Themeforest has a developer churn..and it will (badly) hurt WordPress

WordPress, the world’s most popular Content Management System (CMS), has been the go-to choice for millions of websites and bloggers. Its versatility, flexibility, and vast ecosystem of themes and plugins have made it an attractive option for developers and users alike.

However, a growing concern among WordPress users is the alarming rate at which theme and plugin developers are neglecting their products, leaving customers with outdated and potentially vulnerable websites.

This WordPress developer churn poses a significant threat to WordPress adoption, particularly as newer platforms like Ghost and Substack gain traction.

Why Themeforest matters to WordPress ecosystem

One of the most prominent marketplaces for WordPress themes and plugins is ThemeForest, a subsidiary of Envato. With over 50,000 items available, ThemeForest is the largest marketplace for WordPress products, offering a vast array of themes, plugins, and templates. The platform’s popularity is reflected in its staggering numbers:

  • Over 50,000 items available, including themes, plugins, and templates.
  • Over 10 million customers worldwide.
  • Over 1.5 million items sold each year.
  • Over 1,000 new items are added every week.

These numbers demonstrate the immense popularity of WordPress and the significant demand for high-quality themes and plugins. However, the lack of updates from developers is a growing concern that could undermine the platform’s success.

The consequences of developer churn..to WordPress

In the race to stay relevant and outshine competitors, some developers prioritize quantity over quality, churning out themes and plugins without adequate support or long-term commitment.

Once the initial sales surge subsides, attention wanes, and products are left to languish in neglect. The result? Dissatisfied customers left grappling with buggy code, security vulnerabilities, and compatibility issues.

Case in point: Except for top-selling themes, many themes / plugins in Themeforest which launched 7-8 years back aren’t getting updated. ̛In all probability, sales have plateaued – but a lot of such plugins/themes have more than 5000+ sales, which is frustrating for active customers out there (given the custom nature of these themes as they use their own custom post types, which hinders porting to another theme)

The consequences of developer churn are far-reaching and can have significant implications for WordPress adoption. When developers stop updating their products, customers are left with:

  1. Security Risks: Outdated themes and plugins can leave websites vulnerable to security breaches, compromising sensitive user data and potentially leading to financial losses.
  2. Compatibility Issues: As WordPress and its components evolve, outdated products may become incompatible, causing website functionality to break or rendering them unusable.
  3. Performance Problems: Neglected themes and plugins can lead to slow loading times, poor user experiences, and decreased search engine rankings, ultimately affecting a website’s online presence.
  4. Loss of Trust: When developers abandon their products, customers lose trust in the platform and may seek alternative solutions, potentially switching to competing platforms like Ghost or Substack.

WordPress faces stiff competition from newer, nimbler (and FASTER) platforms like Ghost and Substack, which promise sleeker interfaces, faster performance, and streamlined publishing (and monetizable) experiences like newsletter subscription etc (WP.com’s newsletter feature is so basic that it doesn’t even is a worthy competitor to newer players).

The biggest issue is that Envato does not care – they continue to host such themes/plugins. Eventually, many (frustrated) customers will end up switching to simpler experiences like Ghost/Substack and that will hurt WordPress in the long run.

What’s your take? If you are launching a new site, would you choose (bloated) WordPress or look for other sleeker options?