Why PixelGrade is Experimenting with a $225 WordPress Theme on Themeforest

sami-kThis post was contributed by guest author Sami Keijonen. Sami is a math teacher who enjoys learning about the web, accessibility, and WordPress. He juggles between freelancing, building themes at Foxland, and teaching.
 


Several theme authors have been experimenting with new pricing on ThemeForest. But PixelGrade took it to the next level by raising the price of its Pile theme from $59 to $225.

pile

That’s a bold move, but I expect nothing less from them. They want to think outside of the box and push the boundaries. Based on the theme shop’s wild yet functional designs and the anti-corporate thoughts expressed in the co-founder’s Our Saga article, I have to say that I like PixelGrade’s approach.

Vlad Olaru, co-founder of PixelGrade, was kind enough to answer a couple of questions about the Pile theme price increase.

Why did you raise Pile’s price by 281%?

The first obvious answer is that now we can set our own prices on ThemeForest due to Envato extending the Author Driven Pricing to the WordPress category. We’ve been preparing for this for a long time.

But just because you can do something, that doesn’t mean you should, right? We have been thinking about our business strategy for quite some time now – and not in a shallow way.

We’ve gone through a painful process of rediscovering our core values and purpose, what kind of experience we wish to offer to our customers, and what kind of customers we want to attract and keep aboard.

A direct consequence of this whole process is rethinking our pricing based on our firm belief that not all products are created equal. We haven’t thought in terms of percentages (it’s the first time the 281% comes to mind – thank you for doing the math), but in terms of our overall effort and value delivered to the customer.

Why $225 and not $150, for example? Did you do some research before making the decision?

Yes we did, and it was very thorough. We did not base it on market fit, market tolerance, or anything like this. On the contrary, it was an internal research focused on the the two pillars mentioned earlier: how much do we work for something (effort invested) and how much does it help our customers (real value).

First, we needed some numerical relation between the various types of themes we produce, in terms of complexity. We’ve divided each theme’s design into components and identified the overlaps, meaning work that is built upon to deliver higher level functionality (i.e a style guide is used to create a blog section).

So, with a clearer picture of the overlaps and the actual effort needed for each stage, we’ve analyzed how much value a customer gets from these specific components.

This helps us to fairly and wisely distribute our efforts, while at the same time identifying where we can decrease or increase the price. With higher delivered value comes a greater acceptance for higher prices.

In the end, we’ve come up with a set of price multipliers starting from our lowest offering, the blogging theme. By the way, we don’t intend on selling the core design separately. With this clear relation between the three categories, we’ve ran simulations to see where is the point where we can generate a healthy monthly income and get a manageable number of customers.

“Manageable” is a very key concept in this whole scheme because it relates directly to the experience we wish to craft for each customer through our Customer Happiness department.

We feel personally involved in the success of our customers’ online endeavors. You can’t really do that when you focus on volume. A close and personal relationship needs a thoughtful balancing act for it to flourish.

So there you have it – the “magic” revealed.

What kind of customers are you looking for with this price change?

As I’ve said before, we are currently focusing on three main personas:

  • Hobby-driven people (storytellers, journalists, travelers, life/fashion/design bloggers)
  • Creative Entrepreneurs (photographers, visual artists, designers, architects)
  • Small Local Businesses (restaurants, coffee/tea shops, boutiques, small studios)

I don’t think all the people that fit these categories can digest the prices above, at least not in the current state of the market. On the other hand, we are not delusional. But I highly believe we can make a pretty good case to enough of them about the added value they get when trusting us.

Of course, it will be an uphill struggle with the habits and assumptions ingrained by the years of “bazaar marketplace.” Our bet is that we are doing things right and the right thing, at the same time.

So if a $59 customer won’t buy a $225 theme, what is PixelGrade going to do to attract $225 customers to the platform and specifically, the item.

First of all, you need to see this whole (not so new) pricing structure in a more global approach. We are currently selling our themes through our own shop, on WordPress.com, and ThemeForest.

For about two years now, all of our shop and WordPress.com themes have been priced at $125. They are all blogging themes. We are pretty happy with how things worked out. So we don’t know if ThemeForest is the place where people would be willing to value our themes at these prices. We are hopeful and we will definitely give our best, but it is still too early to tell.

We are going to focus most of our marketing efforts on attracting the right kind of customers to our own shop because we are in full control of the whole experience. On ThemeForest and WordPress.com we can’t do the same due to how a marketplace at this scale functions. Hopefully, Envato will do its part (as it has been in recent times – kind of slowly for our liking, but still) and the right type of potential customers will get to judge our offering.

Are you experimenting with your top-selling themes or just doing a trial with one of the themes in the collection?

Once again, I think times are changing on ThemeForest and we are taking it one step at a time. The ideal future would be one where all of our themes, regardless of distribution channel, would be priced the same.

We are definitely keeping an eye on the opportunity to take the next step, but it is still too early to give a time frame.

How do you bring the rest of the marketplace into 2016 pricing without being accused of price collusion?

Price collusion? I had to google that.

We have no plan to make any sort of agreement with anybody. We will do what we feel is right and aligned to our core values, talk about it, and, hopefully, others will follow suit.

Now that I have read that definition, I realize that you might be referring to the concern (expressed by some pre-sale comments on ThemeForest) that we might be driven by greed here. Far from it. If that was the story, we would have lowered our prices and driven out the competition (as I suspect some will do). Like they say, with great liberty comes great responsibility.

We will shape our message on value-pricing and do our best to live up to these self-imposed standards. The customers will be the most accurate judge of our stance on this.


Are you ready for higher prices?

Thanks again, Vlad, for answering the questions. It will be interesting to see how it goes.

I don’t have a strong opinion about the company increasing prices to that degree. I can see myself selling themes for $125, but I hope $225 works well for PixelGrade.

As a customer, would you buy a theme for $225 and what would make it worth it?

Any other theme shops have plans for increasing prices?

96 Comments


  1. Theme makers should be able to charge whatever they want, and the market will ultimately determine what they can get.

    But Vlad seemed to have a difficult time specifically explaining how PixelGrade’s Pile theme is now “worth” $225 instead of $59.

