With Mayer about to turn a year old (they grow up so fast), with a healthy backlog of features sitting in the queue, and with two other themes sitting in the planning stage for the first part of this year, I’ve been thinking a bit about WordPress themes as a whole.

Sounds like I have too much free time doesn’t it?

But seriously, one of the things that I do wonder about is how long a WordPress theme can actually be sold and continue to be viable for users especially since design trends change. Additionally, I think that there are times in which a theme has reached the maximum number of features it can justifiably offer before it just begins to feel a bit crowded.

The Shelf Life of a WordPress Theme

First, what is the shelf life of a WordPress theme? Since WordPress themes provide the design of the site, and since design trends change every few years, is there a correlation to how long a WordPress theme can be sold?

I’m apt to say yes, but then part of me also knows that people will purchase something if they think it looks good regardless of if it follows modern trends, design patterns (in terms of actual design, not software), and so on. At least this is true to a degree.

Furthermore, once you’ve released a theme, I don’t think it’s a good idea to make any drastic updates to the way it looks because that ultimately results in a new theme.

So is there a level of expectation that we should have whenever we release a theme, or should we let numbers be what dictate whether or not something continues to be left on the marketplace? After all, I don’t think any company wants to be known as the one that sells outdated designs (then again, who knows, money is a big motivator for many).

Feature Creeping

A second aspect of building and maintaining themes is that of introducing and maintaining features. Yes, it’s easy to come up with an endless list of things to continue adding to a theme but I tend to think that each time a new feature is introduced, it’s either going to contribute to the core identity of a theme or it’s going to begin diluting it.

For example, if you have a theme that’s designed specifically for bloggers then there are really only so many features you can begin to pack into the theme before it begins to just have features for the sake of having features. And though it’s fun to actually build stuff in general, building things without an actual purpose or building things that dilute the identity of the product that you’re selling isn’t a very good strategy (if that’s what you’d even call it).

And that’s it: I don’t know what the shelf life is of a WordPress theme, though I know one exists, and I don’t know how many features are too many features, though I know there is an upper limit.

I’m interested in your take on it – that is, if you have one.