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Wordpress Themes for Launching your Minimum Viable Product (torgronsund.wordpress.com)
188 points by Semetric on Sept 16, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 52 comments

I especially recommend these for technical founders who don't have a bone of design sense in their bodies, like myself. I used a spiritually similar WooThemes template (Delegate) to get AppointmentReminder's site ready. It took less than 20 minutes to set up. I added a 99Designs logo and a single custom image from my designer, and it now looks fairly professional relative to the amount of investment. (The service itself isn't near ready yet, but people ask to buy it on strength of the front page and the MVP demo, so that is probably a good sign.)

What's the advantage of using a WordPress install and theme? Why not just get a pure css/html theme, and build from there?

The advantage, imo, of using a non-WordPress theme is that when you start building the actual product, you're using the exact same files. As far as I know, if you get a WordPress theme, you'll have to scratch it when you start building your actual site. Am I wrong about this?

I can type decent copy a heck of a lot faster in a WYSIWYG editor which is guaranteed to make everything look pretty than I can type decent copy in NetBeans while worrying about adding my p's and div's and line breaks. Also, it is much easier to plump out the site, create new pages with a consistent navigation, and interlink them. You also get non-braindead on-page SEO for free, which is heads and tails above what many developers will deliver if you ask them to write pages in their editor of choice. ("Oh, that's nice, your sitewide title tag is 'Company Name Home Page'.")

Bonus points: you don't have to be an engineer to do it, so if you have a business guy, he can go be useful for a change. (I kid, I kid.)

If you want to make your application match your Wordpress theme (not sure if that is necessarily a good idea), you can do it fairly easily. In Rails, you'd View Source on your homepage, copy/paste everything into layouts/application.rhtml, delete the chunk that renders the main content on the page and replace it with <%= yield %>, and you're ready to go for development purposes. (You'll eventually hack it to bits for SEO, collapsing Javascripts/CSS, and other reasons, but you'd do that with a HTML/CSS template anyhow.)

Thanks, that sounds great.

One more question. You wrote: "If you want to make your application match your Wordpress theme (not sure if that is necessarily a good idea)".

Now, say I want to put up an MVP of some application, which is just a landing page. Shouldn't I include some kind of screenshot of what the application will look like?

If so, what design do you use for screenshots of the application itself? Do you use the same theme? A completely different design?

Why include a screenshot? We don't sell software, we sell the concrete improvement software will make in the customer's life. Show her having success with the software: she is a lot more interesting to herself than your app is. Plus, if you are me, your app is fugly anyhow.

My MVP used a cheap ThemeForest theme for the Rails part which shows minimal functionality, but the hero shot image is a racially ambiguous caryoon character, showing the successful businesswoman busy killing it because she was smart and bought my service. It is downright frightening to the engineer in me how radically that increased the number of requests for info I got from ladies. The marketer in me has to soul crush him some days.

This point stolen shamelessly from slide 9 of my Business of Software 2010 talk on selling software to women. I spent all day today on it today (well, when not breaking into Diaspora).

Will you or BoS be posting the video and slides? I'm not able to make the talk, but am working on a product whose users would be almost exclusively female.

I understand they will. If not, I will post slides and my best practice run after the conference.

That's good to know. Thank you!

Exactly on the last point : since I'm looking to have a 'build script' working with just the sort of WP frontend / Pylons (or RoR) backend that you're doing, I created a Wordpress plugin WP-Templatize that will put tags around important WP elements.

Then, to rebuild the backend template, one can do a 'curl' and then post-process using a script. So when the BizPeople change the layout, one can regenerate the backend template immediately.

It's on GitHub : contributions (of code) welcome.

How do you A/B test changes to your WordPress content or theme?


BTW: Ubuntu has something called 'tasksel'

sudo tasksel install lamp-server

Although the parent is deleted now, he said LEMP server, not LAMP server.

I think an advantage of using a WP install is that you can easily manage pages, galleries, etc. and you can also use plugins to handle forms.

You won't have to start over when building your actual site if you build/use a WordPress theme. At my dayjob we build most of our client sites in WordPress so my starting framework is in WP (it's basically a combination of HTML5 Boilerplate + Blueprint + Starkers).

When I need to build a non-WP site or convert a WP site to HTML/CSS, I go to my framework WordPress site, view the source and save it as index.html.

There's only a few things that need to be changed, like the path to the stylesheet and images.

Yes. For most SaaS/Web Apps the pre-login site is a sales site, not the actual product. (see basecamp, salesforce, kissmetrics etc.,) and you may be spending too much time before you launch the landing page, preventing you from getting feedback quickly from your MVP/Dry-run.

In a second phase, you can go back and do it from scratch, when you have more time and resources.

Over at WPEngine we're finding a lot of people are using us to host their Saas/Web App landing/sales/info site in WordPress and then run their app at app.domain.com via AWS, Heroku, etc.

Wordpress allows you to decouple the "info site" stack from the web app stack, which are not necessarily the same technologies - and so this can go way beyond just MVP.

It is almost trivial to convert the main elements of a WordPress theme to a non-Wordpress Platform. It depends on the terms of the project, but likely means a reduced number of "look and feel" changes before completion of the project theme.

Also a good option for someone working on a Launching a website for their MVP, especially if you are someone like myself who is a terrible designer. http://themeforest.net/ has plenty of great themes that would work well for landing page, etc.

I have purchased 5 templates from themeforest. They have worked very well! It helps to read the customer reviews and ratings when buying a template. I have also used their sister site codecanyon.net to buy wordpress plugins and graphicriver.net for stock images.

http://themeforest.net http://graphicriver.net http://codecanyon.net

Some of my favorite wordpress themes form themeforest: http://themeforest.net/item/pandora-wordpress-business-portf... http://themeforest.net/item/bigfeature-wordpress-theme/51702 This one lets you sell digital downloads: http://themeforest.net/item/the-furniture-store-wordpress-ec...

