Learn From Our Mistakes, Bug Testing Theme Tips

Over the years of developing themes we have learnt quite a lot in terms of how to best develop our themes for a wide audience. Things like knowing when to put a feature into a plugin VS baking it into the theme, knowing when to stop adding features just for the heck of it, and finding the best plugins and methods to bug test our themes before release.

Today I just wanted to go over some of the details of how we bug test our themes and do quality assurance testing. I find the best way to bug test a theme is to set it up as if you were going to use the theme yourself for a project. This way you can spot all the difficulties customers could run into and iron out all the kinks.

The number one lesson I’ve learnt over the years is to ask yourself continually the question: “Could this feature be in a plugin?”. We believe the theme should just be the appearance and not the functionality. We have, ourselves, included features in our themes that should have been apart of a plugin and saw how adding the functionality into the theme has caused issues with updates, support, and overall has cost us money. So if you’re a theme developer, ask yourself  “Could this feature be in a plugin?”.

On that note: We have some great upcoming themes in the near future that use our new plugin “Framework” for the functionality and the theme just is, for the most part, a CSS file. We hope that this will help us develop themes much faster as updates can be done to the theme without changing the customizations the customer may have done to the theme.

My top 5 plugins I use when bug testing our themes are:

  1. Monster Widget – this plugin consolidates all of 13 core widgets into one single widget meaning I don’t have to drag all the widgets into the side bar, I can just move the one Monster Widget into the sidebar area, this saves a ton of time and helps us see all the issues that need to be addressed via CSS in the theme.
  2. VIP Scanner – which is very much like the Theme Check plugin but if you’re thinking of submitting your themes to the WordPress.com marketplace then you need to run this plugin against your theme. It has a few different checks built into the plugin i.e. WordPress.com and WordPress.org theme review checks. It allows you to run the checks against themes, plugins, directories, single files etc.
  3. Deprecation Checker – along with running the WP_Debug mode in your WordPress setup, I use this plugin to see any deprecated functions that may be in the theme. It allows you to view all the deprecated functions with the path to the file, which line number the deprecated function is on, and the new recommended function to use.
  4. JetPack – It can cause a ton of issues with the theme so I extensively test our themes with all of the features that JetPack offers. Each time theres a new feature in JetPack I have to test it with the theme
  5. WordPress Beta Tester – testing with future releases of WordPress is something that I haven’t done much of.  But now that I’ve found a plugin that makes it easier, I will be checking our themes with the nightly builds when the WordPress version is close to being released.

So what are some plugins or ways you like to bug test your themes/plugins? If you have any suggestions, I’m all ears!

Isotopes for WordPress

I just finished up some neat little plugins which utilize the Isotope JS script developed by David DeSandro and Metafizzy. We’re actually using it on our own website! Check it out in action here: http://mintthemes.com/themes/
(Notice the area that says “Filter”. Try clicking on a few of those and watch the themes fly around perfectly into place!)

Get The Plugin

The general premise behind these Isotope integration plugins is showing a “grid” of posts. A grid being X number of posts-per-row and Y number of posts-per-page. You can choose how many posts you wish to show and at which size.

By having the plugin create the “grid” of posts, we are easily able to integrate Isotope JS to filter those posts by category, tag, or any other taxonomy. It also makes it so that our “grid” can transition from theme to theme without ever breaking.

All of this can be done without any coding on your part. You simply install the plugin, tweak a couple of settings, and you’re done! I wanted to make integration of Isotope with WordPress completely seamless and require no extra coding.

There is a plugin for each type of post you might have. So for regular WordPress “Posts” (think blog), you can use the forever-free “PostGrid” plugin. For Easy Digital Downloads “downloads”, you can use the “DownloadGrid” plugin. For WooCommerce, you can use the “WooGrid”. And I also developed a special grid for showing your Social Media posts from Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube right on your website! (Im super excited about this one because it really amps up people’s websites and ties it together with their social media accounts.) You can find all of these grid plugins on our Plugin website here: https://mintplugins.com/isotopes-for-wordpress/

PostGrid WordPress Plugin Demo (showing Isotope Filtering)


SocialGrid WordPress Plugin Demo (showing Isotope Filtering)

Update: I noticed a lot of people are asking for support here in the comments. I am more than happy to help you out but the best way to contact is by emailing support@mintplugins.com.