    And why is a customer who buys a $59 theme now undesirable, but a customer who buys a $59 theme now priced at $225 a customer PixelGrade wants to “attract and keep aboard”?

    Plus, why was it a “painful process” to “rediscover” PixelGrade’s “core values and purpose”?

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    1. Hi Scott,

      Allow me to shed some light on your questions. For us it is pretty clear why Pile is and should have been $225: this is the price point that reflects the actual work put into it by us. “Us” is important because I am sure others would be comfortable with less.

      The brutal honest truth about marketplaces, ThemeForest in this case, is that with a fixed price (or a narrow range) authors are forced to cut down on innovation and focus on volume to make up for the work they’ve put into each theme. We don’t like that, and haven’t liked it from the very beginning, because it stiffles the quality out of the ecuation.

      In this landscape, sane headed (like in business oriented) authors have 2 options: focus on only one theme and leverage the volume of it’s sales to raise quality over time, or launch many themes in the hope that some will stick (needless to say quality is at the bottom of the priorities because there isn’t time).

      We don’t fancy neither of them because we want to keep playing and innovating (a single theme would allow for this at the degree we need to stay happy), and we want to be very proud of our themes (a very large portfolio is out of our reach considering the workload we can handle).

      We’ve been able to stomach this contradition thus far by relying on the fact that we can get around with less in our country and that we’ve had some star themes that generated a decent amount of sales (but an insane amount of support).

      With ADP, we have the opportunity to enter a period of normality. Before, it was anything but normal.

      And we don’t consider a “$59 customer” undesirable simply because, before ADP, the $59 customers were everyone: the ones that really wanted a theme and $59 and the ones that would pay more but why do it? The fixed pricing is very toxic in terms of allowing authors to differentiate based on their merit and not their capacity to shout louder (see the crazy amount of demos some themes advertise – some even 2-3 new demos per week).

      In short, we consider the $59 period a perpetual period of discounts (at least for our themes – others are properly priced and $59, many others are overpriced). But at some point, discounts are no longer fun and everyone loses.

      Regarding the painful process to “discover” our core values and purpose. We felt it like that because this process was something way outside our comfort zone. The values and purpose were there all along, but getting people to express them, prioritize them, agree on them and then commiting to them, its a whole different story. This more of a managerial story that I will surely write in the not-so-distant future.

      Cheers,
      Vlad
      PixelGrade

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      1. Hi Vlad, I completely agree with and support market-driven pricing instead of a forced one-price-fits-all model.

        But I still think your explanation, and perhaps expectations, are unclear to your potential customers. Pardon me if I missed it, but I don’t see where you specifically explained how and why your theme is worth $225 when there are so many far lesser priced themes in the marketplace that seem to offer similar features and support (I’m not a web designer/developer, so maybe I’m missing something?).

        I also wonder what data you have to show that someone willing and able to pay $225 for a theme is a better customer for you than a customer who pays $59.

        Contrary to what you may be thinking, someone willing and able to pay nearly 4x more for a theme could end up being more, not less, demanding than you may expect. For example, isn’t the average buyer of a $100,000 Tesla Model X likely as much, if not more, demanding than the average buyer of a $15,000 Hyundai Elantra?

        My point is that while I think it’s great that you can finally charge what you want and deserve on themeforest, your new pricing seems rather arbitrary and too high. It also seems focused on what you want and believe versus what the marketplace wants and is willing to pay for a WordPress theme.

        And is your new pricing still tied to Envato’s draconian refund policies? If so, that would make your much higher prices even harder for new customers to accept.

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      2. I have responded below because this thread is getting pretty nested and I don’t fancy reading 3 or 4 words per line :)

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      3. Thanks for getting back with more questions. I find this discussion very healthy for theme authors and customers alike.

        Let me try and explain further.

        I don’t see where you specifically explained how and why your theme is worth $225 when there are so many far lesser priced themes in the marketplace that seem to offer similar features and support (I’m not a web designer/developer, so maybe I’m missing something?).

        Our main argument is that the current $59-64 pricing for WordPress themes is not normality, it’s just something that was forced upon authors (and customers). Considering this, we can’t just wait for other authors to slowly bring the prices to their healthy levels. We will do what we feel is right both for our customers and us, and hope that others will understand and think about it.

        There are currently themes that are way underpriced (the main ones being the Avada and the likes) because they are so freaking huge in terms of what they bundle. This has been a massive oversight of Envato in allowing for such themes to exist (actually encouraging it with the way popularity is measured). But the whole multipurpose deal is a whole different discussion, maybe we will have it at some point.

        We honestly believe that $225 reflects the whole work that went into Pile (most of it is hard to notice upfront, but you “get it” after a while in using it) and the level of support we’ve set ourselves to offer (nobody forced us into this, except for our commitment to be partners with our clients and make sure they get the utmost value from our work).

        A key word in your statement is “seem”. A potential customer needs to do a mental test of decency: if I am going to need just an hour of support time (in total) how much will that cost the author? Let’s take a low rate of $20/hour. That means that half of what the author earned (roughly $40 from those $59) is gone. That leaves $20 for development and other expenses (and profit?). Then the question arises: how is this sustainable in the long run?

        The reality is that it is not. This makes it very risky for people to buy new themes because if that theme is not a hit (to compensate in volume) then it may be gone in 6 months. Would you want that?

        For example, isn’t the average buyer of a $100,000 Tesla Model X likely as much, if not more, demanding than the average buyer of a $15,000 Hyundai Elantra?

        It is more demanding and it should be. But there is a big difference between cars and software in general (more so web software): pretty much every automaker out there has the basics covered and they differentiate in luxury and incremental improvements (one knows that it’s car will drive him from A to B regardless of brand, and will do so regardless of technology changes). When it comes to software, that is hardly the case: a huge number of external factors (browsers, WordPress itself, libraries) change constantly and can break your product; then there is the huge library of plugins (which is awesome) that one care use alongside your product. So my point is that a theme exists in a dynamic ecosystem and it needs constant caring, while in the case of a car that caring is mainly passed on to the driver (not smashing into others).

        It also seems focused on what you want and believe versus what the marketplace wants and is willing to pay for a WordPress theme.

