14 Comments


  1. We would be more then willing to not only host this project on our test servers (experimentwith.com) but we would also love to participate on the project. Then we can take the XML export and add it to github.com.


  2. I’ve seen tons of themes that looked great in the screenshot and bland in the demo, e.g. because many of the special features were in front-page.php. And I could say that a theme meant for download should be at least somewhat generic and make the best out of any content it’s given. Many themes eschew standard WP mechanisms in favor of custom code that has to be specifically catered to, and that’s wrong. But the official demo content is also very bland; lack of featured images on posts (to use your example) is an obvious omission that would be easy to fix.


  3. In answer to the question of how many themes are ruined: most of them!

    Sorry, but for me this is a fact. The small thumbnail looks good, it makes people want to click on the demo, and then all that comes up is a plain theme with no excitement which hardly inspires and which looks nothing like the thumbnail. I spent over an hour recently looking through themes to find a suitable one for a new web site (http://vmpublications.com) and rejected almost all of them simply because the demo didn’t include header images or had only the one boat photograph, no decent text to show typeface and layout and gave no idea whatsoever of what a theme would look like when actually used.

    Even non-commercial themes need to ‘sell’ so a good deal of improvement is desired to gain more downloads. We can’t all download a plain theme and work on it to see what the creator should have shown us in the first place.


  4. @Viktoria Michaelis

    Even non-commercial themes need to ‘sell’ so a good deal of improvement is desired to gain more downloads. We can’t all download a plain theme and work on it to see what the creator should have shown us in the first place.

    But that’s the point: for the vast majority of what you listed, the Theme developers don’t have control for the Theme directory preview.

    Theme developers can define default header and background images, but I think that’s unnecessary. If a Theme uses the “custom-header” or “custom-background” filter tags, you can trust that the Theme supports the core implementation of those features, and thus that you can add your own custom header or background images.

    Featured images are difficult to handle on a generic preview/demo server, also, because custom featured image sizes must be regenerated on a Theme-by-Theme basis (something that I assume would currently be prohibitively difficult for the Theme directory preview server).

    So, there’s really nothing that the Theme developer can do to improve things with respect to the Theme directory preview.


  5. @Felix

    And I could say that a theme meant for download should be at least somewhat generic and make the best out of any content it’s given.

    That’s why, as part of the standard Theme review process, all Themes are run through the Theme Unit Test data – to ensure that they handle all normal use cases, as well as many edge cases.

    Many themes eschew standard WP mechanisms in favor of custom code that has to be specifically catered to, and that’s wrong.

    All Themes hosted in the official Theme directory are required to incorporate the core implementation of any included features.

    But the official demo content is also very bland; lack of featured images on posts (to use your example) is an obvious omission that would be easy to fix.

    Supporting featured images wouldn’t be as easy or trivial as you imagine. The Theme directory preview server uses the same instance to serve previews, and changes the Theme “on the fly”. But custom image sizes, as are normally used for featured images, must be regenerated on a Theme-by-Theme basis. In order to display featured images properly, the preview would likely need to have a unique instance for every hosted Theme, and would have to regenerate intermediate image sizes every time a Theme is updated.

    (Though, I’m sure Otto could come up with something that would work much better.)


  6. @James W. Lane – Thanks for the offer. We’ll have to see if there is a group of individuals willing to concentrate on this project. Unfortunately, I don’t have BuddyPress installed just yet so I can’t create a group dedicated to it.

    @Chip Bennett – Hey Chip, long time no see :) based on your comments and the discussion on the Post Status post, it looks like this is a catch 22 situation. We can make the demo content look better but we still can’t get the theme previewer to match 100% the way a theme is meant to be viewed as in the screenshot. So the next alternative would be a link on the theme repo that takes people to that theme authors demo page on their website but this is not an option because of the monitoring and such that would need to take place. Would be stupid for people to contact WP.org to complain about demo links being broken.

    It seems at this point, theme authors should be encouraged to have their own demo site that is accessible when you visit the theme authors home page as the .org previewer can not be guaranteed to show the theme the way it was meant to be viewed.


  7. @Jeffro

    Hey Chip, long time no see :)

    Likewise! Good to see you writing again.

    It seems at this point, theme authors should be encouraged to have their own demo site that is accessible when you visit the theme authors home page as the .org previewer can not be guaranteed to show the theme the way it was meant to be viewed.

    There is actually a third, and probably better, alternative: the Theme Customizer. Just install a Theme, then go to Appearance -> Themes, and click “Live Preview” for any installed Theme. That will initiate the Theme Customizer, allowing you to preview that Theme using your own site’s content, and to manipulate that Theme’s options (assuming it has hooked its options into the Customizer API), all without ever activating the Theme. If you like what you see: activate it. If not, just close the Customizer without saving changes, and then delete the Theme (if you’d like).


  8. @Chip Bennett – “Supporting featured images wouldn’t be as easy or trivial as you imagine.”

    Sure it is… if I want it to do image resizing on the fly, I’ll just use Photon. :)


  9. @Chip Bennett – “If not, just close the Customizer without saving changes, and then delete the Theme”

    This rather defeats the object of the game. It means that I need to download a theme and then upload it to my server before I can see whether it is one that I like, one that fits in with my project. How many thousand themes are there on WordPress.org? If I just cut it down to simple things like 2 column, blue… still a lot.


  10. @Viktoria Michaelis

    This rather defeats the object of the game. It means that I need to download a theme and then upload it to my server before I can see whether it is one that I like, one that fits in with my project. How many thousand themes are there on WordPress.org? If I just cut it down to simple things like 2 column, blue… still a lot.

    Wait: are you actually manually downloading Themes from the Theme directory?

    If so: why? Just go to your Dashboard, then Appearance -> Themes -> Add New, and you can do it all in one click. No need to leave your WP-Admin. :)


  11. @Chip Bennett – Well, yes, because I want to see the theme on the site before I download it and, believe it or not, some servers do have a traffic limit? The thumbnails and search facility on WordPress.org give me a good insight into a theme, something that I do not have direct on my Admin page…


  12. @Viktoria Michaelis

    Well, yes, because I want to see the theme on the site before I download it and, believe it or not, some servers do have a traffic limit?

    If installing Themes causes you to hit your bandwidth limit, then I think it’s time to find a new host. Seriously.

    The thumbnails and search facility on WordPress.org give me a good insight into a theme, something that I do not have direct on my Admin page…

    The same tag filter search on Extend (wordpress.org/extend/themes) is in your WP-Admin. The same thumbnails displayed on Extend are displayed in your WP-Admin. And the preview actually works better in your WP-Admin than it does on Extend.

    You should give it a try. :)


  13. What if WordPress allowed you to have a demo-content.xml file in your themes directory so when it’s previewed you can see the theme how the Author intended, an added bonus feature would be when you installed it, it could setup the theme also how the author intended. Also an easier option would allow theme authors to op-in to hosting a demo theme and allowing it to be viewed in the preview.

    @Jeffro – I built ExperimentWith.com for all kinds of WordPress testing so if you ever need it let me know, We are willing to use it for all sorts of projects for the community.


  14. @Chip Bennett – Some server setups have strict security settings that don’t allow the web server to write into the theme and plugin directories. And frankly I prefer it that way, after having my website hacked via somebody else’s account on the same host.

    Besides, if you have to download a theme to preview it (either manually or from the admin), then what’s the point of having a demo on the download page at all?

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