I’m going to pick on Powerpack because it is the latest ones of these plugins I’ve seen (Powerpack is really done well and if you use Storefront is a must buy). There are plenty of them out there. It’s not just plugins there are themes that do this too.
Plugins like that exist as it is assumed that people want total control over their site without having to know any code. I think that assumption is false. What people really want is a great looking site and the way they think they’ll be able to get it is by more control over the presentational elements of their site. For most people, their site will actually get much worse once they get more control.
To me, making plugins like this is like giving someone a loaded gun with no training or guidance and being surprised when they shoot themselves in the face. Control over the elements isn’t what is keeping most people from having a nice looking site, it’s design talent. If I were looking to make my site better I would much rather pay for access to sound design advice than tools that I have no clue what to do with it. I have no problem with the core principles of things like Powerpack I just think people need more. They need advice and guidance instead of just access to the tools. That is the only thing that is going to keep them from blowing their head off (metaphorically).
You are probably thinking what the heck am I talking about. Here’s an example. Font pairings is a skill set that I wish I had, but I don’t. While Powerpack would allow me to set my fonts to be whatever the heck I want it’s pretty much a certainty that I’ll pick something stupid. What I would much rather have is an interface that allows me to select font pairings. Predetermined fonts that go really well together. There can be an advanced mode that allows me to pick all the fonts myself but what I really want is a designer who is great with fonts to pick some pairings for me. That is something I would pay for. That is what makes $59 that Powerpack charges a great deal.
The same things with colors. I’m even worse with colors than I am fonts. Please give me some combos that look great together. I would rather pick from a list of great combos by someone who knows something about color theory. It’s guaranteed to look better than anything I could come up with.
You could do this with all the settings in Powerpack. You could do it by store type. Ask them what they are selling and the options will be configured based on that. Are you selling one type of product? Than the filter by widget doesn’t make much sense. Are you selling something simple? Then let’s remove everything extraneous like two step checkout and all widgets.
Plugins were created to allow people extra functionality without having to hire a developer but what are we doing to help people who can’t afford/find a designer. Is this hard? Of course, it is. If it was easy people would already be doing it. It extremely easy to just make a theme that has 5000 different options and put all the responsibility on the end user to pick the right options to make their site look good. I think the first company to put design value into their products is going to make a boatload of cash and the WordPress community will be better off for it.