        I totally agree. It is based on what we think is right. But was Envato right to “educate” the market for so long that a theme should cost $59? It surely was right for their bottom line, but for the customers and authors? So we are willing to try and educate people (hence this discussion). We don’t have all the answers and we may be wrong here and there.

        And is your new pricing still tied to Envato’s draconian refund policies? If so, that would make your much higher prices even harder for new customers to accept.

        We also don’t like draconian refund policies. On our shop we have a 30 days no-questions-asked refund policy. We believe it to be the right thing to do. On Envato things are more complicated (unfortunately), but we try and be on the customer’s side (within the Envato rules). I wouldn’t call the Envato refund rules draconian, especially now when refunds are at the discretion of authors.

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    2. And why is a customer who buys a $59 theme now undesirable, but a customer who buys a $59 theme now priced at $225 a customer PixelGrade wants to “attract and keep aboard”?

      Because the $59 customer and the $225 customer both demand the same amount of after-sales support.

      If your net takeaway from a theme sale, after accounting for the cost of development, marketing and maintenance, is only $5-15, spending 10 minutes per customer can result in a net loss.

      Higher-spending customers are more desirable because their expectations tend to be better aligned with the product and service package they’re buying.

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      1. Yes, they both require same amount of support. But have you noticed that life long free support is thing of a past on TF?
        Now when you buy a theme you might get 3-6 months of support, and you’ll need to pay for extended support.

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      2. The fact the lifetime support is gone is a very sane thing because it was a lie. That was a completely unsustainable way to develop themes. It has survived for so long because of the wild west period of the marketplace.

        Even with the six months support periods, you still get lifetime updates. I see that people ignore this. Updates are not something that comes our of the blue. They require significant effort on author’s part.

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    3. It’s also worth noting that until now theme authors haven’t been able to define the price of their themes. Perhaps PixelGrade always believed their theme was worth $225, but they were limited by what the marketplace with the greatest penetration allowed?

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      1. Precisely! As Vlad mentioned, we had our themes priced at $125 for two years now, and they were blog themes.

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  2. It is great to hear that Envato have rolled out author price control for WordPress themes.
    Many customers seem to have got used to paying the lowest price that they can for a theme and unfortunately suffering with slow updates and slow support.
    That being said, there are many customers who are more than willing to pay a higher price for great quality.
    For new authors on Envato, it can be a bit challenging as their fee can be as high as 55% of the item price for non exclusive authors. A $100 sale results in earnings of $36. The fee breakdown would be $44 author fee and $20 buyer fee. The buyer fee is removed first, before the 55% fee for Envato.
    Source: https://themeforest.net/become-an-author
    Of the $36 that the author receives, taxes still need to be paid, so if you are a UK based author, you can slash another 20% off that, which results in an income of $28.80 for a $100 sale.

    While Envato is a great place to sell products, we have found their support to be extremely slow to respond and when they did respond to us it was the wrong answer. In fact, they forwarded our question to the wrong email address and we ended up getting a reply from a Journalist in the Czech Republic!

    In recent years, Envato have made a number of positive changes, but still have a long way to go to be able to meet the high quality standards of some authors.

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      1. $28 for $100. Thats why we’re seeing more agency-owned theme stores now?

        Do you think that selling themes at themeforest with more sale equals to less sale done from agency’s self-hosted store? If that is so devs can do bye bye to themeforest or someone can come up with new marketplace with low cuts

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      2. Yes. IMO self-hosted stores can be more profitable that TF, even with fewer sales.

        I have just one plugin on CodeCanyon, with total sales value of $506. But I received only $194 as my earnings (Then PayPal charges extra!).

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      3. What about Creative Market? How much of a cut does that take?

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    1. Envato has the huge advantage of being so freaking BIG, but I would see a future where some proper competition is at the table, based not on the same principles (mostly unchanged from 5-7 years ago – which is huge in Web time), but on some Marketplace 2.0 principles.

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      1. Absolutely, they are massive and their support for issues with purchases is very good. We have received a number of refunds in the past when an item we purchased was broken or the author failed to respond to any support tickets.
        For many people (including us) Envato is our go to for most items.
        We have actually postponed launching our first product on Envato as they have been unable to answer our support questions and made so many mistakes in dealing with the ticket, which resulted (oddly enough) in a Journalist replying and saying he had no idea why they had forwarded the issue to him as he had nothing to do with envato.

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      2. I am not sure I follow you: is Envato’s support good or bad? Or is their customers support good but for authors not so much?

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      3. Its a mixed bag. If I have issues with an author, envato are good at it, but when I contacted them to ask about becoming an author and had some technical questions, they were quite hopeless.
        The authors are a bit hit and miss, we have found some authors who are excellent and like to stick with them.

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      4. Completely agree with you that there is a lack of professionalism among the authors. Some are great others not so much. This is the nasty consequence of fixed pricing: the quality one provides is not reflected in their price. A solid author may get more sales if word gets around, but that is big IF.

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    2. The fact that their invoices and related things violates tax laws of a number of countries doesn’t help either. Their whole business model is absurd.

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      1. Sandly this is also true. We’ve had some serious struggles getting to grips with the legal aspects.

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      2. I’ve put off using Envato since I don’t trust it to be in compliance with any laws within EU, US or otherwise.

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  3. I acknowledge the “actual” revenue received by theme authors is not as big as it seems. From a pure design and innovation point of view, I just did NOT see the huge extra value, design excitement and innovative features worth $225. So many other less expensive themes deliver so much more and more affordably. That said, the market will be the judge.

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    1. There is much more to a good theme than what one can see in a demo. We constantly evaluate and judge the workflow people have with our themes and think of ways to improve it.

      In fact, from the moment we think of a new theme we start with real people’s problems and how can we allow them to overcome that in an easier way.

      This “background” thinking is a key component of our value proposition. But like you’ve said, the market will be the judge.

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  4. The only theme worth this price is the Genesis Framework. End of story.

    This is just taking advantage of people who don’t know a thing about building websites.

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    1. Different people have different needs and preferences. Just as you’d pay $225 for Genesis, other people are paying $225 for PixelGrade’s theme. They’re both worth $0 to me since I don’t need them. Of course that doesn’t mean they’re worthless to everybody. That wouldn’t make sense.

