What is the Future of Premium WordPress Themes?

The premium WordPress themes market has been around now for well over 6 months now, and the number of people willing to buy their blog’s WordPress theme still continues to amaze me.  In addition to bloggers and small businesses wanting to give their sites a professional and unique look, I’ve also noticed that web developers have really embraced using these premium themes as templates to start with when creating a design for someone, saving them a lot of time creating the general layout and code of the theme.

With the success of these premium WordPress themes, more and more theme designers are coming out of the woodwork and taking the time to create and release their own premium themes, because they feel that it is now worth their time due to the potential profit.  Why make a theme for a client for a one time fee when you can spend a little extra time and have a consistent flow of income over the coming months/years that far surpasses it?  This also gives theme authors a chance to generate large numbers of backlinks and increase traffic to their site.

So, how far will premium WordPress themes go? In a recent post at ThemeShaper, this question was asked of several of todays top theme designers. I will warn you that this is a very long post, but definitely worth the read if you have an interest in this sort of stuff.  Now, I know noone asked my opinion, but when have you known me to keep my opinions to myself? 😀

My take seems to be closer to what Nathan Rice is saying in the post above.  With all of the new themes entering into the premium marketplace, we are beginning to see what I feel are a lot of average quality themes that are now being charged for.  These authors may counter the lower value by asking a lower price ($20.00-$49.99 per copy), but really many of them are just charging for a theme that in the past would have been free to the WordPress community.  I’ve even seen a previously few free themes that now have costs associated with them!

Many of the leaders in the premium WordPress themes market charge more because they take it a step further than free themes, with most providing a control panel allowing you to enter your personal information directly from your dashboard and custom widgets. I’ve also found these themes to contain multiple versions of the homepage, the single post template, and/or the page templates.  This adds a tremendous value to the buyer because it allows them to separate themselves from others that have purchased the theme and avoid any manual coding.   I personally own copies of a few premium themes and can say without a doubt that their value can in many ways exceed the price associated with them.

So, what is the future of premium WordPress themes? To be honest, I feel there is a limited number of people that will be willing to purchase a WordPress theme for their site/blog. Many current buyers are small business owners and web developers.  As more bloggers and web developers switch to WordPress, premium WordPress themes will continue to sell, but probably not at the pace that they are right now.  All of the newcomers offering premium themes seem to have missed the rush.

I’m also waiting for some more good premium templates designed specifically for blogs, which I think is a niche some of these designers could really capitalize on right now. Eventually, the market will become saturated causing many bloggers to frown upon using certain premium themes.  At this point, theme designers will have to look for new ways to generate income, so I think at this point (a year or two down the road) we will coin a new term, “elite WordPress themes.” These will be WordPress themes that raise the bar again and go even further than the premium ones.  Just like the internet and pretty much everything else, the industry will continue to evolve and grow, and the competition will continue to drive authors to release some incredible themes.   We’ve got CSS3 coming out soon, a new version of HTML, plus WordPress enhancements to look forward to, all of which may also influence the direction of these WordPress themes.

So, where do you think premium WordPress themes will be a year from now?

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