Are Premium WordPress Themes Dead?

Are Premium WordPress Themes Dead?

I just read a post arguing “Premium WordPress Themes Are Dead (As We Know It)” (link below), which seems to imply the vast majority of theme developers can no longer realistically hope to compete on Themeforest (and we all already know how hard it is for just about anyone — or anything — to compete ‘with’ ThemeForest). Which led me to begin imagining a world where there’s really only two places for the general masses to get WordPress Themes (the .org listings for free themes and ThemeForest for premium themes)… and then wonder if we’re perhaps already there — or at least not far off? If, generally speaking, there’s now already not enough incentive to allow all but a few top-themeforest-sellers (and half-a-handful of age-old and already-extremely-well-entrenched theme shops, read: WooThemes, StudioPress and Elegant Themes) to continue selling premium WordPress themes, what will be the knock-on effects to WordPress as a whole if this trend continues?

I think there will be a bright future for new themes that are radically different than what we’ve traditionally seen. I think it’s fair to say the current theme market is oversaturated. Change the market and new opportunities arise.

It is often a problem of education. If customers knew better then they’d likely be interested in better themes. So, you have to educate them. That’s no easy task!

Many theme vendors would prefer they remain (a certain amount of) ignorant though so they can continue to sell to them at all / more often. For they may fear once they learn too much, they’ll see them for what they really are and some may actually be able to do for themselves. Can’t have that. Lol.

An informed and empowered customer is not what Envato’s primary target market seems to be. That means this market goes underserved even though there are those that might choose to believe the market doesn’t even exist. I like this enlightened segment best though as they tend to know how to better articulate what they want and support is often much lighter.

The people in the market for off the shelf solutions aren’t my target audience I say all the more power to Envato. That’s one more customer I will get when they complain their website is hard to use and doesn’t communicate well to their users. As a matter of fact I’m redoing a site right now for that very reason. We are selling themes on themeforest and have numerous buyers that are buying every of our future theme as they like support and friendly aproach, and also code quality and easy editing

Maybe if wordpress launched premium theme service with much more strict code rules, it would help wordpress brand in the future, because its not hard to see that what drives envato is profit, and you can find lots of very badly coded themes after which wordpress becames very slow and sometimes unusable. But anyway Themeforest is here to stay, we can only hope that they will introduce more stricktly rules as themeforest has big impact on wordpress industry and bad coded themes are affecting wordpress brand.

You can’t separate presentation from functionality, especially with WP’s anything-goes architecture. Themes aren’t really interchangeable, they’re nothing but trouble for custom work, just extra bureaucracy and bad code. I guess everyone’s finally waking up to all that.

Is there a system you like more ? Since there’s always gonna be a mix of markup/style/content, I mean you pull content X, display it in container(s) Y, styled by CSS Z, and all somehow need to be adjusted to each other..

I am teaching people who have never coded to use CSS and work with Genesis. These are people who would never think that could do it so never tried by themselves. Once they are shown how, they are liberated and Theme Forest is just so much candy floss – they don’t look back. OK – I know it’s not the answer for everyone. I’m just saying, it’s good for more than you think. Not everyone is lured by the lights onto the TF rocks.

Perfect separation in impossible, certainly with anything web-based. Django did a pretty good job of it. Likewise for Rails and many Django/Rails derivatives, presumably. They have cleaner architectures and more structure/guidance than WP. Of course, they generally don’t support themes.

The best free themes are better than the best premium themes. Why would then anyone with a brain buy an off the shelf theme?
Premium themes are dead (they just don’t know it yet), and that is actually a good thing. We all need to start emphasising functionality, usability, semantics, seo, workflow and other things that actually add value as developers rather than designers.

What customers are looking is this shiny stuff with lots of animations moving objects, slider etc…and tons of stuff. they dont care about semantic, clean code etc… And this will probably never change. I tried that and it doesnt sell, what sells is customization, hundreeds of faces blabla, stuff that slow down site.

The main problem I’ve seen is with themes that force users into specific 3rd party dependencies (the Revolution slider debacle), and include things like shortcodes in the Theme’s functions that should exist as separate plugin functionality.

The way I make money with themes is niching down and making a theme that has custom functionality.

For example a theme for preschools where the teacher can plan her calendar and have a downloadables section of materials for each day of class. Or a theme for animal shelters with a custom post type that makes it easier for them to post animals for adoption.

I use ACF for functionality and that is probably my biggest complaint about it, if they change themes that info is still in the db but it won’t be useable.

My job is to make them not want to change themes (leave my service). If I do that well then it doesn’t matter where the functionality resides in my opinion.

clients will care about functionality and (if we explain it) also care about semantics, clean code, and seo.
There are two trends at work here:
1. As everyone’s (including clients) life moves on line the emphasis will shift away towards functionality and clients understanding will increase.
2. Themes and design have been commodified, the best themes are already free, so people buying themes are just suckers to marketing.

The client can be delivered this same functionality without making it impossible difficult for them to change their theme or go with your competitor. Not separating plugin functionality from theme is bad for the client and developer IMO.


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