Customizer Theme Switcher Approved for Merge Into WordPress 4.2

customizer-theme-switcher

The Customizer Theme Switcher feature plugin was approved for merge today during the regularly scheduled WordPress core development meeting. Lead developers and contributors in attendance agreed that there are no major blocking issues.

The Customizer Theme Switcher in WordPress 4.2 will make it possible for users to browse through themes that have already been installed and activate a new one on the frontend via the customizer. The idea is to unify the UI designated for customizing a site to create a more consistent experience for users on the frontend. In the future, the theme installation process will also be added to the customizer.

Many users initially had concerns about adding this feature to the narrow customizer UI. “I would like to see a full-screen iteration so it doesn’t feel like I am looking through a port hole,” Andrew Nacin said during the development meeting. His comment echoes the concerns of others who have doubts about browsing themes through the small customizer window.

In response to WP Tavern commenters who oppose the new feature, project leader Nick Halsey encouraged users to examine how the customizer will force developers to simplify their UIs:

I’ll also point out for everyone that while the Customizer controls window is fairly small, this is a balance with providing a reasonably sized preview of the front-end, and the narrow controls UI window is mobile-first out-of-the-box. Being forced to work with less real estate in the customizer controls forces developers to simplify their UIs and make things easier to use. If you’re shoving hundreds of options into the Customizer, you’re creating something that’s just as bad of an experience to use as if you’d done that in a custom admin screen.

In response to those concerned about the next step of adding the theme installation process to the customizer, Halsey assured users that they are planning on making the customizer controls area almost full-width. This will ensure a more pleasant experience while selecting a theme from a large collection. The theme switcher feature added to WordPress 4.2 will happen in the more narrow customizer pane, since it is most often limited to a small collection of already installed themes.

The Press This Revamp project is also currently under consideration for merge into WordPress 4.2 and contributors will be testing it over the next week. The merge window runs through next Wednesday, followed by two weeks of iteration before the first beta is expected.

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14 Comments


  1. It’s rather ironic that when it comes to customizing the theme using the customizer it’s this response:

    “Being forced to work with less real estate in the customizer controls forces developers to simplify their UIs and make things easier to use.”

    Yet when they want to throw the theme selection in the customizer they make it ‘almost full screen’.

    Sigh….

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  2. FYI, Twitter thinks your tweet share is spam. Shortened the URL (tinyurl or goo.gl) fixed it.

    Thanks for the update!

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  3. The Customizer in its current state is a big joke. It’s way to slow and has lots of usability issues, especially also on mobile devices.

    I cannot understand how a half-baked unperformant system like this gets promoted and forced on the community over and over again. It really is a shame.

    Or, is it just one of those “typical WordPress ideology”? Don’t know…

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    1. I agree. And what’s really ironic is that its promoters themselves know it’s a joke — otherwise why would they be saying that they plan to make the customizer “almost full screen”?

      It’s like they wanted theme developers to stop having theme options pages just so they could create their own themes options page.

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  4. How will Customizer work with @GeneratePress (the theme I’m using now)? Or other themes which are already customized? It seems Customizer mainly reorganizes the admin screen – which is ok with me. But, it may be really tricky with existing themes and frameworks which have options for formatting, colours, etc built in.

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  5. I love the customizer. Our Titan Framework makes full use of it. In all honesty I would prefer that themes purely use the customizer for all their options.

    I agree though that the customizer isn’t going to work in small screened mobile devices. But personally, if you’re customizing the look of your site, it would be better to do it on a large screen.

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  6. I think the Customizer is pretty confusing. It’s location is somewhat hidden, since it’s a submenu item in Appearance > Customizer. Then when you click that you are greeted by a completely different environment, as if you are outside the WordPress admin panel. And then you find the different customise options, like setting the static front page, setting menu’s, etc, all options which can already/also be found elsewhere in the admin panel. Having worked with WordPress for ten years, have never used the Customizer myself. And I know my clients (non-tech people) cannot use it because it’s too complex. Neither do I want them to use it, since I think the design of the website is something the web designer should be responsible for. The user should be concerned with the content of the site.

    The problem with the WordPress admin UI is that it is build for completely different groups of people using it.
    – experienced web developers tech savvy enough to deal with complex things like decing on the kinds of permalinks etc,
    – non-tech users who are just content editors and don’t need to do more than create/edit posts and pages and working with uploaded media
    – semi-tech savvy users who want to build their own weblog/website, doing both “development” in the sense of customising themes and plugins but without PHP knowledge, as well as creating and editing the content of the website.

    Not sure what the best solution is. Maybe it should be possible to have three different kinds of admin panels, targeted at those three different groups of people. A bit like you have now with different user roles viewing more/less. But then specifically build with those three groups of users in mind.

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  7. “If you’re shoving hundreds of options into the Customizer, you’re creating something that’s just as bad of an experience to use as if you’d done that in a custom admin screen.” I’m glad someone said that!

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  8. This is probably the first time that i’m disappointed with new features that are added to WordPress. I love WordPress and i like the theme customizer as it is, meaning it should only customize the current theme. I personally do not see any point in adding a theme switcher in there and i will probably never use it. I keep reading how theme developers should stop bloating their themes but then it’s the customizer that starts getting bloated? With all due respect to the people that worked on this feature, it looks nice and fancy, but i don’t see the point of it being into the core, my opinion is that it should stay as a plugin, but i guess it’s too late now.

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  9. I’m a little confused. I’m a long term user of WordPress,but i am not a developer. One thing I have always wanted its the ability to select other templates to see how my site would look if i converted to the new template. And do so without damaging my original site If i decide not to use the template I’m trying. Is that what customizer will do?

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  10. I actually like to see them remove the customizer from core and offer it as a plugin. I never have a need for it building client sites, and it just adds to the continual blot of WordPress

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    1. The customizer itself is actually a really good thing because it standardizes how appearance-related items are handled. This is particularly nice when switching themes and needing to set the new theme up. Client sites are a minority. The vast majority of sites run on publicly-released themes. It makes sense to standardize something for the majority and have a plugin to cater to the minority (i.e., disable the customizer for a client site).

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  11. Personally I like to play in customizer instead of button there, menu item here …
    That is why I choose theme which are handled via customizer. Customizer is for me really cool and helpful tool.

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