Why I am a huge fan of the “Soft Launch”

I don’t even know if that’s what you call it – “Soft Launch”? But yeah, the idea is simply that rather than doing a huge countdown before you launch a website or a product, you do it quietly. I used to believe in the “Hard Launch” especially when I was releasing new music with my band – but I’ve changed my mind for several reasons – at least for small businesses.

There are some advantages to doing a “Hard Launch”, like gathering excitement and getting your product out to a large number of people right away. The idea is that you start to drop hints about what is coming, whether on Twitter or Facebook or whatever, and then let everybody know EXACTLY when it will be released: EG “Thursday at Midnight!!”. You might even do a countdown clock on your website.

Movies do this a lot. You’ll see the trailers and movie posters all over the place for months ahead of it’s release. And then on the first night of the movie release, tons of people go and watch it because the excitement has been built up so much.

But there’s a couple differences between movies and most small businesses.

  1. Most small businesses do not have the budget, manpower, or resources to properly execute a “Hard Launch”, where movies do.
  2. Movies are here and then gone. They are only in the theatre for a few weeks (maybe months) and thats it. Small businesses need staying power.

Like I said before, I’ve done the hard launch – and failed miserably at it. With my band we released an album with a TON of build up. Months in fact! There were a lot of people waiting for us to release it at the exact moment we said we would (12:00 midnight). But the problem was that there was SO much to get ready that we just didn’t have the manpower to finish every little detail. And so midnight came and midnight went – by 6am the next morning we had released it but everyone had since gone to bed.

The people eventually came back and listened to our music and many loved it. But we didn’t deliver on the promise we made to release it when we said we would – and that wrecked the magic a little bit.

That brings me to my main point about why I am a fan of the “Soft Launch”. Less Stress.

It is pretty stressful to arrive at the eleventh hour and find out there is a bug in your system, or your server has gone down, or any number of other things that could go wrong. And even though you might have prepared, and bug tested, and planned everything to the nines, Murphy’s Law always kicks in and you’re gonna get stressed out.

Not only that, but there are some major advantages to doing a “Soft Launch”.

  1. If your product does have a problem, only a small number of your users will have received it, found it, and will likely have reported it back to you. This allows you to fix it before thousands of people come to you reporting the problem – and the chaos that ensues.
  2. It allows a grassroots movement to spread your product – which is the best form of advertising. Nothing beats word-of-mouth. And allowing your product to be used/heard/experienced and spread by your small base of users gives it that staying power and lays a better foundation than sensationalism would.
  3. Your stress levels will be much lower – which really is a nice thing. 🙂

So that’s my advice to you if you are a small business/company/band. Work within your means and be awesome at what you do. Realize what will and won’t work for you and your company. 9 times out of 10 I would say that a “Soft Launch” makes more sense.

New Website Launch!

We are very excited to have finally launched our new website design after almost a full year in development! You’ll see things are looking pretty spiffy around here and it’s all been completely re-coded from the ground up. Additionally, we also just launched our plugin site over at Mint Plugins – which is built entirely by using MP Stacks.

Psst! Check out the best WordPress Themes for Launching a new Product!

Admittedly, I was a little but shy to the idea of re-doing our entire website at first because I knew what a large undertaking it would be.  To completely re-design, re-create, and move everything and everyone over to a new design and code base was a huge learning experience, for sure. And it has helped us grow as not only as a business, but also as WordPresser’s in general by leaps and bounds.

A few of our goals with the new website were to make it faster, easier to navigate for users, and easier for us to manage/update. Most of all, we wanted to help our clients get to know us better. If you take a gander around the site I think you’ll get a pretty good idea of who we are and what we do as a company.

The bulk of what makes this version so great is its foundation – which consists of two main parts. The first is the cart system – which is running on the Easy Digital Downloads plugin by Pippin Williamson. It handles everything from the cart, to the checkout, to the delivery of files, to the new Members Lounge – which we think you will appreciate very much! Easy Digital Downloads is the most solid plugin I have ever had the privilege of using and I highly recommend trying it if you are creating a digital download related website. That and Pippin is one of the most helpful dudes around! I’ll be doing a full blog about Easy Digital Downloads soon.

The second part would be WordPress – which truly is the most amazing content management system out there today. We are really thankful to be a part of such an awesome community. And if you aren’t using WordPress for your website – I definitely recommend you put it in your plans because it gets better with every release.

