Chip Bennett announced on the Make.WordPress.org website that the theme review guidelines have been updated. Specifically, the theme unit tests have been reduced from required, to recommended. This change was inspired by a passionate conversation, started by Lance Willett. In that conversation they debated whether or not guidelines were hard and fast rules.
I asked Chip Bennett to explain in plain English what these changes mean for both theme reviewers and authors. This is what he had to say.
No changes have been made to the overall Guidelines, except that the Theme Unit Tests have been reduced in criticality from “Required” to “Recommended”. Developers should still test their Themes against the TUT before submission, and Reviewers will still test Themes against the TUT during reviews. The only difference is that, now, any observed issues will be noted as recommended fixes, rather than as issues required to address before Theme approval.
These changes come on the heels of a recent blog post published by Mario Peshev where he explained his experience participating in the theme review process for the past two and half years. According to Mario, some of the guidelines still contain too much subjectivity, especially when it comes to credit links located within themes. A side effect of the theme review guidelines is the large amount of themes in the directory that cater to blogging. The argument is that the guidelines do not provide enough leeway to embrace variety. However, Chip noted in the comments:
There’s nothing in the Guidelines that prohibit “business” Themes, or one-page Themes, or WooCommerce/EDD Themes, etc. If there are minor things that need exceptions (such as allowing the screenshot to display a static front page), developers can always ask for such exceptions.
Between the recent change with the theme unit tests and the engaging discussions taking place amongst the theme review community, steps are being taken in the right direction to make the theme review process easier for everyone involved. It’s worthy to note that all of the WordPress theme reviewers are volunteers helping to make the directory a better place.