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Web Design Interview: Q&A with RocketTheme Partnership Manager Ryan Pierson
Updated: 2014-08-08 / Article by: Lori Soard
The idea for a club-based template site was first born in 2004, when Andy Miller, CEO of RocketTheme was working as a “core developer for Mambo CMS”. He started mambodev.com in that same year, which offered templates as well as customized work. That site developed into what is today RocketTheme. RocketTheme provides templates to its members to help them take a basic website into something with an extraordinary design.
The site offers premium Joomla templates and also templates for WordPress, Magento and phpBB. You'll also find free plugins and extensions for these platforms, such as a weather module that plugs into Yahoo or Wunderground APIS and shows weather information. That is just one of the many extensions available on RocketTheme.
Introduction: RocketTheme The Company
RocketTheme is a sort of template club. Could you tell us a little more about how membership works?
We offer two different primary methods of purchasing our templates and themes. The first is a subscription service which allows you to subscribe to one of our platform clubs. These club memberships come with full access to our entire library of templates for a given platform, as well as support for the templates and any extensions or additional products we make available for the platform.
For example, if you subscribe to our Joomla club, you are able to download any of our supported Joomla templates, as well as receive support for them and any of our Joomla extensions.
The second method is an outright purchase, which is a one-time charge that gives you the ability to download the template or theme and use it on up to one live site. You also receive support for it and any extensions or plugins for as long as the products are supported. This is a better option for folks that want specific templates and don't want to have to worry about their subscription term lapsing when they need support later on.
Entire Platform Catalog
Full Access to Club Forums
Template and Extension Only
1 – 3 (expandable)
How is RocketTheme different than other template clubs out there?
We like to think that we produce an excellent product that stands the test of time. We regularly go back to some of our older templates and update them to take advantage of the latest technologies and standards, so you have the peace of mind of knowing that your site won't become obsolete or caught behind the curve.
We created Gantry, a powerful framework for WordPress and Joomla, and released it as an open source project to enable anyone that wants to build their own template the chance to do so with the same framework we use for the ones we sell. We have also released all of our extensions and plugins as free products, enabling anyone with any template or theme to use them on their site.
About RocketTheme's Templates
You offer templates in formats like Joomla! and WordPress. What is your most popular format and why do you think that is?
We are currently the largest Joomla provider out there. Our founder, Andy Miller, was one of the original core founders of the Joomla project, and we owe a lot of our success to the Joomla community.
That said: We create and support products for four major platforms: Joomla, WordPress, phpBB, and Magento. We have team members assigned to create and maintain products on each of them, and we offer the same level of support across the board.
You will find that most of our designs are available on all four of these platforms. This enables our users to find a style they like and stick with it, even if they decide to migrate their site from Joomla to WordPress, or to add a phpBB forum.
Your company developed the Gantry Framework. Tell us a little more about this and why it is beneficial to business owners…
The Gantry framework started out as a product of necessity. We found ourselves having to repeat a lot of processes as we developed new templates. We were reinventing the wheel each time to add elements that our customers enjoyed from one design to the next, and Gantry became a way for us to do something very well one time, and easily add it to future designs.
The framework has evolved quite a lot since its early days, and we have made huge strides in creating something that is user friendly, fast, and easy to customize.
It seems like WordPress sites are under almost constant attack from hackers these days? Are your themes updated regularly to account for new security breaches or what safeguards do you have in place?
We are constantly monitoring our member forums for any reports of security issues related to our themes, and are quick to update any theme where such a problem would exist.
Because our modern themes are all built with the same framework (Gantry) we are able to quickly identify and deploy fixes that cover all of our themes at one time.
* Note: We have included some samples of RocketTheme's templates at end of this interview.
RocketTheme Membership Details
What do I get if I join the club? Is it just access to the already created themes or are new themes added regularly? If so, how often, how many, etc.?
