My bug bears with ThemeForest and WordPress

Someone recently reached out to me about helping out with their WordPress website because of the dreaded white screen of death!
The site had been developed, well I say developed I actually mean a theme was purchased from ThemeForest then the site was built from within WordPress using a plethora of different plugins needed to make the theme actually work. The site was built from the inside out using non standard WordPress core methods… and that there lays my major bug bear!

What was the problem?

With this particular issue the problem was partly the hosting but mostly the theme itself. Once the theme was activated a helper plugin was instantly activated and actually couldn’t be deactivated. After some investigation it turns out that the plugin did a number of different things like create some essential posts and taxonomies to make the theme work, cache some content and pull in some data from third-party repo resources – the call to some of these resources was nailing the site’s performance and contributing to the dreaded white screen of death! Now granted this could be down to a hosting issue too but in the end the user is going to blame WordPress which is understandable if you’re not aware of what is happening.

What worries me….

Maybe it’s the designer in me but I personally want things kept simple and for the web this is important for many different reasons such as ease of use, security, future proofing, site breakages etc etc… but if I create a WordPress installation I want to have full control of what is happening when I install a theme or a plugin. I don’t want developers to make choices for me and I certainly do not want content added that is effectively locking me down to the theme or plugin, that’s just wrong!

My bug bears with ThemeForest and WordPress

ThemeForest isn’t all that bad! Well most of it is actually!! Granted some developers create some amazing themes but when you dig deeper into the themes to see how they’ve been built that’s where the cracks can be found. Take the jQuery script plugins needed to make certain functionality work for instance. Some developers load these scripts everywhere and not just in pages where they are needed. A simple form plugin only needs the script loaded on the pages where the forms are actually used or a slider script where the slider is only used on the front page, loading these scripts globally causes unnecessary overhead on your server and slows your site down!

Another flaw is developers making use of plugins in the theme by default to supposedly make the theme easier to manage in the backend, like a visual editor plugin that rebuilds the layout or visually manages a posts content. These plugins tend to automate code or drop in short-codes to supposedly make  “the magic” happen but, all it does is throw oodles of unwanted code in to your posts content and lock the user down to having to use that plugin regardless if they want to or not. If that plugin ever goes away or development is discontinued you are potentially left with a plugin with bugs that never get maintained after a WordPress core update or worse,  a plugin that never gets security issues patched! If you have to use certain plugins to make a theme work that should be your choice not the developers choice! When you buy a house you buy the shell not the furniture and the contents of a house right?

So back to resolving the issue with this particular site, after re-hosting on a better server and after a couple of hours debugging and disabling certain things to stop multiple redirects and a massive strain on the servers resources I managed to get the site stable and up and running again.

Yes ThemeForest is cheap and good for getting you started up on the web with a fancy website but when it all goes tits up or you have to not only cope with the stress of running your business but the stress and embarrassment of your online presence too, you have to ask yourself wether the low cost is actually false economy? Especially when you have to employ an expert to resolve issues that you never subscribed to in the first place right!

Anyway happy ThemeForest purchasing and installing, hell it keeps me in a job just resolving issues when clients become unstuck so I shouldn’t complain really eh! 🙂

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