The perfect home page is your foundation
We’re all used to starting every build with the home page. Getting it pixel-perfect is very important because your home page should be the foundation of every other page in your theme.
All of the brand elements you are planning to use in the theme – colours, fonts, and graphic elements need to be present in some form on the home page. There should be no design ‘surprises’ later as you go deeper into the site.
Now is the time to make decisions about font sizes, layout styles, and calls to action and test them hard at every breakpoint. Once you’re happy that your home page is rock solid on every device, you can take sections of the home page and quickly expand them out to create complete page layouts, safe the in the knowledge that your design choices and responsive behaviours won’t need re-editing. There is nothing worse than having to go back through every single page, editing the same item again and again, because you didn’t take enough time with the home page in the first place.
Save your layouts to the cloud
Let’s assume that you have some success with your first theme and you’re ready to add a new theme to your collection. With some pages (eg. blog, contact, single post), there is no need to
re-invent the wheel. I often repurpose simple layouts again and again between different themes.
Add Value To Your Theme
Create features that solve a problem for your customer
Remember our earlier promise? To help people design a website faster or better? Before you fully dive into creating your theme, take a moment to list the biggest likely pain points for your theme’s ideal client.
More research means more sales
Here’s an example. I’m currently designing a new theme for coaches and course creators. I conducted a poll in my free Facebook group and in some dedicated course creator groups, to find out which features they struggle with the most.
Here’s what they said:
- Don’t know which LMS (course plugin) to use
- Not sure what to include on the home page
- Don’t know how to make a sales page look good
- How to embed a podcast
- Not sure how to set up the marketing pages for a lead magnet
So of course, in my theme, I’m going to make sure that I include all of those features, and also make sure the training videos and documentation fully explain the strategy behind how I use those features. This will give your end-user the confidence to understand which parts of your theme they can customize further and which parts are important to keep as they are.
Include Design Assets
It always surprises me when I find out that people have bought a theme in order to use some of the design assets, like illustrations. If you are including a graphic or illustration, then do include them as a low res version, or at least make them available as an additional purchase.
I have developed relationships with several illustrators and font makers, who allow me to license their products for distribution with a theme in a web res format or as a web font, as long as I share links to where the full product can be purchased.
Create An Image Guide
One of the most disappointing experiences a customer can have is when they begin to replace your beautiful placeholder images with their own.
In my documentation, I like to create a short video guide that explains why I’ve chosen specific images for areas of the page, for example, choosing an image with negative space or using a black and white image. It will help your customers make good image choices that will complement the theme’s style and features.
Do also include a written guide to the image sizes/dimensions you use and why, as well as a tutorial that explains how to compress images correctly for the web and any apps or plugins you use or recommend to do this.