I’m more than happy to publish my next WordPress Theme Shop interview. This time it’s about Anariel Design. They are one reason I decided to interview other theme shops in the first place. There are so many good themes, and good people out there.
Anariel Design is run by Ana and Marko. I can honestly say that they are warm and kind people. I was happy to meet them in WordCamp Europe 2016. And yes, they can build beautiful and solid themes. But life is not just about the code and themes, it’s about people.
I also recommend reading their story on HeroPress.
But let them tell you more about their WordPress Themes and journey, here we go.
First, thank you Sami for inviting to do the interview.
Anariel Design is a family business that includes me (Ana), my husband Marko and Bubi (our teddy bear and lucky charm that became a mascot of Anariel Design). We develop premium niche WordPress themes and lately we focus on non-profit and blog niches.
We started in 2012, but it got more serious somewhere during 2013. I started learning theme development in 2012 so it took a while to get a grip on how this whole thing work. At that time Marko was still a full time musician.
I guess this still doesn’t answer the question how we ended up developing themes. Well, after I finished Civil Engineering studies I was sure this is not something I’d want to do for the rest of my life :). I always wanted to do something creative and with Marko’s support I started learning HTML, CSS and soon after turned to WordPress.
About the same time Marko started to feel a bit of a burnout as a musician. He simply didn’t have fun doing gigs and teaching guitar anymore, so he decided to pause that and join our new adventure.
Business with themes got bigger and more time consuming so we decided to focus on it together and make it our main project. As one of our main goals was to build a business that is independent of the place of living.
First we started selling themes on Themeforest. However, for various reasons soon decided to open our own theme shop Anariel Design and join other marketplaces instead of being exclusive on Themeforest.
In 2014 we were invited to sell our themes on WordPress.com for which we are really thankful and proud. Being able to sell our themes there is a dream come true and at that time it was also a verification that we’re doing something right. There are so many things on theme development that I learned going through their theme review process. That all improved the quality of our themes a lot. Big thanks to Philip Arthur Moore for the invite (editors note: he actually invited me also).
We also started to submit “lite” versions of our themes to WordPress.org repository as I way to give something back to the community that enabled us to do what we do now.
We are creating niche themes and lately we focus on themes for bloggers and non-profit organizations. Every single theme we do is built with certain niche in mind & every feature included in it is carefully chosen to support theme’s purpose.
I’d say our target audience are people who are looking for unique niche focused, easy to use high-quality themes.
Through some of our theme demos we try to support real non-profit organizations by creating real demo content related to the purpose of the organization. That way we hope to spread the word about the certain problem and if someone gets touched by it and decides to act upon it, that is great.
Good example of that is our latest theme Pena . The demo is about the Living on One Dollar documentary and their mission.
Pena , Maisha and Didi are my favorites. They are all easy to use, use basic, core WordPress features (pages,post,categories, widgets) to create site that is easy to use even for very beginners. All our themes are about matching unique and fresh ideas with simplicity and user-friendliness. We believe that most people need simple yet effective solutions for their online presence. This very philosophy is built into everything we do.
Pena I mentioned above is a very special project, more than just a theme. It has been inspired by “Living on One Dollar” documentary we watched one night. We were deeply touched and wanted to somehow contribute to the whole project. We decided to develop a WordPress theme to help spread the word about it. We connected with the guys behind the documentary and they allowed us to use the content for the demo.
This is a really special project for us and we built theme demo using real content that we hope will raise the awareness about the problems in Peña Blanca and spread the word about this great documentary.
Maisha has also a special place in our hearts. It’s been inspired by an amazing documentary named “Virunga” that can really make you cry. If you haven’t seen that documentary yet, please
Didi is a modern theme for fashion bloggers. There are no jumping or moving columns or any unneeded flashy effects that only compete for readers attention. Just a well thought out, logical and SEO friendly layout that make reading experience a joy.
As I mentioned above our big inspiration for non-profit themes are documentaries that cover certain social, environmental and similar issues.
For our new theme, which is coming soon, I’ve been inspired by my school friend Lola who loves fashion. It is a blogging theme and it is dedicated to her.
I like visiting Awwwards site as there you can find the latest trends and draw inspiration out of it. I also follow CodePen, ThemeShaper, WPTavern, Post Status, ManageWP.org, Twitter, Flipboard to get the news and learn more.
Please beware that we are pretty bad at marketing so if you meant to learn something from us, I’m sorry ;). We really didn’t do much in that respect so far.
Yes, we sell our themes on WordPress.com and also have lite versions of our themes on WordPress.org, but that’s mostly it. However, we put much time and effort supporting our
themes. We also try to give it a human and friendly touch cause we believe that, beside the theme quality, support is the most important part in this business.
We are pretty much satisfied how the theme business is going for us and at the moment this is our only source of income. I’d rather not go into numbers but what I can say is that WordPress.com is our main market closely followed by our theme shop and then ThemeForest & few smaller marketplaces.
Considering the lack of active marketing we are quite happy to have our site bring around the third of the total revenue. Our main goal for the future is to make our theme shop our main source of income.
First I look for something to inspire me. That can be a documentary, a person, some other design and so on.Then I do a research on what’s necessary for the certain niche. For example if it is a non-profit theme then I look for real non-profit websites and make notes on what are important elements and features of the non-profit website. Then I decide the color scheme and do a sketch of the front page in Photoshop.
To code the theme I use Underscores based starter theme. I use just a Dreamweaver (old school ;)) for writing code. During development I use Theme Check Plugin, RTL tester etc. Once the theme is done we do a lot of checks to see if something is missing or not working properly. In the end I create theme demo and the documentation.
Our future plans are to further improve our themes and to work on promoting our own theme shop.
We also plan to attend WordCamps whenever we can and meet new people. There are so many incredible people with so many interesting life stories. Sami is one of them 🙂
I think the biggest challenge for themes in the future is to make them more user-friendly and easier to use for the non-technical end user. I think that merging themes and hosting in a single easy to use package (like Themecloud does) is something we’ll see more often in the future.
Accessibility is another important issue. Making themes more accessible for the people with disabilities is definitely one of the important challenges.
One tip for people searching for a new theme for their site. Before you even go looking for a theme write down a few notes on what your site needs and what kind of layout you’d like to have on your site. Once you know that, look for a theme that comes as close as possible to your vision. It is much easier and takes less time to search for the right theme than to simply buy the first multi-purpose theme and then trying to adapt it to your own purpose.
For developers I’d say it is important is to be aware of your strengths and shortcomings and concentrate on what you do best. Find your own niche, something you love to create and where you can give your 100%. What is most important, do the best work you can at any given moment, create the best theme you can and give the best support.