Codeable info

The Cost Of Giving WordPress Themes Away For Free

Posted on by in Blog

Self proclaimed WordPress rockstar Adriaan Pienaar wrote a good article on WooThemes a few days ago entitled ‘The Cost of Free‘. In the article he discusses the problems that WooThemes, and other premium theme stores, experience from giving away designs for free.

With over 400,000 downloads of their free themes, it just isn’t possible to give support to those who download their free designs, however by not doing so they are potentially alienating thousands of potential customers. This is the ‘Cost’ that Addriaan refers to. It’s something which I can relate to. I released 1 premium design and 3 or 4 free WordPress designs through my last blog Blogging Tips. Without doubt, the vast majority of questions came from people who downloaded the free design.

Whilst I did try and help when I could, I found it counter productive. Those who needed support rarely helped others through the forums when I had resolved their problem and they rarely contributed to the blog with comments either. Therefore there was little value to help them from a business point of view.

This is why I fully support the freemium model. It encourages designers to continue to release top quality designs to the WordPress community for free and those who want support can get it by paying a little extra. I do have sympathy for those who need support and can’t afford it but it simply isn’t viable for most developers to offer this for free. That being said, I think it’s important for WordPress users to help others with problems when they can spare the time.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue. Please leave a comment if you have time :)

Kevin

)
Codeable info

Comments (19)

Comment by Theme Serve says:

Thanks for this great content, i have subscripe to your feeds.

Comment by Marios says:

Thank you Kevin, will do in few weeks, will let you know,

Marios

Comment by Kevin Muldoon says:

Remember to let us know when you release a new free design and I’ll let WPMods readers know about it :)

Comment by Marios says:

Yes Kevin, every month I will release at least 1 Free and 1 Premium theme,

Comment by Kevin Muldoon says:

I’m sure your visitors appreciate the time you put in. Do you have any other themes in the pipeline?

Comment by Marios says:

Yes the more you include the better, but a good step-by-step video will help the users the most. And remember you will get many questions asking about customizations, how to change links colors, background colors, make the images bigger/smaller etc…so get ready. I stay everyday till 3am answering every email, remember customer service is the big one.

Comment by SuperSimpleGuy says:

“There will always be support questions if you release a product though, just the nature of things.”

I can imagine! I run a francophone blog to help writers with ideas and practical articles, I have to deal with a lot of questions, and I love helping people.
I imagine that the number of questions coming from new theme users maybe far less than those I receive, and I believe they are less complicated because the problems and solutions are easier to match when it comes to technical stuff, I think.

Comment by Kevin Muldoon says:

If Developers include tutorials online via videos, pdfs or detailed articles; then the number of questions from visitors would definately be reduced. There will always be support questions if you release a product though, just the nature of things.

Comment by SuperSimpleGuy says:

Oh my God! Just today I started to learn how to create a WordPress theme, and I am thinking of releasing some free themes once I know how to deal with the minimum required coding stuff… but I never thought that it would be a hassle dealing with custommer service even for free products ^^”

Marios’ method with videos is cool, but it’s not the only way: why not include a tutorial report inside the free download? It would contain everything the user may need to know in order to use the product effectively, let’s say: a small pdf file with step by step images and frequently asked questions. Just a possibility.

Thank you Kevin for your interesting article, it lets me think of some aspects I did not consider at all (even if my project plannings are not particularily built arround WordPress themes.)

Salutations,
SSG

Comment by Marios says:

Kevin, yes, making videos takes time, but in a long run I am saving time by not getting hundreds of emails asking me how to insert photos inside the post. Videos are great,

Comment by Kevin Muldoon says:

That’s a good idea Marios. Very few of the websites who release premium themes for free do this (I assume this is due to time).

Comment by John Flower says:

Yup, hard to compete. throw in the ever-growing amount of do-it-yourself theme frames, and the contest really gets difficult. Smart move to include vid tutorials.

Comment by Marios says:

Kevin, we are living in a society of “FREE” with so many quality wp themes for free its hard to compete. After releasing 4 of my themes for free, I had to be smart about support, so I included full video overview with step by step instructions of how to set up everything. I get over 200 downloads /day /theme and only few email questions.

Comment by Pete mancini says:

Expand more on the Freemium model. Why do you think it will address the problem better. Great observations. I think recognizing this type of cost is really valuable information.

Comment by Kevin Muldoon says:

Because web designers need to make a living. Most designers who contribute to the WordPress community have went above and beyond many times to help others, however this doesn’t pay the bills. Designers need to get a return from the hours they spend online.

The freemium model allows people to download quality themes for free but those who need support can pay extra for it. Those who pay a little extra usually get a little more functionality in the theme too.

Comment by Kevin Muldoon says:

I agree. Theme stores obviously look at the benefits of releasing free designs such as cheap promotion etc.

Comment by John Flower says:

I suppose free is a relative term. If someone is giving away free themes, I suppose they have to live with the consequences. Consequences should probably be thrown into the business plan prior to deciding on the free route.
One thing is certain: you’ll be working for your income, whichever way you go.

Comment by Kevin Muldoon says:

Hi Natatalie,

I’ve heard nothing but good things about Genesis. I’ll need to make a point of trying it out at one point in the future.

I’ve used Headway for two new sites of mine and have been really impressed with the response time to support questions and the improvements to the script they have added over the last year. It really makes a difference.

What I found frustrating with a lot of support questions was that those who asked for helped never helped themselves. I’d point them to a solution online which addressed their problem and on more than one occasion I was asked to just fix it for them. No one I helped ever took the time to help others in the forum too, which I found frustrating and was the main reason for only helping those who paid for support.

Kevin

Comment by Natatalie @ Coffee. Cupcakes. Cards. Oh My! says:

I’m all for free stuff, BUT I also recogise (on an often basis) that I am new to blogging and do have questions where I need support. To expect that for free, is unrealistic.

Right now, I use the Lifestyle theme on Genesis framework and I have to say, the support there is AMAZING! Even with a paid theme, the support has been priceless!

The community as a whole have been incredibly generous with their time and expertise, even repeating tips and guidelines to simplify for lil ole me.

And when you consider the actual cost of the theme… the multi-download facility, the free theme (Prose) I received also… actually, it’s not expensive at all.

Codeable info