In a provocative article on WP Tavern titled “Envato Continues to Rake in the Cash from WordPress Themes Packaged as Complete Website Solutions”, Sarah Gooding slams Envato for their role in what I’ll call the “big theme” market.
Envato theme authors are making large sums of cash by selling themes that are packaged as complete solutions for online businesses, because that’s what consumers have been trained to expect – the bigger the package, the more appealing the product. This can cause serious problems with data portability for customers down the road and remains a continual source of frustration for consultants who are hired to support poorly built Envato products.
If the marketplace were to change its standards and encourage theme authors to build themes that respect WordPress’ plugin system, it would most certainly result in a loss of profit. Envato currently has little incentive to move in this direction. As with the case of GPL licensing options, the company historically drags its feet until forced to comply with most basic requirements.
I think Sarah makes a lot of good points, and the comments also add a lot to the conversation. There are compelling arguments on both sides by commenters, but my former coworker Devin Vinson wins my clever comment prize:
One the one hand we have Jetpack being paraded as the only way for WordPress to continue to grow (because its a big all-in-one solution that is so easy to use) and on the other we have themes being ridiculed for trying to do the same.
Both are making huge sums of money by following what the community generally considers bad practice.
I don’t know where exactly I land, personally. I don’t like the everything in the theme solution, at all. I think Rarst’s comment where he beats the dependency management drum is a pretty good drum.
But at the same time, I understand that Envato authors are reacting to market demands; and if they weren’t, others would. I hate that excuse, “If I didn’t, someone else would.” But it’s a common one nonetheless.