Justin Tadlock Joins Forces with Emil Uzelac to Provide WordPress Theme Review as a Service

photo credit: pollas - cc
photo credit: pollascc

Last week, Emil Uzelac launched a new theme review service targeted at WordPress developers and companies that want their products to adhere to best practices. Just one week after launch, Justin Tadlock, a fellow member of the WordPress.org theme review team and author of the Hybrid Core framework, is joining forces with Uzelac to provide professional reviews to customers.

“I’m interested in seeing where this goes. We (DevPress when I was there) were going to offer this service. It never took off because the business itself didn’t,” Tadlock commented on the original announcement. In the past he has conducted paid reviews privately for commercial theme vendors. Uzelac noticed his interest and pounced on the opportunity to partner with him.

“To quote one of my all time favorite businessman, J.C. Penney: ‘Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together,'” Uzelac said. “Justin and I exchanged a few ideas in my launching interview and that is where I learned from Jeff that he had this idea back in 2011.”

Since this idea has been on Tadlock’s mind for several years, he didn’t hesitate to get involved. “It’s something I pretty much immediately hopped on. We already have a bit of a working relationship as admins for the Theme Review Team. I believe it’s a good fit,” he said.

Based on his experience at ThemeForest and his service on the WordPress.org Theme Review Team, Tadlock is convinced that developers of all experience levels can benefit from professional theme review:

Professional theme authors who want to bring the highest quality theme to market need assurance that their code is solid. There’s nothing worse than spending months building an awesome theme only to have it break for a bunch of users because you missed something minor. Even the most experienced theme authors (myself included) overlook problems that a fresh, second pair of eyes could easily find. We have editors for books, newspapers, and so on for the same reason. Authors, whether they’re writers or theme developers, are going to miss something.

Although themes have always been critical to the success of WordPress, theme review is just now emerging as a service for which one might want to hire a dedicated professional. Tadlock attributes this to the increasing complexity of theme development. “Themes are a lot more complex than they were just 5 years ago, for example. This isn’t just because theme authors are packing in more stuff,” he said.

“Part of it is because basic WordPress theme development has gotten more complex. WordPress has been packing in a lot of new things in recent years, and themes need to account for a variety of possibilities. Just having someone running through unit tests will be a big help.”

Several readers commented on the original announcement to suggest that Uzelac consider offering a certification or badge of some sort for commercial theme authors to display once their themes have passed a professional review. Tadlock is open to the idea but sees it more as a marketing tool for their customers to employ.

“That’s probably a good idea, but I don’t think that’s what really matters,” he said. “I think the focus should be on giving our clients (theme devs) peace of mind. Once we are seen as a legit and well-known service, a badge or something will most likely become a useful marketing tool for theme authors.”

The Theme Review service has already gained traction, and Uzelac reports that he completed his fourth review today. “I’ve taken only what I could handle alone and in time. Now that Justin is in, we will do more,” he said. “In only few days after the initial launch the response and support has been overwhelming. This confirms that our community is in great need of experienced reviewers.”

When it comes to WordPress theme review skills and experience, Uzelac and Tadlock’s forces combined are unparalleled in the WordPress community. Tadlock hopes that together they can expand their efforts to serve more commercial theme providers. “I’d like to see regular business from some of the major theme shops,” he said. “That’s probably the biggest goal I’d shoot for at the moment.”

29 Comments


  1. This is starting to look like an excellent service. I don’t know much about Emil’s background, but I have enormous respect for Justin’s coding chops and pain staking attention to detail. This also looks like an extremely cheap service too (cheap as in price, not in quality), and I think this will result in a lot of people who previously couldn’t afford (or didn’t know how to obtain) quality code reviews getting some excellent feedback that wouldn’t have received in the past.

    Many moons ago I paid to have a plugin code audited. Unfortunately, it turned out the auditor had no idea what they were doing. I didn’t realise this until I eventually learned more than he did and could see that I’d just paid someone better than me, but who still had no idea what they were doing. Back then, I didn’t know who to to turn to. With dedicated services like this, with reviews and a reputation, new folks will know exactly where to go for reviews.

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    1. I don’t know much about Emil’s background..

      Hey Ryan, Emil is a TRT admin, along with Justin. He’s super knowledgeable as well. :)

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      1. I know who he is. I just don’t think I’ve looked at any of his code in depth, like I have with Justin.

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  2. Question for Emil and Justin (I’m assuming you will be reading the comments here): Would you consider doing reviews of plugins or complete sites? I now have somewhere to send people for theme reviews which is nice, but it would be great to have somewhere to refer people wanting complete site or plugin audits to as well.

