has been truly amazing just how much can be changed without changing a single line of code!
Nick Roach, the founder of the popular Elegant Themes theme club, has been offering complex settings panels on his themes for as long as I can remember, but earlier this week I was given a peak at the new revamped settings panel named ePanel. This new settings panel is extremely complex and will eventually be added to all of the themes included with an Elegant Themes club membership. As of today’s date, ePanel is already integrated into the following themes and available for download: eBusiness, eNews, ePhoto, PureType, Bold, and CherryTruffle. Nick promises that the remaining themes will receive the same treatment over the coming month(s) and all themes will include this new ePanel.
So, what exactly is ePanel? Here is a screen shot of the updated design:
As you can see from the screen shot above, there are a few bonus tabs under the General Settings tab alone, and there are a total of 8 tabs down the left sidebar. The General Settings has the following 3 tabs: General, Homepage, and Featured Slider.
After loading up the theme to see how the settings panel works, I have to say I am very impressed! It looks like the General tab (under General Settings) allows you to select the style sheet color you want to use, enable/disable blog formatting on the homepage, Feedburner integration including all your Feedburner settings, and selecting the date format (dates are displayed differently depending on what part of the world you live in). In the Homepage tab you’ll get access to category display, as well as the ability to exclude certain categories of your choice. Of course the Featured Slider tab allows you to control how the featured slider works.
That is just the beginning though, as on the left there is also a series of tabs which include a large number of other settings. You’ll find Navigation options, Layout Settings, Ad Management settings, Colorization, and you’ll even be able to control certain SEO settings on the SEO tab (mostly meta information similar to how All-in-One SEO Pack works).
The best part is that all this new functionality is available for all Elegant Themes club members! Currently a membership to Elegant Themes is only $19.99 for an entire year, and stays at that price in order to renew your yearly membership. You can learn more about the Elegant Themes club here.
For a couple years now, the premium themes market has been growing steadily and the competition has been elevated. Designers are pushing each other to be more innovative trying to earn your dollar, which is great for potential buyers like us, but can sometimes be difficult to for a new theme designer to jump in and hold their own.
One guy that has successfully done this, in my opinion, is Pavel Ciorici of WP Zoom. Earlier this year he released his first premium WordPress theme, the Yamidoo theme. The title of the theme is interesting enough that it grabs your attention, then when when you look at the theme, it is hard not be impressed!
Now, Pavel has released his second premium theme, the Zenko theme, which I wanted to mention here. With this new magazine theme, the homepage design is a traditional magazine theme layout, but is designed in a way to feature the most important content in areas where readers will see it. Here is a default sample of how the homepage features your top content:
Zenko Magazine Theme Homepage
The homepage is also very image intensive, which is an important part of a magazine-style homepage to draw the readers attention. For the internal pages, the Zenko theme switches to a more traditional blog page layout with the sidebar on the right side:
Zenko Magazine Theme Post Page
A full live demo of the Zenko theme can be viewed here.
The Zenko theme also includes a number of great features. Some of my favorite parts are the featured content and popular posts on the top of the homepage, the built-in navigation designed to function like the WP-PageNavi plugin, and of course the footer area, which was designed to provide a place for you to put your less important content (footer is a great place to put categories, archives, etc. so they are available for readers that want to find it, but is also out of the way for people not looking for it).
Other features included with the Zenko theme:
- Built in support for Google Analytics and Feedburner
- Integrated Banner Management System
- Custom templates for categories, archives
- Auto-resizing and cropping for images
- Threaded Comments for WordPress 2.7+
- Built-in widgets
- Support for WordPress 2.7.1
- Cross-Browser Compatible – tested on IE (6,7), Opera, Firefox, Safari, Chrome.
- Flickr widget
- Theme Documentation
- Integrated Theme Options
- Tabbed Widgets
- Widgetized Sidebars
- Built-in Gravatar Support for Authors & Comments
- Drop-Down Menus
- Integrated social bookmarking in posts
- Photoshop Files (.psd) included
I also had the privilege of digging through the backend of this theme and was glad to see the code structure is very SEO friendly and well setup for someone who prefers to manually hack their code. Another thing that I really liked was the fact that this theme doesn’t require any WordPress plugins or custom fields to function properly. I always try to find at least one thing missing, and the one feature that I couldn’t find was the option of a traditional blog template for the homepage, which has become a pretty common addition with most premium themes.
Pavel also has a very competitive pricing structure, which allows just about any WordPress user to be able to acquire one of his themes. Currently, the Zenko theme can be purchased for $69.00 (single-use license), $119.00 (for 5 site license), or $149.00 (developer’s license).
Have questions? Want to learn more about this theme? Check out the official Zenko theme page by WP Zoom.
Recently our friend Andrew of WP-Fun.co.uk wrote an interesting post titled A New Name for Premium Themes: Themes. In his post, Andrew attempts to define what a premium WordPress theme is, then compares that definition with the most downloaded themes at the Free WordPress Theme Directory. In my opinion, blog posts like this are great because they really spark some thought on the part of the reader. After reading his post, I felt that the point Andrew is making is that if you look at the designs, feature sets, and quality of the most downloaded free themes from WordPress.org, they are all comparable to at least a few of the premium WordPress themes being sold on the market today.
For those of us that have been using WordPress for at least 2-3 years, the evolution of the WordPress theme is simply amazing. Back in 2007 themes weren’t necessarily even standards compliant, and the idea of widgets was still new and many themes didn’t support them. Now the idea of a control panel being included with your theme, having your theme be widget ready, and having several color options included with the theme have almost become standard, (even with the free WordPress themes available).
I’m sure there will always be some free themes available, but you have to wonder if at some point premium themes will become the standard. I suppose if this is the case, then my next question is, if premium themes simply become themes, then what is next? The top designers begin to release elite themes? If premium is a fancy word for better, it seems that designers will just come up with a new fancy word for best like “elite” and use that as the word for next level of themes. It may never end!
There are also things like Theme Frameworks to consider as WordPress themes continue to evolve. Give us your thoughts in the comments!
Although WP Hacks was originally setup with WordPress Hacks in mind, based upon our readers needs we’ve invested a lot of time over the past year and a half into researching WordPress themes and providing you with a large selection of WordPress theme galleries.
Back when this website was launched the premium themes market didn’t exist yet, so we had originally placed our focus on the different types of free WordPress themes. The result was a bunch of galleries broken down into types.
Since that time, a second market has emerged known as premium WordPress themes (premium was the term originally used to describe a more advanced or higher quality WordPress theme). Over time we adapted and now offer a variety of both types of theme galleries.
I always felt there is a market for both types of themes in the WordPress community, but some shoppers don’t know which of the two they should be looking at. Add in the fact that too many designers over the past year have released low quality themes under the ”premium” business model, and a lot of people have been left unhappy with their purchases and an overall loss of trust in the premium themes market as a whole.
So, if you were shopping for a new WordPress theme for your website or blog, what should you be looking for? Based upon the individuals needs of the shopper, there are a variety of factors that should be considered, but it mostly boils down to three essential factors:
- Price - Is the theme free? If there is a cost associated with the theme, am I getting the right value for the price? In the price category, free WordPress themes are always going to have an advantage, but there are a few downsides to going this route. Free themes usually require you to leave the link in the footer, while many premium themes do not. Many free themes are also unsupported, so if you aren’t comfortable hacking your own theme, it may be worth the price to purchase a supported theme. There is also minimal risk of sponsored links or malicious code showing up in a purchased theme.
- Quality – Another obvious point of comparison between free WordPress themes and premium WordPress themes is the quality of the themes. There are a number of high quality free WordPress themes and (as mentioned above) there are some low quality premium themes. When looking for your theme, the designer or design companies reputation is everything. Does the theme I want offer control panel options, cross browser compatibility, or widget support? Are there multiple layouts and color choices to choose from?
- Support – Although support isn’t going to be relevant for some people looking who have the ability to customize their own theme, for most shoppers this should be the most important factor. Some free themes offer support from the designer, but most do not. If you decide to purchase a theme, you are usually paying as much for the support as you are for the acutal theme! Does this designer have trustworthy testimonials? Do you know any existing customers who are happy with the support they are receiving?
What do you value most when shopping for the right free or premium WordPress theme for your website or blog? I know most of the WordPress theme designers read this site and will see your feedback, so let us know in the comments!