Template instructions? Why do they mostly fail?

Is there an area where I can draw to attention an authors terrible instructions? and perhaps give a little advice, from someone who isn’t an author to authors, what I and likely most people would consider a valid set of instructions?



You could post here on the forums. A lot of authors use the forums so they may be able to benefit from your feedback.

Also contacting the author directly might help :slight_smile:

Bearing in mind that documentation is reviewed with files @Patchesoft is probably right - if you give examples here of what you think is wrong/missing then authors will likely see it, or maybe able to suggest solutions.


As authors, please consider these points when creating instructions.

You need to assume you’re selling to the worst case customer, imagine you’re writing your instructions to a 90 year old grandmother that is using the internet for the first time. At all times, do not make ANY assumptions of the customers level of understanding, knowledge in the subject matter of the product, or their capacity to arrive at a result based purely on chance.

I, as the consumer of your product, should have absolute zero required knowledge in advance of purchasing your product on how to achieve the exact replication of your demonstration page. If I am using the same browser, and both your demo page, and the template i have installed, are all using the same variables, for example, same browser, resolution, computer etc, then the demo needs to be reproducible, exactly, as seen at the point of purchase. I think as internet traders, we/you tend to lose sight of a few very basic consumer expectations that have existed for the last 100 years in the real world. One of those expectations are, that the product I purchase, works exactly as described prior to purchase. To be extremely clear, if you see, for example a new cell phone in a store, you really like the product based on the demonstration the sales person provides, then arrive home and discover your new shiny iphone as an android OS written in ancient aramaic, this would be considered a breach of the traders agreement to the consumer!

Prior to deploying your product, test the user experience with regards to their ability to successfully purchase your product install it with minimum steps and successfully see, EXACTLY what the user would see within the demonstration page. Again, do NOT make any assumptions of the end user. Consider using another computer that replicates the average CEO with zero experience in web design. Ensure you’re testing platform that is exactly as it would be seen by the customer. This point assumes the consumer is creating a new blog with no prior installs or content.

Step by step, what you see in this process, is EXACTLY what the consumer needs to see when they install the product. If the consumer is installing the product purely based on the steps you provide in the instructions, and suddenly they find that you direct them to a item that is named differently or in a different location or you fail to even tell them where its located, you can NOT assume that the consumer will know that you the author are being lazy and decided to call it something else or not even provide the information needed. You might be completely aware of what you intended to say, the next 100 designers might know exactly what you mean, however if the consumer has NO experience in this subject, they WILL NOT know what you are referring to! Even the most simple miscommunication in the instructions, can be a reason for the consumer to give up. This is NOT the feeling you want to project to them. These people are paying YOU hard earned money! a certain level of respect should be given in return! Do NOT be lazy with the instructions!

For every web designer out there that uses these products as a quick solution for getting the job done, I can guarantee you, there are likely a hundred other people who are purchasing these products because they have zero experience in website design and want a quick solution to building an attractive blog/website. Poorly written instructions will NOT allow such a person to easily install your product and ensure they see what they experienced in your demonstration page. I was recently provided a solution to this problem from one nameless author; “that’s what google is for or find a web designer to install it for them.” NO THEY ABSOLUTELY DO NOT NEED TO DO THIS! You as an author have FAILED your customer if you feel this is the case.

Do NOT skip any steps! If for example, there’s an image on your demo page in a specific area of the layout, then the customer, needs CLEAR step by step instructions how to replace that image for their own. DO NOT assume they know how to do this!

Consider the terminology of what your describing. Will the terms make sense to someone who is using this platform for the first time? No? … do they need to go and research the subject more? maybe find someone with more experience NO! they DO NOT NEED TO DO THIS! Take responsibility for your product, and the customer who’s just given you their money and have the foresight to briefly explain the terms you’re using! What is a TAG? do you see the word Tag ANYWHERE in the Blogger UI? NO! you see Label! DONT use the term Tag! if the UI clearly says Label! Why would the consumer know you mean; Add a label into the field below, if you simply say; Add a tag in the post. That is NOT a solution! This would have my 90 year old grandmother searching for a tag in her mailbox!

If English isn’t your first language, consider finding a peer who is fluent in English to assess and review the instructions and readability.

These very basic principles are absolutely basic 101 consumer / user experience knowledge! It blows my mind, that people who can create these amazingly wonderful and complex designs, can absolutely SH*T the bed when it comes to writing instructions!

I understand that there are variables that are completely outside the authors foresight and they cannot always predict every environment the consumer will be installing from. However, from my current experience with templates in general, I have YET to see an instruction that does not make MANY assumptions of the user and their knowledge of the subject and as such fails to deliver on many of the steps required to successfully recreate the demonstration page. In many cases I experience areas of the instructions that absolutely 100% do not reflect what i am seeing when comparing the steps in the instructions to the template when viewed in the dashboard. There are times when the author will point to X, and you will see absolutely nothing that resembles what they’re highlighting!

