Can a web user ever see the same theme twice?


One of the biggest concerns surrounding the use of website themes and templates is the fear of your website looking the same as another.

This is understandable. Especially if you want to build an exciting new brand that separates itself from its competitors. Fortunately a little styling can go a long way.

You only need to look at the Woo Themes gallery to see how wildly varying some interpretations of the same theme can be. As soon as you apply a new colour scheme and some fresh content, they become almost unrecognisable next to each other.

Despite this, I wanted to experiment and look further at what would happen if everybody who bought the same theme used it with the default styling. That is to say: when using a premium theme for your website is it likely that the visitor will have seen it somewhere before?

For those of you who like numbers, feel free to read on. For those who don’t, I’ve put the results in a colourful infographic.

It takes the average web user 11.81 years to find two websites that use the same theme.

The average web user would take 11.81 years to encounter two websites that use the same premium WordPress theme.

How many websites use any one theme?

For the calculation I will be assuming a WordPress theme is the most commonly used. This is the most popular CMS online so hopefully represents the most saturated market.

The simplest way to find the most popular premium theme is surely going to be ThemeForest. The single most owned theme on there has 25,000 users. Its unlikely that they all have active use of the theme, but lets assume they do.

Is that really the most used theme, though? Admittedly websites like Elegant Themes have more users — at 170,000 — but they also have more themes. Every subscription holder would need to be running 7 websites, each with a different theme, before any 1 of the 81 themes had 25,000 users.

So lets take 25,000 as an extreme case of the number of the same theme installs across the entire web.

How many websites are online?

As of February 2013 there are an estimated 631 million websites online across 246 million domains.

The difference in these results is due to multiple websites appearing on one domain. Just to be fair, we will take a the more conservative side and say there are 246 million domains for this calculation.

How many websites does the average web user visit?

The most recent Nielsen figures suggest that the average US web user visits 95 domains per month.

Those figures differ to a 2008 study that showed that a user visited about 171 unique websites in a single month. When extrapolated over the course of a year, that figure became about 1350 – 1500. This allowed for some overlap of websites, i.e. users visiting the same websites like Facebook and Google each month. Note that these figures are for websites, and not domains.

Given all the above we can calculate a rough yearly ratio to convert monthly domain visits to yearly visits: 1500 ÷ 171 = 8.77. Multiply that by our monthly figures for domain visits and we find that the average user visits 833 domains per year.

So, what is the likelihood of seeing the same theme on two different websites?

Approximately 1 in 9840 domains will be using the same theme (246 million websites ÷ 25,000 instances of a theme). Thus at the consumption rate of 833 domains per year, it would take an average web user 11.81 years of browsing to see another website using the same theme.

By then I think it might be time for a new website.

1 Comment

  1. Samuel Hoysted says:

    Some very interesting calculations! I don’t think that I would remember the particular theme of a website I visited over a decade ago…unless I was rain man.

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