I remember when Orman Clark achieved one million dollars in sales on ThemeForest and Envato made interview with him. It was short and fun article about him, however there was one shocking point for me: his work was never rejected by reviewer! I was like: how this is even possible? How someone can pass every ThemeForest review?
After all my experience with ThemeForest while selling there for 6 years, I had only one theme that was rejected only once on first review. Every other theme was rejected from 2 up to 14 times with latest theme we try to get to marketplace. Well this is shameful record of mine – 14 times. Is it cause suddenly I don’t know how to code proper theme? Or maybe there are different reasons? I think this is story for different time.
Now lets explore some absurdities of ThemeForest review. If you like to see some funny examples of rejection reasons, see our other post.
Let’s begin – ThemeForest first review time
I remember times when from posting theme to review, to finally it getting to marketplace, it took only 7 days. And in this process there was time for 2 rejections! It was in May 2014. Compering this to today ThemeForest review times, where for first review you have to wait 22 days(it usually is ~+3 days), that was crazy fast.
However, those who tried adding theme in 2016, remember that many waited 60, 70 or even more days for first review. We have released FatMoon back then and it was tough. I don’t know how many authors had to drop full time WordPress development back then, but I am sure there were many such cases. Envato took way too long time to make anything with this, and while trying to solve queue issues, they did some mistakes, where authors where pushed even further in queue. Even guys that are now in review team where shocked how long review is taking.
By the way, have you heard about 5 months waiting time for review ?
So with current waiting times you can be almost sure, then you will be rejected on first review, even when you got your last theme accepted 30 days ago. This can be caused by either one of bundled plugin going out of date, or new coding standards rolling in. However reject in such case, is not a bad thing, right?
ThemeForest review process – coding standards
Back in the days there were various guidelines on what is allowed to use in theme code and what is prohibited, or must be moved to plugin. However nowadays there is no such thing, or rather there is no up to date guide. There is nothing you can refer to when you want to know how to make theme inline with Envato guidelines.
Constantly updating coding standards is only benefit for final user, cause he will get much better coded theme in the end. It will be probably much safer also, so it is a good thing. However being bashed for different things on each theme resubmission is highly discouraging. You will usually get “rejection hit” on things that was previously OK(more on this later).
So what you can do, is just hold on to your best knowledge and and try to code theme in safest possible way. You can and should do it, but you will be rejected anyway 😉
While being reviewed, reviewers will throw on you various links and screen shots from all over the internet. Some better guys on ThemeForest review team, will add commentary explaining what, why and where. However such reviewers are rare as unicorns. Usually you are left with one example or reviewer opinion about code or theme behavior.
I don’t have to explain how confusing and frustrating it gets when you receive 2 words review with screen shot, like “Plugin territory: screenshot”. That is whole review after 3 days waiting for resubmission. After such thing I am like: “According to who? Where I can get reference? Can we talk about it?”.
No, we can not talk, and it is cause you are hardly ever reviewed by same person twice in a row.
ThemeForest review process – ever changing person that reviews your theme
When after first rejections you get list of things to fix, you may have some questions, or find that some points are not really true. Of course you want to fix what is needed and also explain things that you find conflicting. However that is just wasting your time and energy.
Most of time some different reviewer will grab your theme for next audit, and he doesn’t really care about your questions. He just check are issues fixed, and if not he will point them again for you. However you could deal with that, as army of reviewers that can change each other should make work go much faster.
There is however one infuriating thing: when new reviewer suddenly finds new issues in code that was previously accepted. You are like: “Seriously man? Previously it was fine, and now you reject theme cause of it?”. You can not prepare for such situation. It often happens when you have only one point to fix, and after resubmission you get additional new 5 points.
In such situation you are on the edge of your nerves, cause you want to make it good, you want to just release your shiny theme. Sometime you may want to throw some thunders in comment to reviewed file – you can do it, no one cares anyway.
Plugin territory nonsense
Plugin territory issue – this is a big one. This violation means that you have added some code to your theme that should be placed in plugin. It can be either code registering new post types, new shortcodes or sending e-mails for example. Such code should be placed in plugins so you could easily switch from one theme to another without losing functionality. At least this is the theory.
Assumption was that WordPress themes should only make for how site looks, and plugins should add functionality to it. However this is not true even for themes on WordPress.org. You will lose functionality even with free themes from WordPress.org. Of course not all themes, but still. Depending on author, one will create free theme to promote its premium version, and other will create theme cause he just loves WordPress.
ThemeForest != WordPress.org
But ThemeForest is different. Here people create themes cause they want to earn money, and to do it they need to make their themes stand out with some super functionality, so the user will feel loss when they change theme. Now when ThemeForest review team forces you to move some code to plugin, you are generally making free plugin for all, that you never intended on doing.
So when such plugin is created, it is done in a way that it is only usable with this theme(or other themes of current author). It will not work well with different themes, if it will run at all. Different thing is that those plugins aren’t really verified by review team.
Even Matthew Mullenweg thinks it is bad approach in current WordPress theme requirements, and propose different solution, to see who really cares about it.
A better approach would just be to have badges / tags for themes, rather than these draconian requirements. A “portable” tag could indicate that it’s easy to switch to and from a given theme, and demos could be shown with customized content and with default content — then let users decide.
ThemeForest is not WordPress.org – no one wants to give his work for free. So in the end you create another nonsense – plugin working with one theme. So what was the point again dear ThemeForest? Making installation and maintaining theme harder, just to look better in core WordPress community eyes?
In my opinion, ThemeForest forcing authors to create plugins that no one asked for is too much. They could suggest it and leave to author to decide, cause after all, authors have to put up with implications on their support later.
Theme update rejection
It is just another example of ThemeForest review process problem, when reviewer rejects update for theme that does not sell anymore. It happens often when you want to release security update, or fix to new WordPress version. Then reviewer will decide that you have to fix this, that, and other things, before he will let your update in.
So it is OK to have theme on marketplace with those “issues”, ready to be bought or downloaded by current customers, but it is NOT OK to release critical fix? What a nonsense!
Now you get two options: waste your time on “dead project” and add requested changes(if it is at all possible), or shout at reviewer and resubmit same file. This is one situation when you can actually achieve something with your comment, and usually on resubmit they accept your update. However you have to still waste time cause of stupid decision of review team.
There will be people that will say I am just complaining in this post but I don’t care. This is not what I am trying to achieve with this post.
I remember when one of our themes got hard reject in 2014. After few months of work on theme, review team just said no. Getting any real hints what we can do next was almost impossible. That was miserable time for us, powerless for 2 months, while doing nothing else but “ping pong” with review team.
Now, even if we will have 30 rejects on one theme we will not give up, we will not get “mind block” cause some dude just came up with new rule, what is plugin territory. Anyway there will be post with some advices on how to survive ThemeForest review pretty soon.
Nowadays ThemeForest, or rather Envato, is known for not listening to community they have built, it can be widely seen on their forums. I don’t know if this post will change anything, however maybe at least it will add something to discussion. Maybe you have some experience that you want to share also?
We are not few million dollar author, we are just two of many dudes that try to make a living…. When ThemeFusion hit a million milestone in 2011, they said about review team:
As an author, your first instinct is to get upset, and maybe throw the half cup of latte sitting on your desk at the rejection email. Or to retaliate by posting up a ranting forum thread about the review team. But please, don’t do that. 😉
Well, guess I didn’t listen on this one, however this is not revenge and I am still drinking my latte calmly.