The Future of WordPress Themes in 2011

46 Comments

It’s inevitable, really. At the beginning of each year thoughts turn to the coming months and what they will bring. For many of us, that means WordPress: specifically WordPress themes. To assist with your own prognostications, we’ve brought together the thoughts from some of the biggest and most influential minds in WordPress and asked them a couple of simple questions:

Where do you think WordPress themes are headed in 2011? What will be the new innovations and techniques that everyone will be talking about in 2011?

For their responses, and to share your own thoughts, head past the jump.

Matt Mullenweg

In 2011 Automattic will hire at least 3 more people to focus on themes full-time for WP.com.

:)

Matt Mullenweg is—come on, you know who Matt is. You can follow him on Twitter at @photomatt.

Jason Schuller

Theme Frameworks boomed in 2010, and I think there is going to be some very innovative new ideas in regards to frameworks released throughout 2011. Currently, most people think of frameworks as “parent/child” in nature, where you create child themes for the parent theme framework. This (just my opinion) can be limiting at times depending on what you are looking to do with your WordPress theme. This is not to say that frameworks such as Genesis, Thesis, Statbox etc. are not a valuable asset to theme developers and WordPress users, just that there is room for other types of frameworks. Many would argue that you can actually do whatever you like with a framework such as Genesis by modifying the parent theme, but this (again my opinion) defeats the purpose of using something like Genesis to begin with.

I have been evaluating several 3rd party frameworks as potential solution to streamline the development and maintenance of my own themes, but haven’t found exactly what I am looking for just yet. What I expect to see in 2011 is something more along the lines of an options/features framework that you can apply to any existing theme or build any new theme on top of (not a child theme). I do realize there are hints of this type of framework within existing projects, but I am betting you are going to see this concept taken to the next level throughout 2011.

Other than frameworks, I think “niche” specific themes will be on the rise in 2011 as well. Commerce and business centric themes are already growing in numbers (I am working on a few myself), and as WordPress becomes even more mainstream, you will see all the theme developers cater to niche specific themes.

Personally, I just love watching WordPress grow along with all the amazing new ideas WordPress developers come with every single year. 2011 is going to be no different in that regard.

Jason Schuller runs Press75 and Theme Garden. You can follow him on Twitter at @press75.

Brad Williams

In 2011 I think we’ll see more custom post type specific themes and layouts. For example a theme for displaying saved links like Delicious, or a theme for displaying products from a post type. Custom post types are being integrated into many plugins and themes already, but that support will only increase in 2011.

Brad Williams co-authored Professional WordPress and the upcoming Professional WordPress Plugin Development. You can follow him on Twitter at @williamsba.

Donnacha

2011 will see a great leap forward in the fit and finish of WordPress themes. Design skills are improving, everyone is learning from everyone else and users are becoming more savvy. The vast jungle of
crappy themes, whose idea of innovation was to use a different header image and background color, are being enthusiastically macheted back, clearing land for themes that actually have a reason to exist.
Independent directories, such as Ryan’s Theme Finder (http://themefinder.wpcandy.com/) and a plethora of theme review blogs are making it easier for the cream to rise to the top. The gates to the official WordPress.org theme repository are now guarded by a hardcore volunteer militia, the Theme Review Team, with all the no-nonsense attitude of a cranky TSA junk-fondler whose hasn’t yet had his afternoon box of donuts.

WordPress 3.1 (hopefully released at some point during 2011) introduces Post Formats, a simple standardization but also a strong hint that, from now on, themes need to not only do more but should be fully portable too.

Designers are slowly but surely emerging from the nightmare of having to make compromises for dinosaur browsers. Modern browser technologies make life easier and open up a new world of possibilities. The statistics suggest that in 2011 we may finally get to embrace them with a clear conscience: in late 2010, use of Internet Explorer finally fell below 50%, with the dreaded IE6 now persisting, like a bad flu, at under 6%, down from over 13% at the start of the year.

No-one doubts Google’s ability to get their message out in front of the public and, with their Chrome browser, they have something to shout about: the Crankshaft engine, coming soon, doubles JavaScript speeds, Chrome’s biggest performance improvement since its 2008 release. Their current 15% share, up from 6% at the start of 2010, should climb considerably as word spreads. Firefox is holding steady at 30%, with version 4.0 due out in early 2011.

