Better Onboarding for WordPress Themes

Inntroducing Merlin WP

You have no idea how awesome it feels to finally have the first official version of Merlin WP released. After many months of development, Merlin WP 1.0 is finally here. I first wrote about improving the onboarding experience of WordPress themes late last year, and since publishing the initial beta, Merlin WP has received quite a lot of attention.

As of this writing, there are over 600 stargazers on the GitHub repository, countless articles written about Merlin WP, and a wide array of themes that have implemented better onboarding for their users. You see, nearly everyone has the same struggle when installing a new WordPress theme: how to get up and running. It doesn’t matter how versed you are with WordPress, novices and experts alike often struggle with replicating a WordPress theme based off of its live demo.

But this doesn’t have to be the case.

Activating the Tabor WordPress theme with Merlin WP

As a WordPress theme wrangler at ThemeBeans, I knew solving this problem would save me countless hours helping folks install plugins, deploy child themes, import demo content, set up widgets, assign menus, roll out Customizer settings and then finally creating and assigning both the front and blog pages. 

That’s a lot to do. In fact, it’s too much to do. And for most people, it’s confusing, time consuming and not exactly a pleasant experience.

That’s where Merlin WP fits in.

A collective effort

Publicly releasing Merlin WP has shown me the true value of open source and how together, we can build something truly game-changing. On my own, I could not have personally committed the time it took to make Merlin WP as impressive as it is. Since the projects inception, we’ve had 397 commits from 14 contributors, many of which were from the fine folks at ProteusThemes.

I wrote about their contribution to the wizard earlier this year, but in short — they baked their One Click Demo Import plugin functionality into Merlin WP. That’s big.

Activating the Tabor WordPress theme with the Easy Digital Downloads Software Licensing add-on
Activating themes with the EDD Software Licensing add-on

Along with the superior content importer, we’ve added improved accessibility, support for a theme licensing activation step via Easy Digital Downloads, selective plugin installs, and a whole slew of interface improvements that touch on nearly every aspect of the wizard.

Decreased support burdens

Since rolling out Merlin WP on most of my WordPress themes, I’ve personally experienced a substantial drop in support tickets related to setting up a WordPress theme. 

Chris Robinson of Contempo Creative Inc, has been using Merlin WP since mid-March — and he’s loving the new wizard.

Here’s what he has to say about Merlin WP:

Integrating Merlin WP has removed all the unnecessary noise by simplifying the theme setup into a few easy to understand steps. It has cut my support down immensely and my customers absolutely love it.

Chris Robinson

Not only is Merlin WP saving a lot of time for developers like Chris and I, the wizard is saving our customers even more time.

Contributing to Merlin WP

Merlin WP wouldn’t be what it is today without the support of the fantastic WordPress community. If onboarding is a passion of yours and/or you sell WordPress themes, we could always use a hand making the wizard better. You can contribute to Merlin WP on GitHub. And if you’re using the wizard in your projects, tell me about it in the comments below. I truly enjoy discovering how folks are using my projects in the wild. Cheers!

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