Child Theme Inclusion in the WordPress Directory

Before you get too excited, child themes aren’t yet in the theme directory. That’s what this post is aimed at achieving though.

For those unfamiliar with child themes, just take a look at this explanation of why and how to use them.

Just this week I released two child themes for Hybrid. Obviously this is my motivation for promoting the inclusion of child themes in the official WordPress theme directory. Though, I think this idea can greatly benefit the entire community. Today you won’t find any child themes in the directory because it doesn’t support theme yet.

Back in April, Justin Tadlock wrote a similar post that proposed several changes to the directory. Joseph Scott took some time to reply and address some of the issues facing his proposed upgrades.

Child themes pose an interesting challenge. In part because they can, at their own option, replace portions of the parent theme which makes automated testing harder. But perhaps the most difficult part to that puzzle is providing an easy experience for end users when they want to use a child theme. A number of people find it challenging to install a regular theme, adding another layer of issues for them to be aware of isn’t likely to help.

I’d like to expound on the problems and propose some specific solutions.

Problem: Testing and Approval

One of the problems brought up is that automated testing of child themes would be harder. I can’t really speak to this specifically since I’m not familiar with the automated testing that goes on behind the scenes, but here’s what I know is included in the automated testing:

  • Verification of certain style sheet requirements (i.e. theme name, version, tags)
  • Checks for the existence of a screen shot
  • Checks for the uniqueness of the theme name and directory name

Perhaps it checks for the existence of certain templates, but in the case of a child theme the automated checker could ignore that rule.

Other than that, I can’t come up with anything more that might be included in the automated testing. From my limited knowledge, those wouldn’t present any problems in the automated testing. The rest of the theme development checklist includes things that would need to be manually checked.

So, with a couple of minor tweaks (checking if the style sheet signifies a parent theme and possibly ignoring the existence of certain templates) I think the automated testing could easily be achieved.

Manual Approval

After a theme makes it through the automated process it moves onto manual approval. This process wouldn’t be any different than the existing process. In fact, child themes would probably present fewer problems than standard themes because they would likely adhere to most of the templates established by their parent.

Problem: User Experience

“perhaps the most difficult part to that puzzle is providing an easy experience for end users when they want to use a child theme”
–Joseph Scott

Indeed, this is a hard part. Especially since another point Joesph made was that lots of users still have a hard enough time understanding how to use themes in general. So let’s keep that in mind while I present some options to integrate child themes into the directory.

Redesigning the Theme Page

We’ll start with the parent theme and we’ll use Hybrid as an example. Essentially, we need to make Hybrid the primary theme and avoid the child themes dominating any of the UI. Since the theme pages already use tabs I figured we could add a “Child Themes” tab if any child themes exist.

Parent Theme
Hybrid Theme Page

Clicking on the theme title or the screen shot would take you to the child theme’s unique page.

I think child themes should have their own pages. They would need their own page because they too would have their own “Stats” tab, ratings, and what “others are saying” section.

Child Theme
WP Full Site Theme Page

Of course a reference to the parent theme is necessary so a simple information box should suffice.

This is where the user experience complications begin.

Notice the “Download” button has a note that the parent theme will be included in the download. This prevents anyone from downloading a child theme, uploading it and being confused as it why it doesn’t work. There’s one foreseeable dilemma here. If someone downloads a child theme, uploads the child and the contained parent theme and unknowingly overwrites an older version of the parent theme there may be compatibility issues. I don’t see any way around this, but I wouldn’t say its a deal breaker. More on this in the next section…

Automatic Installer

Installing from within WordPress presents another issue. The installer would need to check if the parent theme exists. That should be easy enough. If the theme exists then skip installing it, however, what do we do if an older version exists? Do you prompt the user with an option to upgrade the parent?

Problems:

  • User installs the child, upgrades the parent, but the child theme isn’t compatible with the current parent version
  • User installs the child, skips upgrading the parent, but the child theme is dependent upon the latest version

I’m actually stumped on this one. I could really use some ideas here.

Summing it Up

The inclusion of child themes in the official WordPress Themes directory is good idea because it gives themes greater flexibility and makes theme management easier for users. There’s a few problems to overcome before allowing child theme submissions into the directory, but nothing a little more brainstorming can’t resolve. I think with enough support from the community we could get this implemented rather quickly (who can even know what that means though?).

Update: Vote for this idea on WordPress.org

Kaleo Missions

Kaleo MissionsWhen I was asked to take part in building a site for Kaleo I was pretty excited because I’ve been personally affected by short-term mission trips which is what they help bring to life.

Not only is their ministry model unique, but so is their website. Once all the features are rolled out, visitors will be able to register for trips, pay online, and check their trip’s status with their account profile. Honestly, this has stretched me, but that’s always a good thing. Integrating that entire process isn’t entirely simple, but the outcome for the administrators as well as the user experience is well worth it.

