How are premium themes developed?

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Making a premium theme is all about the team effort. Why the focus on “premium” you might be wondering? Well it’s because when you develop a theme and charge money it becomes your responsibility to deliver a product that looks professional and works as advertised. Not only that, but you also need to provide support for it so people can actually get started.

We often read about operating and manipulating WordPress and the themes built for it but it’s very rare to know that what actually happens behind the curtains when the themes are in their development stage. So, today we’ll have a closer look at how Templatic premium themes are developed!

Market Study

The first step of premium theme development is always research. Theme development is not just about the designing and programming but also the commercial aspect. At the end of the day this is still a business so there must be enough demand for each theme that is being created.

Every theme maker has its own style of development but generally there are few professionals in every company who take the charge of doing this massive study. We at Templatic prefer to go through both the tangible and intangible markets i.e. online and physical markets. Customer feedback using forums, tickets, live chats etc are also given the equal importance when it is about making something new and useful.

We try to figure it out from our collected statistics which kind of theme is really needed by our clients and users. Obviously the majority wins means the theme niche that is preferable by most of our clients is given the primary consideration. Although not as exciting as some of the later parts, research is a necessary step that is rarely overlooked. Also we try to include some common necessities of  the users in our products like responsive design which means that your website looks great on every device including mobile,  Cross browser compatibility and W3C validation. These things increase the flexibility and ease of our products.

Mock Ups

After getting some rough idea about the new theme from the market study, mock ups are made to see whether the idea has any merit. Mock up tools and services are plentiful these days so the process isn’t that long. Some industries still rely on the good ol’ pen and paper but we find the process too time consuming.

When mock ups are finished they are passed along to other team members for reviews and suggestions. Depending on their comments, the mock ups are sent back to further tweaking.

Eureka!

After developing and producing themes for the 5 long years, it is really tough to always beat the standards that we set for ourselves. Lot of designs get rejected and sometimes even the drastic changes are made to the whole approach of designing and developing a theme. Once we have a few designs that we like some quick A/B testing is done to determine what works best. So, after such a long process of study, mock ups and A/B testing finally the Eureka moment comes when it feels that yes, this is the thing we wanted to create. And the serious designing begins.

Theme Designing

Once the mock up is finished and approved, the designers take over. The designs are derived from the finalized mock ups but this is the time when the theme actually gets its shape.

Looking to create a theme of your own?

If you’re totally unfamiliar with theming it might be best to first start with a child theme. The Codex covers this very well.

At Templatic, we use Photoshop by Adobe for creating theme designs. The reasons are the fact it’s quite flexible, famous and has adequate functionality to develop the design your way and the most important one, as it is easy to modify. Lastly, we can provide its “.PSD” file to our clients who want to develop their unique design using our design as the base.

Theme Coding and Programming

Coding is the backbone of any theme. With a great design but with zero functionality, no theme can survive in the market.

Design is a base for starting the code. So, having the design ready, hard core programming gets start with the same old deadlines. The biggest challenges with the programmers are coming up with the user friendly features yet keep it advanced. To make quality and quantity co-exist is quite difficult but our dev team is handling it very well from where I’m standing.

Programming is something that ‘stays on’ till the product gets released. Our developers develop the themes in PHP language using Adobe Dreamweaver and MySQL as the database software. We also use Apache Subversion (svn)  for revision control which also helps us working altogether on the same project to maintain the accuracy, reduce redundancy and optimize our time.

As theme development is quite a long process, we manage our projects with Basecamp.com. It is a paid service but a very awesome tool to manage each and every task having all team members on the board.

basecamp-account

Quality Assurance

Ideally, quality assurance is done after the product gets ready means after the coding part gets over. But in practical scenario, to optimize the time of testers and the coders, QA is undertaken as soon as 70% -80% percent of coding part gets done.

Bugs are sent to the coding team as soon as they are discovered. These bugs are related to functionality, design, logic (common sense), etc. Even the labels of the fields that may confuse the user about its functionality.

In fact the chemistry that coders and testers share, needs no definition. The need of mentioning this one is just to focus upon the dedication that the testers show towards the product, to make it perfect.

Along with the professional testers, theme is also given to test and operate to the regular staff members just to check out its complexity from the normal user point of view. All these things (bugs, reviews and suggestions) are wrapped together and are given back to the coders to fix. Developers do some re-work and fix all the suggested and filed bugs and finally handover the theme to the testers again, where now; testers start their re-work and check for the perfection in the theme as per their pre-defined standards. Ultimately, development process gets over and product is said to be release ready (finally).

Post Development Activities

Process doesn’t end with the completion of the development. In fact, it is now the actual stressful time to think and work on how to market and promote the theme with all possible ways. So many efforts are made like,

  • Creating a demo of the theme
  • Documentation
  • A sales copy that covers the total information of the product
  • Inform the members and other in-reach clients and users
  • Be prepared with the technical support army (the longest process of any theme).

Like a baby, each product is so special to their makers that its success means a lot and so, the whole team awaits for the user response since the day it gets release. Seriously, theme making is very time, energy and resource consuming thing to do.

I hope you had fun reading how premium themes are developed. What’s your take on that? Comment here and let us know.

My next article will be on why choosing premium themes over free ones? Stay tuned…

7 thoughts on “How are premium themes developed?

  1. Lo says:

    Very informative first article Sonica. Other than the creative process, I believe the real test of your products’ popularity is documentation. You may have an amazing product – if non-advanced users are unable to figure it out, it might go bust. I look forward to your next post.

    1. Vedran Fak says:

      Thank you for the encouraging comment Lola, I’ll do my best to relay it to Sonica. You can expect her next post in about 3 weeks.

  2. Imran says:

    Great Article! What starter theme or framework do you use for your premium themes?

    1. templatic says:

      We use our own base framework known as “supreme”. Usually you find this in /library folder of all recent themes

      1. Imran says:

        Thanks for the reply! Is there any starter theme or framework that you would recommend to someone just starting out in premium themes? just curious.

        1. templatic says:

          As in taking a base theme to create new sites for customers? I recommend taking a look at our “Responsive” theme.

          As in creating premium themes? You should consider your target users and the kind of themes you are going to make. Then create your own framework from scratch. It might seem time consuming but it is actually a time saver (beucase you will know each and every line written in that)

  3. Mathew Porter says:

    The issue i find is that many premium themes lack structural markup and the correct use of markup, so always checking them is a great tip.

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