I’ve done a lot of talking about this mysterious project for quite some time. I know a few of you are ready to hear what it’s all about.
In a very small nutshell — it’s a WordPress theme club.
But it’s so much more than that. For one thing, you don’t have to pay any money to be a part of this club. It’s free to join. There’s no fee to download themes.
This post will be a bit of a long read, so I tried to adorn it with some large headers and a few basic PhotoShop images to keep your attention.
The basic idea
I’ve given this project several months’ thought and have finally decided on what this club should be about — freedom.
I have two reasons for starting up a new project. The first is that I think my personal blog’s WordPress sections have started to outgrow what my blog is supposed to be about. Some days, I feel like I might just want to write about cats or general happenings in my life but decide against it because it’s become such a WordPress-centered blog. I need to find a nice balance. Plus there are some things that I want to implement that just won’t work with a personal blog.
The second reason for this project — the reason I suspect you’re more interested in — is that I want to provide an alternative to the premium theme market I mentioned in the last post with quality themes and support.
The main goal will be to create a community centered on my themes and plugins with helpful tutorials on other things dealing with using WordPress.
I want this to be community run, as much as one can have a community-ran site based on one person’s themes. I’ll go over some of this later in this post.
I’ll also be asking for ideas and input in the coming weeks from you all.
History of Project M
The very first idea I had for this project was back in December, after the release of the Structure theme. I had quite a bit of support and a few people wanted me to put a donation link up for the theme. The first idea was to sell “premium” themes. Yes, I had thought about going that route at one point. The name Project M was originally Project Marketplace.
Soon after, I decided that I didn’t quite like the direction of that. Plus, there were already people starting to take advantage of that corner of the market. I changed the name of Project M to Project March as that was my original release date.
Earlier this year, quite a few people told me to open a themes club, much like what Small Potato done on WP Designer. I thought this might be a good route. I even opened a thread discussing the theme club on my forums, which was just recently dug back up after a couple of months by one of the forum members.
The idea of a themes club appealed to me. After listening to Small Potato on Episode #11 of WordPress Weekly, I wanted to go this route even more. However, I felt there was something still missing. I felt like it was still too much of what we’ve come to know as “premium” themes. But, I did like the idea of a community-driven club.
Since then, I’ve been working out the best way to serve the community with the free themes and downloads that they’re used to getting while offering a place that they could share creative ideas and get the help they needed. Plus, I wanted to add some form of monetization to this idea, which I’ll discuss later.
Now, Project M should stand for Project May as this is the month that I’m announcing this thing.
I’ve also been secretly sticking in a possible new tagline around this blog for months.
The support forum will be much like my forums here on my site. I’ll obviously be the key administrator, helping you as much as I can, but I’ll also be looking for help from the members.
The support forum will be the backbone of this project. As I continue to release plugins and themes, the more time I have to devote to support, which in turn, creates less time for making new themes and plugins. I’m a big advocate of supporting themes if you release them, but a community can sustain and support itself if the members are willing to share and help each other out.
I’ll probably be on the lookout for users that wouldn’t mind being moderators once the project is up and running, especially foreign language moderators because I’d like to set up support forums specifically for non-native English speakers.
One of the things I’ve always wanted to set up on my personal blog was an ideas forum for users to give me ideas about new themes, plugins, and widgets. However, the implementation of this exceeds what my personal blog is about.
The ideas forum would be much like what you see at the WordPress ideas forum. The only difference here would be that you’d be adding and rating ideas for me to implement into themes and such.
I like this because it would be a way for users to share their ideas, which would give me more insight into what users actually want out of their themes.
The download center will be where the real fun is at. I’ve basically broken it down into some distinct areas that I’d like to see: WordPress themes, bbPress themes, plugins, add-ons, and language packs.
The main goal here will be to show a variety of downloads and allow users to quickly find what they’re looking for.
Of course, this is what most people will come to download, so the main focus will be allowing you to easily find the theme that best fits you with links to demo sites to show what the theme looks like. I’ve been working on quite a few new themes and hope to have them all available when this site launches.
