Many web designers are surely thinking of trying to sell their templates at the famous Envato marketplace, and some are already succeeded in doing so. In this article, I would like to share my experience in developing and selling templates at ThemeForest.

There is quite a lot of information about Envato, but one can rarely come across a detailed process of preparing projects. I, many times, turned for advice and assistance to successful developers selling at ThemeForest. Fortunately, there are people ready to help without any compensation. I hope my article will also be of use and will throw some light on theme producing.

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How It All Got Started

My small studio has been engaged in digital production (developing websites and mobile applications) for several years already. We started developing a template upon advice given by my friend. He once said that it was a great way for a small studio to make some extra income and that very few efforts would be required for this. I liked the idea of having some extra income by using my studio resources which are not engaged in current projects. But, at that time I had no idea how much time I would have to spend to the moment our first template will be available at ThemeForest. It took us nearly one year and a half to start selling. However, this particular case is absolutely individual and is not worth being targeted. I know examples of a more rapid success. But let me talk in more details why we were striving for this and what difficulties we encountered in the process.

Research and Strategy Generation

Having started a new project, we proceeded with the research, as intended. We examined all the categories at ThemeForest. The Entertainment category and Restaurant & Cafe subcategory seemed to be the most attractive for us at that time. There were low competition and rather high sales.

Restaurant & Cafe subcategory now:


As for the product, we focused on the WordPress theme because it generated higher earnings comparing to HTML template sales, let alone the PSD. So we decided to concentrate on developing WordPress themes rather than doing site layouts in Photoshop, though the latter is one of the processes required for creating a website. Also, we did not try to fill in the HTML template, though coding is also one of the stages. But many resources state that the approved PSD template is a green light for developing HTML (since the question of design is excluded), and after that is better to start developing the WordPress theme. We researched a range of blogs about template design and got to a conclusion that PSD templates category had a tougher moderation. Moderators in this category increase the aesthetic requirements for themes quality almost every day. But we were anyway committed to starting selling our themes straight off the WordPress.

But if you still decide to fill in a template into this category, you may be inspired by the resources below:

We started designing templates for restaurants, cafes, and bars. The process was as follows: we determined the amount of blocks required for this type of templates and the amount of variations for each particular block.

Having examined popular templates, we opted for the following website structure:

  • Main Page
  • Blog: Left Sidebar Without sidebar
  • About us
  • Dish Full page
  • Event: Events Full page Events List 2 Columns Events List 3 Columns Events List
  • Menu: Menu 1 Menu 2 Menu 3 Menu 4 Menu 5 Menu 6
  • Contacts
  • Dish Page
  • Page 404
  • Reservation

In our opinion, it was enough to get an approval. Later on, we were planning to evolve the theme and add more and more new pages. The design was prepared quickly enough — it took us three to four weeks. The project was being done by a single developer. We were doing the project in the background because the main activity was always our priority. After that, we started PSD-to-HTML developing, which took us three to four weeks and the same amount of labor (one performer). Then, there was a more complex and time-consuming process — WordPress elaboration. Again, one developer, but this time back-end, managed to do the job in his free time within three months.

Then the time for release has come. We prepared all the files according to the Envato requirements, at least we thought we had prepared everything properly. Usually, the review takes approximately 5–8 days. But in our case, it took more than two weeks.

Physical appearance of our first template:


We had to go through the moderation, willy-nilly. It turned out to be quite complicated, especially for beginners. Below is the algorithm for the process of reviewing templates by ThemeForest moderators.


We received a Hard rejection.

About “Rejections”, Their Types and Reasons

What is the “Soft Rejection”?

When you get “Soft Rejected” it means that your product is almost ready for sale at the marketplace, but minor improvements are needed. These improvements are described in the letter or can be found in the user panel in Hidden Items section in the History tab.


You just need to read them carefully and correct/modify your theme accordingly.

“Soft Rejected” letter:


What is the “Hard Rejection”?

“Hard Rejected” — the rejection of your template without any particular description of the issues. My advice would be not to surrender without putting up a fight. We received Hard Rejection dozens of times. Each time without explanation. Our initial thought after Hard Rejection was, “That’s it! Forget about ThemeForest”. But we still went to work again on our template.

“Hard Rejected” letter:


Of course, it is difficult to continue working on a template, if you have no idea what is the cause of the Hard Rejection. But no matter what, do not give up!

According to our experience, reasons for Hard Rejections may be as follows:

  • Your template does not conform to the minimum aesthetic standards of the marketplace, or it is not unique (for templates of PSD, HTML, WordPress categories)
  • Various design problems (for templates of PSD, HTML, WordPress categories): Unequal shifts, Imperfect typo-graphics (this is a common problem and moderators always pay special attention to it, attention to details is the main principle for creating a PSD template)
  • Lack of documentation or incomplete documentation. The documentation may be prepared by hand, but it would be better to use external services such as documenter
  • Problems with the code. This is a very broad part. I will go through the problems we have encountered in the case with our template. Anyway, validators need to be used to check the code: HTML validator, CSS validator, WordPress Theme validator
  • Use of unlicensed content. Free stock graphics resources are ok, but they must be listed both in the template description and documentation: Unsplash, Designerspics, Picjumbo
  • Use of unoptimized images. Images compressor

Tearing around

After the first Hard Rejection, we later received five more. So we decided to try a step-by-step strategy: PSD at first, then HTML and only after that WordPress.


Throughout the whole period, we experienced failures with the restaurant theme and our template became off-market. Which is why we decided to do a facelift and started examining modern tendencies. In order for all our efforts with the first version to not go in vain, we prepared a FREE PSD template. We renamed it and posted it on Behance. And voila, it has not gone unnoticed: the template appeared in the list of popular free of charge templates at Fusionplate and CSSauthor.

After that, we prepared an updated PSD file: we arranged layers and gave each layer its own name. An important thing to remember is that it is people who are going to use your template and this is the main principle followed by Envato. All things must be structured and highly convenient.


But our success with the PSD template was the same as with WordPress version before. A number of Hard Rejections and we, being in despair, throw all our efforts to the development of HTML template. We thought the moderation was too strict and we wouldn’t be able to break through. But the HTML case was not an instant success either: more than six Hard Rejections. So we decided to do something tricky and switched to another theme and start everything from scratch.

A year passed with a range of failures. We could not release at least one item at ThemeForest and all we could do is to start from the very beginning. This time, we decided to choose a competitive category — Corporate. And our decision was firm — accent on HTML version. We were not going to waste our time on PSD and decided to develop the WordPress theme only after the HTML version is approved.

Such strategy seemed to be optimal after a year of unsuccessful efforts.


The new template turned out to be simple and clean. It was customized exclusively as a business theme.


But modifications of this HTML template took us nearly 5 months and resulted in 7 Hard and 8 Soft Rejections. The first Soft Rejection may be considered as a victory.

Here are reasons for all eight Rejections:

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On January 7, our HTML template was finally Approved.

On the very first day of sale, I received a dozen of messages from different developers with a similar topic, “We want to make a WordPress template based on your HTML version”. That is a common situation for the new templates. Many web developers work by following this scheme — they make WordPress themes based on the HTML versions. Our template was even rated for being trendy. However, unfortunately, we lost this position after two weeks.

Having reached the first small target in HTML template, we immediately started developing the WordPress theme. The project was still worked over by a single back-end developer. A front-end developer helped him and significantly changed the HTML for it to fit the WordPress. And, of course, a designer was hanging about as there was a constant need in bringing some new elements appearing with the WordPress widgets such as blog elements, calendar, and other items.

As soon as our account already had a successfully selling theme, each of our new products received Soft Rejection after initial upload. It could be that we gained some much-needed experience and were aware of the ThemeForest requirements, or the Envato experts gave us some respect and we were not considered amateurs after all. The WordPress theme based on the approved HTML template got Soft Rejection. The reviewing process was over 16 days! Then, there were 6 more Soft Rejections with lots of technical corrections. Some of them were related to coding and CSS, the others meant that we had to update demo data to the WordPress, but most of the corrections were related to the code only.

The list of Soft Rejections for our WordPress template

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It took us two months and a half to release the WordPress template. Half of that time was spent waiting for replies from reviewers. Of course, we were not sitting still and waiting for a reply; we were working on a new template. But you must always expect X days to pass for the reviews. Do not forget about it when planning your deadlines.


There is still a lot of work to be done over new templates. Besides, new tasks are added on promoting and supporting the sales of published templates. But that is another subject for an article.

About the author:
Oleg is CEO at ION Digital. Engaged in the development of web services and mobile applications since 2010. He wanted to share his extensive experience in development of digital projects with our professional community and became an author at Icons8.

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