After Eight Years, Thematic Theme’s Lead Developers Discontinue the Project

Gene Robinson, lead developer of the Thematic WordPress theme, has announced that the project will no longer be developed. Thematic was last updated in 2013 and is actively installed on more than 4K sites. Users are advised to migrate to a different theme as updates will no longer be released. As WordPress core evolves, sites using Thematic may develop incompatibilities.

Continuing The Legacy with a Different Name

Although development on Thematic is discontinuing, Robinson has forked the project and renamed it to Deciduous. The project picks up where Thematic leaves off. Those interested in continuing development can follow it on GitHub where pull requests are welcomed. Robinson is also seeking links to other projects that are derivative of Thematic.

Where to Get Support for Thematic

Users who need support are advised to post on the WordPress.org support forums for the Thematic theme, “The support forums on the Thematic website are shutting down due to the lack of community involvement, moderation, and developer feedback,” Robinson said. “Hopefully the greater WordPress support community will be able to help you find a resolution.”

A Look Back

The years 2008-2009 is an interesting time frame in WordPress’ history. A number of commercial theme and plugin companies, WordPress-centric sites, and projects were launched. Among these was the Thematic theme by Ian Stewart, theme Wrangler for Automattic. Thematic was more than just a theme, it was an opportunity for Stewart to learn how WordPress’ theme system works.

Thematic Theme Preview from WordPress.org
Preview of Thematic from WordPress.org

He regularly shared his knowledge with the community through ThemeShaper.com, a site now owned by Automattic that features contributions from other members of the theme team. It was the wild west of theme development in 2008 and any person who regularly shared theme development techniques became an influential member of the community.

Two years after launching Thematic, Stewart joined Automattic as a theme wrangler.

What can I say besides awesome, awesome, awesome? The enormous opportunity for learning and improvement; all the super-talented, friendly people; the chance to work on so many really, really cool projects—it’s almost unbelievable. This is a dream job for me.

The hiring allowed him to make available all of his commercial child themes built on the Thematic framework available free of charge to the community.

Did You Learn From Thematic?

It’s bittersweet and slightly nostalgic to see the theme come to an end. When I launched the Tavern in 2009, I regularly linked to tutorials and articles published by Stewart. I’m almost certain Thematic and its creator helped out a number of budding theme developers between 2008-2011. Let us know in the comments if you used Thematic for any projects or what you learned from its code.

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25 Comments


  1. This is what worries me about my career, which is modifying themes for clients. Hundreds of sites over the past 6 years and what the heck happens when the developers stop supporting them? Do I tell my client “sorry, but this is your problem?” They would have no idea how to install another theme and possibly reformat their content.

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    1. You know going in that developers will not maintain a theme forever, that’s not feasible. I think there are ways of communication the issue to clients without telling them it’s their problem. This is the nature of the beast of using any WordPress plugin or theme.

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    2. This is something we flag in our project proposals. That way, if and when it happens, we can offer to resolve the situation for a reasonable fee. This works best when we’re able to maintain an ongoing business relationship, e.g. via a site maintenance service.

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    3. You can always maintain the theme yourself if the developer stops supporting it. Basic maintenance usually requires little effort anyway.

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    4. Hey John,
      Just want to clarify I personally did not “advise” anyone to migrate to a new theme. Thats’ Jeff’s opinion and he’s entitled to it.

      I simply stated the following:

      What does this mean for those of you who are actively using Thematic?

      You will not be receiving updates from here on out. And gradually as WordPress evolves, Thematic may have compatibility issues that affect your site. I’m truly sorry but that is the bottom line and you deserve to know the truth.

      There is and always will be support in the WordPress community for Thematic.

      It just didn’t make sense to keep the thematic theme forums open anymore. Overwhelming spam, lack of community involvement, no developer feed back as development ceased, all of theses we reasons to close it down.

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    5. They can always hire someone else i.e. some other developer and get it working. The show must go on as they say….

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  2. I used Thematic as a parent theme for years in many sites. When updates started to happen less frequently I began to worry. Thankfully, I found the Underscores theme and stopped creating child themes. As can be seen, it’s not a good idea to depend on other themes.

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  3. Thematic was a shot across the bow in a Kubrick-theme-dominated world at the time. Clean, elegant, adaptable–it was epic, and if I remember right it led more or less to the Kirby theme which was essentially the blueprint for the Twenty Ten theme.
    And for years Themeshaper was the best tutorial for theme development, perhaps to be surpassed by that still-sort-of-hidden theme tutorial on developer.wordpress.org.