I also want to highlight some of the harder parts about doing this re-launch. Probably the hardest was trying to keep consistently releasing content and themes that were useful to our customers while simultaneously working on our own website – and all the while answering support tickets as well. It can also feel like it is taking a very long time to complete – almost like it may never happen. If you’re in the middle of a project like that, I would say keep going even when you feel like you’ll never finish, cause if you stop – well that’s the only way you won’t finish. Haha. Eventually if you keep working hard when you can find the time, it does come to a point where you feel like you’re ready to launch. And it’s a pretty good feeling that gets better knowing we’ll be able to help more people get their own projects off the ground.

We are excited to get back to making themes and plugins full-steam – because that’s really what we’re here to do. And we feel good about the fact that our website has the ability to facilitate that much better as well.

As always, if you have any questions or need help you can contact us at support@mintthemes.com – or leave us some thoughts in the comments below.




Are you looking to launch your own website? Great! It’s easier than you think. The first thing you’ll need is a place for your website to “live”. This is called “web hosting” and there are a lot of companies that offer it at differing prices and values – but there are 2 main groups:

  • “Shared Hosting” – Inexpensive web hosting for small/new websites.
  • “Dedicated Hosting” – More expensive hosting for larger websites.

Shared, inexpensive web hosts will work for most new websites. However, there is something that they do that is a little bit sneaky: they often claim to give you “unlimited” space for your files to sit – and “unlimited” bandwidth (which is how many people can visit your site per month). Nothing in life is TRULY unlimited though – and this is really a clever marketing ploy they will tell you to get you to sign up – while in the fine print (which none of us actually read), they put a lot of limitations on you.

So are inexpensive web hosts evil? No. They are usually the best option for brand new websites and I definitely recommend them to many people getting started. You just need to be aware that there is no such thing as “unlimited” and if you see your website starting to grow a lot, you’ll eventually want to transition to a more expensive, “dedicated” host before they shut your hosting account down (I have seen this happen to friends and it isn’t very fun – so be sure to keep an eye on your growth using Google Analytics).

Dedicated hosts are able to handle high amounts of traffic – and vary a lot. I won’t get into dedicated hosting too much here because this post is targeted at “new website” launches. If your website has grown to the point of needing to move to “dedicated” or you’re just not sure, feel free to send us an email to support@mintplugins.com with your questions.

Now you’ll want to install WordPress – which is the best website managment system on the internet by far – and powers over 20% of ENTIRE internet! It’s totally free to set up – and most web hosts will install WordPress on your hosting for you free-of-charge.

Finally, I recommend installing our free page building plugin for WordPress called “MP Stacks”. It will allow you to really get your website’s pages EXACTLY how you want them to look. To learn more about MP Stacks, click here.

Compra Theme is Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

We’re constantly nit-picking through our themes with a fine toothed comb to make sure they are the best they can be – and we’re proud to release version of the Compra theme. This is the hardest, betterest, fastest, and strongest version of Compra there has ever been and we didn’t skimp around the edges.

With 14 new features and fixes, the Compra theme is now slicker than ever. We’ve added support for Child Themes, cleaned up the entire footer area, and added social links to tons of websites including Pinterest, Youtube, Vimeo, Facebook, Twitter and tons more!

The theme also has a built in checker to make sure you are using the latest version. This way, you’ll know when we release new updates and you can stay directly on top of the ball – which is the best seat in the house.

Happy Websiting!

Updates for Compra and Armonico

We just released new versions for Compra and Armonico – which are our eCommerce themes. In these version we added the ability for you to number items using letters and special characters as well as numbers. This is something that was requested by people who are trying to build up their online stores and organize their products using letters as well as numbers.

Also, just added in Compra is the ability to add less than 3 images per product. We wanted to make sure that there were lots of angles for each product you add to the store – but for those of you who only need 1 or 2 images per item, you can now do that as well.

Happy websitemaking!

How To: Display YouTube Videos Full Screen

In order to link to a YouTube video that fills the entire window (as is needed is some of our themes, like Faded), simply follow these instructions.

1. Browse to the YouTube video you want to use

2. Copy the URL in the address bar

3. Change the “watch?v=” to just “embed”

Podcasting, Timthumb, and Bears – Oh My!

Alright, so there weren’t any bears hiding in our themes. But we were having some issues with podcasting. The issues being that it wasn’t working for a lot of you. Well, we’ve managed to completely fix that issue in the newest releases of our themes and you shouldn’t have any more problems with getting podcasting set up.

