Is this the year of the niche theme?

Originally published at: https://community.envato.com/is-this-the-year-of-the-niche-theme/

Primož Cigler (@primozcigler) is a Frontend & WordPress Developer. Since building his first website in primary school he has had a strong passion for web development. When not visiting conferences, giving talks or organizing l local development related events, he is focusing on creating fast and highly optimized online solutions. In his spare time he’s a windsurfer, snowboarder and beer lover.
Our first product on Envato Market was a niche theme. Now - three years later - we are still in the game and stronger than ever before. This is the story of how ProteusThemes began, and why going niche has worked for us.

How we began

Not long after joining ThemeForest, Jaka and I uploaded our first product called HairPress HTML Template for Salons. It was built with a singular purpose in mind: to be a beautiful theme consisting of meaningful elements useful for a hair salon.

Three years later that same HTML item (with its accompanying WordPress version) still makes well over $1,000 per month.

In the last couple months I have heard so many people complaining that sales of WordPress products (especially on ThemeForest) are not what they used to be. ‘You need to keep uploading new items for a steady income’, they say, complaining, ‘You can only expect good sales for the first month after an item’s release’. But that’s just not true.

When Jaka and I - both students at the time - decided to give ThemeForest a try, we thought that the market for premium WordPress themes was already oversaturated. So, instead of going multipurpose, which was quickly becoming a trend, we chose to go in the complete opposite direction and went niche, building each theme for a very specific purpose.

Why we went niche

Back in 2012, it was hard to become an author on ThemeForest. Our ‘pitch’ for the TF review team was to create a product that was unique to what was in the market at the time. Not just visually but in its purpose and functionality. We didn’t have any serious long-term plans, but I clearly remember that we treated HairPress as our ‘ticket to the party’, and after we were finished releasing the HTML and Wordpress versions, we were planning to switch to - seemingly more lucrative - multipurpose themes.

It took us about 5 months to create the template, which Jaka designed - remember we were still students at the time. And, after that I took over and coded it into HTML with the ambition of coding a Wordpress later on.

But, the immediate success of the HTML template both shocked and amazed us, and from the day it launched, people were asking, at times even demanding we produce a Wordpress version, angry we hadn’t done so already.

It was there and then that I decided “We will never go multipurpose. This is what I want to do: create meaningful, easy to use products with a specific goal.”

It was a bold position to take at the time, but a lot of things have happened over the last few years that prove it was a smart one.

Here’s why going niche was right for us, and why it might be right for you…

The benefits of going niche

You’re creating for a specific audience

The better you know your target audience and their needs, the easier it is to create a product specifically for them. Going multipurpose, you need to pack a lot of different things into one package, meaning you probably won’t take the time to polish tiny details, which means the best you can hope for is a product that’s good rather than outstanding… Here’s an article which describes how simplicity wins over abundance of choice (tl;dr we prefer products that simply work). If you have a target business in mind, you can make a lot of smart choices rather than forcing the user to make them for you. Clients sometimes think they need lots of settings and adjustments, but if you give them too much, they’ll end up frustrated and they’ll think your product doesn’t work. Too many settings leads to frustration, which leads to making bad choices (or no choices), which leads to ugly and unuseful websites. Focusing on your user, and providing only the settings most necessary to them is the value you provide with a niche theme, leaving people happy with their end product, and allowing you to take credit for that success.

Less bloated products

When you create a theme with a specific business in mind, you end up with a less bloated product. For instance, with multipurpose themes you have to support 6 different sliders, 3 portfolio plugins, 4 e-commerce platforms and 5 lightboxes. All this comes at the cost of more code (thus performance), and more features to overwhelm your user. As I mentioned above, when you make smart choices from the beginning, you can pick the slider, portfolio, e-commerce platform and lightbox plugins to fit your theme the best.

Less features means less can go wrong

If a theme provides less features to play around with, there are less things that can go wrong. And if hardly anything goes wrong, you won’t have to dedicate all your time to support, which - as most of us can agree - is not the most exciting thing to do with your time?

Go niche and rank high

And last but not least, even though there are thousands of WP themes out there, it is still possible to go niche and rank high with specific keywords associated with your theme, both inside the marketplace and outside within the wide world of Google. Think about it, it’s probably going to be easier to rank #1 for ‘WP theme for hair salon’ than for ‘responsive WP theme’, isn’t it?..
Combine everything I’ve mentioned above with good support and a quality product and you have a secret formula for success.

Thanks for reading

I hope you found this article helpful. If you did, you can subscribe to my personal mailing list. I occasionally send the stuff I find useful for running a WordPress theme business, together with my articles & hacks.

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Let’s keep the ball rolling. I would love to continue discussing this topic in the forums. What did you have in mind when you were creating your first products for Envato Market? And how did you make your dreams come true? Do you believe in multipurpose or niche?

See you in forums!

 

Check out ProteusTheme's profile on ThemeForest!

2 Likes

Great @ProteusThemes

Thanks again for sharing your experience :slight_smile: I’m a fan of your work.

Indeed niche themes are good for both authors and buyers.

From the current market, what I understand is people will buy Multipurpose if they didn’t find any niche theme related to their product/service.

For example, your hair salon, What if there is no theme for hair salon? They will obviously buy any other multipurpose and customize to make it their own. But its really time consuming and you will get a lot of bloated code.

