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?

  1. Kyle,

    It’s a great question. I was actually at ETech08 this week in San Diego and had a long discussion over some sushi with Alex Iskold and Fraser Kelton of AdaptiveBlue about this. We all generally agreed that this is more likely just the beginning of the boom, rather than a plateau. Matt Mullenweg just announced a few days ago on his blog that WordPress is backing Buddy press and hinted that WordPress is heading in a more “social” direction (http://ma.tt/2008/03/backing-buddypress/). We spoke to some of the developers at Typepad this week as well who told us that Typepad has really been putting a lot of effort into releasing their own “custom themes” in order to keep up with WordPress’s staggering growth – the big guys are obviously recognizing the trend toward customized, highly-functional themes. I think what you’ll see in the coming year – and a lot of guys agree about this in the widget-building world – that there’s going to be a shift in how people use their blogs and that customization and personalization is key. You’re going to start seeing a lot more themes that look more like facebook pages than straight blogs (i.e. lots more space for widget integration, twitter-type apps, video and “life-streaming” widgets. Designers like Brian Gardner, and especially Adii are kicking ass by extending what wordpress can do and making WP look and feel more like a CMS. Also, you’re right to point out that coding simple UI’s into the back end is going to continue to add value and take WP to the next level. I think you’ll see that being a key competitive advantage moving forward.

    In any case – you want to chat more about this, shoot me an email.

    Good post.

  2. Just to add to that last comment – I agree most with what Jeff Chandler said on the Theme Shaper post you linked to. The future is most likely going to be around widget-slots and admin pages.

  3. PJ says:

    I’ve seen some awful-looking themes which the designers are charging for; I wouldn’t use them if you paid me!

    However, there are also some nice paid themes in the $30-50 price bracket which have some premium functionality but are also more affordable than the better known themes which cost over $50. It would still be difficult to justify buying a cheaper paid theme when there are plenty of great free themes out there which might match their quality.

    And a year from now? I’m hoping that the community will have adjusted to the premium theme market. The most well-known premium theme creators will still be leading the market, though a few new faces will try to get in on the action. Theme designers will continue to push the limits of WordPress, until it will be seen as retro to use WordPress for a simple blog!

  4. matt says:

    “All of the newcomers offering premium themes seem to have missed the rush. ”

    Nope!

    Your looking at in the wrong way…

    the thing that is “wrong” with all these themes shops is they have too many generic themes…. go look at all the main or big theme shops…. you will see a theme ( no pun) running through all of them look at graphpaperpress themes, they have themes for photographers… thats it…

    where can i go to get a theme for my sports blog? my food blog? my band?

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