The number of Macs, all of which come with Safari – a modern, standards compliant browser – by default is also growing steadily. The iPad and iPhone also use Safari, and the early 2011 introduction of the iPad 2, the long-awaited availability of the iPhone on Verizon and the mid-2011 iPhone 5 will all have a big effect on the browsing landscape, not just because Apple will sell a metric shit-load of the things but also because iOS users tend to browse a lot more than traditional computer users.

This general shift towards modern, standards-compliant browsing frees themers to start taking full advantage of the latest versions of CSS and other awesome possibilities. I particularly hope that theme designers will integrate services such as Google Webfonts (http://code.google.com/webfonts) and Typekit (http://typekit.com/) which not only massively improve the look of my text, I can also replace all my logo images with text versions: distinctive fonts look great as logos and are much more efficient and SEO-friendly than images.

Of course, that stubborn last 6% of IE6 users won’t get to see my sites in all their wondrous glory but, to Hell with them, I’ve waited long enough. If you have any friends who are still using old browsers, there are two things you can do: either sit them down and patiently explain how much better their online experience will be if they use a modern browser OR take the minimalist approach and just keep punching them in the face, hard, until their IQ increases.

My main hope for 2011 is that themers will start to experiment with innovative ways of increasing load speeds. We can already offload certain elements, such as jQuery, to Google Libraries (http://code.google.com/apis/libraries/), Typekit and Google Webfont do something similar and, of course, many of us use CDNs for our static content. What if something as frequently used as the main CSS file or the slider JavaScript for a popular framework could be centrally hosted, with a ridiculously high TTL, by the framework provider? The chances are that the vast majority of site visitors would end up with those files permanently cached, meaning no download delay, less strain on the server and much faster sites.

Donnacha blogs at WordSkill, Online Publishing Advice.

Drew Strojny

The WordPress theme market is healthy and stronger than ever as we move into 2011. In many ways, the development of WordPress itself paves the way for new theme innovations and trends. A perfect example from 2010 is custom post types. This functionality gave us the tools to build a theme specifically for photographers. The new custom post formats, soon to be introduced in WordPress 3.1, will open the door for more tumblog style themes in 2011.

The latest craze seems to be theme frameworks. It has certainly turned into a “me too” game for many theme providers and I think that trend will continue into 2011. With that being said, we have no plans to develop a framework at The Theme Foundry. We will stay focused on simple, beautiful, usable themes and first-class service and support.

Drew Strojny runs The Theme Foundry, a WordPress theme shop. You can follow him on Twitter at @drewstrojny.

Collis Ta’eed

The only thing I am 100% sure of in regards to the future of WordPress themes is that the market is going to get bigger.

Because ThemeForest represents such a large part of the premium WP theme market, I think the trends we see there are ones it would be reasonable to extrapolate out to the broader theme market. And at the moment, the market for paid WordPress themes is still very much in a growth curve.

This shouldn’t be a huge surprise as the whole WP ecosystem is growing, something I’m reminded of every time I stop in and read WPCandy. Still it’s heartening to know there are figures to back it up.

With a growing market, there are big opportunities in themes that appeal to a broad part of the market. On ThemeForest in 2010 we had our first theme to hit $150,000 in sales doing just that (http://themeforest.net/item/infocus-powerful-professional-wordpress-theme/85486) and I would expect the biggest hits of 2011 will be similarly flexible themes.

However for theme developers I think 2011 is the year to create niche themes. As the market has grown, small niches have become valuable plots of land. So specialising in themes for churches and nonprofits, for bands, for directories, for mobile and so on, is going to be a great direction to go for theme developers.

Finally from Matt’s comments at LeWeb, plus the growth of the Automattic theme team, it looks like there are some exciting developments coming to make the wordpress.com and wordpress.org experiences a little more similar. So perhaps that means getting more themes into the walled gardens of wordpress.com? Who knows, we’ll have to see!

Collis Ta’eed is the founder of Envato, where WordPress powers most of their network sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @collis.

Adii Pienaar

I believe that we will see a focus on two things in 2011: 1) there’ll be a bit of a “re-focussing” on using WP as a personal or company blog; and 2) many of those blogs will incorporate microblogging type content. In the last couple of years, the focus for WP has been on becoming more of a CMS and theme developers were focused on bending the available rules to turn WP into so many wonderful niche things. But blogging is going to make a comeback (in general on the web) and I believe that this will have a big effect on themes in 2011.

