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.

Further: Home Page

The Further Theme: Now Available On Creative Market

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.

Further: Home Page

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.

The WordPress.com Public Theme Guide

wpcom-theme-guidelines

They say Valentine’s Day is all about love. Well, the thing I love the most about working on the Theme Team at Automattic is the attention to detail that goes into each theme launch. There is an inital build process followed by a series of peer reviews. More times than not a theme will be put under the microscope of 2, 3, or sometimes 4 different team members before launch. The sheer number of things that can potentially go awry in a theme can be overwhelming at times. This review process allows us to catch as many bugs as possible before people start using our themes.

Our peer reviews focus on a mixture of three areas: code quality, usability, and discovery of theme-specific anomalies. Over the years, our review process has grown organically. When we discover a new issue we will generally post about it to an internal P2-powered website for team discussion. While this process works really well, it can be a bit time-consuming to navigate through three years’ worth of posts to find an isolated conversation about a particular issue.

Recently, we thought it was a good idea to collect all of our theme guidelines and create an easy-to-follow resource. Instead of posting this internally, we decided that we would like to share our guidelines with theme developers everywhere. I would like to present to you the first installment of The WordPress.com Public Theme Guide. We hope that you get as much use out of this as we do!

Finding the Perfect Theme

Our very own Lance Willett spoke recently at WordCamp Phoenix about the art of finding the perfect theme:

Feel free to get started by checking out our latest four themes that were added to the WordPress.org theme repository: Forever, Vertigo, Reddle, and Quintus!

_s Version 1.3 Ready For Download

I’m happy to announce that _s 1.3 is ready for download on both Underscores.me and GitHub. The most notable changes introduced during the last two versions are basic support for Infinite Scroll, theme customizer integration, and additional Post Formats.

There was no blog post published for _s 1.2, so consider the following notes to be a brief overview of fixes and enhancements performed on _s since version 1.1:

Version 1.3:

- Basic support for Infinite Scroll (ref.)
– Add additional Post Formats into functions.php (ref.)
– Provide context for comments title strings (ref.)

The following files changed from Version 1.2 to Version 1.3:

404.php
README.md
comments.php
functions.php
image.php
inc/jetpack.php
inc/template-tags.php
style.css

You can also run the following command in Terminal to see a log of file changes between Version 1.2 and Version 1.3:

git diff --name-only 7b7489 f1e9b4

For a full log, visit the commit history page on GitHub.

Version 1.2:

- Theme customizer integration (ref.)
– Add folder into theme for translations and additional instructions into the readme.md file (ref.)

The following files changed from Version 1.1 to Version 1.2:

404.php
README.md
archive.php
comments.php
content-single.php
content.php
footer.php
functions.php
header.php
image.php
inc/custom-header.php
inc/customizer.php
inc/extras.php
inc/jetpack.php
inc/template-tags.php
inc/theme-options/theme-options.php
inc/tweaks.php
index.php
js/customizer.js
js/html5.js
languages/readme.txt
layouts/content-sidebar-sidebar.css
layouts/content-sidebar.css
layouts/sidebar-content-sidebar.css
layouts/sidebar-content.css
layouts/sidebar-sidebar-content.css
no-results.php
page.php
readme.txt
search.php
searchform.php
single.php
style.css

You can also run the following command in Terminal to see a log of file changes between Version 1.1 and Version 1.2:

git diff --name-only f1e9b4 175ef5

For a full _s commit log, visit the commit history page on GitHub.

There are open issues that we’d like to revisit for _s 1.4, namely post format archive labeling (ref.) and a load of other Open Issues.

Please jump into the ongoing discussions on GitHub and if there’s an issue with _s that has not been raised yet, feel free to open it up.

Theme Standards

There was some confusion on WP Daily the other day about Obox, ThemeForest, GPL, and WordPress.com. It was disappointing to read since we’ve always been very open about our standards for WordPress theme licensing; 100% GPL for every thing, every time. It’s pretty easy to understand and it’s the only way to really have an open source theme that protects user freedoms. As I posted about recently, what’s been difficult to understand has been Envato’s license. Unfortunately, and just as disappointing, Obox has been caught up in this. Obox sells their themes on ThemeForest and have been trying to sell their themes in the only really correct way — with a GPL compatible license for everything. Since it looks like this won’t be corrected right away, as of yesterday we’ve removed Obox themes from our WordPress.com Premium Theme Marketplace.

Obox is a terrific company and I hope this is temporary. We’ve had a great relationship that should continue. That relationship — and the one we have with all of our Premium Theme partners — is a good example of our team goals. If you’ve never read our Theme Team goals I’d like to point out a couple of them.

We will teach WordPress developers to become the best theme developers in the world. If you’re a WordPress theme developer—commercial or 100% free—we want to help you be the best.

We will ensure all our improvements make it back to the open source community.

We’re very serious about these goals and very proud of how these work out with our Premium Theme partners. The reviews we’ve done of the themes in our marketplace have been referred to as “Epic” more than once and I understand that they’ve become somewhat legendary. We love hearing that. A considerable investment of time is put into every theme review and every premium theme launch on WordPress.com. Our hope is not just that our partners benefit from this investment but that the whole WordPress community benefits.

So, as I’ve said this is disappointing. One day — hopefully soon if Envato can correct their licensing problem right away — we’ll have Obox back. That won’t be just a benefit for us, Obox, or Envato. It’ll be a boon to the whole WordPress community.

Envato’s License Changes For The Worse

envato-license

There’s been a lot of talk lately about ThemeForest, Envato, WordCamps, and the GPL. I’ve been paying close attention because, you know, themes. I love them. I think they’re a huge part of the WordPress mission to democratize publishing and I think the good ones are making the world a more beautiful and better place. I also think they should be free, open source software — the whole deal, CSS, images and all — just like WordPress. Try deleting all the CSS and images from your favorite theme and from WordPress. It’ll help you understand why, while technically theme authors don’t have to let you fully own those things, they really shouldn’t be taking that freedom away from you and locking them down. This is one of the core values of WordPress and fundamental to the market in which people develop and sell themes.

Anyway, other people have made this point more eloquently than me. What I really want to talk about is a change in the Envato license that no one is really talking about. That is, the recent Marketplace License Updates and how it affects WordPress theme licensing on ThemeForest.

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