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.
Ryu is now available in the official WordPress Themes Directory! It’s a clutter-free theme that is perfect for personal bloggers.
The web industry is always changing. Just when you get settled into a routine, the flow of technological innovations force you start a new one. Can you keep up? It never hurts to set aside some time for learning new skills and sharpening your current ones.
In this post, I’ll outline a few online resources that can help you continue your education in web design and development (or to get started, if you’re just joining us).
At Automattic, we exclusively use the Customizer for theme options instead of theme option pages. We believe that themes should only alter the display of content and should not add any additional functionality that would be better suited for a plugin. Since all options are presentation centered, they should all be controllable by the Customizer.
Review is a key part of Theme Wrangling, so we spend a lot of time looking “under the hood” at themes. Here are some of most common theme development errors that come up in the review process, and some tips on how to avoid them.
Looking for a better way to manage featured posts from theme to theme? Kirk Wight has a great post explaining how to use Jetpack Featured Content in your theme.
Have you ever looked at a WordPress theme and thought, “Man, I wish I could do that!” Well, here’s a little secret: You totally can.
Yes, you can make a theme, and you don’t need to be a theme expert to do so. You just need three things:
- An idea,
- a healthy dose of curiosity,
- and time.
Until five years ago, I’d never touched a WordPress theme. I didn’t have a lot of experience, I’d never experimented with dynamic programming languages, and I’d never had to design for a vast and varied audience.
But what I did have were ideas – how about a theme for babies? Or a theme with changing seasons? Or a theme with animated fish? I didn’t know how to make these themes happen – I just knew I wanted to make them.
Without an idea, there is no theme! So before you do anything, figure out what you want to build. Have a goal to strive for, write up some notes, sketch it out.
It doesn’t have to be mind-blowing, or revolutionary, or the Next Big Thing, as long as you’re excited about it. You’re probably not going to make history with your first theme, but why let that deter you from making something really cool?
A Healthy Dose of Curiosity
If you like to learn, you’ve already taken a huge step toward becoming a themer. WordPress changes often, so theming techniques change often, too. You don’t have to venture far for learning material – you’re looking at a wealth of theme-makin’ goodness right here at ThemeShaper!
But I encourage you not to get mired in the technical details. You know how you may use Photoshop, but you probably don’t use one-tenth of its capabilities? Theming is like that. You don’t need to know how to do it all – you just need to figure out one piece at a time.
Think of your theme as a puzzle, and break it into smaller components – a fixed sidebar, an animated drop-down menu, a customizable header that changes colors – together they’re an intimidating obstacle, but if you tackle each piece individually, you’re likely to find it’s not as difficult as you think.
Also keep in mind, you don’t necessarily need to start from scratch (unless you want to!) Maybe you’re less interested in coding a theme, but you want to illustrate one – you can always build a child theme, or use a starter theme, so you don’t have to dive as deeply into the code.
Here are some of our favorite ThemeShaper resources to get you started:
- The ThemeShaper WordPress Theme Tutorial: 2nd Edition
- Introducing The _s Theme
- WordPress Child Theme Basics
And finally, tutorials have their place, but don’t be afraid to play around! Some of the best learning experiences and discoveries are hands on. Remember: There are very few things you could do to your WordPress theme that a quick Ctrl+Z can’t fix.
We’ve come to the part I can’t help with. You have the idea, you have the tools, now you just have to make it happen. Easier said than done, but as they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Some of the best themes take weeks, months, or possibly even years, to come to fruition.
But beware: Theming is addictive. If you spend enough time with it, you may find yourself staying up late into the night to squash a CSS float bug, or research scripts for a post slider, or find just the right shade of blue for that navigation menu. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
I hope this inspires you to give theming a chance if you haven’t already – it’s a great opportunity to try something new and make something cool!
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.
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.
Recently, I released Further — Automattic’s first premium magazine theme. I’ve been given a chance to write about my thoughts behind its inspiration, design, and development. I hope this gives you something to think about as you design your next WordPress theme or website.
Our friends at Creative Market announced last week that all themes sold on their marketplace are now 100% GPL. We couldn’t be more thrilled about this and send hearty kudos to the gang at CM for doing the right thing.
To show our support, we’ve jumped into the fray by offering for the first time ever a WordPress.com premium theme for self-hosted WordPress blogs. Further was designed and developed by our very own Takashi Irie. He put his heart and soul into the work, and oh boy does it ever show.
For everyone who’s been asking when Further, which really shines with Jetpack, will be available for self-hosted blogs, you now have your answer. We hope you’ll love Further as much as our beloved users on WordPress.com do and can’t wait to see the amazing blogs that you build with it.
Writr — a minimalist, content-oriented tumblelog theme developed exclusively for WordPress.com — is now available in the official WordPress Themes Directory.
Nathan Ford wrote a great article about how you can use the attribute selector to define styles for a multitude of classes that share a common element. Initially I thought this was great (I actually still think this is a great idea), and used it in
_s and Twenty Thirteen to simplify the clearfix selector and some others. We used
[class*="content"], to grab all classes that contained those two words, essentially addressing our entire page structure with two selectors. Awesome, right?
Well, it turns out there are a few issues with this approach. After a while we received a report that Modernizr uses a
generatedcontent class on the html element, screwing with the rest of the site because the styles for the
[class*="content"] selector were applied. We also received reports from WordPress.com, where users specified tags, categories, or post titles that contained one of our two words. Since WordPress adds all categories and tags as classes in
post_class(), this, again, broke the site’s layout.
I still think this a valid approach in projects where you can control the class namespace. Since you can’t really do that in WordPress, it’s not a good approach for theme developers.