[Infographic] The State of WordPress Themes: Current Trends And Classifications

WordPress is the most popular CMS out there. It powers a good number of websites and blogs, and owing to its popularity, the number of extensions and themes that are available for WordPress surpasses those of any other CMS by a mile.

Speaking of WordPress themes, the market is filled with options. You have free themes, premium themes, themes created by design agencies, themes created by casual designers just to kill time, themes created with passion and, sadly, themes containing spam and shady links. However you look at it, I guess the point is clear:

WordPress themes = way too many!

In this article, we shall be taking a look at the current state of WordPress themes. 

WordPress Themes: The Trends

So, what are the current trends when it comes to WordPress themes?

Note: The word ‘trends’ does not essentially mean design aspects; it may also refer to market conditions and usage statistics. 

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  1. Trends in Design: Like it or not, minimalism and responsive web design trends have almost driven ornate and flowery elements into a corner. Thus, when it comes to WordPress themes, clean, minimal and responsive work is the way to go!
  2. Purpose of Themes: WP, being the most popular CMS, is used for multiple purposes: to run an online store, a personal blog, an art portfolio, a news website, and so on. Naturally, WP themes have adapted to such diverse usage: you can now find themes that are meant specifically for eCommerce, personal blogs, news/magazine websites, job boards, and so on.
  3. Market Saturation: The actual level of market saturation when it comes to WP themes happens to be a product of the purchasing power of the users, as well as market competition. Since the theme providers are too many, most users simply opt for the most popular option. Now, keeping the purchasing parity in mind, not everyone will be able to afford a club membership with ten theme providers. As a result, they will settle with just one theme provider, possibly one that has a huge collection of themes and offers a clean track-record of serving customers. This further means that big theme providers, like WooThemes and ElegantThemes, keep getting bigger and smaller ones are not able to grow at exponential rates.
  4. Response to Saturation: Since most new theme provider shops and startups are not becoming WooThemes overnight, an alternate route has gained traction: theme marketplaces! ThemeForest and Mojo Themes have been providing good quality themes created by talented folks from around the world. This ensures that the end users get decent themes at budget-friendly rates, and theme makers get to earn a profit without being shadowed by the bigger players.
  5. Counter-Saturation: Ever heard of John Saddington? Yes, the guy behind Standard Theme. His success in terms of WP themes is based on one creation of gigantic proportions. Not everyone gets to be Saddington obviously, but the point is clear: in spite of a highly competitive market, making one’s mark is not impossible. Another case is that of A J Clarke who, unlike Saddington, releases numerous themes (both paid and free) regularly. Clarke has earned a name not by being gigantic, but simply by being consistent.

WordPress Themes: The Classification

For the sake of discussion, I shall be dividing WordPress themes into three categories: paid (premium) themes, free themes and shady themes. Of course, I’ll be overlooking the rather strange coinages such as Freemium (free+premium=WHAT?) themes. Let’s just stick to the proper route, shall we?

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Now, having divided the current state of themes on the basis of payment, we can further sub-divide them on the basis of their source of availability. Thus, free themes can have three sub-heads: themes available via the official repository, and occasional free themes available from premium theme makers, and lastly, free themes created by designers/developers but not added to the repository. Along similar lines, premium themes can have two sub-heads: themes available directly from premium theme makers, and themes available via marketplaces.

And before I forget, the distinction is always blurry. Still, I shall try to stick to the above divisions throughout the article.

Free WordPress Themes

Who doesn’t like free stuff? Seriously, who doesn’t?

As of now, the official WordPress repository claims to have a little over 1600 themes on offer. Some good, some bad, but all for free! Tweet this

Going beyond the official repository, we also have free themes released by premium theme stores: either for promotion, or on a special occasion such as the theme store’s birthday or a festival, or simply just to say thank you to their users. Some good examples include the likes of Leatherly by ColorLabs, Meeta by WPZOOM, and Mystile by WooThemes. It must also be noted that often these themes find their way into the official repository as well; yet, I’ll retain them in a separate category simply because overall, they are in the minority.

Leatherly: A Free Theme by ColorLabs

Leatherly: A Free Theme by ColorLabs

And lastly, we have a section of free themes that are released by talented designers and developers and often do not find their way into the repository (for whatever reasons). Such themes do not really have a timeline of release — but you can expect some level of forum or comment thread support. Often, theme developers offer a mix of both free and premium themes, and naturally the free ones are not as well curated as the premium ones. Still, at the end of the day, even the free lot can be pretty impressive, as is the case with themes created by FearlessFlyer.

Premium WordPress Themes

Now, coming to premium themes. As mentioned above, I have broadly classified them under two sub-categories.

The first sub-category consists of themes that are available directly via the premium theme makers. Again, theme shops such as WooThemes, ElegantThemes and ThemeFurnace are good examples of this trend. The second sub-category consists of theme designers who market their themes via theme marketplaces, such as ThemeForest and Mojo Themes. This second breed of theme designer generally includes freelancers and aspiring developers/designers who still haven’t grown to the level of a full fledged theme shop in their own right.

