There are tons of themes available at the Free Themes Directory, 1052 of them last I checked. How many of them are actually modified version of GPL-licensed so-called premium themes? Not many, I’d say.
Which is a shame. While it’s a good exercise to create your own theme from scratch, it’s much more efficient to just take a good premium theme filled with lots of nice features and modify it according to your own taste and idea. Here’s why:
- A lot of thoughts has been put into such themes. Useful features, layout considerations, standards-based HTML code, all ready for you to re-use. Stand on the shoulder of the giants.
- Features. Features features features. That’s what premium themes are made of, and you can have it too with little to no coding involved.
- HTML/CSS folks with no experience with PHP can do it too. Just modify the CSS without touching the code. Most of the time this means creating child themes, but I don’t see a problem with releasing a full theme, one that is a CSS-modified version of another theme. Better designed themes is a full win for everyone.
- It saves you time and energy. How many times can you code that comments.php file without losing sanity, anyway?
- You are free to do it, that’s the point of a GPL license. With more premium themes licensed under GPL, there’s no reason not to take advantage of it. Creating a mod that improves on a theme is nice, but not a requirement. Just experiment and have fun doing it.
- Most premium themes have a good documentation readily available. Learn a lot while modifying them, and you can use it as additional resources for people downloading your modded theme.
- I don’t know about you, but if I read “my work is based on a WooThemes theme”, I’m going to pay attention, a lot. There are strong brand associations coming with premium themes. Use it for your world domination plan advantage.
What Kind of Modifications Should I Make?
It’s up to you. Make those themes look sweeter, some of them need it so bad. Lose the garish gradients. Simplify. Add more widgetized area. Offer more layout options, especially if there’s a few already, complete with the theme options for it. Sprinkle some fancy CSS3 or JQuery magic. Add author info section. Threaded comments.
Among other things.
Premium Mod is doing what I’m talking about here. They are new, so there are still a few mods available. Look around to have an idea of what you can do.
Here’s a list of commercially supported WordPress themes. Plenty of choices.
We have so, so many free WordPress themes, most of them could really use a quality improvement (yeah, including mine). Modding premium themes is a good way to take the quality of WordPress themes into the next level, while at the same time is relatively easier and less time consuming to do for developers.
Everybody wins, so why not?