ThemeFusion is the team behind Avada, which has amassed over 450,000 sales and 21,000 5-star reviews on Themeforest, remaining the best-selling WordPress theme for 6 straight years – an incredible feat. You can read more about their journey in their blog post.
David Scott, Envato’s PR & Communication’s Manager, decided to get to know a little more about this milestone, how they got here, and what’s next. The result is a Q&A with Markus Schwingenschlögl, the CTO of ThemeFusion.
Take it away, David!
Markus (left) at WordCamp Europe 2016 with ThemeFusion Senior Developer, Ari
How did you get into the WordPress industry originally?
I guess that it is a story that will sound familiar to a lot of people working in the industry now.Basically, I have been working in and on the web since I was in high school, which means since about 1996. So, I’m old school. After that I studied technical mathematics and computer sciences in my hometown of Graz (Austria) and kept in touch with the tech and internet industry throughout my years at university, doing freelance work as web developer. When you work on projects of different scopes for several years, you see how the industry changes and you constantly keep searching for better alternatives. Ten years ago, I wanted to change all my projects to a good CMS platform. I tested WordPress – which had just made the jump from a blogging tool to a full CMS – as well as Joomla, which became fairly popular those days, and also TYPO3, the dinosaur. And really no surprise: WordPress totally won me over and became the tool of my choice.
What do you like most about working as part of the WordPress community?
That’s an easy one: the community! The drive and passion behind WordPress and all the skilled guys and gals contributing through their expertise in different professions were one of the main reasons for choosing WP in the first place. And this hasn’t changed, in fact, it even becomes even better every day. For those who have not been to a WordCamp yet, I definitely recommend attending one soon, there you’ll experience it for yourself.
What’s been your career highlight to date?
Without a doubt the privilege to work with an awesome team of incredibly talented and cool people at ThemeFusion. It just is a pleasure to develop creative ideas into fun-to-use products in a company that acts and feels like a “work family”.
How long have you worked at ThemeFusion for?
It’s been almost 5 and a half years and one amazing ride. Actually, I started out as Avada customer shortly after it got traction on ThemeForest and soon became the most active participant on the support forum. For a few weeks, I kept bugging Luke (our CEO) about some bugs and feature requests and started to implement add-ons for those features, sharing them on the forum. And that was when Luke and Haris (the second founder of ThemeFusion) asked me to join and we became a team of three Avengers, which over time has seen us grow to more than 20 team members.
What does a ‘normal’ day in the office look like for TF’s CTO?
I guess most on the team would say, and what probably also most readers would expect, is that lots of coffee is a faithful companion throughout the day, while some nice tunes help to get into swing! Usually, my workday starts by following up with all the departments, through different tools. That helps to get the most out of the meetings we have for planning next releases, future projects and company strategy, which are also part of my daily routine.
Apart from the management aspects and fighting the fires of the day, I’m working with the development and design teams on new features and UI and UX questions. Another part of the work is to bridge between dev and documentation department and sometimes I’m also seen on product support. That all is only working out, because everyone on the team considers code as poetry and our product development as the art of tackling digital challenges. What might surprise people is, that most of our work is done online from different places of the world. So, while our headquarters are in Florida in the US, most of the time we don’t physically meet but work together through different online tools.
Avada is widely regarded as one of the most popular WordPress themes ever made – in your opinion, what has made it so popular?
I think there are 4 major reasons why Avada is so popular:
- Avada doesn’t force anything on the user. It just lets you achieve whatever you envision, offering the greatest freedom possible, through its many, intuitive and easy to use options.
- It is fun to use Avada. We listen carefully to our customers and implement the features they need in the way they want them to work.
- We pay extreme attention to detail, both in design and development. That is something our users experience in the end product.
- The team itself is extremely excited about new features and even better UX, just like kids we can’t wait to deliver the best solutions to our user base.
What sort of things do you and the team do or consider when trying to ensure it remains useful and on-trend in what is a constantly evolving WordPress theme market? What’s next for Avada?
We’re really driven by a passion for making the daily life of people working in the web industry easier and more efficient. The whole team is an active part of the WP community, so there is a regular exchange about current needs and future plans. Also, specifically regarding themes, we have a Facebook group with more than 16k members and get lots of feedback through other channels like emails and ThemeForest comments as well. We value that a lot and it helps us to push the limits even further.
ThemeFusion recently passed a pretty massive milestone of $25m in sales on Envato’s ThemeForest marketplace, what was the reaction inside ThemeFusion HQ when that happened?
Well, that was and is just amazing! We are humbled by it and are very grateful! It is something we achieved as a team over the past six years. Many sleepless nights and long days, tons of coffee, drive, passion, the focus of Luke and dozens of other factors contributed to it. But it would all have been impossible without our incredible and loyal customer base. Although we knew that the milestone was approaching, we couldn’t really believe it when we finally hit it. We had a “remote party” and a bonus was given out to each team member. And I myself, have a bottle of nicely aged single malt in my office for special occasions like this.
Here’s a quick look at Avada in action. You can find more examples here.
What’s so appealing about selling on a marketplace like ThemeForest?
Envato is THE marketplace to sell digital products for the web industry. ThemeForest itself is widely known and respected by people working in the industry. It is easy for them to find the product they want to work with and the high-quality standard Envato is having, makes sure they don’t ever regret their purchases. This, together with the valued partnership we have with Envato, makes ThemeForest our choice.
What do you think about the arrival of Gutenberg? How is ThemeFusion planning for the new world order when it comes to theme and content block designs?
We are definitely excited about Gutenberg! The WP core teams work very hard on every release, to make WordPress an even better platform. Gutenberg is no exception there. In the end, it will improve the post creation process of a lot of WP users. Of course, the merge into core in WP 5.0 will be a massive change, but it will bring additional benefit to WordPress. For us, that means, that we’ll stay on top of Gutenberg development and we’ll make sure that our customers will enjoy working with Avada in the future even more.
What about the rise of page builders such as Elementor, Beaver etc – has that provided new challenges or opportunities?
I think both really. Our user base knows It is not always easy for customers who are new to page builders to spot the differences between individual products. So we have to market Avada and Fusion Builder in a way that shows our USP. Also, all vendors have to decide which route they want to take. Because of competition, most decide to go for “first to have…”. We decided a long time ago that our focus is to release well-engineered and fully matured products.
That means, you are not always going to be the first one to offer something, which comes with the slight disadvantage of some people perceiving a competitor more in vogue. But we believe that this is well worth it, because in the end the usability and reliability of a product is what makes users happy in their daily work life.
If not the above, what’s the biggest challenge facing ThemeFusion over the next 12 months?
Frankly, it’s more or less the same as it was the last 6 years. The centre of our focus are our customers, and what they want and need. So, the main challenge is to keep balancing the state of the art functionality and full creative freedom, with awesome usability and the very important fun factor while working. Of course, keeping up with WP developments and new trends and possibilities add to it.
Where do you go for inspiration when it comes to your ideas?
As said above, we are listening very closely to our huge base of over 450k customers. A lot of ideas and inspiration comes from there. The web itself is its own reference of new and exciting possibilities, so we keep looking around, and bring the best of it to Avada. That together with the vibrant creativity of our team members, who have so many areas of expertise, keeps the ideas flowing.
Thank you, David and Markus, for sharing this Q&A with us. We would like to congratulate both of you on the successes you’ve built together with your teams, and wish you the best of luck for the future.