Stock broker turns WordPress theme developer?

Today we hear the interesting tale of a former stock broker that was not happy with the WordPress theme he purchased, so he now creates his own magazine WordPress themes and more.

MH Themes

1) If you don’t mind sharing, what is your real name and where do you live?

My name is Michael Hebenstreit, I’m 31 years old and I live together with my wife in Münster, Germany.

2) How did you get started in developing themes?

About two years ago I started an online magazine and bought a WordPress theme for it. But I noticed quite fast that the theme I bought was not like I wanted it in every aspect. So I started to modify it to fit my individual needs. As I found out what opportunities there are, and since I had a lot of fun modifying the theme, I eventually started to learn more about HTML, CSS, PHP and jQuery and began to create my own themes for several projects. Now I really enjoy working on WordPress themes for other people and I plan to launch more and more themes in the future.

3) Do you have any artistic training? (yes, crayons count)

No, I worked for years in the financial sector at several banks and an online broker firm. The last 5 years I worked as a stock broker and traded stocks / derivatives for institutions and private investors. So, developing WordPress themes started more as an hobby for me but is now getting more and more important in my life. I am working now on improving my skills as a programmer and web developer to release software and apps in the future, too.

4) How did you get starting with programming in general?

As I said earlier, it was quite a process for me. Realizing that a product did not fit my needs, learning how to solve this and then improving my skills to create more great stuff.

5) What was your first theme and when did you develop it?

I have created a few themes yet, but they were more for personal projects I was working on. The first commercial theme I launched was the MH Magazine WordPress Theme which is available through my website MHthemes.com. It is a responsive magazine theme for magazine websites or any other editorial related projects. Highlights of the theme are the fully widgetized homepage templates and the implementation of the WP Customizer with integrated theme options which let you setup and style the theme with little effort.

MH Magazine Theme

6) What is the favorite theme you have developed and why?

My favorite theme is absolutely the MH Magazine theme. I’ve put so much time in this project and I love to see that people using it are happy with the theme and recommend it to other bloggers and webmasters. The theme was launched just a month ago and more and more websites are using it and I’m getting pretty cool feedback and very useful tips to improve the theme with coming updates.

7) Do you focus mostly on theme sales or do you have other business interests you would like to mention? (Give a chance to plug your own website, etc)

As mentioned, I run a couple of websites, mostly for search-engine-optimization, and some magazines, e.g. a German website about babies and related topics (http://www.babyrocks.de/). But I will focus more on theme development because it is so much fun and it’s great to see that others love to use my themes. But at the moment it is still an hobby, this has the advantage, that I don’t have to earn a lot of money with this and can focus on creating great themes without pressure.

8) What sort of challenges have you faced when designing themes “for anyone” versus a specific client?

That is in fact an interesting question, because I noticed that it makes really a difference if you create a theme for yourself or a client/user. If you make it for yourself, it does not have to be „perfect“, because you know how you will use the theme and it does not have to be „waterproof“. But if you create a theme for „anyone“, it is really hard work. You have to make sure the theme works in all kind of situations and scenarios and that there are theme options implemented, so that a user can setup the theme very easily. That sounds easy, but in reality you have to think of so many things, but that is it, what makes theme development so challenging and fun, too. I love to solve problems.

9) In your opinion what is the difference between a premium/paid theme and a “free theme”?

There are a lot of cool free themes out there and some of them have premium features as well. I think the main difference is, that premium themes come usually with free support and free updates and have more features included. There is a free version of MH Magazine, too, and it can be downloaded for free on the MH Themes website. It is a basic version of course with much less functionality than the premium version which can be purchased for only $39 USD.

10) What have been the biggest surprises to you developing themes? Or what have you enjoyed the most about designing great themes?

I was really surprised how clients love to communicate and improve the theme. It is not only a product, but it is more a „team-work“ project to create a fantastic theme with the key features everyone needs to run a great magazine website. So I’m always open for feedback, critics or tips to improve the theme and I would love to help more bloggers and webmasters to setup their website with a theme that meet their needs created by MH Themes.

11) When creating a new theme what are your priorities, or do those come after “creating something cool and new”?

Like always, the first thing is the idea about what you plan to do. Usually I start realizing my ideas immediately and work on it step by step. When the process has started, other ideas come time by time and can affect the theme creation in different ways.

12) What is your normal process for creating a theme? Do you start with a pencil, PhotoShop, or dive right into coding?

I’m not a graphic designer and I do not even have PhotoShop. When I have an idea for a theme or know what I need for a next project I start coding immediately and let my idea grow in the browser. When the basics are done, I add design elements until I’m perfectly satisfied with the look of the theme.

13) What are some of your favorite new technologies that you use or are experimenting?

It’s amazing what is possible since the new features of HTML5 came out. Web development isn’t just creating websites anymore. Now it’s possible to create fantastic games or apps with web technology as well and I’m really curious how this technology will evolve in the future. I’m sure that there are amazing things to come!

14) Any side projects you would like to discuss?

No, at the moment I focus on theme development and there is no time for any side projects, unless the websites I am running anyway. One I have mentioned before.

15) Where do you seek inspiration for your work? Any particular designers, artists, or sites that you use?

Inspiration is just everywhere, it can be other websites, fotos or even just when you watch a movie. I’m not focused on a specific source. When I have an idea, it’s there, but I’m not looking for it. As I said earlier there is no pressure and I don’t have to produce themes like a bee its honey. 🙂

16) If you have any superhero power what would it be and why?

I would like to have full control over time. A day has 24 hours and that’s a bad joke! It’s much too less to do all the great things I would like to do and sleeping is really boring but necessary. I would love to change that! 🙂

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