Microblogging is also set to make big waves in the WP community in 2011, after the continued success and growth of Tumblr, as well as recent developments such as the WooTumblog plugin, Express.app and the multitude of supported themes that are popping up all over the place. With a few more WooThemes-specific developments coming up in this regard (such as a perfect Tumblr->WP exporter) and a few rumours with regards to what Automattic is doing with themes on WP.com, I’d put my money on these speculations. :)

Adii Pienaar is the CEO of WooThemes and founder of Radiiate. You can follow him on Twitter at @adii.

Justin Tadlock

Several great things have started to take place in 2010 that will take off in 2011:

  • Collaboration: More theme developers/designers will do collaborative projects throughout the year, finally bringing together a lot of great talent. This means more business for theme authors and more awesome choices for end users.
  • Theme Repository: The theme review team for the WordPress theme repository has taken great strides in cleaning up the repo. Guidelines have started shaping up and the process is running more smoothly. Expect to see more quality-coded themes hosted at WordPress.org.
  • Theme shops: Theme Forest and Theme Garden have shown that theme shops can be lucrative businesses, and I expect to see a few more shops pop up that allow theme developers to sell their themes. These shops will allow new developers to more easily get into the themes business and will foster competition.

Of course, there’s the bad:

  • Front page sliders: If I could go the rest of my life without seeing another featured post/image slider, I could die in peace. Unfortunately, that won’t happen and more featured sliders will be wrapped up with a different color scheme and packaged as something resembling a theme.
  • Shortcodes: Shortcodes are now being used to do things that should be as simple as adding a class to an HTML element for things like buttons and even for entire elements like blockquotes. Users will be stuck with these bad-ideas-for-shortcodes forever as more theme developers just copy and paste code without thinking about it.
  • Parent themes: Parent themes as frameworks will become more popular, but I’m not sure if that’ll be a good thing. At some point, I expect some developers will recognize the inherent limitations to this and move on to using parent/child themes as they were intended to be used. Whatever happens, the term “framework” will be even tougher to understand in the future.
  • Theme shops: Yes, this will be a good thing, but it will come at a price. A large majority of the themes at Theme Forest (the largest theme shop that I know of) are poorly coded and are nothing more than window dressing. Theme shops would open the door for more fly-by-night authors looking to make a quick buck at the user’s expense.

There is one thing I wish would happen in 2011, but I’m not getting my hopes up. That is the return of themes just being themes. Get rid of all the fancy options panels, the shortcodes for basic HTML, and keeping plugin functionality within plugins. I’d love for us to return to the days when a theme was simply markup and design.

Justin Tadlock is the developer behind the Hybrid theme framework. You can follow him on Twitter at @justintadlock.

Chip Bennett

I’ve been mulling this topic over in my head, and I’ve realized that I don’t have enough of a finger on the pulse of the Theming community as a whole to give a generalized answer; my involvement with Themes is pretty restricted to the WordPress Theme Repository. So, I’ll give you my thoughts in that context.

(Caveat: I’m just one member of the WP Theme Review Team; anything I say here is my own opinion, and not indicative of any formal Theme Review policy.)

With that caveat, here’s where I see the WP Theme Repository, and Repository-hosted Themes, going in 2011:

  1. Theme code quality and compatibility with the current WordPress version will be considered the status quo.
  2. Themes will have a greater emphasis on security, and best practices for Theme options.
  3. Themes will have a greater emphasis on Documentation.
  4. Theme Frameworks and Child Themes will find a place in the Repository, but will be treated as separate (somehow) from stand-alone/Parent Themes.
  5. More, and a wider variety of, Themes will be highlighed as “Featured Themes”, which hopefully will encourage more designers to submit Themes for inclusion in the Repository.

My wish-list for the WP Theme Repository, and Repository-hosted Themes, in 2011:

  1. SVN-commit access for developers who have approved Themes.
  2. A readme.txt parser for display of readme file contents on the Extend/Themes listing pages (as per Extend/Plugins listing pages).
  3. A “Theme Adoption” program for out-of-date Themes in the Repository.
  4. That the Repository gain the reputation of being the “gold standard” source for high-quality, free WordPress Themes.

