I wish I had a designer to work with


I've been wanting to get into the concrete 5 theme market, but I don't really have any design skills, just programming skills.  I need a designer to work with in order to really hit this market nicely.

I might try just coming up with some stuff myself and releasing it to the concrete 5 marketplace, though I know it wouldn't be as good as it probably could be if I was actually working with a designer.  My skills at design are middling at best, so I'd probably have to be taking a look at some existing themes and kind of using them as a guideline then creating my own styles to match.  Different colors and drop shadows and spacing, same overall blocking, if that makes sense.  It should be good enough to keep me from any lawsuits for stealing designs, if I actually write all of the code and css myself and make my own images it is my own creation, no matter how similar it turns out to something else.

I think there's a lot of market for themes actually.  It seems like when people are designing a site they may or may not need add ons for block or page functionality, but they for sure will need a theme.  And there is a need for high quality themes in the marketplace, ones that are integrated to work well with ecommerce and problog and maybe a few other add ons, ones that come with custom sliders and callout blocks.  People pay a few thousand dollars typically to have me take a photoshop file and make it completely work as a concrete 5 website, I think a lot of people would like the level of quality that I add to a theme if it were available as a simple download.

I think coming up with some basic blocking for html layouts / wire frames and basic block functionality could be first, then take that functionality and turn it into several similar themes that have the same HTML and javascript but different CSS.  I think it should be possible to make a lot of really well designed themes this way.  I even have a theme framework developed for doing this, with one package that holds all of the html for the themes and another package that actually loads the theme.  So while in development, the theme could be built with Loader::packageElement() calls, before sending off to the marketplace you just copy paste from the include files to make the theme work without the main package element.  It sounds complicated but it really should automate and speed up things if you are doing several themes with very similar markup.  I originally developed it for bikelove.org, and still use it on werstnet.com. The idea on bikelove was that each city could do it's own theme, but the markup for the theme would be version controlled in a separate package.

I'm not entirely sure what the market is for themes.  I have hard numbers from one developer with approximately 50 themes in the marketplace who makes 800 per month.  That doesn't sound like very much, but these are also pretty basic themes and not all that customized.  They are typically in the 15 dollar or free price range.  I'd like to be going after a market of 45-100 dollar themes, I think you could do a lot better this way. 

If there are any designers out there that want to work with me, I'd love to hear from them.  I think theme development could end up being a pretty lucrative side business if I can partner with the right person.  Most of the time a PSD to concrete 5 conversion takes me 12-24 work hours, depending on complexity and customization.  I think after setting up kind of an assembly line for slicing and dicing that could get down even more.  I used to do sites that all shared the same markup and just had differences between fonts and colors and images and I got those down to the point that I could go from fireworks PNG to full theme in sometimes as little as an hour.

I'd split the money 50/50 with a designer, I think that's the fairest for everyone.

If anyone is reading this and knows of some designers that are looking to get in on the concrete 5 theme market, please forward this post on to them.  The wider this message goes the more chance that I can actually find a competent designer that wants to do some nice themes.  I had one guy from Brazil recently contact me with supposedly 150 themes ready to convert, but I have yet to hear from him on a single file to convert.  Most of his designs were not set up for concrete 5, either, they were single page designs and I don't think very many of them have ever been converted into html, let alone into CMS templates.  I don't think that he'd be able to ask for more than 20-25 dollars per theme and even then there probably wouldn't be a lot of sales because it wouldn't support very many page types.  I think a well designed theme should have several page types.  It would have taken two years to convert all of his themes and start actually making a profit, but there was potential there.

Then again, I could be totally wrong and maybe there's no market.  Seems like concrete 5 is doing nothing but growing though, and while there might not be as much of a market as you could get for Wordpress themes, I think that there is still potential.  And the nice thing about the concrete 5 marketplace is that it sells the themes for you and handles the licensing and installation for the end client.  With the tighter marketplace integration and stop-gap wall of 'no add on is compatible unless explicitly stated as compatible' there will be a lot of themes that disappear to people with new sites over the next couple of months.  Having a few well designed themes could be really great as there will be even less competition.  There are a lot of really nice new tools in 5.5 for global areas and stacks that mean that you can do even more with your themes, I'm looking forward to developing for that platform.

Ideally I'm looking for a designer that actually has quite a bit of experience making real world web designs.  Someone with an understanding of how the box model works, where content is going to be sliced and re-arranged, what sections need to grow and which sections need to stay fixed.  It's funny but a lot of designers don't think of this at all.  You get bonus points for using a grid system too - typically I use blueprint.css with custom grids for most of my layouts, with some HTML 5 boilerplate thrown in for good measure.  This gives me a really solid starting point for any design, I can typcially get any design pixel perfect in almost all browsers.  I'm not really looking to work with someone who is just starting out or has been to school for graphic desing and now wants to make themes, maybe that's a little condescending but I'm not really looking to put out low quality product or work with an amateur.