In my ten part series “Designing and Coding a WordPress Theme From Scratch” we made our own WordPress theme starting with a design in Photoshop. But now that you’ve made a theme, what about releasing it to the public?
What do you need to do when you’re releasing your first theme be it modified or bespoke? Here’s a checklist:
- Include a readme.txt file. This file should contain installation instructions, release info and any notes you want the reader to be aware of before using your theme. It really sucks when novices are downloading themes only to be 100% confused by what they’ve downloaded. It only means that they may delete your theme and download another one that they can more easily digest. If your goal is maximum adoption, that’s not the route you want to go.
- Test it. Think of every scenario you can possibly remember from your own blog use. Try to be the use, do all the things that you think no one would ever do because (rest assured) that person is out there. Are all your links functioning? Are all your pages displaying correctly? If not, is your 404.php page popping up when it should? Make sure you’ve thought of EVERY possible scenario before you release your theme. I can’t tell you how annoying it is download a theme that you like only to spend the next few hours debugging it to make it truly functional.
- Organize it. You want your theme to be well organized so that it doesn’t take any longer than necessary to install and use it. Put your actual theme in a parent folder labeled ‘theme’ so the user can just drag and drop. Place any plug-ins or widgets your theme uses in a parent folder called ‘plugins’ so that the user can do the same. If you’re including .psd label those in a folder that tells the user what it is.
- Compress it. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a file host that makes it easy to share uncompressed folders. This is because a folder is a directory and if you upload it virtually any service online it will be treated like a directory (if accepted at all). Compress the file as either a .zip, .sit, .gzip or .tar.gz file. This will make the files faster to download and it will allow the user to download with one click instead of several
- Publish it. Where will your theme live online? Do you want it on your own web server or do you want it hosted on at repository like themes.wordpress.net? I prefer to use repositories or file hosting services like mediafire.com
- Announce it. Unless a lot of people read your bog or visit your website, there’s no way for people to know what you’ve done. If you’ve posted your theme to a repository like themes.wordpress.net then the job is already done. However, you should tell your friends and submit it to some other sites so that the world is aware.