Hello!

I’m excited to reveal that ThemeMeme has been reimagined (the site has been online since 2007, and used to be a popular source of free themes such as Aperio, released in 2008) as a directory for free WordPress themes. I want to use this post to go into some of the reasons why I’ve felt the need to create it.

I’m going to be honest. Some of what ThemeMeme is about is responding to the current state of the official directory. WP Tavern recently covered how theme authors are having to wait two months just to get a reviewer to be assigned to their themes, and three months or more to go live. In my opinion, these wait times are too long. I’ve experienced it myself. It shouldn’t take a third of a year for a well-coded theme to go from submission to live. It just needn’t take that long. Commercial marketplaces manage to do it for much more complex themes in a week.

Here are some other issues with the official directory and how I intend to address themes:

  • no design standards (this means that vital reviewing time is spent on reviewing themes that no one will use because they look bad. Users don’t care if a theme is well coded if it isn’t also well designed). We will have standards.
  • poor tagging and categorisation. The search experience on the official directory is poor. Say you want to look for a business theme, or a blogging theme, or a portfolio theme. On the repo, there is no way to filter themes by function, which is how users search for them. This is frustrating for users who want to search for the kind of theme they want (business theme, portfolio theme, etc). We will categorise by function and make more relevant use of tags.
  • strict (too strict?) rules on presentation vs functionality, as well as content creation. This has led, in my opinion, to a stifling of innovation in the directory. The focus should be on providing a good experience for the end user, and sometimes the current rules are enforced too stringently at the expense of user experience. There should be more leeway and room for experimentation.
  • the new Popular category algorithm, which has been in place for about three months now, employs only one factor: current active installs. This gives far too much weight to older themes that are not just outdated in terms of design and features but no longer even in active development. (The old algorithm went on downloads in the last week, which wasn’t perfect but at least gave newer themes a chance). It is now basically impossible for new themes to break into the top 20-30 of the most popular tab. A side issue is that the Twenty Something themes dominate the top spots by practically by default, pushing all the other themes down.

It is my hope that ThemeMeme can address some of these issues and become a place for users to find good looking, well coded themes that are on the forefront of what is possible with WordPress as a platform not just for blogs but other types of theme, and for theme authors (especially new ones) to get better and fairer exposure for their creations.

We will aim to approve themes quickly and get feedback from users fast. If they don’t like something, or we notice something, we’ll address it. But our focus will always be on quality and trying to do the best thing for the end user.

So, if you are a theme author, I ask you to sign up for an account and submit your themes today. And if you are a user, I ask you to browse our themes, download them, and leave reviews to help others on the lookout for their next template, follow us on Twitter so you can stay up to date with the latest releases, and ask your favourite authors to submit their free themes here.

Thank you for reading! Feedback and constructive criticism is welcome. :)

Published by Charlie Livingston

I'm Charlie, I'm originally from the UK and my idea with ThemeMeme is to create a directory of only the best free WordPress themes to help people find the right theme for them quicker (and to help authors of quality themes get more exposure).

4 Comments

  1. I wish all the best for this new project. It will be good to have a directory with only well-designed themes. I think there is a place for such a service as WordPress.org wants to be open for all and not turn down any themes unless they are a security risk or likely to conflict with plugins.

    It will be interesting to see what challenges you will face.

    Have you seen the design recommendations for WordPress.org?https://make.wordpress.org/themes/handbook/review/recommended/design/

    Do you have any ideas how you want to monetize the directory?

    The submissions link is pointing to your dev environment.

    Reply
    • Hi Ulrich,

      Thanks for your support.

      Those recommendations are a start but 1) they are not enforced, i.e. a theme could violate every one of those principles (I’m sure you could find some in the repo without too much effort) and still be approved, 2) not all theme reviewers feel comfortable making design recommendations in the first place, so an author might not even be made aware that their design is lacking 3) they don’t take into account the overall look and feel of a theme.

      The theme review team have been quite clear that they have no intention of ever introducing enforceable design standards. They want the repo to be a sort of testing ground for devs (of course there are nice looking themes on there as well, but they are not always easy to find) where anything goes design wise but not code wise. I want ThemeMeme to be a place where users can come to find themes that are both well coded AND well designed. And where they don’t have to wait 3-4 months for new themes to be released (by which time they are no longer on the cutting edge).

      I fixed the submissions link yesterday. Maybe it’s still cached.

      I don’t have any plans to monetise the directory at this stage but down the line it might be possible either via paid for featured listings or affiliate links to the pro versions of themes.

      Charlie

      Reply
  2. I’m getting a blank page @ http://dev.themememe.com/submissions

    ;)

    Reply
    • Ahhhh, you mean in the blog post! Now fixed! I thought you (and Ulrich) meant in the menu or somewhere else.

      Reply

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