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Guide & Tools For Building Premium WordPress Themes

Do you want to build premium WordPress themes but, don’t know where to start and what are the requirements for building such a theme. Well, you are at the right place for learning just that. First you need to have some intermediate experience and trained eye from design point of view if you are a one man show.


1. Design

As i mentioned above, you got to have a trained eye for such a premium design which you can accomplish exactly by training ( trial and error ).

White Space: You know, you don’t need to fill every possible space with content. Work with padding and margin and leave empty space, of course in a good easy on the eye design. Look bellow for some of the newest corporate examples.

Typography: This is essential part of building premium WordPress themes so be careful when choosing fonts and always is a good practice not to use curly or hand write fonts on premium themes. Usually good fonts for premium themes are fonts like verdana, arial or kalinga. Feel free to experiment.

Colors: This is the tricky part since i met many people not taking this seriously. You need to be careful when choosing design colors avoiding very strong colors and dark backgrounds with white or other text color, that’s a disaster. Try using warm and light colors with one cold color for minor use to maintain the contrast for the eye. To ease your pain with colors i will point you to use Adobe Kuler Popular Colors and choose whatever colors think are the best for your design idea.

Elements: Not much to say except try to separate the design between elements but not much ( not talking about colors ), stay in the theme borders.

Animation: This feature got to the point where is essential part of any premium WordPress theme. Most popular animation is fade with ease-in or directional animations mostly used for presentation sections. Don’t be scared :D, there are many designers and developers out there contributing and making our lives easier, so you can grab animate.css and integrate into WordPress. Its a .css file containing all major animations. Here is a lesson by wpmudev on how to integrate and use.

Research: Best thing before you start designing is to get your fingers on your keyboard and type themeforest.net since is the biggest market online for selling premium themes and do a research on what is new. I recommend to start with creative, blog or vcard since corporate designs are gone wild ( in positive, demanding, cutting edge manner ).


2. Before You Start Coding

Lets assume you are building the theme so you can sell it on themeforest.net – First you need to go trough envato theme submission requirements before you touch any key from your keyboard. The good thing is instead of going back and forth and wasting time while you coding there is a plugin called theme check ( you can also look it up in WordPress admin under plugins –> add new ) and most important there is a add-on for the very same plugin which adds the theme forest submission requirements. You can find it here. Check theme with theme check plugin from time to time while developing to stay on course.


3. Files, Technique & Theme Organization

Keep everything clean and clear, it’s a good practice to use WordPress theme framework since there are plenty to choose from. Do a research, see what framework will suit you the most and build upon that framework. I think most used framework is bootstrap – check it out. Even though im using underscores. Next, organize your files and add your custom functions in separate file and include them into the default functions. Same for almost any custom functions you create, that way you will stay organized, and if you ever going to need to go back and edit something, you’ll find it easy. Put custom page templates in their own folder.

Write CSS styles with comments and use globalization of CSS styles as much as possible. Its easier for customizing the theme later on, and for style editing ( customizing ) functions.


4. Functionality & Features

This is the part where things can go south for you because the demand is very high. Bellow is a list of minimum functionality and features you need to develop for a premium theme.

Options Panel: Where all of your custom premium theme settings are stored, like uploading a custom logo, change the style of the theme e.t.c.

If you can’t develop your own custom options panel than you can always use Option-Tree which is very good since the last update.

Activating & Adding Plugins On Theme Installation With Activation Class: This thing is now recommended by themeforest.net – what it does is when someone install your theme, notification pops up telling the user that the theme can’t work without the required plugins, and it allows the user to automatically install the plugins with a click of a button. Here is a tutorial on how to do just that.

Custom Page Templates: Probably you already knew this but anyway this comes handy for displaying specific looks for your theme for example to display blog or portfolio since they will look differently from the other pages.

Post Formatting: This is pretty self-explanatory. You can show and style the look of the post separately whether is audio post, image post, video post, gallery, quote, link or standard post.

Custom Taxonomies: From WordPress Codex – In WordPress, a “taxonomy” is a grouping mechanism for some posts (or links or custom post types) . Which means you can create your own post types and categories beside WordPress default. For example you can create a “portfolio” post type where you can add portfolio items, item description and image. Take a look here.

Shortcodes: We got WordPress shortcodes since version 2.5 and trust me they are one of the most useful functions even now, while im writing this post. I can highlight text, insert YouTube video, button, divider, list, table, tabs and much more content with a simple click of a button. Creating shortcodes is not so hard and you can create as many as your theme requires. Here are useful links to get you started – WordPress Shortcodes, Smashing Magazine Complete Guide.

Advanced Slider: Yes you need very good slider like layer slider, and its best to buy it with extended license and use it on your premium themes.

Retina ready: To be honest i don’t get the point of creating retina ready themes when your eye is getting used to stuff like that either way. Its more like a thing plus, anyway here is how its done. And yes it looks sharper, its not that im saying is useless but i simply don’t see a point in it and since is about premium themes, well, do it.

Responsive or Mobile Site: This thing is a must, its how your premium theme will be displayed on other devices like smart phones. There are several solutions and techniques on how this is done. See This. I don’t know whats the best way, whether is to build mobile first, building along the way or after. Probably along the way at least im doing it like that and its ok. See this tutorial, and this for mobile first.

Compatible With All Major Browsers: Not much to say, self-explanatory.

Multiple Homepages, Blogs, Portfolios, Variations: Creating all kinds of variations will build up and raise your premium theme quality quite significantly.

Location Maps: All premium themes got this, simple as that. There are plugins to achieve this.

Social Networking: Most popular thing on the internet is the Social Networking so you got to include all major Social Media Sharing sites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter e.t.c. Also got unlimited plugins to achieve this but i recommend to do it your self. Try to include social media icons on the front page footer or header, blog posts, portfolio items and other pages where they are necessary.


5. Finally, Making Your Theme Installable

– After you are done with all of that above which is quite a lot, you need to package your theme with winrar or winzip and upload it, lets say on themeforest.net and wait for response.

6. Bellow are the newest three Corporate Premium Themes on themeforest.net, take a look. You’ll get the point for what im writing about.

Flatone Pioneer The Galaxy

I hope this article will get you somewhere and its helpful to you. Please leave a comment or contact us directly for any suggestions or else. Somewhere along the way i will put together complete tutorial on how to create everything week by week and hopefully we are going to finish entire premium theme in few weeks. Thanks…

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About Uzabila

Web Design, WordPress developer & enthusiast. Co-Founder of CreativeVerse.com

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