###So, to beat multipurpose items, create niche theme.

Well to certain point I agree, but lets not get two hasty. We also went on this niche frenzy and to be honest, Protheusthemes led the way and we followed. In the past I was wrong… But the point with niche themes that it gets to crowded very fast tough it will bring you still nice sales even after that popular list period.

But at certain point it all stops. But if you do hit that multi-purpose theme that sticks you are better off.
And lets not forget first couple of themes in a certain niche will bring you cool income even after that period but every next one will not and how many niches are there to fill?

For example do check subniches for construction, they do not go that well. Once we oversaturate that what is next?
I still think the ultimate goal is that sweet elusive multi-purpose theme, but for easier start niche is better and it all depends on the niche itself. Once you hit the popular list with niche others will follow (Protheusthemes knows that best).

But with multipurpose, competition rarely affects the “other theme”, for example if we get a multi-purpose theme on popular list its a slim chance that the next one that gets there will get my off, in this case its all about features and design.

And respectfully I disagree that simplicity wins and you have abundance of examples here. In construction alone, theme that rules for quite some time and got all other down of the popular list was richer in features, so less did not win in this case.

The convergence of everything is the point, finding the right balance. The one rule in marketing is that its easier/cheaper to keep a client then get a new one and in this case more features the theme can be reused more times and the client can stay loyal for other products.

The thing that, in my humble opinion, is that Protheusthemes managed to get consistency trough there products and that’s awesome!

For examples when we started responsive method was a question and an option now day’s its the law and there were no visual builders, so we had to actually rewrite our system hence our old themes are redundant for our new customers.

Those themes that managed to get bigger sales still do sell since majority of buyers just click best sales and surf there or go to the most popular theme.

Niche themes are better in this case I do agree, but once a niche fills its harder to find a certain product so the pattern for multipurpose emerges.

So to conclude its all about over saturation, once a certain niche go ballistic and people do have a choice they were choose among those few top sellers and the rest will get the crumbs.

Cheers

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Yeah, I hate how authors going crazy with multipurpose theme :smiley: and I choose niche too :wink:

I think I’m right, because my first WP theme for mobile app is doing well, even better this month :smiley:

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Niches are overrated. That’s why I have an extremely diverse portfolio… I’ve got stuff all across the board, from planets and spaceships, to moons, nebulae and stars. Best not to limit yourself! :wink:

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Thank you @surjithctly! Yes, I am sure this is quite common trend. But for sure only Envato staff knows :slightly_smiling:

Yup, diversity is the key, but as I can see now, most of the authors are going in the multipurpose direction.

Thank you for your verbose response @Anps. You got most of the points right.

But if you do hit that multi-purpose theme that sticks you are better off.

The odds are not in your favor that you will ever hit the top weekly sellers with a brand new multipurpose theme. Surely, I agree that it is great to have one of the top 10, but to knock one of them down to get that spot … something totally different.

And respectfully I disagree that simplicity wins and you have abundance of examples here.

I know which theme you have in mind. We intentionally didn’t want to compete with it, as our customers were happy with the simplicity of our theme. So besides visual appearance, I believe our BuildPress and that construction theme were very different product, for different needs. I cannot tell for sure, as I didn’t test it. But there are also other factors than sales: how much time it goes for development, how much time for support and how hard it is to keep the item up-to-date.

As you said:

The convergence of everything is the point, finding the right balance.

Awesome @ProteusThemes

Thanks again for sharing your experience.

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all guys are trying to sell and i think that’s legitimate , thus they try to wilder the “target” so that they make more revenue …

I get your point but you left out the if and else from my post.

Apart from some very creative themes in a specific niche all themes are well… the same, except the design. Flexibility of premium themes is the key. So in the end the design preference dominates. In my eyes its not the case that those 2 themes are for 2 different audiences as ours is not.

The only difference is how you wrap it. And the if and else I talked about… in the end its all about market saturation, once certain niche gets filled it’s going to be very hard to hit that sweet popular theme since well the market is way smaller for a specific niche, simply the target audience starts to divide among other products. In the beginning when multipurpose started, I presume niche wouldn’t go that far since it was all about flexibility. That is why all top themes are multipurpose, again its easier to get use to one system and then build different themes with it.

And you have to divide niche among themeselfs. Niche for news, blog, portfolio etc. is not the same as business like construction, transport, hairdressers etc. Once you do that do check the popular list and you see what clients crave for.

This is a great debate, would be nice to grab a cup of coffee some time and duel live :slightly_smiling:

Cheers

@ProteusThemes

Each word of this post is very important and wise. The probability of success with multipurpose is high, but it eat too much time and effort. I never tend to work on a very huge projects like multipurpose.

Thanks for your post. It’s valuable and motivating! :blush:

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This is a really good advice and example from @ProteusThemes . I also think theme authors should focus more on niche themes. In my experience multipurpose themes overwhelm regular users with huge option panels, even with the documentation it’s hard to set up a multipurpose theme for an average user. And bad user experience harms WordPress ecosystem.

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Niche themes are great way to focus in the development process, but I think that Envato killed every chance for someone with niche theme to make strong and big sales, thanks to these Multipurpose themes, that Envato gives a veeery huge push to!

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