Weebly, the startup that allows users to build rich websites using a straightforward drag and drop interface, is about to get a lot more colorful. The site has opened a new Theme Community, allowing any of its 3.5 million users to submit their own themes for use by other Weebly members. To help launch the new feature, Weebly is holding a contest where it’s giving $10,000 to the top submitted design, as determined by a panel of professional designers.
This is a pretty big deal for Weebly. Up until now, users have had around 80 themes to choose from, which pales in comparison to the number of themes available for some other site building platforms, like WordPress. You’ve always been free to use your own custom CSS styling, but many of the site’s users are using Weebly specifically because they don’t want to have to deal with that sort of thing. Now they’ll have a lot more variety to choose from, with no mucking around in CSS required.
At launch, Weebly’s theme gallery is still only going to consist of the 80 themes that already exist, since it’s just opening to submissions for the first time today. But CEO David Rusenko expects that to change quickly, in part spurred by the design competition the site is holding. He also believes that designers will be compelled to create themes for the site because of the large audience it reaches — Weebly now has 3.5 million site building users, who see 80 million page views per month from 17 million unique visitors. And he says that traffic is growing 20% month over month. It’s a bit surprising that it took this long for the site to roll out the feature (Weebly launched back in 2007), but Rusenko says that they “wanted to get it right”. Fair enough.
Users will be able to access the themes both through the site’s editor (which has been revamped a bit to accommodate the new gallery) and from this page, which you can view even if you aren’t a Weebly member. Themes won’t include attribution in their footers, but the gallery itself will allow designers to build up their own profiles, allowing users to see all of the themes they’ve submitted. At launch, all themes will be free, but Rusenko says that the site plans to begin allowing designers to sell premium themes in the future.
The design competition has a submission deadline of April 30, is open in any country where such contests are valid, and is being judged by Michael Cronan, Scott Thomas, Jason Putorti, Andrew Wilkinson, Dustin Curtis, and Rob Martin.