Where is WordPress heading? To have or not have theme options…

silenced-croud-mediumWordPress’ Theme Review Team seems to always be involved in a lot of decision making. That’s good, decisions have to be made and a direction needs to be set and maintained.

We had scuffles with WordPress before (like the Tempera 1.2.1-6 updates) mostly due to unclear rules, rules applied subjectively, a lack of rules, unknown rules, changing rules or a combination of all these simultaneously. WordPress is an open source, contributive project and as a result there are a lot of people involved in it, with diverging views and opinions. But we moved on, we changed things, had rules cleared up or even had new rules written down.

However lately the decisions seem to be taken hastily, without analysing all effects (and maybe consequences) they have. One of these decisions directly affects themes – meaning it affects us the most.

The decision

In the latest Theme Review Theme weekly meeting a decision was taken to start to recommend, and eventually (in 6 months time) to impose the use of the Customizer API in all themes and for all theme options.

What does this mean for you? It means themes will no longer be allowed to have separate theme option pages (like our nicely arranged Theme Settings page) but instead must switch to using the Customizer for all their options.

Right now this rule is mandatory for all new theme submissions, while existing themes get 6 months to switch or new updates will no longer be accepted in the repository.
EDIT: To keep things clear, themes already in the repository will not be removed (they will remain installable and usable with the included options page after the deadline) but the developers will not be able to submit new updates to the repository with the included options page functionality.

What is the Customizer? For those who don’t know, it’s that narrow little thing displayed on the left side of the screen when you go to Appearance > Customize.

Okay, the Customizer is a good thing. It tries to unify the multitude of different variants of presenting theme options into a single interface. It tries to help the users get the most and best out of their sites (and themes) by making things clearer, better arranged and with a uniform appearance.

The effects

But it is way too young yet and limited to impose it on everyone. It barely handles a couple of theme option types (as listed in the Codex): text input, colour selector, file upload, image.

Our themes already additionally use (and thus require) the long established sliders, drop down selectors, check boxes and advanced (image thumbnail-based) selectors (like the ones we use for Layout and Image Border settings). EDIT: Some of these option types have been added to the Customizer API (as documented here).

The customizer is built to be expandable, but forcing it now when it doesn’t already have all the required field types will only mean developers will have to each write their own custom variant of new handlers, possibly ruining consistency, clarity and even security in the process.

The results

Forcing us to move to the Customizer means we have to rewrite the handling for all these options – 270 separate options (counted in Nirvana; the other themes are very similar) making up about a third of our theme code for the new API.

Not to mention the limited space the Customizer provides. Imagine cramming up all options visible in the left image into the narrow grey sidebar visible in the right image. And that’s just one of the theme’s settings section…

wordpress-nirvana wordpress-customizer

We would need to give up on and drop all option types that are not currently supported (or write up custom handling code for theme – something which may not be viewed with good eyes by the theme review team). This is a lose-lose case both for us and themes users.
All this rewriting would take a lot of time and effort (stolen from new options and new themes) and put it into something that isn’t yet mature enough or well laid out to be used for more than a screen-full of theme options…

The Customizer is a good idea. It should be promoted and recommended. But forcing it on everyone at this point is a poor decision.

The choice

If the new Customizer rule remains enforced, we’ll have a choice to make… and it can only be one of the following:

  • waste a lot of time and effort to try to move (and adapt) as many options as possible into the Customizer but lose the rest / plenty of them
  • waste some time and effort and move most used options into the Customizer but lose most of them
  • remove all theme options
  • provide the options via a plugin that is not available in the repository and requires a two-step manual installation
  • stop submitting themes to the free repository (and provide manual updates instead)

 

We’d rather it’s neither of the above and we get to keep on providing theme options for everyone to customize our themes to the best of their abilities and desires.

We are not giving up on our themes, they are our beloved creations after all. We will try to fight this decision and we can use your help – if you have a WordPress.org/.com account, you can leave a comment in the official forum. Or write a post on your blog or site, spread the word.

