One theme reviewers point of view

How to begin? Well, back in 2012 I took the plunge and began my first theme review. It was a great experience because I got a chance to not only learn something but give back as well. I was already looking at themes because I love design. I wanted a different theme for my site and wanted to learn how to create themes. Of course, at the time there was only one in-depth tutorial on creating WordPress themes.

I’ll skip ahead a little bit and get to the part that may be juicy for some. After some time I was able to assign my own themes to review. This was a different time. The capabilities have changed a little over time. The process has – to a degree – changed. Some parts for the better.

Now, what I’m going to share may startle a few and rattle a few cages, but I’m okay with that. Reason is because I know I’m not alone when I feel this way. The process has slowed down too much. What used to take a week is now months. It’s not that reviewers don’t have time, it’s not that we don’t have the people, or the know-how. A lot of it is because there is so much to look over.

Today, I began to think about what needs to be looked over by one person. Yes, one person does a review of one theme. Then an admin looks over and sets the theme live. This process is being worked on.

Now, as I said, I actually counted all the requirements that need be addressed before any theme can be made live. Let’s count them by the sections they are listed:

  • Code: 6
  • Core functionality/features: 11
  • Presentation/Functionality: 1
  • Docs: 1
  • Language: 4
  • Licensing: 4
  • Naming: 2
  • Options/Settings: 4
  • Plugins: 2
  • Screenshot: 2
  • Security/Privacy: 4
  • Selling/Credits/Links: 2
  • Styles/Scripts: 6
  • Templates: 4

Wow! That is a lot to look over, right? Looking at the core functionality and features is a daunting one. Eleven items! Eleven! Add them all together and you have fifty-seven requirements that a theme must meet in order to meet the standard and pass. Now, that does not include the accessibility audit if a theme has the accessibility-ready tag listed. Yes, that too has a few requirements that need to be addressed.

So you can kind of see why it can take some time to conduct a theme review.

The other part is the time frame. Theme reviewers give up to a week for the theme’s author to submit a revised version of the theme with all the fixes. Does it always happen? No. A lot of the non-approved themes are because they didn’t reply in time or didn’t submit it in time. It does happen.

The downside is that some will submit a revised version on the last day before the “deadline,” and the process can then be resumed. The reviewer will look over the changes and make note of any missing requirements. As you can see the time can add up. As that happens, new themes are being submitted and sort of left there without a review.

You can see how they can quickly add up. Currently the wait time to have a reviewer assigned is about seven weeks. You read it right. Seven.

One thing that may make it faster is closing a ticket if the theme does not meet half of the requirements. Okay, great but not all themes have that many issues, correct? It is possible but how many are there that do?

Or perhaps not approve the theme if it doesn’t meet all the security and core requirements? Makes more sense to do something like that, right? At least then we can focus a little more on teaching about better practices and posting on the make blog about theme development.

Don’t get me wrong, this hasn’t stopped me from reviewing themes at all and it won’t. I just wanted to share a different point of view on an ever-evolving process.

I will always be a novice

I know it does sound funny to those that have known me for several years but that is how I view myself sometimes. I don’t mean that I am a beginner but I want to be one. I mean this in the most positive way I can think of.

A few years ago I was watching a documentary about the guitar. It opened my eyes to a slightly different way of thinking and looking at some things in my life. The person that really made me think most was Carlos Santana. Not too shocking since I fell in love with his guitar style of playing nearly a decade ago. He said that when plays the guitar he plays it like it’s his first time playing ( Or at least along those lines ).

This is often how I feel. The reason is because I think that there are several ways of doing one thing. Much like in PhotoShop there is more than one way of removing the background from an image. Yeah, each has their positive and negative but in the end they all get the same result. This is true when working with WordPress.

Recently I posted how to create a sticky post slider. I mentioned that another way of creating it would be to use get_posts rather than modifying the query. That is one way; another would be using query_posts and then of course there is what seems to be the more popular way of just getting a specific category or categories. There is nothing wrong with those methods. Each one has its own pitfalls and each one has their own feat. It is all a matter of preference.

