Over on the BuddPress blog, Andy Peatling has published a post explaining to us why BuddyPress themes are future proof. Andy explains that for folks into blogging, it makes sense to access a backend to configure settings such as your profile, etc. The software should enable you to write with little distractions without the need for flashy graphics.
However, since BuddyPress has more of a social nature to it, logging into the backend to change minute information such as your profile, or to check messages makes for a bad experience as it breaks continuity. I tend to agree. Andy then explains that BuddyPress themes contain template files and functions for displaying and updating content from the front-end. Essentially, you don’t have to drive a mile to move a foot. What this all means is that, since new features are typically handled by the administration area of the software, themes will usually work all the time with only some template functions added on occasion.
BuddyPress is taking an interesting approach to theme development as illustrated by this point:
New functionality in BuddyPress will almost always be enabled through theme upgrades. However, our policy will be that existing themes will not break and backwards compatibility will always be assured. As a theme designer it is up to you to decide which BuddyPress features you want to provide support for, and whether you want to support new features introduced in future BuddyPress versions.
If that wasn’t enough to get excited about, with each release, they plan on offering a ‘cheat-sheet‘ which will list all of the new functions that were added as well as a backlog of all of the previous functions. The default themes for BuddyPress will always remain up to date, including the skeleton theme meaning you’ll always have a clean slate to start from.
Despite me not using the software, I am very impressed by what I’ve read in this announcement. In fact, I’d like to mention that I would love to see WordPress themes head in more of a direction that BuddyPress themes are in that, I would like to edit certain things from the front-end versus having to always go through the backend. For example, instead of logging into my administration page, clicking Appearance, clicking Widgets, configuring a new text widget or simply correcting a typo I discovered, I’d rather be able to click an edit button from the front page of the blog where the text widget is displayed and be able to edit the title and the content right there, on the spot. Why should EVERYTHING be done in the administration panel?
I remember a WordPress theme called Ajaxified (I think) which provided a bunch of front end editing that worked via Ajax. That project is no longer being updated. However, I know of a plugin called Front-End Editor created by the awesome scribu which appears to do most of what I want. I’ll be sure to give this a plugin a try and follow up with a detailed review. If it works as expected, guess I’ll be happy to see that theme authors won’t need to do a thing to move down this road.