Many WordPress Theme Shops say that they offer great support. But it’s nothing compares to Theme Hybrid support by Justin Tadlock. It’s the best place to get themes, plugins, support, ideas, and learn.
I’m honoured and lucky that I’ve been part of Theme Hybrid community for several years. It’s the place where I learnt how to build WordPress themes. It’s still the place where I get help and can follow the latest things in WordPress.
Who is behind Theme Hybrid and what is the history about Theme Hybrid?
It’s just me, Justin Tadlock.
Theme Hybrid started as a response to the “premium” theme movement back in 2008. At that time, these premium themes were usually under proprietary, non-GPL licensing and completely locked users away from the freedoms that they would normally receive. Users were paying money for fewer freedoms. While I didn’t completely understand open source at the time, I felt like the direction that these theme shops were going was not in the best interest of users.
I was barely out of college and had no clue what I was doing in terms of business (still don’t). There was huge support for the project, so I just rolled with it. No business plan. Donors paid for the entire first year of hosting. Ian Stewart came up with the design for the logo.
I officially launched the site right before I moved home from overseas. I had $1600 cash, no job prospects, and was sleeping on my sister’s couch. The first month brought in around $900.
Theme Hybrid was off the ground and running.
What kind of themes you build (general, certain niche, business, eCommerce etc.)? Is there a target audience for your themes?
I’ve primarily focused on general-purpose blogging themes. The more general-purpose, the more users it tends to attract.
However, I plan to move toward specific niches with upcoming themes. A lot of the ideas I’ve had in the past simply were not easily doable with older versions of WP. Now that WP has a lot more useful theme-related features, I have some ideas I want to try out.
Showcase 2-3 of your themes that you are most proud of. Why they are cool themes?
I usually hate my themes by the time I’m done with them. It’s exciting in the beginning, but after month’s of work, I get tired of looking at the same thing. 😉
Stargazer is one of the finer pieces of work I’ve done. The design is aging a bit at this point to me (that’s what child themes are for anyway), but so much of what’s under the hood is really cool from a development standpoint. A lot of the ideas I had when building it went into the Hybrid Core framework. Some of those ideas I’m still fleshing out today.
The following is a screenshot of a theme I’m currently working on. I haven’t gotten tired of it yet. It’ll be a theme for artists, photographers, and other creative folks. It’ll be compatible with both the Custom Content Portfolio and Easy Digital Downloads plugins.
See here new theme screenshot (opens in new window).
Where do you get inspiration for design and code?
What I mean is that inspiration is all around us. A good artist in any field is going to draw inspiration from everything, even without realizing it. I can’t point out any one particular thing or group of things that inspire me.
What is your business and marketing strategy? (Do you have themes on wp.org, wp.com, lite versions, commercial versions, memberships etc.)
*Strategy?* Hope with a healthy dose of fear.
Really, right now, Theme Hybrid sells support memberships. This gives users access to the support forums and a live chat system (via Slack) to get help with themes and plugins. I have plans to move into selling more products (and have already done so with a couple of plugins). How that plays out with the themes side of the business is yet to be determined.
How is your theme business doing and do you have other business? Any numbers to give?
I don’t like giving numbers. Numbers don’t always tell the same truth to different people.
Business are going to have good years and bad years. And, you always want to do better. It’s no different for me. As long as you enjoy the work on most days and can put food on the table, it’s a win in my book.
My other business is ThemeReview.co. My partner, Sakin Shrestha, and I do theme/plugin code, security, and design reviews.
Any specific workflow how you build themes? What kind of development tools you use?
I mostly build everything in-browser with no workflow. I just work on the pieces that interest me in the moment.
I don’t like a lot of tools, so I keep it simple. For programming, I use Notepad++. For some design items, Photoshop. For version control, GitHub. These are my day-to-day tools. There are, of course, other minor tools that I use at times.
What are your future plans? Do you see themes changing in some direction?
Plugins are the future. That’s probably not something I should say in a “theme development” interview. 🙂
While I’ll still be doing themes, plugins are now my #1 focus. This has been a major shift in the past year or so. But, plugin users are the majority of people signing up to my site, primarily for Members plugin support.
Even if they were not outpacing my theme users in sales, I still think plugin development is where WP businesses should be focused. The theme marketplace is saturated and rarely has a fresh and innovative idea. The really cool stuff is what plugin authors are doing these days.
I see themes changing to be “support members” for plugins. Users want themes that handle Easy Digital Downloads, WooCommerce, bbPress, BuddyPress, and other plugins.
Any other tips and tricks you want to share for users and for other theme developers?
Don’t be afraid to break stuff.