Matt, the creator of WordPress, is laying the groundwork for a theme marketplace, the beginning of which he shares in his post Marketplace Idea. The idea is solid, and a step I’ve wanted to see for a while. I design and build my own themes, and will likely do so for a long time to come, but I have never built a theme to give away due to time constraints, so I’m not firmly in either target audience for the service. From this outside (though firmly in the ‘I love WordPress’ camp) vantage point I see some great benefits from this service:
- The amount of people developing themes will increase, as professionals will be able to justify the time spent on theme creation. If billable hours are important to you, knowing that you are creating a product is worth spending some unpaid time up-front.
- Following from the last point, the more professional developers and designers that are involved, the more high quality themes will be available.
- Blog themes will gain in value. While I am a big fan of giving away work, having produced a couple of small plugins and scripts myself, it is important that we establish the fact that good work is worth paying for, and great work doubly so.
- Good designs that are “retired” from a site could be put into circulation as a theme. I’ve had a couple of designs that I have replaced because I wanted something new on a site, not necessarily because the old design had any major flaws. Knowing that I could earn money, benefit others and/or gain recognition, I’d be more willing to spend some time making the small changes required to place it on the Marketplace. I’m not sure how this point relates to the requirement that the theme has not been published before.
- This is a great promotion of open source code, without sacrificing the earnings that should come from hard work.
I’m really curious to see how the pricing will play out. Will the system set a price, or a set of prices, or will each theme producer set their own? Knowing only that a subset of users will have to pay to use your theme provides an interesting twist to setting your price and deciding on how much work to put into each theme.
I’m also excited to see how people make names for themselves, building reputations with the themes they produce. This could produce a neat cottage industry, or it could reduce the value of design and development in much the same manner as the “get a whole site for $500″ services that have existed for a while. The latter doesn’t worry me very much, as quality stands out, and I know quite a few top notch folks who make their living producing great work at fair prices far above the outsourced rates.