I caught up with Jeffrey Way from Envato recently via email and he was happy to answer some questions about their marketplace. I hope you enjoy the interview :)
Q. Regular readers of WP Mods know that I am a big fan of ThemeForest due to the large volume of WordPress themes available. You recently celebrated the release of the 1,000th WordPress theme on the marketplace. Have you been surprised by the growth of the market for the WordPress platform?
For those unfamiliar with what you’re referring to, we created a dedicated landing page to promote the event. There’s also two awesome free icon sets that your readers can download if they wish.
Now to answer your question, I think everyone in the WordPress industry has been amazed by how quickly the platform and ecosystem have taken off. The last time I checked, WordPress accounts for roughly 10% of *all* websites. Isn’t that crazy? So naturally, with a percentage that high, the various theme marketplaces are doing quite well. In three short years, ThemeForest’s WordPress category has matured into the best and cheapest source of Premium WordPress themes on the web. We’re very proud of that. When I can tout that authors have made as much as $40,000 worth of sales in a single month…well it doesn’t get much better than that!
Q. One of my main criticisms of ThemeForest (and the envato marketplace in general) is that the level of support provided by developers can vary widely. Envato gave me a full refund when one developer did not provide support so I know first hand that the support from Envato is great. It does appear that developers are taking support more seriously with many top designers setting up private forums for their customers. Is there anything Envato can do to encouarage developers to provide good support?
ThemeForest is often placed in the same category as private, subscription-based theme providers, like WooThemes. An important distinction to make, though, is that ThemeForest is more reminiscent of marketplaces like Amazon or Etsy. If you want a more appropriate comparison, you’d relate WooThemes to one author/team on ThemeForest, such as Kriesi.
My point is that, as a middle-man for theme developers, ThemeForest leaves the issue of providing support up to each author. Beyond reviewing all new submissions for any potential errors or confusions, it would be impossible for us to monitor the level and consistency of support for every single author. That said, most authors on ThemeForest understand that support is vital to a successful business and portfolio. Most provide exquisite support these days.
Q. Sticking on the issue of support, my friend Sam and I discussed how support is provided at ThemeForest. Many developers only provide support through the comment system. It’s not uncommon for some products to have dozens of support pages. As yet, there is no search function within this comment area which makes it difficult to find an answer to common problems as you need to go through all comment pages to see if the question has been asked before. Is a search option within the comment area something you are considering adding in the future or perhaps a complete change in how support is provided to customers?
You’re certainly right. When we initially launched back in 2008, a single comments page was sufficient enough for an item. That said, now that ThemeForest’s popularity has increased exponentially, we understand that it’s important for us to provide an improved forum-like system for handle support requests. I can assure you that we’re actively working on it right now.
Q. I’ve personally purchased several themes through ThemeForest. One of my favourite features is the ability to download all products I have purchased at the click of a button. I noticed recently that two themes have been removed from the marketplace (one of which I was given a refund for). I appreciate that over time sales of a product will reduce, therefore there will come a point where, from a financial point of view, it isn’t worth the developers time to support the product any more. Have you considered making products that have been removed from the public marketplace available to those who purchased them with a simple disclaimer that the theme is no longer supported?
There’s a variety of reasons why an item could be removed from ThemeForest. It’s possible that the theme is now out-dated and in need of upgrades. It’s also possible that the author, himself, became dissatisfied with the quality of the item, and decided to take it down.
It’s important to note that your marketplace “Downloads” page isn’t meant to be a Dropbox like page, where you can download all of your purchases for years to come. As long as you download the item within a reasonable amount of time from the purchase date, this shouldn’t be an issue.
Q. ThemeForest recently had some cosmetic changes, including a great looking new toolbar. How difficult is it implementing changes to a site as big as ThemeForest? Do you need to make changes to the way the site is structured slowly so that customers don’t get confused (i.e. big changes could affect sales etc)?
Rather than massively redesigning a marketplace every few years, it’s much smarter to make incremental changes. Not only does this allow us to update the site more frequently, but it also creates a better user experience, and doesn’t force buyers to learn a completely new layout every few years.
Certainly, with a marketplace as big as ours, we can’t simply add a new header in a day’s time. Honestly, it takes a significant amount of effort to push updates of this magnitude through. We must consider usability, browser compatibility, layout, our competitors, staff feedback, etc.
Now that the header changes are out the door, you guys can look forward to an improved home page layout in the coming months!
Q. How do you see the ThemeForest marketplace evolving over the next 12 months?
Beyond the incremental layout changes that you’ll be seeing every quarter or so, we’ll also be focusing on improving our search functionality, adding new licensing structures, and a lot that I can’t speak of just yet! :)
In terms of content, we’ll be focusing quite a bit on pushing into new territories, like Joomla, OpenCart, and Magento. While we already offer a wide variety of themes for these categories, we can and will do better. In fact, we’re working on that right now!
Now if you’re referring specifically to WordPress, we’re taking a greater role than ever before to ensure its continued success (wp.envato.com). We frequently sponsor meetups, and several members of Envato have given presentations at WordCamps in the last year. Personally, I’m scheduled to speak about the business of theme design at the upcoming WordCamp Kansas City in June.
Q. The latest service from Envato is PhotoDune, a new stock photography website. Can you tell us a little about the site and when it is scheduled to launch.
I can’t tell you too much just yet. What I can tell you, though, is that we’re working harder than ever to create the best stock photography marketplace on the web. Considering our track-record, there’s a lot to look forward to!
We’re scheduled for a 2011 launch.
Q. Finally, can you tell me your top 5 favourite WordPress themes in the ThemeForest marketplace (and why)?
Ohh – I can’t play favorites. Besides, a sales count will speak volumes more than I ever could!