On Wednesday, my article “How did ThemeForest become the red headed stepchild of the WordPress community?” was published on WPCandy. Frankly, I think that the article was a success; so far, it’s received over 40 comments, including several from Envato staffers and their CEO, Collis Ta’eed, as well as comments from important WordPress community members like Justin Tadlock and Jason Schuller.
A lot of the feedback I received was positive, but more importantly, I think that I started a great discussion between Envato and many members of the WordPress community–exactly the outcome I was hoping to achieve and exactly the situation that the article noted had been missing in the past.
A Universal ThemeForest WordPress Framework
One of the ideas that I proposed in that article was creating a WordPress theme framework for ThemeForest authors. This idea actually looks like it has traction now; the two Envato staffers disclosed that they are indeed working on the project and hope to release the framework shortly.
I love the idea of an options page framework. I really think this is a big step in standardizing what is almost always the same bit of functionality (i.e. logo, footer text, etc).
A lot of authors may resist the idea of someone else creating their theme’s code, but somehow, I bet when the authors who insist on doing everything themselves see the increased sales for themes using the Envato framework, they’ll likely change their minds.
I’ve always believed that theme developers need to focus on designing beautiful themes, not writing variants of the same options page we’ve seen over and over again. I’ve never bought an ugly theme with a great options page. Eventually, authors need to determine how much ROI there is in being a complete independent.
For argument’s sake, I wouldn’t want a developer to rewrite the WordPress core every time they publish a theme, either. It’s obviously best for everyone to use a centralized, updated version of a software that works and can be built on top of.
Stricter Coding Standards
Keeping with the standardization idea, there certainly needs to be higher coding standards for templates ThemeForest sells–framework or no framework.
A lot of the detractors were specifically peeved that they had to spend so much time fixing ThemeForest authors’ code, when obviously, a theme should probably work with common WordPress plugins right out of the box. There’s no excuse not to play well with GravityForms. If your theme doesn’t, though, there are going to be quite a few unhappy customers.
More Detailed Theme Rating and Theme Details
Right now, how do you determine the quality of a theme on ThemeForest prior to purchasing it?
Other than the number of sales and other experiences with a particular theme author, I usually go by the kinds of questions I read in the theme’s latest comments. If they’re all newbie questions (“how do I load the XML file?”), then the theme is probably fine. The amount of updates is a huge indicator of author involvement, too.
Unfortunately, that system leaves a lot to be desired.
With any marketplace (i.e. Amazon.com), ratings are undeniably crucial. But the ratings on ThemeForest are worthless. They don’t collect comments, they don’t reflect version numbers and they aren’t specific at all. A great rating system needs to tell a product’s story quickly and concisely but a simple 0-5 star rating tells us little if anything about what we’re purchasing.
Ideally, there should be multiple ratings for each theme; one for design, one for code, one for uniqueness and maybe one for compatibility. Those four criteria would certainly help buyers make a better informed decision about the themes they’re purchasing.
It also wouldn’t hurt if the comments were separated by theme version number–version number being something else that should also be listed generously throughout the theme purchase page. Adding a change log to go with that would go a long way to helping alleviate update questions, as well.
WordPress and WordCamp Participation
The Envato team is spread around the world and I can’t see why more of their staff hasn’t appeared/spoken at the WordCamps equally spread around the world. I mean, I spoke at WordCamp Chicago in June and I hardly represent the zeitgeist of WordPress.
I also think that there needs to be more communication (like that in the original article’s comments) in the WordPress community. We’re not going to improve the project if we keep bringing the same people to the table, all with the same background and opinions. Envato as a whole as very valuable to WordPress and it just seems weird that they aren’t more represented in WordPress community events.
ThemeForest won’t improve, either, unless the experts let them know what needs to be changed with their service. It would be great to have more open discussions about ThemeForest at events like WordCamps–it wouldn’t be a bad marketing move by Envato, either.
Better Affiliate Payouts
This might be a stretch to include on this wishlist, but I can think of one other reason why so many bloggers and developers love companies like StudioPress and WooThemes: they have much (much) better affiliate programs than ThemeForest.
[To note, ThemeForest provides affiliate payout, but only for a customer's first deposit. That doesn't really provide any compensation for selling to people who have already purchased an item from one of the Envato marketplaces. The other theme companies have more traditional affiliate programs--a percentage of each sale for referring customers.]
So, in the end, it may be the lack of economic incentive that keeps folks quiet about ThemeForest (although maybe they want to keep the service a secret, as well. Who really knows?).
So, did I miss anything?
Chime in with your comments below.