Why should design be your biggest asset as a WordPress author?

Oana Filip

We’ve always believed that in the crowd­ed Word­Press theme indus­try, the design should come in the first place. We’ve been invest­ing in this direc­tion from day one, and we’re still con­vinced that it’s what gives us lever­age. The major ben­e­fit that puts us apart in the whole land­scape and gives us a strong com­pet­i­tive advan­tage.

We’re not the only rebel kids in this play­ground, so we thought it would be great to reach oth­er Word­Press authors and ask if they would jump in and con­tribute to a col­lab­o­ra­tive arti­cle. The brief was easy like a Sun­day morn­ing and the pitch straight to the point: share your expe­ri­ence and
let us know:

Why should design be the king of the jungle?

We’ve cre­at­ed a short­list with the Word­Press authors that we think they do a great design job and e-mailed each of them. Thank you for all of you who said YES to this chal­lenge.

Because we are gen­er­ous hosts, we’ve decid­ed to make room for our guests and let them enter the scene first. You’ll find us at the bot­tom of this arti­cle, but we high­ly rec­om­mend to read it entire­ly, line by line.

Mike — ArrayThemes

Sim­ply put, good design is good busi­ness. In an ecosys­tem like Word­Press, where the bar­ri­er to entry is low, and there are many thou­sands of Word­Press themes out there (many for free), what will make your prod­uct stand apart? What will con­vince some­one to buy your Word­Press theme instead of down­load­ing one for free or choos­ing a com­peti­tor?

Let’s take a sec­ond to define good design in the con­text of Word­Press. A good theme design isn’t just pick­ing the right fonts and choos­ing the right col­ors and lay­outs. A well-designed theme will also work well out of the box, enhance the pre­sen­ta­tion of the user’s con­tent and not hin­der the con­tent cre­ation process. Inter­rupt­ing the con­tent cre­ation process should be avoid­ed at all costs. A good design will allow a user to acti­vate a theme and start cre­at­ing con­tent almost instant­ly.

Invest­ing in good design is invest­ing in your busi­ness.

Tak­ing the time to craft a good design can set you apart from thou­sands of theme authors out there. Com­pa­nies like Array, Pix­el­grade and Elmas­tu­dio, aren’t just known as Word­Press theme shops, but a place to get fine­ly-craft­ed Word­Press themes. Themes that have a par­tic­u­lar atten­tion to detail miss­ing in 95% of Word­Press themes out there. Themes that are just as fine­ly-craft­ed on the back-end as they are the front-end. Good design and crafts­man­ship set these theme shops apart from the rest.

Final­ly, let’s take a look at a recent poll we con­duct­ed on Array. We asked 200 users what was most impor­tant to them when look­ing for a new Word­Press theme. Over half of every­one polled chose design as their num­ber one pri­or­i­ty when look­ing for a new Word­Press theme. That’s four times the num­ber of peo­ple who select­ed theme options as a pri­or­i­ty. Theme buy­ers are speak­ing loud and clear about design as their pri­or­i­ty.

Invest­ing in good design is invest­ing in your busi­ness. A well-designed theme col­lec­tion is eas­i­er for your users to use, eas­i­er for you to main­tain, and will prove to be a longer last­ing prod­uct. Most impor­tant­ly, design is the num­ber one pri­or­i­ty for theme buy­ers these days! It would be in your best inter­est to explore design as an asset and not an after­thought.

Ruben — KrownThemes

We focus on design because we want to amaze our cus­tomers with mem­o­rable expe­ri­ences, web­sites that you can­not stop brows­ing through because you are impressed by every­thing that hap­pens there. Themes that make you come back for more.

When more and more authors will focus on well-designed niche themes instead of fea­ture packed jum­bo items, the face of theme mar­kets will change in a good way.

The theme mar­ket is full of authors who are try­ing to impress by the num­ber of unique demos, lay­outs, short­codes, slid­ers and every­thing that you can think of. From the begin­ning, we’ve tak­en a dif­fer­ent route, by cre­at­ing min­i­mal themes that fea­ture few, but unique ideas that are well exe­cut­ed in every detail. Work­ing like this is chal­leng­ing, but high­ly reward­ing and excit­ing because at the end of the day you have cre­at­ed a prod­uct which stands out of the crowd and makes peo­ple say “wow”.

Of course, this approach will nev­er sky­rock­et our busi­ness, most­ly because each one of our themes has a spe­cif­ic and lim­it­ed audi­ence, but when more and more authors will focus on well-designed niche themes instead of fea­ture packed jum­bo items, the face of theme mar­kets will change in a good way.

Adrian — GetBowtied

Design can make or break a busi­ness. The design has a huge impact on the way peo­ple per­ceive and com­mu­ni­cate with your brand. Good design helps you stand out from your com­peti­tors, add val­ue to your brand, earn cred­i­bil­i­ty and engage with peo­ple. On the oth­er side, slop­py or out­dat­ed designs can take quite a toll on your company’s over­all image.

