How Do I Contribute To Commercial GPL Themes?

Now that most of the big commercial theme operations have gone GPL, I’ve been wondering how I or their customers should contribute to their projects. I’m guessing the process is different for each company so if you operate a commercial GPL theme business, please respond in the comments so I can compile the answers for a future post. Thanks


8 responses to “How Do I Contribute To Commercial GPL Themes?”

  1. Reporting bugs would be the main thing.

    The amount a non-coder can contribute back is rather limited I think. If I make use of code or designs from another GPL product I always try to contribute back something, even if it is just a coding tip or similar. Most themers and plugin developers really appreciate that, just a simple tip on how to improve what they’re doing can be quite useful. I’ve had the same thing happen too, users have sent in code snippets demonstrating how to improve my software, it’s very useful and much appreciated.

    From my own personal experience as a plugin/theme developer, I think the best thing a non-coder can do to help with bug reports, is to make sure you report the exact problem you are having. If you can’t explain it, provide an image. An image paints a thousand words. Having said though, make sure you include a link as well if it something which is specific to your site (or a plugin you are using). I receive lots of reports on “bugs” which people think are in my software, but they fail to provide a link back to their site so there is literally nothing I can do to help them or to fix the problem. Usually what they’re reporting is a problem with their own coding, but I can’t let them know that usually because they don’t provide enough information for me to figure it out. All the time I waste trying to work out problems due to lack of information can be quite horrendous and it would make my life a lot easier if more thorough reports were given.

  2. Well, with ours you just download them, for free, make your changes and let us know.

    We’ve already had a translation to German plus enhancements to Evening Sun which has been implemented back into core, and some other minor contributions. People who contribute something that we see as significant may be rewarded in several different ways.

    I guess with other clubs where you have to pay to download you have to find another source if you want to contribute without paying. On the other hand, simply by paying you’re contributing, if indirectly. We could do with more subscribers simply to pay for future development – writing and supporting themes for free download is expensive and time consuming and ultimately we have rent to pay. If it wasn’t for our custom work (which was doing fine even before started) then we’d be hungry boys.

  3. My themes are free to download, so this opens up loads of opportunities for people to contribute back to the project at Theme Hybrid.

    Since anyone can download the themes and tinker with the code, they’re free to send me updated code or changes they’ve made to make the themes better. In fact, this has happened on several occasions.

    I keep a forum (the Ideas forum) open for anyone to post ideas about what they’d like to see with themes in the future. This is a great way for non-coders to get involved in the process.

    And, people can modify the themes and release them back to the public. This gives me a chance to review the modifications and implement them into my themes if I want.


    Translations are huge too. The Hybrid theme has been translated into 20 languages and these need to be kept up with theme updates. It’s a great way to help your neighbor, especially if that neighbor doesn’t write in English.

  4. I currently released 5 child themes for Thematic and the community helped a lot, especially with bug reporting. On a personal level it helped me become a better developer since I have to make the themes bullet proof. The things that users do with the themes… :) and it’s not always pretty!

  5. Here’s my wish list from users (In this order too):
    Say thanks once in a while.
    Submit feature requests.
    Give feedback and opinions.
    Report bugs (in a detailed fashion) or even patches.
    Spread the word about the theme.
    Send in translations.
    Help in the support forum if you can.

  6. The majority of users probably won’t do anything much, but with the GPL I can see a lot more people using a theme as a ‘basis’ for other designs. The question is – will these people send their new design back to the original designer or just release it on their site, taking all the credit? Only time will tell.

  7. Our themes are GPL and free to download. This gives anyone out there the opportunity to send us bugs and/or bug fixes and contribute code. In fact, we have had several of our PRO members contribute back useful customizations in the support forums. I think making our themes available as a free download encourages participation from other developers.

    Right now we are in the midst of internationalizing our most popular theme, Vigilance, so we are looking for international users to help with that process.

    Of course, spreading the word to your friends and colleagues is oftentimes the best gift you can give back to a theme developer.

  8. I dont have much experience with contributing to commercial pay-to-download gpl themes, but I have experienced that bug reports, comments on shortcomings and enhancement proposals, and template code contribution haven`t been very welcomed. However this may be because of business models where volunteers do support for free to push customization services.

    I also believe that you dont have to be a coder to contribute because sometimes its SEO , usability or documentation that needs changes.

    Some of the pay-to-download gpl themes services are not really open-source in the traditional way, its just a marketing adjustment to fit in with WordPress/Automattic policy. Hopefully more will move over to the free to download – pay for support business model, focusing on customer support, addon-packs with value, and quality development, rather than on marketing and affiliating schemes.

    A key to success in any business is to listen to your customers, and a business model where customers may contribute in shaping the product will probably give higher brand loyalty, with more referrals and purchases of add-on packs.

    Anyways – theme developers are free to do whatever they feel like with their businesses – just my two cents.


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