Theme Review: Criteria for Judgment

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Themes are great. But some themes are better than others. Before we judge which are, though, we need criteria to determine which qualities are best. Hopefully, in the process, we will encourage some theme designers to bump up the quality of their themes (or even improve ones from the past).

Validation

Before anything else the theme is tested for HTML and CSS validity. This is a basic necessity among web design anymore (or at least it should be). When your site is valid there is a greater likelihood that it will look and act the same across multiple browsers. No guarantees, however…cough *IE*…

Think of validation as good grammar. Except it isn’t subjective. And you can’t speak unless you use it.

Look & Feel

This one’s simple, yet the most subjective of all the criteria. How fresh is the design? Is it exciting? Do the colors work? Seriously, you can’t get much more subjective than that. So this category is strictly the preference of the author: in this case, me.

If you don’t agree…then that sucks.

Theme Completeness

Almost every theme will look great from the top level. That’s where we design, right? But the key determining factor of the completeness of a theme is all about how thorough the designer was. For instance, is the 404 template a well designed part of the theme? How about search results? Or, even more obscurely, what about “pre” or “address” tags?

The completeness of a theme will determine not how you use your theme or even how the author of your theme uses it. Most of the time the things I’m talking about are never seen by designers or users but only by the visitors. It’s the visitor who wants to see a well done and helpful 404 page, not the author of the blog. Anywhere the visitor sees an out-of-sync page or designed element the view of the author diminishes. The author does not want their visitors to have a low view of them due to their poor theme completeness.

That’s why it’s important for theme designers to be thorough. And that’s why we’re evaluating on this.

Editability

Every theme released should have a certain amount of what we call editability. By this we mean that the blog author should be able to change a reasonable amount of their design without much trouble at all.

By reasonable we mean colors, alignments, and pictures. Especially pictures. It isn’t expected that everything is a cakewalk to figure out—that’s why designing is a profession, it requires work and experience—but a well commented style sheet and reasonably standard XHTML is something which should be expected out of any theme designer.

Scoring

Each of the above will be graded on a 5 point scale, with 1 being the worst (completely disregarding a rule) and 5 being the best (we can’t find anything to improve on. Each theme will be given a score out of twenty. Twenty is good. Five, not so good.

It should also be said that themes are reviewed unless the author requests it to be removed from the site. We hope this site raises awareness and expectations for WordPress design, but we also want it to showcase some awesome theme designers out there. But again, if you don’t want your theme to be reviewed, we’ll respect that.

With that said, let’s get on with it.