33 Responses

  1. JLeuze

    The demos are pretty useless, but I don’t even think they need to host better demos, just give authors the option to specify a different demo link of their own instead. Ditching the lightbox and linking directly instead would be nice too!

    1. Sami Keijonen

      Plusses for this one. Direct demo link would be more than nice! That could be data from style.css header. Naturally people can abuse this but it’s reviewed anyway.

    2. Jleuze

      Yeah, it could be setup the same as the theme homepage link, they already have to vet that link in the theme review to make sure it’s legit.

    3. Sami Keijonen

      Where we could raise this issue. In theme reviewers email list, http://make.wordpress.org/themes/ ?

      1. Jleuze

        The theme reviewers could tell you if vetting another link is feasible, but actually updating the theme directory to support the links would be above their paygrade, Otto would probably have to do that.

  2. Carl Hancock

    Allowing the theme developer to define a demo link isn’t as simple as it sounds. That then means you need to monitor and make sure that the demo site doesn’t go down. It’s not uncommon for a developer to move on and lose interest in something or forget about it entirely. Let a hosting account expire, etc. Which means demo links that return 404 errors, broken sites, etc. I agree that the WP.org demos are not ideal but linking offsite isn’t the solution. Improving the tools provided to theme authors to make sure the demo appears correct is the solution.

    1. Sami Keijonen

      Good points. But it’s up to theme authors to maintain those links anyway and update theme when necessary.

      Custom demo link could also be only on the right under theme home page link.

    2. Sami Keijonen

      Did I lost my answer… Short version again.

      Those are really good points. As a compromise custom demo link could be only in the right under Theme Homepage link.

      Many themes support plugins also so we need to have those installed in demo version also.

    3. Chris Burbridge

      Maybe having working links could be a requirement. WP could ping the link and disqualify it if it failed a lot of times. Just as they seem to be hiding some old plugins now (that have not been updated in a long time).

    4. Justin Kopepasah

      Totally agree with Carl in this one. Improving the tools is the better long run solution.

  3. chris dohman

    i couldn’t agree more on this brian. i’ve been puzzled over how useless these previews are. as it stands now, the 240×180 thumbnail is 10 times more informative than the preview.

  4. Chip Bennett

    I think you’re highlighting the primary problematic area: static front pages with custom/featured content. Other than that use case, provided that Themes properly define sane defaults for Theme options (i.e. such that the Theme renders properly even without any user configuration), then the WPORG Theme demo will (should) work just fine. And note that there is an existing Trac ticket in development that, once finished, will enable Themes to designate static front pages, which may (hopefully) allow Themes to designate default content for those static front pages.

    As for allowing Themes to designate demo sites outside of WPORG: there be dragons.

    The issue is the imprimatur inherent in the WPORG preview modal, versus the clear distinction of going to an external site view the demo. Yes, Themes are reviewed – at a single point in time. After that initial review when closing the Theme-Trac ticket upon Theme submission, the Theme Review Team has no control or oversight over Theme-designated external URLs. As Carl points out: that lack of oversight can lead to obsolete/404 pages at best, and outright abuse at worst.

    I think, also, that the Theme Customizer makes (or can/will make) much of this discussion irrelevant, since it enables preview-without-saving-changes, using the user’s own content.

  5. David Lockie

    This has frustrated me for years. For so long in fact that we built a crawler that goes out and finds WP sites that are using particular themes – e.g. http://freelancewp.com/wordpress-theme/definition/ for WooThemes Definition.

    Seeing what sites in the wild look like whilst using a theme is much more valuable than looking at a demo.

    Sorry for the plug, hope it’s still interesting.

  6. Anthony Hortin

    Totall agree! There’s a lot of effort that goes into the Theme Review process, both from a developers perspective in getting the theme up to scratch, and also from the actual reviewer themselves. It’s a shame that themes can’t be shown looking their best.

  7. Jeffro

    I don’t browse the themes on .org that often but you’ve raised a pretty good point here. I wonder how many themes have been shrugged off as looking like crap because of the default demo content that is within them. You’re Pinboard example is a great one. It’s a great looking theme but looks terrible in the WordPress.org previewer.

    Upon doing some digging around, those themes on WordPress.org or at least the ones since the WPTRT was created go through a Unit Test process. That test involves unit test sample data located here http://codex.wordpress.org/Theme_Unit_Test

    Now I wonder how much difficult the review teams job would be if the demo content had to be changed to allow themes to look the way they are supposed to look when previewed. I also question how feasible or practical it would be to allow all sorts of different demo content. It sort of doesn’t make sense if the theme uses the default demo content and passes with flying colors and then is able to upload their actual demo content XML file which may break the theme, even though it shouldn’t.

