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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Donnacha blogs at WordSkill, Online Publishing Advice.
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.
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.
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.
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
classto 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.
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:
- Theme code quality and compatibility with the current WordPress version will be considered the status quo.
- Themes will have a greater emphasis on security, and best practices for Theme options.
- Themes will have a greater emphasis on Documentation.
- Theme Frameworks and Child Themes will find a place in the Repository, but will be treated as separate (somehow) from stand-alone/Parent Themes.
- 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:
- SVN-commit access for developers who have approved Themes.
- A readme.txt parser for display of readme file contents on the Extend/Themes listing pages (as per Extend/Plugins listing pages).
- A “Theme Adoption” program for out-of-date Themes in the Repository.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.