And if all fails we’ll do our best to find alternative solutions to keeping the options page included.


 

Let us know what you think about this in the poll below (or use the comments if the poll is not enough).

[poll id=”29″]


The original forum is located here:

https://make.wordpress.org/themes/2015/04/21/this-weeks-meeting-important-information-regarding-theme-options/

If you have a WordPress.com/.org account you can have your say in this subject too. Bigger names* have changed their decisions based on user feedback before….

Additional discussions on the subject:

 

30 Comments

  1. I had no idea how spoiled I was! I started my first site using Nirvana and actually thought the customizability was standard. Not so much! I started my second site and began with the WP Theme just to get set up and within an hour was prepping to switch to another Cryout Creations theme just so I could customize the look for a basic landing page. Now I am freaking out! I don’t want to lose this ability.
    Please don’t take away this option WordPress – entrepreneurs have enough stacked against them!!!

  2. The WordPress customizer is fine and allows you to see changes to your site before going live. However it is a HUGE resource hog and making lots of changes in it before clicking publish most always causes your browser to freeze up tighter than Fort Knox.

    We are for BOTH the customizer and allowing standalone theme options. To enforce the customizer strictly is to alienate millions of WP users and devs alike.

  3. I am not a programmer. While I would like to learn CSS to customize a website, I’m not able to do that yet. I chose Tempera to produce my husband’s website and planned to use it for my own, for the very reason that it is so user-friendly, well thought out and offers so many ways to customize the layout and look. The WordPress Customizer is a misnomer. It is too limited!! This should NOT be mandatory. WP is creating needless headaches for users and theme developers.

  4. I have just found your templates and what made me use them was the way I could change the appearence of things. Being a design company we use a lot of different fonts and colours.

    The WordPress customizer being forced on me will mean I will end up going back to Joomla.

    I would so much prefer to stay witj Cryout Creations templates instead.

    Paul

  5. It sounds like the complaining theme creators are not considering what is most important: the End User. Using the Customizer is a good idea because it creates a familiar interface for editing theme options. Some themes have option interfaces that are excessively convoluted with very steep learning curves. Website developers don’t want to waste time learning how to use someone else’s custom interface. Requiring theme creators to use a the default Customizer interface will greatly improve the end user’s experience. It may cost the theme creator extra hours to accommodate this requirement, but that will be no where near the amount of hours the thousands of end users will save not having to learn a new options interface every time. In fact, it could allow your theme to become more popular, because you no longer have an unfamiliar options interface that noone wants to learn how to use.

  6. Customizer sucks. Plain and simple. It allows users to make a few, extroardinarily limited changes to color and headers. It does not allow options for typography, , sliders, front page settings etc, nor does it have the amazing flexibility and ease of use that Nirvana and so many other excellent themese provide. This move is an obvious POWER PLAY on the part of Autmoatic to force users to buy into WordPress.com and its $99 custom upgrade and force out all of the wonderful, creatives and independent developers who made the WordPress platform what it is today. This is a horrible decision that I hope with enough pressure will be reversed. Thanks for letting us know!

  7. Hi there, I use the parabola theme on 3 websites and we all love it, I checked the wordpress theme and https://make.wordpress.org/themes/2015/04/21/this-weeks-meeting-important-information-regarding-theme-options/#comment-41401 this thread says that your thread here is incorrect and needs updating, says that nothing int eh code cannot be done thru customizer and if you need help just ask. Please can you confirm you are going to make this work with customizer or do I need to change all 3 websites to different themes?

    Parabola is my theme of CHOICE, but of course it has to be able to work with WordPress changes…

  8. The biggest reason I started using WordPress in the first place was that I found a beautiful theme (Tempera by Cryout Creations) with all those great options to easily make my site look like I wanted. I tried many different themes but I really liked using all those options that Tempera offers in it’s Settings page. I cannot imagine using my site any other way. I really like Tempera’s user interface. If any of that is lost, I think I would need to consider another platform. As I continue to invest time updating my WordPress site, I want the ability to use all the settings my theme offers. Don’t force the use of Customizer!

