11 tips to getting approved on ThemeForest

Over the last three months, I have been consistently asked what are the most common ThemeForest rejections that I have uncovered while reviewing WordPress themes on ThemeForest —so naturally, I wrote about them.

Let’s jump in.

This post is a collection of 11 simple tips to getting your WordPress theme approved on ThemeForest. These tips undoubtably parallel the most common reasons WordPress themes are getting rejected.

Please note that these thoughts are entirely based on my personal experience reviewing WordPress themes and are not officially endorsed by Envato. Following these guidelines does not guarantee an approval – though you will probably have a much quicker time getting there!

1. Escape Everything

Ok, so your WordPress theme works, but is it safe and secure? Escaping both input and output is a critical aspect of proper development.

Nick Daugherty’s bottom-line on The Importance of Escaping All The Things summarizes escaping perfectly:

If it’s not escaped on output, it’s potentially exploitable. Never underestimate the abilities of an attacker – they’re experts at finding the way to make the ‘this should never, ever, be possible‘ things happen. For maximum security, we must escape all the things.

Double and triple check your WordPress theme to ensure that all the things are escaped as late as possible.

2. Run Theme Check

Theme Check is literally the easiest way to check your WordPress theme against the latest coding standards and techniques. While it does not cover everything, it’s a great tool that should be run before submitting a WordPress theme to ThemeForest. Honestly, you should perform a check  every time a substantial theme update is released.

3. Check for PHP Errors and Warnings

One of the easiest errors to check for is standard PHP errors. Enable wp_debug and go to town self-reviewing your theme to ensure there are no PHP errors, notices or warnings anywhere. You should also check for errors every time you submit an update. It is not uncommon to see a newly introduced PHP error in an update coming through the queue.

4. Prefix Everything

All PHP function names, PHP class names, globals, actions, filters, script/style handles (that are not third-party) and even image sizes, all need to prefixed with themename_ or framework_ (where framework functions are used).

As Justin Tadlock mentions in Prefix all the things:

When building WordPress themes, there’s a rule that sits at the top of the list of rules. It’s something all developers should do out of habit, not as an afterthought. Prefix everything.

On the question of the specifications of a theme prefix, Stephen Cronin mentioned the following in this forum post:

The theme name has become the standard in many parts of the WordPress community, so that remains our [ThemeForest’s] preference. However, we understand this is not practical for those of you who reuse functions between themes and we’ll accept framework name in those circumstances.

For my WordPress themes, I use the themename_ prefix all around, as it is simple and clean. To make development easier, I have set up a Gulp task to find-and-replace my development prefix’s to the theme’s slug. Too easy.

5. Conduct the Theme Unit Test

There are many steps to developing WordPress themes – one of which is ensuring that every single general use case is covered from a functionality standpoint. That’s where the Theme Unit Test comes into play.

Installing the Theme Unit Test is not particularly gorgeous, but it’s imperative to creating a super-solid theme. When reviewing WordPress themes, I install the Theme Unit Test every single time. Do yourself a favor and setup a fresh local install, upload the unit tests and run through every post, page, and setting.

Common issues are table display errors, image alignments, responsive comments, pingbacks display errors, password-protected post styling issues, and search index mishaps.

6. Update TGMPA

Sometimes it’s inevitable that the TGM Plugin Activation library will be outdated. For new items, it entirely depends on how long your item has been in the queue, and how recently an update to TGMPA has been released.

Keep in mind that every time you release a new version of your theme, you should double check that the latest version of TGMPA is included.

Click here to check the latest release of TGMPA.

7. Properly Include Plugins Using TGMPA

When using the TGM Plugin Activation library to include pre-packaged WordPress plugins, you should be using get_template_directory(), instead of get_stylesheet_directory() for the plugin’s source.

Using get_template_directory() ensures that the plugins are also installable when a child theme is activated.

8. Disable TGMPA Force Actions

Every user should have free rein to activate or deactivate any WordPress plugins installed on their website. When plugins are auto-deactivated (or auto-activated) it lead to confusion and the user is left unsure as to what elements of their website are now either disabled or entirely broken.

9. Properly Include Scripts and Styles

First and foremost, scripts and styles should not be hard-coded anywhere in your WordPress theme. Using the wp_enqueue* hook is the only allowed method to correctly add any scripts or styles to your theme.

For inline styling, including Customizer style options, use wp_add_inline_style and for inline scripts, use wp_add_inline_script.

10. Do Not Prefix Third Party Scripts

All third-party styles and scripts used in your WordPress theme should NOT be prefixed. By not prefixing third-party assets, you are ensuring that those files do not load multiples times.

Check out WP Standard Handles, by Ulrich Pogson for more standard handles of conventional assets included in WordPress themes these days.