Chip Bennett is a member of the WordPress Theme Review Team. You can follow him on Twitter at @chip_bennett.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson

On themes in 2011, on a basic level, I think WordPress users will continue to see the growth and innovation with child themes, using one parent theme as the growing standard. This type of situation is a win-win for both developers, and users. For developers, it’s a much easier process to update themes as WordPress core continues to innovate and change. Making changes and updates to one theme that translates across several child themes certainly makes tons of sense for theme developers. People on the other end, the users, benefit greatly from this set up, as well. I remember back when I released several free themes to the community, one of the growing complaints is that users would customize their theme and then have to re-apply their customizations after I put out a new update. The Parent/Child theme that emerged in 2010 was a solid solution to that very issue and I see 2011 being the year that this becomes the accepted (and expected) standard. Anything that makes life easier for the end user is where its at.

In terms of trends that will emerge in 2011? I suspect that some providers of commercial WordPress themes (and maybe even some adventurous free themes) will start breaking off into niche areas where you’ll see more Theme-as-Plugin set ups where the lines between theme and plugin development, in some case, blur with themes filling feature needs in niche areas. We started to see this a little in 2010 with some themes that have features and functions available for niche areas like real estate and video. I think we’ll start seeing more and more of this in 2011 with e-commerce themes, community themes and the like. Themes become more like starter kits for the individual user with everything packaged under one hood: theme, design and plugin features that address niche needs, such as theme-specific widgets, custom post types and functions that are geared toward a particular niche area.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson is the author of WordPress for Dummies and frequently speaks at WordCamp events. You can follow her on Twitter at @lisasabinwilson.

Jeff Chandler

The future of themes in 2011 is Custom Post Types, Custom Taxonomies and Post Formats.

Jeff Chandler runs WPTavern and can often be seen blogging at WBTC. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @wptavern.

Grant Griffiths

WordPress Themes and Frameworks have a bright future and 2010 will just be a prelude to what is to come.

First of all, collaboration will be a key element in the success of themes and frameworks.  Companies will come to realize as some already are, collaboration gets you a lot further than the constant worry of competition.  In reality, this is really a no brainer when one considers the resources such as talent and ideas which can be brought together by collaborating.  Not only will these forward thinking companies prosper from this.  The consumer of our products and services will too.  And that means collaboration by companies is a win-win for all concerned.

While the themes themselves will continue to be a vital part of the WordPress community, we will see where frameworks will take a more leading role in the development and implementation of websites and blogs.  Child Themes, (which I hate the name by the way) will continue to be vital to users.  However, users will come to expect to be given the ability to modify the child theme more easily.  Basically, they will expect the framework the child theme is built on to allow them to make changes to the child theme without the need to dive into the code.

It will also be important for the WordPress framework to not only make it easy for the do-it-yourselfer to build their site.  The frameworks will have to not limit what the developer can do.  Frameworks will need to be a solution to streamline the process of developing a site.  But, at the same time they need to stay out of the way too.

Some plugin functions will continue to be brought into the theme and/or framework in 2010 and beyond.  Eliminating the need for plugins and widgets will be a growing function of the WordPress framework.  Such functions and features as SEO and widgets will be replaced by these built in functions in the frameworks.

WordPress will continue to be known as a total content management system because of the awesome themes, frameworks and plugins being built and developed everyday.  No longer will WordPress be seen as only a blogging platform.  With themes and frameworks, we will see more and more websites and/or blogsites being developed everyday.  And with the advancements theme and framework developers are doing, the line will be blurred to the point that we no longer will look at WordPress as just a blogging tool.  While we have seen this development over the last couple of years, we will continue to see this even more in the near future too.

The future is bright for themes and frameworks as we see more places like the Theme Garden pop up.  Not only will developers have a great place to market their ware.  The consumer will have a one-stop-shop where they can research and find the theme or framework which will work the best for them.

We will continue to see the commercial theme and framework market grow and prosper. And there is always room for more great themes and frameworks in the marketplace too.

Grant Griffiths is one of the two founders of Headway Themes, a WordPress theme framework. You can follow him on Twitter at @grantgriffiths.

David Perel

I have been thinking about this for a while but since I can’t predict the future it is difficult to say where we are headed.

I do feel that this year you will see less and less ‘get rich quick’ WordPress Theme shops opening. We have definitely reached a saturation point in terms of the amount of Premium WP Theme companies out there. Slowly but surely the committed and focussed companies will outlast those who think that its easy and that any theme will do; and I cannot wait for this to start happening.

