DevPress launches a $5 per year club for themes, plugins, and forum access

41 Comments

The quartet of WordPress developers at DevPress have announced the launch of their own DevPress Club Membership this morning. The club will include access to all the themes and plugins they develop, as well as their documentation and community forums, for just $5/year.

DevPress team member Tung Do explained in the post the thought process behind the new $5/year pricing scheme:

There’s already a themes club at almost every price range. Other groups and companies price their themes, plugins, and/or club strategically so they can market their products, gain affiliate support, compete for users, or whatever the reason/motivation is…

Charging a premium price means we have to compete with other companies feature for feature to prove we are superior even when certain features aren’t necessary. That’s not what we want because we don’t develop our products like our competitors do.

Existing DevPress customers (those that purchased the first theme that DevPress put up for sale just a few weeks ago when they relaunched) will be refunded all but $5 of their purchase, and will be immediately a part of the new club.

Do announced the new club on the DevPress blog, perhaps fittingly, since the new club is similar in many ways to Do’s own $5/year club subscription launched during his time at WPDesigner. The WPDesigner Club launched in early 2008 with a similar deal, and drew attention at the time, in part for the provocative price point.

The comparison is a valid one, of course, as Do points out in the post himself in a question and answer format:

Haven’t you learned from the failure of the Wpdesigner $5 themes club? Yes we have. The WPDesigner themes club had one person doing everything. The DevPress Themes and Plugins Club has four people and not just any four.

Those four team members are Tung Do, Patrick Daly, Ptah Dunbar, and Justin Tadlock.

What do you think of the new DevPress Club? Will you join their $5/year club, and if so what effect do you think it will have on the commercial WordPress ecosystem?

41 thoughts on “DevPress launches a $5 per year club for themes, plugins, and forum access

  1. Hey. You guys are fast! Btw, those customers that bought the Visual theme have all been partially refunded for the price difference.

  2. I think it’s both a good idea and a bad idea.

    On the “good idea” side, it’s very affordable and very fair to end users. The lower price point also alleviates them from the perceived obligation to turn out multiple themes per month or offer priority support.

    On the “bad idea” side, it further drives down pricing and value perception for the rest of the community. People already have a hard time seeing value in a $15 theme sold in a marketplace, so a $5 membership for multiple themes makes it harder for freelancers and developers to justify high prices for custom development.

    The WordPress user in me loves the idea. The economist in me sees it as triggering a race to the bottom for everyone else.

  3. I agree with Eric, however, I think it only devalues the DevPress market, not the entire premium WordPress market. If they’re ok with charging $5 per year for themes valued at $50 each, then they’re leaving money on the table. They’re essentially using the same business model that ElegantThemes does but cutting the cost down by about $45/yr.

  4. My concern here is that… how many sales would you need to put food on the table for four people at $5. My math says 100+ every day at the very minimum (and that might not be a great lifestyle). Otherwise, I would think the endeavor is limited to a part-time operation?

    With that said, I love that DevPress is totally outside the box, so I want to see them succeed with this. Anyway, like they said, if it doesn’t work out, no big deal – just move on.

  5. As has already been pointed out this is good for users and bad for the development community. It completely devalues what you do, and in the process devalues what the rest of the commercial community is doing even further.

    If you really did learn from the WPDesigner debacle I would think you would realize that while you are 4 people instead of 1 that also means that $5 is being split 4 ways… not exactly a smart business move. Terrible in fact. What is the point?

    What I don’t understand is with the talent involved at DevPress you would think it could be something great, but instead it is coming across as bottom feeding. I think this pricing model damages and devalues your brand. You would be better off just giving it away for free.

    Giving something away for free doesn’t devalue what you do. But charging a ridiculously small amount for your products does. Funny how that works, but it is the truth.

    • I disagree that pricing cheap may as well be pricing free.

      Assuming the user base is large enough, it comes down to a price to sales ratio and determining where that is maximized. I do think that they could have made it $10 with zero impact on buyers, $20 with a tiny impact, $30 will only a marginal impact, and so on.

      Of course, it’s tough to nail down exactly where revenue is maximized – and maximizing revenue doesn’t appear to even be the goal. I do believe their quality is too good for $5. But, they also aren’t guaranteeing support, new themes, crazy amounts of options, or anything really. And they can change if they want.

      Either way, I like that they are mixing it up and trying something new. I do wish it was at least a little more expensive though.

