What kind of themes is the Ghost marketplace in the market for?

I have made four Ghost themes, two open-source and two premium. I’m about to start work on my fifth theme. But first, I’d like to find out what it takes to get a theme in the official Marketplace.

Making Ghost theme development an economically viable activity is hard even when you have a best-selling premium theme. When Ghost pivoted to be more magazine-oriented, and the marketplace was relaunched, and the listings for my first two themes were taken down, downloads declined.

I soon discovered that selling enough copies of a theme that isn’t in the marketplace takes a lot of work, due to the comparatively small market for Ghost themes. Whether your theme makes it into the official marketplace has a huge effect on whether being a Ghost theme developer is economically sustainable.

So I decided it would be worth asking, before starting my next theme: what are you looking for when you’re reviewing themes for the marketplace?

I have read the guidelines, but other than the obvious things like ‘quality over quantity’ and ‘follow the guidelines’, they’re a bit vague. I don’t know whether Laminim was rejected due to quality issues, lack of uniqueness (my themes tend to be solid and pragmatic, but not terribly trendy), or because I didn’t follow of the rules in some way, so I’m not sure what area I need to improve on with my next theme.

The marketplace is currently dominated by fairly slick, modern, masonry layout magazine themes, Casper foremost among them. That seems like a pretty crowded space. Here are some ideas I’ve come up with for my next theme:

  1. A theme for longform literary magazines. Clean and typographic, ala The Paris Review, McSweeney’s, or Granta.

  2. A theme that is entirely composed of text that could be typed on a manual typewriter, set in a genuine typewriter font.

  3. A theme for the ‘lite’ versions of news sites, ala text.npr.org or ite.cnn.com

  4. A more “retro” styled blog / magazine theme. (Closest examples I can find to what I have in mind is HTML5Up’s Strongly Typed template, Retro portfolio WP theme, or the Extinct WP theme)

Do any of the Marketplace reviewers have a hunch about which if any of these would be most likely to fit in the marketplace, assuming the execution was up to Marketplace’s high standards?

In addition, do you have any suggestions of what I could improve about my existing themes:

  1. MNML,
  2. Laminim,
  3. Undefined
  4. Weblog (I have a feeling this one may be … a bit too unique, shall we say :nerd_face: )

… to increase their chances of qualifying for the marketplace?

Thanks in advance :innocent:

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Could you send me a link to your themes?

I am looking for a solid, well supported theme. I am not happy with a lot of what I’ve seen in Marketplace because a lot of these ‘professional’ themes, when you look into it, are running on version 1 still. Furthermore, many link to Themeforest, have few sales and the comments from support dried up a good while ago, which doesn’t give me any confidence that they are being supported.

So maybe getting into Marketplace either isn’t that difficult or shouldn’t be a focus for you?

The more I look into Ghost, the more it reminds me of the WordPress market pre-StudioPress.

There are ripe pickings for a StudioPress-type business to run a pro Ghost theme platform. I’ve had to spend some serious time on Google to find what I deem to be professional Ghost themes.

Absolute minefield.


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@schnooks I have two premium themes, Laminim and Weblog, on CreativeMarket, and two free, open-source themes, MNML and Undefined, on GitHub.

If I were to recommend one, it would be Laminim. It has the most features, and has been quite popular on CreativeMarket. I do my best to provide good support for all of them, of course, but my premium themes tend to get priority.

I know what you mean about it feeling like you’re in pioneer country when you move from WordPress to Ghost. It’s a newer platform, and right now a lot of the people using it are developers and larger publications, so theme customizations for Ghost involve rolling up your sleeves and getting into the code more often than theme customizations for WordPress.

Like I mentioned in my previous post, it’s hard to make it economically viable building themes for Ghost, which is probably why there are only a handful of us managing to make it work. I know of about half a dozen professional Ghost theme developers (individuals or companies with multiple actively-maintained premium themes). That said, there are quite a few nice themes out there by more casual developers — many of them free.

