Some theme review videos

It’s been some time since I was last able to record some video on theme reviews. The last time I did it was a quick overview of my review process. Super simplistic overview of a theme review. Today I was able to record an overview of what an admin review can be.

As you can see I tend to keep a tab open to the requirement list. Part of that reason is so that I can quickly link to the section that needs to be addressed. The other video I was able to create was of a quick overview of the approved themes list. This is where themes go once the reviewer feels all things have been met so an admin can look over just in case things were missed. That video is:

Hope that helps out at least one person in how WordPress theme reviews work as well as the workflow. If you really want to learn more then read about the entire process here or even join the team.

Mistakes will happen

This is a bit of a touchy subject since I know I’ve done this before. After all I am only human.

What happened

Here is a bit of background information. The last two weeks I’ve only done a handful of theme reviews. I’m a little upset by it. Part of that reason is because I see some themes that have a lot of potential but are a little restricted by the guidelines. Granted those were already put in place long before I even started reviewing themes.

I know you’re probably going to say that I’m overreacting a little. Maybe I am. But with good reason. I hate being the bad guy.


No, I really do. I hate to have to do my job and give people bad news. Apparently I’m really good at it since nearly all my co-workers ask me to break the news to everybody that our store is closed and they have to get out. Unfortunately when it has to be done, it has to be done.

Fast forward a little

The last two days I’ve been lucky enough to look over about four themes. Sad to say that only one of those actually met standards. The others weren’t so lucky. They had a few mistakes that were not seen the first time around.

Like I said, “I hate being the bad guy.”

I had to break the news to the developer that the theme didn’t meet the guidelines and as it stood the theme couldn’t be approved. Of course, the developer asked why now. I simply apologized and told him that mistake happen, sometimes code is overlooked.

Right then and there all I kept wondering was how were these things missed?

Seriously. How??


I can recall my first review. I felt like I was going to screw it up so badly. Fear of failure got to me. I skimmed over the code, ran through the paces of how I felt the test should go and made a decision on whether or not to approve the theme. I was younger back then and not as wise. I admit it.

Honestly, it did feel a little daunting. Knowing that a theme I reviewed and approved would be used by thousands of people all over. How can you not fear that.

Now, what brings me to the point I want to make is the last 48 hours. In those hours I saw two themes that had custom post types being registered. I mean really?

Yes. Custom Post Type.

A huge reason to not approve a theme. It is generating content. Once the person changes themes they lose all those things. Why would a developer want to do this? Why, I ask you. Why?

So here is a quick break-down of what I often tend to find are missed:

  • Translation
  • Meta boxes
  • Post types
  • Favicons
  • Social links
  • License for bundled resources

Interesting list, right? Some of those things are simple to fix like the license issue. The others require a little more work if you already have a theme approved. In particular the post types. Yes, those include sliders, portfolio, gallery, items, shopping cart like things that are being registered by the theme. Things that are better suited for plugins. As for the meta boxes, that would depend on how they are being used but I do see one slip through from time to time.

So, if you are a theme developer think about these things when you submit your next theme or want to share it.

Creating some bold headlines


Bold Headline


Minimal, single column, responsive theme based on _s by Automattic, Bold Headline has three widget areas which will appear in your footer area.


  • Widget
  • Menu
  • Header
  • Customizer
  • Featured Images
  • Post Formats
  • Editor style

The good

Bold Headline is a very good theme. I first ran across this theme when I was looking through a queue of themes that hadn’t had their first round of reviews. Yes. I do it from time to time. One of the things that attracted me to this theme was the word ‘minimal’ in the description. I love design and love minimalistic design just as much. So, of course, I had to check it out.

This theme is loosely based on a 960 pixel grid system with the real content being 581 pixels wide when viewed on a desktop monitor. That makes for really good readability with the chosen font family — Lato — for the body. What I truly love about this theme is that it doesn’t follow the norm of having the content of the article, or post, on the left hand side. It switched things up a little by moving it to the right-hand side.

Now, I mentioned it has support for editor styling. That is a great thing because it gives the user a slight preview of what the post will look like before they hit the publish button. I mean who doesn’t like a preview of a final result without having to press a button?

With aesthetics aside let’s talk about the thing that makes this theme really work. The code.

The code

As the description states it is based on Underscores. There are twenty PHP files that make up this minimalistic theme, six JavaScript and four CSS files. There are of course a few others but those are font, image and language related files.

