ThemeFurnace Relaunches, Introduces Lifetime Club Membership

themefurnace

ThemeFurnace relaunched this week with a complete overhaul of its theme collection. The shop was founded in 2012 by Oliver Dale, a Manchester-based designer and entrepreneur. In addition to a new website and pricing structure, Dale and his team have recoded all of their existing themes to remove the old options panel in favor of using WordPress’ native customizer.

Themes developed with their own options panels aren’t necessarily bad. However, the growing consensus among theme developers is that utilizing the customizer is the now considered to be the best practice. Commercial theme companies are starting to embrace this in order to simplify their themes and remain competitive.

Recoding the entire ThemeFurance collection to use the customizer has been quite an undertaking, Dale said. The team has finished 11 themes so far and another five are still in process. He believes that this will make the themes easier to use, which in turn lessens the support burden.

Dale told the Tavern that ThemeFurnace will be releasing a free WordPress.org theme for every new theme they create from now on. “We’ve seen great results with our two free themes in the directory so far,” he said. “It’s the only way I can contribute back to WordPress, which has treated me so well, and it helps get our name out there to people who wouldn’t normally see it.” Customers who buy the commercial versions will be entitled to support and a few extra customization options.

ThemeFurnace Bets Heavy on Club Pricing Model

While many WordPress theme shops have started moving away from the club pricing model, the folks at ThemeFurnace have decided to embrace it. This week’s relaunch introduces a lifetime club membership pricing option.

“The reason we moved to the clubs membership was the vast majority of purchases were for single themes at $49 each,” Dale said. “So we figured that’s a good price people are willing to pay, so if we offer the whole collection for $49, it can only increase sales and that puts our themes on more websites,” he explained.

Many WordPress product and service companies have collapsed under the burden of support for lifetime customers who no longer generate any revenue but continue to utilize company resources. Dale is convinced that ThemeFurnace will not be negatively impacted by the new lifetime membership option.

“I think the support burden has been overplayed as an excuse to put prices up. I find that people need less support as time goes on so I’m quite happy to offer this new plan,” he said.

Do you think lifetime membership packages are a death knell for theme companies, or are there some unique cases where it might work?

7 Comments


  1. Thanks for the write-up Sarah,

    I think a lifetime plan or so-called “unlimited” plans are completely unsustainable for hosting companies ( like the example you linked) as their customers will continue to use resources long after they’ve been paid the initial amount.

    With our lifetime plan at $199, that’s essentially 4 years of access and support at our regular price – we find that some users will initially need some support but after that they are fine on their own. The only thing might be bug reports which we welcome anyway to improve our theme offerings.

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  2. Simple themes ABSOLUTELY = less support.

    I hired a support person and she’s barely clocking hours in our support forum. She’s clocking half of what I budgeted out. We get, on average, 1-2 support queries a week, at the same time as themes selling daily.

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  3. I’m a member of iThemes/Builder. This is my fourth year. I needed LOADS of support at the beginning. Virtually none in the last 2 years. But that yearly fee is worth it to me to know the first rate support is there when i need it from a team that knows it’s own themes and framework. So I wonder about a one time fee. Is it a death knell — or could it really work? I think it could work – and I’d think if they offer an upgrade to the 49. option, that would be a great way to put your toe in the water and upgrade when you need the higher support level. Best of luck to them. They do make very good-looking themes.

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  4. I have paid the 3-5 year premium for lifetime membership for 4 product groups (2 themes and 2 plugin sets) and in the first year logged 1 support request. I have purchased the lifetime membership because who knows where they will be financially in a few years and this way the sites these products are used on are more future proofed. Yes, in every case the theme or plugin would continue working after the first year, but since updates for security and WordPress changes are required, that is only a short term reprieve.

    I can see the point that support costs might get out of balance. I wouldn’t have a problem with lifetime upgrades but a year of support. Make adding additional support terms affordable in case they are needed later on would assure me I could get help in an emergency and keep support from becoming a burden for the company. There really are lots of options for pricing and support. It does not have to be either or.

    For what its worth, I often find solutions in the forums from other users and previous posts. Good plugins and themes are often featured in blogs and how-tos. Building a community of happy users, good documentation, and making support forums and documentation easy to search also helps.

    I’m on my way to checkout ThemeFurnace.

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  5. Thanks for sharing :) For one, most of the time we don’t use support on themes, rather, we help troubleshoot the error when there is a conflict.

    But yes, will check out ThemeFurnace :) Though some theme shops are saying it’s unsustainable, look at how StudioPress is doing. And even ElegantThemes has decided to go on board with lifetime licenses. There’s a fine balance between a well made theme (which sells well, and needs less support) and one which has tons of short codes on the home page, just because they want to be everything to everyone.

    Finally, subscription based theme shops are ok, if the prices are reasonable. However, those going at a few hundred and 50% renewal make it hard for small time users like us. And it prices WordPress out of the hands of the masses. Why not go for WiX or Shopify then, when we can get our hosting covered as well?

    I think there must be a balance between prices and renewal/subscription. Look at Magento’s extension. Some can be up to a few hundred bucks, with 90 days renewals. On the other hand, Open Cart’s extensions for the same feature can be as low as 20 bucks :)

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  6. ElegantThemes has set the bar pretty high. Those stepping into the market to compete with them, need to pay attention, and do better …. this is not better.

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  7. Very optimistic approach but let’s be realistic – now he’ll catch many customers, and a year or two later when he see that there is no such growth he will begin to think of how to gain more dollars.

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