Tom Usborne is the founder of GeneratePress, a uniquely versatile and fast WordPress theme. With dynamic CSS caching and less-is-better defaults for fonts and icons, Tom offers GeneratePress for free with a subscription-based commercial version that adds well-conceived à la carte features you can activate as needed, such as Sections, which makes an outstanding base for your favorite page builder plugin.
Formerly a freelancer designer/developer, GeneratePress's success as a free theme led Tom to build a new full-time business around it. In Tom's words,
“I realized people wanted more features, but I wanted to keep the theme light for developers like me who wanted a lightweight base for their client websites. That's where the modular add-ons came into play — each of them can be turned on and off as needed, so there's not a bunch of unnecessary stuff loading in the background of the theme.”
GeneratePress has earned a substantial user base, surpassing a million downloads last year.
DK: How did you get started with GeneratePress? This is your first (and only) WordPress product, right? Were there any other theme developers who you took as a source of inspiration? GeneratePress is really unique in my experience. Was this you trying to scratch your own itch at first?
TU: I actually built my first WordPress theme as a teenager — it wasn't very successful, but it was a great learning experience and is 100% why I am where I am now.
I created GeneratePress as a light foundation for my own client sites. I was using other themes as a base, but always found myself removing/working around more than I wanted to. Once I had it built, I figured I'd try submitting it to WordPess.org for free to see if others would be interested. It turns out that they were! I was able to stop taking on clients after a bit and began working on GeneratePress full time.
DK: You reached a million downloads last summer and have seen nearly 250,000 more since then. Congratulations on that growth! How have you marketed GeneratePress to get the word out?
TU: Very little! We do a little Facebook/Twitter advertising, but not much.
A lot of our growth has been natural, which makes me really happy. GP is also very popular with a lot of page builder users, which has undoubtedly contributed to our growth recently.
I like to think that our reviews help as well – we're closing in on 600 5 stars on WP.org, which we're really proud of!
TU: We're just about to hit 30,000 premium customers, which is super exciting.
I do have one other product — WP Show Posts. It has a pro version, but the customer base is much smaller than GeneratePress, so GeneratePress gets most of my time.
For now I'll likely stick with those two products, with GeneratePress leading the way. In the future, who knows! Maybe some cool Gutenberg blocks.
TU: It's difficult to walk the line between having too few or too many options. I have to remember why GeneratePress started — if it gets to the point where I would choose something lighter for my client sites (if I still had clients), then I've gone too far in one direction.
The modular structure of the premium version is something I really like — there's no need to load functions and files which won't be used. It likely doesn't make a massive speed difference, but it helps to keep things simple.