The “Lock in Effect” for themes and plugins


WordPress consultant Konstantin Kovshenin wrote about how certain WordPress themes and plugins can “lock you” into using them and now allow for portability between other options. When building a theme or plugin, I think it’s generally a good rule of thumb to respect a user’s settings and content the same way that WordPress itself does.

11 thoughts on “The “Lock in Effect” for themes and plugins

  1. We can confirm by what we see at there is a good bit of ‘dating’ with themes. Sure there are some sites that never switch thees, but a good portion that play the field. Each time they switch.. there is that wtf moment.

    • Strebel, is there any public stats about this? I had Andy from The Theme Foundry ask about how often do people change themes after their site has been set up. Unfortunately I have no big stats I can share except my own experience with clients. Thanks!

    • A little harsh but funny. I had a couple of Thesis users I had to migrate last year, it was a total mess, so I get your point Brad, thanks for reading!

  2. This problem really started with the raise of the premium themes market a couple of years ago, fuelled by users’ demand for “theme features”. Themes which can do more out of the box appeal to the users, see what themes are selling best on popular market places: those with more features. Most users are not aware of the “lock in” problem until they try switching themes. That’s why articles like this are so important, help spread awareness.

    I’m guilty myself of creating themes that introduce the “lock in” effect. Currently I’m in the process of setting up my own theme shop. My plans are to create themes that rely on plugins for any functionality where content management is concerned. I guess the trickiest part will be to convince users that installing and configuring several plugins after theme installation really is worth the effort.

    • Or you could automate the process with WP_Http (to download the plugin from the .org repository) and WP_Filesystem (to save and extract it locally) and then just activate the plugin. All that having asked the end user permission first of course. I wonder if there are proven use cases for this…

    • Justin Tadlock wrote a great post about the shortcodes madness last year.

      The problem on ThemeForest is that users learned to expect the theme to offer at least 50 shortcodes and a tone of other “features”. Themes that don’t meet this standard won’t be selling (if they even get accepted to the market place, but this is another issue).

      So it really all comes down to the education of the end user. Many WordPress users don’t know why they should prefer a CSS class from a shortcode and a plugin instead of an option in the theme options panel.

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