I have just released my first paid theme on the October Marketplace and this made me think about the differences between themes and bespoke design.

In terms of price you roughly have 3 categories: themes, configuring/customizing themes and bespoke design.

Themes & plugins $5 - $200* 15 - 1200+
Setting up a website with themes and plugins $500 - $1000* 3 - 12
Bespoke design $3000 - $6000+* 1

*opinions on this may vary in different regions and themes will always need some customization so you cannot directly compare bespoke design and themes

What is the role of themes?

The best cars aren't built to also sail and fly so why would you expect a generic theme to be able to accommodate your need to stand out?

Most themes target a generic audience and allow end-users to drag and drop 1000+ pre-defined pieces of functionality across the screen in order to become 'anything'. My view is that themes should not be about offering 'everything and the kitchen sink' to everybody (that is the job of frameworks) but should be about design. The themes that I am talking about are sometimes called 'niche themes'. These 'niche themes' pay more attention to specific conversion goals, offer demo content, etc.

This got me thinking....

The design elements (e.g. illustrations) in a theme may not be unique (after all, themes are used by others too) but do allow end-users access to design at a fraction of the price (much like stock illustrations do) and give web designers and web developers a head start in developing their own bespoke themes for clients (this should include elements of design).

Offering stock design elements in themes

I have included animated vector illustrations in my theme - crossing the border between a theme (that helps you with responsive layout etc. but does not generally include licensed stock images) and stock design (photos and illustrations that set your site apart for an affordable price).

Next, I will be experimenting with the option to make additional sets of vector art available for this (and coming themes) in plugins. This approach allows developers to sell additional design elements for themes and gives end-users access to new design elements that will keep their theme fresh.

Offering themes and plugins for October CMS on 3rd-party marketplaces

I have noticed that developers of Wordpress themes and plugins sometimes sell their work on multiple marketplaces like,, and their own website for greater reach.

However, in the case of October CMS it is preferable that paid plugins and themes are installed through the official OctoberCMS marketplace:

  • This benefits October CMS ecosystem (30% commission)
  • This allows end-users to update themes and plugins from their installation of October CMS

The only option I can think of now is to send buyers of themes and plugins for October CMS on 3rd-party marketplaces a coupon-code instead of the digital download but this still seems cumbersome:

  1. Buy a plugin or theme on a 3rd-party site and receive a coupon-code
  2. Register on
  3. Buy the plugin or theme again using the coupon-code (maybe the minimum amount of $5 can be justified as a subscription for updates? Is October CMS still planning to offer subscriptions for themes and plugins?)

The alternative is to install the theme or plugin manually or using a free plugin like my Import plugin. But you will not receive software updates through your installation of October CMS. Again, this too seems cumbersome.

What are your thoughts on this?

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The reason that WordPress developers turn to third party marketplaces and their own websites to sell their plugins and themes is simply because there is no first party support for paid plugins / themes in the Plugin Repository. This segments the market unnecessarily which then requires the developers to engage in the practice of listing on multiple marketplaces.

With October, the marketplace supports paid themes and plugins by default and so if someone is ever looking for any kind of plugin or theme, they come to the OctoberCMS marketplace to look. In this case, posting themes and plugins on other marketplaces helps no one:

  • It doesn't help the customer, because now there are multiple marketplaces they have to wade through to find what they're looking for, and potentially multiple update & support delivery channels that they have to deal with when using their purchased products.
  • It doesn't help the developer, because now they have to provide updates and support through a number of different marketplaces / delivery mechanisms
  • It doesn't help the core development of OctoberCMS. Marketplace gratuities are the main source of income for the project's core developers (from the project anyways), and that isn't really all that much to begin with (not even close enough to support a single full time person).

What should be focused on is instead making continual improvements to the overall OctoberCMS marketplace experience so that developers and customers can continue to have the best experience using the official marketplace and we can grow revenue for the developers building the plugins and themes which will in turn grow revenue for the OctoberCMS core development team.

One other thing that I would like to point out about OctoberCMS themes (as they are right now anyways) is the difference between them and WordPress themes. WordPress themes are meant to be built upon with child themes in a way that allows the original theme base to be updated beneath them. They're more like frameworks to build the visual frontend of your website with. OctoberCMS themes (as they are currently) are more like the HTML templates that you can get from various marketplaces. They provide a good starting point for you to base your specific project's frontend "theme" on, but you're certainly not going to be updating the original HTML template itself.

It's debatable whether it would be a good idea to move towards supporting a more WordPress like theme experience or not, but regardless that is how they currently function within October.

What are your thoughts as far as improving the marketplace experience for users and developers goes?


Hi Luke, I was hoping to get a response from you :)

Yes, I agree that October CMS does not need 3rd-party marketplaces but, right now, the only people who are on the October CMS marketplace already know October CMS rocks. If I do not know about October CMS I can visit sites like, or and find themes for Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal, etc. but not for October CMS. This is unfortunate because these sites have a larger audience and could help get the name October CMS out there. The combined reach of these sites is far bigger than the reach of the October CMS marketplace. October CMS may focus on B2B but end-users can also create demand for certain software (See Wordpress).

Also, the advantage of having different marketplaces is innovation. Why did you create October CMS? Some of these different marketplaces may do things the others had not thought of (e.g. a marketplace that offers themes and assets like logo’s and illustrations in one place).

The Themes section on the October CMS marketplace is not very nice compared to the Plugins section. It is lacking categories (maybe on industry?) and I do not like the layout of the listings. I would prefer to see 3 or 4 smaller theme previews in a row.

I also think that the webdesign industry can no longer deny the fact that most websites do not need a bespoke design. For most websites a theme offers everything that is needed for a fraction of the price. This means that themes for October CMS are not just starting points for developers but should also be products for end-users. In a free market those products should be available through multiple channels. This will give October CMS a greater reach and get the name out there. The October CMS marketplace could and should be the biggest player but not the only one (e.g. Tommy Hilfiger has it's own stores but you can buy their products in lot's of other stores too. There may be only a single Apple App Store but Apple is already a well known brand and you can buy their phones in lot's of stores.). If you offer a superior update experience through the October CMS marketplace you can still receive a commission over the update service, even if a product was originally sold on a 3rd-party marketplace. If this generates a higher volume of users you would be making more money, not less.

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Oh, and I would really like some form of subscription model for updates/support of plugins. I do not think it is fair to offer a lifetime of support and innovation for plugins that are paid for only once. Such a model would make continued support and innovation for plugins more likely and would go very well with the concept of selling themes and plugins through multiple 3rd-party channels but offering the (annual) update service through the October CMS marketplace.

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Ok, in reply to my own topic. I have decided on the following approach:

I have begun also offering themes for October CMS on 3rd-party marketplaces under the category "HTML themes" or "Bootstrap themes". The download on these 3rd-party marketplaces contains the stand-alone HTML template + a coupon-code to download the theme for October CMS from with a discount.

  1. This allows me multiple online channels to reach potential customers that may not know October CMS yet and have never visited
  2. This introduces potential customers to October CMS.

Like I mentioned before, there is a growing market for themes that target end-users. Most websites do not need to be unique and small business owners can save a lot of money if they can share the cost of a bespoke website with others. This also shifts the focus of web agencies from designing towards (full) services like marketing, consulting, workshops, hosting etc. and the customization of existing and field-tested designs, themes and plugins.

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