WordPress Theme Review Team Seeks Feedback on the Review Process, Themes, and the Directory

photo credit: Lukasz Kowalewski
photo credit: Lukasz Kowalewski

The WordPress Theme Review Team (TRT) is currently seeking feedback via three separate surveys on the review process, themes, and the directory. After weathering several months of increasingly negative community feedback, the team is now looking to users and theme authors to help shape its roadmap for the future.

The team’s controversial decision to require theme authors to use the customizer for building theme options ignited a heated debate, which continued as more guidelines came up for consideration. Community members expressed concern that more rules and regulations might limit the future of WordPress themes. The conversation surrounding violations of the “Presentation vs. Functionality” guideline contributed to the team’s decision to reevaluate the general direction of the official directory and the process of getting a theme approved.

Following a brainstorming session with Matt Mullenweg on May 28th, the TRT decided to step back and look at the process and the directory in a new way. This opened up many new avenues for the team to explore, and the three user surveys are a response to the new direction.

TRT member Tammie Lister opened up the feedback channels with an overview of the purpose behind the surveys:

As a part of our Theme Directory Roadmap, we are going to be taking a good look at every aspect of the theme submission, review, and browsing experience on WordPress.org.

To kick off the research phase of our roadmap, we’re issuing a series of surveys targeting theme authors, theme reviewers, and WordPress users. In addition to surveying users, we’ll also be analyzing other theme directories on the web, and reviewing other theme submission processes to see what we can bring back to WordPress.

The Usability survey is an opportunity for anyone who has ever used a WordPress.org-hosted theme to voice an opinion on that experience. The survey briefly touches on whether the user views a demo before downloading the theme. The quality of theme demos is currently a hot topic of discussion, as many believe that the current demos are woefully inadequate at showing a theme’s potential.

The Theme Review Process survey is specifically for theme authors and includes open-ended questions regarding the process and obstacles to getting a theme launched.

The Finding a WordPress Theme survey concerns the directory, but it is the most limited in scope. The survey includes just one question about where users look for a theme when starting a new site.

One WordPress theme developer commented on the survey, suggesting a few more detailed questions that could be helpful, but Lister indicated that the TRT is examining the first round of responses before moving on to further research.

At this stage we should not get into too much detail as we want to get an over-view. We also have some stats we can use in conjunction. This is not something we’re going to change format wise this time around.

The three surveys are a unique opportunity for users to voice their opinions on the experience of using WordPress.org themes, and take just minutes to complete. Hopefully, when the next stage of research is launched they will survey users on more specific concerns.

The TRT’s request for feedback marks the beginning of a radical shift in the direction of the team. Instead of instituting more guidelines, TRT is looking at better ways to encourage creativity among theme authors and improve the process of submitting themes. The directory should also be receiving some useful improvements in the near future as the result of user feedback.


8 responses to “WordPress Theme Review Team Seeks Feedback on the Review Process, Themes, and the Directory”

  1. This shift is not as radical as some might think. Some kind of change was inevitable because what we’ve has been doing isn’t sustainable and definitely not a good use of the team’s time. At least now, there’s an organized effort to make some changes.

    The big difference is Matt’s original mission statement for the TRT seems to be open for change (or, at least a reinterpretation of it). And, there’s some indication that we might get to make some changes on things we’ve been wanting for years.

    There are tons of ideas. I have a lot of thoughts on the subject (it’s actually multiple-related subjects), but we need feedback right now from a wide audience.

  2. As I mentioned in my comment to Tammie, “Well, it’s a start”. I still believe the surveys are limited in information collection, but the one thing many can agree on is that change is definitely needed. There’s two sides of the Theme Directory, or rather two user groups that feedback is needed from…

    1. Theme Developers – who submit themes to the directory
    2. The end-users – who browses and downloads themes from the directory.

    In turn, I am hoping whatever changes come from all of this, that all parties involved will find a balance of positive changes; including the TRT (I guess could be added as the 3rd group) who also extends their own time to perform the reviews of author submitted themes. I’ve been asked to be a reviewer, but I think I will stand back for a while and see what happens before I make that choice. In the meantime, I still plan to keep designing and submitting themes.

    • Exactly, Andre. At least it’s a start.

      I’ve just done the two surveys relevant to me, and they did seem to be asking the right questions too. Of course, we’ve no idea where this might lead, but it’s good to see this.

      If it leads to the creation of a theme repository that actually makes it possible to distinguish well-coded themes without XSS vulnerabilities from the rest, that would make for a huge improvement on the current hodge-podge.

    • I really like the survey method for gauging feedback from the community. We can squabble all we want in the forums and comments but analyzing real data and making informed decisions is how good decisions are made.

  3. It is good to see that people are listening and open to new ideas.

    I thought the surveys were a good start but did not go into much depth, so I’m glad to hear that there will be further fact finding.

    I would suggest taking a look at other theme directories and even “showcases” of other kinds.

  4. As Steve Jobs said, you’ve got to start from the customer experience and work backwards.

    So if you want to make the themes directory great, put yourself in the shoes of the users and figure out how to make their experience awesome.

    Also, not charging for something makes it hard to make it good. You lose the ability to use the most powerful signal of all time – whether people are willing to pay for it and how much.


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