  9. I agree with MasterPsycho. (Not words I thought I’d say when I woke up today).
    There are too many businesses/governments telling us what’s best for us, trying to box us in to some little conformist, cookie cutter version of everything. Screw that.

    The customizer SUCKS. It’s limited, frustrating and unintuitive.

    I’m going to leave a comment on wordrpress.org. And encourage others to do the same.

    Leave us with our theme options, and let the pro’s like Cryout Creations continue to allow their users to have full control over their websites – as it should be.

  10. Ppppfff…come on life give me a break….i came here to check the rest of the incredible themes ( im thinking to change the magnificent Mantra..just for fun) and this bomb blows up in my face…Putting Theme Options In The Damn Customizer ?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!!??!?!?!?!?! It has to be a joke ?
    I only used the customizer once and that was it… It was slow and it had limited options. Unless the WordPress team has a major upgrade hidden in their minds for the freaking customizer…i dont wanna hear anymore nonsense about putting theme options in the customizer….

    before I decide what would be my standard theme i was changing a theme everyday for 3 weeks….it was….exhausting…to put it there politely…and then i discovered the
    Mantra theme…and i heard trumpets echoing from the skies and a relaxing warmth surrounded me and i felt happiness and satisfaction with the ammount of the damn customization options dancing on my fingertips. It was everything i needed toi make my website stand out…to make it a feast for the eyes…. Unless there is code (i can do a bit of css no prob there) involved i can drool all over the customization options..the more there are…the happier this guy can be……And there is a theme with more options than Mantra. 😀 yeah baby !!!

    And now they want to take those beautiful options away from ME !!! NO !!! NO !!! U Dont Screw with the Theme Options WordPress !!!

  11. Sadly, not every option page is competently done. I’m using Parabola currently, the color options sub-page gives me trouble, so I’m all for standardization. Now it is true that the customizer is limited, especially in some themes, but take a look at 2015 with the Styles: Twenty Fifteen plug in added. Compare the 2015 customizer with the plugin activated, and deactivated. Big difference, isn’t there.

    Now note that widgets on the customizer has a sub-menu. I believe there are other themes that have sub-sub-menus as well.. As far as I can see, the customizer can be customized itself. It doesn’t have to stay limited.

    Play with it, see what you can do with out. I think you’ll be surprised.

  12. solution: make a LITE version of all your themes so their submissions comply with the new insane wordpress standards. offer a full version on your site for like $1 or so and for that dollar the person gets emailed about updates to the theme that has the full version coding.

  13. I’d rather update manually and have to use a child theme to keep my edits than lose updates or have to use the clunky customizer. I have done months of shopping around for an easy to understand and customize themes and would gladly pay for cry it out products and manually update them. I use cry it out themes on 3 out of 5 sites I manage for people and was about to switch the other two simply because your skins are just amazing and easy to manage and customize.

    the customizer often crashes my site or destroys the coding, especially on other themes (not CIOs)

  14. I don’t like the customizer at all! It is slow, clunky and limited. Every time using it feels like formatting word documents, one wrong move and your site is messed up.

    Disabling theme options is like disabling plugins.

  15. I read the content on the “customizer” link above and I get the impression WordPress wants you to pay for increased customization capability…at least on their site. That makes me wonder about what will happen to self hosted WordPress blogs.

    I have also tried out several other themes that offer a ton of settings in Customizer, and it can be confusing to say the least. Your “Nirvana Settings” from Dashboard is plenty busy, but quick to learn and MUCH easier to navigate than Customizer. I simply keep two tabs open, settings, and the blog and refresh the blog after saving to see the results. Granted it doesn’t offer preview capability, but I don’t like losing screen real estate to Customizer.

