How to Find a Niche in the WordPress Ecosystem

Adrian Try

This article was sponsored by StylemixThemes. Thank you for supporting the partners who make SitePoint possible.

WordPress is simple, elegant, and modular. That combination has made it the most popular web platform on the planet, resulting in a rich ecosystem of themes, plugins and support. It’s an amazing opportunity for devs and designers, but how do you stand out in such a crowded marketplace?

Sites like ThemeForest allow creators of WordPress themes to have a steady income, bringing in over half a billion dollars in revenue to their community of authors. But that revenue is not shared evenly. While some authors make millions, 76% of WordPress themes on ThemeForest earn under $1,000 per month (ThemeForest By the Numbers, 2016).

So how do you stand out from the crowd? Let me introduce you to a team that learned how—StylemixThemes.

How Do You Stand Out in the WordPress Crowd?

StylemixThemes is a remote team of devs, designers and support gurus who started making WordPress themes in 2008, and decided to start selling them on ThemeForest two years later. It took time and grit, and they eventually found success. They became Power Elite authors by earning their first million in December 2016, and have earned another million in the last year.

What’s their secret? The team talked about their journey in a 2016 interview. Here are a few of the lessons they learned:

Never copy. Come up with something new and unique, and integrate that into your themes, plugins and products.

Eat crow. Getting feedback on your work is difficult, but helpful, and review is an essential part of the ThemeForest submission process. Their first theme was rejected a number of times by the review team, but they learned from the experience, and that ultimately led to a better theme.

ThemeForest reviewers didn’t like the design we submitted, they want to see high-level themes with a perfect UI, which can suit thousands of buyers. We realized that our mistake was that we tried to create a theme as a single website for a single customer.

Market your themes. A combination of Google Adwords, banners and paid reviews have been successful for the team, but they continue to look for new marketing strategies.

Stay hungry, stay foolish. Making a steady income from your current themes mustn’t stop you creating new features, themes and products. Keep creating, keep improving, and keep valuing and supporting your customers.

And one final key lesson. They were inspired by a successful ThemeForest author, Chris Molitor, to start creating micro-niche themes.

Avoid the Crowd by Focusing on Niche Markets

By focusing on niches, you can find markets that are not already overcrowded. Back in 2013 I interviewed Chris Molitor and other successful authors about their success in creating themes for niche markets. This is how Chris described his initial strategy for finding the right niche:

  • He looked for ThemeForest categories that didn’t have any themes. For example, Chris was the first author to make themes in the events, nightlife, churches, political and charities categories.
  • As the categories began to become more popular, he would focus on the ones with the smallest number of themes. His challenge was that there wasn’t many other themes to get inspiration from, “if you’re doing it right, you’re on your own.”
  • He researched the unique features customers in each niche needed, and included them in his themes. He talked to real people about their real requirements.

One niche project I did was actually the result of an email I got from a curator at a museum. They weren’t able to find anything for what they needed, so I asked questions and learned what the needs were from the actual end user. I had a lot of fun working on it, and it’s probably my favorite niche project to this day. (Chris Molitor)

How does Chris stand out from the crowd? By not being generic. He doesn’t create themes for anybody—he creates them for somebody. His trademark is unique, functional themes for specific niche groups.

Don’t say ‘anybody’ can use your services—be specific… Saying ‘everybody’ makes you think of ‘nobody’.

I can see where StylemixThemes got their inspiration from. They, too, create quality micro-niche themes specifically tailored to each industry, each with its own special features. Here are a few examples.

Consulting – a Theme for Business and Finance

Consulting from StyleMixThemes

StylemixThemes isn’t shy. They clearly spell out to their customers that the theme is “based on in-depth research into the field of business, finance and consulting.” That’s good marketing. Then they make sure it includes additional functionality needed for business, finance and consulting, such as including the use of pie charts, graphs and progress bars, and a WooCommerce store.

Health Coach – a Theme for Life Coaches and Personal Trainers

Health Coach from StyleMixThemes

Again, they point out to their customers that a lot of thought went into the included features: “With growing popularity of Health Coaching and Healthy Lifestyle becoming more and more widespread, the niche really needs a theme which would provide everything a coach needs to present him/herself and his/her programme promoting better lifestyle.” So they include payment and booking integration.

Cinderella – a Theme for Beauty, Hair and Spa Salons

Cinderella from StyleMixThemes

Here they include special features required for small businesses in the beauty industry (including networks of salons in multiple locations), like online booking, an advanced pricing module, and a WooCommerce store.

Pearl WP Is a Bundle of Niche Themes

With so much success with their micro-niche themes, StylemixThemes wanted to take it to the next level. So they took everything they learned, and combined it into a mega product. Pearl WP is a comprehensive bundle of niche themes—business, logistics, medical, restaurant, construction, charity, beauty, health coach, musical, rental, portfolio, church, personal blog, WooCommerce shop, startup, and viral—with more niches being added over time.

So, while focussing on niche markets, they have also created a product that appeals to a wider audience. This is the first themes bundle to appear on ThemeForest, so they’re blazing their own trail here. Check out their promo video.

As with their standalone products, each theme in the bundle includes special features tailored to each industry. Here are some examples:

  • The business and finance theme allows customers to make appointments online, simplifying your schedule management.
  • The audio albums theme includes a music player that doesn’t stop when visitors browse the site.
  • The restaurant theme includes three layout options to showcase your menu.
  • The construction theme includes project templates to showcase your work.
  • The charity theme has an inbuilt PayPal donation system.

But this isn’t just a collection of separate themes. You can mix and match the features between each theme, and take advantage of 200 shortcodes and 250 page templates, to customize as needed. That’s a lot of functionality and versatility built into a single product, and will appeal to a wide audience.

Another way to stand out from the crowd is by providing excellent documentation. That’s a job that can feel tedious to the developer, but is crucial to the end user. You don’t want to skimp here.

StylemixThemes have taken their documentation to another level by producing a range of video tutorials. They don’t just instruct users how to install the bundle, but also cover a range of Pearl WP’s important features, including:

  • How to use the Pearl Header Builder
  • An overview of Mega Menu
  • An overview of the Pearl Slider
  • Setting up the Autoptimize plugin
  • An overview of the restaurant menu
  • How to set up bookings via OpenTable
  • A demonstration of the advanced portfolio feature
  • A demonstration of the Success Stories module
  • An overview of the donations feature
  • A tutorial on construction projects.

Learn from the Best

Like StylemixThemes, you’ll find success if you persevere. Take some time to learn from them. Their Pearl WP bundle normally costs $59, but for a limited time they are offering it for just $39. Here are a few reasons you should consider purchasing it:

  • If you want to learn what it takes to create quality micro-niche themes, this bundle contains a complete education. Study the differences between each theme, and the special features added for each industry. Then take what you’ve learned and go create something unique.
  • If you create websites for various industries, this single bundle might be the one resource you need. You can purchase a standard license for each new site that you create, or an extended license to cover them all.
  • Or if you just need a website, you can get a Pearl WP site with setup and hosting for $16 a month.

How do you stand out in the crowded WordPress ecosystem? Start with hard work and your own unique style, add effective marketing and helpful documentation, respond to peer review, and never stop pursuing fresh ideas. And look for opportunities that are less crowded— I’ll say it again, in niche markets.

Have you had success creating niche WordPress themes? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.