Website: Kaleo Missions

Platform: WordPress

What’s In Store for Develop Daly

With the recent redesign of the site I made it clear that the Hybrid theme has been wonderful to me. Since I began using it I’ve built all client sites upon it and plan on doing that from here on out. Theme frameworks in general are the best thing for WordPress since I’ve been around.

Its also given me the motivation to get back into theme development. Building child themes (why child themes are so great) is a bit different than the usual process. You normally have to build templates for every page and take into consideration lots of things pertaining to standards, SEO, plugin compatibility and the such. With child themes, the process is a lot heavier on the design and usability and much less on the development. This is certainly helpful in creating beautiful themes.

WP Full Site’s Future

While this theme has been good to a number of people I’m not particularly pleased with it. Its purpose is fitting for lots of uses though, so I’m not getting rid of it completely. However, soon I’ll be discontinuing the 1.x branch and releasing version 2 which will be a child theme of Hybrid.

Why is this a good idea?

  • Flexibility (at the moment Hybrid already has 18 different page templates!)
  • Hybrid-specific plugins that are super high-quality
  • You can upgrade Hybrid when new version comes out to get more functionality without breaking your site
  • Already available in numerous languages
  • It’ll be part of the large Hybrid community

This will be the case for all new themes, not just WP Full Site.

This Site’s Future

In general, I’m bringing back some life to this site. Its become quite stale. I’ll be making some effort to post more, post better content, and offer more and more to the WordPress community.

Consolidation

I’ve got projects spread out all over the place, some you’ve never heard of simply because I didn’t do a great job of making them available.

Roping everything back into this site will greatly benefit everyone. For me, I’ll be able to more closely tend to everything. For you, access to all things ‘Develop Daly’ will be a click away.

Support

Because of the lack of consolidation, its been easy to neglect things I wish I would have and could have supported better. So, I’m in the process of setting up a forum where I’ll provide support for each of my themes.

I Need Your Help

Honestly, I need a kick in the butt sometimes. To a fault, I’m motivated by the needs of others and when I feel unnecessary I lose interest. I really love…love being part of the WordPress community and offering my help where I can. So keep me going by asking for help when you need it, letting me know you enjoy my work, and even critiquing it. I’d love to improve where I can, so let me know where I can!

For You Paying Clients…

Everything above is mostly aimed at the community. However, I’m working on a better process of doing client work as well. Hopefully, I’ll have a private client section soon. The goals of this new area will be to manage projects, view progress, and provide premium support.

This is in an early stage at this point. I’m still trying to figure out how all these pieces should work together and what’s even necessary. Any feedback on this would be appreciated!

Seriously, Invite Your Friends!

All of these goals won’t be possible without community! So, bring it on, invite your friends and help me kick-start the re-birth of Develop Daly!

Develop Daly, Version 10

I‘m pleased to announce a site re-design (RSS readers, go check it out). The previous version was fairly similar. The homepage is nearly identical, but there’s a few differences. The major change is behind the scenes…

I’ve fallen in love with Hybrid, a theme framework. Building child themes for Hybrid is easy to do and easy to maintain. The whole idea of child themes is just a wonderful advancement in the WordPress world.

FontsFonts
My favorite improvement is the typography. Overall the fonts are more consistent, but on top of that I’m taking advantage of @font-face which allows you to embed fonts into the CSS. Its not perfect in all browsers (most noticeably Chrome, which won’t work by default). Firefox does the best job rendering the font.


PortfolioPortfolio
The portfolio page makes room for more items. The previous version listed them in one column which eventually would have made for a pretty long page. Now they’re listed in three columns and more friendly with a thumbnail, link to an overview of the project and a link to the site itself.


ThemesThemes
The final major change I made is that I’ve finally got a place to list my WordPress themes. They’ve always been accessible somewhere, but they weren’t always easy to find.

Denton Bible Church Media

Denton Bible Church MediaDenton Bible Church came to me in desperate need of replacing their existing media ministry website with over 4,000 products. It was nearly impossible to find the product you wanted to purchase.

Now, we’ve organized all of the content much more nicely, making the products easier to find and even easier to purchase.

We also added the ability to listen and watch sermons online, making the site a much better resource for everyone.

Hope you enjoy!

Website: Denton Bible Church Media

Platform: WordPress & Shopp

Design by: Pixelight Creative

WordPress States Theme

states-ad

This is is a publicly available WordPress theme.

States was built to allow bloggers focused on state-specific material to have a gorgeous, but unified theme that shares design characteristics of the national government’s website.

The theme will automatically adjust it’s settings to fit the design of each state. The following items are customized for each state:

  • The state seal
  • The navigation background color
  • The sidebar background color
  • The post meta-data (comments & tags) below each post
  • The colors of links

WordPress States OptionsThe theme works very simply. Once installed, a new option appears under the “Appearance” menu inside of the WordPress admin panel. The new option is “WP States Options. On that page you can select which state your blog focuses on. After you save, your theme will have all new colors, and your state’s official seal atop your pages.

Check out all the details and demo the theme at the States page.