My gripe with widgets

Yes, I don’t like widgets. Okay that is not entirely true because I am using a few but it’s not what I’m referring to. What I’m referring to is when themes include widgets.

Themes that include widgets for contact forms, testimonials, group -or team- members of a company. Dare I say it? Newsletter widget. Cue dramatic music. Yes, I am referring to most of those. The reason I hate them is because you lose it once you switch a theme. It reminds me of the shortcut icons I see being used by a lot as well. It does drive me up a wall.

Up a wall, you say?

Yes. The reason for that is because there are dozens, and dozens of plugins that can do it and possibly do it better. Some things are not meant to change. The shortcut icon ( favicon ) should be one. In my opinion some widgets should be the same way. I make an exception only because I know there is at least one theme that unregisters core widgets and includes their own extended version of that widget. You still lose that functionality ( keyword right there ) once you make a switch to a new theme.

I know you may be asking and even wondering what argument, or arguments, could be made. Well, some people never change their themes. True. The thing to remember too is that even down the road they may just think about changing that theme. It will be a bad experience once they change that theme and lose the widget(s) they had.

There are some that are purely aesthetic and add to the theme’s experience but should that be the end all to turn to for widget design, functionality? I don’t know but it does seem a little strange that I haven’t seen many themes proclaiming support for certain widgets.

Start a trend

Yes, it would be nice. At least to see some theme authors supporting more and more plugins or specialized widgets. I mean after all that is what the description is for or even the theme’s documentation, right?

Why a theme’s changelog is important

Having some history is a good thing and knowing what changes were made and why is even better. That is one of the reasons that I love seeing a changelog when I look in a theme’s folder. Supposing they have one.

Not all themes are created equal

It’s true. When I speak of themes I generally refer to the themes submitted and maintained in the WordPress.org repository. I don’t mean those that you buy either. I don’t like to because I feel you pay for a certain level of not just support but dare I say care? I don’t know. Just two slightly different areas to me.

The reason I bring this up is because in the middle of making a change to my current project at hand I wanted to know why I chose to use a specific method and why it wasn’t working. At least on my working copy of the project. I tried to think back on what changes I had made and realized I hadn’t kept track of any changes; let alone major ones.

It reminds me a bit of history class. Military History to be exact. Yes, I took that class in high school. It was fun and a neat class to take. I learned a bit about why you use certain strategies and when. Kind of see where I’m getting at? Tactics, planning and thinking ahead were all at play. I just didn’t really think about it at the time. That and documentation. I didn’t do that part.

A little flashback

Over a year ago I came across two trac tickets. #45 on the WordPress meta side and #22810 on the core side. The downside is that is hasn’t had a lot of attention. ( That needs to change ). Personally I think it is a step in the right direction for themes. Users, end-users and developers alike. The reason is of course to keep track of what changes were being made and why. A good thing to look at and know so things won’t break and if they do you’ll have an idea of why and what to look for.

A good example is WordPress core itself. If you checkout the timeline it shows you what changes ( if you look at the changesets ) are made to the project itself. It’s a great reference point to keep if something breaks down the road. One reason I’ve liked using some form of version control is because of that.

Many themes I’ve come across could benefit from this because they make a lot of changes.

A long road ahead

Yes, there is a lot to be done when it comes to themes and better practices. I think a changelog is good one to have. It’s a lot easier when you are using a version control system. Just append the commit message to the file and you have your changelog. Do keep in mind that is one way of doing it, there are others.

I think this may be the bigger hurdle to get over. The formatting of said changelog. I’ve seen more and more that link to a github repository of all the commits, which can be good if you have an internet connection and a reliable one at that.

If you feel like that changelog needs to happen then please go and comment on the tickets. Create a patch. Do something about it.