Is Running A WordPress Theme Business Still Profitable?

Win – win – win all around. If only we could get as many people out of that race to the bottom and into a race to the top (both in prices, but mainly in customer happiness).Raiber Cristian of MachoThemes:
The WooCommerce Plugin is a great example of solving this kind of issues. It’s now the most popular e-commerce plugin which everybody uses and is satisfied with it.
It’s a messy job at best, as exemplified by the likes of Jack Lenox. I feel that what is needed is a fundamental shift in the templating philosophy of WordPress, one that doesn’t rely so much on the server “magically” telling you things. We are a long way from that, though.

Is Running A WordPress Theme Business Still Profitable?

However, much like everything else, the world of WordPress is fast changing and ever evolving. On one hand, we are shifting towards a bigger role for JavaScript, and with desktop apps such as Calypso and technologies such as REST API on board, it goes without saying that the world of premium WordPress themes too shall soon change.
I don’t see it affected at all in the next year. In my opinion, themes are still markup! I don’t like to make 5 years prediction right now, that’s why I can only relate to the next 1-2 years. JS itself is already big nowadays in themes, but I don’t see super growth in the next year.

Asking The Experts

This is why we launched the Unyson framework: a community where each member could contribute with improvement ideas. All the extensions and plugins that are being build are fully compatible with the framework and can be easily used by any of its members. Web developers can focus more on new designs and themes and worry less about their technical compatibility.

  • How have you been preparing for the greater role of JavaScript in WordPress development?
  • How do you see the WordPress theme economy going forth from here?
  • Do you think apps such as Calypso will affect the theme business in any manner?

I may be getting Calypso wrong, but I don’t see it helping or hurting the theme business. It is a separate endeavor, at least in its current state. Now, if it reaches wide adoption and Automattic decides to bend the interface in a way that would “help” users choose certain themes… Who knows? We will keep an eye on it and hopefully we will react ahead of time.

1. How have you been preparing for the greater role of JavaScript in WordPress development?

We have attended #feelingrestful conference to get a little bit more understanding about the topic, wrote more content about it, got involved as sponsor for both #feelingrestful and, however we aren’t doing more than this nowadays in terms of actual development. I don’t really see REST API specifically as a game changer in the next year for the (simple) themes market, however we got some ideas for Revive Old Post plugin that we might work at.

Also, and this has been going on for quite a while, the themes and plugins economies will interlock even closer. As themes search to take on a more holistic approach to the experience they provide to the customer, authors will be inclined to deliver a mix of themes, custom plugins (you could call them “theme plugins”) and add-on plugins (I am not talking about bundling premium plugins – that is pure evil).

We presented three broad questions to theme developers and sellers, and sought their feedback on each.

We presented three broad questions to theme developers and sellers, and sought their feedback on each.

We presented three broad questions to theme developers and sellers, and sought their feedback on each.

You could say we’ve been in a constant state of preparation since most of our themes rely heavily on JavaScript for animations/transitions and layout.

If we are talking about JavaScript at a more fundamental level (like React + WP Rest API) then we haven’t learned as much as we would have liked. We would love to feed our desire to control the flow of a site with a full-blown JavaScript driven theme, but, at the moment, I don’t see a decent way of packaging it and retain the ease of use of the current PHP-based theme structure.

WordPress is no longer just a Content Management System or a blogging software. Sure, it lets you build and manage your websites and blogs with ease. However, it has grown to something bigger than that.

As I have said it before, I see a not so distant tipping point of the premium WordPress themes market. One in which there will be a split between the ones racing to the bottom (see bloated, multi-purpose, 1000+ demos themes) and the ones that focus on customer experience, on ease of use, on keeping things simple (see niche themes).


Takeaway Points

When the time comes to build a theme based on the REST API, we’ll probably use React though we’ll also want to experiment with as many JS frameworks and libraries as possible.
I don’t think that. sure Calypso show us how much you can do and how powerful JS apps are, however as I said, for the next year we won’t probably be taking any specific steps in terms of theme development as far as Calypso is concerned.
So we decided to approach some of the top theme shops and theme sellers out there, to seek their expert insight on the viability of running a WordPress theme business. The takeaway points from their feedback are given below, but first, let’s hear it from the theme developers themselves!
Secondly, and more importantly, almost everyone agrees that the theme market is saturated. With numerous theme makers out there, it is ridiculously difficult for any new entrant in the field to establish a name for himself or herself. In fact, the ill-effects seem to be threefold:

  1. You cannot, as a new WP theme shop, expect to earn a huge sum of money because you will have a hard time competing against the established theme shops out there.
  2. You cannot, as a new WP theme seller, expect to earn the apex position in theme marketplaces — again, too crowded.
  3. You cannot, as a new WP theme maker, expect grand responses via the repository. The backlog runs into months, not weeks, so a theme that you release for free today might see the light of the sun no sooner than three months from now.

However, the big question is: what does the future hold for WordPress theme makers? In other words, while we do know that running a theme business today is successful, will it remain equally successful in the times to come?

Over To You


Posted by WordPress Guru