I’m not big on negativity, but that’s how I feel about it. I’ve expressed my displeasure with the WordPress.org plugin repository before, (it’s gotten slightly better since then) but now it’s time to gripe about the theme directory — and it sucks.
I’d like to post a few themes from Bustatheme.com to the directory, but I have a few issues as does nearly every other WordPress theme developer that offer premium WordPress themes for free. There’s a reason we all offer our themes from our own sites: We work hard and strain our brain of all its creative juices when producing AAA themes and we’d like to benefit from that hard work.
I’ll start with the WordPress mission statement as it is laid out on the the WordPress theme directory about page:
The goal of our themes directory isn’t to have every theme in the world, it’s to have the best. WordPress is Open Source, and all the themes we host here are Open Source. If you want your theme to be proprietary or promote things that violate WordPress’ license on your site, the directory probably isn’t the best home for your work.
There are a number of issues with that statement. Firstly:
The goal of our themes directory isn’t to have every theme in the world, it’s to have the best.
Failed. Let’s not leave out the obvious: Other than the very few exceptions, the themes available for download on WordPress.org are average at best. Most of them are poorly structured and offer very little in the way of progressive UI design.
Lastly, we have the ubiquitous “we’re open source” declaration:
WordPress is Open Source, and all the themes we host here are Open Source. If you want your theme to be proprietary or promote things that violate WordPress’ license on your site, the directory probably isn’t the best home for your work.
There are many that will argue that WordPress is free and we should be so generous as well. Automattic — the company behind WordPress — is not so philanthropic. Open-source just happens to be their business model. It benefits them to offer WordPress for free, and it further benefits them to offer plugins and themes on their site for free. For them to require the same of the people that add value to their product is selfish. If you provide a quality theme for free to WordPress users, you should be able to specify a few things. Which leads me to the gripes I have:
1) The first and most important gripe I have is that if I want to share my theme on wordpress.org I need to upload it to wordpress.org where it will subsequently be downloaded from wordpress.org by anyone who wants to use it — completely bypassing my site. There are legitimate reasons for this, but I’m not here to argue on their behalf. If I spend the time to make the theme, I’d like (the option to push) the traffic to my site. Whether I’m displaying ads or offering paid themes, most of the time a good designer makes a theme for free is so they can benefit from it in another way. A link back to the authors site just doesn’t cut it.
2) Let’s face it, most of the best themes for WordPress aren’t even themes that are meant to be used as blogs. They’re news sites, video sites, portfolios and sites that use WordPress as a general CMS. Forcing us to use the wordpress.org theme viewer with its strictly-for-blogs content is completely counter-productive if your goal is “to have the best”. Not giving us the option to provide a link to our own demo prevents us from displaying our themes as they are meant to be used.
For now if you want high quality themes, it’s off to Google, WP ZOOM, Smashing Magazine, Six Revisions, Blog Perfume, Bust A Theme or any number of hundreds of authors sites that offer great WordPress themes for free. Until wordpress.org changes a few things expect to find more of the same-old-same-old.