Web developers who are familiar with PHP/MySQL have often moved on to build websites using layered systems. This could include a framework like CakePHP, or a lofty CMS such as WordPress. PHP development isn’t easy but it can become second nature when you keep practicing.

featured image source trustme responsive wordpress theme preview design

This has lead to a booming industry surrounding WordPress websites and the need for additional functionality. Smart developers have been able to craft unique WordPress themes and plugins which can amplify the quality of any website. Custom Post Types allows for other forms of content aside from just blogging, which really makes WordPress a formidable CMS engine. I’d like to go over some of the details within premium WordPress products and how the market has grown over recent years.

Free & Open Source

Possibly the greatest opportunity awarded from WordPress is how the entire codebase is open source for any developer. You can study all the hooks, filters, function names and classes which are usable in your code. This caused an initial flood of many free WordPress themes being released into the community. You can still find many excellent free themes in the online directory.

This started a chain reaction where developers could study the code from the WordPress Codex, but also download and study codes from 3rd party developers as well. Plugins are a similar situation which have evolved into using detailed methods like actions & filters. The codex itself has also changed so much since the early days of WordPress 2.X.

But even back then I can still remember finding premium-quality themes for sale. Online shops with great-quality themes have been growing in number over the past 10 years. People want to pay money for a theme with that little extra beyond-the-ordinary kick to it.

The Modern Era of WordPress

So many changes have come since the initial WordPress 3.0 release. Each new version includes many additional hooks to use for actions and filters. You can even hack up a design for your own administration panel theme as you’ll find with the MP6 plugin. How long before some developers begin selling their own premium admin themes?

mp6 wordpress admin theme plugin preview screenshot

Beyond the ideology of greater control we can also find a whole bunch of new APIs. Custom Post Types with new taxonomies, post formats and even post statuses beyond the typical ones(draft, published, etc). And you may be surprised to find out there are full code samples online through webapps like GenerateWP. It’s getting easier and easier to start learning WordPress development.

So how is it all changing? It seems like more people are getting into the system and newer updates are keeping them there. Once you start learning WordPress you quickly find out that it’s perfect for tech enthusiasts, and even for those who don’t love the Internet.

Premium Pricing

An interesting market tool for gauging popularity has come through the sales approach. One very popular company WooThemes offers club subscriptions which bill every month, along with a single registration fee. But customers may also purchase a single theme license for much cheaper if they don’t want access to the full library.

woothemes homepage layout screenshot 2013

These guys are providing sales options which, in bulk, can be overwhelming. But the club access gives incentive for people to spend more money and signup right away. Real customer incentives can drive you much further than the competition.

Now I want to introduce another popular marketplace called ThemeForest. This is a much different platform because developers may also be customers on the website. People are free to build their own themes and sell them on the ThemeForest marketplace, earning a percentage from all the sales. But one major difference is in the fact that many of these themes include large custom PHP function files, extending the typical website beyond normal features.

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Most WordPress themes from ThemeForest will include a custom settings panel with many options for updating the logo, colors, stylesheet, and other various tidbits. This is one reason why so many people continue going there – large amounts of variety with exceptional quality. This lesson should be understood, that plenty of great-quality WordPress stuff has already been built for free. So newcomers will need to push the envelope just a bit more.

Premium products should captivate visitors into buying something which is unique and beneficial. Maybe not useful to everyone, but even a strictly-unique purpose theme would offer value to a small segment of the market. This market segment could be something like church websites, day-cares, steakhouses, school districts, etc.

Moving Forward

As we forge ahead into 2014 it is worth taking in the tremendous amount of premium-quality WordPress releases. I have found a large handful of outstanding premium developers releasing themes on their own, or under the name of a marketplace. While themes can often earn more money there is some benefit to releasing high-performance plugins as well.

I would recommend checking out some of the premium solutions even as a webmaster or content writer. WP developers love what they build and most items you would want to purchase can be very affordable.

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I would also like to see what newer marketplaces will come up with for selling themes. Many places only offer single-sales per one theme purchase. Others have subscription-based services with a monthly membership fee. The Envato Marketplace has changed the game by allowing anyone to start selling premium-quality products to earn a profit.

Could something new and more exciting be launched over the next few years? I don’t have the answer but I will be keeping my eyes out.


I know there are many other premium services dedicated to platforms like Drupal, Joomla!, vBulletin, Magneto, etc. But WordPress is being used by a large portion of all hosted websites. It is becoming easier to use for most people and thus it is more reliable as a management tool. If you’re thinking of purchasing or getting into building premium products then WordPress might be an excellent market to choose.

Posted by Jake Rocheleau

Jake is a writer & digital designer/illustrator. He writes about all things web and creative. Check out his website for work samples and follow his latest updates on Twitter @jakerocheleau.

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