WordPress Themes are Expensive

You are probably thinking what is Nick smoking, the last time I checked WordPress themes were cheap, like really cheap. True, they don’t cost a lot monetarily but I think cash is only one metric for measuring true cost. A more relevant metric is time. What do I mean by time? I’m talking about the time it takes for someone to set up a theme. Let’s get real. WordPress themes are more complex than they’ve ever been. I think this is a result of a crowded market where people add every feature they can think of in hopes of getting just one more sale. The term “multipurpose theme” gives me nightmares.

Everyone’s time has value. If you aren’t setting up this theme you are could be working on your business or spending time with your kids. Time is something that you never seem to have enough of. For the sake of this example let’s say your time is worth $50/hr. If I had to choose between two theme one that cost $35 and takes 3 hours to set up and one that cost $100 but takes only 1 hour to set up if I looked at monetary cost the $35 theme would be a no brainer. However, when you factor in my time the affordable theme’s true cost is $185 while the more expensive one monetarily costs only $150.

My philosophy in building things is everything I do must be centered around simplicity. To me that means that when I build something I’m happy if it works really well for 60% of the people even if it means I lose the business of the other 40%. One of my favorite quotes is by Henry Ford, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black”. His goal was to greatly expand car ownership. To accomplish this he knew he needed to keep costs low and make sure the vehicles were reliable by reducing the number of variations. I really love this concept. Could he have sold more cars if he offered more options? Probably. Did he care? Nope.

I’ve been applying this concept to my Shopify apps. For example, with DropRates I’m trying to solve the issue of flexible shipping rates for people who use dropshipping. This idea isn’t unique, there are several other apps that do the same thing. When developing DropRates I wanted to create an app where someone could set it up in under 5 minutes. My competitors offer way more features and options. I’ve tried them and their apps work just as well once you get them set up. However, the time it takes to get it set up is at least 10x. They have pages and pages of documentation on how to set it up while I have just one page. Most people don’t even look at my documentation as how it works just makes sense to them.

Does DropRates work for everyone? Of course not. I get a few emails a month where people ask me to add X feature or they will go with my competitor. Some of you would be tempted to add whatever feature they are asking for. Most of the time what they are asking for would be a trivial change my time/cost wise. However, adding this feature would make the product more complex so I tell them I just can’t do it. For the people who do use it they love it. It’s easy to set up and it just works.

To me the app is a great success. It has a bunch of users and makes me a good chunk of change per month and more importantly it generates almost zero support. That is great for a bunch of reasons. First it means the money I make is basically pure profit (aside from server costs). Second, it means that my users aren’t having any issues. The app just makes sense so they don’t need help setting it up and it is streamlined so it doesn’t break down. Since I don’t add new features they aren’t any bugs as they code never changes. Could I get more customers if I added a bunch of advanced features? Sure I could. But I think it would cause a worse experience for all the users and any extra money I would make (if any) would go into supporting a more complex app.

I would love to apply Ford’s principle to the WordPress theme world. If we want to increase WordPress’s marketshare to 51% we need to build themes that take into account the time the user would have to put into setting it up. I think it would be interesting to see prices listed as “2 hours (the time you honestly think it would take to set it up fully) + $59”. Sure, you’ll be giving up some short term profits but I think the long term gains in reduction in support and the happiness of your customers (happy customers tell their friends) will more than make up for it. I’m not saying you should build themes without features, just take the time to make those features as streamlined as possible. I think it’s sometimes easier to put the decision of what to do on the user (by giving them a crazy amount of options) rather than making the decision yourself. Are you going to make 100% of the people happy? Nope, so stop trying.

I have an experimental WordPress business theme in the works with Joey called Now that I think it going to be super interesting. I’m attempting to create something that is cheap under every metric (money & time). I’ve basically determined the core essence of what I think a business needs from an online presence, the elements that every business has and wants to share with the world. I’m going to sell it cheap ($19 – $29 dollars) but more importantly it’s going to be cheap time wise. This is possible as it is set up to require zero support and I’m keeping the initial development cost down (Thanks Joey 🙂 ). You’ll be able to set it up in under 5 minutes (imagine a wizard in the customizer) and I’m going to include a video on the landing page to prove it. Will this theme work for everyone? No and that’s ok.

I should have a demo to show pretty soon so keep an eye on this blog if you want to see where this is going.