Theme Review: WooThemes

by Ben Cook on July 16, 2009

WooThemes Premium WordPress Themes

Since it took longer than promised to deliver the first WordPress Theme Review I’ve decided to review not one, but 38 themes!

Why?

Because that’s precisely how many themes WooThemes has released in their year of existence, with more themes due out each month.

While each theme is unique, they’re all built on roughly the same framework and offer a similar set of options and user experience.

Design

If there’s one thing WooThemes does better than anybody else in the premium theme space today, it’s design.

While some of the themes in their portfolio aren’t quite my cup of tea, they have a wide range of great looking themes. Chances are, one or more will appeal to your personal tastes.

The designs are obviously professional, visually pleasing, and always incorporate post images in stunning fashion. My personal favorites are The Journal, VibrantCMS, and the Gazette Edition, but there are so many quality themes in the club membership that I literally began coming up with new blog ideas just so I can try out some of the others.

woo-theme-apertureA good blog design will inspire me to write more often and several of WooThemes 36 designs do just that.

Rating: ★★★★★

Flexibility

While they’ve certainly come a long way since I first purchased the Gazette Edition, this is the one category where WooThemes has the most room for improvement.

They have introduced check boxes for several elements in their themes making it easy to turn them on or off. However, moving things around to suite your needs is quite difficult.

Maybe I’m just spoiled by using the Thesis theme so much but I’d like to be able to move columns around, or move an element from the top of the page to the bottom of the page.

While WooThemes make use of a custom CSS file which gives it some added flexibility, it seems that moving elements around requires editing the theme files. While this isn’t unusual, it does make it a quite annoying to upgrade if/when the theme is updated.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Ease of Use

Evaluating WooThemes’ ease of use is a bit difficult since they offer so many different themes. And, while each theme is a bit different, a few common threads emerge across the portfolio of themes .

Installing and activating the theme is a fairly simple process. However, the initial result can be a bit jarring if you’re expecting to see something very close to the demo site featuring your chosen theme.

Brand new blogs don’t have the posts to fill up many of the features and existing blogs may not have post images in place to give the site the visual impact immediately.

For example, the images below are screen shots of the same website, the first with a nearly stock install of Thesis theme and the second with The Journal installed.

a stock Thesis install

a stock Thesis install

a stock install of The Journal

a stock install of The Journal

Now, as I mentioned the Thesis options have been tweaked slightly, but the site just looks a bit unfinished or messy with The Journal theme installed. Could this be remedied and made to look amazing with The Journal as the theme? Absolutely, but it does require a bit more effort.

Also, the WooThemes use an image logo in the default install rather than using the WordPress header or site name. That’s not a huge issue as most sites create their own custom logo and just replace the default WooThemes image but I much prefer to go with a relevant text based header as the default.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Support

Support is often the most critical element of a theme and WooThemes does a fairly good job of supporting their vast array of themes.

Each theme is given specific documentation but it doesn’t really provide much information that I didn’t already know. There’s a video that walks you through using each option, and an “Explaining the Theme Options” section that is nothig more than a screen shot of all the theme options. It does absolutely nothing to explain them further.

Thankfully, the rest of the support functionality is better. The Knowledge base offers a list of resolved issues about each theme from the support forums, and if you’re still struggling there are forums where you can ask your specific questions.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Final Rating

Overall, the premium themes produced by WooThemes are better than most themes in the marketplace today.

They’re visually stunning, a bit rigid, and not easiest themes I’ve ever delt with. However, at $125 for a club membership which gives you access to all 36 themes, you’re getting your money’s worth (which is why I feel comfortable making that an affiliate link).

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

But, how does WooThemes’s 7 out of 10  stack up against the Thesis theme? You’ll have to wait for the official numbers but I’ll give you a hint… the banner under “We Recommend” still belongs to Thesis.

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