Theme Review Changes Place More Onus Onto Theme Authors

The WordPress Theme Review team has implemented changes that simplify the process and places more responsibility onto theme authors. Theme reviewers now only need to check the following items to pass a theme.

  • Licensing
  • Malicious or egregious stuff
  • Content Creation
  • Security

Although the bar to pass a theme is significantly lower, theme authors are still expected to follow the required and recommended requirements listed in the theme handbook.

Moderators will check themes after they’ve gone live to make sure the author is following guidelines. If a moderator discovers any issues, a request will be made to the theme author to correct them. Failure to do so could lead to a temporary or permanent suspension.

Justin Tadlock clarified in the comments examples of egregious issues.

  • Illegal
  • Dishonest
  • Morally offensive
  • PHP Errors

In the past two years, The Theme Review Team has battled the theme review queue with moderate success. In early 2017, the number of themes in the queue dropped below 200. Although there has been some work on automating the process, it’s largely reliant on humans.

Even though it hasn’t been updated in more than a year, theme authors are highly encouraged to use the Theme Check plugin before submitting themes for review.

With a simplified process to get a theme live, reviewers are hoping it will free them up to focus on larger projects.

18 Comments


  1. I’m for this. It just might also help decrease the 2-3 month wait time for getting themes reviewed. I remember a few years ago it was 1 month. However, there is the responsibility of both reviewer and author, so the onus is on both.

    One thing I would like to see is to modify the 1-theme in the queue rule (which was done because the TRT got behind) to make it so that it’s 1 theme per month. We will have to see how things go with the recent change.

    Actually, I would like to see it where theme authors have to register to be considered a theme author (showing that you are indeed a theme author) and be able to submit themes to the repository. Might be able to keep track of who is breaking/not following the rules and then if that happens, you get blocked from further submissions.

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    1. The one theme in the queue rule was I believe mostly done to prevent some authors from overloading the theme review queue by submitting multiple themes which often had only small variations.

      Gaming of the WP theme repository by some authors has been in my experience a common and long standing problem. I welcome actions taken to improve this & definitely do not want to see this particular rule removed.

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  2. Morally offensive………who decides what is morally offensive, what you find MO, I might not find MO.

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    1. If necessary, a moderator or team lead will make the decision. “Morally offensive” is a bit subjective, but the directory is not for anyone to host anything they want.

      Once in a while, the team crosses an issue that needs further discussion. So, it’s put on the agenda for a team meeting. If there’s disagreement, everyone will have a chance to voice their opinion, and the team leads will make a final decision.

      Rejecting things that the team finds offensive has not been a major issue all of these years. I doubt it’ll become an issue in the near future. This rule is consistent with the plugin review team as well.

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  3. This is a really good move by the WordPress theme review team. Hopefully It will encourage new developers to submit more themes.

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    1. I use both the Theme Check and the NS Theme checker plugin. Particularly with the latter, I am now fixing even the “warnings” so there are no errors and no warnings for submitted themes. Surprisingly, most themes have a huge list of warnings, even the default ones (I’m shocked!).

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      1. Theme Sniffer generates many minor warnings, regarding not properly escaped strings. But even Twenty Seventeen doesn’t escape those strings, so I will ignore these warnings.

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      2. Warnings shouldn’t always be “fixed” when you get them from the Theme Sniffer. Warnings are often telling you to look at something and make sure it’s correct.

        I’ve seen themes with 500+ (even a couple with 1,000+) warnings. That’s a huge red flag. If you’re just seeing a couple dozen warnings, those are not necessarily things that need to be fixed.

        But, hey, awesome work clearing out all reported issues with Theme Sniffer! I wish more theme authors took the initiative to go through and at least check all the warnings and errors.

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      3. @Justin Does that put me ahead of the queue then for my next theme? :)

        Anyway, I just started fixing the warnings as well, perhaps I’m developing a bit OCD but when I see them now, I’m like, damn, gotta get rid of those right now! I just need to find a good simple method to look for php and js errors. The Developer plugin is a little over the top for my level.

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      4. Definitely. If a reviewer spins up Theme Sniffer and sees that you have 0 warnings or errors, that puts you on a pretty fast track to getting approved and set live assuming the other things that must be manually checked are in order.

        Seriously, we’ve tried to push this plugin to theme authors, but it’s tough to get the word out. If theme authors were using it and cleaning up their themes prior to submission, the queue would have a turnaround of less than a week, I’d wager.

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      5. @justin Perhaps there needs to be a way that to be an author that submits to the directory, you must (required) signup for email notifications of announcements, changes, updates, etc. Something to ensure every author knows and stays up-to-date. I would bet most would say “I didn’t know”.

        I’d still opt in for a registration process to be able to submit themes, but don’t know if that is possible. Basically, registering that you are indeed a theme developer.

        But, as for the theme sniffer plugin, I make that part of my check before uploading now.

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  4. Unfortunately there’s no capacity to check old abandoned themes, whether they still are compatible with current WP versions or not. Same applies to plugins. If not, close them. The repository gets bigger and bigger and a new theme or plugin from an average developer like myself will barely be noticed…

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  5. Isn’t there a good case to be made for introducing Repo(s) Mk2 ~ self managing repos, built to self-inforce rules which only allow code that conforms to guidelines ~ with a switch-over date sometime in the not to distant future?

    The Mk1 repos have served us well, and could stay on-line for as long as access metrics tell us they’re serving a purpose, but the only Themes and Plugins obtainable via the WP interface, after the switch-over date, would then come from the Mk2 repos.

    I mean, I always thought computers were supposed to do our bidding; not the other way round.

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    1. Automating code review is complicated. And I am concerned that loosening requirements will make it even more difficult, there will be less of a standard and more exceptions to handle.
      For example, reviewers are manually checking licenses because there is no requirement for how the license and copyright information for third party assets must be presented.
      The Theme Review Team first suggested a standardised readme file in 2015, but it has not been picked up by theme authors and it is not used in the theme directory.
      If there was a strict and clear requirement, the information could be parsed and automated.

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  6. Shouldn’t TRT make new readme guideline as requirement for any new/updated theme?

    I personally think standard readme files will be good for everyone.

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