Lot’s of people have created WordPress themes, thousands of people in fact. However only some of them have become popular themes and I believe this is for two reasons.
- Bad promotion
- Bad design
How do you get people to download and use your theme? Promoting a theme, especially at the moment since there are so many to choose from, is a challenge.
How do you get people to keep using your theme after they’ve downloaded it? There are so many free themes around that it’s very easy to switch from one to another s the mood takes you.
Making the theme free is clearly an easy option for getting people to download the thing, but if you want people to use it you still have to make it good (see Bad Design) – however getting them to your site, in order to download it is the hard part.
If you do make you theme free then add a link to your own website in the footer so that new users can find you. You can also try submitting your theme to theme galleries and emailing popular WordPress based sites.
If it’s a premium theme you are releasing then give away free copies for review and hold theme based competitions to try and draw new users in. Anything that will get new visitors to see your theme is good.
Submit your theme to as many theme galleries and WordPress websites as possible. Basically get as many people talking about it as you can.
Bad design is very much a subjective thing. Different people like different things, and different websites require different types of design. However there are certain things, not necessarily visual, that you can do to take your theme to the next level, and increase adoption rates.
- Make sure you include as many of the WordPress built in features as possible (widgets etc) and include hooks for popular plugins. WordPress users love to customise the themes so making this as easy for them to do as possible is always a bonus.
- Keep the theme code clean and as simple as possible. Again, people like customising things. The code doesn’t have to validate, but it’s a good idea if it does, if only for future maintenance.
- Keep colours relatively neutral. If you go for bold colours or schemes appropriate for a narrow audience (your football teams colours for example) then your potential downloads will shrink. Also don’t go crazy with the colours, stick to a single main colour with 1 or 2 spot colours for highlights. Make these colours easy to find in the css so people can customise the theme quickly and easily.
- Test theme with as many different html tags as possible. There will always be people who want to style their code and blockquotes (and even use <b> and <i> even though they shouldn’t) so take care to make their styles look good.