Introducing Compass

tl:dr We’ve built a really amazing starter theme that’s going to be a dream come true for you theme builders out there. It’s free, and you can download it from our community forum. This post also contains our plan for selling commercial themes which you can find here.

The day has finally arrived that we get to show to the world the thing we’ve been working on for months. We’ve spent a lot of time, resources, and time (yeah, I used time twice) building what we believe is the most advanced WordPress starter theme in existence. We know that’s a bold claim, but we’re ready to stand by it, and not just because we’re probably partially delusional from sleep deprivation, it really is that awesome.

This starter theme will be known as Compass. Not only does it have a nice nautical tie-in that works well with our branding, we believe it will guide future theme development and take it in a whole new direction.

The best part? We’re giving away Compass for free. Compass will be 100% open source and is available for download today.

  1. Compass will drastically speed up development for the themes we end up selling (which are coming soon!), and the themes you build too.
  2. We’re on a mission to push the boundaries of WordPress theme development and knew it wouldn’t be possible on our own, so we’re making the last 4 months of work available for free to the community to help us iterate and continue build on something special.
  3. We wanted to do this right from the very beginning. We put a lot of money and time into Compass because we knew what we were working on is important to move theme development ahead.

We’re really excited for you to take Compass for a spin, try and break it, and can’t wait to see the amazing things you build with it.

Modern Web Development Technologies

We knew that if we were going to start a theme company, we wanted to take advantage of all of the amazing technologies that are being used for front end development. We’ve built a number of automated processes to do everything from pulling in dependencies and installing them for you, to auditing your code against WordPress coding standards.

  • Sass – the most mature, stable, and powerful professional grade CSS extension language in the world
  • Bourbon – A popular and stable mixin library for Sass.
  • Neat – a semantic grid framework built for Sass.
  • Composer – a tool for dependency management in PHP. It allows you to declare the dependent libraries your project needs and it will install them in your project for you.
  • Grunt – Runs automated tasks to do everything from optimize images to run linters to ensure the highest quality of code.
  • Bower – fetches and installs packages from all over, taking care of hunting, finding, downloading, and saving the stuff you’re looking for.

Hybrid Core

We’ve included the Hybrid Core Theme Framework from Justin Tadlock into our themes for a number of different reasons. There are so many things that are going to be necessary on nearly every project, and they’re regularly done poorly in many of the themes that we’ve used and tested. Justin has done an amazing job of doing things “the WordPresss way” and has been building and iterating Hybrid Core for many years. And as the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. We’re proud to be using such a robust framework to do the heavy lifting on things like breadcrumbs, grabbing media, integrating microdata like, pagination, theme layouts, and translation.

Theme Hook Alliance

We’ve been a fan of the Theme Hook Alliance project since we saw it come to be a few years ago. The project aims to implement action hooks that can be used by plugin and child theme authors to extend themes. We love the idea of finding a common set of entry points to help plugin and theme developers, so we’ve added Theme Hook Alliance support into Compass so you can extend it to a whole new level.

Attention to Detail

Developing themes properly generally requires performing a huge number of very tedious tasks that aren’t fun but are still very important. We see these items overlooked again and again. The good news is that Compass handles all of these things for you.

  • RTL Styles – Every element of Compass fully supports right to left styles.
  • Translation Ready – Compass is 100% translation ready and we’ll gladly start accepting translations whenever you’re ready.
  • Accessibility – We’ve contracted with Accessibility expert Rian Rietveld to ensure that Compass meets the most strict  accessibility standards.
  • Automated DevelopmentGary Jones has helped us create the most advanced and robust Grunt workflow that we know of for WordPress theme development.
  • Mobile First Design – Compass uses a Mobile First approach to design, as well as an off-canvas mobile menu that start you off on the right foot for building themes that are 100% ready for mobile.
  • Microdata Implementation – Hybrid Core does the heavy lifting here, but Rob’s SEO background played a big role in ensuring that all microdata is implemented in the most efficient, and beneficial way.

We’ll Be Selling Things Soon

We’re very excited to get Compass out in the world so we can start getting feedback from you. Our commercial themes are already in development and will be available for sale in the next month or so.

Many of you have been asking about our pricing. It’s something we’ve internally gone back and forth about quite a bit. We want themes to be affordable, but also want to make sure we’re around for a long time to serve our customers and keep building awesome solutions for your websites.

Ultimately we’ve come up with a very simple pricing model that we feel is going to make sure that we can continually provide an awesome experience, and produce quality products for a long time to come.

