Norris and Tanita

Interview with the Guys from (Norris and Tanita)

I’m thrilled to offer you an interview from the guys behind You can also check out their Facebook page where they publish updates. So without further ado, here’s the interview.

Where are you guys from?

We’re both from Latvia, from a small city by the seashore called Liepaja.

How did you become a WordPress theme designer/developer?

I was playing around with the web since I was about 15. At the time there were not too many tutorials out there, and quite a few platforms. For about 5 years I was dabbling in about everything. Invision Power Board, Drupal, WordPress, and even trying to figure out how some “clone scripts” worked from a very popular site back then – HotScripts.

Later, when I got my first job, the company I worked for used WordPress for their websites, so I had no choice but to use WordPress, as I had to make plugins and even themes for them. That’s when I really started learning WordPress in depth.

For me it sorta just happened. I didn’t plan to become a web designer, I used to be more interested in graphic design actually. I got an internship in the company where Norris was working and they needed a couple of designs for their WP sites so I started learning everything I could about web design and WordPress.


What is your background prior to designing/developing WordPress themes?

Norris: (I explained that already above 🙂 )

I was a Multimedia student, did a couple of freelance projects – logo designs, mobile app designs and such.

What’s the story behind your decision to cooperate as a wordpress theme designer and developer?

We both went to study Multimedia Design in Denmark. Then we also ended up working in the same small Danish web company as well (Norris was hired there and helped me get an internship afterwards).

So when it was time to move on and do something with our lives, it was only natural for us to do it as a team.We saw that there is big potential in premium WordPress themes. So we made the decision to quit our jobs so that we could focus full time on becoming WordPress theme authors on

It took us 6 months to get our first WordPress theme accepted on Themeforest. Lucky for us we had some savings to live from, but that half a year was pretty tough.

Why exactly did you decide to create WordPress themes specifically for photographers?

At the beginning we didn’t really focus on anything. Our first 4-5 themes were quite random, but from those we quickly learned a lot. From those themes, we learned through our support forums that we like working with Photographers a lot more than with small website agencies.

On top of that – I’ve always been passionate about photography myself. I love photography and everything related to it. So making something for real photographers just feels like a natural step for us.

Why did you decide to create themes that match the WordPress core philosophy?

We didn’t at first. We’ve been struggling with keeping themes simple and making sales ever since we started our theme business. More features make more sales, but it always felt unnatural to me to stick those features on.

I read the core philosophy way too late in my career. When I did – I was stunned because it precisely put to words everything we have been thinking in our heads.

At this point – we have browsed thousands of photographer portfolios, and seen them all screwed up in one way or another. And all those mistakes are caused by a single root cause – that there is an option to do so.

It’s kind of like Murphy’s law, but with a twist: “If the user is able to screw something up, they probably will”. And it’s not their fault, because they don’t know any better and trust that the service or theme they’re using surely must have thought things out for them.

But in reality – most theme shops just slap on a slider and call it a theme. I deeply admire those theme shops that are aligned with WP Core Philosophy, and I strive to make our themes as close as possible to it in the future.

What tools do you use for speed optimization and what’s the acceptable site speed for your themes?

The acceptable speed is definitely < 1s. I try to keep the load times of our demos around 500ms when I can.

For speed optimization we use Gulp.js (to concat, minify), JPEGmini to shrink the images, and Cloudflare to cache aggressively. I was against using Lazy Loading for a quite a long time, but as time passed and I experimented with that quite a bit – I’ve come to using lazy loading in all our themes.

What WordPress theme do you use as a basis for your WordPress themes?

I used to start everything from _s, but just recently I completed my own theme starting point that’s based on _s, but also has all the workflows that I use set up already, like Gulp, the framework I’ve built, and all the necessary plugins.

What’s your favorite WordPress design trend at this point?

Although trends are important to be aware of, we try to not ride the trend train too much. Nowadays they change so fast that a trendy design become “outdated” pretty fast. That being said, personally I’m happy to see design moving away from minimalist, symetric layouts towards free and seemingly chaotic layouts and overlapping elements. It just looks so interesting and refreshing.

