Here’s my plan, and I’m looking for a bit of input.
One thing I’ve noticed about WordPress theme sites is they fall into two categories. The first category is “These are my themes, this is my site and I sell my own.” The second category is “We sell your theme, we take a huge percentage of each sale, and you get the leftovers.”
While these models are fine, I don’t believe they really encourage the type of collaboration designers like myself (and you) often seek. I also believe [tiered structures](//themeforest.net/make_money/payment_rates “”) are a good way to scam a designer. So, my idea is simple and it will soon be a reality.
I’d like to launch a site that offers an free, open-source theme. This theme will be updated and contributed to by anybody looking to help. Heck,we’ll probably host the thing on GitHub.
Designers/developers will then be free to modify this theme then turn around and sell it on the main site. And before you ask, just let me clarify – you don’t have to sell it on our (the our is us, you and me… not some suit) site. You could go and sell it yourself for all I care, but I’m sure most will realize the value of selling with the people who they are collaborating with. Instead of a crazy 50/50 split, I’m of the state of mind that the designer should pocket most of the money – so I’m thinking more like a flat fee of $7 to $10 with all themes having a standard price somewhere between $35 to $45.
I’m just curious if anybody has any other ideas. What could we do to put the profit in the hands of the designers? What can we do to make sure this is a success? What do we need to avoid and what do we need to do? What should a theme really be priced at? What about this idea sucks, what rocks?
I think it’s a half decent idea. The main problem though is that there are 2 very different kinds of designers out there when it comes to themes. The first group are those that primarily use themes as their main source of building the creative side of their projects. The second group does custom work and a theme just gets in the way in an annoying way.
Personally, I can’t stand using themes. They feel restrictive and bloated. It’s the same feeling I get when I buy a laptop and it comes loaded with 100 pieces of software that I don’t want and have no intention of ever using. Most people in this range started on some kind of basis, like Bones or Starkers and have developed their own theme from scratch that only has what they want in it.
So, initial first fear would be that it would end up just being one more theme like Bones. It’s just one more theme that another group of people built and probably use some variation, but it may never reach any kind of use or fame beyond those current frameworks (which isn’t terrible imo, but it may not be your goal).
Thanks for your input @JoshWhite – I agree with your definition of the two types of designers. I think one of the real goals here would be to help designers generate additional income and provide them with a starting point where they can manipulate the CSS, add a line or two of jQuery (if needed), and be ready to sell – not so much create a widely-accepted theme framework.
I really think (and please, everybody should feel free to argue this) a uniform theme would be a good thing in a theme store since the purchasers are often non-professional and will know what to expect with each theme.
@chrisburton can you elaborate a bit on what you mean? What’s a “real purpose”?
My idea with this concept more focuses on an open source theme to be used as a base for building others to sell on the site and allowing designers to bring in some additional income. And, well, get better pay than they do in the other theme stores.
Isn’t this already happening, in effect? Most of the themes for sale are built on some starter theme, plus if you check out any of the well known starter themes on Github there are usually dozens of forks where folk have added to the theme. Be great to highlight the good ones, but why create another starter/base theme when there are plenty of excellent ones out there?
Not saying your idea doesn’t have some unique perspective that I’m not quite seeing, but can’t see one at the moment.
It might be better for you to explain what you mean by “themes”. Are you talking about a framework for other designers to build themes from it?
When people say themes, I think of these: //themeforest.net/category/wordpress. And while some of these may look “pretty”, do they actually solve the clients problems and fulfill their goals? Probably not.
Frameworks, I guess, are fine. I’ve certainly used them. Such as Starkers and the HTML5 Reset WordPress Theme (it’s really a framework, not a theme). Frameworks give you a starting point and great flexibility. The difference between frameworks and themes are that frameworks don’t scream “I’m a fucking lazy ‘designer’, here you go” to a client. And no, that wasn’t aimed at you.
I wouldn’t quite say using a theme constitutes a lazy designer. I’ve used them in cases where people I know literally didn’t have the money at the time to do anything better, so we did the best we could with their budget. It’s the designers that pass themes off as original work because they literally don’t have the chops to do anything else that grinds my gears.
IMO this project would only hold value if it was a framework as Chris is describing. And the more I think about it, the less I think the value is in the actual theme framework as it is in some kind of community to help improve and design functions that most people would find useful. But then again, I really don’t see how the outcome is going to be any different than something like Starkers that’s already out there.
> The whole point really was more to help designers generate additional income rather than have the majority of their profit taken by the seller
Ohhh ok I gotcha. Honestly though, and I’m open to changing my mind, I don’t really see themeforest (for example) as a place where people get ripped off. Think about what Themeforest is – a huge platform to let theme designers showcase and sell their goods to a massive audience. What you’re talking about doing at the end of the day is creating a competitor to Envato. Otherwise, you’ll never get an audience big enough to make a financial difference to anyone.
So despite providing a huge audience, they still pay out between 50% to 75% of the sale price back to the designer. Look at some of the top themes sold on Themeforest – 10,000 sales and over. Could you realistically create an environment that had an audience big enough to provide that kind of exposure to a theme? And price it high enough that it’s a huge bump to the designer (without pricing it out of the market)? So the producer of a top downloaded theme, say 5,000 downloads, is making about $34 on a download originally at $45 and has grossed about $170,000 on that one theme. Envato made about 50k for being the broker and the sales vehicle. I’m just not seeing how the designer is getting screwed.
@JoshWhite I do understand the point you’re making, but some of the authors on ThemeForest are getting exposure via their own blogs rather than being in the marketplace. A 50% commission is a huge percentage in virtually any business. The idea that you have to earn over $75,000 in their marketplace before you qualify for a somewhat fair commission is a tad ridiculous.
I also look at it as a benefit to the person who only sells say ten or twenty downloads. Why should they pay that commission when they can sell the same number of downloads and earn more elsewhere?
>A 50% commission is a huge percentage in virtually any business.
You do know that most retailers mark up by at least 100% on most items? It doesn’t really matter what price themeforest sell for, if an author is happy to supply to themeforest then that’s the important aspect. If not they can sell direct, just as a wholesaler could.
Completely agree with @joshwhite
I’m not a huge supporter of site themes or any prefabricated design for that matter…But I do believe they serve a purpose in the industry. It’s similar to the way people resort to pre-built homes in modern housing developments. They all share the same structure/design with minor differences in materials/appearence…often changed via upgrade costs. Unfortunatley not everyone can afford custom built work…as it can be quite expensive…and timely to produce. This is where pre-built anything succeeds. In the end it all depends on the market you’re after…there’s certainly money to be made no matter which market you decide to pounce on.
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