Are you looking for free WordPress themes from Rough Pixels? Normally, you would head over to the wordpress.org website to check out the 1000’s of themes made available. There is obviously no shortage of choice with the latest theme count being 7,429!

My History with Free WordPress Themes

I can easily claim at least 8 years of developing premium and free WordPress themes. I’ve also submitted my fair share of themes to the wordpress.org repository (directory), including a couple from Rough Pixels: Salal and my popular Storytime

Download Rough Pixels most popular Free #WordPress theme called Storytime https://wordpress.org/themes/storytime/ Click To Tweet

It was not always smooth sailing either because over the years I have seen many authors with frustration from questionable decisions made by the review team. There were times when I wanted to just walk away because of the ever-changing rules, restrictions, inconsistent reviewing, and decisions making things even more challenging for theme authors. There are of course some good decisions that were made over the years.

Still, I wanted to help give back to the community by designing free WordPress themes, so I stayed on. I can say that I did take on the added experience based on core WordPress coding standards for my theme development.

The Pro’s and Con’s of the Theme Directory

As a theme author, you will benefit when your themes are added to the WordPress directory:

  • You become a better theme developer
  • You get to take part in the WordPress community
  • Gain exposure and establish yourself as someone others can trust
  • …and yes, you can even position yourself to increase business efforts…basically upsells. One example is a theme generating up to $50,000 in monthly revenue. Of course, this doesn’t happen to every theme and it should not really be a reason to participate.

However, there are some disadvantages:

  • Theme authors end up on a theme review waitlist (a queue). I’ve seen it get up to 7 months. For example, if you submit your theme on January 1st, it would be July when your theme is reviewed. You then end up on the “Final Review: Approved Themes Not Yet Live” list which meant having to wait even longer. At the time of writing this article, it looks like the wait time to get reviewed and go live is around 5 weeks.
  • When you submit a theme to the directory, frustration and some controversies from ever-changing rules and guidelines can take its toll. Many times, I’ve seen new authors say forget it.

Theme Exposure Lifecycle

When I talk about the lifecycle of a theme, I’m referring to the period of time your theme stays in view once it goes live on the WordPress directory. One thing to remember is to know there are 100’s of developers submitting themes.

As reviews are performed and your theme goes live, you will average 4 days of exposure before it gets buried by new themes being released.

The reality is that a theme has short exposure before it gets buried. Now, if a theme author is lucky, they could get a lot of downloads for their theme and a high count of active installations (sites that are using your theme). If this happens, then your theme gets a good chance of staying high up on the Popular List.

For most free themes, they are usually seen for a short period of time on the WordPress website. This means people will miss the opportunity of using your theme after just a few days. This can be discouraging, especially when a theme author puts in a lot of work to create themes. For Rough Pixels, I decided to try an experiment…

My Experiment with Free Themes on Rough Pixels

Although I’ve talked about the pro’s and con’s of submitting themes to the wordpress.org website, I’ve come up with an experiment to try out. Unfortunately, this will take the rest of this year to see how things go, so this is what my plan is…

  • I will be making all current and future free themes available from the Rough Pixels website
  • I’m going to temporarily hold off from submitting free themes to the WordPress directory
  • I will run with this experiment for the rest of 2019; evaluation by December
  • There are a few things on the side that I want to observe as well, so I will be trying out a couple of theories I have as it relates to the theme directory and the theme review process at WordPress.
  • I’m also going to see if it gives end-users a better experience having the theme and support onsite.

My goal is to determine if providing free themes direct from the Rough Pixels website is more efficient compared to the .org theme directory. I also want to see how it affects website traffic and sales for the next 4 months. I’m also re-evaluating whether I will stay on with the theme directory…for a few reasons.

Where to find the themes?

I will be adding free themes under the Freebies menu link at the top. For the next while, I will make some adjustments as this is a new feature here at Rough Pixels.

When will I be setting all this up? Within the next several days.

There is Also a Change with the Theme Review Team at .org

A decision was made within the theme review team to have “ALL” themes in the WordPress directory become accessibility compliant—or at least begin the process. This is definitely an aggressive decision, even though accessibility is a bonus for the end-user. It used to be an option for a theme author.

It sounds like authors that don’t update existing themes within a 2 month grace period will have their themes temporarily suspended. Authors will need to make their theme(s) accessible based on current requirements. The question: “how will this translate to theme authors; will it empty out a big percentage of themes available at .org?”

Questions about what happens with themes that do not comply at .org with free WordPress themes have begun. To quote one commenter on the WordPress blog:

What will happen to existing themes without (proper) keyboard navigation that aren’t updated on time?Guido

The follow-up answer to this was:

If we have to keep reminding authors to fix it and we do not hear from them or they can not show that they are working on fixing it, then themes can be suspended.Poena

Apparently, accessibility requirements are going to happen in phases. Keyboard navigation is the latest one being implemented (required), with more to be added. This will happen over a stretch of time, of course.

 

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