Haven’t seen this list before before. Amazing how much Genesis has eclipsed Thesis. It wasn’t that long ago that Thesis was recognized as the far and away the most popular theme framework. Change happens fast in the WordPress theme industry.
I’ve thought about this a lot myself. If you want to have a really massive amount of sales, these numbers prove you really need some sort of framework or super theme with mass appeal, as opposed to small niche themes. However, it’s not as simple as simply choosing to develop one or the other.
I say “framework or super theme” because I wouldn’t consider all the themes in this list to be in the same class of “framework.” Genesis is more of a developer-friendly framework. You need to read a lot of documentation, familiarize yourself with proprietary hooks and filters, to really get rolling with Gensis.
The time required to invest in Genesis development, on top of all the standard WordPress theme dev skills, really hooks people into the platform, and that’s very powerful. I suppose the same can be said for Thesis and Canvas.
Divi and Avada (and Enfold I think, which I’ve never heard of before now) I’d call “super themes” and are more “user-friendly” in the sense that you don’t really have to be a developer to substantially change the look of your site.
Of course, “super themes” are definitely not user-friendly if you value ease of switching themes and expect to keep all your custom layout and other theme-specific settings. They’re notoriously bad when it comes to that.
But similar to Genesis and the time involved investing in that platform within a platform, there’s a clear business value in hooking people in, regardless of how much derision they may get for it in the WordPress community. Making it difficult to switch themes in one way or another encourages that lock-in.
The reason why most authors don’t do it is simply a lack of resources. I can’t imagine how many development hours is required to create something like Avada or Divi, but it’s likely a good-sized team of people developing over several months, at the very least.
Another one that isn’t on this list is the X theme, which has been consistently killing it on ThemeForest since its launch in late 2013. I remember its launch was coupled with a massive advertising campaign.
I saw it everywhere. Google search results, random websites, Facebook, Twitter. There must’ve been some remarketing involved because I felt like it was following me around everywhere I went.
I believe that ad campaign, in conjunction with the Avada-like “super theme” development, really catapulted its sales. I think they probably toned down the ad campaign when it started consistently making top seller lists on ThemeForest, creating a self-reinforcing sales cycle.
So it’s not just development hours, but also a massive stash of cash to be used for an accompanying ad campaign. There are endless “multi purpose” themes on ThemeForest, but most of them you don’t hear about because they hover around a few thousand $ in sales and eventually fade into obscurity.
Tl;dr: Even though numbers show frameworks or super themes are usually the way to go if you’re looking for massive sales numbers, a lack of resources prevent most theme authors from realistically competing. When there’s limited resources, a more nimble theme business operation makes the most sense.