Why Those "All in One" Wordpress Themes Are Just the Worst

There’s thousand of free and premium Wordpress themes out there, but sadly, as with most things in life, not all are created equally. If you go to a site like Envato Market, you’ll find hundreds of themes that claim to offer all the bells and whistles you could possibly want, and promising drag-and-drop page builders so easy that anyone can design and build the website of their dreams, with no technical knowledge required! A lot of them look and sound fantastic, as well as promising big savings – after all, why spend thousands on a professionally built site when you can create the same thing yourself with a $20 theme?

The answer, I’m afraid, becomes all too clear once you’ve purchased that theme and actually begin using it. By the way, I should say at this point that Envato is by no means the only marketplace selling these subpar themes, just one of the better known ones.

Let’s take their top selling theme, Avada ($60). It claims to be “loved by 250,000+” and “the #1 selling theme of all time”. It also claims that “coding knowledge [is] not required” to create your website.

So it’s a little strange then, that if I go to a freelancing site like Upwork, and search for “Avada”, I instantly find over 100 job postings, seeking web developers who will help them set up this “easy to use” Wordpress theme.

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In fact, one of my very first jobs as a freelancer was to troubleshoot an Avada based website. It was a mess, as most Wordpress sites built on these types of themes tend to be. Here’s just a few reasons why.

All Those Options Turn Into One Hell of a Steep Learning Curve

Literally, some of these themes come with so many settings, I think it may actually be quicker to teach yourself to code than figure all the options out.

A lot of theme developers boast that their theme comes with “demo content” pre-installed, to make it easy for you to figure out how all those options actually impact your website features and overall appearance.

Frankly these claims are optimistic at best, since that “Install Demo Content” option just means you now have several hundred pages, posts, menus and galleries installed on your website – and you still can’t really figure out how they were created.

Even those WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) drag-and-drop page builders can cause problems, since they’re often a little glitchy. I frequently get requests from clients with drag and drop builders installed, asking me to fix all the weird margins and broken layouts these builders can cause.

To reiterate, these are clients hiring a developer, to work on a theme that was sold on the claim of “no coding knowledge required.” Bet you’re beginning to see why I get so angry about this, right? But bear with me, there’s more...

Many Tie Content Creation to the Theme Itself

This is one of my biggest frustrations. Many Envato themes tie your content to the theme itself; so for instance, if your theme includes a portfolio builder, you could spend days or weeks setting up and arranging your portfolio content.

All may appear fine until a year from now, when you decide it's time for a design update. You choose a new theme, and ... boom! Your portfolio content – which you spent so much time customizing – disappears. As it was tied to the old, now discarded theme, all your hard work is gone for good.

Many of these Wordpress Themes Have Security Issues

In addition to speed and portability problems, many Envato themes have security vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit to cause all manner of mischief. This is due, in part, to the marketplace's well known lack of standards.

In an article at WP Tavern, Sarah Gooding writes, "Envato remains the dominant marketplace for commercial WordPress themes, despite rampant security concerns surrounding its products on a regular basis. Last September [2014], 1,000+ Envato products were affected by the Slider Revolution security vulnerability. This particular debacle was fuelled by theme authors who were lax in patching their products, as well as Envato’s poor standards, which continue to allow authors to bundle plugins with themes."

Those “All in One” Themes Are Soooooo Slow

Another reason I don't recommend Envato themes as a long-term solution is that many of them are exceedingly slow to load. The "Salient" theme is a perfect example. It is another one of Envato's most popular themes, and it gets rave reviews from "professional" web designers for its features and ease of use.

However, the screenshot below illustrates the problem. If you run a test you’ll find that even the theme demo site (which bear in mind, will have better optimised content than a standard website would) can’t pass the Google site speed test.

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Yes, the theme is flexible, but it has so many bells and whistles that it takes forever to load. And even if they’re not the impatient type like me, there’s only so long most visitors will wait for your content to show up in their browser – most will just hit that back button and look elsewhere.

What’s The Solution?

If you only need a landing page, or you simply want to experiment with a new business idea, an Envato theme can be a quick, inexpensive solution. However, in most of these cases, I'd just avoid Wordpress altogether and recommend Squarespace as a better user-friendly alternative – you’ll get better drag and drop functionality since that’s what the whole platform is built around, plus an excellent support team if you have any issues.

For long term use, however, I recommend building on a framework like Genesis – this is also a type of Wordpress theme, but it’s coded to much higher standard and is specifically made for developer customization. Wordpress is a fantastic, flexible platform that can really help you grow your business, so make sure you’re not being a held back by a less than high quality theme.