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 This gives far too much weight to older themes that are not just outdated in terms of design and features but no longer even in active development.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. :)