Organic Themes Review: Modern Designs and Friendly Support Ain’t Cheap
Headquarters: San Diego
Organic Themes was established in the idyllic surrounds of Lahaina on the Hawaiian island of Maui in 2009 when two former school buddies, David Morgan and Jeff Milone, decided to combine their talents.
Milone, a developer, was a dissatisfied IT employee when he began working with WordPress as a freelancer. He soon developed a theme around his own website, helped out other users on forums and did some consulting.
He eventually began working with Morgan, a designer, and it wasn’t long before Milone proposed the pair start their own WordPress theme business.
The pair moved to Maui where they spent six months building five themes, releasing their first for free. The guys officially launched their website in February 2010.
According to the company’s website, Morgan and Milone “chose the name ‘Organic Themes’ because we felt it reflected our personal lifestyles, and suited our approach to the design and development of WordPress themes.”
Organic Themes now has more than 47,000 customers.
A year after opening for business, the duo launched their web host, Kahuna Host.
Organic Themes has also partnered with WordPress.com, releasing three premium themes this year.
Organic Themes offers a collection of 23 themes. They are available to buy:
- Individually for $69
- As a Developer Pack for $249, which includes all 23 themes
With any theme purchase you are entitled to unlimited usage of that theme for yourself or for client work. Design files are included with each theme sold.
If you’re not happy with the theme you’ve purchase, tough luck. Organic Themes doesn’t offer refunds.
The themes are pricey compared to themes at ThemeForest, which are usually around $45. Some other theme sellers offer better value for money with club memberships and cheaper prices for individual themes. So it can be a tough decision choosing just one theme from Organic Themes because you’re left $69 out of pocket. Having said that, you’re paying for great design and functionality. It’s a matter of just how badly you want their themes compared to cheaper alternatives offered by competitors.
For this review, I bought a Developer Pack.
There are themes for all kinds of websites – blogging, portfolio, eCommerce, business, non-profit, magazine, photography and music.
The majority of the themes have a responsive design and are also compatible with all modern browsers, including Firefox, Safari, Chrome, Opera and IE8+.
Many of the themes are WooCommerce compatible, include customization options to change color stylings, are retina-ready and are compatible with Gravity Forms.
Different themes boast different features such as sliders, featured images, featured videos, social media integration, custom page templates and custom headers.
All themes are SEO optimized, in terms of the proper usage and placement of titles, excerpts, headings, valid code and other elements.
According to past interviews, the company continually improves its themes. Instead of cranking out lots of themes in quick succession, the focus is on producing quality themes and updates to existing themes. Organic Themes is yet to retire any of its designs.
If you’re keen to customize your theme, as a lot of people are, you won’t get much help from the support team. Organic Themes refers all customization requests to Werkpress.com
Before buying anything themes I wanted to find out about licensing and found it difficult to find the site’s terms and conditions. I eventually spotted them under “Legal” in the footer.
When you buy a theme you get support, updates and account access for 12 months. After that, you need to either put up more money and buy a new subscription or buy a new theme to extend your support, updates and account access.
If you want to be spared the hassle of finding a web host and installing any theme you buy from Organic Themes, you can sign up for their web hosting and everything is done for you.
There are three hosting plans are available:
- Just Me – $20 a month – Free domain Included, automatic WordPress installation, automatic Organic Theme installation, cloud hosting environment, varnish caching, 30GB of bandwidth (30K visitors per month), 99.9% uptime, 3GB of diskspace, 20 POP3 email accounts, 2 domains, 10 subdomains, SFTP Access, cPanel control.
- My Business – $50 a month – Free domain included, automatic WordPress installation, automatic Organic Theme installation, cloud hosting environment, varnish caching, 200GB of bandwidth (200K visitors per month), 99.9% uptime, 20GB of diskspace, 50 POP3 email accounts, 10 domains, 50 subdomains, SFTP access, cPanel control.
- My Enterprise – $150 a month – Free domain included, automatic WordPress installation, automatic Organic Theme installation, cloud hosting environment, varnish caching, 1TB of bandwidth (1M visitors per month), 99.9% uptime, 100GB of diskspace, 1000 POP3 email accounts, 50 domains, unlimited subdomains, SFTP access, cPanel control.
The hosting packages are cloud-based, so no one user can consume all of the resources and crash a server. While I didn’t test the hosting packages, their features include FTP, CPanel and email access.
When you visit the Organic Themes homepage you are greeted with a gorgeous parallax scrolling design in the header, which gives a fair indication of the look and feel of the company’s themes.
The company’s themes, particularly the newer ones, offer fresh, flat and modern designs that are uncluttered. The themes also feature some beautiful photography, the Portfolio theme being a prime example.
In a January interview with B2Web, Morgan said he designed themes with a “minimalist approach with not a whole lot of gradients or background images.”
“There aren’t complicated layouts. It’s a design that can be moulded to fit someone’s brand quickly. It can be customer-driven,” Morgan said.
