Interview With Adii Of WooThemes

woothemeslogoOver the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to work with Adii to have him appear on an episode of WordPress Weekly for a live interview. Unfortunately, there are a number of personal things that crept up which prevented him from being on the show. However, I’ve managed to substitute the live interview with a text based one. Here it is.

When I look at WooThemes today, I’m reminded of a company called RocketThemes which provides commercial themes for Joomla. Great support, great themes, and they always seem to be pushing the boundaries of the platform. Has WooThemes looked towards RocketThemes as inspiration on the WordPress side of things?

Hell yeah! When Magnus, Mark & I initially decided to evolve the old Premium News Themes business we drew a hell of a lot of inspiration from the RocketThemes crew. Whilst I think we’ve evolved our own business to be distinctively WooThemes, I don’t think we would’ve ever pushed our club subscriptions so hard, had it not been for RocketThemes.

And now… We’re still the only WP developers with a proper subscription option, which is insanely attractive at $15 / $20 per month with access to 40+ themes and 2 / 3 new themes every month. Looking at that, I truly believe that whilst RocketThemes served as the initial inspiration; we’ve truly made this Woo+Rocket hybrid model our own now.

While I try to keep my eyes and ears open in the WordPress community, I can’t help but notice how in my face WooThemes is. From Twitter, to shared links, who is responsible for the marketing of WooThemes? How have you been able to leverage your loyal customers/community to generate more sales/traffic?

95% of our marketing efforts is my responsibility, as I’m probably the most vocal member of the WooTeam. Our marketing ideas however originates from within the team and I can’t take sole credit for all the different things we’ve implemented. But it’s still my responsibility to execute those strategies and make sure that we’re hitting our targets.

Custom Modifications Of WooThemes Voted Upon By Users
Custom Modifications Of WooThemes Voted Upon By Users

And yes – we’ve experienced a massive surge in traffic in recent months (August delivered 1m+ pageviews and just over 2TB of bandwidth, whilst May – in comparison) delivered only 620K pageviews and we did 540GB in bandwidth) and that obviously has a knock-on effect to sales. It’s definitely not directly related, but it’ll probably come down to something like for every 200 new pageviews (from a previous month), we’ll generate one additional sale (theoretically).

Ultimately it is our marketing that sets us apart from anyone within the industry. I’m totally putting my balls on the line making that statement, but meaning no disrespect to our friends and other WP developers – I truly believe that the WooThemes marketing machine runs on a different playing field.

So this year, we finally see the big push for most commercial theme outlets for WordPress switch to be more kosher with the GPL, including WooThemes. Has the inclusion of WooThemes onto the WordPress commercial GPL theme page boosted your sales or traffic at all? Also, would WooThemes have gone GPL regardless of that theme page?

WooThemes On The Commercial GPL Themes Page
WooThemes On The Commercial GPL Themes Page

Firstly – yes we would’ve gone GPL without the theme page. We had made the decision to go GPL way back in March this year, but wanted to restructure our entire business (which we did with WOO2) first and thus only make one big change (instead of a bunch of minor changes spread out over time). If I remember correctly, I first heard about the themes page from Brian G in early May… So no, it was never a “sweetener” in making the decision to go GPL.

And honestly – sent us about 2% of our unique visitors last month, which is less than our top affiliate did. So whilst we’re more than happy to take every visit, pageview & click we can get, we’d never make such an important decision (to go GPL) based on a 2% traffic increase.

There are quite a few talented WordPress theme designers that are in the commercial realm but most are one-two man shops. How beneficial has it been for WooThemes to have a talented team of individuals? Speaking of, how many people are part of the WooThemes team and is it international?

Having a team to support all of our different efforts has been amazing, because not only do we get to do insane stuff in a very short amount of time, but we also have the backup when shit hits the fan. I personally experienced this awesomeness recently when a tough personal situation meant that I wasn’t really “at work” for about 2 weeks, but the Woo machine never slowed down, because the rest of the team covered for me.

I’d thus never trade the WooTeam for working on my own ever again.

As for the size of the team… There’s 5 of us that commit to WooThemes full-time (that’s Magnus, Mark, Cobus, Foxinni & myself), whilst we have Tiago (who is our Support Master & junior developer when he’s not studying), Simon North (who helps out with support part-time and helps clients with advanced customizations) and lastly Dominique (my assistant, who also helps out with some admin stuff on a part-time basis).

For more information about the team, check out their about page.

WooThemes currently has about 42 different themes available for purchase. How difficult or time consuming is it to update those themes to support more recent versions of WordPress? Where do you draw the line in terms of ending the purchase of a particular theme?

Screenshot Of The Upcoming Object WooTheme
Screenshot Of The Upcoming Object WooTheme

Depending on when you publish this, it may be 44 themes already, since Antisocial was released recently and The Daily Edition will be out in a week’s time… So the short answer is: it’s darn hard to manage all those themes! :)

BUT… At least all of our themes now incorporates the WooFramework, which will make the updating of the themes MUCH easier for future releases of WP. We also live and die by SVN, which makes fixing bugs and improving themes so much easier on a weekly basis.

As for stopping support on a particular theme… We really haven’t gotten that far… Our oldest theme is just about 2 years old now and people are still downloading / using it. So it wouldn’t make any sense to stop the support of the theme. Ultimately I’d like to think that everyone would be a WooThemes club member if we had created and supported 100+ themes; so that’s what we’re working towards.

Mostly wondering what the future holds concerning WooThemes development in Drupal, Magento and ExpressionEngine. When might we see theme releases for those platforms.

Eventually You Might Find WooThemes On These Platforms
Eventually You Might Find WooThemes On These Platforms

The Drupal themes will be out soon, but with EE 2.0 being delayed and Magento maybe not being the most viable platform ever, we aren’t committing to any release dates for those platforms. And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that we’re loving WP, the direction the CMS has been going recently and we figure we might as just well continue releasing groundbreaking WP themes as our primary focus.

Which changes would you like to see in WP to make better themes?

Nothing major I think. I think the templating system is amazing and it’s so easy to go from a PSD design to a fully functional, custom WP theme. There’s obviously kinks here and there, but those are minor and can normally be bypassed with a little custom WP function.

Would custom content types in WP be helpful for niche themes?

Yes definitely and that’s why we’re intrigued by ExpressionEngine… BUT… WP would need to write an engine which would allow a generic theme to initialize a certain content structure upon activation of the theme, because users will never buy a theme where you needed to manually replicate the “ideal setup” of those custom content types.

Should companies like WooThemes contribute in making WP better for themeing?

Aren’t we already doing that in a way? :)

What are your views on the use of action hooks within themes?

We actually try to avoid any of the more advanced front-end functionality of WP themes, purely because the largest part of our customer base aren’t people with elaborate PHP or WP skills. They can however design and handle the HTML / CSS side of things. So we’d rather release an awesome looking theme on a solid code base, but keep the WP side of things simple enough for those users to customize our themes extensively.

What are your views on creating theme frameworks and selling child themes based on that framework and do you have any intention of using that approach in the future?

Definitely not on our roadmap. See my response above with regards to our average user’s understanding of WP & PHP, which suggests that they’ll never come to grips with the framework + child themes approach.

And also… There’s no possible way we could develop one framework that would include all of the functionality to service 40+ niche themes. We’d end up sitting with a framework that is 5MB in size…

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