WordPress Themes: the Top 20 (as Used by the Top Million)

WordPress ThemesEvery now and then I’ll come across some fascinating data relating to WordPress, such as the 20 Compelling Statistics that Represent the Dominance of WordPress that I covered back in April. I’m a bit of a sucker for stuff like that, and I know that many of you are too.

Which brings me to this article. The folks over at HackerTarget.com have been very busy analyzing the top 1 million websites (as ranked by Alexa).

They uncovered some rather interesting information relating to WordPress sites and theme usage specifically, which I would like to share with you.

Free vs. Premium

HackerTarget.com discovered that of the top 1 million sites as ranked by Alexa, over 160,000 (or 16%) run on WordPress. And of the top 100 themes in usage, 51% were premium.

This may come as a surprise – I would certainly expect free themes to be in dominant use. However, I believe that the data may be somewhat misleading.

The top 100 themes only accounts for 35,930 (or 22%) of the total number of WordPress-powered sites. I am willing to bet that the majority of sub-1oo themes are free. And therefore, by extension, I would in reality expect free themes to have the overall market share.

However, there is a key takeaway from this which I expected – the top sites are far more likely to be using premium themes.

The Top 5 Premium Theme Designers

Out of the top 100 themes, the Thesis theme framework was found to be the most popular by an enormous margin. The other four designers (in order of popularity) are StudioPress, WooThemes, OptimizePress and Elegant Themes.

Here’s a video of Thesis in action:

As remarked in the original article, it is interesting to note that OptimizePress is so popular – considering it is a pure sales-focused theme, rather than the others, that offer all-purpose theme frameworks and/or general blogging themes.

I consider it no surprise that Woothemes’ Canvas is the most popular “general purpose” commercial theme. I use a customized version of Canvas on my own blog, and often receive emails from readers asking me about it.

Featured Plugin - WordPress Membership Site Plugin

If you're thinking about starting a paid, or just private, membership site then this is truly the plugin you've been looking for. Easy to use, massively configurable and ready to go out of the box!
Find out more

The Top 20 Themes

As you would expect, free themes are dominant in the top 20, but premium themes do have a considerable presence. In fact, the cumulative total of sites using all three versions of Thesis listed in the top 20 makes it the most popular theme overall.

  1. Twenty Ten
  2. Twenty Eleven
  3. Thesis 1.8
  4. OptimizePress
  5. Thesis 1.8.2
  6. Default
  7. Mystique
  8. Arras
  9. Atahualpa
  10. Suffusion
  11. iNove
  12. Thesis 1.8.4
  13. Graphene
  14. Article Directory
  15. Lifestyle
  16. Canvas
  17. News
  18. Magazine Basic
  19. Arthemia
  20. Headway 2013

There are some very surprising exclusions from this top 20 list, such as Responsive, PageLines, and Delicate. Given that they are amongst the most downloaded on the WordPress.org themes directory, I find it puzzling that they do not feature.

Pagelines
Pagelines - one of a few curious omissions.

Wrapping Up

So there you have it folks – analysis of the top million sites in the world reveals some rather interesting information relating to WordPress theme usage.

If you’re still hungry for more information, I recommend that you check out the original article over at HackerTarget.com.

Comments (10)

  1. I love Thesis! However, I am surprised that it’s on the top 10 since it’s such a different animal in comparison to other framework I have worked with in the past. I also really like Mystique – I use it on my free wordpress blog because it offers better SEO options (for a free theme) than others.

  2. Was never a big Thesis fan, and their purchasing and licensing scheme is ridiculous. Purchasing the theme for $87 and still being required to leave the footer attribution is unacceptable and I can’t believe so many people fall for that nonsense.

    Other than that, I’m surprised that Solostream didn’t make the cut, or at least honorable mention.

  3. Thanks for the write up Tom, in answer to your query above; a quick look at the full sorted list shows:

    * responsive with 94 installs and position 132
    * pagelines with 218 installs and position 48
    * delicate with 77 installs and position 170

    As you mentioned it is surprising that some of the themes with the largest download count do not feature higher in the top 1 million. This was what I hoped to get from this analysis. Notably the most popular downloaded themes and plugins are not neccessarily the most popular on high traffic sites.

    Follow me on twitter to be notified when the next set of results are released, I will be looking at plugins and hosting providers in the next week or so.

  4. Interesting information. I’ve wondered what the rankings looked like. I’m a big @iThemes theme and plugin user. I haven’t tried the other theme companies and probably won’t since I’m happy where I am. iThemes is also in my home town, so gotta support the local businesses!

Participate