Design is deter­mined by pur­pose, so it should help you, as a busi­ness own­er, con­nect the var­i­ous dots that make your busi­ness.

Design impacts prof­its. The look and feel of a site have a direct impact on the num­ber of con­ver­sions you achieve. Hav­ing a well-designed site that’s also usable can be a com­pet­i­tive advan­tage and get you more rev­enue. Going for a poor design will most prob­a­bly cost you mon­ey in the long run instead.

Design estab­lish­es trust and sets the stage for a valu­able user rela­tion­ship.

With­out trust, peo­ple become sus­pi­cious and leave your site. Build­ing trust and estab­lish­ing your­self as a cred­i­ble author­i­ty in the indus­try go hand in hand towards suc­cess.

Design con­nects the dots of your busi­ness

Design should be con­sis­tent cross-medi­um, offline, online, on social media, etc. Con­sis­ten­cy not only strikes gold with estab­lish­ing cred­i­bil­i­ty, but it also saves you time and mon­ey, as it makes it eas­i­er to adapt to any medi­um once you’ve set the core. A con­sis­tent design helps peo­ple feel at home across any chan­nel.

Design is not art. The form fol­lows the func­tion. Design is deter­mined by pur­pose, so it should help you, as a busi­ness own­er, con­nect the var­i­ous dots that make your busi­ness.

If con­tent is King, then it should dress accord­ing­ly

A good user expe­ri­ence is achieved through good design. Design helps with pri­or­i­tiz­ing con­tent so that users can eas­i­ly find what they’re look­ing for. It antic­i­pates the answers to most of the user’s com­mon ques­tions relat­ed to your busi­ness;

There’s great poten­tial for cre­at­ing a beau­ti­ful busi­ness sto­ry when com­mu­ni­ca­tion implies nest­ing well-writ­ten con­tent with­in the visu­al con­tent. Design and con­tent should clear­ly work togeth­er to com­mu­ni­cate your mes­sage.

Vlad — Pixelgrade

Long sto­ry short: because you under­stand Design (with a cap­i­tal D).
Now to elab­o­rate a lit­tle bit.

What is Design? Is it about how things look? The way things work? Is it the way your cus­tomers work with your prod­uct?

It’s all of the above and some more. Often peo­ple go straight to Design’s lit­tle min­ion: visu­al/­graph­ic/pret­ty-pix­els design. It’s out there in your face; you can relate to it, judge it, fall in love with it, hate it, and so on. It makes sense to invest in that.

Good Design is hard work, very time-con­sum­ing, often is nerve wreck­ing (putting your team’s cohe­sion and val­ues to the test).

Cus­tomers are total­ly right to miss the oth­er aspects of Design. It takes a trained eye to spot the nuances con­scious­ly, to see the hid­den archi­tec­ture of things. Great Design is elu­sive, it’s every­where and nowhere, hard to explain in words. So don’t fool your­self that this is a cus­tomer-dri­ven deci­sion.

But one thing is for cer­tain: every­one knows it when it’s miss­ing. It’s like miss­ing your morn­ing flat white. 🙂 You could get through the day, but why?

Now that we’ve estab­lished what Design is, how do we go about mak­ing it the core of our busi­ness? It takes a long-term com­mit­ment to fight­ing the temp­ta­tions of the Easy Way, to find and grow the right kind of peo­ple, to put up with and trust their judg­ment when it makes absolute­ly no busi­ness sense.

Good Design is hard work, very time-con­sum­ing, often is nerve wreck­ing (putting your team’s cohe­sion and val­ues to the test).

Now hold on there! What’s with all this doom and gloom? I thought this was about ‘why’ not ‘why not’!” (your thoughts, not mine)

Pre­cise­ly! In an over­ly-com­pet­i­tive mar­ket, with new authors spring­ing every sin­gle day, with trends con­stant­ly shift­ing, with wild­ly vary­ing prices, this is the only sure bet you can make. I believe every­thing can be (and will be) auto­mat­ed, com­modi­tised, except Design.

Peo­ple can learn (eas­i­er) how to code a Word­Press theme, how to do nice CSS ani­ma­tions, how to mar­ket them­selves bet­ter, but the one thing that will remain hard to learn and get right is Design. Even after years and years of expe­ri­ence, you can still get it wrong because you are not deal­ing with con­stants, with good-vs-bad, with “does it crash or not”.

So, do your­self, your team, and your busi­ness a cou­ple of favors and choose the future-proof way. It will be hard but reward­ing.

We’d love to hear your insights on this top­ic so feel free to add your com­ments. Also, if you find it valu­able, go ahead and share this sto­ry on Twit­ter. 🖖

Oana Filip
Oana Filip

Digital storyteller @Pixelgrade and community builder for creative industries. A true believer in the power of making the world a better place.