Listener Poll: How Should I Review A Theme?

The Degusto theme review I recently published showed me that switching themes on an established site is not as easy as 1, 2, 3. I didn’t know whether I should write the review from a fresh install of WordPress or on an established site pre filled with content. This is where you come in.

[poll id=”17″]

Personally, I think it’s a great idea if commercial theme authors provided an XML file which contained content exclusively for their theme preferably, the content I see on the demo site.


9 responses to “Listener Poll: How Should I Review A Theme?”

  1. I voted for using a pre-existing install, but really, I think both methods are useful.

    On the one hand, using a fresh install of WordPress would enable you to review the theme essentially as the developer intended it to look. On the other hand, using your pre-existing WordPress install would enable you to review the theme as it would look on in already established (i.e. personalized) environment.
    .-= Most Recently Published Blog Post… Daily Digest for June 14th =-.

  2. I voted clean install. You bring up an interesting question within this thread.

    I have noticed some themes are easier to move to then others. Some themes are a major pain in the butt to move to because even post content has been setup to suit a specific theme layout. I think the reviews should be done on a clean WordPress site.

    In reality there’s so many different WordPress site configurations going around not all people will have problems moving to the said theme.

  3. If you’re going to create a sandbox installation why not use sample post content with the XML file from WP Candy

    I like to know how a theme would work with a variety of HTML elements so that even if my setup is different at least I know that what I’m looking for is there.

  4. Just voted for the fresh install. A classic blog theme should handle all kind of content on an established site (number of categories and pages, length of teaser texts, width of images and videos in the content etc.). But a theme like the portfolio theme deGusto that puts an emphasis on design, layout and images should always be tested on a fresh install in my opinion.

    The XML with the content exclusively for the theme is a great idea!

  5. I would vote for a third option … both (agree with @Chip: I voted for using a pre-existing install, but really, I think both methods are useful.); or, even a fourth option: a custom XML import and both new and existing blog installations.

    I believe a theme should have merit on a fresh install with little to no content; it should also be able to handle the basic posts and pages of a blog with content. This would also be a great place to have a custom XML import so the prospective reviewer would have a better idea of what the theme can really accomplish, although not very functional for the average user. (Adding a lot of random posts and pages to their blog just to “test” a theme is quite excessive given they would have to be removed somehow afterwards.)

    All that being said, it may be best from a review perspective to have a separate “test” blog to do reviews with. One that contains a fair amount of “sandbox” posts and pages, perhaps five to ten of each, as well as a few “standard” widgets and plugins for example purposes only. This would help lessen the bias that could be created by content, widget, or plugin that may not be commonly found in WordPress installations or not be directly compatible with the theme being reviewed.
    .-= ´s last blog ..Desk Mess Version 1.0.6 =-.

  6. I vote for Edward’s idea. I have several test WP installs on my local testbed. One is the latest trunk version of WP, one is an exact mirror of my current web site, and one that I use for theme testing, which has the latest version of WP, an XML file that has some content in it and various plugins that can be enabled/disabled to test with various themes.

    But then, I’m needlessly obsessive. That said, I find it impossible to really test or customize a theme without having SOME existing content.

  7. I use WAMPServer and a series of test installs. Typically I’ll have one clean install of the current version plus one install that was upgraded from the previous version to the current version (for working through upgrade bugs). Populating test installs is as easy as using the WP Candy sample content mentioned earlier, then adding a few “typical” posts of your own to it.

    I also tend to have at least one instance going that is for some ongoing project such as an ebook or tutorial series that I’m working on.

    I never test themes or plugins on my live sites before trying them on a test site first.

  8. Thanks for all of the comments guys and gals! After reading them all, it seems like reviewing a theme could be a bigger pain in the neck than what is necessary. But if you’re going to do a thorough review, I suppose it would be worth it. However, right now I’m thinking a fresh install of WordPress with the WPCandy post content XML file would make for an equal base for all themes that I review.


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