ThemeForest authors Kyla and AJ, from WPExplorer, tell the story behind how they created Total WordPress Theme and how that item has changed their lives.
Creating and submitting
We created the Total WordPress theme in 2013.
We had actually just relocated from San Diego, CA to Las Vegas, NV and were settling in when we started ‘Total’ sometime around the end of August and the beginning of September.
We worked on the theme over three months, and during that time we received a few hard rejections followed by some slightly less harsh soft rejections.
The week Total was finally accepted is definitely clear in both our minds. We had received a soft rejection for design uniqueness and a few other tweaks, so AJ and I grabbed a case of Red Bull and got to work. We worked side by side for 3 days straight, forgoing two nights of sleep to get Total done.
When AJ finally hit the submit button we basically sat around with our fingers and toes crossed and waited.
We received our final item approval email on Friday December 6, 2013 at 12:54 PM.
The moment was a huge weight off our shoulders, especially since we had left town to attend a family member’s graduation that same week. While it was a Friday afternoon for us, it was already Saturday for Australia, so we didn’t make it to the Top Sellers list that week. But we made an incredible (and for us at that time, inconceivable) 30-35 sales.
It was an incredible first few days.
Who we made it for
Over the years our target audience has evolved. We started with a focus on general business, agency and corporate websites. We tried to include page layouts and theme features that could be used to create those types of websites. However, as we’ve worked on Total it has grown into a larger multipurpose theme that we hope many types of WordPress users can enjoy.
Originally we used the Redux framework but as Total grew we moved over to Customizer.
AJ is such an amazing developer (although he’d never admit it). He’s made incredible additions to the default WordPress theme customizer to include tons of options for layouts, image cropping, color pickers for just about every theme feature, font options for every text element (this includes fonts, font size, line height, letter spacing and color) in addition to his own theme optimizations. And by including the Visual Composer page builder with Templatera, the Layer Slider and Slider Revolution plugins, and compatibility with an immense number of popular, free and premium plugins (WooCommerce, Events Calendar Pro, Gravity Forms, Contact Form 7, WPML, and many more) Total really is one of the most flexible themes available.
AJ has also paid special attention to making Total developer friendly by including useful hooks and filters. He also adds new snippets on a daily basis as customers request more advanced modifications of the theme.
Because of its flexibility we’re also able to create extensions to the theme as customers request features. This is especially helpful for those who are unsure of how to use snippets.
We’re also finishing up a pretty decent sized update – as I type – that will make importing and using our sample demos as easy as the click of a button. This will make Total even easier for a wider group of individuals to use and build their own websites.
What inspired the design
Design inspiration at the beginning wasn’t necessarily a particular brand, but more of just a focus on a clean design. This unfortunately was tweaked a bit throughout the approval process (again, reviewers were pushing the need for themes to be “unique” at the time which often resulted in themes adding extra borders, shading, etc.).
However with each theme update I think we’ve been able to bring out more of the core design that we hoped Total would be. Simple. Professional. Adaptable. Basically, anything you want it to be.
How it’s evolved over the years
As for Total’s evolution you can see the full changelog online.
We try to keep our theme functionally up to date by making a lot of small changes (rather than full theme overhauls) as customers make requests or as bugs are found. It’s a big log so here are a few highlights:
December 6, 2013 – Official Release date
March 16, 2014 – Added Revolution Slider
June 16, 2014 – Front-end Editing!
November 10, 2014 – Removed the Redux framework and transferred all theme options to the WordPress Customizer as well as developed our own post meta class (modular system)
In 2015 we started releasing some niche demos to show how you can use Total to create a variety of different websites. We try to add new ones frequently, and we have a whole new pack of them coming with this next theme update.
For design evolution, Total has been really lucky not needing too many changes. You can build anything with Total, so we occasionally refresh sample pages or create new demos to keep Total current.
Hardest element to design
The most difficult element to design has been the header. It doesn’t sound hard at first, but people want a lot of different styles. We have 6 different header styles, mobile menu styles, custom break points to turn the default menu into a mobile menu, plus styling options for the header in the Theme Customizer, as well as custom header builder option so users can create their own header using the Visual Composer. It’s a lot! But again, flexibility is what makes Total so awesome.
Maintaining the theme
The most challenging part of creating and maintaining Total has been convincing new customers to choose Total in the first place. We have users switch to Total from top items or from other marketplace mega-themes and they tell us how much easier Total is to use, but we can’t exactly market Total as “better than this theme or that theme.”
Marketing is something we’re still working on everyday and researching, trying to figure out what consumers will respond to. Along with the marketing of Total, trying to keep up with the competition is an uphill battle. There are always going to be other themes so we have to continually innovate to keep Total up to par and hopefully better than consumers’ other options.
The most surprising thing
We’re surprised (and grateful) that even though Total has been around since 2013 it’s still our top selling product. And that customers continue to support us by purchasing our theme.
Total really has changed our lives in ways we couldn’t have ever imagined (we credit ThemeForest for this too, since without it we never would have been motivated to create Total).
What we’re most proud of
I would say it’s not just one element of Total that we’re proud of, but rather the inherent flexibility of the theme. So many of our customers have created amazing websites and we couldn’t be more proud that they chose Total and were able to use the theme to it’s full potential.