Justin Tadlock

Join the WordPress theme review team

WordPress themes directory logo

At one point last year, I had become fed up with the process of getting a theme up on WordPress.org. I had never really wanted my themes on the repository because I was generating my own traffic and had a solid user base. However, many of my theme users wanted the auto-upgrade functionality. I was ready to pull my work from the theme repository though and build my own upgrade system.

Fortunately, some things were taking a turn for the better. There was a new system in place controlled by the theme review team. This team would be vetting themes before they went up on the repository.

I clashed with a few of those guys that made up the team. I didn’t agree with a lot of the new guidelines being put forth (still don’t agree with all of them). However, it was move in the right direction.

I believe it was Chip Bennett that basically said something akin to “walk a mile in our shoes.” He had a good point. I was arguing about guidelines that I didn’t have to enforce on a daily basis. I didn’t see a lot of the crap and spam rolling through that they were forced to deal with. I decided to take on the challenge and join the theme review team.

Today, I am happy to be a member of the team, even though I don’t always have the time to put in as much work as the other reviewers. In this post, I’d like to convince some of you to join the team. I’ll even give you a few reasons why.

Become a better theme developer

If you’re just getting the hang of things with theme development, this is a great place to start. It will allow you to see what good code is versus bad code. Plus, when it comes time for you to release your own free theme into the wild, you should be able to pass the review process with flying colors. You’ll know all the rules and exactly how publicly-released themes should be handled.

This isn’t just for noob theme devs either. I encourage major theme companies and big-time theme developers to join in. Some of the worst-coded themes I’ve seen are from some commercial shops. If you’re a commercial theme company, you should have your theme developers spend some time doing this. Consider it a free course on using WordPress coding standards.

Spend an hour or two every week reviewing some themes and learning the guidelines. I’ll guarantee you that your theme code will be much better for it.

Give back to the community

If you’re looking for ways to become more involved with things happening on WordPress.org, this is a great way to do it. This will give you a feel for how mailing lists, Trac, and other systems work. It’s a great step into the developer community.

Not everyone is ready to step in and make patches for WordPress core or develop full-blown plugins/themes. But, if you’d like to learn more about how themes work, you can do it while contributing to WordPress.

Again, I encourage commercial theme developers to pitch in. Sure, you can give back in other ways, but this is an area where you can both learn and give back.

We need more reviewers

Right now, I believe we have 12 or so reviewers. I think most of them know that I don’t particularly agree with all the guidelines in place. However, I understand why the guidelines are there. A ton of themes come rolling through and reviewers can’t spend two hours per theme, educating the theme author. There has to be a system that works to handle the sheer amount of themes coming through.

We’re not in a position to educate or be more subjective with the guidelines because we have too few reviewers and too many themes.

If we could get 20 or more reviewers, we’d be set. It would allow us to start educating theme authors instead of simply marking tickets as approve/not-approve and providing a list of failures.

Who we need for the team

The following is a list of the types of people we need to join the theme review team.

  • Anyone - If you’re willing to perform reviews and learn, we could use you.
  • Variety - We need more reviewers with different experiences in theme development.
  • BuddyPress Devs - People with BuddyPress experience are definitely needed. We only have one or two people that review BuddyPress themes.
  • bbPress Devs - When the bbPress plugin is officially released, we’ll need reviewers familiar with the system to review bbPress-ready themes.

What the theme review team does

Theme reviews are a way to control the quality of themes that are placed on the free themes directory. We don’t do much in the way of design reviewing because design is a bit too subjective. For the most part, we look at the code quality of themes. Basically, we make sure the theme works as it’s supposed to in all sorts of scenarios and uses WordPress best practices.

The following is a list of resources the team uses and that all theme developers should be using.

  • Guidelines - A set of guidelines all themes must follow to pass the review.
  • Test data - Unit test data to run your theme against.
  • Resources - Tools and resources used in reviews which are helpful for theme authors to test with.

How to join the theme review team

Joining is fairly simple. We’ll give anyone that wants to join a shot at reviews. We definitely welcome newcomers. All you need to do is read the how to join the theme review team article. Each step is clearly outlined, but don’t hesitate to ask me if you need help starting out.

I look forward to seeing some new faces soon.