“I’ve noticed with a lot of WordPress themes, they try to add everything in there. The home page will have a feature slider, 10 widget areas, a blog, and everything else WordPress offers.
“We’ve been trying to scale that back. We recently updated our Photographer theme and scaled it back to only a feature slideshow on the home page.
“My wife is a photographer and it’s nice to be able to get feedback about what they’d want. Usually, it’s not everything under the sun.”
He said his inspiration for coming up with new designs was trying to fill in the need of various niches.
“We listen to feedback from our customers, and often create new designs to fill a particular need. Sometimes we just try to create a cool design that we would want to use ourselves — this is a little more risky, but usually the most fun,” he said.
It’s this approach to design that has made Organic Themes popular in the commercial WordPress theme market. While their themes are expensive, they are modern and on trend and you know that future designs are also going to be just as stunning.
According to the homepage, “There’s no need to fumble with complicated frameworks or a bazillion theme options. With a few clicks, our themes are ready to go”.
Unfortunately, this guarantee doesn’t ring true, or at least it didn’t for me, anyway.
I’m not a theme installation noob, but it can be confronting activating a new theme that doesn’t have any content and I must admit, I did get impatient setting up the themes. I downloaded the Shop and Adventure themes and attempted to get them up and running with the provided demo content, but no matter what I tried, I couldn’t get it working.
I gave up and installed and activated the Portfolio theme and had some success. Still, it took heaps of tweaking to get the theme looking anything like the demo.
All Organic Themes design require the Options Themework plugin if you want to take advantage of theme options. Many of the themes also work with Gravity Forms, if you’ve already got an account. Themes such as Shop require WooCommerce or JigoShop for eCommerce functionality.
In terms of the Organic Themes website, the account section is easy to use because it’s really only just one page. When you login, the download files available to you are listed in alphabetical order (mostly) and include theme and PSD files as well as demo content.
Organic Themes offers support through a ticket system. The theme seller used to offer forum support but decided to switch to tickets. It’s not really clear why. The company uses Zendesk, customer service software, to answer tickets, site comments, tweets and Facebook comments. The old forum is still available to view.
I opened a support ticket on a Saturday night, Eastern Daylight Time (US) after having troubles with demo content for the Structure theme. I received a reply the next morning (a Sunday).
Confused about support hours, I tweeted Organic Themes to find out and got this:
@raewilsonwrites Support is offered M-F, 9AM to 6PM EST. It’s not offered on major holidays, but that doesn’t mean we won’t respond.
— Organic Themes (@organicthemes) September 1, 2013
While the hours are restrictive for those of us living outside the US, I was impressed that I got a reply so quickly, and during the US Labor Day long weekend. I should also mention that the reply resolved my immediate issue.
I tested two themes using Google PageSpeed Insights – Shop and Structure.
PageSpeed Insights measures the performance of a page for desktop and mobile devices and provides a rating from 0 to 100 points. A higher score is better, with a score of 85 or above indicating the page is performing well.
PageSpeed Insights measure how a page can improve its performance on:
- Time to above-the-fold load: Elapsed time from the moment a user requests a new page and to the moment the above-the-fold content is rendered by the browser.
- Time to full page load: Elapsed time from the moment a user requests a new page to the moment the page is fully rendered by the browser.
Shop is an eCommerce theme that features a minimalist design and works with WooCommerce.
The theme didn’t do so well at enabling compression and eliminating render-blocking Javascipt and CSS in above-the-fold content. This was due to features in the theme such as the use of SlideDeck for sliders and other slider files, the Twitter widget and bloated CSS files.
Shop scored just 47 out of 100 for mobile devices and returned the same issues as for desktop devices.
Adventure is a theme for travelers, explorers and adventure-related businesses. It features a full-width slideshow, a biography section and social media links.
Adventure rated poorly at eliminating render-blocking JavaScipt and CSS above-the-fold content. This was due to numerous files related to WooCommerce functionality and graphical elements.
Like Shop, Adventure scored low for mobile devices with 47 out of 100.
PageSpeed Insights scored harshly on compression and leveraging browser caching, but when you install and activate a theme it’s up to you optimize your WordPress site to ensure your theme can perform well, i.e. set up caching, minimize your scripts and even get CDN.
Disclaimer: In putting together this review, we bought our Organic Themes review account just like any other customer – via the sign-up link on the homepage. We didn’t let Organic Themes in on the fact we were reviewing their services to avoid any special treatment.
Have you used Organic Themes? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.
- A beautiful collection of themes that cater to a variety of uses, from designs for personal and portfolio sites to business and eCommerce.
- Customer service is only available via support tickets during US business hours, which isn't convenient for people living in other timezones. Having said this, the support staff did respond to emails on weekends.
- At $69 each, the themes will leave you out of pocket. The Developer Pack is much better value, but at $249 it's pricey.
- While the theme documentation and tutorials are helpful but could be more comprehensive. Without forums, there's no way for customers experiencing similar issues to help each other out.