  6. Smart – renders redundant the main competitor of every commercial theme seller: piracy.

    Also, anyone who is focused on the small amount of individual sales, while failing to comprehend the massive increase in overall sales that lower prices generate, is numerically illiterate.

    • Increased sales also means increased support time/cost which equates to reduced development time. My opinion is that a better service can usually be provided to fewer customers (that may not be their vision though) who are willing to pay more, without a loss to profit. There’s always that sweet spot between higher price / less customers and lower price / more customers that provides the best return. I wonder if $5 is not lower than that sweet spot. Only DevPress will know… in a few months.

    • It’s only smart if you aren’t looking at the bigger picture and are business illiterate.

      Increased sales at a lower price means more customers to support on far less revenue. With 4 partners at DevPress that means that $5 sale is being split by 4 people. Each person is getting $1.25 a sale, and that is before taxes and any expenses. Given the amount of support that is demanded of plugins and themes by unreasonable users, this pricing model makes absolutely no sense.

      If it was a product that had no support burden at all, then the pricing would make sense. But themes and plugins are support intensive. These aren’t 99 cent mobile phone apps that just work without the need for support overhead. WordPress users have unreasonable expectations, even when only spending $5.

      I’d much rather sell less products at a higher price and have less customers to support on more revenue.

  7. What I absolutely love about the WordPress community is that we have these intelligent (usually) debates and I always see a different perspective. At DevPress, we threw every idea against the wall, seriously doubted some ideas, including the $5 Club, but at the end of the day our goal was clear: we will create the best WordPress products. Then we’ll wow the community with our low prices in order to gain many users.

    We don’t know what will happen, but we hope that tons of people will enjoy our products because they’re easy to use and cheap to try while maintaining a quality above many competitors. This community is vibrant and helpful and taking on more users only helps our existing users. The more active our forums the better support experience.

    • No matter how great your products are, at $5/year there is always going to be a perception problem. You’re establishing yourself as the Wal-mart of WordPress. Is that the brand positioning you want? If so, then you’re well on your way. If you can prove that $5/year gets you the best WordPress themes/plugins then prove it. The problem is, you could have tripled that and still have the shockingly low price of $15/yr. and instantly increased your potential revenue per customer x3. That’s where my “leaving money on the table” comment comes from. Granted, it’s not all about money but you’ve got to feed your family, right?

      As a comparison, ElegantThemes is a perfect example of a shockingly low price for high quality themes and it’s still $49/year, low enough for developers on a budget to gain access to their themes.

      • I don’t want to say we’re looking to be the Wal-Mart of WordPress, but something similar. Hopefully we carry higher end products than Wal-Mart, but our similarity is that we hope to become one of the largest marketplaces in terms of active users. WordPress itself has proved to be an incredibly successful business based solely on the sheer numbers of users and all the benefits that come with that.

        ElegantThemes is great and because of that one reason we priced ourselves much lower than $39/year is because they have 61 themes to choose from and we have 4. Eventually we’d love to have that many themes, but $5 is good enough for us with what we’re offering today.

        We know we’re leaving money on the table though … in the short term. We know some may perceive our quality to be sub-par just because of the cost. We also know, as many of our new members have pointed out, that $5 a year is a “no brainer”. We’re hoping potential customers see our club as ‘nothing to lose and much to be acquired’, and that will make us happy.

        • You are correct. It isn’t the Wal-Mart of WordPress. Elegant Themes is the Wal-Mart of WordPress, DevPress is positioning themselves as the Dollar Tree of WordPress. $5 is a “no brainer” for end users which also means you are going to have to keep a large number of customers happy on not very much revenue.

          Put it this way. I’ll use $1,000,000 in revenue for 1 year as an example goal. Numerous WordPress development shops are already exceeding this per year.

          To reach $1,000,000 in revenue you would have to sell 547 yearly memberships PER DAY, EVERY DAY, THE ENTIRE YEAR. That’s extreme, even in best case scenarios you aren’t going to move that many memberships per day.

          At $50 for the year you’d only have to average 54 yearly memberships per day… for the same amount of revenue while at the same time providing support to FAR less customers.

          As Chris Wallace said, even at $15, $20 or the more appropriate yet still budget friendly $50 per year you guys are leaving a ton of money on the table and in the process setting things up for failure. It’s going to be difficult to provide quality service to your customers on such little revenue when you are going to have to be taking on consulting and side work in order to make ends meet.

