One of the first themes I launched on WordPress.com was Toujours. It was designed as a wedding theme, and included features like a Guestbook template, a slideshow, and special styles to highlight the three most recent posts. Like with all of our themes, the demo was built to look realistic, and match the kind of site we envisioned the theme would be used to build.
After launching the theme, one of my team members sent me a link to a site using Toujours at the time: a news site about the Buffalo Bills NHL team.
At first, I was just happily struck by the odd pairing of what the theme was designed for, and the site’s content. It’s not a usage I would have expected. As time went on, I wondered why that theme was used — did the site owner like how it looked, or did they pick it for its features? And did the features make sense for the theme, since they were fairly unique to it? I could see how having things like the most-recent posts displayed differently actually made a lot of sense for an online publication, and less when tied to a wedding theme.
Toujours is a couple years old now, and on WordPress.com we’ve been moving away from including theme-specific features in our collection based on what we’ve learned from our customers, looking at sites like this. Having featured only available in one or two themes can cause confusion, especially when someone is moving from one theme to another. We’re working to make the functionality available in each theme more consistent, so more themes support the same features. We’re not 100% of the way there yet — things like featured post slideshows are still only available in some themes. But bit by bit, we’ve been able to reiterate on our theme development process, to make each theme behave as consistently as possible. This lines up nicely with one of our new design principles at Automattic, “Intuition is grounded in interpretation through iteration.”
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t sites out there using themes in ways outside of our imaginations — and I love that our customers can see beyond staged demos and truly make the themes their own! But we’re working to make choosing a theme more about how you want your site to look, not what you want it to do.
Photo by KiVEN Zhao on Unsplash.