Poor quality themes for WordPress, sometimes tough to get refunds

So, have tried out Themeforest.

I’m genuinely disappointment. Themes claim to sell the heavens, but often are not accessibility ready, don’t follow W3C or WordPress guidelines, can be buggy, include ‘free’ commercial plugins that need to be paid for to stay up to date (or be at the mercy of the theme author). Refunds can be really tough to get, resulting in arguments. Envato customer service is not exactly something to write home about at times.

Envato really needs to step up their game, and especially their quality control.

I don’t see us doing business with Envato anymore at this rate. It’s been one rough, time, and money wasting experience.

A solution could be to be able to check the theme in the admin area, get to work with it before buying. Also stay with realistic marketing, expectation management.

It’s a shame, because the idea is nice, but this just is a pain to use. It shouldn’t be. This is open source, well, or used to be anyway, and I’m fine with people making money on themes or plugins, I support that, it is great to see coders get payed for their work, but I have some reservations on the current way/ progress. For example what happens if an author stops? Who is going to enforce accessibility/ W3C rules?

Envato really needs to enforce W3C rules, some themes are poor at this, and basically ruining web experience, and ultimately the reputation of WordPress. Please improve these aspects.

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While I agree with you to a point that there are sometimes files which are not up to the usual TF standard, at the same time (only to add an alternative perspective).

  • there are millions of files here and generally the standards are vastly ahead of any other marketplace

  • we need to understand the business model i.e. where envato don’t own the copyright to files which allows buyers and subsequently authors the quality and quantity unlike any other marketplace

  • envato get literally thousands of submissions every week so inevitably one or two bad apples may slip through

  • envato have actually improved refunds esp. allowing authors to activate them. If your case meets one of the criteria then in most cases it’s pretty clear cut that you will receive a refund. That said with many online marketplaces for digital products, refunds can be rare (it’s exactly the same with play, iTunes etc) and it’s only reasonable to allow time for it to be properly checked to avoid people exploiting the system

On the "For example what happens if an author stops? Who is going to enforce accessibility/ W3C rules? "…

The short answer is none. Files are bought “as is”, authors can remove items as and when they want (as per business model mentioned above). Coincidentally envato have moved recently to better support buyers with the free 6 months support guarantee and protection.

That said, noone can realistically expect to pay $50 for a theme which is in many cases worth tens of thousands of $ and still expect an author to continually update (beyond basic WP compatibility) and support to all the standards for life on a CMS which evolves like WP, and especially something like W3C which in itself has some questionable standards and reliability.

Again I am not saying you are wrong about the standards control, just that there is a bigger picture to consider also.

There is some middle ground to be found, to be sure, but there are some serious issues.
If my first post seemed to generalistic then I apologize. Please allow me to clarify, with all due respect:

  1. Having to rely on the author for a refund. I’ve gotten several refunds now, unfortunately needed, and in the process of another few. Some themes I’m even keeping just to sponsor the author, for example. However I’m also sitting behind the pants of a few developers, and get what feels like smart aleck remarks, or them ignoring it, running away with the money? Sometimes Envato refunds in cash, sometimes in credit. And I’m still waiting on an answer from customer service why that is. Further making hesitant to buy.

  2. All themes in 2017 should be W3C complaint. We’re not talking edge issues, we’re talking simple h1,h2,h3. There is nothing difficult about quality checking that.

  3. Expectation management. The way themes are marketed is just ridiculous sometimes.

  4. If you can’t expect a quality theme for 50 euro’s then don’t sell it for 50 euro’s. Also some themes have sold thousands and thousands of copies, so they have made plenty of money, and have no excuse for lack of quality, or it being to much effort to follow W3C and accessibility guidelines.

It sounds like Envato is overburdened/ swamped, however that is no excuse for lack of quality. Then Envato should state that due to the amount of code submitted, the quality may suffer. Although that may not sell as well.

At the end, whatever arguments, it has been an unsatisfying experience. I will think twice before ever purchasing from Envato again.

It’s not about the bigger picture, Envato needs to get it’s act straight.