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      1. Exactly. The value is in the eyes of the right people, not all.

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  5. It’s interesting to peruse some of the comments about the price change on the theme’s sales page.

    I notice that several commenters mention the practice of buying several themes to show clients options. I’ve heard of the same from some of my own customers.

    It kind of puts the lie to the promise of the all-in-one mega theme, doesn’t it? Even most of the comparatively “modest” themes on TF bundle page builders and offer dozens of layout options. Surely if clients could use these features to generate as many stunning examples as the theme demos promise, they wouldn’t need to buy multiple themes for these client proposals, would they?

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    1. Surely if clients could use these features to generate as many stunning examples as the theme demos promise, they wouldn’t need to buy multiple themes for these client proposals, would they?

      If a designer who builts a site for his customer can’t fully exploit all the features on ‘one size fits all’ theme, then who’s to blame? I’ve seen many ‘designers’ who have bought these themes, but they usually lack even the basic knowledge in coding. Building something, even with good tools, is hard if you don’t know how to use them.

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    2. I also found those comments rather interesting. I think some Theme Forest shoppers are missing a very important step with their clients in the discovery phase or approval process. They should never buy materials until the client signs off.

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  6. Damn. That theme is gorgeous. Kudos to that team.

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    1. Well said :) That keeps poping up in my head also when I look at our demo.

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    2. I don’t know what has gotten into me: Thank you :)

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  7. Glad to see this move by PixelGrade, as I think this is more in line with where the theme market should have been all along. As was mentioned in the article and previous comments, it is impossible for lower selling themes to provide adequate support at $59 per theme. This leads to an overall miserable customer experience. Having a sustainable price point that allows for timely support is better for everyone.

    There are a lot of themes that get abandoned because they don’t have enough sales at $59 to make it worth sustaining.

    Nate, what you mentioned is also correct: a $59 customer and a $225 customer will ask for the same amount of support. Only one will help sustain the theme company, which means support log into the future.

    A higher price point also attracts customers that value the work. The jump from $59 to $225 is far less than the jump from $225 to $5-10k for a custom built site.

    Hopefully, this sets a precedent for other theme authors to challenge the status quo, and not only deliver more sustainable work, but help the entire ThemeForest ecosystem become a better place for customers and authors.

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    1. Yep, good for them, providing it works. The problem with this scenario is that they’re trying it in a crowded marketplace with tons and tons of lower priced options. If they were in their own shop, it’d be a different story (example: getnoticedtheme.com). At least they’re aware of this.

      I’m amazed at the level of support some theme designers strive to provide for well under $100/customer/year. Some do it well, but it takes a lot of work to reach the scale necessary to sustain that model.

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  8. I guess I am not one of their target customers…the price tag is too high for me, but best wishes for their business.

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    1. You should first try to evaluate a theme by your needs and how it fulfills them. If it doesn’t sit well with the value you see in it, then surely it is not a theme for you. I don’t think one can have definitive conclusions. On some projects, it may be too much, on others maybe no so much.

      For too long people have assessed themes only on their demo and the “promises” some authors chose to make because every theme was priced the same. Now you need to take into account a larger picture that includes the visual aspects, but should also make support and updates factors in their purchase decision.

      I think this approach allows mutual respect between client and theme author to flourish.

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  9. At $225 vs $59 I would expect, to some degree, fewer reasons to call or email for support. If I spend $45,000 for a new Lexus I certainly expect fewer problems with that vehicle than if I spend $18,000 for a Honda Civic.

    Does that make sense?

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    1. It makes a whole lot of sense. And we totally agree that you would have higher expectations. The problem is that from our quite significant experience, customers (on average) don’t think this way. They have the same expectations from any theme, cheap or expensive.

      It’s a double vicious circle actually: one where buying cheap and hammering the author with support requests keeps him from improving the theme and ending up with a buggier theme (code does “degrade” like all other things); the second more preferable circle is that you entrust the author with a decent amount of money so he can afford to live with less customers (hence fewer support tickets), or a bigger team, and concentrate on constantly improving the theme you’ve bought.

      I would say it makes a lot of sense for people that entrustpart of their online presence (many, their business online presence) to a theme author to chose the second, virtuous circle.

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    2. The Lexus probably won’t be more reliable but when you do need service, I’ll bet you’ll have a nicer time at the Lexus dealer than at the Honda dealer. Besides, you bought it because it looked better to you, not because it was going to keep you off the side of the road more than an economy car.

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    3. It makes sense, but sadly most customers reach themes developers for very insignificant things not related to the theme itself such as plugins problems, general WP questions, and “How can I add [insert any customization here]? questions”, reply to all that requires a lot of time.

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      1. For sure, even with a very clear Support Policy I end up finding myself spending time on these things. It’s not so much of a problem after having doubled my prices from when I first started several years ago (something customers have been almost universally fine with).

        Higher prices in the theme market will be a good thing because authors can dedicate more time to each customer and more time to improving their themes (and if they don’t, the reviews will reflect it and they’ll rightfully lose sales to authors who provide more).

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  10. Higher prices in the WP market is a good thing. It is pretty well documented that salaries are lower in the WP niche of the web industry compared with the lower competitors (Drupal and so on). Themeforest is an important part of the WP economy and a very public piece of it. In a sense, they represent the front-line of the WP economy. When a business owner is looking for a theme for their website, they inevitably end up at Themeforest, which is fine, but if the pricing impacts the thinking and that is why freelancer have to to struggle against low pricing.

    There has been a movement in the freelancer community to raise prices, give higher estimates and quotes that has been going on for several years now. As long as freelancers undersell, we hurt the industry because we are pricing it down. Theme developers should not be exempt from that, by raising prices for themes we increase the perceived value of that themes are worth. If a website costs $6,000+ to produce, then charging $60 for the theme seems stupid and devalues the system. In comparison, $225 is a solid price (and maybe even still too low). Will I dislike working with Avada, given what you can do with it, in terms of actual value and perceived value – I can see the price for that one going up to $200+ as well.

    What we all do, in consulting and building websites, the theme developers building out full-featured, well-balanced and highly customizable themes, plugin development companies building plugins that are more apps themselves than feature enhancements – all of us have room to charge higher prices. It will increase the value proposition of what WordPress is and create better, more stable and more balanced pay for everyone involved.

