Interview with Jason Schuller on the ThemeGarden Marketplace
I got a chance to catch up with Jason to get the skinny on this upcoming marketplace in an interview. For those not familiar with him, here’s a brief intro:
Jason Schuller is a digital creative professional living and working in Seattle, WA. Jason has been developing themes and plugins for WordPress since 2007 and launched his commercial theme store (Press75.com) in June of 2008.
The interview is after the jump.
Leland: You announced recently that ThemeGarden would be converting to a WordPress theme marketplace where third-party theme designers would be allowed to sell their work, as opposed to your own theme club model. Why the change in business model?
JS: I had always intended for ThemeGarden.com to include work by 3rd party theme designers, but had to launch with at least a few themes.
With this in mind, I created 3 new themes of my own and launched the 100% “subscription based” site (phase 1) in April of 2010. The plan was to have the primary site 100% subscription based with exclusive themes by me and a few other hand picked designers, then launch a secondary “Community Theme Garden” (phase 2) a few months later.
After running the primary site for several months, I have come to the realization that ThemeGarden.com should have always been a community WordPress theme marketplace from the start which is what I am focusing on with the relaunch.
Plus, I have a successful business of my own over at Press75.com, so now it’s time to share the wealth by launching a community marketplace focused on serving all the other talented designers and developers out there who might be interested in selling their work.
Leland: Can you tell us what separates the future ThemeGarden marketplace from other potentially competing theme marketplaces like ThemeForest or Mojo Themes? Why would a theme seller want to sell at ThemeGarden?
JS: It’s really not my intention to compete with sites like ThemeForest or Mojo. These sites focus on multiple platforms, quantity and maximizing their return on whoever has anything to sell. As a new seller on one of these sites, you stand to make only a 40% return on your work, and up to 70% if you end up being a top seller several months down the line.
ThemeGarden.com will provide the tools necessary for talented WordPress theme designers and developers to sell and support their work with an 80% return on any theme they sell.
Leland: Why would buyers want to buy themes at ThemeGarden?
JS: ThemeGarden.com has “seller requirements” for a reason. As a seller your themes must be unique, have valid code, and must always be up to date with the latest stable version of WordPress. You should also be active in supporting and maintaining any theme you sell on ThemeGarden.com.
These are just some of the reasons why end users will come to ThemeGarden.com to purchase themes. The focus is on quality of the product (not quantity) as well as customer support.
Leland: Do you consider WordPress theme companies like StudioPress to be competition for the upcoming ThemeGarden marketplace? Why or why not?
JS: Absolutely not… nor will ThemeGarden.com ever be competition for them. In fact, I think ThemeGarden.com would only boost companies like StudioPress by allowing child themes within the marketplace based on their frameworks. In order to use any child theme purchased from ThemeGarden.com, the customer would also have to purchase the framework from the source.
Either way, when it comes down to it, customers are going to choose the product that best suits their needs. Whether they find that “perfect fit” on ThemeGarden.com, Press75.com, StudioPress.com or any other company providing a similar product is entirely up to the customer.
Leland: The new ThemeGarden marketplace will allow the sale of child themes for popular WordPress theme frameworks. As far as I know, most other marketplace sites (and even WordPress.org) will only host standalone themes. Do you think this gives ThemeGarden an advantage over other WordPress theme repositories, and do you expect others to follow suit?
JS: This absolutely gives ThemeGarden.com an advantage, and I don’t see any reason why others would not follow suit. Frameworks are big business which is why it makes total sense to allow child themes in the marketplace.
Leland: Part of the seller requirements state that themes must be licensed under the GPL. Will child themes (or skins) of notable non-GPL theme frameworks like Thesis and Headway be allowed to be sold on the ThemeGarden marketplace?
JS: This is a hard call for me, and I am on the fence with this requirement because my own themes on Press75.com are split-GPL licensed. That is my choice, and Press75.com will never be supported by WordPress.org because of that decision.
However, in order to provide the most exposure for a community of sellers, I believe that ThemeGarden.com needs to be 100% GPL. This will ensure that ThemeGarden.com and the community surrounding it is in line with and supported by WordPress. I would love to hear some feedback on this by potential sellers as well.
But to answer the question, as long as the child theme is GPL licensed, I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t be allowed on ThemeGarden.com even if the parent framework isn’t 100% GPL licensed.
Leland: You state that theme sellers will be able to “maintain dedicated support forums” on the ThemeGarden website. Will there be a support policy that theme sellers will have to follow to remain active sellers in the marketplace? What about theme documentation requirements?
JS: Just my opinion… but if think you have a theme that is good enough to sell, you should be prepared to support it as well. Quality customer support is a big part of what made my own business a success, and is probably one of the major reasons that Press75.com continues to grow more than 2 years since I launched it.
If you are just looking to make a quick buck by selling a theme you are not willing or even want to support, ThemeGarden.com is probably not the marketplace for you. In other words… yes, only documented and supported themes will be allowed within the marketplace.
I haven’t drawn up a solid policy for this, but I think as long as the seller is active in maintaining their product and customer, all is good.
Leland: You describe ThemeGarden as being a “dedicated WordPress theme marketplace.” Does that mean you don’t have any plans to sell themes for other platforms like Tumblr, Posterous, or even regular old HTML templates?
JS: I want ThemeGarden.com to be the “Go To” marketplace for WordPress which is why I say “dedicated”, and is also why I think ThemeGarden.com will be a 100% GPL licensed site. There are no, and most likely will be no plans for other platforms in the future.
However, I could see launching spinoff sites for other platforms if things go well for ThemeGarden.com.
Leland: What will happen to the current themes you were already selling on ThemeGarden.com in the club format? Will you be just another seller when the new ThemeGarden marketplace launches?
The current ThemeGarden.com themes have already been moved over to Press75.com which will be their permanent home. I really want ThemeGarden.com to be about the community (sellers and buyers) which is why I probably will not be releasing my own themes on ThemeGarden.com.
I have already build my own success out of Press75.com, and now it’s time to share the wealth with others.
Leland: GPL, GPL, GPL, GPL, GPL, GPL, GPL, GPL, GPL, GPL, GPL, GPL, GPL, GPL, GPL, GPL. Discuss?
JS: It’s as simple as this… I want ThemeGarden.com to be adopted as the “Go To” marketplace for WordPress. Regardless of how I feel or what I do with my own themes, in order to achieve that goal, ThemeGarden.com should be 100% GPL right?
Of course I would love feedback on this. Let me know what you think.
Sorry, just had to get a GPL question in there. Like the last interview, I didn’t make any edits aside from adding a few links.
I’d like to thank Jason for taking the time to complete the interview here, as well as sticking around WP Chat a couple days ago answering other questions from chatters about ThemeGarden.
Of course I wish him the best of luck as it sounds like a really cool project that has the potential to benefit many theme buyers and sellers.
If you have any feedback on the interview or on the upcoming ThemeGarden marketplace, let loose in the comments. I’d imagine Jason will be keeping an eye on them for feedback.