To stay in a constructive and positive mindset, although we’ve lost hours of production time and too much money due to this, so please understand our frustration:

  1. Quality control:

The text for quality control could contain a link with information what Envato/ The Author understands under quality control. One could even have different packages such as basic quality control (free) and extended quality control (at a price (subscription)). Right now when Envato writes quality control this is what I read:

  1. Security check
  2. Bugs
  3. W3C validity (and thus accessibility)
  4. Follow WordPress guidelines
  5. If not satisfied money back guarantee (some theme authors do this)

It has been one of the most frustrating projects in my life working with Envato and themes here, sorry to say

  • You don’t have to rely on authors for a refund - you can go straight to envato. However they will still take the time to investigate to protect everyone involved.

  • I was under the impression that W3 validation was an approval requirement, although there is a difference between a warning about H tags and an error about soemhting more serious, as well as things like iframes throwing up issues and cannot be avoided.

  • The expectation management i agree with but maintain that it’s a two way street and while envato need to help manage buyers and authors expectations. We also need to be sensible about what is and is not realistically achievable and remember that many issues faced are far from exclusively here. They have already made changes about authors making promises they can’t keep esp. on support. You are protected in T&Cs on this.

  • The “you get what you pay for” argument is old and pointless and has never been solved. There thousands of extremely high quality themes here for these prices. Even those with some minor issues are still worth vastly more that that.

It’s a shame you had a bad experience and of course it’s your perogative to stay or shop elsewhere.

I do get your frustration and noone wants to see people having bad experiences.

It’s very hard to judge based on a fraction of files and experiences esp. in a public forum without the details of each case.

We’ve bought more than most people on envato and have refunded only 2 items. Whereas other members of our team have bought less than 30 files form another marketplace and refund over 55% of them.

You are absolutely right when you say it’s about expectation but I can almost guarantee that going elsewhere to another stock marketplace will not change much if anything and that the choice of quality items will be nowhere close to here. The quality standards are much higher here than just about any other stock marketplace out there.

the text for quality control could contain a link with information what Envato/ The Author understands under quality control. One could even have different packages such as basic quality control (free) and extended quality control (at a price (subscription)).

Is this something which the author would need to pay to subscribe to?

The information I get when doing a refund is that it goes to the author for approval. I have had several instances where I’m waiting, and now I have to file a complaint with Envato. It is so cumbersome. I have to keep track off this, etc.

That’s odd, then somebody is messing up at quality control. H tags are very serious, they are part of what help people navigate a site. Also search engines such as Google, Bing, etc. look for W3C validation and headings.

So themes advertising great SEO, while their W3C is bad, is (borderline, depending on the claim) false advertising?

That’s actually a really good question. Customer was my initial thought. I would be happy to be 20 euro’s a product for example, if I knew the code was secure, bug free, and W3 valid. Could be both parties, depends on the amount of sales of a product as well possibly.

But some practices just have to stop. “Free” Visual Composer or whatever, and the whole time advertisements spams in the backend, to upgrade to get live updates. Stuff like that.

Commercial gain is gaining over quality right now, it can happen with succesful projects, whatever the reason, it needs to get fixed, if Envato wants to stay in business. That just is how business works.

A few bad products/ authors spoil it for the rest. I have definitely positive experiences as well.
However the way the system is set up, and my experiences, with that process, make very hesitant to buy again, for example because I can’t rely on the quality control. Every theme now that I look at I look at the source HTML, read reviews, etc. It is so much time and effort, and then still you can get burned. And have to hope the refund process doesn’t take too long, and you get your money back.

It’s a stressful experience, and not a fun one? Do you know what I mean?

I don’t care about, you’ll get the same somewhere else. That is a path to failure.

I do appreciate a stressful experience is not a fun one and am in no way using “you’ll get the same elsewhere” to justify anything at all.

It does frustrate me (not aimed at your case in any way at all) when, and there have been numerous cases in the past couple of years that people criticize envato and authors and buyers from very narrow minded view points (again not aiming this at you). Hence why I simply try to offer an alternative perspective.

Refunds can definitely be initiated by envato directly using the previous link.

