When WordPress first arrived on the web, all themes and plugins were freely available. Over the years, and as the ecosystem evolved, developers began offering paid-for (referred to as “premium”) themes and plugins, some building businesses around their offerings, with others maintaining products as side projects to their day jobs.
The introduction of paid-for WordPress product created several notable changes to how businesses approach their WordPress products. The change in approach had several knock-on effects as well. Today, I’d like to touch on one such knock-on effect; the introduction of “blah blah” themes.
What is a “Blah Blah” Theme?
Put simply, a “blah blah” theme is a theme being marketed as applying to a single niche or purpose (for example, a “portfolio” theme), and including lots of extra functionality to achieve it.
Before continuing, I’d like to just ask; since when can a WordPress theme be “restricted” to serve only a single purpose?
Where Did This Come From?
Think back to the themes that gave us all our first start; Kubrick and Classic. Jump a few years forward towards the Twenty Ten, Twenty Twelve, etc, themes.
Are these “blah blah” themes? No. They’re just themes.
Placing a theme in a “blah blah” category is a marketing invention…gone wrong.
Slotting a theme into a single category is an easy way to guide a customer if they are looking for a particular feature. But why sell a theme based on its features, when a theme is intended to purely provide the design/presentation layer of the website? Features are what plugins are for.
Stop it. Just stop it.
What Have “Blah Blah” Themes Affected?
While it can make sense to market a product as being aimed at a specific niche, it’s also important to maintain focus and be aware that this “blah blah” themes craze is purely a marketing gimmick.
WordPress themes should be able to cater to any niche.
While theme may require a small amount of tweaking to the styling, this should be expected (to make the design truly your own) and also, that’s what child themes are there for.
If you want to use the Twenty Thirteen—a clean and simple blog theme—to sell products, load up WooCommerce and Twenty Thirteen and you’re good to go.
Point is, a theme should never “break” or look undesirable, if not used for its intended niche. Themes should be interchangeable.
How Do We Get Back to Our Roots?
This is the easy part.
- If targeting a niche with your theme, truly understand that niche and focus the design towards it. The design is the most important reason users use a theme.
- Determine the functionality desired by the niche. If plugins exist for these features, choose your favorites and add styling support for these plugins to your theme.
- If no plugins exist for the features you’re looking for in your niche, create them.
- Refocus your marketing strategy to explain that while the theme is aimed at a specific niche, it can be used for any purpose and won’t break if used for something else (let’s be honest…not everyone needs a theme aimed at dog grooming parlors, folks).
There is, of course, a lot to discuss around this topic, as we’ve involved marketing, development and the paid-for WordPress space, which then involves sales, customers, trends and customer needs.
I’m looking forward to discussing this topic with you all and seeing how, together, we can transform the paid-for WordPress space to ensure our products are as flexible as possible, and to ensure we don’t lose face of where we’ve come from, the products that started everything off and the intended purpose of the various types of products in the WordPress ecosystem.
How do you kick-start your WordPress theme projects?
Chief Product Officer at WooThemes. I’m a WordPress and web developer who loves making things work, creating WordPress plugins that answer the question “wouldn’t it be cool if” and pushing the boundaries within the WordPress and digital space. I’m an avid musician and a somewhat occasional blogger as well. Lover of punk rock, innovation, business and 80s/90s cartoons.