    Good move here.

    Also, look at the preview for that, what a nice browsing experience: https://pixelgrade.com/demos/pile2

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    1. Pete, you have certainly made my day. I am thrilled in finding someone who thinks alike (and says it publicly) on these very spiny issues.

      Thank you,
      Vlad
      PixelGrade

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      1. That is nice, I’m glad you find it supportive. If we are going to continue to push WordPress into being even more of the powerhouse piece of software that it is, then we need to make room in the market, and the in the WP economy for enterprise, high-value, high-quality content. The days of underselling WordPress goods and services are starting to trickle behind us – all for the better for those of us who pay our mortgages by providing those services and products.

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  11. Well this can be summed up very ez. Lets look at the largest company in the world Sam Walton built – and what a vendor has to price their product at, when putting their product on Walmart’s shelves. Envato is a lot like Walmart to where it gives you an unparalleled distribution model. “It’s not how much sell it for… it’s how many you sell.”

    You can’t buy a Rolex at Walmart – so go sell your Rolex somewhere else… plain and simple.

    I can use a WP core theme along with Visual Composer and Revolution slider and make a Website that 90% of end-users on the Web wouldn’t know the difference compared to Pile – especially if optimized and hosted correctly.

    Envato works the same way a Real Estate Broker would work – could you imagine if contractors tried selling their own homes – of course when you build it you believe it’s worth more than it is? It has sentimental value – well sorry developers – the WP community is not going to pay for your PRIDE. “They buy what most affects their bottom-line.”

    Developers do not have degrees in business – so let the business professionals handle the distribution channels and platforms and developers focus on developing.

    Lastly let’s not take for granted the awesome ride WordPress has given most of us and screw this up and get greedy. If you want more money focus on special sectors like Enterprise Solutions, Government, Health and EDU. But to charge 280% above what I can replicate using other technologies – well to me… “Liars can figure, but figures don’t lie.”

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    1. You comparison of Envato to Real Estate brokers is interesting, except that brokers don’t control the pricing and they enter homes into the market that have varied pricing based on many different factors. Brokers sell both shacks and mansions. Historically, Envato hasn’t done that, they preferred to control the pricing, regardless of the developer’s product. They tried to make everything look like a townhouse. That is one of the reasons we have cookie-cutter themes there that require additional third-party plugins to operate. It hasn’t been in the theme developer’s interest to do deep development.

      By breaking pricing out into the open market, (more like how your real estate analogy works) it encourages deeper development and makes it worthwhile to really dig deep into the process of building a theme with unique features. With open pricing, there is a better, more open marketplace, which is exactly what Envato want to be. They definitely needed price controls to build what they have, but now that they have so much of the market, and hold a mature marketplace, there is definitely room for open, competitive and more realistic pricing.

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    2. Vince, your way of seeing things really got me thinking.
      First I thought Pete’s answer covered most of how I feel about it, but there is something about this:

      Developers do not have degrees in business – so let the business professionals handle the distribution channels and platforms and developers focus on developing.

      This generalization is a hard one to swallow for me.

      I don’t have a business degree, nor do I want one (aren’t we over that MBA craze of the 90’s and 00’s?), but I wouldn’t say about myself that I don’t have business sense and knowledge. So allow me to question the way marketplaces are run.

      I believe we need to differentiate between lone developers doing their bid for WordPress glory and complex teams that bring complementary skills to the table. We, PixelGrade, are such a team with everything from designers, developers, marketers, to support people.

      The fact that we chose to distribute our products through ThemeForest or other platforms doesn’t make us anything less able to understand the bigger picture and act accordingly (preferably ahead of the others). Unfortunately for us, we understand pretty well how things move in the market and what things come first on the “business people’s” agenda.

      Also having business knowledge doesn’t make one the maker of a great marketplace or platform. That requires a different set of skills. And when you factor in the rapid pace of change in today’s internet and society, a very usefull skill to have is actually knowing when to trash those business degrees.

      As for pride, yes we take great pride in our work and so should anyone who loves what he is doing. We are not ashamed of that. But you are implying we are pricing our theme based on pride. That is plain wrong, and I would love to see someone who can pull it off in the long run. I wouldn’t respect him, but it would surely be interesting.

      I am sorry to see you implying we are greedy and sort of liars. We are neither, and as a matter of fact, figures do lie. Figures are used as arguments for lies all the time. It’s a matter of choice and integrity.

      I don’t mean this to be a rant with you, but you’ve expressed such a decisive opinion that I think it needed to be challenged.

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      1. Thanks Vlad sometimes comments need to be to the extreme to “cut through”. My analogies weren’t so much comparing “apples to apples” but just to give you guys concrete or solid examples from other industries that are highly successful and most importantly “sustainable”. Also to let the community know I will not ever pay that for a WordPress theme. I do like however how Themeforest is limiting support to 6 months and developers being able to charge more for the support and renewing support – I think that is where the $$ is. It also makes sense to me because I rarely use the support because I have the education – but there are a lot of hobbyists and mamma and pops that would love and pay for the extra support. But again for Theme pricing for an “out-of-the-box” product. I just won’t spend that much and I know there are thousands of other freelancers that would agree with me.

        My move to WordPress 8 years ago as freelancer was solely because it was the best product for my bottom-line both for out-of-pocket costs and low in overhead and resources to implement (administration however was and still is a pitfall of WordPress). At that time there were many other choices, WordPress was in the lead but the race for CMS frameworks was much closer.

        And now there still is a lot of competition for WordPress and I will continue to use WordPress and support the community as long as it is affordable for me to use. If WordPress developers start charging more – I will then evaluate other products coming from Ghost, Wix, Weebly, Jekyll, Tumbler, Google, for my entry-level sites maybe even Adobe Muse?

        I would do it in a second if WordPress technologies start affecting my bottom line and I know a good percentage of the community would too.

        I’m not saying don’t do it but I am telling you what I will do if you do.

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    3. Vince, why on earth would you lock your client in to Visual Composer or any page builder that is short-code based? The day will come when that client wants change and you are locked in to VC. Don’t believe me? Try uninstalling it and see what happens to your site.