For the techies, we changed the way the Podcast Feed is generated. We were using the add_feed() function built in to WordPress. However, for some reason it was throwing 404 errors in iTunes and Feed validators, even though the actual content was still loading. We decided to change the way we generate the feed entirely so that now it is loaded from a page and page template (which is auto-created by the theme) instead. This has fixed the problem with the 404 error.

Also, we have updated the thumb.php script to the latest version of TimThumb – which was released on December 9th, 2011.

Happy Christmas everybody!

Our first eCommerce theme released!

The Mint Themes eCommerce adventure has just been kick started and it’s about to jump into hyperdrive! We’ve completed our first eCommerce theme and it is ready to start making online stores everywhere look great. We hmm’ed and haw’d for a long time because we wanted to make this the best eCommerce theme for WordPress that anyone has ever used. We wanted it to be the easiest to use and also have beautiful, custom styling.

We decided to build it on the Cart66 eCommerce plugin for WordPress because of it’s power and simplicity. It also allowed us to design our theme exactly the way we wanted. Check out the design of the product page for yourself here. We wanted it to have a mini-gallery and have the product options at the side.

There was some talk about incorporating some other plugins like Shopp, JigoShop, WooCommerce, and WP-Ecommerce. We may still do that but, at this point, Cart66 was the one that allowed us the most flexibility in design and simplicity for the user.

We think that you’ll find the Compra theme is one of the easiest eCommerce themes to use on the market – and that it’s among our best designs so far.

You talked – we listened.

The age old saga of MP3 vs. Ogg has been battling in our themes for generations! Or, well, at least since we released them. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, Oggs are audio files very similar to MP3s. The difference is that Ogg is a free and open audio encoding format and MP3 is a proprietary media encoding format. The MP3 designers claim they could charge royalties for anyone who uses MP3s or any software. Their patent expires in 2017.

The chances of that happening are pretty low, but I personally believe in the open source movement (yay WordPress!) – and for that reason I prefer Ogg files. But the fact that you probably go “huh?” when I say “Ogg” just goes to show that most people use MP3s.

The browsers have been battling over this issue as well, with Safari and Chrome preferring MP3s, and Firefox being the lone gun demanding the use of Ogg files only.

Because of that, we have required all of our theme users to upload both Ogg files as well as MP3s whenever audio files are used (Music Players, Sermons, etc.).

We got a lot of complaints from our users letting us know that this was annoying. And fair enough. Needless to say, it’s annoying to have to create 2 versions of each audio file and store them both on your web hosting space.

So, because we want to do our absolute best to serve you and make your life the easiest it can be, we have removed Oggs from our themes and now you only need to upload MP3 files. We use the Flash fallback for Firefox and your music will happily play in any browser without needing to encode a second Ogg version.

I can already hear the crowds cheering and chanting my name…ahhh. Your welcome.

P.S. To get the new version of the theme just re-download it from your original point of purchase. Remember to always backup your themes before you replace them with a new version as well. Backing up is smart!

E-commerce Themes Beautifully Designed

Our next major project is to release several beautifully designed e-commerce themes. Some will be responsive (meaning compatible with mobile devices) and work with many of the leading WordPress e-commerce plugins so that you have a choice of which plugin you wish to use.

We don’t want to limit you in what e-commerce plugins you can use with our themes so we will make sure that they are as compatible as possible. Some of the plugins we plan to integrate into our themes are Cart66, Shopp, JigoShop, Quixly, and PulleyApp. We are interested in seeing what plugins you think we should integrate and also what styles of themes we should be designing.

We currently have a trendy girly theme, a tee-shirt shop theme, and a minimal shop design that could be used for just about any e-commerce store.

Here’s a teaser of a couple of themes in the works.

What’s Cooking at Mint Themes HQ?

Quick update from Mint Themes HQ. We are hard at work getting the code completed for the much anticipated DJ theme. Lets just say there has been many a Monster Energy drink consumed in the late night code sessions from Mint Themes’ co-founder and lead coder, Phil. It should be headed to beta testing very shortly.

Co-founder and lead designer, Adam, has been hard at work on the next Mint Theme. It’s going to be the first of our e-commerce themes. It’s starring characteristic is how clean and fresh the design is. It could fit any store or niche out of the box but is also highly customizable. Look for this theme at towards the end of October.

Don’t forget the best way to find out what we are up to is by checking out our blog here and subscribing to our newsletter at the bottom of the page!

We want to hear from you! What theme styles or designs are you looking for from Mint Themes?