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.

Follow me to the forums!

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!

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