ThemeShaper Forums » Development Talk


What is the future of Thematic?

(87 posts)
  1. wprunner

    Thematic is for sure a good framework to use to build child themes. But really it is not that compelling in a productive manner. It is poorly documented too. It's development rate is also very slow. And the theme development is just going around in it's circle.

    What are the plans for this framework? When should we expect to see something like the Genesis Framework (this framework is not free).

    I wish to see Thematic in the theme framework field as we see WordPress in the CMS field. Now that ThemeShaper is Automattic, I don't see why Thematic is still in it's place.

    If anybody knows about the future of Thematic please inform me.

    Posted 10 years ago #
  2. Hi,

    please keep one major fact in mind. Genesis is a commercial theme and these guys are doing nothing else than working the whole day on Genesis and its child themes.

    I have a day job that has absolutely nothing to do with WP, themes, or even the internet. In addition I make some extra money with highly customized WP and BP themes. In my spare time I take care of my family and Thematic.

    Gene is the second developer working on Thematic and even he has a pretty tough day job to fulfill.

    So .. we are talking about 2 developers with a very limited amount of time.

    .. back to Thematic.

    Genesis is something like a hybrid between Thematic and Thesis. Offering the traditional hooks and filters plus an extensive options panel. I see this as a question of faith and I don't believe that we will go this way.

    BuddyPress will hopefully be on a proper way with version 1.3. There were too many fundamental changes (code and CSS markup) in the last versions breaking older themes. In a first step I'll provide a basic BP child theme for Thematic and a documentation how to implement something like a BP child theme core into an existing Thematic child theme.

    Documentation is definitely something we need to take care of. About 7 month ago I asked the community for help. The result was more or less frustrating. Don't get me wrong. I'm really thankful for having people doing an excellent job creating the language files and I'm thankful for having awesome people like Kathy, Gene, Jonny and all the others providing an outstanding support to all the community members.

    Thematic should be a project driven by its community and not only 2 developers. Is it wrong to expect some help with creating new code, bug fixing, testing, providing new ideas and / or creating documentation?


    Posted 10 years ago #
  3. Good answer Chris.

    "But really it is not that compelling in a productive manner." Don't understand what you mean by this.

    "It is poorly documented too." - I sort of agree. Could there be more? Absofreakinglutely, but it isn't as if there is NO docu. There is a ton of info on this forum, if you are willing to dig a little. There are also tons of good snippets all over the web. But could there be a more centralized, step-by-step "how to" guide. sure? want to volunteer to help write it?

    "It's development rate is also very slow. " - for 2 guys who do the dev in their spare time it doesn't seem so bad.

    "And the theme development is just going around in it's circle." Again, no idea what you mean here.

    "When should we expect to see something like the Genesis Framework (this framework is not free)." - Are you expecting to see a premium-level framework that is free? I don't have any experience with genesis, but i've seen Canvas and Thesis, and think Thematic holds in regards to its customization-ability. (real word check?) Both those other options have more of a defined style whereas Thematic is admittedly (and intentionally) left pretty blank. What else have those others got? A huge options panel is overrated, imo.. and can be overly confusing. I prefer to give my clients only the options they need to be able to control.

    Devin has built a really nice Thematic Options child theme that includes an expandable/customizable options panel. I have forked that and tweaked it further. A nice example of the type of stuff the community can generate.

    I will def concede that Canvas has some nice custom widgets that thematic doesn't have, but again those premium themes we're discussing seem designed to stand as their own theme (not that thematic can't, but i dont think that is its strongest point), where i think thematic excels as a groundwork for your custom theme.

    i guess i am not sure your expectations are realistic. for a free framework, developed by 2 guys in their spare time and supported by volunteers... well i think it is pretty damned good.

    @Chris- regarding documentation... i've seen the forum <cough>clamor</cough> a few times for a wiki and several members have mentioned they'd be willing to contribute. i wouldn't mind posting a few of my forum posts into the wiki, etc. How do we get access to the existing wiki? You can register on the page, but only in a subscriber-role capacity... and thus are unable to add content.

    and have you ever given any thought to going premium? or partially premium? à la Justin Tadlock's model of annual paid support.

