My previous article repeated what others have been saying lately and that is that providing “lifetime” updates and support for WordPress themes and plugins is unsustainable. It seems many providers are realizing this now and beginning to charge for renewal annually. But there’s one more hole to plug if WordPress product providers really want to say they have a sustainable model.
The unlimited license had to go because we saw abuse from group buying schemes and other nonsense that caused < 2% of our licenses to be responsible for over 30% of support tickets. This change hopes to mitigate that.Joost de Valk (Yoast)
The question asked earlier was, how can you really provide support and updates for the lifetime of your product? I think at this point, most in the WordPress community agree that the answer is, you can’t. Eventually it will catch up to you.
So my question now is, how can you really provide support and updates for unlimited sites? What is “unlimited” anyway? I won’t answer that since you have an imagination and if you’re a provider, you have data. The point is, you shouldn’t promise something you don’t know you can actually provide. Covering unlimited sites is not very different from covering support for lifetime.
A secondary concern I have is why should the customer with one site be covering the costs of the user with 10 sites? That is effectively what is happening right now. Prices should be lower for single site users and higher for multi-site users. And there should simply not be an “unlimited” option.
Several plugin authors are already limiting support and updates based on usage. For example, one site is a certain amount, five sites is more, and “unlimited” is even more. Wait, unlimited? Yes, most plugin authors who do base pricing on usage are still offering an unlimited option. They’re so close to having it truly sustainable.
This morning on Post Status I saw that Yoast changed their pricing so that their top tier is for 20 sites instead of unlimited sites. That puts them in the same room as WooThemes who limits support and updates for their WooCommerce extensions to 25 sites (formerly unlimited). If a user needs support for more sites, they can simply make another purchase. The only full-GPL theme provider I know of who limits support on a per site basis is Pro Theme Design. There are probably close to 200 theme shops.
It makes perfect sense to me to limit the number of sites you provide updates and support for. At churchthemes.com we’re going to take it to another level. We won’t do tiers. We will simply ask for an amount that covers support and updates for the site being made. If a freelancer has a second client, the same price will be paid again to cover that site.
I haven’t had much feedback on charging per site yet but I have some idea of what the objections might be.
- The big shops aren’t doing it, so it must not work. In retrospect, copying WooThemes’ old model wasn’t the best thing after all, was it? Don’t copy something unless you know why it is done (give The End of the Ham a quick read).
- Freelancers and agencies will leave me. Does your product makes them look good and make their work easier? If so, I think all but the very cheapest will gladly pay what amounts to a fraction of the total project cost (passed on to the client).
- But, the GPL… Users can still use your theme or plugin on unlimited sites. They just won’t get automatic updates and support. That’s separate.
- It’s not feasible. Plugin authors are already doing it. Ask the user to pay based on number of sites. Don’t provide support for more sites than they pay. Deliver automatic updates only the the paid for number of sites (see the Easy Digital Downloads Software Licensing extension).
Don’t offer what you can’t be sure you can actually provide. Cover all your bases when you price a product. Don’t gamble. Make sure you’ll be able to take care of your customers now and in the future.
I hope to report on the effectiveness of the churchthemes.com business model at some point in the future.