The WordPress Themes Directory currently hosts 2,140 themes, with 85,619,197 downloads and counting. No commercial theme shop can boast these kinds of numbers. The aggregate quality of themes listed here is second to none due to the strict theme guidelines and the dedicated Theme Review Team volunteers.
Despite being the most trusted place to find WordPress themes, the WordPress Themes Directory is considerably rough around the edges and notoriously difficult to browse.
Granted, many people explore WordPress themes within the dashboard only. The THX38 “Theme Experience” project brings a vastly improved theme browsing experience to the WordPress admin. This is going to be one of the most beautiful pages in the admin when 3.8 is released. But meanwhile, how can we improve the WordPress.org theme browsing experience?
Exploring New Ideas for the WordPress Themes Directory
Just for fun and for the sake of discussion, I thought we could take a few minutes to reimagine the WordPress Themes Directory with some new ideas. Oftentimes, the directory is the first place that many people turn to when looking for a new theme. How can this section better serve the millions of WordPress users who are dropping by to explore design options?
Current Problems with the Themes Directory:
My wishlist for the WordPress Themes Directory would include solutions to all of the issues outlined below. This isn’t a comprehensive list, by any means, but these are a few that stand out to me as impacting the user in the greatest way:
- The landing page gives a rough first impression of WordPress themes
- Commercially Supported GPL Themes are displayed in a better and more appealing way than the themes hosted on WordPress.org
- Advanced search takes you to a new page
- Many of the best themes are difficult to find
- No option for favorting themes
Solutions for these problems can be broken up into two major efforts – redesigning the landing page and adding favoriting for themes.
Redesigning the Themes Directory Landing Page
Because the commercial themes page makes it easier to visually browse themes right off the bat, a new visitor might think that commercial themes are the only way to go. However, the themes directory is loaded with many excellent free options, if you can find them.
A new design could readily provide a better first impression of WordPress themes as well as integrate search more elegantly.
Over the past year, I’ve seen some very high quality themes enter the directory but they soon become buried in the thousands of themes available. Unless you know what you’re looking for, you’re not likely to find them. We could do a better job of presenting some of the best themes and top authors.
Here’s a rough sketch I’ve created just for the sake of discussion.
The human brain is much quicker at processing images than words. With this in mind, long descriptions of layouts and sidebars, etc, become much less useful on the landing page. That’s why the focus in this quick mockup is on the visual browsing and leaves the theme details to each individual theme page.
I’d imagine the advanced filter/tag search could be toggled on the landing page, instead of sending the user away to a new page. Visitors could also toggle between Featured, Trending (most favorited), Popular, Top Authors and My Favorites. The Newest themes section would always be listed at the bottom with infinite scroll for effortless browsing. I’m not sure how useful the “Recently Updated” section is so I left it out.
Adding Favoriting to Themes
When the WordPress Plugin Directory added favoriting capabilities in May of 2012, I was over the moon and instantly hoped for the same in the Themes Directory. The ability to favorite themes benefits the user by providing an easy why to bookmark themes while browsing through hundreds. Right now, you have to use another app such as Pinterest or Evernote to bookmark your favorites. Adding favoriting would make WordPress.org accounts and profiles more valuable, more useful and more connected.
Favoriting also benefits the directory by providing new ways of presenting the best themes. If I were visiting the directory for the first time, I would have no idea how to locate a beautiful theme, aside from working my way back through hundreds of listings or hoping that I happen upon a decent search term. Viewing the “Trending” section could show you the “most favorited” which will generally be a different selection than themes that fall under the “Popular” heading, which includes the most downloaded themes.
Adding favoriting is key to reimagining the WordPress Themes Directory as a place where it’s easy to find and save a beautiful theme. If I could have only one thing on my wishlist, it would be favorites. Samuel Wood, better known as “Otto”, is a developer who works with WordPress.org. He says, “Like so many little features, that will probably happen during a greater re-vamp of the whole.” It’s on their radar but he doesn’t foresee a great revamp in the near future. In the meantime, it’s fun to imagine a new WordPress Directory and discuss community ideas for making it more useful.
WordPress is one of the more flexible publishing platforms out there when it comes to theming and is well known for its abundance of themes. Having the right theme for your content can inspire you to publish more, because design and content work together to communicate ideas. That’s why I’d love to see directory present WordPress.org themes in a better way.
Right now, it seems to be much easier to explore WordPress themes within the app itself, as opposed to visiting the Themes Directory. What’s on your wishlist for the themes directory? Would you be likely to use favoriting? How often do you browse WordPress.org for themes?