Consider creating a youtube video that shows your instructions in real time.

Please take care in writing instructions! Thank you.

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While I agree with some of your points there are a ton of variables that are beyond authors control and seem to be overlooked.

What if the author explains the images are not included in the description but a buyer chooses not to read it?

The author cannot be responsible for the buyer downloading and trying to install the correct files.

Installation (of for example WordPress themes) has a standard procedure BUT the author has no way of knowing what hosting, server configuration etc. The buyer is using which could impact the process or requirements. (Which is precisely why installation is not included in envato’s official support policy).

I completely agree there needs to be a level of respect for buyers (as a big buyer) BUT it’s a two way street and buyers need to realise what they are getting for a fraction of the price of what it’s worth. it’s the same with any skill or product (mobile phones .v. code is not really comparable).

Is there another marketplace or similar which handles it differently?

It’s not envato or an authors responsibility to teach someone how to use files. It’s perfectly reasonable to assume a level of knowledge when buying a file (even if as you said many buyers don’t necessarily have it).

I would also bet (forums demonstrate it) that even with the most detailed of instructions there are a huge % of newbie buyers who wouldn’t be able to action even some of the basics.

Imagine one of the big selling files that sells tens of not hundreds of copies a week - no author can be expected to babysit that many buyers without being paid plus it would take up all their time preventing updates, new files and longer term drive authors away having a detrimental effect for everyone.

Again I agree documentation should be solid but there has to be a line up of respect for both parties.

to your first point - if the author outlines that an image isn’t included and it is CLEARLY outlined, then the author has done all he or she needs to do, beyond that, it is the consumers responsibility to clearly read the instructions provided.

What I aimed to outline is simply this; test from a position in which the consumer can most likely be in the same position as the author. For example, with a Blogger account; you could say; These instructions are created using a new blog, with no prior content. You can briefly outline the environment the author is using.

Beta test, not only the template; but also the instructions. Don’t over look how important the instructions are to someone who has zero experience in this field.

From the most probably position in which the consumer will be in when installing your product, record, step by step, EXACTLY what you are doing, in order to install the product, and recreate the demonstration provided. I absolutely believe it is the responsibility of the author to ensure that the consumer can easily and effectively get their product to the same place as the demonstration. Again, I do understand that the author cannot be expected to anticipate every environment the user is installing from, however, im sure there is a high average. For example, with Blogger templates. Its very simple to guide someone from within the Blogger UI. This UI will look the same to everyone that share a similar environment; for example using Windows/OS with Chrome/Safari. You will see the same options.

It’s not only about environment, in my experience, there’s a lack of simply explaining what the user is expected to see. For example one instruction that I highlighted above; said; “Make a post and add a tag” it seems extremely lazy for the author to avoid showing these steps, especially when then there’s a clear assumption about the term Tag, which is actually referred to as a label in Bloggers UI. For someone with no experience in this subject, a user with these instructions would SEE the labels panel and discard this while looking for an area for Tags. Again, tags, labels etc are very basic tools in this field, however you should not assume that the user knows what these are.

It is absolutely possible, to record the process of installing a (blogger) template step by step and for someone, with no understanding of the subject to be able to follow these steps and arrive at a result that resembles the demonstration, if thought and consideration is given. This being the case, the author should make every effort to do so. It doesn’t require a level of teaching to recreate the demonstration examples. It simply requires clear step by step instructions, that if followed correctly, would achieve exactly what the author is demonstrating.

I absolutely agree that buyers are getting a product at a very low price, that’s a consistent state of the creative industry as a whole unfortunately. However, even myself, as someone who works in the VFX field, I would offer the same level of commitment to my work regardless of what the client is paying me. If you choose to sell a product as a X cost, this should not reflect on the service you provide to the consumer. If a buyer realizes what they’re getting for X cost, should they expect a lower level of service? because the cost is low? Needless to say, that a product selling for $50 each, if promoted effectively, can far outsell the value of a single bespoke design that might go for 2-3k; within a 6 month period.

In the case of a template, it’s not simple plug and play, there are steps required to ensure the product is working correctly. I don’t believe it’s too much to ask, that the author provides clear, readable instructions, that do their absolute best to reflect what the consumer will be seeing when using these instructions, that they DO NOT take short cuts with assuming.

The more information you give the consumer, the more happy they will be, the less likely they will need support. That little extra time invested can save a lot of the authors time in the future.

It’s strange to see this here, but I do understand the importance of a documentation and have always written it in the sense that someone like my grandmother may use it and must understand what’s going on.

I’m honestly shocked to hear that not all authors, especially template authors don’t give this much importance to their documentations since the level of code interaction is much larger, therefore more things can eventually break!