          Had you priced things at a more realistic price you wouldn’t have to do consulting to make ends meet and all 4 of you could make a living solely from DevPress. But i’m sure you’ll come to that conclusion once things get rolling and you see the reality of the $5 price point.

          I should start a pool… how long before DevPress raises it’s prices? Which means they’ll most likely have to grandfather all the $5 customers in… losing out revenue they could have had if they had just priced things more realistically to begin with.

          The whole concept of garnering as many users as you can as fast as you can and then figure out how to monetize it later is the reason why so many tech companies go out of business. You want to run a successful business? Forget about trying to acquire as many users as possible and focus on generating as much revenue as possible.

          Because in the end, there is no guarantee you will figure out a way to monetize such a large number of users and you could just find yourself buried under the weight of it all.

          • People are assuming a lot of things in these comments in my opinion.

            1. that DevPress is trying to be like any other theme company, or generate the same levels of revenue as other theme companies
            2. that the idea is to be 100% personally supported by DevPress right off the bat.
            3. that they’ve said anything about not being able to raise prices. Patrick said above that “$5 is good enough for us with what we’re offering today”. You don’t have to grandfather any users. It’s yearly. They can raise the price for the renewals as their offerings grow. What would be bad is to offer lifetime and then go back on that.

            I don’t know anything about what these four guys are planning than anyone else, just expressing my thoughts on the matter.

            If you think charging a small amount of money for a theme is akin to being the Dollar Tree of WordPress, what do you consider quality free theme providers to be? Just morons? I don’t understand the logic. They said their reasoning in the first place for such a low barrier was because they didn’t want to be compared feature-by-feature to other paid providers.

            I guess that I don’t understand some of the harsh talk from people in this thread. While I said above they are worth far more than $5, they have the right to do what they want to do. Furthermore, I applaud someone for taking a different route than the rest.

            And It’s not like providing high quality products for cheap / free is totally new. Justin and Ptah already provide some of the highest quality code in the ecosystem with zero barrier via Hybrid Core and WP Framework.

            Maybe what is really going on is some people are a little scared that they might grab a big chunk of marketshare with the price / reputation combo and then have some very loyal users as time goes on.

            I thought that they did a pretty nice job explaining things in the launch post, but maybe people just saw $5 and commented or just can’t grasp the concept. Either way, I’m excited to see how this experiment turns out.

            The announcement today took me back to a comment Patrick made on an editorial I wrote many months ago, and makes me think about how he probably had this on his mind. Funny how that works.

    • I think it’s a downright nutty idea as far as business goes, but I’m totally going to join and tell everyone else to join, too. 😀 I like your themes and I probably won’t need any support.

  8. First, I want to say thanks to Ryan for posting about the new club.

    Mainly, I wanted to address some of the concerns about $5 being too cheap and devaluing our brand. The DevPress team has had these same discussions over and over and over for about year. We’ve had major, week-long debates over the pricing, but in the end, we all agreed that this model would work for us. Trust me; if we all managed to stick together through all of those discussions, we’ll be around for the long haul.

    The four of us have been a part of the WordPress community for a long time and have all run our own theme or freelance businesses for a few years, so we’re coming into this thing with a clear vision and real business goals. We firmly believe that a $5/year club will be sustainable for us as a business while offering quality theme/plugin solutions for many WordPress users.

    There will always be people who will doubt the viability of a business. That’s no different with any other business. There’s always a few risks involved. Give us some time to prove that our model will work.

    Even if we don’t make millions of dollars, DevPress is here to stay. We’ll keep doing what we love to do, which is making cool stuff for WordPress.

    • I’d rather fail miserably at a high price point with a few customers that a really happy than have thousands of users that pay 5 bucks. Hope you guys have plenty of aspirin!

      5$/month would still be peanuts.

  9. We all have our own ideas as far as businesses and revenue streams go – no need for me to chime in here on that. I will, say, that I’m glad to see DevPress trucking along and doing great things. 🙂

    • Thanks, Brian. We do plan on releasing some cool stuff. I’m happy to just have a dedicated site where I can write tutorials for WordPress to be honest.

      • If you had a desire to do that, you should have let me know. We’re taking guest posts over at StudioPress. 😉

    • Do you know how many technology companies have failed because they took this route? They try and garner as many users as possible while ignoring revenue thinking they’ll figure out a way to monetize those users down the road. The problem is 99% of the time the company is unable to monetize their user base and they end up being buried under the weight of it all.