In terms of what I would like to see, I really like the Wootumblr plugin and would be happy to see it become more mainstream and offer some real competition for tumblr/posterous in terms of people looking for the ideal solution. Sure it doesn¹t have the social dimension like tumblr and Posterous but it does provide a quick and easy way to post and display content. I like to support a standard and will be hoping that the Wootumblr plugin becomes that standard.

We have also yet to see a genuinely good WP-Ecommerce theme come out and do noticeably well. When the first company blinks and releases one I do expect a mini flood of them to come onto the market this year.

David Perel designs at builds WordPress themes at Obox. You can follow him on Twitter at @obox.

Nathan Rice

2010 was an awesome year for WordPress themes. As I suspected in my last prediction, we’ve seen the theme world shift to frameworks like Genesis and others.

Now that users can safely upgrade their theme framework, while keeping their modifications safe within a child theme, I think theme developers are going to focus hard on making child themes that fully exploit the capabilities of these frameworks, and build themes that capably serve new markets, not just the obvious ones. The advent of Custom Post Types, Custom Taxonomies, and the merger of WordPress and WordPress MU, will play a big role in the types of themes people decide to build.

There are, within the theme community, some seriously talented folks. And without a doubt, major players are major for a reason. I think in 2011 there’s going to be a race to see who can conceptualize the next great theming paradigm. There are always new problems to solve, and new ways to solve them.

Nathan Rice works at StudioPress, and is the primary developer behind the Genesis theme framework. You can follow him on Twitter at @nathanrice.

Now you know the future, right?

That was quite a read, right? In these 4,000 odd words the pros have shared a lot of different, interesting ideas on where WordPress themes are headed in the future. Will they be on target, or are they way off? It’s your turn to sound off, in the comments.

Big thanks to everyone who took a minute to respond, it has made for some great reading! Also: Thanks to Ian Stewart, now of Automattic, for letting us pick up his series and carry it forward.

46 thoughts on “The Future of WordPress Themes in 2011

  1. Well future of wordpress theme is quite good already studied thesis framework and now studying headway framework and after it genesis framework, after studying too much will launch my themes that i’m working on it. Hope it will make a huge success after it launch

  2. Please consider appending Chris Pearson to this list. Despite where your philosophy is, he has done a ton for the WP community and I’m starting to get agitated that he get’s left out in nearly every post because of his relationship with matt. Seems biased to leave him out. my 2 cents.

    • A ton as in not complying with the WordPress licensing? I’m curious to know what he has done for the WordPress community as a whole instead of just himself.

      • let’s not forget that he his currently complying to Matt and WP’s with the split GPL. Maybe we sometimes forget this because of the rocky history, but Matt asked for that as a bare minimum and he eventually complied (albeit after a messy few months of arguing). In terms of what he as done, well true, that is my opinion, but there are a very high number of hig profile blogs and more CMS driven sites powered by thesis, and was a frontrunner for Genesis, Headway, and others. It was the first to offer the concept of “skinning” which is now from Justin Tadlock and others referred to as “child themes.” It also was the first theme to really tackle on page SEO efficiently.

        Despite your personal opinions of him: “..as a whole instead of just himself.”, he has done a lot. You don’t have to like him, but at the least he should be mentioned in regard to pushing theme devs to where they are.

    • I didn’t leave him out, just didn’t hear from him in enough time to include him. Same for a couple of others that weren’t included — I didn’t want to hold off on the post until it wasn’t the beginning of 2011 anymore.

      Also: don’t be presumptuous, I have no issue with Pearson, and wouldn’t leave him out of anything deliberately.

      • Hey Ryan, you’re right I was being presumptuous and I apologize for that. I should not have assumed he was being left deliberately. I have seen him left out before, and I spoke too soon. Thanks for the clarification and feel free to delete my posts if you find them inappropriate.

    • You’re assuming he wasn’t asked to offer his thoughts here. Not exactly fair to accuse WPCandy of bias if Chris was asked and he didn’t have the time to respond.

  3. I think we’ll see more frameworks with focus on back-end functionality/customization. More AJAX drag & drop-thingies that would enable designers/developers to sleep at night after handing over a project to a client.

    • Pontus – i couldn’t agree more, and i can’t wait to finally get my hands on a backend customization offering. I love working with WP, but when it comes time to hand over the site – i know that within a month, the client will have deleted, removed, misplaced or otherwise borked something in the backend.

