My 82 year old grandmother heard that I was writing an article and her first response was “You should write it about sex. That’s all anybody talks about these days.”
I won’t be talking about sex. Instead I’m going to talk about why I include PressTrends in all of my themes and the problems that it has brought to the surface.
The bounce rate on this post just skyrocketed, didn’t it?
Who am I, and who cares?
My name is Jake Caputo and I run designcrumbs.com. I’m a designer and developer living in the Chicago suburbs with my wife and two cats. I’ve been designing/developing with WordPress for the past four or five years. On top of freelancing, I’ve been selling commercial WordPress themes for the last year and as of this past April 1st I’ve made the jump to doing commercial WordPress themes full time (no more clients [hooray]). You can find my WordPress themes for sale at ThemeForest and Mojo Themes.
I was an early adopter of PressTrends, but unfortunately not early enough. I was given access to PressTrends Beta literally the day after one of my themes was in the Mojo Theme Holiday Bundle. Since then I’ve used it as a tool to make my themes better.
Why is PressTrends even important?
I can easily go down that list and view a handful of them to see how actual users are using the themes.
Short answer: It isn’t. Plenty of developers build their WordPress theme and push them out the masses and not bat an eye. People are using it wrong? Tough. Chalk it up to user error or “that’s their problem.” The theme was built to look good in the demo.
On the other hand, PressTrends is invaluable for those of us who care about our craft. What I use the most is the simple list of sites that are using my themes. I can easily go down that list and view a handful of them to see how actual users are using the themes. I build them to how I think people will use them, but there are always people doing things I wouldn’t have ever imagined. A lot of them can be brushed aside, but if I see the same little problems popping up over and over I can make a fix for it.
But let’s move on to something a bit more exciting.
The information given on the PressTrends Dashboard are things that we already assume, but now we have the hard facts. This brings me to the biggest issue I’ve noticed.
The Big Problem: Users don’t update their theme
Let’s take a look at this one. Many of us authors just assume that nobody updates our themes; Turns out we were right.
The graphic above is from the PressTrends stats on my theme named Campaign, which is sold at ThemeForest. Neither ThemeForest or Mojo Themes offer a way to automatically update themes so it’s up to users to manually download the new versions of the theme and upload them to their WordPress install.
Right now, the only ways for one of my customers to know that there’s an update is to follow me on Twitter, subscribe to my support forum, or periodically check the item’s marketplace page to see if there’s a newer version. As a developer, I would think that if I cared about my site and I paid money for a theme, I’d be checking as often as I could for updates, just as I do with anything else that could have updates.
Obviously, that’s not the case. A staggering 96% of my customers have not updated their theme. From what I can tell, the majority of users only upgrade when a release has a fix for a specific problem they’ve encountered.
The Big Solution: Uhhh…
As commercial theme authors on marketplaces like ThemeForest and Mojo Themes, we really don’t have a good solution. These marketplaces need to step up and push out a solution.
A staggering 96% of my customers have not updated their theme.
ThemeForest recently released a “WP Toolkit” to their authors that lets buyers auto-update from within their dashboard. I’m glad they took the initiative but the system thus far is pretty convoluted. And the kicker is that it does not even bother to check for a license.
ThemeForest sells themes with a “one site” license. So if we use this WP Toolkit we’re also opening it up for users that pirate our themes to have the most up to date version. It seems to me that if ThemeForest is going to go through the trouble of making this thing, why not go one step further and lock it down?
Anyway, it doesn’t even matter because it seems like very few authors have actually gotten it to work.
Since many of the purchases are people just “flipping” the themes and reselling them to their clients, I would propose a simple email sent to the buyer announcing the updates. This way we don’t run into problems of end users overwriting changes the buyer made straight to the theme. Which brings me to the next rant problem.
The Small Problem: Buyers don’t use child themes
PressTrends allows me to view all of the sites that use my themes (and don’t opt out, of course). While looking at these sites and the sites that my users show me in my support forum, I have seen two sites that did customizations with a child theme. Everyone else makes their changes right in the main files. It doesn’t matter that I tell them to make a child theme, they don’t do it.
The Small Solution: Educate buyers more efficiently
I already mention child themes in my documentation, but I’m going to go a step further. I’m going to include a blank child theme with downloads of my themes and have a separate
readme.txt file for them that explains exactly what it is and how to use it. That seems like a simple enough solution.
Of course, if buyers don’t update their themes, this step could be useless. Hopefully sooner or later these big marketplaces will come out with something to notify buyers.
Okay, but you barely talked about PressTrends
That’s true. A lot of this post might seem like it didn’t have a lot to do with PressTrends, but PressTrends was the springboard for it. Without PressTrends, I would still be assuming things. Now I know.
As I said above, I’m relatively new to the world of commercial WordPress theme authorship, but I love what PressTrends has brought to the table.