Mike McAlister, creator of the free Ollie theme, plans to drop off the fantastic onboarding features in the theme to embed them in a separate plug-in. This decision was the outcome of facing pushback in the review regarding including them in the WordPress.org Theme dictionary.
McAlister describes the events as a set of unproductive processes at certain points, which resulted in turning him into an easy target for the reviewers. In lieu of this, Mike’s team decided not to go ahead right now with the whole experience as approved initially.
Read on to delve into how contentious reviews are forcing the removal of innovative onboarding features even though WordPress.org’s block theme adoption looks grim and the impact it has on several people, including Nashville divorce attorneys.
With regard to the decision taken to call off the inclusion of the innovative onboarding features at present, Mike McAlister published his decision to WordPress’s Theme Review Slack Channel. McAlister stated that they won’t be putting the innovative onboarding features in the Ollie theme. Instead, they would figure out ways to deliver the onboarding experience through a plugin mechanism.
It was surprising that McAlister took this decision after he received an “OK” from the WordPress project leader Matt Mullenweg, who finalized and approved Ollie as an experiment, and WordPress Executive Director Josepha Haden Chomphosy, who also actively supported the initiative. Besides, McAlister also received complete support and cooperation from his fellow team members.
“I would not be a good steward of our community of users if I didn’t suggest that getting the whole thing into the repo so it’s easy to find and use is the best experience for them,” Chomphosy said.
She suggested another alternative wherein the themes can be moved ahead while keeping the onboarding intact. Meanwhile, the contributors can work towards core features of WordPress to offer better onboarding experiences.
“We get the theme in (including the onboarding) and in parallel start a feature plugin process to move the onboarding to be Core-first,” Chomphosy said.
Chomphosy’s proposal to continue with the experiments on the theme enabled the creators to focus on the core elements. Besides, the use of training techniques to ensure that the block theme adoption keeps going would guarantee that a solid solution is obtained on the core side.
McAlister said, “There is a lot of subtle and not so subtle pressure from some higher visibility folks that feel strongly that this shouldn’t be in a theme. And I don’t want those relationships to degrade as a result of how this might play out.”
McAlister is focused on introducing the onboarding experiences to WordPress.org as a plug-in but isn’t sure of how long it would take due to the long delays in plug-in reviews.
WordPress.Org must not alienate innovators with the stagnating block theme adoption
Project leader Mullenweg feels that a cultural change is fundamentally required, especially based on the tone of reviewers in Ollie’s Trac tickets. The focus must be on encouraging new ideas of innovators rather than sticking to the familiar processes. Besides, the process must not seem a burden to creators who wish to offer their work for free.
A recent spreadsheet created by a Munich-based digital agency owner Hendrik Luehrsen shows the tracking of usage of themes with FSE tag. As per its data, WordPress.org’s block theme adoption is stagnating significantly, if not completely declining.
Luehrsen said, “I would say it’s too early to assume a definitive decline. But we’re most certainly not growing the FSE usage.”
Pootlepress founder Jamie Marsland said, “Having run a number of block theme training courses, I’m not at all surprised. Until Block Themes get easier to use for beginners, my guess is the numbers won’t change significantly. The dev team should try running a training course and see for themselves.”
In an interview with Marsland, McAlister says that the adoption of block themes is impacted because of the lack of effective marketing of their innovative onboarding features. Another reason is the complexities entailing the creation of a block theme that completely includes everything a user can do with a block editor. In addition, McAlister spoke on the importance of creating user-friendly interfaces and effective onboarding experiences for better education.
As block themes struggle to gain adoption, WordPress needs to enable any block theme that improves user experience, particularly in the absence of a core alternative for onboarding at present. After three years, WordPress.org is able to have a block theme only on 1.7 million sites out of a total of 810 million.
“As someone who has been trying to get block themes to be adopted by a wider audience from early, I feel onboarding/switching to block themes is a big hurdle for users still,” ElmaStudio co-creator Ellen Baer said in the conversation in the Theme Review Slack channel.
McAlister had struggled hard to enhance the user experience of WordPress.org’s theme users with the innovative onboarding features though unsuccessful. However, McAlister’s efforts highlighted lacunae in certain areas, such as the culture and the process around the theme’s contentious reviews. He expressed that these areas were facing stagnation, and there’s a need for a more dynamic user-focused approach while reassessing the existing guidelines on the process.
“There is a deep, deep desire for the evolution of the theme directory,” McAlister said. “I think we’ve always known this, but after wading through weeks of commentary, it’s clear to me that we’ve neglected it far too long. The theme pages should be at least as good as the plugin pages, the theme demos aren’t selling the value of themes, etc.
“The hardline approach and the echos of longstanding esoteric debates need relaxing. Users largely don’t care about the theme vs plugin debate, they want to design and publish faster. That’s not to say we throw these things out, but we have to ask if they’re serving WordPress users in the ways we think they are.”