The old school bloggers among you will remember the days back in 2004-5 when WordPress was just starting out; a time when the themes were free and the blogosphere was alive and bristling with excitement. By 2007 the platform had begun to dominate the blogosphere and the blogging industry as a whole was about to reach its peak. Around that time a whole new market opened up for paid WordPress themes. The era of the ‘premium theme’ had arrived and with it some brilliant developments to WordPress architecture. Premium theme developers helped move WordPress on from being an efficient blogging engine to a fully-fledged CMS.
But premium theme developers weren’t without their critics. The premium boom sparked a spate of scathing blog posts lashing out at developers for what was seen as the demise of core WordPress values, namely the WordPress adherence to a GPL license and the community’s embrace of Open Source ethics. Since the premium theme developers had managed to section off and market part of the platform, generating very desirable levels of income, the sense was that the source was slowly starting to close up. Further fuel was added to this angst by a parallel trend with premium WordPress plugins.
While I’ve been a great admirer of many a premium theme developer over the past couple of years – including the legendary ‘Small Potato’ of the now defunct WPdesigner, then Adii Pienaar founder of WooThemes, Jason Schuller of Press75, Nick Roach at ElegantThemes and Brian Gardner founder of StudioPress – I’ve always looked back on the early years of WordPress with a degree of nostalgia. I miss the excitement of seeing a new free theme released and watching people share and modify each other’s work. I miss the community element that a buyers’ market simply can’t provide.
And then, a month or so ago, I came across a site that struck a chord; a real breath of fresh air. It’s a site called WPShower.com. At the time of writing, WPShower offers 6 free themes, with a seventh just announced today. Little information is given about the person/people behind this venture, but the quality and usability of the themes, the attention to detail and the alluring designs made this site an instant favorite. I connected with WPShower via their Facebook page, eager to spur them on and sing their praises. Over the past month WPShower went from around 20 followers to over 1000, and each new free theme release has been followed by a wave of appreciation and support.
It’s not clear what plans the site owner(s) has for future theme releases, whether the site will switch to a premium model and start charging for their work, or whether they will build a business on the back of this adventure; all that remains unknown. All I can say is that it’s been an amazing ride so far and I only hope it continues. I’ve been blown away by their work and generosity, and It has re-ignited some of that early passion I felt for WordPress back in 2004-05. For that alone, WPShower, I am hugely grateful. So let it rain, let it rain…
I leave you with a small gallery of WPShower’s main themes to date:
As with all the theme reviews on this blog, my interest lies in that tiny group of themes that extend WordPress functionality through design innovation. In short, I’m looking for game changers. If you would like to recommend a theme for review, please get in touch via the contact form and I’ll be happy to consider your work.