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.
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.
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.
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 :).
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.
@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.
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.
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_DEBUGtest. 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.
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.
Great idea and fascinating article!..Keep it up..Thank you for sharing it with us..
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.
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?