What sites do you visit for inspiration (design/new features, etc)?

Lately I’ve started using Pinterest to find my inspiration. I especially like browsing boards from other creative fields. I find looking at magazine and book layouts, paintings, and physical product branding gets my creative juices flowing.

What sites do you usually use for help (asking questions, learning how to do something) when you create a WordPress theme?

Google and The Codex. On top of that, when I forget a function name or parameters, I use Alfred + Dash – that’s a very quick way to get to the Codex.

When it comes to design, I use Dribbble to get some feedback from other designers and if I’m really stuck I go to Norris – getting a fresh set of eyes on a piece of design is a big help.

What social media platform are you most active on and why?

Twitter – that’s kind of my RSS reader. I follow people who are interested in similar topics to me, so they’re basically curating content for me.

Dribbble and Behance are my choices because it’s full of amazing designers that share their work.

Why did you decide to create video tutorials about using and editing your WordPress themes?

I prefer to learn through video format myself, and I think it’s a lot easier to show how to do certain things through video rather than text. It’s like sitting next to someone and guiding them through.

How long does it take you on an average to create a video tutorial?

A video that’s 20 minutes long takes around 6 – 8 hours to put together. It’s quite a bit of work, and I really hope it takes less time as I get better over time.

How do you achieve the right balance between page speed and image quality?

We’ve found the sweetspot to be 1920px wide images. That makes them HD enough, and they’re still reasonably small for portfolios. That, combined with lazy loading, in our experience is just right.

How did you come up with the idea of 100 photography logo templates for

I came up with the idea of free photography logo templates after seeing countless photographer websites either without a logo or with logos that are self made and not as professional looking as they should.

Since I use free resources myself whenever I need something I can’t make myself (such as images and fonts) I decided that it’s time to give back to the community by making something that’s free to use and by making logo designs for photographers I can help out our target audience as well.

100 seemed an impressive and challenging enough number so I just went for it!

What is your favorite wordpress theme that you created?

Any theme that I’m currently working on, or the one just finished is my favorite. With each theme I get better at making them, and each new theme in my opinion is our best one yet.

At the moment that’s Eugene Portfolio

I really love all of our themes because we put so much thought, time, and work in each one, but if I have to choose just one, it would probably be Bluebird theme. It’s one of our best sellers and I think we really outdid ourselves with this one 🙂

What’s the approach that you use while coming up with names for your wordpress themes?

I think it’s completely random. When we have a feel of a theme in mind, a word, or an association comes up and we just kind of go with that.

For example, Aster has flowery patterns and is pink like the flower itself.
Aventine got its name from a song called Aventine by Agnes Obel, because Tanita was listening to it over and over again while working on the design. And Eugene Portfolio is a photojournalism theme so it was named after William Eugene Smith who was a famous American photojournalist.

What exactly do you implement in your WordPress themes so that they are SEO ready?

My philosophy when it comes to SEO is just not to get in the way of Google. Google these days is smart enough to even crawl JavaScript sites, so minor tweaks like “h1 vs h2” tags aren’t really doing anything for SEO these days.

I always make sure that the site is at least viewable with JavaScript disabled, and use native WordPress functions for retrieving content and images. I’ve found that to be just enough for search engines. Any further optimization should be handled by plugins, like SEO by Yoast.

How exactly do you optimize your designs for touchscreen devices? what functionality does that entail?

We always test on an iPad, iPhone, Nexus 7 and Chrome Devtools with Touch enabled to make sure everything works properly.

When do you expect to release your new theme?

We’re currently working on a new design for fine art photographers but work is slower during the summer, so a new theme release will probably be sometime around august/september.

About The Author

Vitaliy Kolos

Coming from tech support background, Vitaliy Kolos is into tons of web stuffs: WordPress SEO (his forte), web design, web development, inbound marketing and everything in between. Other than that, he's an avid audiobook reader and insatiable digital nomad.