WordPress Theme Directory Launches New Design

The new design for the official WordPress Theme Directory is live today. Contributors on the WordPress Meta team released a preview of the design in early January and worked quickly over the past month to resolve any outstanding issues related to the new plugin that powers the directory.

In addition to an updated design, the theme repository has been moved away from bbPress and into a new plugin, which includes a custom post type for the repository package and a theme uploader.

wordpress-theme-directory

The design is likely already familiar to most users, as it was matched to the UI to the admin themes browser. Now, whether you’re behind the wheel of your WordPress site in the admin, or browsing on the official directory, the experience of searching and sorting themes is more consistent.

Konstantin Obenland, in cooperation with Samuel “Otto” Wood, spearheaded the migration to the new plugin and design, with help and feedback from other members of the meta team. The work is not yet complete, but the new directory provides a vastly improved experience for users on the hunt for a new theme. Searching and filtering are both faster and users can quickly browse through thumbnails of all the queried results via infinite scroll.

Future internationalization improvements to the directory should make it an even better resource for WordPress’ growing global audience.

“There is still a lot more work to be done, but everything that’s remaining can be added, changed, or improved with the new directory active,” Obenland said in an update earlier this week. “Most importantly we want to make it available to language sites, so that we have an internationalized theme directory, and there will be more to be done around that.”

The improved browsing experience does a much better job of showcasing the work of theme authors, many of whom spend countless hours updating and supporting their free themes as a contribution to the WordPress community. Overall, the new design is a better representation of the high quality themes available in the official directory.

49 Comments


  1. Between Net Neutrality, Llamas, #blackandblue vs #whiteandgold, and now this, it’s been a pretty big day for the internet.

    I can only dream of what tomorrow will bring.

    (This comment is going to be so dated in 2 days, nevermind in a few years.)

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  2. Nice, big improvement.
    It would be cool to see filters on framework too. For example: Genesis, Underscore and so on.

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  3. Personally, I have never found any use for the preview link in theme’s details. Link to developer’s theme demo would be much better!

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    1. Totally agree. It should be up to the theme author to showcase his/her theme in the best way possible. Using the blog home makes only sense for pure blogging themes, and even then the theme author should still deceide how to showcase his/her theme. The way the theme preview currently works, and has worked for years, gives a poor first impression on almost any theme.

      As Matt lately mentioned in an interview, “skinning” ones’ website, aka choosing a theme is pretty much step 1 for anyone new to WordPress, even before releasing any actual content to the world. I would say searching for and more important finding the perfect theme is still part of the WordPress onboarding process, and on the mission to more than 50% market share, something that can help to get closer to this number.

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  4. The next big improvement probably would be if we have the option to add more than one theme author, similar to plugins :)

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  5. I had hopes that new filtering options that are actually useful, such as “WooCommerce ready”, would be added to the theme directory. The current filters as they are now are mostly useless to me (Blavatar? really?).

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    1. The goal here was not to improve the existing functionality, but merely to pull up to equal with it. The new directory is in WordPress, not in bbPress, and this will give us the ability to add new features and improvements to it more easily in the future, since it’s not running on very outdated code anymore.

      So yes, there’s no “new” filtering options at this time, because that wasn’t something we were trying to add right now.

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  6. Very good and useful design. I think it will be appreciated by users.

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  7. One thing I miss that I wonder if they are going to add, is the link to a theme’s page out on the net. A lot of theme developers (myself included) setup good demos for their themes. These demos are usually better setup than the boring preview content on .org. When looking for themes I always look for this link and check out how the developer displays the theme. I didn’t see that link anywhere on the new design. That link was something I really liked having available.

    Where would I go to communicate that to the team who working on the redesign?