  4. I always love these WordPress Theme Prediction posts. The fun part for me is deciphering what these people think will happen, want to happen and plan on making happen. And those with the best ideas and strongest marketing arms will have the greatest influence, no doubt about it.

    My short list for 2011:
    -Custom Post Type Integration
    -Child Theme shops (eg. Theme Garden)
    -Greater functionality / flexibility in Theme Frameworks
    -Better code, better code, better code
    -More Niche Focused designs / functionality
    -More Collaboration (Let’s face it, a lot of great developers suck at marketing and vise-versa)

    And the one thing that I didn’t see mentioned that I truly believe will come about in 2011 is the ability for the non-theme-developer/non-affiliate-marketer to make a living online, off of these themes.

    What I means is that as these Child Theme Shops like Theme Garden crop up there will be more and more non-theme-developers adding to the different themes and making a profit as a result.

    And not only Child Theme Designers, but plugin developers as well. I think as we see the core plugins being built-into the themes themselves we’re going to see more and more premium plugins available, and not just for any theme, but for specific themes.

    Anyway, that last bit was kind of random, but something I’ve been chewing on.

    Thanks for bringing all of these great minds into one blog post for us all to benefit. :)

    Eric

  5. Great read. I always love these posts and seeing what everyone’s thinking about the direction of themes. Thanks for including me.

    Also, it’d be awesome if the post had <h3 id="justin-tadlock"> (same for all sections) so I could link people directly to my predictions.

  6. If I was to look into my crystal ball and knowing WordPress 3.1 is virutally upon us, I believe I would be seeing Post-Formats as the driving force behind new themes through the first half of 2011. Then, with the advent of WordPress 3.2 (end of summer?), I would suspect a new direction will be followed lead by the key feature(s) being developed for the next version release.

    Although I cannot speak for the various Theme “shops” and independent Theme designers hosting and supporting their private brands and their philosophies, I can speak as a member of the WordPress Theme Review Team. The ideal of better and more robust themes providing even higher quality will be the mainstay of the Themes found in the WordPress Extend Theme repository, especially those being maintained and kept current to the Theme Review guidelines.

  7. Nice round-up of some good thinking on the topic.
    I don’t pretend to know what others really will do in the coming year, but I know that my goal for all things WordPress this year is to keep things simple–simple for me and simple for my clients. I think this may mean creating a house brand or two and always using one or the other as my starting point. Much as I admire the work of fellow designer-developers, I’ve become weary of keeping current with their updates and changes.

  8. Pingback: Predictions on WordPress themes in 2011

  9. Great post Ryan, and way to reach out to a lot of folks in the WordPress community. My prediction (to some degree) is that you will begin to see diversification from the top premium theme development companies. What I mean is that competition will cause them to identify their strengths, and really sink their time/resources into building those out. While the past few years have been more “monkey see, monkey do”, I predict that a lot more “monkey see, monkey do something else” will occur.

  10. Excellent post Ryan. I loved reading Ian’s annual predictions and a lot of those have come to pass – great to see you’ve picked up the baton from Ian. I can see a lot of consistent patterns across everyone’s predictions above – child themes, frameworks, custom post types, taxonomies, more theme shops, niche/app themes – all of which I would echo too so I won’t repeat them. I think the real elephant in the room this year might be Automattic. Matt’s prediction was short and full of intent – 3 more people to work full time on themes for WP.com – I assume these themes will also end up in the .org repository. 3 people working full time on themes should definitely generate some interesting themes in 2011!
    Ed

  11. Pingback: The state of WordPress themes in 2011 | WereWP

  12. I think we will see grandchildren themes. I think many developers use a common child theme across many sites, but wish to customise the detailed layout, colours etc on each site. That suggests at least a third tier is needed.

    I’d also expect considerable growth in mobile themes. Many of us know do much of our browsing on smart phones and tablets and many existing themes don’t scale well. As well as specific mobile themes, more themes which are flexible wifth rather than fixed width will prove popular.

  13. Echo Justin Tadlock in regards to sliders. Please make it stop. They do have their place, but in moderation, please.

    So yeah, frameworks will definately be the buzzword for 2011.
    I’m all for frameworks. The ability to upgrade new core WordPress features over several client sites (one time) = lush.
    Its my understanding that people feel frameworks may contain too much code bloat. Too much substraction to achieve addition.
    I guess a framework is trying to accomodate the predicated actions of many uses.

