Theme Support: pondering
For reasons that do not matter as the time has passed, the outcome of the Themes Contest will – despite some wonderful work – result in some very broken designs. I know, I’m fixing one right now for someone.
Question is – what do we do ?
While someone taking the time to put together a design for the contest is all well and good, the amount of that time pales when compared to the time we could spend repeating and repeating the same code fixes.
Themes are GPL – so anyone can fix them, but will they ?
I’m wondering whether a “Known broken themes” thread would be in order ? This flags up those themes that can be improved for those that want, and serves also as a list of the “to be avoided” for others. I do not wish to offend those that have contributed though …
Bearing in mind the first sentence above, any thoughts ?
Here is a bit more pondering. If I guy turns up here with some kind of glitch in his theme he has downloaded, is it polite / OK / proper / helpful/ to say : *Consult the author* or do you want folks to grapple with it ?
I don’t think that’s a bad idea, and since they are GPL (as was the requirement for the contest) techincally anyone CAN fix them. As you say will they? Or a better question is how to go about it.
A list with reported broken themes is a good start. Of course then maybe the person who makes the fix wants a credit, and then the author says no way man I designed, and then all your chickens cry out in digust or something.
At the end of the day, they’re GPL so it’s anyones to fix – how do you go about managing this? Perhaps you use the theme repository or create some list which states which themes are broken, who fixed and what the fix was in the codex?
It’s a pretty complciated thing, seeing as there are 139 themes, and let’s say around 20% are broken pretty badly, 40% require minor fixes, and the reaminder and generally OK unless someone finds something really odd.
In addition, is it broken if the theme is not designed for a specified function? IF it’s not designed for the use of, I dunno, quicktags within comment or gravatars or something of that ilk because of its structure.
I don’t think you can offend anyone really Podz, I mean at the end of the day, a working theme is to the credit of the designer, not to their detriment. Otherwise users would simply avoid the theme, and possibly the author altogether, so it’s for their benefit as well as improving distribution for a theme that might be broke, but otherwise sound and just waiting to be fixed.
@ Root 8/10 the response is usually a solution, the 2/10 is contact the author and they tend to be fairly simple problems. As it is most theme support ends up at WP rather than the auhors, because it’s the support site and that’s what rings peoples heads.
It’s a pretty complciated thing, seeing as there are 139 themes,
Thing is, there are almost 250 themes now [139 entered for the contest yes, but that doesn’t mean they are the only ones.]
I think that once a designer opens their theme to the public they also open it to criticism, possible breakage and the inevitable alteration and change. The latter will often lead to problems and people will turn to the forums for assistance as many of the designers will not have enough time to deal with support issues.
I support Podz’ idea and believe a new topic area may be the best option.
I’m talking basic faults, like the theme I just fixed:
– content div wrongly closed
– float and absolute position mixed
– the ‘footer’ being turned invisible by use of colour yet the page broke still
– adding (and removing) basic WP php calls
I don’t think we should expect theme designers to create supremely flexible designs, but we really should be expecting higher than the design faults I listed above. (I have commented on the designers blog for them to email me ..)
I don’t think it will be a high number, but in the same way I used to groan when I saw the “Human Condition” style quoted, it’ll get old real fast if themes are broken.
Well the dialogue which podz is opening here (very usefully) has very wide implications. I do not mean to suggest for one minute that any ones themes are likely to be broken. But if they are then is fixing them going to really dominate and occupy the forum. ? I think podz is just asking – what would be the best practice?. And although it is highly desireable to give users a quick fix it is not easy for anybody because there may have been hacking in a lot of files. That could lead to frustration. This is important stuff.
If you ask me when entering a contest you ALWAYS should AT LEAST test any theme under 1024 (and up) and with IE6 and FireFox (thats what I do) but still my laptop sometimes show GOOD pages and with others it looks badly 🙁
Anyway this is a very hard thing, I reckon that the person who accepts the theme should check it out, if its faulty let that person know by email ?
If you need any help with that I am more then willing to help out 🙂
Some people make GREAT themes but forget to test them on multiple resolutions and platforms but the theme is still great ….
Also if anyone fixes a Theme *with GPL* that person should rename or update the version information from version 1 to version 2 (etc.) and post here… Maybe make a seperate forum for that or something ?
Lorelle is already working on a “Troubleshooting Themes” document for the Codex.
As a novice and one-time theme “designer” I consider we have a kind of responsibility for at least limited support for the theme we put out there for the public. Especially if it doesn’t work or has (minor?) bugs out of the box.
Now, if somebody introduces a lot of changes, tweaking it all the way around – that’s already their own customized theme, I don’t feel I have to support it.
Well I’ve had a few queries on my themes, how to do this, how to do that – I’m more than happy to help in solving a problem or finding a solution if I can – ideally the solution would be author sites are the first place to go. According to 9/10 women, they prefer WordPress Support forums
Lorelle has done and continues to do fantastic work on Codex, but my thoughts were about someone who posts with “I did a second post and my page looks REAL BAD” – they will be too confused to be decoding things – hence pointing at a list of “Broken Themes” and saying to pick another one that is not on that list could be useful.
Let’s remember that these themes will be new to the person so changing from them should be no big deal.
@moshu – yes I do think we owe some responsibility, but after how many times of the same questions being repeated do we run from the room screaming ? 🙂
We need to learn from the styles contest – for those of you not around at that time, we spent a phenomenal amount of time doing CSS support here. Not WP.
I am all for calling it like it is:
Broken Themes List:
or something like that, as a thread here. Updating the posts is not a problem, and it’s here and available for all.
Yeah I always put in threads and style.css or readme.txt’s that people shoudl help me. Nothing is so different than one persons OS / hosting provider then another……..
And people do mail me or ask for my support 🙂 So I reckon thats one thing that should be in the style.css for a new theme…..
And the people who download a theme that doesnt work should contact the creator about it and or visit their website to check for updates….
The presentation manager meta includes urls for themes. If those point directly at useful support / latest download info it will really help.
I agree podz, if its broken shout it from the rood top. Make a centralized list that would include possible contact info for the origial author.
Themes may be free but it’s still “buyer beware.”
And I will add the same type list could be made for plugins, go thru these threads and note the large number of questions dealing with plugin support.
Well, here’s another wrinkle in this topic; people using a theme and customizing the way they want to suit their own needs. In other words, the theme may well be very good in its original state, but then some moose downloads it and starts to use it as a basis for a new site.
The folks who visit this site are great in that there are a broad range of skills that are shared. More and more I’m seeing support requests for things that are basically ancilliary to WordPress itself. This makes it tough for those who are having trouble getting WP installed when tons of other threads are basically “I’ve adapted this theme and now my widget plugin doesn’t work.”
I’m not sure what the answers are. I concur with Podz that there needs to be some dialogue around this, and that perhaps some new forum topics need to be introduced. That said, forums for CSS/Theme/Plugin problems will still dominate the Recent Threads activity on the front page.
Part of the solution, in my opinion, will be in how bbPress evolves as a tool for us all.
Just want to make a point that this is not a ‘finger pointing’ exercise – it’s about keeping our workload here within sane limits 🙂
Customising themes is good, and we should do what we can if we can, but the sort of thing I am talking about is listed above – fundamentally flawed themes.
NM – I very much agree with all your points.
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