11. Provide Offline Documentation

Having offline documentation ensures that your customers are not hanging when there is not an Internet connection available or when your files are inaccessible – for any reason. Additionally, you do not have to ensure the assets will be infinitely accessible.

Just include your screenshots and other assets directly within the help guide and you’ll be in the clear. And if you are looking for a particularly beautiful documentation template, I built WPThemeDoc, a quick and easy documentation template for WordPress theme developers.


That sums it up. Generally speaking, if your theme complies with the following common mishaps, you’ll probably have a much quicker time getting your WordPress theme approved on ThemeForest.

Again, please remember that these tips are entirely based on my personal experience reviewing WordPress themes on ThemeForest and are not officially endorsed by Envato.

Edit: In addition to this post, I’ve published a piece on the three distinct principles to designing highly functional WordPress themes. Enjoy!


  1. Abdul Rauf Bhatti Avatar

    Hey, I am WordPress developer and I have started working on a theme which will be on ThemeForest soon. If I use your WPThemeDoc documentation starter with my theme, will it be approved on ThemeForest? Thanks

    1. Rich Tabor Avatar

      Yup, I use WPThemeDoc for my theme documentation on most of my themes, and others have started using it as well. As long as you’re documentation is well written, has relevant screenshots and is organized, it’ll be good to go!

  2. Abdul Rauf Bhatti Avatar

    Thanks Rich you have solved my Big problem now i am gonna start working on it.

  3. Ondrej Avatar

    Hey Rich,

    thanks for really useful tips. I especially liked the TGM and your WPThemeDoc looks very nice too.

    I plan to create WP versions of my Bootstrap freebies from Bootstrapious.com and this post came at the right time 🙂

    One question on a related topic. What is the best and cleanest way to create a one pager in WordPress according to you? By one-pager I mean a page with more sections and each of this section has a really different content (e.g. http://demo.bootstrapious.com/foliou/)

    I have seen approaches with 1 one pager section = page which can load also some custom post types (portfolio items.). Another approach was with static front page & different widgets (portfolio widget, text, icon boxes) and probably there will be more.

    Thanks for your insight, greatly appreciated!


  4. Rich Tabor Avatar

    Thanks Ondrej! I really like the way the Twenty Seventeen theme handled this using the Customizer, where it pulls pages into it’s content blocks. You could theoretically pull in templates as well for specific content , post types and even builder support, like Beaver Builder. Give that a look!

    1. Ondrej Avatar

      Thanks a lot for pointing me that direction, Rich. The way Twenty Seventeen does it looks really well. Have a great day 😉

  5. MI Avatar

    Reviewer notify me that not all theme strings are translatable. How can i find the string? Any software to find the string

    1. Rich Tabor Avatar

      I’m not sure really. You just have to search through the files. :/

      1. MI Avatar


  6. Jerika Fuenzalida Avatar

    If I have not submitted to ThemeForest before, would I be hard rejected? I’m starting to work on WordPress themes and I hope to get approved on ThemeForest. 🙂

    1. Rich Tabor Avatar

      Being new to the system doesn’t mean you’re going to be hard rejected. Focus on purposeful themes with quality design and solid code. You’ll be lightyears ahead of other folks if you do just that. Good luck! ?

      1. Jerika Fuenzalida Avatar

        where code on wordpress? I use plugin king composer for builder template and plugin smart 3 for slider, I think that no use code It’s approved themeforest?

  7. Geolorean.Com Avatar

    Thanks for the excellent guide

  8. Oleksii Avatar

    I have used namespacing instead of prefixing in my recent plugins.
    Namespacing is much more convenient than prefixing.

      1. Oleksii Avatar

        Probably, the only reason why WP codex still mentions prefixing is that they are conservative and want backwards compatibility with older versions of PHP

      2. Rich Tabor Avatar

        Well, there’s also loads of folks still writing individual classes/functions (and likely always will) – instead of utilizing name-spacing.

  9. Dzmitry Marozau Avatar

    Hello someone,

    I need help. I have send my wordpress theme for approvals multiple times, but it was rejected everytime.

    It seems that i have completed all these tips, but my theme is rejected.

    Can you please help me?

    1. Rich Tabor Avatar

      Hi Dzmitry, I can take a good and give you some general feedback to help you improve it. Send it to hi@richtabor.com, along with whatever comments you’ve received. 👍

  10. Rafael Avatar

    What’s the first thing you see when reviewing an item? The featured image, the item description or the comments made by the author? Or do you go straight to the demo page before everything else?

    1. Rich Tabor Avatar

      I don’t actually review anymore, but all three are important for the review.

      1. Rafael Avatar

        Than you for your answer, Rich. Crossing fingers.

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