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  8. The issue of demo content on the WordPress theme directory is something that’s been discussed before. Apparently, it was left up to the community to come up with a set of good demo content. https://wptavern.com/up-to-the-community-to-improve-theme-demo-data

    Theme previews on the directory are lackluster at best and don’t do a good a job showing off a theme’s looks and functionality. As far as linking out to third party sites that host better theme demo’s, that’s a slippery slope that I don’t think the team wants to moderate. The links become one more thing the Theme Review team has to police.

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    1. With the ever increasing range of possibilities that WordPress as a CMS offers, the idea to “Come up with a good community-made set of demo data”, can not account for the uniqueness of each and every theme. Its just not possible. This was already true in May 2013, when the comment originated, and is all the more the case now.

      What makes the option to add ones own theme demo URL a “slippery slope”? The default theme preview as it currently works can still be the default way to preview the theme, with the demo URL next to it, if the theme author choose to provide one.

      If we run an A/B test on it, I bet 90% of all demo URLs that doesn’t return a 404, will result in far more downloads than the current theme preview. If that is the case, then having the current theme preview is only necessary, if the author doesn’t provide any demo URL at all.

      If that is not a low-hanging fruit, I don’t know what is.

      Also any author, who takes the time to provide a theme for free, and to craft a polished demo on top of it, should have the opportunity to present his/her theme in the best way possible. It might even encourage some authors who haven’t submitted any theme to the repo yet, to do so.

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      1. This isn’t necessarily low-hanging fruit. On a purely technical level, it should be easy, but there are other major considerations.

        The first issue is whether WordPress.org should allow demos from a third-party site. There are security implications. That’s a big can of worms that no one has really been prepared to open yet.

        The second major issue is how this plays into the theme review process. New guidelines must be written (this won’t be a small feat). TRT must cover those guidelines in the reviews, which will further slow down the currently slow process. To top all of that off, we’d need to figure out what to do when the demo URL is no longer relevant. We’d have to catch people doing nasty stuff after they’ve been originally vetted through their theme review.

        What I’d personally like to see is a multisite installation run directly on WordPress.org for all theme authors. This way, there’s some level of control on the WordPress.org side of things. Theme authors would get a demo blog that they’d be able to set up just for their theme.

        What would make this even better is that theme authors could opt to have a basic set of demo content pre-installed. Another thing WordPress.org could do is allow theme authors to activate plugins from the plugin repo.

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      2. Maybe calling it a “low hanging fruit” was a bit misleading. Of course there is more work involved than simply adding another demo link. But considering that even a single digit increase in theme downloads already results in a few thousand downloads more a day, the work involved can easily and quickly pay off, especially in the long run.

        Of course anyone in the WordPress eco system that already knows about the demo data issue, will download the theme anyway, and start populating it with his/her own content. But a first-time WP user will simply be disappointed about the themes and move on the Squarespace, Wix, you name it.

        I was about to address the other concerns you raised, but on a first thought your idea about a multisite sounds quite promising, as it allows authors a greater deal of flexibility when it comes to displaying their themes, and wordpress.org hopefully not too much aditionally concerns in terms of security, inactive demo sites etc.

        Is their a survey & poll about this issue, or you usually improve issues like this with a ticket, such as https://meta.trac.wordpress.org/ticket/30 ?

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      3. Yep, tickets are generally opened on Meta Trac. This is probably one of those things that need some larger discussions before going on Trac though. As far as I know, there hasn’t been much discussion on the overall idea (outside of better demo data), so discussions like this one here in the comments is important because they tend to get people’s creative juices flowing.

        If I have a little time, I’ll outline all of this in a blog post.

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      4. can not account for the uniqueness of each and every theme. Its just not possible

        If your theme requires specially formatted data to make it function, then it is not a “theme”.

        What happens when I take my years old site and switch to your theme? If it looks like crap, then that’s a bad user experience. Any theme should be able to handle a basic site correctly and beautifully. Those that can’t shouldn’t pretend that they can by faking the preview data.

        Just my opinion.

