19 Comments


  1. I thought about this problem (finding a good theme) a while back too. I think this one of those nice ideas that doesn’t scale, at least not in the current form, or the forms of similar efforts (like the various theme finder sites). In an ideal world there would be a resource to read detailed feedback from in-the-trenches users, because there is only so much information you are going to get from someone who’s passing through a theme with a checklist type approach. It’s much different than someone who’s used a theme for one or more sites and had to actually build something with it. Also, I think perhaps the bigger factor for customers is not just the code quality, but the service behind the theme. A theme that passes all checks and scores well code quality wise is not useful if the theme author closes up show months later (it happens).

    I also think the affiliate model is broken for this type of thing. You need a ton of referrals to make noteworthy amounts of income. Lots of shops don’t have affiliate programs, so there’s a persistent tension between having to review these things even if you try to stay as neutral as possible.

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    1. Thanks for the insight, Peter! I agree that a good theme review site would include reviews from users in-the-trenches. I hope to support user reviews in the future. On the individual author pages (they’re hard to find now, but will be featured more prominently in the future) it lists what year the theme company was established, which should help a little with the danger of short lived theme companies.

      You may be right in terms of the affiliate model being broken for this sort of thing. I guess time will tell. One of the main goals of this project was to give people an idea of the code quality being produced by commercial theme shops, and by doing so, to encourage theme shops to produce better themes. So even if I never make a dime, there are other things that I feel would make this project a success. Thanks again for your thoughts!

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      1. I wonder if theme shops might be willing to pay to get their themes reviewed by you/your site in exchange for a listing & badge as an indicator of theme quality? I could see that as being quite a valuable marketing tool for theme vendors to set themselves apart. Maybe you’d thought of something like that already? That would be pretty cool.

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        1. Without a lot of traffic, I don’t know if theme companies would be willing to pay for the short reviews I’m currently doing. However, I have considered offering full theme reviews using the entire WordPress Theme Review Team guidelines. I think that could be a valuable service, and one I could charge for. Thanks for the suggestion! The feedback is helpful in determining what direction to take the site from here.

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  2. [Wordpress Feature Support]

    Funny seeing “WordPress” being misspelled on a website reviewing quality of WordPress products :) I’m sure it is just a typo.

    Reviewing themes on a scale from 0 to 10 is somewhat similar to doing the same thing for pants or shoes. I don’t care if it says 10/10, if the shoes are ugly and don’t fit, then they are ugly and don’t fit.

    But I wish Alex good luck with his venture!

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    1. Thank for the heads up on the misspelling, Dumitru. I just went and fixed it after reading your comment.

      I agree that a 0 to 10 grading scale is not enough. Many quality themes are ugly and don’t fit (to keep with your shoe example). However, you can go to a theme company’s website and see that for yourself. What you can’t see is the build quality. Did they take the time to build a quality product, or did they throw a pretty design together for a quick sale? The quality score is meant to give you a peek behind the curtain at the inner workings of a theme that you wouldn’t get from just looking at a theme demo. Thanks for taking the time to comment, and please don’t hesitate to let me know if there’s anything I can do to make the site more useful to you!

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  3. Running a theme finder site is a massive battle against the odds. Yet, I can’t help but feel somebody might pull it off and achieve “go to” status someday. Another new one is http://www.themeshaker.com. It’s somewhat like what I tried with ThemeSorter but with a better UI. What’s cool about Alex’s attempt are the reviews.

    As far as reviews go, I agree that they should be community-driven. It’s probably not possible to provide thorough reviews of hundreds of themes without massive manpower. And who better to provide the reviews than actual users. But the big question is how in the world do you get the customers to go and write a review on a site they don’t even know exists?

    Another problem is the number of themes. There might be 20 or more new themes coming out every single day. There must be 10,000 or more commercial themes alone. A theme finder site should have pretty much everything to be useful (imagine if Google searched 10% of the Internet). Again, you’d need massive manpower. Solution? Make it community-driven again, like ManageWP.org’s news site, for example. Create some type of incentive for people to add new themes. Give them a cut of the revenue.

    The other problem is the stigma of affiliate links. People naturally distrust sources when bias is suspected. There are a lot of junk affiliate sites. There are some that have real, useful content but they get lumped in the the lazy scapers. So what to do? Maybe offer non-affiliate buttons for buying to ease some tension. Or, maybe don’t use affiliate links at all (managing 100+ affiliate accounts is bordering on insanity anyway). Try and get theme shops to buy ad space instead.

    Just some thoughts from somebody who’s been wanting to see an ideal solution for a long time.

    Reply

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Steven! I was just looking at ThemeSorter the other day and noticed you weren’t actively adding themes anymore. I’d love to talk with you about your experience running that site. I agree with the community aspect, and I’m definitely brainstorming ways to add community involvement. I’m considering other monetization options as well, but I think that may need to wait until the site is more established and I have traffic numbers to show for it.

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      1. Yep, stopped updating a little over a year ago to focus on making themes myself. It wasn’t so much that I was unhappy with the results as it was that I enjoyed making themes more than talking about them. A community-driven model would have been more exciting if only it occurred to me earlier.

        I’m happy to answer any questions you have.

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  4. Hi… as a relative (2 years) newby to WP, developing my own sites and now selecting a new theme, I just want to recommend that Alex and Sarah should use more laymen’s terms to describe the benefits of the features listed and talked about. There is always something new coming out and I’m sure it’s hard enough for developers to keep up, nevermind us DIY folks who really need your help!

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    1. Hi Lois! It’s great to get input from newer users of WordPress. Describing the the features in layman’s terms, as well as the benefits of those features is a great idea! I’ve added it to my to do list. I want Theme Friendly to be useful for people regardless of experience level. Thanks for the input!

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  5. Thanks for mentioning this resource. Seems useful. It might save quite a lot of time while hunting the internet for the perfect theme for a client.

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  6. I hope this will help me but I am going to design my own theme. That’s the only solution against all fatigue. Yes! Surely :)

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  7. Take a look at this post from November 2011. The idea was discussed in-depth and DevPress almost launched it but it eventually went nowhere.

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      1. I knew it sounded to good to be true with that domain they were sporting. The comment is in the trash now. I can’t tell from the plugin moderation queue if the comment is similar to one that’s already been posted so sometimes, these slip by.

        Reply

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