Last week a blog post at Envato Community Blog shed some light on new ThemeForest submission requirements announced earlier this month. Basically, all they did was announce that they’d make sure ThemeForest theme authors join thousands of those who already follow WordPress best practices. So, why do I think this could be the biggest WordPress related news all year?
I wrote about old requirements (or non-requirements) and what they meant for ThemeForest buyers in a post at my personal blog, but let me run through them once again:
- A theme getting approved at ThemeForest wouldn’t guarantee it would be approved at wordpress.org as well. Matter of fact, huge majority of current ThemeForest themes wouldn’t. Yes, that means according to wordpress.org theme requirements most ThemeForest themes are not good enough to be given away for free.
- Theme authors felt like they had to add more and more non-theme features to their themes because that’s what everyone else is doing and “that’s what the buyers want”. This led to 600 Google Fonts being topped by 601 Google Fonts and 7 sliders being trumped by 8 sliders (really, who needs that many different sliders?).
- Theme buyers seemed to buy “everything but the kitchen sink plus the kitchen sink” themes more, mainly because that was the best way to tell how good a theme is.
Why Did This Suck?
Say you really, really love eating steaks. Then all these restaurants that add more and more side dishes to your steak start popping up. The restaurants compete not by trying to make a better steak, but by adding more sides. “Best steak in town” award goes to the one with most side dishes, and that’s good for you because?
Same thing with WordPress themes. You throw tons of non-theme features into them and it’s hard to tell which themes are the best ones, the only way to judge them is by number of side dishes. Basically, this forced theme authors to focus on creating themes with more stuff bundled in, rather than themes that are, well, better.
It gets even worse with WordPress themes, because once you decide to switch to a new one (and you will, eventually) those side dishes will come back to haunt you. Everything your theme used to do that your site depended on will be gone. Think custom posts, analytics, SEO etc.
So, What Changed?
Nothing yet, but starting in November themes will be required to implement a cleaner separation between a theme’s design and the features it provides. From the announcement post:
For the customer, by using a plugin, it’s simpler to enable and disable functionality as needed while still using the same theme. They can also switch themes without fear that the data they’ve spent hours entering into a custom post type is going to vanish from sight.
Does that mean what you buy at ThemeForest will have less features? Absolutely not, just that everything will be handled the way it’s supposed to be. You won’t have to worry about all your portfolio projects missing from the dashboard when you switch to a new theme.
What Envato wants authors to do now is have users install a plugin that adds functionality to basic WordPress install, then use a theme to style plugin’s output. Authors complaining about this should take a look at all those “WooCommerce Support” themes and realize they’ve been doing it all along, helping popularize one of the best WordPress plugins along the way.
I’ve done my share of client work tweaking themes purchased at ThemeForest. If there’s any type of WordPress work I dislike, that’s it. Every theme I’d dig into deviated from WordPress best practices and coding standards in its own unique way.
When I started learning about WordPress themes five years ago WordPress Codex was my go to place for WordPress knowledge. With open-source software as popular as WordPress it’s crucial that everyone developing for it sticks to certain standards, especially if those standards are already defined and are being constantly curated.
As I said, Envato did no more than announce they would make sure ThemeForest authors have to follow WordPress best practices. It’s great news for clients (no more theme lockdown effect and learning curve that comes with each new theme), great news for theme authors (code becomes easier to maintain) and great news for Envato (more streamlined process and better product). To quote Michael Scott, it’s a win-win-win.
Featured image credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tarale/