Subscriptions are a part of modern life. We buy monthly or yearly access to all manner of things. Streaming platforms, shopping clubs like Amazon Prime, and software are common examples.

Everything is a service these days. Thus, it’s not a surprise that we suffer from subscription fatigue. As more companies move to this model, it becomes hard for consumers to keep track. And we can’t forget about the rising cost associated with them.

Web designers and website owners aren’t immune to this phenomenon. Virtually every platform requires a subscription or three.

In some ways, WordPress is different. Using it doesn’t cost you a thing. Sure, you’ll need to pay for web hosting. However, the core software is free and open-source. It’s also extensible.

That last part is where costs come into play. Making WordPress do what you need requires a theme and plugins. Advanced features often mean purchasing – you guessed it – a subscription.

Much depends on need. However, you could find yourself with multiple subscriptions. The costs can add up – as can the management woes.

It’s not all bad. But there are downsides. Today, we’ll look at the pros and cons of this piecemeal approach to site building.

The Side Effect of an Open Platform

A large ecosystem of themes and plugins separates WordPress from other platforms. There are tens of thousands of options. You can achieve just about any look or functionality.

It may be overwhelming for some. However, there are benefits to having choices. We can build a website that matches our needs.

Proprietary systems like Shopify and Wix can’t compete in this area. Not on the sheer volume of choices, at least. You’re forced to settle for whatever’s available. Niche functionality may not be possible.

It’s also worth noting that WordPress offers plenty of free options. You can still do a lot by sticking with free themes and plugins.

However, there does come a point when free won’t get the job done. Sites that focus on eCommerce, memberships, or eLearning come to mind. Advanced integrations with third-party services are also limited.

Premium products are often needed to get where you want to go. WordPress has plenty to offer. But things can get complicated in a hurry.

Buying Subscriptions from Here, There, and Everywhere

The subscription model makes a lot of sense for WordPress product makers. Themes and plugins must evolve. There are bugs to fix and features to add.

Maintaining a product requires time and resources. There’s a cost associated with that. Subscriptions fund these activities and keep products moving forward.

There are challenges for the rest of us, though. There are multiple places to buy subscription products. A few marketplaces exist. Both WooCommerce and Envato have virtual shopping malls.

Otherwise, we hop from site to site for what we need. The WordPress ecosystem is all over the map. So are the places we purchase from.

Theoretically speaking, you could have a dozen subscriptions from a dozen vendors. Each has a different pricing model. You’ll likely need an account on each website. Renewal dates depend on when you made the purchase. Then there is technical support, which varies from place to place.

Each vendor is subject to change their policies. Prices could increase. Their subscription tiers could change. Thus, you might be stuck with a legacy plan that doesn’t include certain features.

It’s a lot to keep track of. And not all vendors are adept at keeping us informed. Freelancers and agencies that manage multiple clients experience this to a higher degree.

A Difficult Concept for Clients to Understand

The other side of the coin is educating clients. Subscriptions are nothing new to most businesses and non-profits.

However, some may be confused about the need to buy from so many vendors. It’s not the same as subscribing to cell phone service or electricity. And it’s a far cry from a mobile app store.

It’s also where WordPress takes a hit compared to proprietary platforms. A client may favor paying a single provider rather than twenty. It’s easier for bookkeeping and for their sanity.

Some organizations might be willing to trade choice for simplicity. Even if WordPress is a better fit for their needs.

So, what’s the counterpoint to convince them otherwise? It starts with control. WordPress and its ecosystem provide fine-grain control over your site. You aren’t limited in how the site looks or works.

Ownership is also a big deal. You can’t take your Wix site elsewhere (although WordPress is working on that). WordPress offers the freedom to host anywhere and build to suit.

True, not everyone will be swayed by this. But there’s a reason why WordPress continues to be the market leader.

Freedom makes a difference. It also makes the multi-subscription madness a bit more tolerable.

A WordPress App Store Is a Great Idea, But…

The idea of a WordPress app store is not new. It has been discussed quite a bit over the years:

Some see it as a solution to the subscription issue. It would be a one-stop shop for buying themes and plugins. And you’d only need one account to manage it.

That’s a win for convenience. Imagine a dashboard where you could see every subscription. No more guessing about when something will renew. It might even integrate with your accounting software.

A few private developers have attempted unofficial app stores. They haven’t become a defacto solution.

The WordPress project has shied away from such a venture. Project leadership has shared concerns about how an app store would impact the ecosystem.

WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg spoke with our Matt Medeiros on the subject in 2015. He wasn’t a fan then. So, don’t expect to see one anytime soon.

An official app store seems like a good idea. However, it puts WordPress in the middle.

The project would need to facilitate the marketplace, create and enforce criteria for inclusion, and maybe pass along royalty payments to developers. It’s a huge undertaking. It would likely divert focus from the core software.

We can imagine the possibilities of a WordPress app store. But we probably won’t see one in our lifetimes.

Is There a Better Way to Buy?

Those frustrated by the current state of subscriptions are looking for answers. It doesn’t appear that a one-size-fits-all solution is on the horizon.

Instead, we have to settle for little bits of progress. They are out there if you look hard enough.

One comes in the form of niche ecosystems. The WooCommerce Marketplace, for example, simplifies the subscription model. The site has hundreds of plugins for sale. And you can manage them under a single account.

Other plugins that have established ecosystems could do something similar. Products like Gravity Forms and MemberPress have add-on directories on their websites. They include third-party products. What’s to say they couldn’t build a marketplace?

Hosting companies are also jumping into the game. Some have plans centered around WooCommerce stores and include access to premium plugins. Elementor offers hosting that caters to users of the page builder.

Consolidation is also a possible answer. Larger companies keep buying smaller ones. It wouldn’t be a shock to see these providers set up marketplaces.

These developments could help niche site owners – even if they don’t solve the issue entirely.

Learning to Accept the WordPress Subscription Model

The bottom line is that subscriptions aren’t going away. WordPress product makers will continue to use them as long as it makes sense. That’s OK.

The lack of a centralized marketplace doesn’t seem to hurt the ecosystem. New products are released all the time. Old favorites continue to thrive.

Perhaps all we can do is try to streamline things the best we can. Document what we buy, how much it costs, and when it renews. Use the same payment method for each product. That will provide easier access to the data we need.

It’s also important to remember that a great product makes the subscription hassle worthwhile. Thankfully, the WordPress ecosystem delivers in this area.

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