  16. I decided I’d pop by and leave a comment since a couple of your users have responded on the Make blog.

    First, I wanted to make some corrections. This was not a hastily-made decision. It was a decision made over three years of discussion between TRT, theme developers, and many users. If you were not involved, I can only encourage you to get involved with TRT for future decisions (at the very least, attend meetings).

    There’s also no “if” about this decision. The decision has been made. There are no plans to reverse it or even any talk of doing so. Therefore, what we really need to do is move on and find the best solutions for any perceived problems.

    Saying the customizer has “limited space” or is “narrow” is not exactly correct. That’s just the default. There’s an enqueue hook to make style adjustments (or even completely change it) if need be. I can help with that if you want.

    Please join the #themereview channel on Slack to discuss things with us. I’ve looked over some of your themes. The theme options are very much doable via the customizer. Others and I on the TRT are more than happy to work with you. Anyways, hop on over to chat with us.

  17. If the only way to keep your fantastic Options Page is to opt out of the WordPress repository, then you have my full support to do it.

    Just offer us a mailing list where we are notified about updated versions and I am happy to install them manual.

    I am using cryout themes actually on a handful of sites and would be really pissed if everything would change to that customizer.

  18. I am not a techie, but rather a business owner who’s decided WP makes it possible for me to gain control over my Businesses Front Door (website) and I’m enjoying the improvements, speed and control.

    In September ’14 I moved my entire organization to WP, four sites with 8 more in development. Last month, as I moved to mobile friendly, I came across Nirvana and am running it on godaddy WP. Fabulous. My artist and I can collaborate long distance, and the theme is terrific.

    I can’t comment intelligently upon the “Cusomizer” but I am, was, planning on moving all my sites to Nirvana.

    Take my note as confirmation that I like and hope I can grow with the Nirvana theme and it’s future.

  19. Whenever I use the Customizer I feel like I’m missing out on the full spectrum of options available. I actually don’t like the way it’s been implemented, but I know people have work hard on it so I don’t want to criticise too much. I think the theme options are easier to use and make me feel more confident in the product.

  20. hey man

    I really like your theme, i haven’t use it on my site yet, but i’m planning to
    i like all the available options and i want more 😀

    if wp.org force you to do something that will ruin this great theme, then i think you should provide manual update instead
    i know how to do manual update, just give us announcement or newsletter for update notification

    but i understand not everyone can do manual update, so i hope there is a better solution

  21. What I love about theme setups like in Tempera is that I can easily export my theme to other sites. The interface is WAY better than that stupid little sidebar that WordPress gives.

    I get that standards are needed, but there are so many different variables from theme to theme that it makes absolutely NO SENSE to try and put them all into one little box. It simply won’t work.

    Please keep on doing what you’re doing. This is an AWESOME theme!

  22. Pingback: Oh, WordPress, why dost thou forsake me? | Pyewackit Dot Net

  23. I have two of your themes installed on client sites, and I LOVE your theme customization settings. If, I say IF, there were room enough in the Customizer to incorporate ALL of that flexibility, then great. But at this time there is not.
    I’m just one user, but if WP forces you out of the Theme Repository in 6 months for not going all Customizer, please let me know so that I can download copies of your themes for future upload to new sites. I don’t want to lose your themes, and certainly not the customization abilities of them!

    1. Following up on what I wrote earlier, I received a gratis copy of X theme which does all theme options through the Customizer. Not as optimal as the theme authors would have buyers believe. Seeing previews in real time is nice, but not having an overview of all options is a real setback for me. I still prefer Cryout Creation’s menu options.

    2. After the 6 months deadline themes are not removed from the repository. They will remain available for installation, the only limit is that we won’t be able to submit new updates until we remove the settings page.

      But we’re looking for alternatives to keep providing the settings page even if we include some settings in the Customizer.

  24. Your work, open source or otherwise is excellent and appreciated and you make a strong case to delay instituting a one solution method for theme settings. I hope WordPress listens and waits.

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