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  4. I have a lot of respect for Ian and learnt an awful lot from thematic and theme shaper. I used thematic as a parent theme for a long time before moving on the Genesis and underscores. Thematic for a long time seemed like it was doing things right and if I remember correctly really led the drive of hooks, actions and filters in themes for customisation.

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  5. Ah, those were the good ol’ days. The days where WP theme development really took off. We all owe a huge debt of gratitude to Ian and the Thematic community for many of the theme-related features we have today in core.

    Now, I want to dust off that old theme that I built as a competitor to Thematic. See if there’s still a little life left in it.

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    1. And Thematic owes a great debt to you. We often looked to Hybrid when we were scratching our heads as WordPress evolved. Thanks Justin

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  6. Via con Dios amigo! I learned a lot from Thematic. It was a great theme, still is. Like Justin, I think I still have an old theme I ported from it a long time ago in the archives. Hmm…

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  7. I never found the theme itself useful, but it was great for picking through and finding useful bits. I was always wondering how long it would take to reach this point. I don’t really think it is feasible to provide backwards compatibility whilst adding modern best practices for existing users (without requiring significant code upgrades or significantly breaking existing sites). Some themes, such as Genesis, simply add a toggle to upgrade to backwards compatibility breaking features (Genesis HTML5 mode), but that’s not really any different to just creating a whole new theme. I think discontinuing is the best option here. It’s probably time for users to upgrade to a newer theme with all the new bells and whilstles anyway.

    Big props to Ian and co. for keeping it maintained for so long anyway. Most developers would have dropped support a LONG time before this.

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  8. Thematic was a truly influential WordPress theme, being one of the first that strictly encouraged the parent/child relationship, including a hook system that frequently negated the need to overwrite complete template files.

    I definitely learned a lot from it and am glad to hear the project will carry on in a fork.

    I’m a little confused though. If Deciduous “picks up where Thematic leaves off” then why not continue under the Thematic name?

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    1. Like I mention in the announcement on thematictheme.com Ian and I came to the decision that the direction the development of Thematic in it’s last year was better suited to exist as a fork.

      I even attempted to patch the theme for current users but the consideration of backward compatibility as well as the demands of current theme review requirements, made it appear that’d we’d do more harm than good. The decision to move on and close the forums didn’t come lightly.

      Honestly, we should have forked it long ago when we had more momentum and support. Holding on to the name (mostly on my part) was what led to the community around it dispersing.

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      1. My bad, I did not read the announcement carefully enough. Makes total sense.

        Best of luck with Deciduous going forward. :)

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      2. This is an excellent approach IMO. Too many projects break backwards compatibility for no good reason or bloat their code base to jam in backwards compatibilty rather than just forking.

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  9. I really don’t get what all the fuss is about!?!?!

    This is the plainest of the plain and boring WP themes. What makes it so special (aside from the history)?

    If I wanted boring (which I really don’t) why wouldn’t I just use the stock WP theme?

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    1. The stock WordPress theme was quite messy. It also didn’t make use of hooks and filters and wasn’t much use as a parent theme. Thematic, along with Sandbox and Hybrid, were the first to begin pushing the child theming process which seems to have become very popular these days.

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      1. Ok….so relevant way back when but light years behind now.

        Got it. :)

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  10. Thematic and the community around it were instrumental in drawing me into the WordPress world. It was how I first learned about hooks and filters, and it led to some of my first client projects and open source work.

    I learned a ton thanks to Ian, Gene, Chris, Kathy and everyone else who was a part of the project. Cheers and thanks!

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  11. Thematic & ThemeHybrid are where I cut my teeth.

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  12. Did I Learn From Thematic?

    Are you kidding. It was the first theme for which I created a child theme when I didn’t know what a child theme was. I loved Thematic so let me bid you a fond Adieu!

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  13. I built many successful sites with Thematic before switching to Genesis, and Thematic was a great vehicle for learning hook-driven child theme development.

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  14. Thanks very much for all of your work on Thematic. I’m saddened to hear it won’t be supported anymore, and struggling to figure out my next move. I am a novice web developer at best, who, 4 years ago, decided to create my own theme. I read the book “Build Your Own Wicked WordPress Themes”, which described how to use Thematic to build a theme. I described my efforts here. I know my theme is very simple and crude to you experts. It would be nice if the Thematic developers could recommend a way forward, but I guess there aren’t many like me who need this. I suppose what I must do next is start over on a new theme with some other framework that is still being supported.

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