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  12. The buyer decides what is too much and the seller adjusts accordingly, if necessary. I’m curious to see how this works out for PixelGrade. In my case a 70% increase on ThemeForest ($49 to $79) is exceeding expectations so far, but 281% is a much bigger change.

    +1 for Envato allowing authors to set their own prices
    +1 for PixelGrade having the guts to test this in a big way
    +1 for free market economics

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  13. Hi!

    As a customer, no, I would not purchase a theme at this price point.

    With so many other options readily available I’d probably just shop around until I found something more “budget friendly”.

    That said, it seems PixelGrade is trying to separate themselves from the masses by pricing themselves out of the general market in an effort to focus on quality and attract High end buyers.

    As a developer – I can dig it.

    Ideally you want to focus on quality and you want customers to appreciate your work.

    Unfortunately by doing this you’re entering a niche market, so major success will rely heavily on brand association and the marketing push behind it.

    The bottom line is that at the end of the day most clients don’t really care about the amount of work that goes into it.

    They just want something that is affordable, looks nice and works as it should.

    Good luck though.

    You’ve got people talking.

    Its a start.

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    1. Thank you for your thoughts. Yes, this has spurred up more debate than I anticipated. It’s a win already :)

      We don’t think of ourselves as targeting the high-end niche (in our minds that would be in the $300-$500 range) but who knows? We are still taking in the feedback.

      I understand and agree with people wanting something affordable, great looking and working flawlessly. Unfortunately, you (as a developer) and I both know how hard is it to actually achieve that.

      We are more optimistic about people and their capability of making choices. We may be naive – I am surely open to that :) – but we believe there are sufficient people out there that think alike.

      – Vlad,
      PixelGrade

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  14. As a theme dev I respect the decision of pricing your theme at $225 but since the day I heard about it which was about a month ago, there had been hardly 13 sales of Pile theme. 1596 to1609. Which is not so much reassuring. What do you have to say about that?

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    1. First you need to take into account that a single sale at this price generates the equivalent income of about 6 sales at the old price. So we are just fine with those 13 sales that roughly equal 78 sales. It’s not bad considering how many sales Pile had in the past.

      We still think it is a bit early to draw some conclusions. The market needs time to digest this new reality of ADP.

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      1. Hi Vlad, I’m not trying to “Pile on” (how’s that for a play on words?). But your explanations all seem to be justified from your point of view, and not from your target customers.

        Most people surely get your desire to work less and still make the same (or even more) money. But your price increase is dramatic and seems to be more of a money grab than an effort to provide more value or support for your target customers.

        What would you say if for example you were in the market for a new hybrid or electric car and Toyota suddenly raised the price of its Prius from $25,000 to $100,000 w/out any added features or benefits, and said they did so because they wanted to target customers willing and able to pay $100,000 for a daily driver car? Would you “buy” any of their reasons?

        Can you specifically say why your theme is worth nearly 4x more to your target customers than other themes that seem to have comparable features and support?

        If so, way to go. But if not, you’re going to have a hugely difficult time convincing many people to pay $225 for a theme that’s perceived to be no better or more supported than much less expensive themes.

        Either way, your price increase seems to be bringing a lot of attention to your company!

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      2. Nice play on word! (we’ve also had quite a few with Pile around the office).

        We are fully aware of how dramatic the price increase is. That is why we haven’t done the same for all of our themes because we need to see how potential customers of ThemeForest relate to it. Like I’ve said in the main article, we are not suicidal. But we needed to start somewhere.

        Your comparison with a hypothetical Prius price increase is not right because Toyota always had the liberty to set their own prices. What if that Prius was, in fact, a Tesla S that would have been forcibly priced at $25.000, then I would have no problem. I wouldn’t jump with excitement, though.

        I am not saying that anyone forced us to sell on ThemeForest, far from it. We’ve had it good. But, for a while now, a lot has been put on our head that was not part of the original deal.

        How would you feel if you were Toyota and you would sell cars without warranty (because that is how you decided and you told customers that). Then one day someone comes along and says that you should offer seven years of warranty but swallow it at the same price. Ha?

        Sure, if you were helping people under the radar all along because you felt that was right, you would not be so affected. But still…

        There are many things that people will start/need to understand about the WordPress theme market, on both sides of the story: customers and theme authors alike.

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    2. Also, I’ve checked and we’ve changed our price when Pile had 1589 sales. So there are 20 sales so far :)

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      1. For comparison, what was daily revenue at the old price? I know more time is needed for a final conclusion but I’m really curious how it’s going at this point in terms of profit. Close to same profit?

        You mentioned that time is needed for the market to adjust. You’re right about that. People will get used to paying more for themes (maybe not $225, but certainly $100 vs $50) when more authors have the courage to raise prices and not bury themselves in support. The non-WP solutions usually cost quite a bit more. ThemeForest has conditioned people to expect themes to cost virtually nothing compared to the total cost of building, hosting, managing and marketing an entire website.

        That’s finally starting to change.

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      2. Vlad, how much is the Pile theme per year including support?

        It looks like the first year cost is $225 for the theme, plus $79.88 to extend support from 6 to 12 months, for a total first year cost of $304.88. And then $196.88/yr according to envato.com’s rather buried support renewal formula of 87.5% of the sales price.

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      3. I haven’t done the math, but your calculations seem just about right.

        One thing to take into consideration about the situation on Envato in contrast to how most theme shops work: on Envato you get updates forever, and you pay extra only for support.

        This is very different equation.

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      4. “on Envato you get updates forever, and you pay extra only for support.”

        Which means renewal should cost more when only support is included. It can cost less if updates were a part of that, because you’d get many renewals from people not consuming support.

        Independent shops have had this figured out for a couple years now. Charging renewal for access to support and updates is sustainable but charging for support only is not (unless support renewal is something like 100%).

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      5. Steve, you are right. That is the system we lobby for: updates and support bundled in renewals, just like most shops do.

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  15. I think they have used this price increase only to attract attention, they did not make big sale in regular price, in envato marketpalce if you can’t make big sales, you stay down and buyers can’t find you anymore only if they gone so fare page by page. So for that reason pixelgrade change the price to anomalous.

