Recently our friend Andrew of WP-Fun.co.uk wrote an interesting post titled A New Name for Premium Themes: Themes. In his post, Andrew attempts to define what a premium WordPress theme is, then compares that definition with the most downloaded themes at the Free WordPress Theme Directory. In my opinion, blog posts like this are great because they really spark some thought on the part of the reader. After reading his post, I felt that the point Andrew is making is that if you look at the designs, feature sets, and quality of the most downloaded free themes from WordPress.org, they are all comparable to at least a few of the premium WordPress themes being sold on the market today.
For those of us that have been using WordPress for at least 2-3 years, the evolution of the WordPress theme is simply amazing. Back in 2007 themes weren’t necessarily even standards compliant, and the idea of widgets was still new and many themes didn’t support them. Now the idea of a control panel being included with your theme, having your theme be widget ready, and having several color options included with the theme have almost become standard, (even with the free WordPress themes available).
I’m sure there will always be some free themes available, but you have to wonder if at some point premium themes will become the standard. I suppose if this is the case, then my next question is, if premium themes simply become themes, then what is next? The top designers begin to release elite themes? If premium is a fancy word for better, it seems that designers will just come up with a new fancy word for best like “elite” and use that as the word for next level of themes. It may never end!
There are also things like Theme Frameworks to consider as WordPress themes continue to evolve. Give us your thoughts in the comments!