WordPress.org Theme Requirements Are a Drag

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.

11 Comments

  1. Posted September 11, 2010 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    I’m with you on this post. I think that your idea to end it is great. A flag that explic­it­ly marks some­thing as meet­ing the rec­om­mend­ed items would be great.

    I also like your insights regard­ing ama­teurism. I think that is a huge part of the Word­Press com­mu­ni­ty and we can’t lose that.

  2. Matt
    Posted September 11, 2010 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    Cheers Nick. I sub­mit­ted this post to the theme review­ers mail­ing list, so we’ll see if they agree with any of what I’ve said.

  3. Posted September 12, 2010 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    Even I don’t under­stand any­thing about build­ing a word­press theme, but I would agree to you — a starter need to be wel­come — even when one yet not a pro in cod­ing :).

  4. Posted September 12, 2010 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Hey Matt,

    Themes such as Qual­i­ty Con­trol are spe­cial cas­es. But even then, I per­son­al­ly reviewed that theme, and offered numer­ous direct rec­om­men­da­tions based on a thor­ough review of the code, includ­ing some secu­ri­ty fix­es, before rec­om­mend­ing its approval.

    I agree with you. It was approved because it was cool despite the require­ments, and it fails on a num­ber of require­ments because it is not a blog. I think where we dis­agree is that I don’t see a prob­lem with that.

    I don’t agree with every­thing the theme review­ers are doing. Per­haps you may have been bit­ten by some of those things. (I would pro­vide feed­back to the group over their mail­ing list.) But I do absolute­ly agree that themes should be using comment_form() except in spe­cial cas­es.

    Nacin

  5. Posted September 12, 2010 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    @Cahya: Starters are cer­tain­ly wel­come. The point of the process is to raise the qual­i­ty of themes, which will only help to raise the qual­i­ty of code. The process is edu­ca­tion­al in nature.

  6. Posted September 12, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    Hi there,

    I teach peo­ple how to use Word­Press. Based on my expe­ri­ence, peo­ple who show up to down­load a theme from the repos­i­to­ry gen­er­al­ly know far less about Word­Press than peo­ple who devel­op themes (whether or not they are ama­teurs). The require­ments and rec­om­men­da­tions are designed for these users, not nec­es­sar­i­ly to make life eas­i­er for ama­teur theme devel­op­ers.

    How­ev­er, high stan­dards and a wel­com­ing atmos­phere for ama­teurs are not mutu­al­ly exclu­sive ideas. The WP Com­mu­ni­ty should pro­vide the sup­port sys­tem for ded­i­cat­ed ama­teurs who want to put their soft­ware in front of mil­lions of peo­ple — and are pre­pared to expe­ri­ence the con­se­quences there­of.

    Part of this sys­tem (flawed as it may be, but well-inten­tioned) is the theme review process. You can help make it bet­ter — join the theme-review­ers list and help out by review­ing oth­er peo­ple’s themes, par­tic­i­pat­ing in the dis­cus­sions, or just lis­ten­ing in.

    Most of the devs on the list are extreme­ly help­ful (such as Nacin), and will­ing to lis­ten to sug­ges­tions from the com­mu­ni­ty. Even if you’re just a lurk­er on the list (like me), you can learn some real­ly inter­est­ing stuff about how peo­ple build themes.

    Final­ly, +1 to the idea of flag­ging themes that have ful­filled all of the “rec­om­mend­ed” require­ments. That would cer­tain­ly make my life eas­i­er when it comes to steer­ing peo­ple towards themes that will work bet­ter with all their social net­work­ing plu­g­ins and oth­er unusu­al require­ments.

  7. Posted September 12, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    I would’ve thought the Qual­i­ty Con­trol theme should pass, even with its issues. How­ev­er, if it had been reviewed like all oth­er themes, it would not have been approved. Such a cool theme would’ve been denied access to the theme repo until it met all the cri­te­ria, and that’s a prob­lem.

    Some­thing like the com­ment form would’ve been okay since it was a spe­cial case even though it could’ve been done with the comment_form() func­tion (from what I could tell). But, it would’ve failed mis­er­ably on the WP_DEBUG test. We don’t let oth­er themes get away with this.

    The big prob­lem is that with­out a lit­tle help from Andrew, this theme most like­ly would not been in the repo. The bar­ri­er to entry is much too high right now. And, I say this as a pro­fes­sion­al theme devel­op­er and as one of the theme review­ers.

  8. Posted September 12, 2010 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    Just to men­tion that one review con­cerns one par­tic­u­lar ver­sion.
    If the ver­sion is reject­ed it does­n’t mean that theme is not suit­able for Repo, it means only that this par­tic­u­lar ver­sion has (some) issues which need to be solved.

  9. Philwebservices
    Posted September 13, 2010 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    Great idea and fas­ci­nat­ing article!..Keep it up..Thank you for shar­ing it with us..

  10. Matt
    Posted September 13, 2010 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    Thanks all for leav­ing your thoughts. Mur­phy’s Law has dic­tat­ed that the days fol­low­ing pub­lish­ing this would be too busy to respond. I’ll hope­ful­ly be able to respond to com­ments here and on the wp-themes list tomor­row.

  11. Soma
    Posted December 20, 2010 at 2:47 am | Permalink

    Hey,
    I just came across this while i was doing some research on cre­at­ing word­press themes. I’m new to this and i’m try­ing to get all the basics on the size and cod­ing and so forth. Read­ing this just gave me a mas­sive seizure haha­ha, is it real­ly that com­pli­cat­ed?