I’ve seen sites get through with some W3 errors that potentially shouldn’t be there but we will have to agree to disagree on the validation stuff. Yes Google reads cleaner and valid code better/easier but it doesn’t actually rank W3C validation in the HTML or CSS.

W3C is a separate discussion and so much up for debate. After all these people all have H tag related issues according toW3C Skype, Microsoft, Apple, Google Help itself.

There’s always has and always will be ways in which envato could improve. They are a hugely successful and grounded business who understand this but they will never be able to please everyone. It can be a lot more complex than on the surface to achieve even little changes in such a big and international organization.

Good luck with your future purchases here or elsewhere.

One simple change that could help is having an ‘accessibility’ tag, for example.

Yes, there are some cases, however WordPress has guidelines on this.

Also, not all themes are easily fixed, perhaps a bounty system could help.
With open source themes there is scratch your own itch, and help the theme author, work together.
With commercial themes, why should I fix the code that someone sells 60,000 copies off for 56 dollars a piece, and not see a cent?

So, that whole mindset is worrysome. As long as people will buy it, and nobody’s does enough to fix it, then it will remain a problem.

I’ve worked with accessibility, for over 10 years, on several open source projects including WordPress. I do have some experience in this, at an international level.

So, I’m used to banging my head against the wall. It is shocking though, that in 2017, it feels like were going backwards, and not forwards.

Just basic things like a “skip to content” link

Or working together with the WordPress Accessibility plugin:

Sites I have worked on, validate, and they are always, knock on wood, in the top of google, beating major companies for example. Why? Guess we follow the guidelines.

Thank you for the time to reply. It is good to have a productive discussion, to see where things are not working well, and where they can be improved. Clear up any miscommunication and misunderstanding.

I do hope things will improve. Shouldn’t have to beg for these things, they should be a given.

Right now very hesitant about future purchases through Envato. Sorry, the trust is not there

From a customer point of view, it would be nice to have an overview for the pending refunds? With a button that they can be pushed through to Envato for example. (or easier to find the link for that if it exists)

Thank you in advance.

Oh, and moderator. Almost forgot, my apologies, happy new year and best wishes :slight_smile:

Just noticed while doing refunds that Envato already takes a buyer fee, which can be a sizable part of the sellers fee, and that the buyers pay for this.


Quality really needs to improve.

Another way to enforce W3C and accessibility would be for Envato to only allow themes that comply for the featured themes award page. This way it becomes a motivation for authors to do so, as well as reward those that follow the guidelines. Maybe use a 80/20 rule, where the 20 stand for accessibility edge cases, such as the h1 debate in the past. However heading structure, and skip to content link for example is not subject to debate, and has been generally accepted.

Overall it will improve the quality, expand the customer and user base, as well as SEO, which can lead to more visitors.

I’m glad to report that I have talked to several WordPress theme authors here who are working on improving in this area, for example working with the WordPress Accessibility Plugin.

Let’s make 2017 the year to turn this around, and make some headway in this area on Envato. Love for you to join us Envato.

For more info on Accessibility, Plugins, and Tools see:

Accessibility - W3C:

WCAG Overview Web Accessibility Initiative W3C:

WordPress Accessibility Team:

WordPress Accessibility Codex page:

WordPress Accesibility Plugins & Tools:

Hope that helps.

Apologies for the multiple posts

@Moderator/ Envato
Can we get a dedicated (documentation/ instructional) page for accessibility please (for theme authors)?
The knowledge could go a long way, as some authors have little/ no expertise on W3C accesibility. Although maybe that should become a requirement to sell a theme on the market, for example looking also at laws from different countries on disability and access.

Yes, and let’s make 2017 no more discounts but let’s raise prices and earn enough so we can improve and lets cut off 6 months free period for support and get the clients to actually pay support… wouldn’t that be a dream for authors also.

… let’s do that first… I only see here let’s make that and this, invest, work do… etc… and you mentioned[quote=“bluedolphin18, post:7, topic:83573”]
I would be happy to be 20 euro’s a product for example if I knew the code was secure, bug-free, and W3 valid

Really? 20 EUR? Where are you from mate? Do you know how much it costs to pay legit developers? I have 2 employees and myself, offices, phones, internet, computers, subscriptions, taxes etc.

