I know it can be daunting to start your own business. If you’ve got the talent, you must. If you already have a web design business but just not sure how to get some visibility, we tell you how.
It’s not enough to showcase your designs on social media and digital portfolios. As a designer, I know you might disagree about giving your work for “free” but if it only helps get the attention of potential clients, it might not be such a bad idea. Distributing your own designed templates for free on WordPress can give your designs the visibility it deserves.
Where can you “put” your theme?
Start by uploading your theme at WordPress.org Free Themes Directory. The advantage of this is 2 fold:
- Your design will be reviewed by real, live design and development experts
- Your design will have visibility to the widest possible audience
The review process can be long depending on the number of designs currently in queue, so don’t be discouraged.
How Does this Reach a wide audience?
Once your theme is added to the Free Themes Directory, it will be available under Appearances > Themes in users’ Dashboards.
The Automattic Theme Team scours the Directory for themes that could be apt for WordPress users and if yours is picked, it’s probably the best way to have your design readily available to an audience of thousands.
How do I design the theme to be distributed?
When you’re designing your theme for an audience who hasn’t given you a single, specific requirement, you want to make sure your design is adaptable to different user’s requirements as much as possible – for a brochure website, a portfolio websites, an e-commerce etc. Your design thinking flow should include the target to meet the intended function rather than the industry. While it’s not always going to be possible to fit every scenario, you want to be prepared for every kind of use case. To ensure this, here’s what you can keep in mind:
- Prepare your theme for a wide range of content situations without breaking – long and short post titles, headers, menu bars, navigation etc.
- Ensure your fonts support characters from a variety of languages.
- Ensure your theme is translation-ready. Here’s all you need to know for it.
- It’s good to prepare your design to be able to read from right-to-left for those languages that read this way. The right-to-left (RTL) stylesheet can help.
- Avoid hard coding
- Replace ornamental graphics with CSS3 to avoid breaking of long or short text in post titles etc.).
WordPress itself offers some Theme Review Guidelines which you can follow and test with the Theme Unit Test. The Theme Check Plugin can make your design fully ready to be distributed.
What is the GPL Licensing?
To safeguard every designer’s work and yet offer some freedom to the recipient users of these free (or paid) themes, the General Public License (GPL) has been put in place. As highlighted on WordPress.org, the 4 freedoms include:
- Freedom to run the program for any purpose.
- Freedom to study how the program works and to change it, so it performs computing as you wish.
- Freedom to redistribute copies, so you can help your neighbor.
- Freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions, giving the community a chance to benefit from your changes.
Will I have to license my themes under GPL?
If your themes / software are for distribution to WordPress users, yes you will need to adopt the GPL. If you’re merely using the theme by yourself on your machine, you will not need to adopt the GPL.
If you’re going to distribute your themes in the Free directory, they must be 100% compliant with GPL – CSS and image files included.
As explained at WordPress.org, “Freedom is an important part of developing WordPress themes. If you plan to distribute your theme, it is a good idea to license it fully under the GPL, so others can enjoy the same freedoms that you did when creating it.“
Can I earn with free distribute WordPress?
While free distribution does mean free, there is a way to gain some revenue. Take a look at the Natural Lite free theme for instance. The WordPress page for Natural Lite includes a link to theme homepage which offers paid versions of the same theme.
The free theme is a great way to get users acquainted and familiar with the theme such that they wouldn’t mind paying a fee for an upgrade of the same. Many free themes on WordPress have paid upgrades or paid versions of the theme – a fantastic way to gain some revenue for you as the developer.
What about Maintenance & Support?
A good suggestion would be for your design to have a ‘home’ section on the web that offers useful resources for your users, links to a demo or information where your users can get support. This can either link to your own website for support of to the WordPress.org Themes & Templates support forum.
With regard to maintenance, the Theme Review team conducts periodic reviews of the Free Theme Directory to ensure that themes continue to meet the guidelines.
While there are other platforms where you can distribute your themes like Themeforest, WordPress is a fantastic and hugely popular open community with thousands of contributors and users. Distributing your theme is a great way to gain visibility, reach audiences and give users a taste of your work. Additionally, having your theme distributed looks great on your portfolio 🙂 Go on, spread the designs.