The Problem With Beautiful WordPress Themes

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 or a 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 framework, starter theme, or boilerplate, not a cookie-cutter theme.

  • Jason

    Hey Brian, as much as what you said is true, I guess the beautiful themes still is the killer factor that makes me use them :P Though I get where you are coming from, when I use a popular theme I customize and edit it so it looks more “mine”. :P Cool post though.

  • Anonymous

    Your article is right on! Not to give you guys at cyberchimps a call, but, your featured themes are real winners. I already purchased driodpresspro, neuropro and the flagship, ifeaturepro. I’ve tested them and they are really solid in every respect.

    Thanks you all!

  • Yeah, absolutely. At least that’s something. But, many people just set and forget and wonder why their site isn’t taking off the way they’d expected.

    The internet is becoming second nature for everyone, regardless of whether they’re tech savvy or not. People can spot the ads, they can see the cookie cutter designs (which many equate to being unprofessional).

    It’s marketing, it’s all marketing. If you’re a brand, business, professional that offers a service of some sort, people do factor in stuff like design and PageRank, popularity etc etc.

    It’s borderline silly, but you can’t pretend psychology doesn’t play it’s role. Why do you think medical websites are extremely warm, often kind of artsy. They want to avoid people thinking about metal, sterile, chemical hospital stuff.

    It all depends. If you go to a corporate site and it looks like a 5th grader made it, people think poorly of the actual business. If you go to a herbalist healer’s website and the thing looks like they poured $10k into it, that might put people off because it’s not down to earth, it feels money grubbing, corporate like.

    It’s crazy, but it’s true. It all comes down to the point of your website, what you want to convey and your audience.

    Thanks, Bryan

  • Actually, I didn’t have any part in developing those themes except for the amazing dropdown menu I designed for iFP3, which I’m very proud of. Put’s Suckerfish to shame. It’s almost completely pure CSS with just one snippet of JS for indicator arrows.

    It’s the purest, cleanest dropdown menu script I’ve ever seen. And I designed it from scratch. Makes me feel warm and fuzzy. :)

    See here:

    Mine does use graphics and I has bit of a different concept in the way I think dropdowns should work. I designed traditional dropdown menus for the final CyberChimps version though and the CyberChimps developers altered the backend a bit and I believe they made it all graphic-less.

    You can compare the versions:

    The way I like it:

    The final CyberChimps version I designed with the more traditional dropdown style and other CyberChimps developer enhancements (they added for the theme integration):

    I’m very proud of them both. The best dropdown menu you can find anywhere.

    Thanks, Bryan

  • Jason

    Hey Bryan, thanks for your reply I’ve actually learnt a lot from it believe it or not :P

  • clay

    Glad I took the time to research who offers me help at Cyberchimps. From the perspective of a less experienced website enthusiast that wants to help others I found your article on point. I’ve been discovering everything you touched on. My biggest takeaways thus far: Simple is golden and too much is, well, following the crowd as you suggested. I appreciate your insight and will follow this blog more often.