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      5. When I read somewhere online about a powerful theme like “Make” and then I hit the “Preview” button on https://wordpress.org/themes/make/ with all the hopes and dreams I have about my new site running on this theme and then I see this: https://wordpress.org/themes/make/preview/

        I think we can all agree: that is a bad user experience. And I am not talking about the experienced WP user, he will of course download the theme. But for the average Joe the demo looks crap, and he will move on, probably to a platform that does a better job on showing him some nicer themes. When it was actually not theme authors fault, that the demo couldn’t deliver, what he intended the theme to look like.

        You are right: “Any theme should be able to handle a basic site correctly and beautifully.”, but what about the theme that doesn’t have blogging as its sole or main focus? The theme that uses plugins to handle all non-design aspects? Those themes, that leave plugin related features to plugins. These themes that can so much more, yet they can’t show-off their true strengths by having only the blog home as a playground.

        I don’t know when exactly WordPress started to evolve from a pure blogging platform into a fully fledged CMS, but it has been quite some time. Yet, the way that integral parts of WordPress, such as “themes”, are being treated and presented on .org, still very much mimics this “blogging” mindset from the past.

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      6. The default preview for posts and pages are there but what about themes like “storefront”, from Woo, which have been in top 10. The default preview is useless for these plugin based themes. Many developers use default theme options to look good in preview. Have look at the theme “zerif-lite”, Once you use this theme you are stuck with it for forever. This new design will encourage such themes.

        We love WordPress for being flexible and that one change will discourage developers who keep content part limited to recommended plugin.

        My other observations on the new design are :

        1. No “Last Updated” date, i will avoid any theme or plugin that not have been updated in last 1 year.

        2. No “Recently Updated” theme listing. Many developers like me regularly update our themes to remain in a list. The result will be less theme updates, more new theme submissions.

        3. The “Latest” theme listing showing up old themes.

        4. Sometime I loved to check out the total download of the day. it is missing now.

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  9. Do not be surprised to see the repository continue to change and more than likely expect them to try capitalize on what Envato is doing. So, people will buy themes or plugins directly through a wordpress exchange and a fee based upon it to WP. I figured this would happen as Envato is doing quite well on selling Pressables.

    SHOULD it happen then you will see that “control” I mentioned in other posts rear its head once again. That is to say, not what is good or bad for theme’rs or plugin coders (not that I am saying it’d be bad) but what is good for them.

    This IS THE PROBLEM with ALOT of this Open Source seemingly wonderful wonderful stuff. Third Party developers do not get to see the monetizing that happens or necessarily even how. How would you feel as a developer/theme developer if you found out that company “xxx” is making 40 million a year for a open source cms engine. But the engine is basically just that. Its all the work the plugin authors do and theme authors do that make that CMS really remarkable.

    Yet, those authors are disallowed to even protect their work from being pirated or modified by others in areas that can compromise the theme or plugin.

    Its not the Joomla core that make Joomla great. Its the plugin and theme designers. Its not WordPress that makes WordPress great, its the theme people and the plugin developers.

    The question should be put forth to WP core, “Will you state that you will not try monetize on the plugins or theme’s in the future at the repository. That even if it is built into a form where consumers can purchase there that WP will not charge any forms of fee’s to the developer or consumer for purchase within said repositories”.

    Again… Its all your work folks, theme’s, plugins etc. that make WordPress do all the neat things it can do. Thats not their doing, its yours.

    This is CONTINUALLY the issue with these forms of projects.

    Normally one might think, “Well… I as a developer of themes or plugins make money on the WP Core which they make so its good they can make money too off my work as I make money off theirs”. Thats absolutely 110% correct.

    BUT! In the same respect as a theme or plugin developer you should be able to protect your work having ioncubed or zended callbacks or critical code that should not be altered for whatever the reason…. security if nothing else be able to be protected from sucha matters or piracy.

    The fact the core WP does not wish to do so is their decision. It should not be dictated to other developers or even encouraged not to. It should be up to the developer period.

