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?