If you think that, you're missing a pretty big part of WordPress. Yes, it first became popular as a blogging platform, but nowadays, WordPress is one of the most popular and profitable destinations for website creation on the internet. For those who weren't convinced, however, consider some of these mind-boggling statistics from the ManageWP blog. Indeed, there are lots of good reasons why WordPress is by far the most popular CMS site on the market today, among them are its great options for small businesses and its ease of use. And the explosive growth of WordPress in the last few years has led to a number of extremely profitable sub-industries within the WordPress world.
Perhaps one of the key reasons for the rise of WordPress has been its customizability, and the rise of WordPress themes has pretty much directly mirrored the rise of WordPress itself. As it stands now, there are literally thousands of WordPress themes you can employ to customize your website. Sites like Envato's ThemeForest and TemplateMonster are just a couple of the many sites that have popped up in recent years, all with the goal of providing a forum of all sorts of themes for WordPress users keen to customize their sites. What's perhaps most important from a developer's standpoint is the fact that themes, as they've continued to grow, have proved to be extremely profitable ventures. Indeed, it's not totally unheard of for WordPress developers to make millions of dollars off a single theme.
The industry of WordPress themes, however, might be seeing its twilight in the near future. Great though themes can be for making a site stand out, there is a limit to this trend of hyper-customization, with research suggesting that too much customization can be bad for site traffic. Ever wonder why all social media sites seem to have a predominantly blue color scheme? Well, it's partially because there are certain accepted best design practices based on the way the human brain takes in information. What this all means is that there is a (relatively) limited number of designs, templates, and themes that look good, and any further exploration into the already saturated world of WordPress themes in an attempt to create something totally new might yield diminishing returns pretty quickly.
This is not to say that themes are bad. Far from it. Themes have been one of the major catalysts in the rise of WordPress. And this is certainly not to say that WordPress is losing its edge when it comes to customizability. Far from it. Instead of getting more rigid in terms of design, WordPress is actually shifting to find ways to increase customizability while allowing users to keep their designs within the realm of acceptable attractive schemes. The answer? Plugins.
Perhaps one of the more telling statistics from the aforementioned ManageWP article was the fact that there are currently 29,000 different WordPress plugins, and that number is only growing. This already outpaces the growth of WordPress themes, suggesting that the trend is already very much alive and not just speculation.
One of the greatest upsides for plugin developers is the earnings potential. The theme market is now oversaturated and is a one-time purchase industry for the vast majority of users. Plugins, on the other hand, have a great deal of built-in potential for repeated earnings. Even if you offer up your plugin on the repository for free, you can still make money on that plugin via ads or paid upgrades, so the revenue stream never dries up.
And what's more, there's a potential cash cow accessible via the plugin market that themes just don't have access to: security. After a recent spike in hacks to sites run on WordPress, it's become clear that vulnerabilities can pop up very easily in WordPress. One theme itself can't really be any more or less secure than any other. That's where plugins come in. To solve this growing problem, a number of security plugins, such as WordFence, are popping up on the market to make your site secure. If there's one thing people will pay a premium for, it's security.
Whether you're a WordPress developer looking to cash in on the next big trend or you're a website owner looking to hire an experienced WordPress developer to boost your own site, it's worth considering the role of plugins in the future of your WordPress site. Themes can only take you so far. For plugins, the sky's the limit.