Justin Tadlock

ThemeForest: An experiment

For the longest time, I’ve wanted to run a theme experiment on ThemeForest. Rather than continuing to put it off, the experiment has begun.

ThemeForest is the “butt of so many jokes” in the WordPress community that you can’t read an article about _doing_it_wrong() that doesn’t reference the mega theme shop. I’m seeking to rectify this problem. Many of us are tired of fixing issues with or coming up with workarounds for ThemeForest themes.

Don’t get me wrong; I made $10K one year doing custom client work that involved fixing problems with ThemeForest themes. I thank them for the work they sent my way.

Continuing to poke fun has its appeal, but it won’t really solve the issue. Community involvement (from outside and within) is the only place to start. Therefore, I’m stepping into that world to offer what expertise I do have.

The experiment

The first stage of the experiment is embedding myself into their community. I’m currently doing this on two fronts:

  • Releasing a theme on the site (more on this below).
  • Getting involved in their forums.

I expect the next step will be providing solutions for content generation (custom post types, shortcodes, etc.) that theme authors are placing within their themes. I won’t get into all the reasons these things don’t belong in themes (that horse has taken enough beatings). Expect some exciting plugin work in the future.

The overall goal is to get as many theme authors as possible to adhere to WordPress coding standards and practices. I might not change the mindset of every theme author there, but if I can turn a few, I’ll feel like I’ve at least contributed in some small way to the betterment of the WordPress community.

If nothing else, I’ll provide some free, open-source solutions for current problems we’re facing. It’ll be up to theme authors to hop on the train.

The Unique theme

Screenshot of the Unique WordPress theme

My motives are not entirely altruistic. I’d love to make a few dollars along the way.

Part of this experiment is seeing if a standards-based theme that refuses to participate in the “themes arms race” will sell. I’m not going in with high expectations. I’m not a top author or well known on ThemeForest, so it could be hard gaining a foothold in this area.

However, I’m giving it a go with the Unique theme.

Some of you may be wondering why I titled this theme “Unique.” It certainly doesn’t look that unique. The reason for the name was simple: this theme is unique on ThemeForest because it uses best practices and doesn’t add a ton of shortcodes, post types, and other content-generation tools. It does have a lot of cool features though and packs in years of development and testing by many 1,000s of users (built on the Hybrid Core framework).

Also, this theme does not have an options page. That’s right. No options page. What few options it does have are completely integrated into the WordPress theme customizer.

Unique is by no means a perfect theme. I hope it at least proves to be an example to other ThemeForest authors that you can code a good theme without going overboard with the bells-and-whistles.