Support » Everything else WordPress » Misleading premium theme advertising on

  • Here is my exchange on this subject with support staff at As a solution to the described problem of misleading advertising, I suggest user ratings of premium themes.

    Dec 2, 2011, 11:50 AM

    Now that is selling themes, it needs to be aware of misleading advertising and adopt a policy concerning whether it will tolerate such advertising. It has come to my attention that one of the major vendors of the premium themes on (it has six of the 23 premium themes available as of 12/2/11) is stripping out a lot of functionality in the themes it is selling on without any public disclosure of that fact. I don’t know if there is a technical explanation of this stripping. But there is clearly a significant difference between the same advertised theme sold on and for traditional webhosted site. In at least one case, the differences include stripped out SEO, sidebar manager, custom widget, and options panel. Given that until someone actually purchases the theme there is no way to find out about these omissions, this appears to be a classic case of bait and switch (as in thinking you’re buying one product and then discovering you’re getting a very different one).

    Undoubtedly, the vendor has a good excuse for these omissions. But I’d like to point out another related misleading aspect of the vendor’s advertising. When you purchase the theme on the vendor’s website, there is no indication that if you want to use it on a website there is an additional fee; that is, that the vendor is really selling two versions of the theme: one for self-hosting and one for Arguably, the vendor is only testing out selling its themes on and doesn’t want to publicize the fact or commit to a marketing strategy. But that doesn’t negate the fact that its currently marketing is quite misleading.

    There is also the question on exactly what terms one is buying the themes on All this information is omitted. For example, will the themes be updated with future WordPress releases, as is the expectation and clearly stated terms of other theme contracts? Is the version of the theme being used only as a promo, where the theme could be removed tomorrow? Will the purchaser have to pay again every time the theme is updated on the site? These policies should be disclosed. If not, I think may eventually generate a lot of ill will for has an excellent brand. It would be a pitty to sully it with such misleading marketing practices.
    Blog url:

    Happiness Engineer
    Dec 2, 2011, 2:20 PM

    All themes at follow the same policies. When theme updates are available, they are provided automatically free of charge. You don’t have to do anything. As long as a theme is updated for the end, it will be updated here too.

    I won’t deny that there is a very slim chance that a theme may be abandoned by its developers and no longer updated. That decision is up to the theme’s developers, but we have free themes on that haven’t been updated for five years and they still work just fine. By that time, you might want to switch to a new theme anyway just to change up your look.

    Many premium themes run with code or plugins that we can’t allow on for security and stability reasons. This is to both keep you safe, and keep things running smoothly without fatal errors, memory limits, and other such annoyances that you can experience when self-hosting a blog. Unfortunately, a side-effect of this is that there will be difference in features between the theme available to blogs and the theme available on This is also true of some of the free themes here as well.

    If you’re every curious, you can find all of the features and other useful information about every theme on at

    Specifically, premium themes are listed at

    Dec 2, 2011, 2:54 PM

    Differences between the same premium theme on and a self-hosted website should be publicly disclosed rather than hidden, even if inadvertently. There are different expectations for a free vs. premium theme.

    Unlike many free themes, many premium themes are not only regularly updated but those updates are bundled into the price. If those updates are not bundled into the price, which they apparently are not, this information should be disclosed.

    In short, the disclosure policies appropriate when themes are free can become inappropriate and deeply misleading when they are purchased. It is also unclear whether gets a cut of the revenue (my guess is that it does not). If this information hasn’t already been prominently disclosed, it should be.

    Happiness Engineer
    Dec 2, 2011, 3:10 PM

    As mentioned above, the features included in the version of the premium themes are disclosed in their specific pages at

    As mentioned above, all themes are updated on when their counterparts are updated.

    Dec 2, 2011, 3:32 PM

    Yes, the themes are listed and some of their features are described at But no, none of the omissions I described to you are included there.

    I appreciate your quick responses, but it’s frustrating when the gist of my questions are ignored.

    Happiness Engineer
    Dec 2, 2011, 4:00 PM

    You’re right, we don’t list the feature omissions there, but we do list every available feature in the theme. If a feature is not listed there, it’s not in the theme.

    Dec 3, 2011, 2:07 AM

    People of good faith may disagree on what it means to “list every available feature” in a theme. But I don’t believe that a single paragraph description of a rich, versatile theme (the type of premium theme description on can possibly be characterized as comprehensive.

    Happiness Engineer
    Dec 3, 2011, 3:37 AM

    Which premium theme are you referring to? I can’t find a single one with just “a single paragraph description.”

    Have you looked at any of the specific theme listings at yet? They’re full of feature descriptions, screenshots, specific image dimensions, and links to other blogs using the theme.

    Dec 3, 2011, 10:31 AM

    Let’s take Fresh News by WooTheme. When you go to the Premium Theme section on (the way the vast majority of people will find out about a premium theme on, you get the following text:

    “A fresh and popular news/magazine theme for WordPress, by the team at WooThemes.”

    That’s it. Just one sentence, not even a paragraph.

    The longest premium theme description (of the 23 on is indeed a fairly substantial paragraph. It is for Funki:

    “Funki is a funky theme with some artsy flare. It has a responsive structure and offers multiple layouts, either one, two, or three columns, based on the widget areas you choose to show. It also comes with many background choices, with different motifs and patterns, and a primary color chooser. It has a featured section for sticky posts, supports custom menus, featured images, background image, and optional footer widget areas. Funk up your site with Funki now!”

    You are correct that on the independent Theme Showcase page there is additional information–if you know how to find the page and avoid clicking the “details” link, which contains only superficial information about the premium theme’s features.

    Let’s take the Fresh News description on Theme Showcase:

    “Looking for a clean and sophisticated magazine theme? One that elegantly showcases the best of your blog? With a Featured Post slideshow, multiple color schemes, multiple menus, control over post excerpting, and a clean design, Fresh News might just be it!