    Perhaps a more modular approach to a framework. Someone building a website using WordPress without the need of a blog does not require all the code included.

    Heads up for the Thematic Framework. Its the only completely free framework (that i’m aware of ) thats out there and the small team of contributors are currently shaking things up.

  14. I’d like to see custom post types take off more – but until thing like the wordpress app and other things support custom post types I think they will remain more of a gimmick than a useful tool.

    Most of the content on the web now comes from people’s phones. Tweets, Facebook status updates, image uploads, video uploads. I think it would be a great thing if we are able to get WordPress to be more functional from a mobile phone point of view

  15. Good post and some great insights from some.

    It’s already been mentioned, but sliders – some of the premium themes out there have sliders that are just far too big, and need more options to make it easier to customise.

  16. I’m looking at this from a developer standpoint so I’ll be
    somewhat biased and talk about things important to me. I’m sure
    we’ll see more creative and practical uses of custom taxonomies and
    post types in themes. The buzz around theme frameworks will
    certainly continue but there may be a split in approach depending
    on whether themes are developed for end users or for specific
    custom projects. The parent-child-grandchild… paradigm is more
    relevant for themes made for mass consumption however, when
    developing custom solutions, I think using a theme framework
    library to create a parent theme has
    its merits. This would be significant in a multisite (network)
    install where some of the sub-site themes can leverage the parent
    theme.

  17. The premium theme market will benefit as users become more aware of the dangers of downloading free themes from third-party repositories. Consequently, many developers of free themes will start charging, refocus on custom work or switch platforms, while wordpress.org/extend/themes will be dominated by themes produced or commissioned by Automattic. As part of this process, Automattic will acquire a premium theme company and install their themes on wordpress.com; it would seem to be the most efficient way of getting those extra three developers as well as weakening the market for commercial themes ;)

    Design-wise, while bland monochrome CMS-style themes will continue to be popular, many individual bloggers will demand more of a vintage, craft-inspired aesthetic, and also more themes aimed specifically at those accessing the internet through mobile devices.

  18. As a developer/designer who has started to use premium themes as a starting point for some of my projects, I find that my clients are overwhelmed by the theme options, especially as so many themes try to be swiss army knives that do everything. I see a good demand for more niche focused themes that solve specific industry needs. So far, real estate agents, design companies, and photographers are the only niches for whom themes are commonly found.

    I see custom post types and taxonomies as the first solution that is underused to solve this question–how to give niche specific businesses themes that make sense for their niche, and make it easier for non-techy business owners to create and update their own sites.

  19. Pingback: My take on the future of WordPress themes, 2011 edition

  20. i think we’ll also see some different strategies emerge is it relates to the business-side of wordpress. i even think some larger players may even start making buyouts of established wordpress shops.

  21. Pingback: SFCite | Blog | Child Themes Coming to WordPress.org

  22. I am quite intrigued by the idea of a theme framework just being an API. i.e. NO defined theme template files such as header.php, footer.php (or even functions.php). This means it can be slotted into any existing theme behind the scenes and used as much or as little as necessary. Hybrid core is a great example of this.

    Taking this one step further who will be the first to use a remote WordPress theme framework/API (as a web service etc.) in 2011? You wouldn’t even need to install anything to take advantage of such a framework. I just had that idea by the way, but it could be a novel approach!?

    I really do hope that grand child themes never see the light of day in 2011. Child themes add enough into the mix as it is. As a developer just thinking of dealing with a Parent theme/Framework => Child theme => Gandchild theme structure makes me want to run away screaming.

    Oh, and I would love to see (to a degree) premium Plugins go mainstream this year, so there is a sustainable way for coders to develop some great Plugins. However, it would be a disaster if you had to pay for even basic Plugins. I have seen this happen on one particular CMS and it really put me off using it. The final insult was that some of these *premium* Plugins were buggy, and not even supported well after you paid for them!! The good news was that I started using WordPress and never looked back! :)

    Anyway, goood luck everyone in 2011 for your WordPress development efforts!

    Now, what about for 2012. Hmm..

