1479 posts The right tools with none of the gimmicks
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PixelBin says

This is not a rant. Don’t take it as one. :)

After looking through countless themes here, I have come to the conclusion that the simpler the theme, the better. Either reviewers reject more complex themes with a bit more detailed styling, or authors just aren’t making those.

What I noticed is 1px borders, plain solid color backgrounds with no special bordering, simple headers with often a logo, navigation and maybe a page heading.

Before coming to design for Theme Forest, I used to make more well-styled designs but they just aren’t getting accepted, and in fact, I don’t see too many of them.

Bottom-line: Is it better to design very simple designs because those are the ones that get accepted and sell more?

Fin.

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BuchmannDesign says

I think fancy designs tend to fit more of a niche audience, and thus sell less. If you go simple, clean, elegant, tasteful, etc, it will attract a larger audience. It’s often easier for people to adapt their business/personal site to something simple than to something complex.

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digitalimpact says

Its all about how useful that template is.

It doesn’t cost Envato anything to add your template (ok, the reviewer’s time) and I don’t think a great pool cleaner’s site template would be rejected. As long as it’s useful to potential buyers, there’s no hidden reason to reject it.

That’s why I like TF over TM ;)

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PixelBin says

Don’t get me wrong, TF is amazing. It has the perfect balance between quality, quantity, community, and rate of growth as a site—that’s why I like it.

I just noticed that most of the themes are very simple (not saying they’re bad), but they sell like hotcakes. :)

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uttaresh says

Well I’m new here, so I don’t really know what gets rejected and what gets accepted. Maybe the more “complex” designs you’re talking about are …. ummm … how do I put this … a little too crowded? Or difficult to use or read? I mean I’ve seen many people who make crappy, congested designs, and expect them to be accepted into galleries of famous graphics sites. Most of the times they focus on adding more and more, and forgo quality completely.

On the other hand, I’ve seen many beautiful designs on DeviantArt and other sites, more complex ones AND of high quality. But even they rarely sell. I guess it’s like the above posters say: The buyers want simple, easy, editable templates.

Now I’m not saying that’s how it is here, just a general trend I’ve noticed. But I really don’t know what templates YOU ’RE talking of, so an example would be helpful. :)

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kailoon Envato team says

If you manage to control and present a complex theme in a professional way, why not? not all simple theme get accepted too.

It is all about it’s quality and usability. One thing you cannot avoid is that if the theme is not making any sales, it doesn’t benefits author and TF. Even how great the design is. This is a marketplace…

People will follow the top selling items, that’s for sure, why? insurance.

Well, I believe we all (reviewer + author) are waiting for something different, unique but up to standard, look professional and attractive. That will definitely “wake me up” when I am reviewing :)

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MDNW says

In response to your post title. Yes! Simple IS better in most cases… but let’s dig a little deeper on why that is.

This topic keeps coming up and it’s kinda odd… there seems to be a genuine segment of the forum posters who insist that the TF reviewers are out to dumb down or otherwise exclude complex or otherwise “different” designs. This is missing the point. It’s quite easy to over-manipulate or over-photoshop a website design and call it “good”. What’s hard is designing an elegant and useful design that appeals to a mass audience and doesn’t require the user (buyer) to open up photoshop every time that they want to change a piece of text.

More is not necessarily better – this rule applies to all design disciplines, from web design to typography to industrial design to interior design; but especially with something like microstock where the end-user (the buyer) is likely going to make modifications to the theme. The more complex a design is, the harder it is for that end users to make any modifications – or rather, the products becomes less usable.

Furthermore, many of the designs that are top sellers here are anything but simple in my opinion. Sure, they aren’t overly glossy/grungy/or otherwise manipulated, but if you look closely at the designs, you’ll notice a painstakingly meticulous attention to detail in everything from padding and margins to typography and use of graphics. If you take a look at some of the prettier, but lower selling templates on here – they generally are overly-complex and simply aren’t usable as templates even though they are pretty at first glance.

Consider the most respected designed websites among top-tier design circles: http://apple.com, http://cpluv.com/, http://www.behance.net/, http://virb.com/ ... the list goes on. Each of these designs is appealing for their intelligent use of simplicity to deliver a focused message to a broad audience.

Site designs that show up on http://thefwa.com are great, but they generally are one-off projects that are designed specifically to cater to one company and one message – not to mention the fact that these sites have to be hard-coded to each specific project – packaging them as templates is usually out of the question.

Now I agree that the marketplace will always benefit from diversity of products – and there is a need for more great designs that use unique approaches to layout, navigation, custom grids, etc…. but to equate a lack of messy, artful, super-photoshopy designs available in the store with a lack of diversity simply isn’t a fair or accurate comparison.

The bottom line is this: if you don’t like the current offering, I would encourage you to release some templates that you feel would “fill the void” in the marketplace. What we see here isn’t necessarily a lack of diversity, but an opportunity for new and interesting authors to release a more diverse range of products. Just keep in mind that there are high standards for visual aesthetic and coding (and that your product will likely get rejected a few times before you get accepted) and you’ll be fine.

Cheers!

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PixelBin says

Very detailed post, Epicera.

But maybe I didn’t phrase correctly. The top selling templates are great, and by all means, not simple at all. And I’m not blaming the reviewers for rejecting themes, they’re absolutely correct in how they judge.

I was just simply wondering, as a designer, should I focus on lighter, simpler, more modifiable design rather than heavily styled design.

Thanks for the responses!

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MDNW says

No worries Phoenix – that wasn’t necessarily directed at you (and by all means wasn’t meant to be a rant in case anyone read it that way) – this was just the 4th post in the past couple of weeks that related to the notion of rejected templates… I just wanted to weigh in with my thoughts on the matter.

Anyways – yes – I think your best bet is to focus on simpler templates – if anything, it’s easier for buyers to visualize how they might be able to use the theme for their own needs. I wouldn’t limit yourself to just solid colors and 1px borders, but subtle touches are often more effective in templates than bold, noisy styles.

Hope that helps – looking forward to seeing more of your work here on TF :)

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