8 things to know before buying a Magento Theme

8 Things to Know Before Buying a Magento Theme

Witold Prucnel
5 minutes read

Buying a Magento theme is not as trivial as you may think it is. You can click the “buy” button and after two weeks find yourself in an ambush full of gorillas and lions eating your money. I mean, consider development time and costs your developer will have to put into making additional changes or bug fixes because of incompatible vendor modules.

Many of our clients approach us with an already installed or purchased theme awaiting installation, so when there are bugs or possible incompatibility issues with extensions, fixing them generates unnecessary costs. Costs that can be easily avoided by following the tips below.

Before we begin, let me explain what vendor modules are. Extensions (aka modules) give the default Magento additional functionalities. If a theme is not well developed, incompatibility issues between the theme and extensions can occur.

#1. Always Ask a Developer for Consultation—Always

I think this is the most important point. You should find someone you can trust and who has at least a few years’ experience as a Magento developer. It can also be a software house.

Now, why is that? Some themes, even on portals like ThemeForest, have bugs already in demo versions! I’m not kidding. I saw a best-seller #1 theme with a serious JavaScript bug!

Usually, it takes me twenty minutes to gauge a theme’s code quality and give feedback to a client. The costs of that are small and you secure your wallet pretty well for the future.

Software houses often have experience with many themes so they can also advise you immediately which one to choose.

If you know what Firebug is, you can do a basic check by yourself, in the console window.

#2. Buying a Cheap Theme Means Low Quality and Bad Support (Usually)

Cheap shoes? Cheap car? You know what it means. With themes, it’s the same as with any other stuff you buy.

Magento themes going for 0$ to 100$ are the cheapest options. Unfortunately, you can’t change them as easily after one year like you can swap cheap shoes!

I could write a whole novel about bad quality cheap themes. I’m not saying all of them are bad. But most of them, definitely. From using direct SQL statements that can’t be easily extended to some serious bugs.

There are often other incompatibilities with Magento that can appear only after installing a vendor’s module. Picture this: You’re buying a theme, and you think everything will go smoothly until you buy new vendor modules that don’t work.

Now a developer will have to do an investigation—and this is the worst thing you can imagine: It takes a lot of time to debug, check, and test everything, and it’s almost impossible to estimate the costs.

A developer can spend even a few days on figuring out and fixing the issue. But sometimes it’s hard to do so without changing the theme directly, which means more problems later, when a new version of that theme comes out and an upgrade is needed. Another developer without the knowledge of direct changes could overload those while upgrading the theme. And here we go again. The problem starts from the beginning!

A cheap theme usually means repeated problems.

#3. Buy a Theme That Isn’t Packed with Full-Blown Features

Better buy separate modules for those.

It’s always a big question: Should I save money and buy a theme that offers me five modules like BigMenu, OneStepCheckout, etc. for free or buy them separately and stick with a simple theme?

My advice: Go for separation if your wallet can. Your costs will be higher, but you’ll gain a valuable development approach—extendability. And vendor modules are developed for that one feature only, so their quality will be much higher than of those modules packed with a theme.

One good quality vendor module typically costs twice or thrice more than a cheap theme with five modules included! Think about the quality of those five modules… I don’t have to, I saw it many times. There are exceptions, of course. If you buy a theme that WeltPixel offers, it’ll be a good choice, but theirs are premium themes that cost a lot.

#4. Always Ask a Seller for a Refund Option If Your Developer Says a Theme Is Problematic

Even when you buy a high-quality, expensive theme, it can have places hard to modify. A refund option is always a good idea, especially when you already have a lot of modules installed.

#5. Don’t Be Fooled by Those “#1 Best-Selling Theme!” Marketing Sentences

Trust me, I checked it. I installed a #1 best-selling theme and couldn’t believe how poor quality it was. I was shocked. So pay attention and be careful. Go to the first point in this article—ask a developer for proof, not only a simple yes/no answer. 

#6. Pay Attention to User Comments

They can be mighty helpful. Look at critical reviews for the following information:

  • How often bugs appear
  • How fast are those bugs fixed
  • How quickly the dev team reacts to comments about bugs

Keep in mind that negative comments could be hidden from you, but I saw themes where they weren’t. I would much more trust the themes that have a few negatives but otherwise great dev team response and fast fixes than those with 100% positive comments! Nothing is perfect.

#7. Always Start Your Search with the Magento Marketplace

Sometimes you can find information such as “Quality checked by Envato” on portals like ThemeForest, but I wouldn’t fully trust those. Everyone likes to think their products are the best. Unfortunately, the word “quality” can mean different things in the IT world:

  • Does it mean Envato checked the theme for bug existence only by clicking through it in a web browser or by using Selenium tool?
  • What about quality analysis of the code?

In such “quality statements” there is nothing about, well… code quality! And code quality is the most important aspect you should be aware of. It’s the same with buying a used car. At the dealership, every car looks great on the outside, but it might be tricky to spot the flaws hiding inside, especially when you know little about car engines, exhaust systems, etc.

The most common theme bugs I see in web browser console are undefined variables or functions. These bugs can interact with other codes and throw all kinds of errors, which is just unacceptable.

It’s an excellent idea to start with the Magento Marketplace first. Themes featured there are prepared for changes and well designed, checked by real Magento guys.

#8. Check How Often Updates and Bug Fixes Are Made

Usually, you should be able to see a history of changes to a theme. If you notice a lot of bug fixes in last month, you can assume it’s not yet a stable version of that theme. Always choose those themes that have only few months of “silence” and last weeks’ comments are positive. You can expect much better stability.

Aim for Quality and Stability

Invest in stability at the beginning—you’ll gain consistent development speed without surprises and unnecessary future costs.

Don’t make the same mistake many others do. Prepare yourself before your shop blows up full of bugs.

Always favor simplicity and quality over features packed in one theme that gives you a cheap start. You generally don’t need so many options to set up your business and make money—you can often do without fancy solutions. Click To Tweet.

Thinking that cheap will give your wallet a boost might be true only for those first few weeks or months. Later on, you’ll regret this approach. Here simplicity means effectiveness.

Polcode is an international full-cycle software house with over 1,300 completed projects. Propelled by passion and ambition, we’ve coded for over 800 businesses across the globe. If you want to set up an online store but don’t know which e-commerce solution to choose, contact us. We’ll help you decide and configure the platform that will make your business flourish.

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