Why you shouldn’t use purchased WordPress themes

Using purchased WordPress themes may sound like a great way to save money on WordPress development costs. And it can be for those that need a website and are just starting out. But if you rely on internet traffic for your leads, and need to be competitive, you need your website functioning it’s best.

When new client comes to us with a WordPress website they often express their frustration that their WordPress Theme is broken, out-of-date and makes their website hard to use.

Here’s a few reasons not to buy a pre-built theme for your WordPress website and why at Afteractive, we don’t use them either:

#1: Lack of brand customization

Theme marketplaces like Themeforest.net sell professional looking WordPress themes between $30 and $70. Being cheap can be a bad thing. These themes hook people in because they look impressive with thousands of sales and high ratings.

Marketplace WordPress Themes
Themeforest.net WordPress Themes Marketplace

These themes are easy to install for most people, but are a challenge to fit any custom brand. If you match the theme, the design will look like thousands of others. Almost 16% of the top 1 Million sites are using the 3 top paid WordPress themes. Even after making customizations, your site will still resemble all of the other sites using the most popular WordPress themes on the internet.

If you try to overly customize these paid themes, the end result may look like a low-quality version of the template preview with elements that don’t fit well together. When something doesn’t work you have to create work arounds or skip it all together. The problem here is that content was forced into a template rather than design made for content. If it seems completely backwards to you, you’re not wrong. Your brand deserves better. Don’t sell yourself short!

#2: Bloatware is included

Purchased WordPress themes come with plugins, features, and functionality you don’t need, yet the themes makes those plugins mandatory.

Marketplace WordPress themes often come with a set of risky plugins that have been known to have security vulnerabilities such as newsletter, slideshow, and form plugins.

Pre-built themes try to be everything for everyone. The features and templates they come with are more than you will need, and all of this leads to slow loading pages and a confusing backend filled with features that are not used. They come with custom post types you can’t remove, and sample content you do not need.

WordPress Themes Custom Post Types Screenshot
Custom Post Types

We’ve encountered countless WordPress websites that still contain published demo page and unused media files of random stock imagery. These pages are being indexed by Google and other search engines. This kind of bloat and disorganization will cause a WordPress site to be ineffective and hard to manage, not to mention the clean up required after installation. Most users are too afraid to clean anything up, or make updates out of fear that something will go wrong and their site will break.

#3: Third-party page builder tools are baked-in

Purchased WordPress Themes rely on page builders that are hard to use.

WordPress marketplace themes often require you to use their proprietary page builder instead of the default WordPress Block editor, Gutenberg. Some examples of page builders that come with Purchased WordPress themes are:

These page builders often look like they provide nearly everything you will ever need, but as it turns out there’s no useful customization option.

Purchased WordPress Theme WP Bakery page builder
WP Bakery element options
WP Bakery Text Block Settings Screen
WP Bakery Block settings

Page builders need to be maintained and the complexity of testing these features becomes impossible for this software to not have ongoing bugs and issues.

Here’s are the main issues with page builders:

  • Page builders are known to have frequent security vulnerabilities.
  • Page builders use shortcodes and mix content with design
  • Content and page elements become inaccessible or disappear completely after major updates, forcing you to build your page all over again.
  • Page layouts often look poorly on mobile devices because of the lack of design control.

When certain elements disappear all of the sudden, it can frustrating. There is not much value in a content management system if content is not editable. If you’re like most website owners, you are expecting an easy way to manage content. Common complaints we hear others sharing is that third-party page builders are difficult to interact with, long loading times, and inaccessible content editing screens.

Elementor Loading Issues
Look familiar?

#4: Getting plugin support is challenging

WordPress theme developers don’t always pay attention to performance, SEO, and Accessibility. Because of extra bloat, purchased WordPress themes can run slow and make it difficult for site owners to optimize their site. Overrides to the core programing of the theme are not easy to maintain. Most of the time, if you are using a marketplace theme because the web designer you hired advised doing so, they likely do not have the skillset or capabilities required to correct the issues. People that use purchased themes are usually DIY business owners, designers, marketers, or SEO professionals that are wrangling themes and plugins together to build a site.

There’s dozens of configuration options that all have to be set properly without conflict in order for functionality and template layouts to work properly. Without access to the person who created it, you’ll have no real insight into any of the features. Most themes come with some instructions, but not fully clear documentation. Reaching out to their support is usually handled inside a forum and takes days or weeks to receive a reply.

With a WordPress designer and developer in your corner you’ll always get the answers you need to make changes to your website. We provide experienced WordPress development that won’t leave you stuck in a situation where you can’t improve your site or correct the technical SEO issues that are blocking your site from ranking in the Search Engines.

Should I ever use a theme?

There are only a few cases we used to think it may be appropriate to buy a theme:

  1. Startups that plan on redesigning within a few months.
  2. Small nonprofits and charities need to kickstart their campaigns.
  3. I syndicated news sites that can benefit from a blog-only theme.
  4. Do-it-yourself small business owners.

There’s never usually a good reason to buy a WordPress theme, and instead hire a professional web designer to create a custom theme that works for your specific requirements.

If I’m not using a theme what should I use?

There’s some really great options out there right now. WordPress has free themes for those that want to customize their own theme or simply learn how to use WordPress.

Kadence WP Theme

Our best recommendation is to use a Theme Framework that provides Starter Templates which you can modify to fit your needs, not the other way around. We recommend KadenceWP. The Kadence theme provides unlimited capabilities to create custom content.


Another great option is Breakdance. This is new to 2022 and is similar to a WebFlow site building experience. It’s great for non-developers and developers will find it has a large array of options for front-end customization. You get blank slate, and that’s perfect for sites that are designed before the development stage.

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