The Problem with Beautiful WordPress Themes

Assembly Line

Every once in a while, I get this itch to design an over-the-top, beautiful WordPress theme. I want to add a ton of wonderful graphics and subtle effects of gradients and texture and utilize special fonts and CSS3 and then I remember, that’s a horrible idea! Because people, sure, might like it, but it isn’t really helping them. Why? Because the fancier the WordPress theme, the more cookie-cutter it is, which is awful, cheesy, and worst of all, unprofessional.

There’s a big market for big beautiful themes and the irony is, the more people that pay for a beautiful theme, the worse the deal is they’re getting. Whenever I get the urge, I remind myself of the ethical implications, the more people that buy and use the same theme, the cheaper its value actually gets (unless heavily supported and customizable). Although, most WordPress companies would never let you in on that fact or even acknowledge that inherent issue with pretty themes, to begin with. Eye candy sells.

So, even though the more people who use a theme, the less unique and valuable it becomes, these “premium” themes manage to only get marked up in price over the years because of their popularity, which is really a con, not a pro. It is so bad to the point that I might visit a new site and instantly recognize the theme. Albeit, I’m tech-savvier and see what’s going on behind-the-scenes more than the average user, it’s still no good for brand value and websites that should want to be taken seriously.

Even worse, are free themes like Bueno. Great theme, really, that is, if only one person had it. But, over 831,219 people are using the thing! It is the third most popular theme on UPDATE — Bueno has been retired from and can now be found here.

For a small personal site or blog, I suppose that works, because after all, our culture is bizarrely obsessed with being the exact same as one another. We all want to wear the same clothes, drive the same cars, even smell the same. Why not have a bunch of clone websites too?

Well, I would rather encourage people to be unique and especially in the event that someone wants a professional website, I want them to do it right. If someone wants to utilize WordPress for their website, they need a starter theme or boilerplate, not a cookie-cutter theme.