Tales from a WordPress theme developer. Feature Creep is haunting WordPress themes developers.
Here is the Wikipedia definition: “Feature creep, creeping featurism or featuritis is the ongoing expansion or addition of new features in a product, such as in computer software. These extra features go beyond the basic function of the product and can result in software bloat and over-complication rather than simple design.”
Sounds familiar? Who can name popular WordPress themes that fall in the feature creep category? Almost everybody, right? I have been a victim myself. I always did simple and easy to use WordPress themes, but back in 2011/2012 I developed the mighty “RichWP FrameWork”. There was no WordPress Customizer API at that time and every theme developer created their own UI. I actually added over 600 design options to this framework. Every margin and padding, corner radius and border thickness could be defined by the user. It was complete point and click webdesign editor based on WordPress. It was quite an amazing product at the time and I sold a lot of packages for $127 USD each.
Since I had so many options the server had to work hard to process everything. To keep a good performance I had to develop fancy techniques to pre-process and cache everything. Anyway, the concept was solid and since the laundry list of options answered almost all questions the like off “can I do this, or this & that”, listing the features was actually the best sales copy.
I provided preset files that could be imported to create specific designs. Customers could either tweak these or create their sites from the bottom up.
However all these option panels and the uncertainty of what they actually did resulted in a large amount of support requests. My product was able to do a lot, but it got over-complicated.
When responsive websites where the thing to have and the options API and the customizer came around I tried to incorporate the new trends and tools into my system, but hit the limits of what the customizer could process relatively early.
Knowing that day has come, I gave away the FrameWork for free in exchange of your email address and started building lean and fast themes again.
Success was imminent and I was sure that I have made the right decision.
From this perspective it is funny what is going on on all these popular WordPress theme market sites. People sell with feature lists! Good sales copy is far, far away. Healthy marketing budgets from the companies behind it. Not a lot of the average WordPress theme buyer shops independent anymore. The successful themes are the most bloated ones. Everybody is imitating the bestsellers. A vicious cycle and only funny to me because I am not a part of it ;)
I worked with many clients who bought into the “can do everything” themes. Usually they hired people only able to create websites with these themes. People who can’t change a font without a plugin. People that use page building plugins for creating a simple two column table. These sites looked great, but were so sluggish and slow that only a complete rebuilt with a small footprint could save the day.
“Can you optimize my WordPress site for speed?” is one of the most frequent job proposals that land in my inbox everyday.
Don’t make the same mistakes. Go lean and mean, well-coded and fast and use the least amount of plugins possible. You will not regret it.
If you need more reasons why I believe everybody should run when sees theme features lists that are longer than my girlfriends legs read this: Why You Should Choose Bloat Free WordPress Themes