GoDaddy’s New Primer Theme Bypasses Theme Review Queue, Highlights Bottlenecks in Review Process

photo credit: pollas - cc
photo credit: pollascc

As part of its new onboarding experience for WordPress customers, GoDaddy has created a group of 10 themes to streamline the process of creating a business website. In order to host updates more effectively, the company is submitting the themes to WordPress.org and the first one is now live after less than 24 hours in the theme review queue.

Primer is the parent theme for nine upcoming child themes, which will be submitted to WordPress.org one at a time. Its controversial fast-tracking through the queue angered and frustrated WordPress theme authors who currently have theme submissions that have been waiting months for a review.

Samuel Wood, who works on WordPress.org but is not part of the Theme Review Team, explained in the ticket why he processed the theme outside of the queue.

“The special case here is that they needed to reuse an old name for assorted practical reasons, and it had to be live to allow the already created child themes to be added to the directory,” Wood said. He had to manually make the theme name available or GoDaddy would not have been able to submit it under this name. Wood had the theme reviewed first and the required changes took three weeks to finalize. After it was finished he was able to transfer it to use the Primer name.

“Timing was important because they made this one theme as a base for a dozen or so child themes, and are deploying this to all their WordPress installs, which is quite a lot,” Wood said. “We’d rather have them updating properly from our servers instead of having them create some wacky solution that updates it from theirs or from GitHub.”

The necessity for administrative intervention in this case, and the resulting frustration of other theme authors who have been waiting, once again highlights how painfully slow the theme review process can be. The long wait times discourage some authors from submitting themes to the official directory.

“I have three free themes on wp.org and one of the most demotivating things, while waiting to be approved, was the wait times,” WordPress.org theme author Tomas Petrašiūnas commented on the related post on the Advanced WordPress Facebook group. “Building a theme in a week and then waiting for a few months to even start the review process – that’s the exact reason why I’ve never bothered to get more themes approved on wp.org.”

Chris Bavota, author of the popular Arcade theme, said he “submitted three themes in February and [is] still waiting on approvals and reviews.”

The WordPress.org theme and plugin directories have historically been protected from commercial interests receiving any special treatment, but exceptions like this one made it difficult for other waiting theme authors not to see GoDaddy’s major sponsorship of WordCamps as the reason for getting a theme fast-tracked.

“As someone who has been waiting months for a simple child theme review and who has been a WordCamp sponsor, this sucks big time,” Stiofan O’Connor commented.

Incomplete Theme Submissions are Slowing the Review Queue

Samuel Wood identified the Primer theme situation as a special case and encouraged theme authors and reviewers who were frustrated to explore new ways of managing the queue. At this time there are more than 600 themes in the queue, an improvement from the 900+ that were waiting a month ago.

Key reviewer Emil Uzelac said one of the main issues that slows the process is incomplete theme submissions, which includes themes that present with more than five errors. Sometimes themes languish in the queue and by the time they are reviewed they haven’t been updated to meet newer requirements. Others include common mistakes like missing translation functions or prefixes, or including custom versions of scripts that are already included with WordPress.

To mitigate this Uzelac said the team has implemented some new policies which he says have helped reduce the queue over the past month.

“We are actually limiting submissions to one theme per author now, and if the theme has five or more distinct issues, we close it as not-approved,” Uzelac said. “It has been working very well. Once we are around 100-150 this will go much faster.” He estimates it will take a few months to get there.

The Theme Review Team is also working on improving automation for routine tasks. Due to the architectural shortcomings of the Theme Check plugin, the team is looking to PHP_CodeSniffer to create a better solution. They are working to add a new WordPress-Theme coding standard to the existing WordPress Coding Standards project, and contributors are building a list of sniffs that pertain to theme review requirements.

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