What has brought this up is last week I was doing yet another WordPress theme review and saw a method that was new to me. It actually dealt with the WordPress theme customizer. It gave me an idea of how I could potentially use the customizer to include widgets or not. The other options was to display the copyright information on the footer.

Which then sparked an idea to create a plugin that has the ability to display the widgetized area on a single post or not, which actually could be attainable by using a simple conditional check for a theme option. And now I’m slowly trailing off.

The reason I say that I will always be a novice is because I want to be. It does sound a little odd to say but it is true. The reason is that I want to always be learning. The moment I feel like I have nothing left to learn that is when my brain wants to stop working and that is big no-no in my book. I want to always stimulate my brain and keep gathering information, methods and tons of new ideas.

The brain should always be focused and challenged on a daily basis.

Working with mobile first mentality

This has been the biggest issue for some time now. How I want to execute it. All one stylesheet or separate ones and have the server load it depending on what it is given. Each one has its own drawbacks and perks to it. Reading about mobile design these last three days has slowly opened my eyes into what the next few years will be like when it comes to web design.

Years ago when the iPhone first made its début to the world the only thing I was thinking about was how everybody would interact and view things.

My first mobile experience was with a Sony Ericsson phone. Boy was that a mistake on my part. The way everything was laid out made it almost unbearable to really try to do anything. Navigation was decent but still took forever to get to the link I wanted to ‘click’ and go to. Using the buttons to pseudo scroll up, down and sideways was not easy. Make one mistake and often times I would have to start over. Sites took longer than I wanted to load but there really wasn’t an option to use a wifi connection with the phone.

Thinking back on those experiences with how mobile phones rendered pages it has given me some ideas on how I like seeing navigation and how to implement it. Navigation is the key when it comes to any site. Being able to know what to look for without having to look makes for a great web experience. What I mean by that is that the end-user should not have to look around the entire site’s page to find why they were looking for. A perfect example of this is just about any shopping site. The search form is one of the first things that has some emphasis to it without us really knowing.

A good study I would love to see is how many people visit a shop site and don’t use the search form. Mind you this is for fairly newcomers that I’m thinking of instead of repeat customers. Maybe one day.

Trying to view a site on a really small screen made me wonder how things would change in the future. Yeah, I like to sometimes think like that. With touch screens becoming more and more popular the next stage is of course is being able to cater to that little market. True, that demographic is small at the moment but in the next few years it will only see an increase.

Mobile first design was first coined a few years ago but has recently been what I feel is the newest standard for most sites. One of the things I have come to hate about it is scale.

Let me elaborate on what I mean. I am one of those people who likes to view a site with the browser expanded to take up the entire screen. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. One of the methods I have seen when it comes to creating a responsive site is creating break points. Usually what that means is that when a person resizes the browser the site adjusts to that new size. I don’t like it. Yeah it does have its advantages but it also has some drawbacks that I, personally, don’t like.

The biggest one really being the loss of certain elements. In Windows 7 you have the ability to set a program to take up half the screen and another to use the other if you want. I like doing this when I am comparing cameras, computer parts or just about anything I’m shopping for. I, like most people, love a really good deal so what better way than comparing two sites at the same time? Well, when the window gets fitted to the new size the responsive aspect takes over. Often times it doesn’t effect it much since some of the sites I browse often have a min-width of about 700 pixels and my monitor is wide enough to handle it. Sorry, geek speak.

One thing I found really interesting is that most new smartphones don’t listen to the

handheld

property when using a media query. A little strange since most mobile devices are handheld devices.

Options and decisions. One file or several. I still can’t decide. I may just have to use several ones while using server requests to help. It would be pointless to use AJAX since the page loads once on any device and people don’t resize their browser window and can’t do it on any mobile device unless they change the orientation but that has no adverse effect and shouldn’t. Shouldn’t be too hard.

Mobile web design: here I come!