The Future of WordPress, Speaking Notes from PressNomics

The catalyst that set me on the path to being Envato's WordPress Evangelist happened in 2012.

I left my job with nothing to move into and no idea what to do next. Having done some creative multimedia courses in college, I decided to venture out on my own and build a freelance design business.

I’d been using WordPress over the years and worked with a few themes from the repository, but I didn’t find what I was looking for until I searched online and found ThemeForest and Envato. They had beautiful themes that were easy to use and customize, exactly what I was hoping for. I found a theme that worked with my visual aesthetic, and a few hours (and shortcodes) later, I had a brand new site that I was proud of.

From there I began to learn and grow my skills. I refined my website and found new clients. I started reading the feed of blog posts that were in my WordPress dashboard and realised there was an ecosystem full of products designed to help me do the things I wanted to do.

I attended a WordCamp and joined a few product groups around the web, meeting other people just like me. This adventure culminated a few weeks ago when I joined Envato as their WordPress Evangelist.

I wouldn’t be here without the community at Pressnomics, at Envato and within WordPress as a whole. The conversations, encouragement and connections have been empowering and enabling. Thanks to everyone who participates in these groups, you never know the impact a conversation or an introduction might have on someone's future.

Happily, my story isn’t a unique one.

For millions of people around the world, how they got to where they are now intersects with both WordPress and Envato. For many of us Envato has been the gateway to the world of premium WordPress products and the WordPress community at large.

Whether as a user, designer or developer, Envato Market enables creativity and creates opportunity.

alt Talking WordPress and Envato at PressNomics 2016

Empowering a new economy with WordPress

The global reach of WordPress has helped to democratize the web as well as empower people to build businesses and achieve their dreams. What’s most encouraging to me is that creators from developing countries are able to dramatically improve their standard of living through WordPress and Envato.

Proteus is a theme company selling on Envato Market. In Slovenia, where they’re based, the average gross income for an individual is around $20,000 USD per year. In 2015, with only three of the products their team has created, they have generated over 10 times that in net earnings. These earnings have allowed Proteus to grow their team, bringing opportunity to others.

alt The Proteus team

Niche themes & unique features driving growth

Proteus’ success is due in large part to something that we’re seeing across the Envato Market, that identifying and supporting niche industries works.

Envato analyzes what users are searching for, which helps authors create the kinds of products that are sought after. It speaks to one of Envato’s core values that really does impact decision making; that Envato’s success is tied directly to the success of its authors.

Proteus’ focus on these niche industries produces over 400 sales per week, and that’s with just three of their 13 themes.

As we look to 2016, this trend is set to continue.

Real estate, restaurants, travel and hotel products are always in demand and consistently among the most sought after niches. In 2015 we saw a dramatic increase in the number of construction themes, going from roughly 4 to 60 in the year. Together they’ve sold roughly 32,000 copies or around $2 million in sales.

For me, what’s awesome about Proteus’ story is that they aren’t the only ones experiencing success this way. All across the world, we’re seeing the democratization of creativity, powered by Envato, which is helping people create a future for themselves and others.

Partnering to foster growth

That democratization isn’t reserved for niche themes but is really about helping great products find an audience and scale up.

We all know that one of the greatest challenges of any product launch is discovery. In today’s app-flooded world, getting attention on your product can be tough.

Early last year, Envato and the team at Obox began talking about how a partnership might help Obox’s new site builder, LayersWP, gain traction and adoption within the wider WordPress ecosystem.

In 2015 Envato became the exclusive marketplace for LayersWP child themes and extensions. In the first six months of this partnership, downloads of LayersWP was over 100,000, with Envato Market driving a significant number of those downloads.

What’s more, over 140 individual child themes, style kits and extensions are now available in the Envato Market. Layers and all the products built for it benefit from the same marketing and customer acquisition efforts as every other product on an Envato marketplace which is a huge win for the entire ecosystem.

For Obox specifically, this partnership is helping to solve the challenge of creating a vibrant product ecosystem without the operational overhead of managing a third-party marketplace, tax issues, payouts, updates and quality control.

We’re always looking for ways to improve

I believe there’s room to grow this model and support other incredible developers and products as they look to expand their own product adoption and ecosystem strategies.

It’s also something I think is important to highlight about Envato.

There are lots of unique ways product creators can take advantage of the scale of Envato’s marketplaces. There’s no one way to do something and Envato is very receptive to new ideas and opportunities.

If you’ve got a product whether a course, a theme, a plugin or a service, reach out. Envato loves to explore new ideas and experiment.

You may have seen some of these experiments already.

At Envato, just like at your company, we ask ourselves questions about how we do things all the time. We’re driven to increase the value of being part of the Envato ecosystem and growing the revenue of our authors.

Part of that is looking at how we can decrease the cost of customers to our authors and another part of it is looking at how we can increase the lifetime value of customers. The challenge is trying to do that in an ecosystem with millions of buyers and sellers.

You can’t just flip the switch on a new feature or change of policy, there has to be a mechanism for testing out new ideas, gathering data and making decisions. At Envato, we do that with experiments.

We recently launched a hosting experiment and it’s a great example of one way we’re trying to help authors grow monthly recurring revenue.

One of the most challenging aspects of creating and selling any product is managing the support that goes along with it. What any product owner knows is that you might generate revenue from a product sale but that doesn’t mean your business is profitable.

Products on Envato Market are available to anyone of any skill level. As a result, the support costs of managing a product can greatly reduce the net profit of a sale.

This isn’t a new issue for many of you, nor for us at Envato but one of the ways we’re experimenting is new. In fact, it’s so new I haven’t been able to talk about it until now.

Envato has partnered up with the amazing team at Sidekick for a small test to determine if we can reduce support overhead. We think this is something our community of buyers and sellers will appreciate.

Sidekick has already proven their ability to help new users better understand how WordPress works, we’re excited to see how working with authors on Envato leads to better customer success.

Under the hood at Envato

It’s not just about experiments though. Envato has seen some incredible growth this year and it speaks to Envato’s ability to incubate and support great ideas and products.

Here are just a few of our successes from the past year:

  • In 2015, authors who have made over $1 million in sales increased from 31 to 51.
  • In 2015, ThemeFusion reached $10 million in sales and their main product Avada has been downloaded over 200,000 times.
  • At the beginning of March 2014, the top 10 themes combined earned $200k+ in a week. In 2015 it was $300k+. This represents not just more of the pie going to the top 10 themes, but the pie itself growing. alt
  • In 2015, paid renewable product support was introduced and is just the beginning.
  • Envato Tuts+ is a big draw for learning WordPress deeply and this year was no exception - the community spent a combined 12,000 hours watching visual WordPress tutorials in 2015.
  • We also found that our community loves to read. They spent a combined 90,000 hours reading WordPress articles on Envato Tuts+.
  • 2015 saw a lot of growth at Envato and some new ideas went live, like Envato Sites, and there are more experiments and opportunities around the corner.

WordPress community

In the last few years, Envato has been supporting the WordPress community in other ways. Most recently, Envato was one of John James Jacoby’s major sponsors for his six months of work on GlotPress, BBPress, and BuddyPress.

In 2016 we want to continue our focus on the WordPress community. Hiring a WordPress Evangelist is an important step in deepening the connections between WordPress and Envato.

I’ll be hanging out at WordCamps and other WordPress conferences, checking in with people online and trying to be available to answer questions about Envato and what we’re up to.

We’re looking for more opportunities to be active participants in the community so feel free to connect with me and let me know what projects you’re working on.

Thanks for being here and part of our journey at Envato, we’re so pumped to walk alongside you into 2016 and beyond.

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