Six weeks in the past, WordPress 5.6 launch lead Helen Hou-Sandí breathed new life into two almost-forgotten options across the WordPress web site and platform. The thought was to take the starter content material function, which themes can optionally add for brand new installs, and apply it to the WordPress.org theme preview system. It was not a brand new thought. Nevertheless, it lastly had some enamel as a result of a core lead was making it a precedence.
“I’m revisiting this within the context of 5.6 and Twenty Twenty-One — might we probably contemplate a mixture of starter content material (the core function) and the present theme unit take a look at knowledge (with room for extra later)?” wrote Hou-Sandí in a ticket that appeared to be going nowhere after seven years. “I don’t assume we’d wish to have simply starter content material, as that ought to ideally be a way more restricted quantity of content material items, however unifying considerably would assist with the general aim of aligning the demo with what customers can truly accomplish on their websites.”
The preliminary aim was to show the function on selectively, testing it with just a few default themes. This may give the meta crew time to iron out any bugs. It will additionally give the Themes Staff time to resolve on any extra pointers issues earlier than opening it to everybody.
The Themes Staff reps don’t appear to assume there might be any want for brand new pointers, so there shouldn’t be a lot to do on their finish.
“I’m up for having a dialogue about it however I do assume that, on the whole, pointers already cowl it (we’d must reword the rule about excluding promoting for readability), however theme devs aren’t gonna wish to give a nasty impression of their public-facing previews,” stated Themes Staff consultant William Patton. “We most likely wish to simply examine the rules to verify they cowl issues right here, however from my perspective, I feel pointers already cowl issues fairly effectively.”
That is the type of factor that might get theme authors excited once more. Themers can typically really feel like they’re second-class residents. As a rule, plugin authors get the shiny, new toys lengthy earlier than — in the event that they ever — roll out to the theme listing. It’s at all times an thrilling time when themes are proven a bit of love.
Hou-Sandí identified that the theme previewer modifications wouldn’t be ceaselessly restricted to a handful of core themes. That is merely step one.
The massive query: why now?
There is no such thing as a doubt that the theme previewer has been an issue space for years. Customers have complained about it. Theme authors and reviewers have relentlessly mentioned it and known as for a change. Some authors have even tried varied, hacky workarounds, typically discovering themselves on the shortlist for banishment. On the finish of the day, most individuals simply wish to see themes in all their glory. They’re the face of WordPress. As Hou-Sandí wrote within the announcement, “The theme previewer web site in immediately’s context does a critical disservice to themes.”
To reply the why now query, the block system has loads to do with it. Internally, the system opens up a world of prospects which are a lot simpler to implement. Whether or not it’s starter content material or customized entrance web page templates, blocks might be an enormous a part of the equation going ahead.
“I additionally imagine that between blocks, block patterns, and finally full web site enhancing, it’s extra essential than ever to the broad success of the WordPress venture for themes to showcase their splendid states and make it simpler for customers to attain the identical factor on their websites,” wrote Hou-Sandí. “Starter content material, launched in 4.7, was a step on this path, however has languished for fairly a while.”
It’s also a part of an ongoing rethinking of what ought to occur with starter content material. On October 6, she opened a discussion for suggestions on the function’s future. The submit obtained just a few helpful responses. Nevertheless, it might nonetheless use suggestions from a wider vary of individuals concerned with the WordPress venture, notably theme authors.
I additionally explored some prospects in response to that submit in The Future of Starter Content: WordPress Themes Need a Modern Onboarding and Importing Tool.
The most important concern at this level ought to be whether or not theme authors contemplate this too little too late. There’s a little pleasure brewing from just a few brief conversations I’ve seen in theming circles. Nevertheless, it is a time for theme authors to leap on board, present suggestions, and pitch in. This is step one in gaining the type of management over theme previews that many have lengthy sought.