Hand turning up volume on sound board

Up Your Theming Game by Reviewing Themes

You have strong theme sense, you’ve started working on or released a theme into the world, and you want to get better. You can do just that and do it without one design iteration or a single line of code.

Join the WordPress Theme Review team.

Few communities like the WordPress community exist in the world. You’ll find many opportunities to make behind-the-scenes contributions that have huge ripple effects. The WordPress Theme Review team is one of those opportunities. If you’re a themer at any level, you can learn more than you ever would creating themes by yourself.

You’ll get to know the theme requirements. Reviewing themes taps you into the pulse of WordPress theming and its best practices. You’ll become an expert with the theme requirements in no time. With that knowledge, you’ll be able to create better themes, and create them faster. Plus, you don’t really know something until you have to explain it with clarity to someone else. You’ll do that with each review.

You can contribute without code. You know and I know it, seeing your name on the WordPress credits page is a thrill. However, you can help WordPress in many ways without knowing the ins and outs of code. Contributing to the Theme Review team can improve your code skills fast. You’ll read more code and provide more feedback than you could on your own. Each time a theme you reviewed goes live, you’ll feel just as good as seeing your name on the WordPress credits page – promise.

See better themes everywhere. This should go without saying, but with each theme you review, you’ll have a chance to make it a little better. That means better themes for the users of WordPress and better experiences across millions of sites. More people will be able to find a theme that fits them perfectly, and be more willing to publish and share their ideas with the world. What a great way to spend a few hours of your time.

You’ll find inspiration and become a better themer. Each new theme review will expose you to new ideas, from design to code to tools to process and so much more. Every theme has its own dose of inspiration. Take it in. Experiment. Iterate. Repeat.

Help people create. At the end of the day, you’re doing something incredibly special – you’re helping someone’s creation come to life. I love theming because you get to build something from scratch. You mix some art, science, and part of you into something that has never existed before. Creating is good, helping others create is even better.

Learn from shared knowledge and teamwork. When reviewing a theme, you’re not just helping or teaching – you’re on the same team. You have so much to share with each other. You both have the same goal. It’s not about who knows more, it’s about how much you know together. See what you can do with it.

Learn about the WordPress Theme Review team and become a reviewer today.

Happy theming theme reviewing!

Making Features Available to Themes

I’ve gotten myself into a bit of a problem.

A couple of months ago, we released a new feature called Site Logo on WordPress.com, that allows you to set a logo for your site and have it persist between theme changes. It went over well, and it was decided to roll it into Jetpack for .org users. However, part of that Jetpack integration involved prefixing the template tags used by themes, leaving me with inconsistent function names once we merge Jetpack back to WordPress.com (and for those using the .org Github plugin). It also leaves our premium theme sellers wondering what template tags they should be using moving forward.

I was discussing how to handle the transition with George Stephanis, the Jetpack team lead, and he suggested something I hadn’t considered: have themes just add a hook rather than using template tags when adding features. So rather than theme devs outputting a site logo by adding:

<?php if ( function_exists( 'jetpack_the_site_logo' ) ) jetpack_the_site_logo(); ?>

it could just be:

<?php do_action( 'jetpack_site_logo' ); ?>

I admit it weirds me out: I want to use template tags, the same way I do to output a post title or a featured image, and I imagine people hanging all sorts of strange stuff from it, because, well, it’s a hook. The advantages are clear, though: code behind that hook can be changed and evolve with little concern for theme compatibility, no need for the function_exists() dance, and theme devs have an avenue to alter as much or as little as they choose. In fact, any dev can roll their own original implementation, including a totally different Site Logo plugin.

What do you think? Do you prefer the classic use of template tags, or should we move towards hooks for implementing theme features in Jetpack?

underscores

Granting Commit Access to Underscores

With Underscores’ growing popularity and continuing maturation as an open source project, we decided to take the next step and open up commit access to contributors outside of Automattic. Please join me in congratulating Philip Arthur Moore on becoming the first external committer to an Automattic project on GitHub.

Philip has been a fairly easy choice as we obviously know him well here at Automattic. He was with us for over three years and a driving factor in everything theme related during his time with us. But more importantly, he continues to care about Underscores and contribute in discussions and patches, and we know about his theme development skills and passion for world class themes.

We’re much more conservative with our Underscores goals and dreams than most people wanting to contribute, so it is important to us that committers share these values and understand where we see the project headed. We have no doubt that that is the case with Philip, who helped shaping Underscores from the day it started. Andrew Nacin recently published a post about how the WordPress project chooses committers, and while WordPress and Underscores are vastly different open source projects, there is still a lot to take away from it—especially around the qualities of a great contributor—that also applies to this project.

Underscores just recently celebrated its second birthday. It has become an integral part of many projects, not only at Automattic, but for theme developers all over the world. So we’re exited to have Philip back in a leading role and continue this journey with us!