We are often asked which marketplace theme we recommend when it comes to starting a multi-vendor marketplace powered by WC Vendors. This is a difficult question to answer as there is a multitude of variables that we just don’t know. On top of this, the design is very subjective. Something we might think is a nice designed might not be something you think it is good design. We aren’t sure of your technical capabilities so one theme might be good for one of our users but not a good choice for another.
What theme should I use is an oft-repeated question we get via our pre-sales and support channels, we thought it might be a good idea to create a post to help answer this. We are going to assume that you’re not trying to custom build a theme from scratch but instead, try and find an available off the shelf solution you can use.
There are thousands of themes available, some great, some not so great. We’d like to give you some pointers one what we see as a good method for choosing a theme that works for your marketplace.
What kind of marketplace theme?
You will already know what kind of marketplace you will be creating, otherwise, you wouldn’t be here. You need to have a solid plan in place when building your multi-vendor marketplace to ensure that you have a path to follow. This will help you avoid common mistakes that we see happen in marketplaces.
Having a clear set of features outlined in your initial plan will help you pinpoint which themes will fit your requirements. The kinds of products or services being sold can narrow down your theme choice quickly. Themes built for physical products are very different from themes built for digital products.
The design, colour scheme and features of the marketplace theme will really be up to your specific requirements. It’s best to start writing down what you need and answering a few questions.
Functionality, design and usability are all important aspects to consider when choosing your marketplace theme. But how do you choose a theme? Questions you will want to ask yourself when choosing a theme include:
- Is it 100% WooCommerce compatible?
- How good is the support, documentation?
- How often is it updated?
- How easy is it to install and use
- Is it easy to customise?
- Is it compatible with WC Vendors?
Is it 100% WooCommerce compatible?
The first question you should be asking yourself, is this marketplace theme 100% WooCommerce compatible? This is a requirement for your theme to work correctly with WC Vendors products. We hook into various parts of the WooCommerce theme templates which means we require that your theme is compatible.
Any theme that uses the woocommerce.php template file to declare WooCommerce compatibility will not work with our plugins. If you have chosen a theme that uses this file, then you will have issues with the Vendor Stores and the Vendor dashboard to name a few areas. If you’re unsure, ask the theme developer how they have implemented WooCommerce compatibility.
How good is the support, documentation?
Support and documentation is a vital part of your marketplace theme selection. Not just for our plugins but for any site. You need to be able to access prompt, efficient support that can solve your issues. You also need to be able to help yourself with good documentation. Depending on if it’s a free theme or a premium theme your ability to evaluate this may be different.
If it’s a free marketpace theme, check their WordPress.org support forums. How many questions are being asked? How quickly are they being answered and resolved? If it’s taking weeks to get responses, its probably not a good idea to use that theme. Do they provide documentation on their own website? Is it a popular theme that other people have written tutorials for?
Premium marketplace themes can provide support from various channels from open public forums, closed forums or ticket-based systems. Their documentation may or may not be publicly available either.
If it’s a public system, use the same method as you would with free themes. Check posts, response times and effectiveness of those replies. If they are closed forums or ticket system there isn’t much you can do to check the responses for support. You can send in pre-sales questions and see how long it takes for them to respond to test their ability to timely respond and resolve your issue.
Do they publish their documentation for anyone to view or is this behind closed doors? If it’s publicly available, is it good enough for you to understand and help yourself when you need to?
How often is it updated?
One of the first things you should be checking is the frequency of updates. Part of running a WordPress and WooCommerce based business is regular updates. Free themes listed on WordPress.org will have their last updated date listed. Themes sold on theme marketplaces will also have something like this.
A lot of themes will also publish their changelog. A changelog is a list of changes over versions so you can see bug fixes and new features. Regular updates should be at least monthly, but also too many updates for bug fixes can expose a deeper issue with the theme that you should consider.
If a theme takes months to update or hasn’t been updated in more than 6 months, we do not recommend choosing that theme.
How easy is it to install and use?
There are so many themes available that look amazing in their demos but then you purchase it and try to duplicate the look and feel for your marketplace only to find its impossible to replicate. This is where the support and documentation will come into play. If it is a complex theme, does it have good support and documentation to guide you to customise it for your needs? Does it require a lot of other plugins just to work?
We don’t recommend using themes that require a lot of other plugins to function. Adding plugins for the sake of a single feature is not a good idea and you should really consider if you need that feature. You should only include plugins that you absolutely need to get your marketplace launched.
If you have too many moving parts in your theme and marketplace it creates issues when its time to do updates and ongoing maintenance. If the plugin and feature aren’t going to break the initial plan, leave it out and see if your users request it. Keep it simple!
Is it easy to customise?
Being able to customise your marketplace theme comes in various levels of difficulty. A lot of the themes available on the bigger theme marketplaces try to be everything to everyone. We call these kitchen sink themes and although they look great, they can be very heavy on the code and in effect, slow your site down.
Being able to easily customise the theme either via the customizer, a page builder or with template overrides is a good indication on the kind of theme you’ll be using. Can the theme be customised with just the built-in WordPress customizer or does it require a page builder? For the developers amount you, can you override templates easily? How are the templates managed? Are the templates being updated with every release of WC Vendors, WooCommerce and WordPress?
Customisation is what makes your marketplace unique and you need to consider how this will affect your brand. Downloading a theme and making no changes at all can work. If you’re using a very popular theme, it’s possible that your site could look just like someone else’s and you might be mistaken for someone else.
Is it compatible with WC Vendors?
We have a theme section on this site. All of the free themes have been personally tested by our team. The paid themes are submitted by the developers but these are not tested by our internal team. There are hundreds of themes developed to work with our plugins so its impossible for us to test every single one.
We put our trust in the developers in testing compatibility on a regular basis. We provide support to theme developers if they want to get and keep compatibility with our plugins. If a theme claims to be compatible with WC Vendors, check when it was last updated. Look at the changelog to see if and when WC Vendors compatibility was added. If the theme has not been recently updated, chances are, its not compatible with our plugins.
Choosing a theme is a very subjective matter, however, these are questions you can use to qualify your selection. This is not supposed to be a final and the only list on how to choose a theme. These are questions that we have used over the years to choose our own themes for marketplaces and online stores. These questions can help you pick a theme for any kind of WordPress site, but we have focused on themes specific to our products.
If you have any other suggestions on theme selection and specific themes that you’ve found work or don’t work with our products we’d love to hear from you. Feel free to comment below on get the discussion started. Don’t forget to check out our themes section and if you’re a theme developer, please feel free to reach out and submit your WC Vendors compatible theme.