More on the Joys and Pains of Reviewing WP.org Themes

A month or so ago, I contributed some time to reviewing themes as part of the WordPress.org Review Team. Yesterday, I got the great news: the two themes I reviewed went live. And this without an Admin member having to re-open the ticket!

I must admit, I felt quite proud of myself and happy for the developers who had worked hard to offer the WordPress community their best product.

But there’s a little bit of a story preceding this happy ending, and I’d like to share it with you.

The Abandoned Themes Queue

I don’t know how many of you know about this, but if you’ve ever submitted a theme to the WordPress.org themes repository, or simply reviewed a theme, you might have heard of the abandoned themes queue.

What a sad name! Here’s what it’s all about.

All themes submitted to the repository for review are placed in a queue. As each gets assigned to a reviewer, which some time can even take weeks, it leaves the queue and its fate is in the reviewer’s hands. So far so good.

It sometimes (or often?) happens that the assigned reviewer disappears without trace and without so much as a word, while the theme developer, with his/her heart full of hope, eagerly awaits a response.

After a minimum of a week of waiting (but it can take longer if the theme developer doesn’t actively pursue the matter, or an Admin member of the review team realizes what’s happening), the unfortunate theme joins the abandoned themes queue.

At that point, the theme is parked for as long as it takes to find a merciful soul who takes pity and comes forward asking an Admin to review the theme. At least this is what happens in a number of cases.

My Theme was in The Abandoned Queue

My latest WP.org theme, Pizzaland, found itself in the abandoned themes queue. Luckily, a fantastic reviewer took it into his own hands and did a great job.

But that was when I became acutely aware of the uncertain path a theme review could take once the reviewer makes a disappearing act.

Guess where I picked up my two themes for review from. You’re right, the dreaded abandoned themes queue.

Please, Do not Push that Button

Not too long ago, a button was prominently in view on the WordPress.org theme review team pages. If you pressed that button, you would instantly get a theme to review.

This could be among the reasons, perhaps the main reason, for theme abandonment.

Now things are much better. At the bottom of the page, you find a discreet button that looks like this

Review Link

Once clicked, here’s what you’re going to see:

Review Theme Button

Much better. If you’re not 100% prepared to carry out a theme review for WP.org, please please please, do not click that button!

To Conclude

Here are the themes I reviewed that went live yesterday:

Go and check them out, they’re quite cool!

What about you, did you have one of your themes confined to the dreaded abandoned themes queue? What did you do? I look forward to hearing from you.

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2 thoughts on “More on the Joys and Pains of Reviewing WP.org Themes

  1. That’s interesting – I didn’t know about the theme review process. How sad that there is an abandoned queue!

    How long did it take your theme to be reviewed and approved in all?
    And how long did it take you to review the other themes, and what did you need to do?

    • Hi Claire, thanks for stopping by.

      The review aims at making sure themes follow WP.org guidelines about code, license, etc. To know more check out the Theme Review Handbook here: https://make.wordpress.org/themes/handbook/the-team/

      The time to get a theme reviewed and approved varies. The latest theme I submitted took about 4 weeks to get to review. However, the person the theme got assigned to never reviewed it and after a week I had my theme placed in the abandoned themes queue. Fortunately a very active reviewer took it up and it all progressed pretty quickly from there, just a few days.

      After the theme is approved, it’s placed in the approved but not yet live themes. An Admin looks over each theme and if all is OK, the theme goes live, otherwise the ticket gets re-opened. The time that elapses in this last queue until the theme is launched can be anything from 4 to 6 weeks, but it depends on the number of themes in the queue and the quality of the review each theme has previously undergone.

      As for the themes I reviewed, they had both been in the abandoned themes queue for 2-3 months when I picked them up. Since I started my review, till the time the themes went live, it took about a couple of months, the review itself about 3-4 weeks. However, one of the themes had to undergo an accessibility review made by another reviewer, which required more work.

      The time it takes to review themes depends on the complexity of the theme, on how much time the author spent getting familiar with the guidelines and applying them to their work, and on the responsiveness of both author and reviewer.

      I hope this answers your questions (perhaps, got you a bit more interested in the review process enough to try it out yourself).

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