Should I start creating and selling premium WordPress themes?
We’ve been in WordPress theme industry since 2011, but started using it a lot earlier. During all these years it was interesting to follow the “boom” of WordPress themes and the rapid expansion of this great CMS.
It’s 2016 and it seems like everyone is creating WordPress themes and selling them on different marketplaces or on their own shops. There are hundreds of individual WP theme shops and thousands of theme authors on major marketplaces.
You’ve probably noticed that WordPress theme market is supra saturated. If you’re thinking about jumping in this industry, you should think twice. Of course if you have outstanding designs and plenty of advanced features + you can take care of support, you can give it a try. In any case it’s a very crowded area and it seems like the demand is gradually going down. Let’s analyze some data, to understand what is really happening:
WordPress is currently powering 26.6% of all websites on web. This means that one in four websites is using WordPress as its primary CMS. Impressive, isn’t it? But, let’s have a look at web search trends for major CMSs and see how WordPress is performing there:
As you can see WordPress is still going strong and other CMSs having a significant decrease in search trends, except Wix (which is not really a CMS, but a site builder).
Now, let’s have a look at search trends for WordPress themes. Apparently, the demand should be high, since most of site owners are changing their theme once in 1 – 2 years. However, the trend is going down and this might be caused by different reasons: supra saturated market, increased competition, seasonal factors, etc.
Here you can clearly see that the peak of searches occurred between 2010 and 2012, and the current interest is at the same rate as it was in 2007 – 2008, when the WordPress theme “boom” started. Moreover, the “responsive wordpress theme” term is not so popular anymore (that’s because responsive design is a kind of standard already).
Let’s move forward and see what’s happening on major marketplaces and theme shops.
As usual, we’ll start with the most controversial site – Themeforest. Currently, they offer 7,263 premium WordPress themes. In August 2014, their Alexa rank was 93, which means that it was in the top 100 most visited sites in the world. Now their rank is 367 and many elite authors reported a significant decrease in their sales numbers, which correspond with general traffic trends. In addition, it’s very hard to list your theme there: you have to wait at least 35 days to get your WP theme reviewed and it could take around 2-3 months to get it listed. If you have a huge, all-in-one WP theme or something really unique, you can give it a try. Otherwise, simply ignore it, it’s a waste of time. It’s not a reliable source of income anymore.
It was a good alternative and a real competitor of Themeforest, until they were acquired by Endurance International Group (the owner of Bluehost, Host Gator, iPage and others). They integrated their service with Endurance’s infrastructure and after that nobody heard from them (except the launch of new website and brand called Mojomarketplace). Currently, they offer around 900 premium WP themes and to list your themes there is a hassle (sometimes you can feel like they don’t have any stuff there).
These guys are doing pretty well, as they focused on another kind of assets like: fonts, icons, UI kits, presentations, mockups, etc. They have an aggressive marketing strategy and are backed by a strong brand (Autodesk). They offer 2,857 WordPress themes for different categories, but you can’t see the number of sales for each theme. In any case, you’ll not get a decent amount of sales here, as they focus on bundles and creative stuff.
WP theme shops
As we mentioned before, there are hundreds of independent WP theme shops which provide more or less unique and nice themes. Elegantthemes, Woothemes, iThemes, PageLines are just a few of them. These guys started in 2008, 2009 and focused on niche themes, own frameworks, ecommerce solutions and other useful stuff. Most of premium theme shops provide up to 80 WP themes via different pricing models: subscription fee, one time fee, bundles, etc. If you’re a site owner or design agency you can stick with the one you like (things to look at: design, support, features, team, community, feedback, etc.) and use their products to make a living or just to change the appearance of your sites.
If we summarize, we get and impressive number of around 15K premium WordPress themes in the market. If you’re already selling WP themes, you should think about diversifying your income sources (plugins, support, services, etc.). If you’re thinking to start designing and selling themes, think twice, unless you have something amazing to show to the world.