    As I stated in another post, I’ve heard (not that I already was not aware) from two sizable theme houses who do both Joomla and WP themes. For every one theme they sell there are 3-5 of that same theme being used, never were purchased and are in fact pirated.

    For a core, they do not care. So that kinda negates “We care about our third party developers” as if that were true they would encourage commercial plugins or themes to protect their work. Instead it is “No no” as even if a site is comprised 110% of pirated theme’s/plugins thats one more site still using the free core application which serves to benefit who?

    What all developers should be pushing for is that ability to protect their work and thus their income.

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    1. Matt Mullenweg has repeatedly said that the Plugin Directory will remain free of commercial options for as long as he’s around. He doesn’t want to replicate what happened with the Joomla plugin’s directory. You should also hear his thoughts on turning the WordPress plugin directory to use the Apple App Store model. https://mattreport.com/interview-matt-mullenweg/

      What all developers should be pushing for is that ability to protect their work and thus their income.

      If you want to protect your work, trademark it, know your rights as a copyright holder, or just turn your work into a service so no distribution occurs.

      By the way, IT IS up to developers how they want to go about it. You can do all the things you describe in your comment, you just won’t be afforded privileges awarded to those who chose to play by WordPress.orgs rules aka 100% GPL.

      Also, I challenge you to tell me how a theme or plugin licensed 100% GPL can be pirated. Pirating is an illegal practice and there is nothing illegal about using a 100% GPL commercial theme or plugin without buying it.

      Also, your comment seems to have nothing to do with the topic at hand. The changes to the theme directory have nothing to do with Envato.

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    2. So, people will buy themes or plugins directly through a wordpress exchange and a fee based upon it to WP.

      The day that happens will be the day I quit. Don’t expect it anytime soon.

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  10. It really does look nice…a vast improvement over what it was like.

    I have noticed since the new design went live, traffic from WordPress.org to my commercial theme company has dropped by about 80%. I’d be curious to know if any other theme providers have seen a similar drop.

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    1. We are having the exact same issue – about an 85% drop in traffic from the commercial themes page.

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      1. I hate that you’ve seen that drop so much too. WordPress.org has been a reliable referrer of tens of thousands of dollars a year in sales. I wonder if anything can be done to boost the visibility of that link again.

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      2. I can confirm similar drop in traffic from wordpress.org on our site as well. We first thought the reason was in missing “Theme Homepage” link on themes page. However, the link is back, but traffic not so much. Any ideas?

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      3. The link is a bit out of the way where it is now. I’d love to see it moved to the filter options above the thumbnails. That seems like a natural placement and one more likely to be noticed.

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      4. I totally agree with you. “Commercial” link placed where it is now doesn`t really have much meaning. I guess a lot of visitors connect it to “upload your theme” part and come to conclusion that it is something for developers.

        If it were in line with “featured”, “popular” and “latest” then it would be obvious what “commercial” actually means. I guess this is a good reason to open a ticket on https://meta.trac.wordpress.org/ as a Theme Directory improvement suggestion.

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      5. I dropped an email to themes@wordpress.org and received the following reply:

        “Thanks for the feedback about the new Theme Directory. I’m actually a bit surprised
        that the new design might be negatively affecting traffic to the commercial list.
        The link is now in the middle of the page near the top versus being buried in a
        sidebar. Based on chatter I’ve come across, there have been people thinking the
        commercial list was added in the new design since they hadn’t seen it before.

        There could be other reasons for changed user behavior as well, asides from the
        location of the commercial link.

        * Size and prominence of the screenshots might favor or hurt certain sites
        * The increased size of the theme shop cards in the listing might lead to less
        scrolling by users, and thus less clickthroughs when randomly listed near the bottom
        * The haikus being hidden by default: it’s possible that previously seeing a haiku
        lead to more clickthroughs for some shops

        That said, the Theme Directory isn’t finalized and the placement of the commercial
        link might change. Our goal wouldn’t be to maximize traffic to the sites listed on
        the commercial page so much as making the site as functional and useful as possible.
        We’ll take a look at our stats once the dust settles and see how the changes have
        affected things. Feel free to write in again if you notice a change in incoming
        traffic.”

