Premium Theme Extinction Event

In an earlier post I mentioned I’d talk about how the changeover to the Block Editor changes how one chooses themes. This post is sort of about that.

The WordPress.com Great Premium Theme Cull of 2020.

To encourage users to move to the no-longer-new Block Editor interface (aka Gutenberg) WordPress.com recently removed from the Theme Showcase Premium themes that did not support the Block Editor.

This leaves the current number of available free themes at 111 and 37 Premium themes as of writing this post (*see below for update), which is a significant drop and the lowest number of Premium themes I can recall in recent years.

A WordPress.com Happiness Engineer replied to a user in the Community Forums that “We’ll start adding more themes that take full advantage of the editor” but there was no timeline given as to when users could expect new Premium themes. He also mentioned that Business users can upload any WordPress theme, as can eCommerce plan users. For many SMB’s spending upwards of US$300 a year just to have the possibility of uploading an external, custom theme is a stretch.

Just to remind you, Premium themes have been included at no additional charge in the WordPress.com Premium, Business and eCommerce plans, as well as being available as a one-time, standalone purchase for sites on the WordPress.com free and Personal plans.

To put this event in perspective, WordPress.com regularly retires themes, both free and Premium, for a variety of reasons. What makes this event unusual is the number of themes retired at one time, even though not all the themes from the following vendors were retired overnight. I would be remiss in not pointing that out. However, according to my further research on 9 March, the number of available Premium themes listed in the Theme Showcase up until March 3rd was 183 themes.

Now included in the list of retired Premium themes are themes from:

Unless the policy has changed, as with previous theme retirements, you can continue to use your retired Premium theme. However, take note that unlike free themes, if you switch away from a retired Premium theme, even for testing purposes, you will not be able to reactivate your previously enabled Premium theme.

*By the time I finished writing this post one day after starting it, the number of available Premium themes had dropped to 24.
**The tally at 08:30 IST on 07 March is 19 Premium themes available. (Floral, Portrait, Chronicle, Broadsheet, Luxury, Gather retired)
***The tally at 18:52 IST on 09 March is 18 Premium themes (Heart and Style retired).

Page Layouts coming to Posts?

With the addition of preset Page layouts available with the new Block Editor themes, one has to wonder if such a “library” of layouts won’t eventually come to Posts as well. Right now, of course, you can choose from a dizzying array of Blocks for your Posts, but it doesn’t have the same visual punch and appeal as this:

OPINION: If the idea is to encourage new and experienced WordPress.com users to fully adopt the Block Editor, I feel like it’s going to take a lot more than providing new free and/or Premium themes that support it. The Block Editor is still not very intuitive at this point and, for some, a big leap that they won’t make unless they can actually see what the Editor is capable of doing and can duplicate it on their own site.

WordPress.com is not WordPress. For many people, WordPress.com is their first exposure to creating a web presence for themselves and/or their business and the majority are not “power users.” To achieve democratizing the web, we should embrace more than one way of doing it.

As always, the information in this post is correct as of today’s date. Changes are inevitable.

Published by JenT

Empowered by WPcom since 2006. Never stop learning.

8 thoughts on “Premium Theme Extinction Event

  1. I started a new site a couple of days ago and saw these layouts. Took me a while to just scrub them and start with blanks. I don’t know how anyone at Automattic thinks these are fun to work with.

    Looking at your list, I am surprised at a couple of the names here. I’ve used ElmaStudio themes. And The Theme Foundry – surprised to see that in the list. Array doesn’t exist any more: Mike McAllister went to work for StudioPress which is now part of WPEngine, so it’s no surprise that those themes are gone. But the Genesis themes? Surely they were Guten-up-to-date?

    1. There were some very popular themes there and it would be reasonable to expect that they would update to be gutencompliant. In fact if I use the feature filters in the theme showcase to sort for premium themes that are block editor styles the result is 0, so I’m not certain what to think at this point. 🤔

      *Edited to add that this site currently uses Floral, which was on the Premium theme list right up to the 7th of March, and on which I am using the Block Editor.

      1. Nope! Last seen on the Premium theme list sometime during the night between 6-7 March. 😦

        Edited to add: but thank you for pointing out that I needed to make it more obvious in my post. I’ve done so.

  2. I’ve added the following to my post because it is significant: According to my further research on 9 March, the number of available Premium themes listed in the Theme Showcase up until March 3rd was 183 themes.

    On 4 March the number of available Premium themes dropped to 140 themes and from there it just kept dropping:
    5 March: 37 themes
    6 March: 24 themes
    7 March: 19 themes

    So yes, a mass extinction and it feels like WordPress.com is getting out of the Premium theme business. The only alternative for anyone wanting to use a custom theme is the upgrade to Business. Disappointing to say the least.

  3. And the latest development since yesterday, WordPress.com no longer displays the number of available themes in the Theme Showcase. There are still only 18 Premium themes today, but if you select Premium, the first 18 themes shown are Premium and then they are followed by all the free themes. The next logical step would be for WordPress.com to remove the ability to sort by free or Premium themes.

  4. I started a new blog about a week ago and it came up with all kinds of weird pages. I couldn’t understand why I was being forced to adopt various pre-built pages. I junked all the pages and started again, but I thought that a newbie would be screaming if faced with that. I am tempted to start another blog just to see whether what happened a week ago was a glitch or is the pattern for the future. Do you see people scratching their heads over how to start?

    1. Neither of us are newbies to WordPress or WordPress.com so it’s hard for me to judge what a true newbie would think of all this. However, looking at the New Page creation process, it seems like Pages are the new Themes.

      Personally, I like themes that have features like sidebars. Sometime late last year Staff said in the forums that eventually they will be introduced in the Block Editor, but for right now you can use columns and reusable blocks to get there. So we are in a transitional phase, still.

      Just noting here for the sake of consistency, Adventure from Organic Themes is back in the Premium theme showcase.

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