Benefits of Releasing a Free WordPress Theme on

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My second free WordPress theme has gone live on the repository. Go ahead and give Zuul Lite1 a look.

It’s been a long process, mostly due to the length of the queue. But there is a lot to learn from submitting a theme to the repository.

Improving development to the coding standards

I’ve read through the WordPress coding standards several times. I attempt to follow them in all of my projects. But missing a translation function or sanitization output happens.

One of the benefits of submitting a theme to the repository is having an extra set of eyes to help you catch things you may have missed.

This particular theme submission was very enlightening to the data sanitization and escaping practices of WordPress.

Now the functions are more ingrained in my brain and I’m better at putting them in during the initial development than fixing them later.

A better grip on the GPL license

One of the things that makes WordPress a great piece of software is that it is free to use via the GPL license. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make money off software that is still under the GPL license.

Free software can come with a price tag. In other words, you can create a GPL theme and sell it for $50, and it would still be free software. Why? Because the user is free to run, modify, and distribute the software or any modifications of that software.

Theme Handbook

This was a discussion that came up on my theme submission with the initial reviewer. Luckily, I had dealt with the GPL license enough to know linking to a pro version was alright, as long as the pro product was also GPL compliant.

But the conversation did lead me to a review of any third-party scripts and resources I was using to make sure they were GPL compliant.

You get another set of eyes on your project

User feedback is a great thing to have for theme development. The GPL discussion above made me realize, while my themes on Themes.Pizza are released under the GPL license, there wasn’t anything on the actual download page indicating that. Whoops.

I also got some great feedback on my theme setup and was able to improve my documentation based on the reviewers comments.

Where else are you going to get that kind of user testing for free?

Increased discoverability

One of the benefits to having a theme on is the increase it gives your theme and site in discoverability.

On the first full day of release Zuul Lite had 214 downloads and currently is sitting at 40+ active installs with no marketing and a terrible name for alphabetical sorting.

Plus it can help people discover your site through your theme homepage. Take a look at the traffic bump on Themes.Pizza after Zuul Lite was released on


Themes.Pizza referral traffic

Not too shabby of a bump for a brand new site with not a ton of content.

Now you can give back

There’s no better way to learn the theme review process than to go through it.

Now I’ll be more comfortable helping to reduce the theme review queue by working on some theme reviews myself. With the added benefit of being able to see what kind of cool features and designs other great WordPress theme developers are building.

And for my next theme project I’ll be working on replacing the awesome Checkout theme from Array Themes with an Easy Digital Downloads theme of my own doing. Keep an eye out for it.

Zuul Pro

Like what you’ve seen in Zuul Lite? Take a look at Zuul Pro and you can start a full-fledged side business with WooCommerce and Restrict Content Pro support.

My personal favorite is launching a print on-demand novelty shirt site with WooCommerce and Printful. Don’t worry about inventory or shipping. Just make awesome designs and put them on shirts and you’re good to go.

  1. Yes, it’s a Ghostbusters reference.

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