ElegantThemes: A Reputed Premium Theme Provider

ElegantThemes: A Reputed Premium Theme Provider

Now, in terms of numbers, who wins? Let’s try to put together the total number of free themes on the Internet: the official repository has over 1600, and if you add another 1000 to it to account for the free themes released by designers and developers of their own accord, you’ll get an impressive number of 2500-2600. That’s pretty decent for freebies, ain’t it?

The premium themes, on the other hand, are in the majority. Even ThemeForest is nearing 2200 single-handedly. Add to it around 300+ themes from Mojo Themes, plus the themes available via themes clubs and template makers (say, 2000+), and you’ll have a whopping number of 4200, and counting! Tweet this

This does not include the themes released by template factory shops (I personally find almost all themes released by any given template factory shop to be semi-identical with minor variations, so I’ll not disgrace the hard-work done by premium theme makers by mentioning factory themes in the same breath).

Oh wait, we are forgetting the third category!

Shady and Spammy Themes

All good things should be followed by bad ones (or was it the other way round…bad things to be followed by good…ah well, never mind).

Basically, shady and spammy themes include ones that have encrypted code or hidden adverts. If you remove the links to those adverts, your theme will stop functioning (and most likely disallow you from accessing your WP admin panel either). Obviously, such compulsive linking to undesirable websites is not something you’d wish to have your blog identified with, and thus it is best to avoid such themes.

Shady WP Themes: Killing life, one website at a time

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The Hall of Shame? Naturally, we will not be linking to any of them, but here is a rather small list of theme websites that you can avoid (be warned: there are many more out there):

  1. smthemes.com
  2. wpthemesfree.com
  3. blogstheme.com
  4. templatesbrowser.com

The above list is not exhaustive: as a rule, you should stop Googling “awesome free WP themes that make my website rock”, and quit relying on torrents/warez too much. You may also consider looking up this article that I wrote sometime back. 

And.. an Infographic!

Ah yes! Who doesn’t like infographics? Michael John Burns has prepared a special one, related to WordPress themes. Considering the fact that you’ve already spent a good deal of time reading this article, I’ll let the infographic to speak for itself! Oh, and be sure to click the image for an enlarged version. :-)

Also, wanna tweet just about the infographic? Yes, do that.

The State of WordPress Themes: Current Trends And Classifications

Embed this Infographic on your Blog!

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Community Time!

Guess what? We decided to tweet about WordPress themes, and ask your opinions!

Here are some of the interesting responses that we received:

Conclusion

TL;DR — The future for WordPress themes is bright, and you needn’t fear.

With an ever-growing number of themes, both free and premium, users of WordPress can expect to encounter the (rather joyous) problem of choosing one out of numerous awesome themes. What are your thoughts on the state of WordPress themes? Have your say in the comments below!

Sufyan bin Uzayr

Sufyan bin Uzayr writes for various magazine and blogs, and is the author of several books. He blogs about technology, Linux and open source, mobile, web design and development, typography, and Content Management Systems at Code Carbon. You can learn more about him, follow him on Twitter or friend him on Facebook and Google+.

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Comments

  1. says

    Nice article! I disagree that security plugins are needed. The fewer plugins the better. Harden your server, harden your WP installation, keep in-line js out of your markup, don’t advertise how to hack you (WP version, links to and HTML comments from plugin files in the markup, etc.), then use a free CDN like Cloudflare to add a layer of security (in addition to speeding up your site). Just an opinion.

  2. says

    i thing so wordpress really usefull web script, because you can find to easly themes, plugins and when you can use to some programs making own theme files.

  3. says

    Great post, Sufyan. The only thing I would add is that although WordPress is a very stable, robust, stable and secure platform for blogging. All of my websites are on the WordPress platform. However, users should install a few security plugins . beside that thank you for sharing

  4. Tauqeer says

    totally agree, word press is the easiest way to get your site in a proper form and the plugins are also nice rather than the other sources . thanks for sharing this info

  5. says

    It seems that there is no end to WordPress themes! Indeed it is a very nice and informative post! Keep posting such articles to keep us updated about them. Thanks for sharing!

  6. terhile says

    I design my themes using html and just convert dynamically to word press by changing some php functions

  7. Christian says

    Thanks for sharing this informations :)
    I was browsing your archives and stumbled upon this article, because I’m trying to build my own theme, as give it away for free or in change of a donation.
    Keep it up,
    ~Christian

  8. says

    Spammy Themes is one of the most common mistakes new WordPress user make, downloading premium themes from shady websites without not knowing the consequences these themes might bring, from malware to getting you banned from Google Search Results.

    • says

      Agreed. Grabbing premium themes for free…via torrents/warez and other evil places only gets you free malware in return. I’ve seen so many websites being compromised owing to such shady themes. However, this is one security menace that WP cannot really help: only the users will need to be more pro-active and wise when installing themes.

