The Disposition of Theme Developers


I mentioned in my podcast last week that I’ve gone back and forth, a number of times, on whether or not to develop and sell WordPress themes for profit. I went over, in the podcast, the list of pros and cons that I had made on the issue, but didn’t happen to mention this one:

I’m afraid of what will happen to my relationships with other theme developers.

When stepping into a business environment, it can be a bit daunting to feel the tension that seems to immediately arise between you and your (new) competition. The relationship will no doubt be threatened by the new circumstances.

I want to be careful when I’m describing this situation. The tension I’m describing is not something specific to WordPress, by any mean.s This is something which takes place in every kind of business out there. What I’m hoping, really, is that WordPress theme development/sale can be the exception to the rule.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t want to have to step away from how things have worked here in the past. I want to use and support the themes of my fellow theme developers (corny as that may sound) and even be able to suggest their work to my friends and clients. I mean, let’s face it — the work being done to WordPress themes is some of the finest work being done anywhere. Why shouldn’t I be excited and share what my friends are doing?

I want to be able to be a part of every theme club and program out there, and purchase themes, not only to support the theme developers in what they are doing, but also to enjoy playing with and using them. Now, I would never expect the same thing from any other theme sellers (as it’s admittedly not a very wise financial decision of mine, I understand that) but this (pledge?) is just my way of ensuring that I don’t close myself off from everyone doing the the kind of business I am doing.

There’s one potentially tenuous part of all of this. I would still like to do, and plan on doing, theme reviews. I’m hoping that my themes won’t be ignored or belittled from this point forward by those claiming my thoughts are somehow biased. And of course I’ll do my best to make sure not to let business get in the way of my theme reviews.

The market for WordPress theme sales is so much bigger than anyone even realizes at this point, I believe. And it’s only growing with the growing popularity of WordPress. There is enough space for all of us to be pleasantly competitive, but decent, to one another.

Thoughts on theme piracy

On a slightly different note, by moving into the sales of digital content (a theme is digital content) I have taken a renewed interested in the issue of piracy. I’d like to think I have an interesting/well though out opinion on the topic. It’s worth going into a full post on the issue sometime, probably on my personal blog, but for this discussion this one thought is most relevant: piracy helps to innovate and push industries forward. I believe this pretty strongly.

I also believe that if someone wants to download something for free, and give nothing to the original creator of the work, they will find a way to do it. Those who download digital content (say, themes for instance) from a torrent site would probably never consider paying for them in the first place. Because of this, and rather than wait for someone else to do it to my themes first, I’ll be providing Mocha Theme and all of my subsequent themes released here on popular torrent sites for download, for free.

You don’t have to worry about me disapproving if you happen to take this course of action. I more than appreciate your money if you’re willing to offer it to me, but if you don’t think it’s worthwhile, that’s okay too. The one thing I don’t want is to be like the old media dinosaurs (of, say, TV) who don’t understand how things work nowadays. I hope this all makes sense.

Have thoughts to share?

I appreciate you reading this post, and of course would love to hear any thoughts you have in the comments or by email. For some reason the piracy stuff just fit well into my “disposition of theme developers” thoughts, and so I put them together. I wanted to get them both out here and into your minds, so as to make it finally leave my own.

2 thoughts on “The Disposition of Theme Developers

  1. How about going the route of “pay for support” like Justin Tadlock for example? Set up a forum, and charge a membership fee. In Justin’s forum, you can join for free, but unless you pay the nominal membership fee, you cannot see his responses. I’m all for open source, but I really believe people are willing to pay for your time in supporting your themes, especially if the fee is something like $9.95.
    I think open source is great, but in the end we’ve all got to make a living.

    • Yeah, I hear you. I’ve decided it’s worth taking a stab at selling themes, but it’s a tough call since open source is so cool.

      I’ll have to think about the pay-for-support model.

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