We need to take care of marketing, accounting, complaints, support refunds… and then there are quite a few more aspects that need attention. And how much time is left for developing?
The days when Envato took care of everything are far gone!

And you would “be happy” to pay 20EUR… to say the least, it this kind of words is insulting.

For how much do you flip a theme to a customer? You would just like the out of the box solution for 20 EUR and maybe it would be nice if the theme also washed your dishes and cook you a nice dinner.

There is already too much price dumping here and you are demanding more and more. Now don’t get me wrong quality must go higher all the time but prices should go to!

I am sorry I came a bit harsh but do put yourself in the authors perspective.
In the end, you can always pay the author the hourly rate for further customizations and improvements. But well the budget of 20EUR would not cut it, well at least not with us!

Have a happy bug free 2017!

If you read my post correctly, then I also stated that possibly depending on the amount being sold.
Which most of this stuff, people should design correctly in the first place, if they followed the guidelines.

So, if we take 20 times 10,000 themes sold, then that is 200,000. That is plenty of money to hire quality control.
Especially since some are having their themes developed in low wage countries? And then selling at a higher price, while disregarding W3C standards for example. Some have never heard of it. They shouldn’t even be allowed to sell on the market place if they don’t follow those standards.

It is Envato that states that they quality control, and they fail.
And the clients do pay support through Envato, a sizable portion of the price for a theme.

Your welcome to your attitude, but go get rich quick somewhere else is my response to your argument then.

Theme authors that sell crappy themes can sell their garbage somewhere else, but we’re not buying them.
And if Envato doesn’t quality control then we won’t buy from Envato.

It is as simple as that.

Best wishes as well

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I stated this if you noticed. But stating that you are prepared to pay 20 EUR is a bit harsh and demeaning.
Meaning… behind all the nice words and politeness is quite a big insult.

Not many authors reach 10 000 sales on a single item. And Envato quality control is quite rigorous. You threw all authors in the same basket with your statements, you sad you tried Themeforest, not one author.

I guess I would not be so militant if you have had stated that you are prepared to pay top money for a good theme, but stating 20 EUR well… you get what you paid for.


I never said pay 20 euro’s for a theme as standard. Also I’m not talking about client customization, we’re talking basic quality here according to standards, that even Google, Microsoft, Governments etc. recognize.

And I would never put all the authors in the same basket, and have stated that quite clearly before.

According to European law, for example, the author is supposed to sell a decent product. Now, if an author is willingly selling a cheap product, just to get sales, at a poorer quality, and does not state so in the description then a buyer is entitled to a refund. Furthermore it could be considered fraud, if this is done willingly.

The IT industry sometimes holds itself to another standard than other sectors. It has to uphold itself to the same practices as others. One does not buy a car and then the engine doesn’t work, and the garage says, tough luck.

If an author can’t provide a quality product for the price they want to sell, then they shouldn’t put it up for sale.

Some of the IT industry is crying like little babies because they have to provide a decent product, before delivery, and work out bugs after delivery.

Your response is indicative of the attitude of lack of quality on this marketplace of some authors.

Also I noticed you’re against authors giving a 30 day money back guarantee? To counteract some of the crappy themes on the market place. Guess service isn’t a big thing with your company? We’ll know to buy from other companies then.

Our service is just fine which can be seen from our sales and support runs great.
And the themes which do not offer what they state can be refunded. 30-day money back is not allowed, period (or I maybe wrong we still did not receive any official stance on this). In other sectors, you have to return the product. We had clients that used our product many times with one license and requested support and when we confronted them they threatened and went ahead requesting a refund but totally ignored that they have been using multiple products illegally.

We do offer refunds but a test run, no thank you. We service over 2000 users on support if we were as you say we are we would not.

