Emil Uzelac Launches New WordPress Theme Review Service

theme-review-serviceEmil Uzelac’s new WordPress Theme Review service is the first of its kind. As a four-year veteran of the WordPress.org Theme Review Team, he is uniquely qualified to operate a service that focuses on theme standards and quality control.

Uzelac plans to assist developers with theme reviews for client projects, commercial themes, and free themes submitted to WordPress.org. The reviews are aimed not only at helping developers meet the latest WordPress theme guidelines but also at catching bugs before the product gains distribution. The service will also aim to give customers detailed feedback on performance and security.

A preliminary review starts at $90 for the first hour. “You would be surprised how much one can find within an hour,” Uzelac told the Tavern.

“The service will cover things like efficiency, performance, sanity, and the overall code quality,” he said. “It will also include UX improvements for both desktop and mobile devices. My goal is also to educate as well,” he said. Customers who use the service will receive suggestions for improvement, along with examples and support from Uzelac.

“Look, no one wants to ship a theme with issues,” Uzelac said. “Everyone knows time constraints and the pressure to finish can introduce mistakes even the most seasoned developers miss. That’s completely normal. But frustrated end users quickly abandon themes they don’t understand or can’t fix.” As the original author of Responsive, one of most popular themes of all time on WordPress.org, Uzelac knows the kind of quality and support required to build a strong user base.

The Need for Professional Theme Review

In the past, getting a theme through the rigorous review process for WordPress.org could take weeks. If you have errors that need to be fixed, your theme goes back into the queue to be reviewed again. Being able to make it through the first time with no issues is advantageous to developers who are hoping to release their themes to the public as soon as possible.

Mario Peshev recently touched on this topic when we interviewed him regarding his partnership with Uzelac to launch a theme for his company. “There is no clear way to hire any of them for theme reviews or building a theme following the WordPress.org guidelines,” Peshev said, commenting on the lack of visibility of the WordPress Theme Review Team. “I assume that small and medium agencies would be willing to pay for professional reviews or getting themes built for any reason, which would support both parties,” he said.

WordPress users are losing confidence in large commercial theme marketplaces that continue to sell products riddled with bad practices and security vulnerabilities. The community has a need for a service that can authoritatively address problems with WordPress themes and educate developers on best practices.

Despite launching his theme review service, Uzelac plans to continue volunteering on the WordPress.org Theme Review Team for many years to come. “This is something I enjoy doing, even more than creating themes,” he said. If the service takes off, he plans to do it full-time and hopes to take on additional reviewers to grow the business.

35 Comments


  1. Interesting, I wonder if his approach to start out small (just himself) will help it to gain some traction. Hopefully, his experience with reviewing themes for the official directory helps him gain prospecting clients.

    I remember Devpress offered a type of code review service but it never seemed to take off. Does anyone know of a WordPress code review person or business which actually makes a sustainable amount of revenue?

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    1. When DevPress did it, it was really just Justin Tadlock throwing an idea out there to bring in revenue for the team. In hindsight, it was one of the better ideas with wrong timing and no promotion behind it at all. I wonder what it could’ve turned into.

      There are even more people in the themes market than now. It’d be interesting to see how Emil does. I’ve personally paid $100 for an hour of review before so $90 is a steal =).

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    2. I’m interested in seeing where this goes. We (DevPress when I was there) were going to offer this service. It never took off because the business itself didn’t.

      I also do paid theme reviews privately for a few commercial theme vendors. The starting rate is $100 for themes built on my framework and $200 for others. This price range generally keeps me at a $50 – $75/hour rate. For themes with options, I’m usually doubling the price because that’s where issues get more complex. I imagine if I ever went public, I think Emil’s $90 is a good first hour rate.

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      1. Sorry I left that part out. DevPress was on the brink of disbanding even before your idea had a chance. Too much insider talk, I’m lazy to type that’s why =).

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    3. I did this for Genesis Framework child themes for a long while – probably had about 20 clients with one or two themes each. I was doing it at $100 per hour, and most audits took 2-3 hours. I’d share my screen on a Skype call, and go through every file, line by line, addressing everything I could find – security, lack of documentation, code standards, bad practices, accessibility, i18n, lack of RTL support, abstraction of code into plugins etc. The client made lots of notes, and then they could implement whichever ones they agreed with in their own time.

      Like Emil, I wanted to educate my clients – but that then kills off repeat business somewhat. They now know what they should have done, and they can apply it to their next theme to sell or for their client, which means they don’t necessarily feel the need to come back for other themes.

      I still do a few audits, but not as many now. I’ve tried to find the angles and way to promote the *value* out of it, since for the majority, this is a lifetime worth of value to them and their clients, yet I’m only getting $200-300 in return?! A better price (and why I think $90 per hour is far too low for someone with Emil’s provable experience) would be $500 or more, but that’s hard to sell to client’s with new sites or developers who haven’t accounted for it in their client’s budget.