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    1. I’ve intentionally avoided plugin and site reviews in the past because you rarely know what you’re getting yourself into. The only time I’ve done them is when I know the developer and can trust a 3-hour job doesn’t turn into a 20-hour job. Themes have a lot of standard components that make them much easier to review. Plugins, not so much.

      I can’t speak directly for Emil, but it’s probably best to get a solid start with theme reviews. Then, consider branching out once the service has been established.

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      1. I would do plugins on an hourly rate, not a per plugin basis. In fact I’d do the same with themes too, since they vary wildly depending on their complexity.

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      2. We’re definitely doing an hourly rate, but it’s also nice to be able to have an estimated time frame for both the reviewer and the client, which is a bit harder to do with plugins in my experience. That’s what I was referring to.

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  3. Really glad to see this moving forward and happy to hear they’ve already had a couple of takers.

    I hope Emil and Justin will consider the “badge” sooner rather than later. Although the price for reviews is very reasonable, it could easily take 10-20% of a theme’s first year profit for a small shop like mine. Being able to use that review in a sales pitch would help recoup some of that cost.

    I think one of the hallmarks of a successful community project is its ability to align the interests of diverse actors. Building real business value into the review service would help incentivize the process for theme shops which might otherwise never bother.

    It doesn’t have to be a “badge”, if that’s too black and white. It could be a rating on issues like security, performance and stability (eg – use of core non-deprecated functions). Or it could just be a small report, which we could link to, that details the results of the reviews tests and details any specific concerns.

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    1. I’m just throwing out an idea related to the badge that I’d like to eventually add. What I think would be great is a way to verify the badge. The easiest way to do that is to have a public listing of the themes that we’ve reviewed. The badge or whatever it is could the be linked to our site so that the user can verify that we’ve done the review.

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      1. Love it. (And with that, you have the seed of what could become a competitive, independent directory of commercial themes.)

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  4. Brilliant to see!
    I think it would be a great idea to form some sort of partnership with Yoast’s site reviews.

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  5. So…when someone submits a theme (or plugin), the WPreviwers (what is their official WPtitle?) will go through the code and review it…

    What is the difference between THAT and Tadlock/Uzelac service? either than price.

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    1. Are you maybe referring to the official theme and plugin repository submissions?

      Plugins are not reviewed on dot org, and only themes submitted to dot org are reviewed there (obviously), whereas most are never submitted there, so do not get that treatment.

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      1. Good point. They’re only skim read for major flaws and don’t get a code audit like the theme review process though.

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    2. The Theme Review Team on WordPress.org, which both Emil and I are admins of, is only for themes submitted to be listed on WordPress.org. We both plan to continue volunteering with the team, so nothing is changing there.

      However, the vast majority of themes are not on WordPress.org and don’t get reviewed. This service should be particularly useful to those selling themes commercially or building themes for clients.

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  6. No there is zero reasons not to use this theme review service. Also people creating custom themes for clients should use this.

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    1. There is not much to add here, just want to say thanks to all. We are so blessed to be part of this wonderful community :)

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    2. That is exactly the reason I already used Emil’s wonderful service. To review the general code of my starter theme which I use to build sites for clients on. Emil had great tips and pointed out a few things that I had missed or done wrong. I can highly recommend it to anyone and I think it is excellent to now have Justin on board too!

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  7. I’m curious if this service offers any insights or recommendations as to a themes UI/UX or visual style. A theme can have beautiful code and still ugly or confusing.

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    1. Same as the code, design can also have issues, which would be the type of the review I was referring to. UX should of been UI sorry.

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  8. This is brilliant news! I was excited when I read about Emil Uzelac’s initial announcement. I’m even more excited now.

    Emil is a stalwart of the Theme Review Team, and Justin is an unmistakable thought leader (not to mention a theming expert).

    The fact that they are both now teaming up to offer this service is epic.

    I think the service will be a great contribution to the community, and an opportunity for theme developers and shops to level up their code to standard practice. An excellent way to go about things.

    Thanks and kudos to them both!

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  9. This is good news. I admit I previously made themes that would make @Justin Tadlock’s head explode out of frustration.. jam-packed with (self-written & built-in) features that would for sure render your site useless if you switch it out for another theme.

    It’s been a long time since then and now I’m a huge proponent of building stuff the proper “WordPress way” (this is another discussion by itself). Now, even though my new unreleased theme doesn’t include new functionality, uses Underscores, supports Jetpack and all it’s modules, and passes the Theme Check plugin. I’m curious to see what I’m still missing.

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