What makes this theme really good is the fact you can actually expand it with a child theme. Yes. I’m a huge fan of downloading and creating a child theme to test.

Headlines has post format support from the get go so in your child theme you can easily add files and expand. You may, however, how to specify which ones you want to add just in case.

The bad

Yes, there are a few things I feel are not good. This list is fairly small. It comes down to only one thing. JavaScript. I’ve never been a huge fan JavaScript solutions. The theme uses it to adjust the size of some of the elements but does it in a nice way.


Bold Headline is a great theme. I feel it has a lot of potential to be used in a magazine style site. It’s a great starting point.

So you want to become a WordPress Theme Reviewer?

What does it take?

Some PHP, JavaScript, HTML, CSS knowledge and a little bit of time to spare. At least that is what it takes to get the ball rolling.

Yeah, very simple. Doesn’t take much really.

The basics

There are some things that you really have to know in order to becoming a WordPress Theme Reviewer. Here is a quick list I feel makes for a good theme reviewer.

  • Knowledge
  • WordPress prowess
  • Personality
  • Time
  • Communication

Now, that is what makes for a reviewer but how to get your foot in the door?

Those steps are a little bit easier. One of three ways to get started really. The first one is by requesting a ticket to review from the review queue. [note: it is as of this writing]

The second way is by emailing the theme reviewers mail list and asking if any new theme is available for a review. Keep in mind that you will have to subscribe to that list as well in order to keep in contact with all theme reviewers and admins. You can also follow a good few through twitter, personal blogs or however you’d like.

The third way, but is less frequently checked, would be through the IRC channel #wordpress-themes. They will also link you to the review queue I mentioned earlier so these last two would be just pushing it if you did all three. Just saying.

What next?

The next step would be to setup your testing environment. Getting all the needed information, the settings and finally testing the theme. How you set that up is entirely up to you but there are some things that must remain the same across all the testing platforms. Can you guess what that is? It’s a simple setting that will help solve some of your headaches.

It is setting WP_DEBUG to true in your configuration file. Yeah, a very simple thing, right? Keep in mind that there are other ways to keep track of errors as well.

As far as plugins go, there are plenty to pick and choose from. The widely accepted one is the developer plugin by the Automattic team. It is a great plugin to get you started in creating a theme or plugin.


Yeah buddy! Finally we can discuss testing the theme. In order to test a theme you need data. Enter the theme unit test file. There are a few places that have some sample posts and images that you can download. Just a simple XML file that you import. Thankfully there is one that is widely used by many theme reviewers. The file stays up to date and is looked over every once in a while for errors.

An alternative is to use your own posts if you have enough. I may one day try creating my own little set of posts but for now I use the theme unit tests provided. It’s convenient if you are just starting out.

Unit Testing

Simple. Follow the steps provided in the theme unit test page and then report any major errors in the theme’s ticket.

Go through each scenario and make sure you write any, and all errors that you encounter. Keep in mind that is only part of a review. There is one part that I feel is extremely important. Communication.

Let’s talk about it

Yes. Talking is the single biggest thing when you are reviewing a theme. Without talking to the theme developer neither one of you is learning or even progressing. I mean it. Keeping in touch is the key to becoming a good theme reviewer as well as a developer.

A great example of this would be a ticket I reviewed nearly four months ago. I assigned myself the ticket, looked over the code, tested to see if anything would break and took note of it all. I posted the required things that needed to be addressed in order for the theme to be approved.

I didn’t hear any response from the developer in three days. I posted a question asking if they needed more time. Still no response. Nearly a week later I told that person I had to close the ticket and not approve the theme. About a week ago I was on the support forums and saw that somebody had a question about the theme and if there would be an update, if any. Made me sad to see that.


Yes. It does take a certain personality to be a good theme reviewer. At least I think so. The reason I say this is because as a theme reviewer you are helping somebody. You are helping them share something with the world. I know it does sound a little cheesy but it is true. Think back to when you were in school and you had to create something for a class project. Odds are there was at least one person in that classroom that got all the recognition and all the praise for going above and beyond what the project asked for.

Now put yourself in their shoes ( if you weren’t already that person ) and think about how it feels. It feels good. It makes me happy approving a theme. At least one that I feel is worthy of approval but that’s another topic.

Think you can?

So, you ready to become a theme reviewer? If so, then head over to the Make Theme blog, give some input, ask for a ticket and give back to the community!