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Participant Guide - Themes Challenge 2021

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If you've decided to participate in HubSpot's Themes Challenge, this guide is for you. We’ll explain what our judges will be looking for as they review entries, dive deeper into prize categories, and provide some strategy tips. Please keep in mind that the official rules are the final authority on how this contest works.

At a high level, if you’d like your theme to do well in the marketplace AND this contest, you’ll need to Solve For The Customer (SFTC) whenever possible. That means solving for the end-users who will eventually download your theme to build websites for their organizations. The judging criteria outlined below are designed to help you SFTC, but they aren’t comprehensive of everything you should consider.

Overview of Judging Criteria

Once your theme is approved for the marketplace, and we’ve received your entry form via the contest website, our judges will evaluate your submission and score it based on the following criteria:

Design & Usability

Judges will evaluate themes based on their visual appeal and how easy they are to navigate and use from the perspective of a website visitor. Here are some of the things they will look for:

Ease of use: How clear is the navigation? Is it easy to find important information? Are pages linked in a logical format?

Professional branding: Does the theme have the appropriate aesthetic for the intended audience? Are the graphics, images, and visuals impactful? Are layouts easy to follow?

Flexibility and scalability: Is there a uniform design across pages and assets? Are designs built with modular layouts? Can content creators modify designs without breaking them?

Creativity: Do the designs and layouts stand out from other themes? Do pages look unique? Are they intentional?

Technical Optimization

When it comes to technical optimization, judges will look under the hood at how your code is organized, how well your pages perform, and how easy it is to customize your theme. Here are some of the specific aspects we will evaluate:

Customizability: Do you have theme settings that work across page templates? How elegant and effective is the UI for content creators building with your theme? How are header tags and fonts handled?

Simplicity and usability: How are files and code organized and structured? Does the code follow best practices? We will generally be looking for intentionality and modularity.

Page speed: Have you optimized your theme to load quickly based on best practices?

Search engine optimization: Have you optimized your theme based on SEO best practices? Have you included meta tags and schema markup?

Note: We recommend reviewing this performance guide for tips on best practices. Our technical judges will likely use tools such as GTMetrix and Google Page Speed Insights to test performance.


Themes will be scored based on the number and quality of assets included, and the experience content creators can expect when customizing a theme for their organization. Judges will look for

Custom / global modules: How many quality modules are available for content creators? Does each serve a unique purpose and have a clear intent? How flexible are they? Can they be adapted for different uses?

Page templates: How many quality page templates are there? Have all types been considered based on the type of theme? Are there unique pages that fit the intended audience?

Ease of editing: What is the experience like for content creators? Are pages truly 2D drag-and-drop compatible? Are there clear tooltips and labels? Are theme settings easy to use and logically grouped and organized?

Documentation / support: Is documentation provided for the theme? How user friendly is it? Are there comprehensive examples of what is possible? How complete is the marketplace listing? Are support options straightforward and easy to find?


We will test your theme for accessibility best practices to ensure it provides the best possible experience for users who rely on these features. Judges will likely use automated tools such as the axe plugin by Deque to check themes for accessibility issues. Examples include:

Front-end / Back-end accessibility: Are designs responsive? Do images and icons have alt text? Is there enough contrast between different elements? Are there appropriate headings? Are there labels on elements? What about title attributes? Is your theme designed to work with screen readers?

Originality & Business Impact

Themes for the marketplace need to stand out and solve for specific business needs. That’s why our judges will also consider originality and impact by looking at the following aspects:

Originality: Does the theme stand out from other themes in the marketplace? Are creative concepts unique? Is the code significantly improved from the boilerplate, or is it a close replication?

Business impact: Does the theme strategically target a need in the marketplace? Is the listing well crafted and compelling? Does it fit the requirements and goals of the categories it is competing in?


Overview of Prize Categories

Now that we’ve covered the judging criteria, let’s move on to the fun part. There are quite a few prizes that you can win as part of this contest. In this section, we’ll provide a little more detail behind each category so that you can optimize your contest strategy. The themes that achieve the highest score in each prize category based on the above judging criteria will win.


Grand Prize

If you’ve ever imagined yourself zipping around town in an awesome electric vehicle, this is the prize you’ll want to win. The grand prize will go to the best overall theme based on the judging criteria mentioned above. This prize can be awarded to any category of theme, but the winner will need to stand out and solve for the customer in every way.

Category Prizes

You can submit three different types of themes to this challenge: general website themes, microsite themes, and landing page themes. There are first, second, and third place prizes available for each of these categories. When you submit your entry form, you will need to specify which type of theme you are entering

1. Best General Website Themes
General website themes are best used for building an organization’s primary website. They include all of the typical page templates a site needs (home and contact us, for example) and any features that might fit the specific industry they are targeting. While they may include some landing page templates, this is not a primary focus of the theme.

2. Best Microsite Themes
Microsite themes are designed to build websites that serve a specific purpose and are typically hosted separately from an organization's primary website. For example, an event microsite theme might allow users to build a site to organize and promote a specific event. This theme could include page templates for the event schedule, registration, etc.

3. Best Landing Page Themes
Landing page themes should include all page templates, and features organizations need to create optimal landing pages. Marketing Hub customers may use these themes to build landing pages that are entirely separate from their websites. In other cases, customers may use these landing page themes in addition to a general website theme they use to build a site on CMS Hub.

Bonus prizes

While every entry will compete for the Grand Prize and at least one Category Prize, the Bonus Prizes are focused on particular types of themes or industries and are completely optional. In other words, you can choose to build a theme that also completes for one of the specific bonus prizes, but you certainly don't have to. Your decision should be based on your overall marketplace strategy. Bonus prizes are available for the best theme for each of these use-cases:

• Non-profit theme
• Portfolio theme
• Consulting theme
• eCommerce theme
• Financial services theme
• Food & restaurants theme
• Manufacturing theme
• Media & entertainment theme
• Software theme
• Events microsite theme
• Marketing campaigns & launches microsite theme
• Learning management system microsite theme
• Fundraising microsite theme
• Partner relationship management microsite theme
• Sales enablement microsite theme
• Lead capture landing page theme


Other Tips

Start With a Marketplace Strategy

Now that you have more information about the judging criteria and prize categories, where should you start? We recommend identifying your marketplace strategy. Hopefully, your theme will be listed in the marketplace for sale long after this contest is finished, so you'll want to build something that attracts as many customers as possible.

Start by reviewing the existing themes in HubSpot's marketplace and other popular third-party marketplaces. Look at the number of themes in each category versus the number of purchases the most popular themes have. Try to identify an area where there may be more demand than supply.

Keep in mind that selling themes isn't the only way to make money through the marketplace. Some providers list themes for free and then upsell development services to anyone who downloads their assets. For more marketplace strategy tips, check out this post.

Don’t Push Contest Deadlines

It can be tempting to continue making additions and improvements to your entry until the last possible second, but keep in mind that sometimes things go wrong. Perhaps your internet goes down, or the submission form isn’t working, or anything else. Make sure your entry makes it into the contest by submitting well before deadlines.


Final Thoughts

Our ultimate goal for this challenge is to inspire developers and agencies to become marketplace providers who offer fantastic themes for HubSpot customers to buy. At the same time, we want this contest to be as objective and helpful as possible for all participants.

Hopefully, this post will provide clarity on areas you should prioritize as you create your theme. If you have any contest specific questions, don't hesitate to post on the challenge website here. We look forward to receiving your entry!


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