Your points are absolutely valid and therefore I can recommend one simple thing. Leaving a review or providing the author feedback or asking for clarifications. The support package does include this and authors must help if they marked that item as supported!

Thanks for sharing this with us! I’m personally glad I pay attention to my documentations and write them out extensively since I noticed the number of support questions I get has dropped significantly.

A great prerogative for Template authors should be that their product is only as good as their documentation is, because not all customers are coders, and even if the code is clean and beautiful, the documentation must still exist to explain the structure and usage!

Again, cheers and thanks for sharing! :slight_smile:

Keep in mind that there are quite a few authors that invest few month in building a theme for example and then a month or more to get approved for 50+ USD and they need to offer 6 month free support which usually clients do not extend at the end. There are far to many variables to hit in the first run, that is why support is there to guide you trough your issues.

As someone mentioned here, people do not read instruction, they glance them. I guess you are the exception but not the rule.

Its something else offering documentation to set up whats on the demo and a different story to offer detailed instruction to teach you code or using WordPress. You mention teaching the terminology, when you buy a car the seller will not teach you whats the clutch, gas, steering wheel, brake, signs or how to drive. Same is here, some things are the basics which you sadly have to learn, otherwise you expect authors to educate you for that ridiculously low sum?

We are not here to educate you on how to use the technology on which our products are build, but to use our products themselves. And when you mention basics, majority of things you describe are just not basics.

To mention it again when you say "I, as the consumer of your product, should have absolute zero required knowledge in advance of purchasing your product "

When you buy a car they don’t teach you how to drive, when you buy broom you don’t get instructions how to sweep, when you buy a new camera you have basics instructions and few tips, but to get those fantastic shots you have to invest quite a few hours and pay a lot of classes or read materials to know how.

Sadly my friend there ore some basics buyers need to learn before go into this kind of ventures. That is why people pay authors to set up there themes or templates


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The example of the car is a little silly, I would compare it more to; “here’s an engine, now figure out how to connect it youself” with very few instructions like; pop the hood and install it - end of instruction. A knowledge of driving doesn’t compare very well in this example.

$50+ for a template? that’s all you get? you don’t get anything beyond an initial payment of $50? I could tell you that I get paid a few dollars for one of my images on istock, which took a few days to create, or i could tell you the whole story that since I added said image two years ago it’s generated over $2000 which far exceeds the bespoke cost I would charge a client for that image. You might get $50+ for a template, but whats the average generated income for a single template by a mid level contributor per year? I’m guessing more than $50, im guessing like all digital content, if the quality of the product is good to high, you will make your money back within a year or two.

I stand by what I say, as a previous reply noted; your template is only as good as the instructions you provide. Its naive to say that most buyers only glance at the instructions. Is this to say that because of this, you shouldn’t take the time and care to fully explain how to get the template into a usable place?

Explanation of terminology. I guess we can have different interpretations of what I meant by that. I’ll give an example of soemthing i would write - “Add a new post, inside the post window locate the area to the right called Label; below this you will see a field allowing you to enter one or more labels. A label will allow you to associate this post with an item from another page thus linking the two. This is very useful for creating a means of navigation throughout your blog/site” - I wrote that in the time it took me to write it, 10-15 seconds. Is that really so much effort? Instead the author of one template i recently used simply said; “Add tag to post” … that’s it! is it really too much asking for a little more than that? and noting the correct wording; Label, not tag!

If everyone has the same attitude towards providing clear instructions, then i really feel the quality of this platform is on a very slippery slope down hill… Sir, you need to raise your level of expectations!

Actually again i disagree, the engine here is WordPress and to know how to work with the theme you first need to know what wordpress is… all this tags, posts etc. were in WordPress terminology long before premium themes, so you should really go to https://wordpress.org and check there documentations, blogs, forums and learn, Since themes are build or WordPress.


Well we can agree to disagree i think :slight_smile:

It’s interesting, a hired two people to try and install a word press template I recently purchased. The first person said there were too many issues with it and wanted to pass, the second person, who at first said it would’nt be an issue to install and get working like the demo given he installs these things every day, came back to me a few days ago telling me that it was impossible to reproduce the demo because of some changes that were made to Blogger recently and the template needed to be extensively reworked to address this. I forwarded his email to the author who replied saying she was aware of the issue and would aim to correct it sometime in the future … nice. I appreciate this experience might be unique, so if possible I will likely aim to get a refund and purchase another with more caution. I think what would be really great is if the author made the documentation available for free before purchase. Though not too sure this would help.

From the looks of things the item is broke. In which case you are fully entitled to a refund as an item must work as presented in the demo / description. Please go ahead and open a refund request. The author can reject the request but you can raise a dispute with Envato letting them know the item is broken which in turn will result in an internal investigation. If indeed the item is broken it will be disabled until repair and you’ll be refunded your credits. Cheers! :slight_smile: