WordPress Hacks was one of only 3-4 “WordPress” niche blogs that existed prior to the creation of the Premium WordPress themes market. As I sit back and reflect on the early days of the premium WordPress themes market, when Solostream’s themes were first being converted to premium, and Revolution (now StudioPress) was being launched, each existing WordPress blog was faced with a choice. Do we promote these themes? After all, WordPress was founded on open source, and each of us (WordPress founders, plugin/theme authors, and WordPress bloggers) were contributing our time and energy to improving the WordPress community without any compensation. Should these people be paid for what we do for free?
Some blogs ending up promoting them, while other blogs did not. I personally ended up making the decision that I would promote premium themes on this blog because I felt that they would help improve WordPress, and to this day I really think that they really have. Many of these authors are making so much money that they are able to make (and support) their themes as a full time job, which I think is pretty sweet. It also comes with a lot of responsibility, and the money allows these authors to truly focus, innovate, and make their themes more advanced, which advances WordPress as a whole. The bar gets set and all new themes are measured against them. It forces continued functionality and innovation. I truly believe that if the ability to monetize these themes didn’t exist for most of these authors, the quality of themes out there would be much lower because it wouldn’t be worth their time to try to raise the bar. Would we even have CMS themes for WordPress yet?
We also need to remember that this isn’t really any different than doing custom WordPress themes for people (such as Unique Blog Designs). Premium WordPress themes have made it so people can afford a custom quality theme (in most cases) from an affordable price for a blogger or small business. People with high income blogs can still afford to get there theme custom made.
One point I would also like to make is that I do think that people with WordPress blogs have an obligation to only promote products they do use or would use if the need for it presented itself. I’ve always made sure to be selective and only promote themes or plugins that I felt were truly of premium quality. I also try to only promote ones that are well supported by their authors. I can think of at least 20 that I’ve chosen not to promote here because of a number of reasons (invalid code, I felt wasn’t premium quality, etc.).
Anyway, regardless of my opinion of them, over the last 8 months premium WordPress themes have really found a home in the WordPress community, and I’ve even noticed that blogs have been created strictly for the purpose of promoting these themes. From the people I’ve talked to, the opinions of this market are mixed.
One person firmly against the premium themes market as a whole is Justin Tadlock, who recently wrote a post titled Screw the WordPress Themes Market. Justin is someone that I’ve been following for quite awhile now and have a huge respect for his opinions on all things WordPress. He releases a lot of great free WordPress themes, free WordPress plugins, and also blogs regularly about WordPress. Here is an excerpt from his post:
WordPress was built from a community of people willing to share freely. Yes, even themes. What? Yes, themes were free at one point.
GoodGreat themes were free at one point.
I’m not going to beat around the bush here — stop releasing pay-for-use themes.
Sure, there’s a market there, but I don’t want to see every single mediocre theme have a price tag attached to it. Just because it’s a magazine-type theme doesn’t mean it’s a premium theme, or that it’s worth some form of funds anyway.
If you’re going to release a theme and call it premium, then you need to — in the words of a high school cheerleader — “bring it.”
I don’t have a problem with people releasing themes for money. It’s something I’ve considered on several occasions. What I do have a problem with is users getting screwed out of $100, $50, or even $30 because they bought a theme that’s mediocre at best, a theme that has invalid code, or don’t get the support they need for using the theme.
Reading Justin’s post actually reminded me of what I was saying when I wrote the post Premium WordPress Theme Responsibilities a couple months ago. To many people are releasing average themes and charging for them.
It seems everyone has an opinion about premium themes, and I’d love to hear yours. What is your opinion of premium WordPress themes?