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  11. Although 3rd-party developers of products & services are important for a monolithic platform like WordPress, it is easy (default) for them to get the wrong idea about their place & role in the ‘ecosystem’.

    We often see this cohort labelled “independent” developers, but actually they are really highly “dependent”. They can’t call the shots, because for one thing, each of them may opt for a different call. Hangers-on must read & interpret the monolith – not the other way around.

    Developers who complain that WordPress is walking on their business-model, need to review their model (ie, stay out from under the elephant). The GPL-question, for instance, is like Democracy in that neither are without drawbacks; both minimize adversities more than they maximize ideals.

    A new generation of computerists capable of playing the so-called independent developer role becomes functional at the rate of several times per decade. But they ripen continuously, all the time. There is always replacement-talent at hand.

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  12. I’m just a user, and don’t look to the Repo to find commercial providers, but I can assure you that my use of the themes repository has imploded, with the lately-changes.

    Oh, I seek info from the repo, but I don’t hang out on/in it, like I once would. Instead, I use the external engines to uncover stuff in the repo.

    I don’t like infinite scroll. I don’t like having Dick Tracy’s wristwatch-screen blown up to fill my desktop (wasting 90% of the space). But I get it, that leading is largely figuring out which way the herd is going, and looking normal for the Jones.

    If I was selling stuff, I’d be studying my SEO, not the Repo.

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  13. A feature I would personally enjoy having in the themes directory is the ability to save favorite themes, like in the plugin repo. Even better than that would be the option to create folders to save and manage themes in the directory, and also be able to pull those into the theme installer.

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  14. As @Musgrove said the favorites function is missing there. If you are browsing the repository and looking for right theme for your blog you can end up with tons of bookmarks, and thats annoying. I would prefer simple “favorite” button and save them in cookies for reuse.

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  15. Hi All, interesting to see a variety of comments on this. I just had a chance to check out the Theme Directory revamp and I must say I am appalled, they took something marginally useful and made it worse.
    I teach a class on WordPress and one of the things that students find most difficult to do is to find a theme that’s going look like what they want and do what they want. The new design took away the basic need that new users have in trying to choose a theme and that need is information. They don’t give a rats ass about the daily rate of downloads or popularity, they want to know what it looks like and how to set it up. One of the best parts of the old theme directory was the link to the developer’s website where they could usually see it in action in a demo. Now that is gone.

    The irony here is that there is an excellent model for how a theme directory can work and it’s right there at WordPress.com. There you have, for most themes, a really long page with all kinds of info, even a section on recommended pixel dimensions on key image elements. There’s also examples of that theme in use in the wild, which is priceless for new users to see what can be done with a theme. And there’s also a demo page. How hard would it be to port-over at least some of these things?
    Now when I cover themes in my class I’m having to recommend going first to WordPress.com and find a theme there and then hope that it also exists on WordPress.org. The new theme review page is more than a bad joke as the preview has always been, it’s now also detrimental in that it will discourage people to use the WordPress platform at all.
    I’m actually really steamed up about this, so if there is any one on this comment thread who can steer me to someone working on the theme directory, I have an earful of positive input I could give them.

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    1. What are your thoughts on looking for themes from the WordPress backend? It’s supposed to be the same experience so maybe it’s a double whammy for you!

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      1. Yes, the backend user experience is improved. But I wouldn’t recommend it as a place to start looking for themes, more as a place to install themes once you’ve narrowed it down to 7 or 8, or less. Then the live preview of seeing how the theme displays your content is indispensable.

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  16. There are actually some decent looking themes starting to show up in this directory. I’ll have to keep an eye on it.

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  17. Did this also do away with theme version number and last update? I can’t find that anywhere now.

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