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Why design should be your biggest asset as a WordPress theme creator

We’ve always believed that in the crowded WordPress theme industry, design should come first. We’ve been investing in this direction since day one, and we’re still convinced that it’s what gives us leverage. The major benefit that sets us apart and gives us a strong competitive advantage.

We’re not the only rebel kids in this playground, so we thought it would be great to reach other WordPress authors and ask if they would jump in and contribute to a collaborative article. The brief was easy like a Sunday morning and the pitch straight to the point: share your experience with us:

Why should design be the king of the jungle?

We’ve created a shortlist with the WordPress Authors that we think they do a great job at design and e-mailed each of them. Thanks to all of those who said “yes” to this challenge.


Mike / ArrayThemes

Simply put, good design is good business. In an ecosystem like WordPress, where the barrier to entry is low, and there are many thousands of WordPress themes out there (many of which are free). So, what will make your product stand apart? What will convince someone to buy your WordPress theme instead of downloading one for free or choosing a competitor?

Let’s take a second to define good design in the context of WordPress. Good theme design isn’t just picking the right fonts and choosing the right colors and layouts. A well-designed theme will also work well out of the box, enhance the presentation of the user’s content and not hinder the content creation process. Interrupting the content creation process should be avoided at all costs. Good design will allow a user to activate a theme and start creating content almost instantly.

Investing in good design is investing in your business.

Taking the time to craft good design can set you apart from the thousands of theme creators out there. Companies like Array, PixelGrade and Elmastudio, aren’t just known as WordPress theme shops, but as places to get finely-crafted WordPress themes. Themes that possess a particular level of attention to detail missing in 95% of WordPress themes out there. Themes that are just as finely-crafted on the back-end as they are the front-end. Good design and craftsmanship sets these theme shops apart from the rest.

Finally, let’s take a look at a recent poll we conducted on Array. We asked 200 users what was most important to them when looking for a new WordPress theme. Over half of everyone polled chose design as their number one priority when looking for a new WordPress theme. That’s four times the number of people who selected theme options as a priority. Theme buyers are speaking loud and clear about design as their priority.

Investing in good design is investing in your business. A well-designed theme collection is easier for your users to use, easier for you to maintain, and will prove to be a longer lasting product. Most importantly, design is the number one priority for theme buyers these days! It would be in your best interest to explore design as an asset and not an afterthought.


Ruben / KrownThemes

We focus on design because we want to amaze our customers with memorable experiences, websites that you cannot stop browsing through because you are impressed by everything that happens there. Themes that make you come back for more.

When more and more authors will focus on well-designed niche themes instead of feature packed jumbo items, the face of theme markets will change in a good way.

The theme market is full of authors who are trying to impress by the number of unique demos, layouts, short codes, sliders and everything that you can think of. From the beginning, we’ve taken a different route, by creating minimal themes that feature few, but unique ideas that are well executed in every detail. Working like this is challenging, but highly rewarding and exciting because at the end of the day you have created a product which stands out of the crowd and makes people say “wow”.

Of course, this approach will never skyrocket our business, mostly because each one of our themes has a specific and limited audience, but when more and more authors will focus on well-designed niche themes instead of feature packed jumbo items, the face of theme markets will change in a good way.


Adrian / GetBowtied

Design can make or break a business. The design has a huge impact on the way people perceive and communicate with your brand. Good design helps you stand out from your competitors, add value to your brand, earn credibility and engage with people. On the other side, sloppy or outdated designs can take quite a toll on your company’s overall image.

Design is determined by purpose, so it should help you, as a business owner, connect the various dots that make your business.

Design impacts profits. The look and feel of a site has a direct impact on the number of conversions you achieve. Having a well-designed site that’s also usable can be a competitive advantage and get you more revenue. Whereas poor design will almost certainly cost you money in the long run instead.

Design establishes trust and sets the stage for a valuable user relationship. Without trust, people become suspicious and leave your site. Building trust and establishing yourself as a credible authority in the industry are necessary for success.

Design connects the dots of your business. Design should be consistent cross-medium, offline, online, on social media, etc. Consistency not only strikes gold with establishing credibility, but it also saves you time and money, as it makes it easier to adapt to any medium once you’ve set the core. A consistent design helps people feel at home across any channel.

Design is not art. The form follows the function. Design is determined by purpose, so it should help you, as a business owner, connect the various dots that make your business.

If content is King, then it should dress accordingly. A good user experience is achieved through good design. Design helps with prioritising content so that users can easily find what they’re looking for. It anticipates the answers to most of the user’s common questions related to your business;

There’s great potential for creating a beautiful business story when communication implies nesting well written content within the visual content. Design and content should clearly work together to communicate your message.


Vlad / PixelGrade

Long story short: because you understand Design (with a capital D).

Now to elaborate a little bit…

What is Design? Is it about how things look? The way things work? Is it the way your customers work with your product?

It’s all of the above and more. Often people go straight to Design’s little minion: visual/graphic/pretty-pixels design. It’s out there in your face; you can relate to it, judge it, fall in love with it, hate it, and so on. It makes sense to invest in that.

Good Design is hard work, very time-consuming, often is nerve wrecking (putting your team’s cohesion and values to the test).

Customers are totally right to miss the other aspects of Design. It takes a trained eye to spot the nuances consciously, to see the hidden architecture of things. Great Design is elusive, it’s everywhere and nowhere, hard to explain in words. So don’t fool yourself that this is a customer-driven decision.

But one thing is for certain: everyone knows it when it’s missing. It’s like missing your morning flat white. 🙂 You could get through the day, but why?

Now that we’ve established what Design is, how do we go about making it the core of our business? It takes a long-term commitment to fighting the temptations of the easy way, to find and grow the right kind of people, to put up with and trust their judgment when it makes absolutely no business sense.

Good Design is hard work, very time-consuming, often is nerve wrecking (putting your team’s cohesion and values to the test).

“Now hold on there! What’s with all this doom and gloom? I thought this was about ‘why’ not ‘why not’!”

Precisely! In an overly-competitive market, with new Authors popping up every single day, with trends constantly shifting, with wildly varying prices, this is the only sure bet you can make.

I believe everything can be (and will be) automated, commoditised, except Design.

People can learn how to code a WordPress theme and do nice CSS animations easier, how to market themselves better, but the one thing that will remain hard to learn and get right is Design. Even after years and years of experience you can still get it wrong because you are not dealing with constants, with good-vs-bad, with “does it crash or not”.

So, do yourself, your team, and your business a couple of favors and choose the future-proof way. It will be hard but rewarding.


We’d love to hear your insights on this topic so feel free to add your comments in the forums.

Also, if you find it valuable, go ahead and share this story on Twitter. ?


PixelGrade is a design boutique where we currently build smart WordPress themes for productive people. Feel free to drop us a line at contact@pixelgrade.com or ping us on our Twitter account.


This article first appeared on Medium.


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