The WordPress App Store – 1 Year Later

WP App Store Logo It was just a few years ago when the idea of creating an Apple like app store for plugins and themes was discussed throughout the community. This app store would not have to operate under the same guidelines as the official WordPress repositories and would feature the vast assortment of commercial options available. WP App Store is one such site. The site is just over one year old so I thought I’d get in touch with Brad Touesnard to see how the past year has been and what their plans are for 2013.

What was the motivation behind launching the WordPress App Store considering WPPlugins was the first of its kind?

I thought it would be really awesome to have all the best themes and plugins in one place and be able to click once to buy and install. No downloading and uploading zips. I mean, everyone uses the WordPress.org repo and everyone loves how easy it is to install a theme or plugin. I wanted to offer the same simplicity for commercial themes and plugins, but only the best.

wpplugins.com doesn’t have the best themes and plugins. All of the big brands are missing. When I started this project, the first thing I did was get the big guys on-board. If I hadn’t been able to do that, it would have been a non-starter.

WP App Store Vendors

How many people are involved with this project?

There are four people involved with this project: http://wpappstore.com/about/

Was the decision to support only GPL licensed products made before the launch or was there any discussion of listing everything?

We’ve been 100% GPL since day one. I don’t see why you would go any other route.

Can you describe how the App Store works?

WP App Store is a WordPress plugin that you install into your WordPress dashboard. Then you can browse themes and plugins that we have in our marketplace from your WordPress dashboard. When you find something you like, you click Buy & Install and once you enter your payment details, your theme or plugin is installed automatically.

WP App Store Themes

The site is only a year old. What types of numbers are you seeing stat wise and financially? Secondly, what’s the adoption rate been like? Are you noticing a continued interest or influx of new users?

I prefer not to share sales or traffic figures, but just to say that currently monthly revenue not sustainable and that few people have installed the plugin. The fact that they have to download it from our website (the plugin is not allowed in the WordPress.org repo) and upload it to your WordPress install is a huge barrier for our customers. We had a few strategies to make it much easier for people to install the plugin, but unfortunately none of them panned out. After talking to customers, I also found out that most of them are happier purchasing directly from vendors and only come to WP App Store to discover new themes or plugins.

WP App Store Plugins

What lessons have you learned from this experience?

I’ve learned that even though a business idea seems like a sure thing and everyone is telling you it’s a great idea you should still talk to customers first. Always make sure that you’re solving a problem that people need solved badly enough that they’re willing to open their wallet for you.

Other WordPress based app stores have come and gone. How can the WordPress App Store stay in business for the long haul?

We need to switch to a more traditional marketplace and start driving sales. We need to continue curating our product listing and add new products every month to keep customers coming back.

If the store were to shut down, would users be able to download their purchases and take those with them?

Yes, in fact almost all of our vendors have integrated our postback API into their system and when a sale occurs, they create a user account and register the purchase in their own system as well. So almost all of our customers should actually have an account at each vendor.

What excites you about this project?

I think a marketplace where you can find all the best themes and plugins for WordPress is exciting. It’s audacious to say “the best themes and plugins”, but I like that it’s a clear mission statement.

What can we look forward to in year number two?

As of (July 6), you can now purchase products from the website. We will be working on a major overhaul of the website this summer and hope to drastically improve the shopping experience.

13 Comments


  1. Hi,

    I think people prefer to go buy directly from the vendor because of the promised support. How do you handle support for users who buy products through the app?

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  2. The basic idea of a plugin that interfaces the users Admin to a 3rd-party repository, directly analogous to WordPress’ own plugin & theme repositories, is very, very good.

    I’m a tad ‘perplexed’ that this crucial plugin could not be placed on the WP plugin repository. But ok, if you say so. Still, I doubt that the ‘download-it, upload-it’ drill is the hangup. Hey, I watch users crawl through concertina-wire and live ammo for things they want, every day.

    So tho I do believe there is a clear stroke of genius at work here, many a genius has discovered that one brilliant stroke is often not the done-job.

    The competition – free stuff on the real WordPress – is fearsome. Yeah.

    But let me underscore: If your plugin was available from WordPress, I would have it on pronto and wind down this evening giving it a good scan. Not because I’m going to buy stuff (r u kidding?), but because the idea is genius-cool.

    Concept is great: Execution/deployment needs … another stroke.

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  3. I think the fact that to make a purchase you basically wind up creating an account with each plugin or theme company is ironically, probably part of the problem. Having a centralized place to get the best plugins and themes is a great idea — it really is — but the whole reason to do that as opposed to just using it for discovery and then buying it directly from the other company, is the easiness of a single-user sign-on.

    The Expression Engine community — which admittedly basically 180-degrees different from the WordPress community in everything from licensing to attitude towards paying for plugins — has a plugin repository known as Devot-ee (http://devot-ee.com/) how it works is that plugin developers give a cut of sales to the Devot-ee staff. As a result, some developers sell their plugins for less money on their own sites. Yes most developers I know still end up buying all their plugins through Devot-ee.

    Why? Why would people be willing to pay more? Convenience. Not only can someone do one purchase for the plugins they need for a certain site, they can also transfer licenses directly from their dashboard. So if you’re working on a client project and you know you need X number of plugins, you can purchase said plugins and then transfer them to the client. Support takes place from the vendors themselves. In this way, it’s really no different than any other marketplace.

