zillah
TL;DR: We have a new theme. It’s our best free theme to date. And it will stay free for life. No paid add-ons, no upsells. Just quality features, updates … everything that you’d normally expect from a paid theme, delivered for free. Zillah.

One of our goals at ThemeIsle for this year is to create amazing free products for WordPress and give back to the WordPress community as much as we can. Ionut already explained how we can afford to do so in this prequel post.

One of the ways in which we want to make that the reality is by releasing completely free themes that are of the same quality as our premium themes.

But in order to make this happen, we needed to change our mindset slightly. Since the only goal was to build a great final product without holding back anything, this has helped us regain our passion for building themes in general. Everything that we thought should find its place in the final release did.

And since we owe everything to WordPress – which originally started off as a blogging platform – we’ve decided to make this newest theme all about blogging and the blogger in you.

Introducing Zillah, our newest free, no-features-locked theme for bloggers and writers.

  • This theme will remain free for life,
  • no upsells,
  • no locked features,
  • no paid add-ons.

Also, prepare yourself for free updates because we intend to keep this theme as up-to-date as it can be.

Zillah landing page

Here’s the story behind Zillah + what you can expect of it:

Zillah homepage

Click the image for theme demo

A dashing WordPress theme for the blogger in you

First off, we’ve worked hard on this product, and we owe the stunning result to the people that got involved:

  • the man with the plan – Ionut who has unlocked the resources needed to achieve this
  • the lovely Ashley who kept true to herself and designed such an elegant theme, just like her own style
  • our developers who worked around the clock to implement everything: Claudiu and Rodica (who also came up with the brilliant “Zillah” name for the theme)
  • each member of the ThemeIsle crew – from graphic design, to marketing and (spoiler alert) support

We’ve promised to keep this theme free, which means that our work doesn’t stop here. We’re going to continue building it and updating it constantly. You can take our word for it because we actually use Zillah on our main channels (on this very blog and IonutN.com). We also have a promise to keep to our friends who have beta tested it and ultimately ended up switching to Zillah for good: Madalin Milea and Catalin Zorzini.

“If you value style and simplicity, the Zillah WordPress blogging theme will appeal to you.” -Joe Fylan

Looking into the future, two of the features that are next on the plate for Zillah are:

  • WooCommerce integration – for everyone who wants to sell their products directly through their main WordPress site.
  • New fonts – for more customization and better branding possibilities.

(By the way, if you have any cool features in mind that you’d like to see in Zillah, please submit your ideas on GitHub and we’ll take a look.)

Feel free to go ahead and download Zillah, there’s no signup needed:

Need help setting up the theme? Write to us via the customer support channel. Our amazing support team will be with you in max 24h. Yes, support is also free of charge with Zillah.

How we introduced Zillah to the world

We are proud that ThemeIsle is now a growing business even though we did start off bootstrapped. This means that we can invest in various ideas that we value, and come up with products like Zillah (the last time we did something similar was with Parallax One). And it’s not just development cost we’re talking about here. Once the whole theme is built, then come the marketing efforts.

Here’s our go-to-market strategy (just keep in mind that some of the actions described below did require a lot of work and some skin in the game):

Firstly, in order to bulletproof Zillah, we reached out to ThemeReview for a technical check. But we also wanted to see how it behaves in the hands of an actual user, so we asked some WordPress bloggers to test the theme and see how it works for them. Their reviews appeared this week on WPKube and WPDailyThemes. From an online marketing point of view, those reviews represent authority links pointing to Zillah and bringing it into the light. This is how we approached these partner sites:

Email sample

We’re also using some of our own media to reference back to Zillah, which has an impact if you already have some fairly popular sites to back you up. For us, the CodeinWP blog and JustFreeThemes are valuable places for reaching WordPress users looking for WordPress theme-related topics. Moreover, for our CodeinWP readers, we’re preparing a newsletter that will include a mention to this very article. So the more sites you have, the more subscribers on board!

Talking about email marketing, we reached out to our friends at CreativeTim who kindly agreed to announce Zillah en première in their own weekly newsletter. This is what the piece looks in the email they sent out to their designer audience:
CreativeTim Newsletter
We also added a paid newsletter in the bucket and got featured in WebCodeGeeks (the listing cost us a bit over $500). We reached a different niche this time, mostly web developers and freelancers who can now recommend Zillah to their clients. The listing:
WebCodeGeeks Newsletter
Some of our growth-hacking tactics also include placing links in the most popular networks dealing with design/development resources. Keep in mind, though, that in order to get some traction there, you must be an active member, have a good karma, and not just ask for votes out of the blue. Those networks have complex algorithms that will keep you from popping out from nowhere and abusing the system. But if you behave properly, in time, you will start seeing some results. Here’s where we like to hang out: Product Hunt, ManageWP, Reddit, Hacker News, Designer News.
ProductHunt profile
Last but not least, we crafted a retargeting campaign (we’re using Perfect Audience) for people who already have a connection with ThemeIsle – have visited our site, or have liked our Facebook page. Ad campaigns can really pay off, if you’re doing it the smart way and segmenting your target audience thoroughly.

One week worth of results

All these actions took place over the course of a week, from Thursday to Monday, overlapping the weekend, and not just any weekend, the #EURO2016 opening, so maybe this was not the best timing. An important thing to remember: research what could steal your audience’s attention before planning up a campaign.

We have the traffic results, as well as the theme’s downloads in. There were 3865 views on the theme’s landing page, and 2585 downloads.

This doesn’t mean that the CTR was 65%, though. In many places, we used a direct link for downloading the ZIP, so some of the users haven’t seen the theme’s page or the demo before getting it. What made a difference, though, was that we didn’t ask for emails in exchange. You could and can just get the theme right away.

Traffic - dummy
A great number of these views come from the Facebook campaign. Facebook Ads worked for us because we used them to communicate with our past visitors, not to target new people. In general, however, Facebook Ads aren’t that perfect of a marketing method anymore.

The display campaign on PerfectAudience hasn’t been such a great success. We’ve made 30,000 impressions though and for around $40, which counts for brand awareness. In time, such actions increase the ThemeIsle brand recognition:

Perfect Audience results

On the demo page, the traffic was about the same as on the landing page, 3600 views. But our efforts have paid off, as you can see below. The first referrals are DesignerNews (including aggregators like UsePanda and Sidebar.io), Reddit, Facebook and Hacker News. Again, these results rely on a constant activity on these networks.

Slack for iOS Upload (1)

In conclusion, Zillah is one good example of what the love for open source can result in. There’s a lot more we could have done, but we believe this is just the beginning for Zilah, and that its popularity will grow organically from now on.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this transparency-like written post, and that it helped you understand how we’re doing things at ThemeIsle.

One last important thing, we’d love to hear from you – how do you like Zillah, and what are *you* doing to promote your products?