    I look forward to seeing the buddypress implementation!

    Posted 10 years ago #
  4. i'd like to


    the positive feedback from kathy.
    chris & gene are doing a superb job. i'm very grateful to you both. 2 x developers + free = be patient.

    kathy is just nuts (good-nuts). her curiosity drives great solutions on here.

    its my understanding that thematic isn't (and doesn't plan to be) a commercial project. i guess the new 'automattic' tag may be leading people to believe that there is now a team behind it.

    all that said, yes indeed, this forum sucks. it has a thousand solutions all difficult to source.

    @chris, along with kathy, i'd glady help out with the wiki in bringing documentation and solutions up-to-date. there is a lot that can be done.

    in summary...
    i'm happy thematic is not perfect... thats what keeps us involved

    Posted 10 years ago #
  5. Thompson

    @Chris I could kiss you right now! Thanks for the update on buddypress. I've bookmarked the buddypress core trac for 1.3 ;) Such anticipation.

    I'll say I definitely recognize that this is your & Gene's side avocation and think most of users know this. And I've got to say--from the little programming I know and am learning to really get the most out of thematic--makes me really admire what you've all have built here! It think it's pretty special.

    I think we, as the users, could help with the documentation more if we could get Ian to create an official wiki at I know one or two other users have set up a wiki on their site, but it kinda feels like that was for their own benefit, not the community's, so it doesn't get contributed to. But if we had a wiki here, we'd already be logged into the forum anyway. So when we figure things out in the forum, then we could pop it in the wiki!

    p.s. I'll definitely help with bug testing too!

    Posted 10 years ago #
  6. echo the supportive feedy above
    As much as it would be cool to see more with Thematic, and as much as it would be cool to see some great documentation, I'm glad to have a free (free!!!), clean, easy to upgrade theme. Did I mention the free part?

    As for documentation, sure, I've had to look for it, sometimes harder than others, but there are people that have done a lot of great things with it. Maybe I;m wrong in this but I tend to look at Thematic as a base theme - something that each user builds on, as they see fit and as they need it. If it came with all this stuff right out of the box (and there's a fair bit in that box already) then where would be the joy in doing this stuff on your own? And with every extra moving part, you've got something that might go squirrely on you, but that's my take on it.

    There are themes out there that have these huge options pages that will do a whole ton of stuff for you but trust me, even those have their issues (size, unwieldiness and validation being the major three). Not that there's anything overly wrong with that. But I'm glad for a nice, clean, free theme :)

    so, long story short, huge thanks to the two guys doing this in their spare time. It's hugely appreciated :)

    Posted 10 years ago #
  7. wprunner

    Hi Chris,

    We are of course thankful to your great work on this theme and understand your situation. I know that Genesis is a commercial theme and that easily gives it's developers a full-time job on it. What I want to point out is that Thematic doesn't need to be commercial to be successful and even better than Genesis in this field. WordPress is an open source project and is the best blogging platform on earth.

    For sure it is not enough to have 2 developers on Thematic to make it a very successful project and outplay it's competitors. What I want to see happen is that the Thematic project be taken as a serious project in this manner and encourage community developers to contribute, just like what happens with WordPress.

    It is not an easy thing but possible. WordPress and Automattic do not have a similar project on theme frameworks. Why not give the Thematic a boost by making Automattic sponsor this project to get more and more developers engaging in it. And maybe you and the other developer get hired there for this project and have full-time job on it. Since Ian works there now, I don't see why this couldn't be possible.

    Posted 10 years ago #
  8. I, too, worry about Thematic as a 'trusted' framework. All the effort by Chris, Gene and others is is, of course, appreciated. The concern is with the difference between these considerations: Roadmap and Rate of Development. Will Thematic be around in a viable fashion two, three, or four years from now? Can Thematic development keep up with the still rapid changes at WordPress?

    My concern is that I see signs of languishing development, rather than a robust, forward looking, highly active community. That's a shame because Thematic as a framework is very cool.

