Many web designers and developers like to create free WordPress themes. It’s great for your portfolio, offers good practice, and- perhaps best of all- lets you flex your creative muscles without all the limitations a client project has. Here are five things to keep in mind when creating your free WordPress theme:
Use the Checklist.
I’ve capitalized “Checklist” on purpose here- it’s the Theme Development Checklist found in the Codex that I’m talking about, and the truth is that I regularly refer to this list even when I’m creating custom themes that I won’t be releasing to the public. It’s always good practice to use the Checklist, whether or not you’re submitting your theme to the official WordPress theme repository.
Try to cover all bases.
As you create your free Theme, always keep in mind that you want a Theme that will be as useful as possible to as many people as possible. You’re releasing it to the public, after all. For instance, you may not use WordPress’ Calendar widget, but many people do- so make sure your Theme supports as many elements as possible.
There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of Themes out there. Make yours stand out from the crowd. Look through free Theme directories, or visit discussion boards to find out what people are looking for. And don’t make a copy of a premium Theme and release it for free, creating a “knock-off”- that’s just bad form.
Consider creating a Theme Options page.
People love having options. Make it easy on your users to customize or personalize your Theme by creating and including an Options page. Don’t know where to start? Check out this easy tutorial, or this more advanced one.
Include a good Read Me.
In the zipped file of your Theme, have a Read Me text file with all the pertinent information about your Theme. It’s always good to have simple “How to Install this Theme” instructions, and include more specific details about the Theme, you the author, and links to where they can get more information and/or support.
edit: One more thing: Localization (or Internationalization) of your WordPress Theme, to make sure it can be translated and adapted to other languages. See: How to make a translatable WordPress theme, more info at the Codex on Translating WordPress, and this summary of I18n (also at the Codex). Thanks to commenters Calitoe and Tenach for the heads-up!
Do you create free WordPress Themes?