    1. Chip Bennett

      I’ve argued for the demo data to by synchronized with the Theme Unit Test data, but thus far that’s been a losing battle. Apparently, the Theme Unit Test data are more “edge case” focused, rather than “nice-looking content” focused. That’s true, of course; but I personally think that the Theme Unit Test data are perfectly presentational for Theme demo purposes.

      1. mor10

        It’s called “Theme Test Data” for a reason: It’s to test edge cases as you say. However, for theme demo purposes there should be a better data set more suited to showcase theme functionality.

  8. Morten Rand-Hendriksen

    I agree the theme demo content is not great and should be changed. However, handing the reins completely over to the theme developer is not a good idea either because the developer is then allowed to create custom content that looks great but is hard for the end user to replicate. I see a lot of premium and custom themes that have fantastic demos that are next to impossible to replicate because the content is so specialized to make the theme look good.

    The idea of a standardized demo content set is that all themes are presented as equal and can be compared side by side. The reason the problems that are described in this post occur is that we don’t develop themes for blogs any more; we develop themes for websites. The demo content is content from a standard blog.

    I would suggest having a mandatory set of demo content (updated to be more current) and then allow the developer to submit extra demo content in the publishing process. That way any custom presentational elements (images, post types, settings etc) can be added to the theme so it is presented properly, and that content will be handled in the Theme Directory system, not on the theme developer’s website.

  9. Otto

    A better set of demo content is something that was discussed at the Community Summit last October, and I’m all for having a better set of data there that more clearly showcases the look of themes. The unit test data is for testing, not really great for demo’ing.

    Additionally, there are some improvements we need to make to the backend of the theme previewer instance, which are outside the scope of this discussion as such. Just wanted to say that we know about these issues. :)

    However, I agree with Carl Hancock above, allowing an external site or link to be displayed just raises the issue of monitoring those links, which is somewhere I don’t think we have to go just yet. It’s perfectly possible to come up with a good set of demo data that will work universally. If somebody wants to get some people together and give it a go, we’re more than happy to take a look at the result and make suggestions and improvements.

    1. Sami Keijonen

      It’s perfectly possible to come up with a good set of demo data that will work universally

      It’s definitely possible but really hard. There are couple of things that comes to my mind.

      - Themes are different and they are made for different purposes.

      Different layout “options” (1 column, 2 columns, 3 columns) with different widget areas

      - Different Custom Page Templates

      - Support for plugins like EDD, bbPress, Custom Content Portfolio. Those plugins needs to be installed so that we can show off the design.

      But I guess those kind of things should be left to authors own demo site. And I can definitely understand why you won’t allow that demo link, it could get ugly.

      It’s great to hear that you are have discussed how theme previewer could be better.

    2. Sami Keijonen

      New try…

      ——

      It’s perfectly possible to come up with a good set of demo data that will work universally

      It’s definitely possible but really hard. There are couple of things that comes to my mind.

      - Themes are different and they are made for different purposes.

      Different layout “options” (1 column, 2 columns, 3 columns) with different widget areas

      - Different Custom Page Templates

      - Support for plugins like EDD, bbPress, Custom Content Portfolio. Those plugins needs to be installed so that we can show off the design.

      But I guess those kind of things should be left to authors own demo site. And I can definitely understand why you won’t allow that demo link, it could get ugly. It’s great to hear that you are have discussed how theme previewer could be better.

  10. Otto

    (weird modal alignment and all)

    This should be fixed now. You may need to reload or clear cache to get the fixed JS code.

    BTW, emailing us about these sort of issues tends to get things fixed faster, especially when they’re specific code problems that can be seen easily.

  11. Otto

    Just to re-iterate this point, which may have gotten missed in the conversation above: I’d be *thrilled* to have a better set of demo data to use.

    So, theme authors: Get together, make a site somewhere, start to put some demo data on it. Work together to create it. Argue about it. Pick fights. Whatever. ;)

    Come up with a good community-made set of demo data, and I assure you that I, for one, will certainly pay attention. This is something that can be easily community-driven and created. Once we have a site with the data, then it’s a simple matter of an export/import to get it onto the previewer. Well, not quite that simple, but still pretty simple.

  12. ryditya909

    nice design, simple. thanks for sharing;)

  13. Mathew Porter

    I have to agree the WP.org demos leave much to be desired, well in many cases, especially compared to those on other theme sellers sites.

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