      If you can’t keep up with the influx of users everything will suffer. Available time to devote to product development will dry up because you are trying to keep up support. Support will suffer because you can’t keep up with the volume. The worst part is because you charge so little for your product and are already splitting the proceeds between 4 partners you won’t have the revenue to add additional manpower resources to keep up with the growth.

      Running a business without thinking about the bottom line and implementing an intelligent monetization model is a shortsighted recipe for going out of business. Quick.

  10. This all seems oddly familiar 😛 … wpdesigner.com

    I’m not convinced this is the ultimately the most profitable way to do things, but it’s definitely a good way to create a huge community which in itself has it’s own monetary and non-monetary value.

    Realistically, the DevPress guys have more skill than any of the current major theme studios, so if anyone can pull off something like this, it will be them.

    Good luck 🙂

  11. Wow. We’re concerned about releasing a dedicated support package for Jigoshop at $69 p/y. Even at that price our margins aren’t great and we’d have to worry about the quality of service we could provide.

    $5 per year seems totally crazy! It will be really interesting to see how they evolve.

    BTW anyone thinking that pirates won’t bother due to the low price, don’t kid yourself. We’ve seen $3 contact forms sold on CodeCanyon available for free on popular pirate sites.

    • Hey James. Goodluck with JigoShop support package. We plan on supporting JigoShop right out of the box for one of our next themes, Stanley.

      About piracy, our products are licensed under GPL v2. Sharing it is not pirating. If you’d like to support our efforts and get access to docs and support forums then put in your $5, otherwise, try our stuff for free if you can find it online somewhere else. (Of course, I would recommend downloading every WP product from the source not from a third party site.)

      The more people using our products the better we feel about DevPress regardless whether you’ve gotten our code/design for free or for $5.

  12. I think it’s a cool experiment worth running. I’m not sure why there’s an apples for apples comparison going on though, they don’t seem to have a ticket support system as part of their offer, which is the second biggest factor in pricing (after your product itself). By taking that out of the equation, they’re essentially eliminating the single largest challenge in terms of scalability.

    They may well have a stronger profit margin then many $49 stores at the end of the year, and if DevPress isn’t their primary source of income, I don’t know what all the fuss is about (they’re all more than capable of charging $100/hourly rates for freelancing). With a large user-base there’s plenty of room for cross-selling to a very relevant audience (page.ly, WP books, vaultpress, etc.) as well as creating a foundation for their next “bigger” commercial project. Think some people are underestimating their business acumen here, I for one am really look forward to seeing the results.

    From our side, we sell at 20 times the price ($99), for a quarter of the time-frame (so essentially 80x), but have different short-term goals, so it’d be silly to start comparing.

    Good luck guys.

  13. What a lot of you guys are forgetting is that they’re not promising support. Or anything, really, but especially not support, which is the biggest time suck of the more expensive theme clubs, a time suck that justifies the need to charge enough to support yourself on.

    By contrast, at this point, all the DevPress team is doing is essentially charging a $5 cover to get into a trendy new club.

    I think it should’ve been $10, though 😉

    • You’ve got a point. If they are not pressured to provide support at every turn (maybe at $5 people won’t expect too much of it?) and if the community becomes so in love with DevPress and their philosophy that they actually get a kick out of supporting each other then they may be onto something.

      I’m looking forward to seeing how this experiment is running in six months.

      • I don’t know about raising the price because if this approach works then it will work for years and years to come. Think of $5 as a ticket to get in the door. Again, we could be doing this for free, but the first year would be very tough. (The $5 is not our goal.)

        Consistent help from the community and documentations that novice users can understand are what we’re aiming for. Support is not scalable if you don’t keep on hiring support staff and we don’t plan on hiring anyone anytime soon.

  14. I think this could be a very good move …
    Imagine how many customers they are going to get by selling memberships at $5 – then next year, when they have more themes / plugins they can double or triple the price – with a lot of users thats a huge income raise.

    Interested to see how this works out for them anyway – wish them all the best!

  15. Couldn’t care less about what every bussiness expert is here saying. As i am only a normal customer, hell yeah 5$ a year. As they said in the annoucment, this ain’t their main job, só it’s just a income stream more. Bring it on crazy guys of the 5$ year xD

  16. The price is crazy really but I dont mind. I might not use the themes ever but going through the forums itself will be great I am sure 🙂 Looking forward to DevPress and wish them all the success.

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