  9. says

    Responsive WordPress is a real godsend. I like to read blogs using my phone, but it’s alsmost impossible to enjoy reading when you have to scroll to the left and right. I asked Santa Claus to spread responsive web design all over the web

  10. says

    This is Nice research, Just wan to add that theme decides the overall look of your blog, it plays an important role in creating an impression on your visitors. Therefore, the theme must be chose according to your target audience or customers.

  11. says

    I’m not a big wordpress user, but what usually strikes me is how similar everything looks. Changing a colour and a font and some tiny bit of functionality should not constitute a whole new theme, it feels like 90% of them could fit into two categories “big header at top of columns” and “big picture at top of columns”, the other 10% would be mostly “vintage typography themes”. There was a “best of” selection on another blog and everything just looked identical, WordPress certainly makes daily life easier for busy people running websites but it’s a nemesis to creative web design.

    • says

      To some extent, yes, I do agree with you. However, WordPress does have the ability to help many designers and developers as well as end users make the most out of their websites, and this is why the software keeps rocking. That said, I also feel that creativity in design itself is a product of the abilities of the designer himself/herself, and not necessary of the software.

  12. says

    I still haven’t found a free theme, that I would like. I’m going to have to try a paid one. I also think a paid theme also has a better support.

    • says

      Yes, paid themes have much better support and features, but free themes aren’t all bad either. That said, premium or paid themes have a huge set of advantages over free ones, for sure.

  13. says

    I really agree with what the people said here via Twitter. The themes also act as a positive because people can see that WordPress is well used and has a lot available, and therefore be joining it and using the software which does also mean that there products will/could be brought. I am still very happy with the way WordPress works and the designers and themes available.

  14. says

    Nice research Sufyan, Just wan to add that theme decides the overall look of your blog, it plays an important role in creating an impression on your visitors. Therefore, the theme must be chose according to your target audience or customers.

  15. Nick Novikov says

    Nice infographics! Up to this moment I thought there is approximately equal number of premium and free themes. But as I see actually it’s not true. Though it doesn’t surprise me. Functionality of WordPress becomes more and more complex and programming for WordPress requires a lot of efforts so nobody wants to spend so much time for free.

  16. says

    Thanks for such a nice collection of information.
    I am looking forward to buy a premium theme for my site.
    I am a little bit stuck in choosing between Thesis and Genesis theme. Can you please advice with which one should I go. I ran through a search over Google regarding thesis vs genesis and I am more than confused in between the both themes. Hope for a positive reply from your side.

    Many Thanks.

    • says

      Depends. Thesis has a drag-and-drop approach that is well loved by many users, and the general belief is that Thesis is more beginner-friendly. I, personally, would settle with Genesis on any given day, though, as I find Genesis to be more powerful in terms of customization as compared to Thesis.
      That said, both of them are frameworks that need to be customized to suit your needs. If you are unsure about your customization skills, you can settle for a readymade child theme of these frameworks. Plus, if you are seeking a framework to learn coding and experiment with, I’ll recommend Hybrid Core, which is free.
      Hope that helps! :)

      • says

        Thanks Sufyan bin Uzayr for taking out your precious time to answer my question.
        As per your recommendation I’ll definitely give Hybrid Core a try for sure (before going with Genesis or Thesis).

        Many Thanks.

    • Karen says

      I’ve used both. No comparison. Genesis Yes – Thesis, not even close. Genesis is so much more sophisticated and easy to use at the same time. Thesis can be confusing. And it seems to veer a bit off the mainstream of WP – having it’s own names for things – or it’s own way of doing things, that I don’t think benefits their users. And the Genesis support is fabulous. I sound like I work for them! LOL! I have nothing to do with Genesis other than thinking it’s just a super smart way to work with WP.

      • Karen says

        I also love Builder – which I don’t see on this list – and can’t figure out why not. It has a GREAT community!

        • Karen says

          Thesis seemed to have a head of steam a few years ago – but then it seemed to fizzle away. I think it “jumped the shark” quite a while ago. I was actually surprised to see it on this list. Best of luck to you. Be sure to try a few frameworks and then you’ll really know which is best for you. Using the framework that suits you best will speed up the learning curve immensely. And that includes the community and support around it – which is why I love Builder so much.

  17. says

    It’s fact that WordPress made the designers life much easier. If you know some basic PHP, you can grab themes from ThemeForest, customize and use it for clients. I wish I could develop the themes as well.

    • says

      Agreed! And if you wish to develop themes, why not start coding? It’s never too late, and over here at 1stWebDesigner we have a lot of resources to help you get started.

      • says

        I feel lost when start coding in PHP. Actually am a designer/front end developer. Tried to get my hands on PHP many times but at some stage, feel like it’s not my job. It’s the matter of time as well. Don’t get enough time to explore new things with my current full time job. If I get some time, I dedicate this to my blog. Anyhow believe I will get this one day :)