    I think if other do this envato will lose members and clients, the two main reasons that have helped envato to achieve this success until today have been: fair price and because offer lifetime update (one time fee). This theme doesn’t have nothing more than other, just less.

    To allow authors change price without limit and control is a big mistake from Envato, look at this price what people did disaster:
    https://themeforest.net/category/all?sort=price-desc&view=list

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    1. Sellers matter too. It’s a fair price when both the buyer and the seller agree. A lot of sellers have left or stayed away from ThemeForest because the pricing has not been something they can fit into their business model. This will bring some of those back in and buyers will have more choices.

      Don’t worry about prices not being fair. Sellers want to maximize their profits. You don’t do that buy pricing so high that hardly anybody buys. Neither do you do that buy pricing so low that you hardly earn anything. An economy that isn’t rigged works itself out. Prices will generally fall into a sweet spot where buyers and sellers agree. That’ll be different for each theme.

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      1. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Way to go Steven!

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  16. I understand that you are pricing based on your internal analysis saying well it’s worth x amount to us per customer. Which makes sense however your entire revenue is still going to do down.

    Because your theme since this change as @Ahmad Awais has said is barely generating the same amount of sales and this is because of the market. Why would I spend $225 for your theme when I can get another one that virtually has a similar design with the same features for $59.

    Themeforest is great because you can set your price but you are also competing against thousands of themes that all virtually do the same thing. Avada, X, BeTheme, Enfold these are all practically the exact same thing. If I am the consumer I don’t see any added value to justify this price increase.

    If you raise your price by 100+ $ I expect something new or innovative to justify the price hike but that isn’t being met here.

    I think the sales are going to stay on the flatter side because of this price hike.

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    1. you are actually asking the wrong question, the real question is since the theme is GPL, why shouldn’t I sell it for 200$. No point in doing that for low priced themes, but with a starting price of 225$ there is enough margin to make an easy profit.

      I predict that the real competition they will have will be with themselves and not with other themes.

      From what I can see in its description it is also a “kitchen sink” theme aimed at letting user pretend they are designers, just like all other themes. so yeh, I would not buy it as well, but frankly IMO all themeforest themes suck and should be avoided so even 60$ is too much.

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      1. Mark you are overgeneralizing things. None of our themes are “kitchen sink” themes. And no, we don’t think our clients are designers, nor should they be. That doesn’t mean they don’t have any artistic sense whatsoever. We’ve expressed this quite clearly a while back.

        I am sorry you take the dark side of GPL, but that is your call. We are confident in our capabilities hence our GPL licensing.

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      2. Oh yes, I am after all Mark “over generalizing” k. :)
        As someone smart said,

        But the basic rule of web development is that “designers should design, developers implement and users add content”. The premise of all the page builders is that users do the design and skip development which tends to end in horrible sites. And by your own description you have a page builder. In addition this is a portfolio theme but also a shop theme…. Do you see why I get the impression it is a kitchen sink theme?

        Not that you don’t have nice touches like the support for post formats, but the only way I can justify that price point is if the theme fits exactly my needs or that it is modular with a supper great code that will not try to kill me when I will try to modify the theme’s behavior.

        …. but I am not a typical TF user, so probably my opinion doesn’t count much.

        As for the GPL, there is nothing “dark” about others distributing your code, this is essential part of the license and it is neither “dark” nor “white”, it is designed like that so users will not be held “hostages” by software companies (you should read the history of GPL and why RMS started it). Business built on GPL are essentially supposed to give the software for free and make money from support. From that POV a 225$ to answer one question is too expensive and other people will come and offer support for a smaller fee. The ability to make such decisions is what separates the woothemes of the world from the jigsjhops of the world and there is nothing “dark” about such decisions, business exist to earn money not to win popularity contests.

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      3. Regarding the “dark” side of GPL. I am referring to just taking some else’s work and reselling it hoping to provide nothing extra and make a quick buck. I understand and support the fact that GPL grants assurances to the user of not being fenced in or held hostage. That is a great benefit. But that is the user, not another business. That is the spirit of the GPL. What you were describing is not in the spirit of GPL because one doesn’t bring anything new to the table and that doesn’t benefit anybody.

        Woothemes create their own products. They don’t take what others have created and sell them with better support. I also like and appreciate Woothemes (they are actually Automattic now, but it doesn’t matter much).

        Regarding having a page builder, yes Pile does have a project builder, but it is a custom one built specifically for Pile with the minimum amount of options. We generally stay clear of builders but in this case, the design asked for one.

        Even if we are using a builder, we’ve made sure that the customer would have an easy time getting good results. So no, we are not putting the whole design responsibility on the shoulders of customers. That would not be right nor fair.

        The shop component of Pile is also a stripped down version aimed at the specific needs of a photographer or visual artist.

        I really appreciate you taking the time to put forward your thoughts as a “not a typical TF user”. I helps us better understand the vastly different perspectives people have when looking at our products. This helps keep us firmly grounded in reality.

        Best regards,
        – Vlad

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  17. This is an interesting move and congratulations to Vlad and team for this impressive change!
    I have always believed that the “Value” a theme holds and delivers is much more than the “Price Tag” it comes with.
    While most of the people might have a different perspective about why they should pick this theme instead of others. I am hoping that if I were to buy the theme, I would expect
    – Better / Faster support as the user base is limited
    – Stability and ongoing feature addition

    A lot of multi purpose themes sold for a low price end up being a pain during upgrades.

    Other than this, this move can encourage other theme devs to rightly price their themes and change the ecosystem completely over the time. This will take a couple of years but, it will be good.

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    1. Thank you Puneet for pitching into the conversation. Hopefully, the market will start to move and establish its self on more sane foundations.

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  18. Vlad —

    I’d be willing to pay more for innovation as long as I can get rapid response on support, and attention to enhanced features.

    Too many themes are beginning to look and function the same, and no one’s really pushing the envelope anymore, so to hear that you’re goal in increase the price was to do just that, well, all I have to say is…”You go boy!” :)

    I’d even go as far as paying a monthly fee for tiered-structure support (X changes for $, feature requests for $$, content copy for $$$, etc.) that gave me my own web team who’s role is to manage, both content, and website.

