I tweeted a while ago about my mixed feelings about the new WordPress.org theme requirements. They’ve already bitten me on the release of The Erudite 2.7.4, which was not approved by the theme directory folks for failing to meet a number of requirements.
High standards are a great thing. Overall I think that the theme team has done a good job with that document. But jeez, reading it makes me tired — it keeps going and going. It creates a massive load for theme developers and theme reviewers. It sure would be nice if the a lot of the items on the required list were on the recommended list.
Here’s a specific one: requiring the use of
comment_form() is dumb. It was only introduced in 3.0, while my theme should currently be backwards compatible with 2.7 (with some degradation). Sure,
comment_form() is a great function, and if I were writing The Erudite again, I’d use it. But requiring it? Dumb. Some numbers to back that up: as of right now, only 39.8% of WP users are on 3.0.
And what about an interesting theme like Quality Control? Something tells me it fails on a number of requirements simply due to it not being a blog, but it was approved after the new requirements were in place. It must have been approved because it’s a cool use of WP despite the requirements.
But my biggest problem here is that the bar to participation in the WP community is being raised too high. If I were starting to write this theme again, I would take one look at the requirements and look for some other way to spend my time. This is not the way for a community to welcome new participants.
What I’m saying is that we need to embrace amateurism in the WordPress community. You don’t get to be a professional without being an amateur first, and the new guidelines just might prevent a whole lot of folks from bothering to start that journey. I understand that the WP community is trying to act like an adult these days, which is great. But let’s not lose that sense of discovery and exploration that allowed us to get started in the first place.
Finally, as a practical consideration, perhaps we could add a “blessed” (i.e. meets recommended requirements) flag to the themes repo. Themes that do so are implicitly more trustworthy, and will be promoted more heavily on the repo. This allows amateurs to get their theme out to a wider audience, while not having a “blessed” status clearly reveals that these amateur themes might not contain all the functionality that a “blessed” theme has.