      There’s definitely a market for Emil’s service and I think it’s ripe for value-based fees if it’s marketed well. He should automate what he can, and promote the value that his observations / fixes can provide to the recipient.

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      1. Good point on that. If I had a theme reviewed and had the wrong stuff pointed out for me, I’d correct and learn from those and that would definitely lessen my chances of being a repeat customer.

        I’d maybe go for another theme review if the next one costs less.. mainly because I’d think that I’d get things less wrong the second time around.

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    4. Thank you Sarah for another fantastic post, it is very much appreciated!

      @Jeff, tried doing a direct reply, but for some weird reason “Reply” didn’t work for me :(

      Tung, Justin and Gary pretty much covered your question. Like they all said, the price is fair and market is large enough. I also would like to add an advantage of being an exclusive service.

      Service will also provide theme authors with a “review seal” as well, still not sure how to facilitate that properly. This will benefit commercial themes and provide additional assurance to their users.

      Thanks all!

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      1. I really like the idea of a “Review Seal” – If you reviewed themes for Themeforest authors, the review seal on the sales page would give buyers more confidence.

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      2. Definitely!

        P.S. I don’t remember last time being so excited about new project :)

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      3. I like the seal idea, too, although rather than a pretty gold seal, I’d probably do an animal seal to avoid cliché. ;)

        Dave

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      4. I am going for the seal that can be verified as well, similar to i.e. McAfee, still not sure what is the best way to make that happen. In the meantime I will whip something up in Photoshop for sure.

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  2. I loved Emil’s theme (Responsive)! If I were developing themes I’d use his service.

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      1. I also used Emil’s nice theme for quite awhile! I’d also bet that he can lift more than any other theme developers. :)

        Good luck on the venture, Emil!

        Thanks!
        Dave

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  3. Will the reviews be made public? I’d be much more inclined to use/buy a theme that got a great review. As it is, if anyone has a theme recommendation service, I’m interested to know.

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      1. @Emil, What I simply meant was it would be cool is if the review service came with a quote. Something in the lines of:

        “A great choice for travel bloggers ~themereview.co”

        My example is quite boring, but you get the picture. Something like this can definitely add value to the service and I’m sure the quote can be used by your customers. That along with the review seal you mentioned is golden :)

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    1. You’re awesome Sami. Hey, who knows maybe Justin and I will join forces one day :)

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  4. @Emil – I’ve seen a lot of great ideas mentioned in the comments like a review seal, public reviews, and quotes. While all those ideas are great, it’s sometimes best not to take too much on at once. Take some time to incrementally build these things. Let the business and feedback from your clients help steer the direction. Ultimately, the business should probably be about giving your clients peace of mind when shipping their code. They want to ship good code, and you’re the guy that’s going to get them there.

    Anyways, I have a couple of other ideas:

    1) Have a reduced price for version upgrades. Repeat clients are probably going to be a big deal in sustaining the business. It’d be nice if everyone in the theme community would use Semantic Versioning. It’d make pricing upgrade reviews easier.

    2) Utilize GitHub in the review process if possible. It makes things so much easier.

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      1. On the topic of a review seal, I imagine you’ve already read this post and the associated comments. https://wptavern.com/devpress-plans-to-launch-plugintheme-review-service If not, it’s worth a read and may give you additional ideas on implementing such a seal. I had to dig deep to find the original article with great comments. https://web.archive.org/web/20111113125858/http://devpress.com/blog/launching-a-theme-and-plugin-review-service

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      2. This is definitely great read, thank you, I was only aware what you posted in your earlier comment.

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  5. I will book a service for a theme I am having made for me and happy to have before and after results posted… I think its a great idea to find out how good my coder really is :) but more genuinely interested in how my theme can be made better from a technical implementation and not just how pretty the GUI is.

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  6. Hi Emil, I booked it a couple of weeks ago under a different name and Justin has already completed the task. I was VERY happy with the feedback. Lots of tips and insights that improved things, but more importantly he identified and helped patch a few security gaps I had missed. The theme was a complete custom from loop-up (no starter themes / frameworks etc) one I had made for myself so this was the best way I could get some expert feedback without submitting via a theme review. Had run it through the various w3c tests, wp-debug, and a couple of theme check plugins first with all passing and Justin still found things to improve. The biggest insight for me was that a lot of the wordpress developers probably come from a general coding / php type background who can technically make things work, but the big difference with what you guys provide is knowing how to do things the WordPress way and knowing the codex backwards and being able to better leverage what comes out of the box so to speak. Great service, thoroughly recommend it.

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