    #HyundaiVsBentley ;)

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    1. You are too kind Peter. You managed to capture our way of thinking about this beautifully.

      Thank you for your support. It is much appreciated and needed.

      #PriusVsTesla ;) – see above

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  19. Funny enough the demo doesn’t load on the latest Safari, just a frozen progress bar. Screenshot

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    1. I’m sorry but a raise of 400% is ridiculous. I would understand a change of 50% or even 100%. But this is about greed and for me there’s no justification. Every other business would be out of business if they would raise a price for the same product, same service and support overnight with 400%. I like the comparison with the Prius. As a small agency we buy many themes to test ourselves, for demos and presentations and finally for projects for our clients. This one will not be in our portfolio, there are so many other great themes. I wish Vlad all the best.

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      1. Can you tell me where did the 400% come up? Because I haven’t done the math for the 281% neither (Sami did) :)

        But regardless of that, don’t you find it a little bit strange that you are treating theme purchases like candy?

        As a small agency we buy many themes to test ourselves, for demos and presentations and finally for projects for our clients.

        I am convinced that was the status quo for many years, but isn’t it even a little bit strange? Shouldn’t people think a little bit more about a theme and decide on fewer?

        I am not sure how our pricing puts other businesses out of business, but that was never our intention. On the contrary, we wish to help our customers get the most out of their purchase through the impact it has on their business or storytelling.

        Thank you, and good luck with the agency. Hopefully, we will convince you one day to reevaluate us ;)

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    2. Hey guys,

      @FoolPress We’ve done a bunch of testing, but on our end on the last Safari (Version 10.0 (12602.1.50.0.10) everything is loading a-ok.

      Is there any extension enabled on your end perhaps? If not, could you give us more details about this issue?

      Have an awesome weekend,
      Robert

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    3. I am not seeing the same behavior on the latest Safari, but thank you for pointing it out. Maybe it was something related to our hosting. Will investigate it.

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  20. This whole conversation has been nice and all. While I didn’t read all of the comments I got a general idea of what’s going on.

    1. Pixelgrade builds themes and as a results they get customers

    They don’t build a theme going after customers they want their themes to have integrity and be different from the rest and this is a very good mindset to have. Following trends can be bad since in the end can your lose yourself or business model in the process.

    Let me say this:
    I purchase Pile for my on site and it works. There are things I’d like to change and I really feel that a theme that was built in 2014 should have had everything change with their newest release (Pile 2) but there were a few things from the original design that remained I guess those things worked well so they kept them but to me I felt they were issues.

    My suggestion regarding this whole $59-$225 I believe all their customers should have received a notification personally from Pixelgrade 1-2 months before the price hike (this would probably have cause a surge in sales) but more importantly it would have prepared many for this price change. Yes Envato sent out an email (which I didn’t read due to email marketing and other Envato messages).

    The 2nd suggestion I can make is to create another version of say Pile 3 and markup the price on that one. Similar to the whole Tweetbot approach. Of course this would have to be more modular as you will not want to stop supporting all the older versions. The older version will still remain but for the price You get a new framework and all it’s features and you pay the premium price. THis way an existing designer can offer it to their client and sell them the features and why they would need them.

    Now that price has change existing users have to pay $150+ for support. Which I think if there has been an underlining issue with the theme the developer should fix it for an individual. But any thing else a person should pay for support.

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    1. Hi,

      First of all, let me congratulate you for having such a well-balanced point of view. Well done.

      Like you have pointed out, we could have made the transition better and we had a lot to learn from the feedback we’ve received. I agree we could have communicated better with existing customers, but unfortunately, we don’t have their emails (only Envato does). Sure we have some of their emails through our helpdesk, but they are not all of them

      Very nice take on how people should relate to support. As for issues, everybody (including existing customers) will get updates, no matter if they purchase support or not.

      This “they want their themes to have integrity and be different from the rest” has really touched me since it encompasses so beautifully what we’ve been trying to convey.

      Thank you for your comment.

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  21. The price collusion question came from me. Let me clarify what I meant.

    First, I agree with and like your price increases. Kudos to you. I think the whole WordPress software space is underpriced, which aside from the obvious results it has on a seller’s income, also results in people undervaluing the amount of knowledge required and work involved in crafting quality software. (The same can be said for other software markets as well). For the most part, I find that buyers have no sense of the value they’re getting for such a small amount of money, and that doesn’t even take into account the support side. This leads to a lot of things, better left to another discussion.

    To correct the low prices and correct the perceptions of value we see in this space, prices need to increase across the board. Also, if you’re the lone company selling at this high of a price point, I believe you’ll find less acceptance (not necessarily a bad thing, just saying).

    How do we get the people in this space to charge what their products are worth, so we can all be fairly compensated for our work instead of gambling on the high volume/low margin game?

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    1. Hi John,

      I’ve been forced to come to grips with many economics terms (mostly from accusations on ThemeForest) like “price collusion,” “price gouging,” and some others.

      I wholeheartedly agree that customers, in general, have a very distorted view of the amount of work and skill required to make a good theme (more so if you are aiming for great). I wouldn’t blame them because the forced pricing of Envato has taught them that.

      That would be the ideal situation when a large portion of authors decide (independently) that this reality needs to change, but I doubt it will happen so soon.

      We are well aware of the head winds we are going to encounter, but somebody’s gotta make the first step. We would rather be the first because we believe we have something to say on this matter. I would see it as a missed opportunity if the first authors to increase prices would do a poor job of coming up with reasonable explanations and decent motives.

      This conversation right here is the first step. We need more of them.

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  22. At least they will gain a lot of attention with this move. I buy many themes, but I never bought one for $ 225.00. But the price makes me curious. I almost want to buy the theme just to take it for a test ride.

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    1. Hi Edo,

      I am glad we’ve at least made you curious. Don’t let me stop you! Go right ahead :)

      Now seriously, we haven’t done this for the attention, although we are not so naive not knowing that it will attract some. But the level of attention this interview got, really surprised me, in a good way.

      The most important thing I think we’ve all gained is that it got people thinking and it spurred a conversation that will hopefully reverberate.

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  23. Can I just fork this theme and release it on WordPress.org under my name? I will definitely attribute your company as its GPL?

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