WordPress theme authors spend a lot of time practicing to make sure their theme demos go smoothly so that they can acquire new users and customers. However, this can lead to frustration when customers install the theme and find out the that it is actually quite challenging to replicate the demo.
This has been a pain point for me personally. But I realize I’m not great at website design, where as theme developers are, especially with their own themes. I recently spoke with Primož Cigler, the founder of Proteus Themes and the co-author of the plugin One Click Demo Import (OCDI). The plugin aims to solve the on-boarding challenge by making it easy for users to start website projects from the same demo they saw on a theme company’s website or marketplace, like ThemeForest.
Torque: What motivated you to create the One Click Demo Installer plugin? Was it to solve a common customer complaint or a problem you faced as a business owner that you were looking to solve?
Primož: It was a combination of both. We wanted to create a very good user experience for our customers and also solve the issues that kept coming up on our support channels regarding the demo content import process.
The average premium WordPress theme buyer wants a good starting point for developing their own website. Basically, they want to start with a site that looks just like the demo site they liked, which convinced them to buy the theme in the first place.
The old way of importing the demo went something like this: the user had to find the import files provided by a theme developer, install three different plugins for content, widgets and customizer import, and then manually import the content. The process didn’t end here, because they still needed to set-up a few other things manually, like menu location, front page settings, and so on.
For the customer (especially for a first-time WordPress user) this created a lot of friction before they would even start to use the theme. Then there is the cumbersome server timeout error when the original (and still official at the time of writing this) WordPress Importer plugin takes too long to import and the server has a low max timeout setting, leaving the customer with a server error message, or even worse no error message at all. The customer has no idea what happened and naturally, they think there is something wrong with the theme, so they open a support ticket.
That’s why we created the One Click Demo Import plugin, which solves all these pain-points for us as theme authors and more importantly for our customers. We created this functionality in a form of a WordPress plugin and published it on wordpress.org for free for other theme authors to use. This way they too can solve the demo import problem for their customers.
Open-sourcing the solution and allowing everyone to participate was a great decision, because it allowed us to see the bigger picture in a shorter time span. People run WordPress on very different server environments and there are many different things that can go wrong while importing the content: server timeout issues, connectivity problems, CPU and memory issues, PHP config settings, hosts limitations, filesystem restrictions, and the list goes on. The more eyes we have on the OCDI project, the more ideas that spark up and the faster issues are solved. OCDI has received 10 pull requests so far, which is quite a lot considering many WordPress developers still don’t use git or GitHub.
Torque: Once you decided you need this type of solution, why did you make your own instead of working with a pre-existing solution?
Primož: We did use an existing semi-solution before creating OCDI. While it did add the functionality of importing the content and widgets with a click of a button, it had its own issues:
- It didn’t support customizer setting import
- it still had the server timeout issue
- it used the old WordPress Importer
- it was not a WordPress plugin (it was a composer package, that was included in the theme)
- and it was not very customizable/extendable
We wanted to create a good all-around solution for the “One click” demo import. So we created the One Click Demo Import plugin which would solve the above issues:
- Added customizer settings import
- fixed the server timeout issue with multiple AJAX calls
- used the new WordPress Importer 2.0 (props Ryan McCue et al)
- packaged it as a WordPress plugin,
- and added a lot of WordPress hooks, so theme authors can extend it to their specific needs
Later we also added the Redux framework importer, because it was requested by other theme authors.
With our custom plugin hooks, theme authors are able to import other theme-specific settings, like for example, they can import the Revolution slider demo slider or import any other framework they use with a bit of custom code.
We will keep improving this plugin, making sure that it will continue to make the end-user experience as good as possible.
In our conversation, we also discussed how WordPress theme developers can create good looking theme previews. This is a frustration for those distributing themes on WordPress.org as it currently does not provide very appealing theme previews. Even comparing the same preview on WordPress.com vs WordPress.org shows how much work needs to be done.
Torque: What other theme shops are using this plugin and what kind of response have you received from them about using your solution?
Primož: People are visual beings. We want to see and try out things. It’s important that you expose every feature your theme has to offer via the theme demo. Even better if you can offer potential theme buyers a way to test drive your product before the purchase. We have a system in place where we can setup individual WordPress instances with the theme installed and demo content imported in minutes. It works really well as a selling tool.
It greatly depends on what kind of a theme or plugin you are selling. One more general approach that always worked for us is this: put yourself in the shoes of buyers and think what they want to see on the demo. Once you know what pain points your product is solving it’s easy to sell and put the right features to the front. The hard part is identifying the key pain points your product is solving.
What do you want to see?
If you make WordPress sites, you most likely use WordPress themes at least partially created by others. What frustrations do you have with the process of finding good themes and then making the ones that look good in the demo, look good in reality? Let us know in the comments below.