  23. Pingback: Themes In 2011 « Weblog Tools Collection

  24. As a “Theme Shop” owner, I can say that I’ve been nothing but happy with the entire experience so far and sales have been great (even though I was working full-time on the side). As I have more time now, I’ll be able to further develop the niche themes I have (the key here being: not building more themes, but digging deeper in the 2-3 existing ones). I agree on more goal-driven themes being created, deeper functionality (more custom post types, less shortcode fluff) and hopefully less of these massive content sliders.

    Cheers
    Noel

  25. What do you think of gantry by rocket theme? it’s a free theme framework with 960 grid. The basic theme sucks, but is there a better free framework that is feature rich to build your own theme on?

  26. Pingback: Interview with Lisa Sabin-Wilson on Allure Themes | Theme Lab

  27. Many child themes that are somewhat limited in layout and design customization capabilities can be placed in the same category as ‘standard’ themes out there that enable you to perform minor changes without resulting in a drastic new look – one that would otherwise stand out and distinguish your site from hundreds or thousands of others using the same theme. The only but important difference is that they are connected to their framework/parent theme (I would actually like the term: engine). Using child themes means that any changes made to them will be preserved while updating the parent theme (aka framework) as well as upgrading to the next WordPress version should be easy.
    I am relatively new to WP but even before installing my first theme, my research had enlightened me to the fact that there really is no point in starting out with a ‘standard’ theme, especially if you want to make some modifications, even if minor in nature. Lots of people, from what I read, do not upgrade WP at all, for that very reason…fearing they would be losing the customizations they applied to their theme and/or they find it too complicated to do (with knowing how to back up their files etc).

    So my observation is this: While the concept of childthemes seems like the most sensible way for WordPress driven sites to me, it appears that there are only a handful of solutions out there that have established themselves relatively well in this market, and subsequently, the number of childthemes that are available to choose from is minuscule compared to the huge market of ‘standard’ themes (not connected to any framework), it feels like for 100,000 themes out there, there are only a few hundred child theme based themes across all current framework theme providers, and most of those would have been created and marketed by freelance designers not necessarily by those providers themselves.

    What I find is that some of these solutions, such as Genesis are establishing themselves well in this niche (soon to become mainstream) market, but the themes are still not very flexible for the end user when it comes to modifying the layout and design to create something unique. I have now seen multiple
    sites with an obvious common look and feel to them, and in checking out the source code it was revealed they were using the same underlaying framework (Genesis in this case, but the same can be said for others).

    Being an end user, what I see is a massive market opening up right now: The need for theme framework providers to offer many different child themes that are designed to cater for hundreds of different niches (could be hundreds of different designs for each of those niches and subniches), not just for blog based sites, and still created in a way that makes them easy to customize and modify without the need for a professional web designer. Solutions for the end user to create their own child themes, such as Catalysttheme is one example. Whoever establishes themselves as a leader in this market, will attract freelance designers to create and sell child themes that work off of their framework on one hand, and end users that are looking to create their own unique looking sites, on the other.

    A childtheme can be seen just as a quick way to get a site up and running, but it can also be seen as a “headstart” to avoid the “blank canvas syndrome” that manyh users are experiencing.
    Most people would still want to have a unique looking site with individual functionalities. Noone likes the look of just another Thesis based site if they have not progressed from their basic looks. The reason why most look the same is because it is not easy for the average user to change the basic layout and design, without knowing how to code.

  28. Props for putting this together!

    It’s great to read what everyone is thinking about the future of themes and I really dug what Justin said about:

    …the return of themes just being themes. Get rid of all the fancy options panels, the shortcodes for basic HTML, and keeping plugin functionality within plugins. I’d love for us to return to the days when a theme was simply markup and design.

    • When I create a theme for say a web directory I like to add the functionality right into the themes function file. I’ve just always thought if its custom functionality that the theme pretty much relies on like in a web directory using custom post types and meta boxes to organise information, the theme would be lost without it so include it in the theme.

      Am I going about this the wrong way? Should I add that sort of functionality into a plugin, why?

  29. I’m really proud to be a part of the wordpress community. You guys are the reason for our successes. In other words… Thanks WPMU DEV, WPcandy, and Lisa “The Teacher” Sabin-Wilson.

  30. Pingback: Dealing with shortcode madness

  31. Pingback: How well Alister Cameron nailed down in 2008 – The future of WordPress Themes | Carlo Rizzante

Leave a Reply

Please note that WPCandy is a moderated community.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>