Within the last few weeks, we’ve received emails from readers wanting to know why it’s taking so long for new themes to be reviewed on WordPress.org. Some theme authors are having to wait two months or more for their first review.
Ashley Evans submitted her theme in June and she’s yet to complete the review process. Throughout that time period, both Evans and the reviewer experienced delays in responding to each other. A few months into the review, the reviewer disappeared and Evans was assigned a new reviewer two days ago.
Understandably, the experience has discouraged Evan’s from submitting anymore themes to the directory:
Back in August, I said, ‘Screw it’ and released the theme as a free download on my blog. This process has basically made me vow to stick to adding plugins to the repo and stop adding any more themes.
I’m not blaming the theme review team since I can only imagine how much stuff they have to wade through. It’s just sad that the process has discouraged me from ever doing it again.
On October 9th, Tammie Lister updated the Theme Review queues and identified a number of themes that fell through the cracks. Most of those themes were approved or are still in the review process.
The System is Broken
Members of the WordPress Theme Review team agree that the system is broken. In June, the team published its suggested roadmap to improve multiple facets of the review process. One of the items on the list to help cut down the review queue is the auto-approval of theme updates. However, the team is still hard at work trying to code and implement changes to improve the system.
Help Them Help You
One of the items high on the team’s to-do list is to put more effort towards education. In order to do that, Justin Tadlock says the team has to free up resources, “We need to free up our biggest resources, which are the team members themselves. However, we can’t free up those people when they’re spending 100% of their time doing reviews.”
The most important thing theme authors can do to speed up the review process is to check that your theme meets the Theme Review Requirements. According to Tadlock, “The majority of themes submitted don’t follow the guidelines which considerably slows down the process. Themes will often have 20-30 issues or more. If we can get to a point to where the majority of submissions only have a few minor issues, we really wouldn’t have a queue.”
Theme authors who test their themes against Theme Unit Test Data and the Theme Check Plugin substantially improve the system for everyone. What the team needs most is help. Tadlock offers three ways contributors can get involved to improve the situation.
- Doing reviews.
- Tackling Meta Trac tickets related to the theme directory.
- Writing tutorials.
Tadlock isn’t sure how to get theme authors to raise the quality of their themes before the initial review, “That’s the sort of feedback I want to see from fellow theme authors. What do we need to do to help them get their themes ready before submission?”
How to Get Involved
The team is always in need of more theme reviewers. Reviewing themes is a great way to learn theme development and what not to do. If you’re interested in reviewing themes, read the following document from the Theme Review Handbook. It explains how to set up a testing environment with an example of a testing workflow.
The Theme Review Team also has a project meeting every Tuesday, November 10, 2015, 1:00 PM EST in the #themereview channel on Slack.
Exercising patience is a difficult thing to do if you’ve already waited eight weeks or more for the first review. However, fixing the system is going to take time. If you want to know about the status of your theme and it has an assigned reviewer, you should ask for a status update within the ticket. If your theme doesn’t have an assigned reviewer, you can ask about its status in the Theme Review Team Slack channel with a link to the theme.
In defense of the theme team, the theme and plugin review systems are totally different. We’re much more cavalier about what kind of plugins we accept, since plugins are (by their nature) meant to do anything. At plugins, we’re not stringent about ‘best practices’ either and we don’t have ‘plugin requirements’ in the same way. We try to enforce safety and security as best we can, but people are encouraged to reinvent certain wheels.
Themes need to be way way way more consistent and deliver the same quality of experience. You really can’t compare the two systems.