Joining one of our clubs gives you instant access to our entire library of templates, themes, or styles for that particular platform. You can download and test with as many as you'd like, and you receive site licenses which allow you to use our templates on live sites. You can get up to three licenses when you join the club, and you have the option to purchase more at any time. You also gain additional licenses each time you renew.
You also gain access to our support forums for both our templates and any associated extensions. These forums are manned by a team of moderators in addition to our developers. We will go out of our way to make sure that questions are answered promptly and completely.
I'd say perhaps one of our biggest assets for members is our community. Through our forums, our members are constantly connecting with one-another and seeing benefits from these discussions.
I notice you have a Premier support option for club members for a little extra. What is an example of how this can be used by business owners?
This option is available for anyone that is facing an issue or needing an extra hand getting our templates or extensions to do something unique for their site. It's also available for anyone that might need an extra set of eyes or some minor tweaking to one of our templates.
A lot of our customers are building their first site, or creating something that is much larger and more detailed than anything they've tackled before. We are here to help if they need it.
RocketTheme's Affiliate Program
Many of our readers are website owners who are interested in ways to build streams of income for their site. I understand you have an affiliate program. How would one go about signing up for this program?
Our affiliate program is managed by ShareASale and it's a great way to earn some extra cash by spreading the word about what RocketTheme has to offer. Our affiliate program is a great fit for anyone that blogs about web design, or has a site that focuses on another complementary topic.
Is there anything web owners can do to make the program more successful, such as placement on the page that you’ve noticed is more effective, personal endorsement, or such?
The best rule of thumb here is to keep the link clean and easily visible. Sites that depend largely on ads tend to clutter the page with banners and create ad blindness with their visitors. If you want to be successful, keep the clutter down to a minimum.
We have some guidelines in place to make sure that our link is used on a site where it would make sense, and that the link is presented in a way that doesn't cause confusion for the visitor.
Customizing the Themes
How customizable are the themes? Is it just a matter of rewriting a little code or adding different styles to get a new look or is it more complex?
Our themes are very customizable. This is thanks in large part to our use of the Gantry framework as it makes rearranging modules/widgets very easy. You can turn a RocketTheme template into just about any type of site you could imagine.
Just about every aspect of our templates can be customized without having to deal with code.
Do you have any statistics, graphs or charts related to RocketTheme that you’d like to share with our readers?
While we don’t have any specific charts or graphs to share at this time, we do have a vibrant and growing community of Web developers, small business owners, and aspiring entrepreneurs that not only interact with us and each other through our forums, but through social media as well.
Our Facebook and Twitter pages have a follower base of over 10,000 each, and we use these platforms to connect and share information with our community on a more personal basis.
Our core team is made up of just over a dozen members, including developers, a technical writer, quality control, and support coordinators. We also have a team of forum moderators that provide additional support to our user base via our forums. Our team is based around the world in places like the US, UK, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Croatia, Greece, and Indonesia.
Despite our distance, we produce four templates, styles, or themes on average each month. Additionally, we regularly maintain and update our library of extensions for several major platforms which are made freely available to anyone, whether they own a RocketTheme template or not.
We also created the Gantry framework, which is open and available to anyone to use as part of their next template or theme design.
“We are in the middle of development of Gantry5, which is a major update for our primary framework, and one that will introduce a lot of new features for our users. We plan to share more information about these new features through our blogover the next month.”
Ryan Matthew Pierson has over ten years of experience in technology writing, blogging, and broadcasting. In addition to multimedia content production, he's written thousands of articles on the subject of technology which have been published in some of the top tech sites and newsletters on the Web.
About Lori Soard
Lori Soard has been working as a freelance writer and editor since 1996. She has a bachelor's in English Education and a PhD in Journalism. Her articles have appeared in newspapers, magazines, online and she's had several books published. Since 1997, she has worked as a web designer and promoter for authors and small businesses. She even worked for a short time ranking websites for a popular search engine and studying in-depth SEO tactics for a number of clients. She enjoys hearing from her readers.