Yeah, I agree and use them extensively. They have a particularly good area for Admin templates.

Actually I've had a bad experience with themeforest... I wouldn't recommend it.

What happened that put you off?

I was blown away when I learned that Groupon actually started life as a simple WordPress install.


These themes aren't well suited for ecommerce, they are really just variations on an iPhone App landing page, but they are nice tools to get something commercial looking up fast.

Have you ever seen an article and thought to yourself, well, I guess I'll have to jump in now?

This article inspired me to share (ahead of schedule) some info on a new service we’re building to provide some of the lean startup metrics Tor mentioned, designed specifically for SaaS products.

We’re looking for folks interested in beta testing and providing customer development feedback at StartMetrics (http://startmetrics.com).

Plus, I think it’s fitting that we’ve been using one of the themes Tor listed. Took just a few hours to get the basic design up and running, which gives us more time to work on our MVP

Use these with caution if your audience is fairly technical. I ran across a SaaS site the other day and liked how it looked, clicked on the "designed by" link and realized it was a template design. This dropped my confidence as anyone can throw up a cheap template design, what kind of attention to detail was put into the rest of the app? Is there even an app or is this just a credit card form and a nice looking template? If you are serious about your business drop the couple thousand to get a nice site designed.

Isn't the point of the MVP that you're putting the cart before the horse on purpose? The $2,000 on design should come after you've found if there's a market for your product.

I agree on using caution with a technical audience though... perhaps using a cheapy $30 template with a little customization so you don't have to have an attribution link and it doesn't look like everything else?

Honestly I don't know why you even need a marketing site like this if you are just working on your MVP. I am working on my MVP and am just collecting emails and working directly with potential customers.

Spending a day on a brochure site gets you out there immediately. Combine it with a $50 adwords budget and you've got 2 things:

1. A concept web site to help explain what problem you solve 2. A source of leads to early adopters. Potentially invaluable.

You don't need wordpress or any cookie cutter themes to do that. Here is my page: http://adzerk.com - it cost me about $75 with my designer (although the logo design was more).

And when it comes to feedback, the handful of customer I have talked to in person (you know the customer development part) has helped me 1000% more than the hundreds of emails collected here. (most of which will never respond to your email when you send it out).

Maybe. I should go into design. Does a paragraph of text a text box and a button really go for $75?

If you think that is bad imagine how much Nike paid for just three words. (just do it)

Volume is a poor measurement of effort and value when it comes to design (and coding for that matter).

I agree. But a "couple thousand" are probably not an option if you're bootstrapping. Such templates might just work until you can invest in a custom one.

If your a technical founder and building the product yourself I don't see why you couldn't spend a couple thousand to do it right, cutting corner in design is one of the top mistakes technical founders make. Spend a week consulting and it will cover the design and more.

I smell a designer.

To your customers, there is no difference between your "design" and your "product". If I had to choose between scrimping on design and scrimping on features, I would choose the latter hands down.

Very very far from it. I pay someone to do all of my design work.

While I definitely agree that a couple thousand isn't that much, it's still more expensive than a lot of "night and weekend" entrepreneurs can afford right away.

Moral of the story: remove the "designed by" link unless you're required to keep it. The problem wasn't the template design, but that it still had the advertising link.

Themes by Woothemes are fantastic, but...aren't all website going to look the same? I really like the way 37signals re-designed the Basecamp homepage. It's a little bit different than usual.

Your opinion?

Yes. It is true. However, you can customize the theme any way you want to make it look unique. For $150 that's a deal... or you can spend $3000 for a "buyout" template from monster template (http://www.templatemonster.com/) and not even going to work with WordPress.

Klaveer[1] is a decent little template too. It's more targeted at freelancers than products though.


I myself have set up a site with a woothemes template and it was easy and painless and it worked across browsers too. It will take me forever to learn enough html, css, js to make the site look this good and also cross browser compatible, if I did this by myself from scratch. And gravity forms(http://www.gravityforms.com/) rocks too, for contact, download or sign up forms.

There you go. Build on WordPress. Anymore questions? Well, I have to say WooTheme is fantastic. It does everything I wanted...almost, then WP Plugins come to rescue. once you learned how to use WP as a content management platform, the possibility is endless.

One side effect of canned themes is that you will look similar to other startups doing the same thing. This could be an advantage in the beginning, because the site will feel familiar to new customers who are used to the theme. You will want to differentiate if distinctive branding becomes part of your strategy.

This is great. Is is easy to use Wordpress user management as a starting point for a user back end? Right now I am using userCake, which got me up in about 5 minutes. If I go with Wordpress would it be better to drop userCake for WP user management, or integrate the two?

I was warned about potential security vulnerability in WP, but guess that's true for any Internet applications. Also, any WP updates could potentially break plugins used. If you got a lot of plugins, need to be very careful.

Quite a few of Woothemes/Templatic templates are available in Drupal flavors as well.. and they look to be cheaper as well.

Given that I can run Drupal w/ Postgres (the DB I'm already using), its a nice value proposition.

Does anyone know how I can download/buy the SaaS theme [1]? It looks quite good.

[1] http://saas-wp-i.worryfreelabs.com/

Update: I bought it, and it's amazing. Everything is changeable in HTML, everything! I wanted to add more features to the pricing table, just add a <li> and it all resizes properly. Text on buttons is all HTML (no images), everything's just fantastic. I'm thinking about emailing this guys to tell them about how great it is, best 10 pounds I've ever spent.

Thank you!

Many begin as a Wordpress. Many end as a "minimum viable product".

Nice designs but I'm skeptical. WooThemes spam?

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