    WP App Store could probably do well if they allowed for that sort of ability — or if they were able to work on setting up special plugin bundles (like get Backup Buddy, Gravity Forms and a WooThemes theme for $X). But for me, I know I’d want a central way of managing my plugins and purchases without necessarily having to bother with creating an account and separate login for the plugin maker himself — unless of course it’s automated to the point that it can share login info a la OAuth.

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  4. The take away I have from this interview is that it looks like playing middle man between commercial themes/plugins and customers does not work. There are two primary reasons I can think of that had so many people excited about an app like store 2 years ago. The first are the guidelines for getting into the official repository. Some companies/themes were not able to get into the repo and thus, fueled the idea of a seperate repo not controlled by WP.org. The second, even though they have, it doesn’t appear that the WordPress.org repository will list commercial plugins. In fact, I know of at least a few big plugin author names that are behind the scenes partners of WP App Store.

    It’s interesting to see that most people are happy with going directly to the vendors site and purchasing what they need. Apparently, that’s not a problem. Discovery is. The marketplace is vast and there are new themes and plugins launched what seems like every day. An excellent directory that made it as easy as possible to discover all of this new stuff would be a problem solver. Sites like http://themesorter.com/ exist as a discovery tool with coupon codes to boot granted their interface/design could use some work/simplification.

    @Christina Warren – So if you don’t create an account with each vendor you purchase an item from, how will they provide you support? Or, is the app store supposed to be the ones giving the support? Ben mentioned that most of the vendors listed take advantage of their post pack API so that when you purchase and create an account through the app store, those same credentials are created on the vendors site. Seems like that would be good enough?

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  5. My two cents:

    The Apple app store is successful because it’s a toy store. People like browsing and finding cool stuff to play with.

    For WordPress themes and plugins, however, 99% of the time, users are looking for something that fills a specific need. The “browsing” experience doesn’t really exist (again: for most people, not all). You get your site working, and there’s no need to peruse a store every so often.

    All that said, I think there still could be a place for the WP App Store. It’s a lovely site and plugin, and I’m interested to see how it evolves.

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  6. @Jeffro

    The second … [reason] playing middle man between commercial themes/plugins and customers does not work [is] … it doesn’t appear that the WordPress.org repository will list commercial plugins.

    It’s going to be pretty basic, that the plugin cannot be overtly commercial, itself.

    Not and gain entry to the WordPress.org repository … which success will require.

    Really, the plugin has to be available on the Official repository. Otherwise, hey …

    So, get the commercial functionality out of the plugin, and do it elsewhere.

    Get the plugin on the Repo, as a neutral interface, to allow discovery.

    People know better than to mess with plugins that can’t be on the Repo.
    =====

    We have a clear & dramatic precedent for the role of the Repository, in the Linux/Debian/Ubuntu world. ‘Everything’ is in the Repo. Everything, that is, that ordinary people & customers should be messing with. There are only a few, narrow contexts in which it is “responsible” to get stuff outside the repository.

    [Guess where Apple/Firefox got the repo idea … ]

    Once the repository-paradigm became established, then it quickly became pragmatic reality, that anything that can’t get into the repository is, ‘by definition’, bad news.

    Once it’s a Repo-World, there are reasons for things not being in the repo … and they ain’t pretty. There is plainly a positive-feedback effect that reinforces & drives an ‘in-repo-ok’, ‘not-repo-bad’ effect.

    The “execution” of this idea needs to be modified, so as to allow the plugin to be hosted on the official WordPress.org repository.

    Otherwise, the product is not only missing out — it’s actually ‘suspect goods’.

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  7. Well, this is disappointing, seemed like a good idea just year ago. It seems like a biggest problem so far is the fact that you are not in WP plugin directory, also i do agree with @Micheal that browsing Apple Store is fun itself, browsing WordPress plugins store not so much.

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  8. Have you looked at integrations with hosting companies that preinstall plugins and offering a revenue share?

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  9. Just curious (don’t shun me for saying this), but why limit your self to just WordPress? Like Christina Warren mentioned about Expression Engine. Why not make an app store for other open source CMS’?

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  10. @Zane Matthew

    [W]hy limit your self to just WordPress? … Why not make an app store for other open source CMS’?

    The WordPress App Store is for WordPress plugins that were made “for” WordPress.

    Plugins are “extensions” of the program they plug into. They don’t run on other software.

    A WordPress plugin (or ‘App’) plugs into only WordPress, and needs WordPress. Now replace ‘wordpress’ with ‘Expression Engine’.
    ===

    Now … if Expression Engine et al adopt/incorporate the WordPress plugin API, their users might then be able to directly use WP plugins.

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  11. I will have to take a look over what you have on offer, some of the wp ‘stores’ are generally full of pretty stuff thats not necessarily coded in a particularly good way…

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  12. @Jeffro – on Devot-ee the user account is created on the Devot-ee site and not the vendors site – though some vendors run their own sales sites as well. Vendors get their own support forum on Devot-ee or can provide a link to their own external support site. Devot-ee also creates addon licence numbers where they are required.

    For the end user (developers purchasing free/commercial addons) it’s a one stop shop for virtually every EE addon available, you can create different lists of addons to enable quick/repeat purchasing and download all purchased items in an order in a .zip archive if you want.

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