More importantly, the way I’ve redeveloped the Structure and Options themes recently will allow for easier theme upgrades and a solid foundation to carry from one theme to the next from both a user and developer standpoint. I’ll have to go into more detail on this in a later post.
Many of the new themes will be geared toward specific niches or will be themes with specific types of functionality.
Yes, I’m in the process of developing bbPress themes to go along with my WordPress themes. I’m far less advanced with bbPress than I am with WordPress, but I’d like to start promoting this great forum software too. Plus, it would give users that need forums an extra option without having to hack some forum software to play nicely with their WordPress theme.
Options and Structure theme users: look out for these when Project M launches.
Some of the themes will be extensible through widgets and extra add-on options. The Options theme was basically built on this idea. Just download the new add-on and place the files in your theme folder. And done! You’ll have a new option or widget available.
Or, download a new user-created stylesheet or one from me and drop it into your theme folder.
Of course, not all themes will come with the add-on capability. Most new widgets I create will be usable in any theme though. I’ve got a few ideas in the works for new widgets too.
Luckily for me, I met Yoichi, a Japanese blogger, online a few months ago when I created my Structure theme. He really introduced me to the concept of localization.
With his help, the bugs reported in the translation thread for my themes, and a great article about localization from Weblog Tools Collection, I’ve managed to start understanding this idea. I’m now striving to make all my themes and plugins ready for translation.
This section will offer downloads for user-created .mo and .po files that you just drop into your theme folder. I’ll also try to provide links to documentation, tutorials, and tools to set translators on the right path.
Documenting how to use themes can sometimes take as much time and work as putting the theme together. A few of you, and I’m still interested in your help, have offered to make videos and tutorials for beginners.
While I’ll probably do most of the documentation myself, I’ll try to open this up as much as possible to community input. You all would better understand how the average user uses themes than I would. Something that seems easy to me might not be so easy to everyone else.
I’m also thinking of some interesting video tutorials I could offer too, especially getting some of the basics down with the more complex themes.
Mostly, I’d like to give quick and easy-to-find access to tutorials on how to do specific things with the themes.
I know some of you are still waiting to hear how I’ll monetize this thing since so much of it will be free. Well, there’ll be several ways. I’ll break this down into a few different groups with brief explanations. I’ll go into more detail about how monetization will work in a future post because these ideas aren’t set in stone at the moment.
Support and tutorials will cost a yearly fee (approximately $10 - $20 USD). This might turn a few of you away since you’re used to having me help you for free. I feel like this is the most important aspect of my work, and it uses up most of my time. So, that’s the real catch.
Get the themes for free. Pay a minimal fee for quality support.
Donations will definitely help keep the project going. I’ve found that offering things for free and having an optional donation link helps tremendously.
Custom services will be a part of the project. If a member or outside client needed a theme to have added functionality or a custom stylesheet, I’ll have affordable service packages set up for them to take advantage of.
Advertising might be another source of income. I’m not a big fan of using ads because they use up valuable real estate on a site, but depending on how money is coming in through other methods, I may use this.
As I’ve said, everything with monetization isn’t definite yet. I’d love to hear your ideas about this, so long as they allow for free themes.
I’m also not looking at making a living off of this project because, quite honestly, I love the dayjob I have now. So, monetization will not be the focus of this project.
I need a name for this project
I’m a bit tired of calling this thing Project M. I’ve been using this name for about six months now and haven’t come up with something I like.
This will be a separate website from JustinTadlock.com, so I’ll be needing a new domain name.
If you feel like you have a good name and don’t want to share it with the world, feel free to use the contact form to submit it to me. I’m open to any ideas at this point.
I want to hear your thoughts
As I’ve mentioned, this will be largely community driven, so how things are implemented will be based off user feedback.
The projected launch date is July.
Of course, there’s a lot more to this project than I could cover in one post, so I’ll try to keep everyone updated throughout the month on the progress. I hope to write some posts that give more details about individual parts of the site and how each will function. I’ll be happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have.