Almost everybody has a great web store idea, but few people understand how easy Shopify makes it to turn that idea into a profitable business. I’ve worked with a lot of clients and on a lot of e-commerce project and I can honestly say that for beginners and even advanced website builders, Shopify has everything you need to create a successful e-commerce website. The best part is that their plans start at $29/month!(more...)
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.
On June 6, 2010, I spoke at WordCamp Chicago about WordPress theme standardization. I argued that to move forward, WordPress needed to continue to assimilate third-party theme features, especially those that seemed to be repeated over and over throughout the theme building ecosystem.
A good example of this assimilation was integration of WooTheme’s menu functionality into WordPress 3.0. Of course, the finished product ended up being slightly different (and in my opinion, slightly better) than the original Woo menu, but the important point is that there is now a menu standard that has been readily adopted throughout the theme building community. Almost every new theme takes advantage of this functionality, so it becomes easier to build universally on top of this technology now that you have a set of conventions on which to work.
“Originally themes were designs. Then they became designs with functions stuck on.” –Alex Denning, WPShout
Now, as everybody in the WordPress community has already covered, long-time GPL-hater Chris Pearson has begrudgingly agreed to adopt a partial GPL (Gnu Public License) for his Thesis theme (which he considers to the most important WordPress theme ever, btw). The partial adoption refers to the fact that he has actually decided to split-license his theme, meaning that he GPL’ed the PHP and WordPress functionality that he
What does this all mean? It means that Thesis is now GPL compliant because of a hard-fought war of attrition and the dual licenses (which was Matt Mullenweg of WordPress’s idea, btw) really do seem a win for everybody:
- Automattic (the company behind WordPress) and Matt don’t have to incur a PR nightmare by dragging Pearson to court to set an inherited license precedent (especially silly since so many other major theme authors already adopted the GPL last year). In fact, Matt kinda looks like a bad-ass (Ghandi-style, at least) for persuading Chris to go GPL, using just some well-formed arguments and a couple of online soapboxes, including the infamous tipping-point discussion on Mixergy.com.
- Chris gets to keep making a fortune off of theme sales (around $2 million so far, according to Chris’s first Mixegy interview), since nobody is allow to resell his theme outright (not with his images and CSS, anyway).
- Most importantly, the WordPress community can now use Thesis’s functionality in other themes, and hopefully, take what many consider to be a standard-bearing theme admin panel, and turn it into the actual WordPress standard theme admin panel.
As an active ThemeForest downloader, I’ve seen dozens of different options panels, and while some are excellent, most are imitations of older versions of admin panels from the major theme developers, like WooThemes. Imagine, though, if every theme had the same easily updatable options page–making customizations a snap, as well as allowing you to reuse code (or create plugins) that added functionality to each and every theme options page right off the bat.
Another obvious feature that comes with these standards and conventions is exporting/importing. If all future admin panels shared the same hooks, actions, filters and even input id’s, you could easily transfer settings from one site to the next without fear of corrupting your database.
“Sure, there are some limitations with this system. With a set standard, new plugins will likely emerge to fill in the gaps.” — Justin Tadlock
As you can tell, I’m glad to see the walls of proprietary licensing finally fall away from long-time WordPress theme holdouts, like Thesis. There is work to be done, though, and the next step is taking this newest open-sourced theme and integrating either into the core of WordPress, or maybe even into a core theme admin plugin like the import/export function did in WordPress 3.0. One way or another, we need to create efficiencies by aiming to standardize as much of the WordPress backend experience as possible. I know it sounds crazy, but I’d like to one day see WordPress developers focus on web design once again;) If Thesis can become the de facto admin panel, we’ll be well on our way.
I spoke at WordPress Chicago on June 6, 2010. In my presentation, I spoke about three ways theme developers can trim down and standardize their theme building efforts. My suggestions were:
- modularizing theme parts
- enacting naming conventions
- sharing theme options
I owe an entire post (heck, maybe three) to cover these ideas, but I’m going to save those for another day. But do check out the presentation below. If you were at WordCamp, drop a hello in the comment form, too.
A friend of mine recently asked me, “Have you ever used Expression Engine? Do you have an opinion on it in comparison to WordPress? Is it just personal preference, or is one superior?”. I did a quick search to compare the two, and although I did find a very good article from Web Designer Depot on the matter, I thought that the post missed a few major arguments, which I’ll provide here for you.(more...)