3 Reasons Your Premium WordPress Theme is Hurting Your Membership Business



If you run a membership website on WordPress you’re probably using a premium theme.

You also probably purchased this theme from a marketplace or theme shop. Let me guess – you got a steal for $49 on iThemes!

If so, there’s a good chance this theme is creating a negative impact on your membership business. I know that’s not what you want to hear… but unfortunately it’s the truth.

Let me explain.

Here are the top 3 reasons premium themes can hurt your membership site.

Reason 1 = Speed & Performance

Pre-made themes are ALWAYS filled with tons of extra code. They require this code to be “flexible” and “the best theme ever.” In other words, theme developers have to pack lots of additional code for all the various theme options and configurations they make available.

As a result, this extra code increases page load and overall performance. What does that mean, exactly?

It slows your site down.

The browser has to load more [heavy] files even though you’re likely only using 5-10% of the code that’s loaded. For example, all the cool animations and transitions in your theme require lots of JavaScript that the browser has to load. Unless you’re using those animations and transitions on every page, they are a waste of resources and your site is taking a massive performance hit.

Slower page load times = Less conversions and sales

Poor Performance

Reason 2 = Poor Architecture

Most WordPress theme developers don’t build their themes the “WordPress” way. They go off on their own path and add a bunch of code and functions that step outside WordPress core architecture. As a result, this creates 3 BIG problems:

1) It makes your theme hard to extend (i.e. customize).

2) It introduces risk any time you update WordPress or plugins.

3) It makes hiring future developers more expensive because they have to spend time analyzing the theme to understand why things were coded a certain [custom] way.

If you want a site that’s built in a flexible and sustainable way, it’s crucial to make sure it’s coded against WordPress best practices and standards. It should also include proper documentation and code commenting for developer comprehension.

Otherwise, you’re bound to run into excuse after excuse on why your theme is too difficult to work with. Believe us, we get most of our work from customers with poorly coded themes. We call them “Dirty Birds” because the code, quite frankly, is just dirty.

Bad architecture/code = Continuous cost and headaches

Reason 3 = Lack of Membership UX (user experience)

The biggest [and most important] reason is that most pre-made themes are NOT designed with membership user experience (UX) in mind. Instead, they offer flashy features and options that focus on marketing and blog style UX.

This is like giving a house builder a sports car instead of a truck. Sure, a sports car is good looking… but it lacks the proper features and options that a home builder needs to be effective in his work. He needs a truck to build houses effectively.

Poor UX = Confusion = Lost Customers

If you confuse users, they will leave. Plain and simple.


What Premium Themes Lack

Membership sites require 2 core UX elements that you won’t find in typical WordPress themes.

1. Sales Funnel UX

Every good membership site has a proper sales funnel in place. Whether that’s a single landing page, or a robust navigation with various user scenario paths, the sales funnel UX guides users into purchasing an offer.

This includes landing pages, product pages, checkout and confirmation pages. The layout and content on these pages are critical for an optimal sales funnel, which most premium WP themes lack.

Membership Sales Funnel

2. Logged-in Member UX

Once your users become members it’s essential to serve them a guided and intuitive user experience. This reinforces why they became a member and directly influences your churn and retention metrics.

A good membership UX includes a user dashboard, logged-in user navigation, account setting pages, and a seamless experience for member-specific content. Again, you won’t find these kinds of options or UX with most premium WP themes.

WP Custom Theme Sitemap

Ok, at this point you should be sold on why premium WP themes are hurting your membership business. Some of you may have premium themes with all 3 issues, or just one or two. Either way, any of these issues will cause problems as you start to grow.


So what’s a better solution?

Better Solution = Custom Theme

A custom theme is a hand-crafted theme designed specifically for your business. It has everything you need and nothing you don’t. It’s just like purchasing a highly customized sports car. All the features and options that make your membership site run at optimal levels.

With a custom theme you get massive benefits, including:

Super Lean and Fast

No more code bloat or degraded performance. Let your site rip through page load times with flying colors.

Complete Control

By investing in a custom theme you’ll have complete control over your site’s functionality and scalability. The sky is the limit with what can be built and extended.

Membership UX

Give your members the user experience they deserve, which will keep them coming back for more. Better UX = better retention.

Is a Custom Theme right for me?

If you’re just starting out with a brand new membership site and zero to little revenue a custom theme is probably not for you. The cost and ROI won’t be there yet, so you should stick to your premium theme and reach meaningful numbers with what you have. In other words, get on the grind and make some sales with that premium theme you just purchased!

On the other hand, if you’re doing close to 5k or more in MRR (monthly recurring revenue), you’re a perfect candidate for a custom theme! You have enough revenue and data to step on the gas and see what a custom theme can do for your business. The initial cost might seem steep, but the ROI will pay itself off quickly.

Get a Free Custom Theme Quote

We build custom themes (surprise!) 😃

We design and code them to spec, based on our customers’ specific needs. We also provide ongoing support and enhancement for these themes. See what some of our custom theme customers have to say.

Shoot us a Note – We’re always happy to chat.

If you’re interested in learning more please reach out. We’d be happy to analyze your current site/theme and then provide you with a free quote. This is completely free and good insight to have regardless of your situation.

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Ali Jafarian

Ali is the founder of MemberDev. He's a serial entrepreneur and software engineer with over a decade of experience building technology. Ali's spent the last 5 years focusing on membership websites and the subscription business model. He loves helping start-ups and small businesses with early stage development and growth.

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