Penscratch

Penscratch, a crisp new theme designed and developed by Caroline Moore, made its debut in the WordPress.org directory this week.

“Penscratch was inspired by a similar portfolio theme, Sketch, which I designed for visual art. I wanted a clean, minimalist theme with a similar look and feel, but tailored to writers.”

With support for Jetpack Site Logos and special styling for pull quotes, Penscratch is worth checking out.

Penscratch screenshot

Happy Anniversary, WordPress!

Everyone knows that we love WordPress Themes which means, of course, that we also love WordPress. But we don’t go around saying it everyday even though we do. With the 10th anniversary of WordPress around the corner of a team meetup in Italy the WordPress.com Theme Team had a chance to not just to say it but show it, in a way. Here we all are showing our WordPress pride in our 10th Anniversary WordPress shirts.

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Keep doing what you do WordPress and we’ll keep trying to make beautiful themes that do you justice. We’re looking forward to many more years of making it easy for anyone to publish on the web — and making it look amazing.

Five Minutes with Philip Arthur Moore

Did you know we have a Premium Theme Team at WordPress.com? They’re the folks who audit all of the premium themes available on WordPress.com — that’s not just the themes we make but also the ones made by other shops too — and make sure we have a consistently amazing experience with them. Philip Arthur Moore leads that team and there’s a great interview with him on the WordPress.com news blog.

The majority of my waking hours are spent feverishly obsessing over making premium themes a world-class experience for all WordPress users. This means a lot of different things: ensuring that customers are well-supported in our premium themes forum; auditing every single line of code in every premium theme; educating the WordPress theming community on proper approaches to WordPress theme development; and with my colleagues coming up with strong, robust guidelines for developing themes the WordPress.com way.

Philip also spends a ton of time working on _s. I love everything about this quote.

It’s hard to understand the power of _s unless you see what’s built with it. Further, Ryu, A Simpler Time, and Untitled were all created using _s, but you’d never know it without being told and that’s what makes the starter theme so powerful. To date, Underscores has around 34 total contributors and it’s always open to more. I’ll continue to work on it because it provides a solid benchmark on which to grade other themes and it also gives me a chance to interact with the theming community.

Anyway, quit reading this post and check out the interview with Philip.

The Line Between “Feature” and “Integral Part”

Last week, in light of the Evernote hack and a few others, I took the time to finally update all of my passwords to using 1Password. It’s a fantastic app that does its job very well, and I had tried it once before, but was turned off by the pop-ups, alerts, autosubmit, and the cluttered mess that auto-save created with my account (I’m OCD like that). Even though I needed to use the service, I tabled 1Password until I had “some time to get it setup correctly” (aka never, unless a security scare prompted me to).

I realize that this is similar to an issue that many newer users face in selecting themes. Often, users peruse new themes by their screenshots or demo sites, settle on one that’s especially appealing to them, and activate it only to find a stripped-out half-version of the theme due to unset (or too-set) options, missing content, page templates… the list goes on and on. I had always viewed those as first-world user problems – that people would complain about having too many options available or not having their complex site “just work” right out of the box – until I was faced with a similar issue and gave up without a second thought… and mine revolved around personal security, not a blog of pictures of my dog. :)

Hero demo site on WordPress.com vs. User theme activation

Hero demo site on WordPress.com vs. User theme activation

All of my complaints with 1Password were feature-related, not bug-related, which in particular resonated with me. A developer, or team of developers, had built these features, turned them on by default, and left them up to me to turn off. They’re cool features that I’m sure people like to use, but they’re not integral to the app, and they cluttered my new experience to the point that I walked away. This of course brought me back to something Takashi mentioned in his post about further, where one of our teammates, Philip Arthur Moore, compared theme options to a native app’s preferences and how a number of users probably never touch them:

“I wonder how many “normal” computer users start a program and never even look in the preferences page. It’s like, they open the program and that’s what they get… It makes me think themes out of the box should just work and theme options should be viewed like preferences sometimes… Food for thought.”

I’m not advocating the removal of special features from themes (or even screenshots) – I’m still a huge believer that these are some of the biggest selling points for users – I’m just wanting to keep the discussion going of where the line is between “feature” and “integral part”. It very likely shifts on a theme-by-theme basis (a banner image on Superhero, the homepage template on Responsive,  or just simply a first post in a theme like Minimalizine), and I think that there are probably a number of ways that we can make a theme either “just work” or better hold a new user’s hand through the setup of those integral parts. It’s easy to forget the first time we stepped inside the WordPress admin. I don’t know about you, but I’m comfortable saying that I was pretty lost. If making the web a more open place is ultimately our goal, I think encouraging the next generation of new users to stick with it as they start out is a great first step.