Upcoming Changes and Steps for an Overhauled WordPress Theme Review System

Upcoming Changes and Steps for an Overhauled WordPress Theme Review System

On Wednesday, WordPress executive director Josepha Haden Chomphosy posted the next steps forward for themes and reviews for the official theme directory. In the post, she describes the tools and types of access the Themes Team needs. She also laid out some other goals for the system. The timeline is to have much of this in place by early 2022.

Two months ago, things were coming to a head. Project lead Matt Mullenweg saw much of what we have all been seeing. Creative contributions to the free directory were few and far between, many of the submissions merely being stripped-down “lite” themes with commercial interests.

There was some disagreement on why the directory was not producing the high-quality projects users should expect from an official source. Mullenweg cited the rules and update mechanism as problem areas.

However, others like Joost de Valk, the CPO of Yoast, said the reality of the situation is that money is now a part of the equation. Producing high-quality products, maintaining them, and supporting them is not sustainable without the financial resources in place. Because WordPress.org provides no path for developers to make money directly, upsell-motived themes are the result. Eric Karkovack expanded upon this in his piece for Speckyboy, Are High-Quality Free WordPress Themes a Thing of the Past?

Some of the Themes Team members disagreed that the rules were the problem. At the heart of the team’s handbook is the idea that themes should be GPL-compatible, secure, and not break things.

The problem is not necessarily specific guidelines but the process. Mullenweg wanted to switch to a post-commit strategy that would see themes move into the directory more quickly. The goal is to be a little more like the plugin directory and let users guide others through the star-rating review system.

However, themes and plugins are different beasts. Themes must follow some standard patterns and do some specific things to actually work. The best way to make that happen is with automated tools performing the grunt work that humans have been doing for the past decade. Many guidelines could become a line of code in a script. Each new line would lighten the burden on volunteers.

The Themes Team agreed with his assessment of the theme quality. However, some did feel like the theme system was the oft-forgotten stepchild who received all the hand-me-downs from its preferred sibling, the plugin directory. They needed resources from the community to drive any sort of change. Team members had little power outside of their gatekeeping responsibilities and were short on volunteers.

Changing Hearts and Minds

Haden Chomphosy published notes on the meeting in February. The post detailed the ideas and what took place. However, much of it seemed vague in terms of actionable items. It was the groundwork phase.

In a private discussion with one of the Themes Team reps,



This article was written by Justin Tadlock and originally published on WordPress Tavern.

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