From what I’ve seen, the quality, quantity, and variety of available Ghost themes available is steadily getting better, though. And as far as I know all the themes in the official Marketplace — and all of my themes — are compatible with the latest version of Ghost.

Thanks. @curiositry! Good to know!

I see you don’t use Ghosthunter (neither does Casper), which a lot of the other premium themes do, and wondered why?

Just goes back to my previous point about users finding content.




The short version: More features = complexity = headache. Complexity makes a theme slower, more work to maintain, harder for users to customize, and creates places for bugs to hide.

Having too many “features”, is, in my opinion, a bug. So before adding a new feature, I ask myself:

  1. How many people will actually use it, and how much value will it add for them?

  2. If I implement it, will the benefit for the people use it outweigh the negative impact on the people who don’t?

If benefit to those who will use it minus cost to those who won’t > energy required to implement and maintain feature, I add it.

Example: Not too long ago, I added i18n localization support to Laminim because a customer asked for it. It made at least one person happy, and it didn’t take too long — but it also increased the complexity of the theme, both for me to maintain, and for other users to edit. The jury is still out on whether I made the right choice.

My reasoning regarding search in specific is based on two pieces of data:

  1. None of my customers have asked for search.

  2. I can’t remember the last time I used the search bar on a blog. If it’s something I’ve seen before, I search my bookmarks / history. If I’m looking articles on some specific topic, I search Google, or a topical aggregator like HN. And in the rare instances when I want to find a particular article on a blog with a lot of posts, I type QUERY site:theblog.com in my address bar, which saves a few seconds and often gets better results.

When Ghost adds native search support I’ll use it to my themes. Until then, I don’t think the benefit search provides warrants the additional complexity, development and maintenance time, page weight, and potential for security vulnerabilities of a 3rd party JS library.

That said, this is a strong opinion weakly held, which could easily be changed by a sufficiently persuasive argument :slight_smile:

Hi @curiositry.

These are all very fair points.

I guess I get frustrated with the fact that a lot of themes do not allow any function for the reader to find previously written content (i.e. not the most recent content), on the basis that my blog (as with many other blogs) is not a personal journal (for example) and therefore chronologically ordered posts are not required, as the content is instructional and therefore all posts are of equal importance.

Having a tag page to show post categories at least allows the reader to navigate to the category of post.

Basically, the exact same functionality as this forum, with categories.

Because this forum, as with my blog, is extensive, navigating by category alone will not be sufficient, given the volume of content. I use the search function on this forum to narrow my search. As it happens, I can’t find many of the answers to my questions, to I create a topic. Sorry about that!

So I guess it depends on the type of blog being constructed using Ghost and the volume of information that blog holds. In the early days of developing my blog, search will not be required and would indeed be quite ridiculous as the reader could flick through all of the the posts at a glance because there will not be many.

Maybe by the time I really do need search, the Ghost search function will be baked in anyway!


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@schnooks Although there isn’t a definitive timeline yet, native search is indeed planned:

Could someone with moderation privileges (@John or ?) please move this somewhat tangential discussion about search + Ghost vs WP (posts 2-7) to the State of commercial themes or its own thread? Thanks!

If you have a theme that sets itself apart from the norm I’d be willing to review it on my new site ghost-o-matic dot com.

I think we’re missing an "Official Statement’ to the Topic from the Staff of Ghost, like @John or @Hannah or Who ever is the right Person for this Question.

It’s important to know for Developer what are the exact Points to get a Theme accepted in the “Official Theme Marketplace” and stay there otherwise the Fragmentation with different Marketplaces will be go on and the Confusion about it too.

