One of the most important aspects that will determine the success of your WordPress theme is its demo site. As with everything in this life, the first impression counts and this is the case for WordPress themes too. By giving a great first impression to your audience, you are basically laying a solid foundation for higher conversion rates.
What Makes A Great Demo Site?
You spent a week setting up your demo, only to find out that it takes 17 seconds to load. Do I need to say more? Just make sure your demo loads as fast as possible. Users are not there to buy something from this demo website, they are there to buy the website. Serving a global audience isn’t an easy task so make sure to use a reliable web hosting provider. No, a shared $1,99/month account on a remote server somewhere across the globe won’t cut it. Even if you are just starting out just take care of this important matter at your earliest convenience.
Suggestions? It depends on, geographically speaking, the market you are after. For example, most of our customers are based in the United States so it made sense to host our website on a server located there. Users from other parts of the world like Europe or Australia haven’t reported any problems and our speed tests indicate a smooth experience.
Also, technologies like CDN make fast websites possible without breaking the bank.
Let’s be honest. In this industry, we don’t provide bespoke solutions. We design generic layout systems trying to cater to the needs of, hopefully, multiple users who want to build a simple website. Photography makes things easier and carefully selected photography makes themes profitable.
Here’s an example. This is the HTML version of one of our most popular WordPress themes for hotels. I’m sure you wouldn’t even consider buying this theme mainly because it looks incomplete. Main navigation indicates that we are talking about a hotel theme but that’d be it. Now, here’s the real demo. You can tell that we are talking about a hotel theme just by looking at it even without visiting any other pages.
Relevant photography helps potential buyers “see” their future website on your demo site. So yes, spend some time and choose your demo images wisely.
Behind the scenes: I spent $100 on stock photography for this theme. It took us 3 weeks to develop it and we have also spent around 20 hours on bug fixes and updates. It’s been downloaded more than 10,000 times since its initial release back in March 2014 and contributes approximately 4% on our annual revenue. $100 well spent I say.
“Is everything I see on your demo site included? Do I need any plugins in order to setup a website like your demo?” These are questions I receive from potential buyers every week. At first I was surprised but then I realised that some competitors heavily rely on 3rd-party plugins used to support core demo functionality without a single mention of the aforementioned plugins on their website. Users buy those themes just to realise that they need, sometimes even paid, plugins to reproduce the demo.
Obviously I am not talking about themes that rely 100% on 3rd-party plugins like Easy Digital Downloads or WooCommerce.
It’s all good. I’m not judging here. It’s your business, your strategy. My point is, just make crystal clear what users are paying for. Especially if you have adopted a subscription based model, honesty about your offering will keep your churn rate at really low levels.
It’s your (last) chance to evaluate your theme
You have probably tested and double-checked every single aspect of your theme but setting up the demo site by yourself, puts you in the driver’s seat. It’s your last chance, before releasing your theme, to actually experience the setup process like your potential buyer will. During setup, take your developer hat off for a minute and try to approach the process as a user. Does it make sense? Great. Time to press the publish button.
Good luck with sales.
Also published on Medium.