Every theme we sell will be priced at $199, with a $99 annual recurring fee for direct access to our support team. No bundle pricing. No theme clubs. Every purchase is individual and will be a full website solution.

“That’s crazy talk! How do you sleep at night charging $199?”

I’m so glad you asked.

For $199 you get all of the following:

  • A theme that you can install on as many sites as you’d like. Each theme will come in two versions. One that’s ready to install on your WordPress site, and one that’s built specifically with developers in mind.
  • Free theme updates forever. All security and feature updates will be available for your theme purchase forever.
  • Core functionality plugins – Lots of features require plugins to add functionality to the websites that you’re building. Every Flagship theme will include those plugins that are built and maintained by our internal team.
  • Access to expert support – Our team at WP Site Care has been doing support for quite a while now, and we know how to help our customers in the fastest, most helpful way. A current support contract will give you direct 1 on 1 access to our team members.
  • Premium Documentation – We know how frustrating poor or non-existent documentation can be. All of our themes will be well documented with video tutorials, text explanations, code examples, and relevant screengrabs for setting up and customizing our themes.

To The Future!

We’re incredibly excited for our launch, our future,  and to see the things you create with Compass. We know that in order for our vision of building modern, well-coded, and boundary-pushing WordPress themes to become a reality, we’re going to need the support of a community. We need you to use Compass, give us your feedback, and make it part of your daily theme development workflow.

We promise to take your feedback seriously and do everything we can to get you up and running with Compass. The best way to get started is to go to our community forum, register for an account, and go through our Getting Started guide. You’ll be able to download Compass there too.


  1. That is a seriously comprehensive bundle. Currently we use Canvas but now with Grunt and SASS out of the bag this looks mighty impressive. Great work and thanks for contributing to the community. One to watch!


  2. Hej,

    you’re writing:
    We’re giving away Compass for free. Compass will be 100% open source and is available for download today.

    but I don’t see a download link anywhere. Can you please clarify and either send me a link or make it better visible on the site? Thanks.

    1. ryan

      Hey Tom,

      Thanks for the heads up :)

      The support contracts will be a year, renewable for $99 per year.


  3. Maybe I skipped over it, but I didn’t see a demo link for Compass…got one?

    -David G.


  4. This looks very promising. But still I have difficulties to understand the proposed development workflow with compass.
    You can’t normally build a wp-theme outside of the WordPress folder structure. So is it meant to have the complete environment within the wp-content/themes directory?

    1. Rob Neu

      Hi Christian,

      WordPress will actually recognize a theme within a sub-directory. You would unzip the Compass project inside the wp-content/themes directory and then run the grunt build command. Once that’s completed, you’ll see that the theme can be activated normally and you can proceed with customizing templates and styles to suite your needs.

      For a more in-depth look at how it all works, check out the screencasts on our forum: //

  5. Shiva

    Hello Rob,
    I have gone through your Compass Theme and it looks quite promising. But my concern is that will themeforest accept the themes made with this starter theme ?
    Hoping to get reply from you !

    1. Rob Neu

      Hey Shiva,

      I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t. Compass goes above and beyond their minimum quality standards. There are a few examples of Hybrid Core themes being sold on ThemeForest right now, so that shouldn’t be an issue either as far as I know.


      That being said, I’ve never sold anything on ThemeForest, so there may be some kind of issue that I’m unaware of. You may want to ping Stephen Cronin on Twitter to see if he has any insight.


      I hope that helps!


  6. I’ve been meaning to give this a good look since Rob emailed me about the project. I’ve just kept pushing it back because I’ve been busy lately. This is the sort of thing that I really love seeing with Hybrid Core — bridging various technologies to push the boundaries of theme development. I’m looking forward to seeing how the project progresses.

    @Shiva – Hybrid Core closely follows best practices outlined by both and ThemeForest. I’m a member of the theme review team, so I do my best to keep things updated to the latest standards. I don’t see anything within Compass itself that would change this, so there shouldn’t be any issues.

  7. StNick

    Thank you so much for making this available. I love the theme. It’s like how I imagined underscores should’ve been. This hands out just that bit of power and fundament I want to have up and ready from the start.


    1. I’m glad to hear that you like it! After working with Compass on our commercial themes, I’m even more confident that we made the right move creating it. The difference in workflow from before and after is literally night and day.

      I hope to be able to share some of what I’ve learned over the past few months soon so that other people can benefit from my experience. :)


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