A Month of Theme Development

For many years I silently worked on building better WordPress themes. Only a few times did I let the general public know what I was up to. I would usually work hard for a little while, only to get overcome with client work. When client work slowed down, I would start over, improving on where I previously left off.  I can’t even count how many times this has happened over the years. (A few of you may remember the “Rampart” theme I was working on last year. Yes, this is an improvement on that theme, with better code and a better plan).

For the past few months, I’ve been slowly working on a new theme once again. This time, however, I don’t want it to get buried, I don’t want it to get abandoned, I don’t want it to die. So I’ve come up with a plan to make this theme happen. First, let me explain what kind of theme this is, and then I’ll explain my plan.

Longview: a theme for developers only

First of all, I want to be very clear. This is not a theme developed for end users. It will not do everything “with no code needed” and it would fail miserably on ThemeForest. This is a theme for developers who want a theme built with them in mind. A theme that follows best practices and coding standards. A theme that is extensible and well documented. A theme that makes a developer’s life easy.

Here are a few things that make the Longview theme great:

  • Longview is 100% mobile-first responsive.
  • It makes use of modern developer tools such as Grunt and Sass.
  • Every aspect of the theme can be controlled or overridden by a child theme.
  • It supports standard WordPress features such as I18n, custom menus, and featured images.
  • It has 7 different layouts (Content, Full Width Content, Content/Sidebar, Content/Sidebar/Sidebar, Sidebar/Content, Sidebar/Sidebar/Content, and Sidebar/Content/Sidebar).
  • It has 8 widget areas (Main Sidebar, Additional Sidebar, Before Header, Inside Header, After Header, Before Footer, Inside Footer, After Footer).
  • It has 2 built in menu locations (Header and Footer) and supports menus in all widget areas as well.
  • Longview is one of the only themes I know of that takes vertical rhythm into account.

I’ve worked diligently to keep code in it’s most natural position. Almost all theme frameworks targeted at developers have a steep learning curve because they completely reinvent the WordPress theming process. Longview isn’t like that. If you’re familiar with the standard WordPress theming process, you’ll know where to look for things. For example, if you’re looking to modify the single post template, you’ll find the code in single.php. It may look slightly different once you get there, since everything is added via hooks and filters, but you’ll find what you’re looking for in the file where you would expect it.

I don’t have a screenshot of the theme posted yet, but this site is running a slightly modified version of Longview already.

Release Plan

Here’s the idea: I plan on devoting 4hrs/day to improving this theme every weekday for the month of September. At the end of September, I will make this theme available for $250 for a one year license. Yes, that’s at least $50 more than the closest competitor. The goal is to provide enough value to make that price feel like a bargain. For those interested in getting in on the ground floor and helping to shape what this theme becomes, I will be offering licenses for unlimited updates and support for the following prices/quantities:

  • The first 5 theme sales will go for $50
  • The next 10 will be priced at $100
  • When those are sold out, 15 licenses will be available at $150
  • Followed by 20 at $200
  • …and finally 25 at $250

When those are gone (or when September ends) the unlimited updates/support license will be retired and the theme will move to a yearly license. Developers who purchase unlimited licenses will also get access to the private Github repo for the month of September to make updating and collaborating easier for everyone. If things go well, I may keep the repository open longer.

Planned Improvements

The theme is still a work in progress. These are the kinds of things I’d like to improve in the coming month:

  • Further automation with Grunt
  • Modularize styles with Sass
  • Create SassDoc documentation
  • Create PHPDoc documentation
  • Support all available WordPress features (gallery shortcode, custom header, custom background, post formats, etc.)
  • Style the output of popular plugins so they fit in seamlessly
  • Listen to input from other developers and improve the theme accordingly

Note on the last item in that list: If you’re a WordPress developer, I’d REALLY love to hear from you, even if you’re not interested in this particular theme. What do you wish commercial theme companies would do differently? What do you look for in a theme?

More Information

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about the upcoming theme, feel free to get a hold of me using the contact form or on twitter.

To be the first to find out when Longview becomes available, sign up for the Theme Foundation newsletter. Thanks guys, talk to you soon!