The issue is with clients that expect miracles for an extremely low budget, themes usually have advanced admin panels, visual builders, sliders, tons of options and features, multiple demos etc. and you are not satisfied with auto update feature for VC? You’ve got a free plugin which costs 34$… that gives you tons of options and it’s usually customized to adapt to the theme and it’s still not enough? (and btw it’s out of author’s control) Do you know that all the VC authors get from the included plugin is an extended license which cost $170 for us and they earn less coz of all the fees?

Buy Microsoft Windows and when it’s buggy or does not have what you need do you get a refund? No, you wait for an update and that can take time… and they earn billions. Now you have free trials which are in our case impossible, trust me if we could have it done we would.

W3C is usually monitored by Envato, bugs can happen and accessibility well supply and demand my friend… the basic drive for economy.

The whole Themeforest system is a price drop venture, but in this kind of world you will hardly find a more diverse and quality item marketplace… go for it, you will be back fast or pay much more.

If you read carefully your words imply to the entire system. How much did you pay for the theme, is your authors an elite author, did you buy extended support, did you contact the author etc. there are many things that can be done here.


I can’t help but feel that you are a customer I would not like to have if I were an author. You are clearly expressing a sense of entitlement that would make life much more difficult for any author having to work with you.

You are paying somewhere between $50-$60 for a WP theme with a LIFETIME update guaranty, something you won’t find anywhere else, with the first 6 months of support covered as well, and just because you had some issues with a few themes, out of the several thousand available on TF, you are here complaining about it over and over. And quite frankly, I assume that your issues are really non-issues for most other buyers.

Envato has some of the toughest requirements for theme submissions, which is why it takes upwards of 30 days or more of testing through Envato, and usually several soft or hard rejections in between, until a theme is even approved for sale.

Are there some bad apples in the mix? Certainly, particularly as it relates to items that have been approved more than 18 months ago or so, as Envato really started to tighten requirements since then. But every theme provides you with a complex demo website, a public rating option, and public comments for you to check it out prior to purchase. If a theme is really so low-quality as you perceive it, it would be reflected in either overall (low) sales numbers, bad ratings, and/or corresponding comments from other users, making it clear to stay away from it. Most themes also provide a detailed changelog, showing you how frequently they are updated and whether updates relate to new features or repeated bug fixes. If you bought a theme despite any such warning signs, than that is really your problem, as nobody forced you to do so.

In general, you get what you pay for, so don’t start complaining about it afterwards. And no European law states that a product has to be “decent” … at best, it needs to be in working order, which all themes on Envato are, as they would otherwise not be listed. And if there are issues … well, that’s what your included support is there for. And as usual, you are of course always free to use any other marketplace, with less choices, usually only 1-year of updates included, and higher prices. Nothing is ever perfect and it is up to you to decide what is more important to you.

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See, that is the core of the issue, accessibility is a basic right not an add on that is optional.

Doubt it, companies I work with are usually very satisfied. I just don’t accept poor quality.

Also, don’t sell it at 50 euro then, and if you sell a 100,000 themes at that price, and not give a crap about people with a disability, for a free open source platform, that makes accessibility a point, that does not sit well with me, sir.

To continue:
It is authors who put all the bells and whistles on, without checking basic things like heading order, that makes seriously doubt the knowledge of the design company when it comes to design.

Also I have spoken to several authors who have or are working on accessibility.

And since when is it normal to shout down a customer? Other people are able to provide the product, and you are providing a lesser product for the same price.

I feel for you if you have negative experiences, and you should definitely be protected from that.

Basic economy? Yes, we won’t buy from your companies at this rate. Simple

Companies and governments require accessibility in these parts. Perhaps the market should be more localized, that only people from that area can sell themes, if the laws of your country are different. That could be a solution if you feel that you do not have to adhere to W3 guidelines and disability laws.

My point is, apparently both from an author and buyer side there are problems with how things are going. So, it would be nice if Envato would look at that and find a middle ground. It would be nice to improve the satisfaction of buyers and customers. I’d rather find a middle ground, that improves for everyone.

But basic economy? Bought a theme here that does everything it needs to do, including accessibility, and great support. We will continue to do business with that and other companies that are in that category. Have a nice day.