We had a chance this week to delve deep down into the mind one of our senior reviewers – Siddharth. While what we found was mostly disturbing, we did uncover some amazing insights on how the reviewers look at files and some of the most common reasons that files get rejected.
So take it away Siddharth Salsbury Jones III!
Howdy talented authors! In this ongoing quest for more transparency, here I am, again, with more juicy tidbits about the reviewing process. More specifically, I’d like to address some issues that are at the heart of most rejection. In the interest of brevity, I won’t go too much into the issues themselves.
Top Reasons Why ThemeForest Submissions Get Rejected
1. The overall presentation is generic
The slider and three column layout was all the rage a couple of years ago when I started off with Envato. Recently, it has been about minimalism and responsiveness. If you’re following those design trends just for the sake of it without adding your own personality to it, it’ll definitely show.
A design can be rejected for genericness if it’s yet another ‘me too’ item with very little identifying, unique touches and details in the design.
2. The design lacks polish
The overall concept of the design is only part of the process. The rest is up to how you execute the design itself.
Inconsistent margins, misalignments, missing visual hierarchy and unintuitive use of white space are all common issues that derail an otherwise brilliant design. Go through the design with a fine toothed comb before submitting and if rejected, ask for feedback from fellow authors and designs. A fresh pair of eyes on a design always helps.
3. The design is not sufficiently high quality for a premium item
We aren’t too age-ist when it comes to design trends but we draw a line at designs that seem to come from a decade ago — shouty color palettes, blinking GIFs, harsh gradients, the works.
Even if a design has contemporary roots, that’s not the end of it. It has to separate itself from the troves of free items available on the internet.
4. Code issues
On the back end, you’ll need to adhere to the core of WordPress’ theme review standards as well as WordPress best practices. One quick way to whack all of these pesky bugs is to make use of the theme check plugin.
5. Usability issues
While most submissions follow expected user interface patterns, there are some which not only do something different, but they do it so different, we’re completely baffled as to what it does.
For example, replacing a scroll bar with a custom one is completely acceptable. But programming a page to scroll sideways by default with informing the user hurts the UX. Similarly, if a toggle for a hidden menu is too well hidden, that page’s UX is crippled. Be clever, but don’t reinvent the wheel.
Top Reasons Why CodeCanyon Submissions Get Rejected
1. It caters to an overcrowded niche.
[We don't need more contact forms and voting scripts]
Most niches go through a semi gold rush mode where we get a lot of authors vying to sell a type of item that people are looking to buy. While this works out for the initial few submissions, as time goes on, we, as reviewers, are forced to compare submissions to existing items to gauge how it will add value to the marketplace.
As a general rule of thumb, if a niche has already 4-5 items catering to it, it’s going to be tough to get approved unless you add a couple features not found in the rest.
2. Item is too simple to be sold as a premium item
At CodeCanyon, we like simple, small items that make a developer’s life that little bit easier — be it through extensible menus or prebuilt pagination systems.
But there’s a critical mass of functionality below which an item becomes too simple to be sold a premium item. As always, do your research before developing an item. If a couple cURL calls and a few lines to format the response is all there is in your item, it’s best to reconsider.
3. Code doesn’t follow best practices of that specific platform
Web development is a field that’s in constant flux — standards keep moving forward all the time.
At CodeCanyon, we want items that are in line with that platform’s best practices. This way, a buyer can drop in a purchased item knowing that it fully complies with any existing standards.
4. Item doesn’t have prospects on CodeCanyon
Certain submissions can be well coded but still rejected for having zero prospects on CodeCanyon. One off example over the past couple of days was a fully functional porn aggregating system.
While the item itself maybe good, please keep in mind the buyer demographic before moving forward with the idea.
5. The item does illegal/unethical actions
Any item that makes use of blatantly illegal or blackhat techniques will get instantly rejected. Things include spamming a service’s API or making use of questionable SEO tactics.
6. Item is a demo and has no real world use
We often receive submissions that are stunning on a technical level but have zero real world use cases. Imagine some snazzy HTML5 powered animation — while it’s impressive on a technical level, without refactoring it to be customizable and extensible, it doesn’t have a real world use.
Tech demos aren’t the same as premium items.
7. Code is unoptimized and has rampant performance issues
As the saying for programming goes: make it work, make it right, make it fast. The problem is that authors often forget about the last part of the trifecta.
Optimized code runs fast and running fast is good. Quite good. While we don’t run your code through profilers, we do check for common optimization patterns to make sure everything is in place.
Common Reasons for Both Marketplaces
1. It’s a blatant copy of another item
Good authors get inspired, bad authors copy outright and get a ton of bad karma in the process.
It’s always a good idea to take a look at work from other authors to get inspired and get the creative juices flowing. But taking it to the next step by blatantly copying an item will never lead to a good outcome.
2. Documentation is bad or missing
Documentation is absolutely key for every marketplace item — buyer shouldn’t have to pore through your item to figure out how to customize it for their needs.
If your item is missing documentation or if the bundled docs aren’t very helpful, it’s time to take a step back and get this rectified. The best selling authors are known for their extensive documentation that make a buyer’s life easy.
3. Use of copyrighted assets in live preview and/or preview images
Envato has recently tightened up its stance towards IP and copyright issues. While we don’t actively evaluate licensing information [it's the author's duty], we do soft reject if we find blatant issues. The most common issue is including images of movies and celebrities in the live previews.
4. Lack of proper licensing information
The final issue that causes use to rage and soft reject is if you’ve missed including essential licensing information. This not only applies to plugins, fonts and snippets you’re re-using but to WordPress itself. That GPL license needs to stay in place!