That couldn’t be right… :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

@KranzKrone details are laid out on the theme submission page (previously it was on the Github repo) https://ghost.org/marketplace/submit/

TL;DR: the “official” marketplace is much more about showcasing subjectively great and different design within the available themes, not about creating a dumping ground for every theme out there

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@Kevin thank you for the Insight. :+1:

So if I understand that correct, it’s completely up to the Staff of Ghost to decide what Theme is acceptable or not to Showcase at marketplace.ghost.org ?!

Can you then tell me “how special” a Theme has to be, to be accepted for the Marketplace?
For example, would be one of the Themes from Anders Noren from this Topic been acceptable?


Can you then tell me “how special” a Theme has to be, to be accepted for the Marketplace?

If you follow the design and code guidelines on the submission page linked above and it’s a sufficiently unique design (i.e. not a variation of an existing theme in the marketplace) then there’s a high chance it will be accepted.

For example, would be one of the Themes from Anders Noren from this Topic been acceptable?

If they are well coded then sure, they would be acceptable. One thing to be aware of if you’re copying other’s work is to respect copyright and licensing - the design of those themes is still copyright of Anders Norén and the code is licensed as GPL v2. If you get permission to re-use his designs you’ll likely still need to release them under the same GPL v2 license.

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@Kevin in this special Case about Anders Norén and Copyright of his Work, I already did get in Contact with him directly and got his Permission to reuse and/or modify the Themes.

GPL v2 would be the License to go.

I would be interested in a theme that highlights a company (vs. a blog or magazine format) and haven’t been able to find one. Here is an example of what I am looking for. Yes, it’s the motherships theme. I can understand that a lot of work went into this theme (it’s brilliant) and I don’t need the exact theme but something along these lines. Again, it’s a focus on a company or product vs. a magazine/blog.

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@curiositry I bought one of your themes and like it although I am not using it (site not released yet). I agree that it is solid. As somebody without a lot of knowledge in this area I liked how it was well structured and relatively plain. If I had seen it earlier I might have experimented with modifying it a little for my purposes. I know you were asking about visibility in the Themes marketplace rather than looking for suggestions about gaps. However, having spent some time looking around it does seem to me that the ‘professional’ look you describe dominates. And there are cases when people want something more ‘sober.’ I spent some time looking for two categories in Ghost themes - faculty profiles (many faculty have personal pages for publications, experience, consulting, whatever) and solo consultants (again where you might want to showcase some work, bio, etc). But in each case want to focus on content and professional image rather than splashy appearance which looks expensive … I think Laminim would work quite well in each case? Or an adaptation of it for the category.

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@lorcand Thank you for the excellent suggestions! I think I would enjoy making academic Ghost themes — yet it never occurred to me.

Do you know of any shining examples in the two categories you mentioned that I could draw inspiration from?

Feel free to direct message me if you have any specific requests for Laminim.

Thanks for the kind words @anon37512170. Yes, Laminim supports Ghost’s membership Portal, and also has an email optin form at the end of each post that is hooked up to Ghost’s membership system.

At present Laminim does not have a built in contact form template. However, if you decide to go for the theme, I will add one.

@curiositry I know I would love to create an open-source theme (and have clients who would pay towards the development of making it open source) that is based on StoryBrand website design principles. ClearBrand is charging $179/yr for access to their template based on these principles, but it’s only available for WordPress. (See here https://clearbrand.com/storybrand-website-template )

There is currently no StoryBrand enabled theme for Ghost, which as we all know is MUCH faster. If you’re able to design one and make that open source so agencies can scale with it, that would be incredibly helpful, and allow people the opportunity to customize for clients and build a business around it. I know that is what I want to do, but it’s so hard for me to find Ghost CMS theme designers on UpWork who actually know how to properly code this stuff.

It’s really essential to get the layout correct and minimize all of the links and other garbage in Ghost that distract from clear call to actions suggested by the StoryBrand framework. Happy to collaborate with you and recommend StoryBrand certified guides who would love to get this going so they can maximize profitability for their own agency operations.

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Thanks @prescott! I will definitely look at incorporating StoryBrand principles into my next theme :+1: