Searching For a Premium WordPress Theme? Use This Checklist

Commercial WordPress themes

WordPress boasts thousands of free themes, some of which are pretty darn good. But it also offers the option of installing premium themes. They say that you get what you pay for, and this often holds true with premium themes.

Your website’s design is your company’s virtual storefront. To mark your presence in the real world, you wouldn’t scrawl your name in Sharpie on tattered cardboard and pin it to the wall. You would want a presentable, professional exterior. In the same vein, it’s a good call to invest in a good theme (this is not to say that all free themes are bad, of course, and that’s an issue I’ll look at in an upcoming post).

But since a premium theme requires that you put your money on the line, you should be careful. In this post, I’ll outline several items you should check for to ensure that you make a nice purchase.

1. Solid Source

Commercial WordPress themes

You deserve to get your money’s worth when buying a theme, which is why you owe it to yourself to go with a reputable company or developer.

There are shady sites out there offering premium themes, but it’s just not worth the risk. Instead, you can choose from a bountiful crop of hardworking, well-known theme developers. To find a list of commercial theme companies recommended by WordPress itself, visit the Commercial WordPress Themes link at

You’re reading the blog of one such company right now – Graph Paper Press. We offer a number of cutting-edge themes geared toward a number of different niches, so you should be able to find something you like.

Here’s a list with a few other well-known theme shops that cater to different niches:

2. Vetted Developer

I’ve given you a few of the better-known sites and sources from which you can snag some pretty snazzy premium themes. But what if a theme from a different site catches your eye?

You should check to make sure that they’re credible and legitimate. Vet before you buy.

Being extra-cautious here doesn’t hurt you. After all, you’re spending money. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that – as great as I think my recommendations are – you should even check the developers I listed before buying from them.

What do I mean by check? Simply put, open up Google or Bing and dig around the search results related to a company (as explained in this post). Search for the name of the company whose theme you’re considering, and pair that name with terms like “support” or “problems”.

Doing this will let you know if there are any major issues to be aware of. If reviews are overwhelmingly negative, it’s best to stay far, far away.

3. Frequent Updates

On sites like ThemeForest, you can check the date of the last update, which is a good proxy for how frequently a theme gets updates.

No matter what theme you use, it needs to receive relatively frequent updates. There are two main reasons for this:

  1. A good theme will remain compatible with future updates to WordPress core.
  2. If your theme doesn’t get regular updates, it could leave holes in your site’s security.

Themes are more than just a pretty face for your site. A theme that goes a long while without updates can absolutely be attacked. Outside hackers can exploit vulnerabilities in old theme code and cause terrible trouble for your site.

It’s better to avoid all that by choosing a theme that receives fairly regular updates. To do this, just look for the last time the theme that you’re thinking about got an update.

4. Speed

We live in an age of instant gratification. People want web content, and they want that content now.

That’s why speed is important. Slower sites sink lower in search rankings, and the longer it takes a page to load, the more likely visitors are to just go somewhere else. Forget about the allegorical tortoise and the hare – if your site is slow, it will lose the race.

This become a crucial issue with premium themes because – due to the fact that the developers are competing and often want to load a theme with awesome features – these themes can sometimes be a bit bulky. Too many features and burden a site and slow it down.

To check for this, you can use Google PageSpeed. Just copy the URL of the theme’s demo page and paste it into Google’s tool. It will analyze the page, giving you concrete numbers that tell you how fast – or how slow – the theme is.

(One caveat to keep in mind is that a myriad of factors influence page speed, so differences in speed between two developers may be due to something like their respective servers rather than theme file size.)

5. Responsiveness

Because you’re paying for a theme, you deserve the full suite of basic features. In 2015, that means your site has to be responsive. More and more people are surfing the web – and buying stuff – with their smartphones, so your theme needs to adapt well to mobile. It’s just not negotiable anymore.

Expo theme
Here’s an example of Expo, a responsive and premium theme.

You would think that responsiveness would be a given for premium themes. It should be, and that’s why all of Graph Paper Press’s themes are responsive. But that’s not the case for all theme developers, so you should whip out your phone and double-check how the themes you’re considering handle mobile devices.

For more on why responsive web design is so important, check out this awesome (and brief) post on the subject.

6. Support

This one is quick, but it’s important to check off.

Nothing is more disappointing than paying money for a theme that ends up having problems. Imagine finally shelling out for the perfect theme, only to find that your money was wasted because the theme didn’t work so well on your site.

Now imagine that – despite potential problems working out all the kinks of a theme – you have a helpful techie by your side to make sure that things go smoothly. That’s essentially what support is.

Most premium themes come with support at no extra cost. Just make sure that the theme(s) that you’re thinking about do, too.


While free WordPress themes can be a great place to start, premium themes are a solid investment once you have enough money to pay for one. You usually won’t have to shell out too much cash, either.

Because you’re spending your hard-earned income on a theme, you owe it to yourself to get the most bang for your buck. That’s why it’s crucial to weigh each of the considerations I discussed in this post. Here’s the full checklist:

  • Solid source: is the theme from a well-known developer who makes great themes?
  • Vetted developer: have you done your own research on the developer?
  • Frequent updates: does the theme receive frequent updates?
  • Speed: is the theme fast?
  • Responsive design: does the theme work well on mobile devices?
  • Support: does the theme come with support at no extra charge?
  • Awesome: is the theme amazing and well-suited to your needs?

The world of premium themes is beautiful – and it can be good for your business, too, if you think smart and consider this checklist. What other factors should you weigh when choosing a premium theme? Let us know in the comments below!

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