WordPress is the world’s most used CMS, and naturally, there are numerous firms that specialize in WordPress themes. If you are planning to purchase a new premium theme for your next WP website, the decision can be a tough one, simply because of how many choices you have.
In such a scenario, looking for a new premium theme can indeed be confusing. In general, most buyers just settle with one of the big names out there—such as WooThemes, Elegant Themes, WPZOOM, StudioPress or Graph Paper Press, among many others.
However, when you go shopping for a WordPress theme, you really don’t have to tie down your options in terms of theme providers. There are several theme sellers out there who are not as big or well known as the likes of WooThemes or StudioPress, yet have an impressive and noteworthy collection of WordPress themes. In this series of weekly articles, I’ll be taking a look at such theme providers.
To help you better comprehend and assess the merits (or demerits) of each theme provider, I have sub-divided these reviews into sections, such as Prelude, Theme Features, Pricing, Support, and finally, Verdict.
Of course, this weekly series is not going to be your generic “market advice” or “buying guide”—buying a club membership with any theme provider is more of a personal decision that one should make on the basis of his or her needs. I shall just assess the pros and cons of each theme provider on my list, and leave the decision to you. When it comes to WordPress themes, there exists no “one size fits all” remedy.
Instead, the purpose behind this series of reviews is to analyze the performance of smaller theme shops as compared to their bigger counterparts, and also to help spread the word about deserving theme shops that may otherwise be lost in the crowd, but are surely worth a look!
With the introduction out of the way, it is time to get started! And for the inaugural review of this series, we shall be discussing Theme Furnace.
Theme Furnace is a relatively young WordPress theme provider. It was started in 2012 by Oliver Dale, who, by the way, manages Kooc Media Ltd. and also runs WPLift, a popular blog about all things related to WordPress.
Theme Furnace is based in the UK, and while it does claim to hire “a number of staff consisting of programmers, designers and customer support staff,” no mention is made of any staff person other than Dale himself. Outsourced? Part-timers? Anyone’s guess!
There is also a rather generous affiliate program, with a flat 30% commission per sale.
As of now, Theme Furnace has 16 themes in its collection, including a couple of free ones. The themes cater to a wide variety of genres, including blog, portfolio, corporate, and so on. Most of the themes seem to have minimal design which, of course, is a good thing.
Theme Furnace makes use of the UpThemes Framework as well as Nivo Slider. Theme management and configuration too is not much of a problem either:
All the themes are localized and translation ready, and most of them are responsive.
Theme Furnace has a simple pricing structure: single theme costs $49, whereas Club Membership costs $99 per annum.
The Developer Club Membership, at $99 per year, is surely not costly, though it is not the cheapest option out there either. Plus, even though Theme Furnace currently has only 16 themes to offer, it does claim to add “a minimum of one theme per month,” and thus, you can expect to receive newer themes for as long as your membership holds true. Theme Furnace has been in business for a little over a year, and so far 16 themes have been added—a good rate in anyone’s book.
There is no refund policy as such, but if the purchased theme is faulty, you can claim a refund within 14 days of purchase.
Support is primarily by means of forums and threads, which is accessible only to members. A gigantic downside is the fact that there is hardly any “online” or “master” documentation—you can browse the support docs if you are a member, but if you are looking for an easy and open for access documentation, you’re out of luck. No tutorials, no videos, no common docs. Nope. Nothing.
Of course, pre-sales questions can be sent via the contact form itself.
So, how does Theme Furnace fare?
- Nice minimal design, easy to customize themes
- Good set of features, localization ready
- Simple pricing structure
- Comparatively smaller collection of themes (since Theme Furnace is just a year old)
- No master support docs/tutorials that are openly browse-able
Compared to the competition, Theme Furnace is still in its infancy. Yet, in a short span of just over a year, it has managed to put together a portfolio of 16 themes. Furthermore, the fact that a reliable and trustworthy news source such as WPLift is a sister concern of Theme Furnace further adds to the theme shop’s credibility.
Going by their About page, Theme Furnace seems more like a one-man-army type of theme shop, even though they do not claim to be so. Of course, there is nothing wrong about being a solo operative. However, it will be an icing on the cake if Theme Furnace decided to cure its support documentation and made some of the resources freely browse-worthy (maybe at least for the free themes).
With that, we come to the end of the first part of this review series. Next week, we shall be focusing on another WordPress theme provider that is often overlooked by potential buyers — Colorlabs & Company.
Are you a client or user of themes created by Theme Furnace? Share your story with us in the comments! Furthermore, if you are aware of any similar theme maker/provider out there that is not among the big names, and you’d like to have it reviewed, do drop a word about it in the comments below.
Sufyan bin Uzayr is a freelance writer and Linux enthusiast. He writes for several print magazines as well as technology blogs, and has also authored a book named Sufism: A Brief History. His primary areas of interest include open source, mobile development and web CMS. He is also the Editor of an e-journal named Brave New World. You can visit his website, follow him on Twitter or friend him on Facebook and Google+.
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