    Easy to Customize
    Fresh News comes with an extensive set of theme options that make it easy to fit Fresh News to your site’s unique personality. From Appearance → Theme Options you can set the color scheme of your site with one click and also take total control of the animated Featured Post slideshow. You can even choose to have your sidebar on the left or right side of your site.

    18 Exciting Color Schemes
    As noted above, Fresh News has multiple color schemes—18 of them! Just one more feature that can help make Fresh News the perfect fit for your site.

    Two Customizable Menus
    Fresh News also has two menu areas: a traditional page menu and a second menu that lists your categories. You can take control of these two areas in Appearance → Menus by creating your own custom menus and assigning them to either menu location.”

    I’ll agree that this is a lot better than what’s described on Theme page under the Appearance tab on The several screen shots accompanying the text are an additional improvement.

    However, by comparing similar information on the WooTheme website and this website, I defy you to find information showing that some of the SEO optimization was dropped in the version. That’s because the SEO optimization options are not displayed at the top level menu; you need to dig down the menu options to find them–a key area where the publicly displayed information falls short.

    Even if all this information were publicly disclosed in a display—which it is not–it would still have the feel of a fine print terms of service disclosure, like those privacy policies on every commercial website that no one reads and vendors design so no rational person would read. I don’t think, through its close relationship with, should be identified with such practices

    Happiness Engineer
    Dec 3, 2011, 3:21 PM

    Well, we aren’t responsible for policing how vendors sell their themes.

    You’re more than welcome to always ask before purchasing a theme, and you have 30 days to request a refund.

    Dec 3, 2011, 3:49 PM

    “Well, we aren’t responsible for policing how vendors sell their themes.”

    Exactly my point. But perhaps you should be.

    At the least, there should be a prominent caveat emptor disclaimer on the theme page stating that allows vendors to make whatever implicit or explicit claims they want about their premium themes. Note that other software platforms, such as ipad, xBox 360, Playstation 3, and Wii, may have more rigorous standards either for vetting who can sell applications on their platforms or allowing customers to provide feedback on their experiences. Adding customer star ratings for themes, as is done with WordPress plugins, might be a good way for WordPress to address this problem while preserving the wonderful openness associated with WordPress.

    Happiness Engineer
    Dec 3, 2011, 3:53 PM

    Well, if you want that change to happen over on, they’re an entirely separate entity, so requesting it here won’t help much.

    Much like Apple, Microsoft, Sony, etc, we are very picky about which premium themes we offer here.

    If you want to see changes made on the end, you should be posting at

    Dec 3, 2011, 4:07 PM

    Thank you for being willing to engage me in this conversation and giving me that advice. I think our understanding of the facts are now similar, which is a valuable outcome of this conversation.

Viewing 6 replies - 1 through 6 (of 6 total)
  • Moderator Ipstenu (Mika Epstein)


    Lead Plugin Wrangler

    I’m a bit confused as to what you’re asking here… and are totally separate entities and have different rules for what themes are allowed and what aren’t.

    Can you boil down, to preferably one paragraph, what it is you’re asking here? I THINK you’re saying that there are some Premium themes listed on .org that are shady, but there’s way too much back and forth with using .com and .org as interchangeable examples, when that’s just now how it works.

    Also, WordPress.ORG doesn’t have ‘premium’ themes, it lists commercial themes —

    From a legal standpoint, and may be completely different entities. But from the standpoint of public perception, they absolutely are not.

    I was strictly talking about my experience on

    Moderator Ipstenu (Mika Epstein)


    Lead Plugin Wrangler

    But from the standpoint of public perception, they absolutely are not.

    *sigh* Yeah, I know. I suspect, if anything, that perception gives Matt et al their grey hairs.

    It’s not, though, as you know. Legally, support-wise, and in every shape and form except the base code of WordPress, the .com and .org sites are separated.

    There’s absolutely nothing anyone can do here to help you with any issue on, be it support or otherwise.

    If you have specific .ORG questions, though, you’re in the right spot 🙂 While the mods here, being volunteers, don’t have access to more than the forums, we can help you get in touch with the right folks to solve any problems with the rest of the site.

    Actually, even the code used on .org and .com is different. .com has some stuff that isn’t available on .org. So, to echo Ipstenu, yeah, they are completely different.

    Andrea Rennick


    Customer Care at Copyblogger Media and Studiopress

    The premium theme on have some items removed because the .com platform itself requires premium theme vendors to remove some of those extra options, and sometimes rearrange menus. This part is not the vendor’s choice. has always asserted that there is less functionality and more restrictions on their platform when you choose to host your blog with them.

    You will *never* be asked to purchase the theme again if you decide to move off and onto self-hosted. you can contact the theme vendor and ask for a download and show them your info where you had already purchased the theme.

    It is also not used as a test market, as for many of the vendors, they also have the same theme available to users first. It just takes longer to get a theme approved for use on

    If you decide to move off and onto self-hosted. you can contact the theme vendor and ask for a download and show them your info where you had already purchased the theme.

    I don’t know about premium themes in general, but this is not the case for WooTheme, a major theme vendor. One of their support staff told me the versions of the same theme (e.g., Freshnews) on and a self-hosted website were viewed as two separate products.

    The premium theme on have some items removed because the .com platform itself requires premium theme vendors to remove some of those extra options, and sometimes rearrange menus. This part is not the vendor’s choice. has always asserted that there is less functionality and more restrictions on their platform when you choose to host your blog with them.

    I didn’t see this disclosure on the page for selling themes to consumers, although I do not doubt it can be found elsewhere.

Viewing 6 replies - 1 through 6 (of 6 total)
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