The 3 cardinal rules to selling WordPress Themes

Selling WordPress themes has become an artform for the few that have mastered it, despite this, we are seeing more and more people making a full-time living from their theme profits.  Thus far, it seems to be an exclusive club with few reaping the major rewards.  In this article I hope to help you understand the 3 cardinal rules to selling WordPress themes.

It seems that for many designers of WordPress themes, the design often becomes victim to one’s abilities with functionality.  As a huge fan of WordPress, and after reviewing, buying, and selling many themes myself, I have found what I would call the cardinal rules for building a successful theme to sell.

Rule #1: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Albert Einstein

Always seek to keep it simple.  I am sure many of us have seen very extravagant designs that in the end lose focus.  It’s very important to truly understand who your target audience is.  You will notice upon scouring over different marketplaces that the top selling tags are business or portfolio based.  Business themes have proven to be successful by leveraging simple layouts that can be branded very easily.  For example, a great sample of effective simplicity is with inFocus WordPress Theme.

Rule #2: “I think the best way is to forget about racing people and just find territory that’s fresh.” Tom Jenkinson

I almost cringe at the fact that in Rule #1 I talked about a past success.  I personally like to think of past successes like yesterdays, everyone has one.  From my experience, it’s not possible to attend a family reunion or party without hearing at least one person talk about some sort of glory days.  All night you hear some loud mouthed (often drunk guy) saying something of “oh, thats nothing!  Back when I was…” or “We used to be the best at…”.

Since observing the WordPress trends, it is very clear to see literally how many people have tried to imitate the success of past themes.  The key to Rule #2 is to always try to innovate.  Push the envelope when designing your theme.  Worst case scenario is you will take it down and restructure with a different strategy.  Don’t be afraid to be different.

Rule #3:  “It is the ability to choose which makes us human.” Unknown

Offer your customers choices.  This is the element of the game where design often becomes victim to your functionality.  People want choices.  As grand as your design may be, it’s the backend which will keep the customers coming back for more.  For those that are new to the game, and are looking for great examples of functionality, check out the back-end of any Woo-Theme.  Every controllable element is labeled with appropriate titles for easy understanding as you can see below.

In addition, you will notice that most top selling WordPress themes also include the following elements in their live demo:

  • Short Codes
  • Multiple Layouts
  • Multiple Styles
  • Colors (6 in 1)
  • Beautiful Typography
  • 404 pages included
  • Sitemaps
  • Different page width Options
  • And last and definately not least DESCRIPTIVE DOCUMENTATION!

I understand that most designers do not have the development experience of an established shop, yet I truly feel this is where you will retain your customers.  For those of you lacking experience in either category I would highly recommend selling WordPress themes with the system that MOJO-Themes has established with their “Joint Forces” program.  Joint Forces enables designers and developers to partner on projects and split the commissions.

I stand by these rules in every theme I pursue or build.  And for those of you considering developing a theme, just know your success with your customers is ultimately limited to your ability to capitalize in each of these 3 categories.

Please let me know your thoughts…

Brady Nord

Co-founder of