We have seen some fantastic new features introduced into the WordPress core over the last year such as the new menu system, featured images and custom post types. The vast majority of theme stores have incorporated these new features into their designs however very few free designs are taking advantage of these new features.
I regularly check the official WordPress Theme Directory to see if any good themes have been released. In my list of wordpress themes“>free WordPress themes from 2011, which I posted last week, I listed some fantastic designs which I found via the official directory recently such as MYgRID2, Amphion Lite, Duster, Commune and Codium Extend. Unfortunately, great themes like this are few and far between.
Most of the wordpress themes“>new themes being released through the official theme directory are of a low quality. They are poorly designed, poorly coded and don’t utilise any of the great new features that WordPress has introduced. It’s like going back in a WordPress tim machine to 2006.
To illustrate my point, let’s look at some of the designs that have been released recently through the official directory.
When I first started using WordPress 4 or 5 years ago there were very few premium themes available. I believe that the growth of premium themes has been a great thing for the WordPress community. It has encouraged more people to develop products for the platform and has been a major driving force in pushing the boundaries of what WordPress can do.
Perhaps I’m looking at the past with rose tinted glasses on though a few years ago there were more high quality designs being released for free. I can fully understand why this has occurred as designers have bills to pay just like the rest of us. Though I do feel that every year the difference in quality between premium WordPress themes and free themes is getting larger and larger. This needs to be addressed.
We Need Some Sort Of Quality Control
WordPress owes a huge part of its success to being an open platform. Anyone can design a plugin or theme and release it to the community; either for free or for a price. The quality of official WordPress Theme Directory was improved a few years ago when they stopped designs with multiple footer links being listed.
Nearly all themes still have at each one link back, which I something I encourage because developers should get credit for their work. WordPress check every theme submitted to make sure that they are GPL friendly though they don’t seem to place any emphasis on control. It seems that any design will be accepted. This encourages more designers to release bad designs as they know it’s a cheap way to get traffic.
Take the BlueFreedom theme I mentioned above as an example. It was released by a site called W3Wizards. They have developed a promising framework of their own that looks pretty good however their BlueFreedom theme is awful. I doubt they spent more than an hour or so developing it.
Developing a theme in a few hours and releasing it in the official directory is a good way to get traffic cheaply as their website is credited in the footer of the theme however it doesn’t really help the WordPress community grow. Unless some sort of quality control is established, we will see poor designs continue to be released.
Would the situation improve if the WordPress theme directory was a closed system? Would the directory improve if only A+ themes were accepted? I am not so sure as it would discourage a lot of people from releasing designs.
It is very similar to the debate over which is better: Apples closed iPhone app market or Googles open Android market. Due to the open nature of Android the market has grown rapidly though the quality of many applications is questionable. Apple have been criticised for their heavy moderation of applications though I think most would agree the quality of apps on the iPhone is generally higher. There are clearly pros and cons to using a closed or open system as both markets are flourishing.
Moving back to WordPress, how else can we improve the theme directory if the WordPress theme directory isn’t heavily moderated? One way would be to expand their featured themes section. The directory home page lists 10 good themes but it would be great if this was expanded into its own section of say 100+ themes with votes coming from respected members of the WordPress community. This section would undoubtedly get more visits from WordPress users which would encourage developers to spend more time developing a great theme.
A lot of markets us a rating system though it’s been shown that the rating system doesn’t work there as it’s too easily gamed. Due to this, the majority of designs have a rating of 3 or 4 stars and it’s not uncommon to come across awful designs with 5 star ratings.
The official Directory should be the first port of call for quality free WordPress themes so I’d like to see things improve.
I think an expanded featured section would be a great start however perhaps we something more. I’d love to hear your views on this issue. How would you improve the official theme directory?