    Posted 10 years ago #
  9. I often find myself looking for documentation as I am a novice WordPress theme developer. I would consider contributing, but I fear that my skill is not great enough. What are some things that I can do, as a moderate beginner, to help improve the community, specifically the documentation?

    Posted 10 years ago #
  10. Pictrix

    Thematic has been an invaluable tool and fun to work with. Chris, Gene and Helgatheviking have been great resources and mentors and Helga has done a great deal in helping with the documentation. I have never had an issue for which I have not found an answer and I've always gotten responses in less than 24 hours to the topics that I've started.

    Just as m6arate above, I'll be happy to assist with improving the documentation. What about following the model of the Wordpress Codex? It may be too ambitious, but why not?

    Posted 10 years ago #
  11. We definitely need something to protect the framework's future. Besides, I don't want to be faced with the task of rebuilding several websites due to a redundant framework that could have been kept alive.

    I'm up for the suggestion of a centralized resource. The following are my thoughts on implementing it:

    • Break away from the Thematic wiki and start a fresh project. Of all Thematic resources, the wiki has been the most useless to me. It's empty, too cryptic for the novice and I thusly click the back button as soon as a search engine directs me to it. Because of this negative connotation, a connotation that I suspect many Thematic users have adopted, I motion that it's imperative that we move away from it to not ward off anyone in a position to avail of its content or to contribute content to it.
    • The design of the centralized resource should not be the default Thematic theme. Again, this is a matter of connotation. Using the wiki as an example, the default theme, purely on the merit of aesthetics, implies a certain amount of nonchalance, levity and carelessness towards user support and the trajectory of the community i.e. "Hmm, they couldn't be bothered styling this thing so chances are the content and level of support is equally half-baked/bare/incomplete." I appreciate that this is not the Thematic's team intended perception but connotations are connotations and they matter. If we ignore them, the centralized resource will suffer the same fate as the wiki: stagnation and non-participation. The solution? Merely adding graphics to and augmenting the styling of the default theme would suffice. It needs to look bright, fun, interactive and engaging to encourage utility and contribution.
    • Phase 1 | Each to their own:
      A handful of us, even as few as those who contributed to this thread, undertake the responsibility of documenting any and all solutions that we have personally derived from the Thematic forum. Explicitly emphasize to prospective participants that design and/or programming aptitude is absolutely irrelevant. The only prerequisite is that a solution has been found to your problem and adequately tested/implemented/corroborated. The series of individual documentations are thereafter compiled into a centralized resource whether it be in the fashion of a blog, a wiki et al. Granted, some forum members have infinitely more resolved threads than others but if we could each agree to documenting but ten solutions, the cumulative collaborative effort will not only be significant, it will be sufficient.
    • Phase 2 | Fan out and consolidate:
      The Thematic forum, like any forum, is victim to extraneous reiterations of the one problem. For the purpose of the centralized resource, it's to our benefit. For each document compiled by each participant in phase 1, the participant will search the forum for correlating solutions under the same prerequisites for closure outlined in phase 1 (i.e. tested/implemented/corroborated). The correlated solutions will allow to the participant to further expand and refine their completed documentations of phase 1.
    • Phase 3 | Tend to solutions without correlation:
      This phase is much the same as the prior phases except that participants are compiling and documenting the remaining resolved topics (again, same prerequisites) i.e. resolved topics OTHER THAN those documented in phase 1 and 2 e.g. a resolved thread that's not your own and doesn't correlate to one of your resolved threads. The work load can be queued and thereby progressivly delegated by topic to each participant.
    • Phase 4 | Compile the the unresolved threads:
      The compilation of unresolved threads will serve as a "wish list" or a "to-do list". Again, the work load can be delegated by topic to each participant. In the centralized resource, the unresolved topics can be represented by a stub i.e. "A solution is currently pending for this topic".
    • Phase 5 | Establish an ongoing protocol for assimilation:
      By using the completion date of phase 4 as a milestone, a protocol will need to be established whereby all subsequent forum posts are assimilated into the centralized resource periodically whether it be weekly, biannually etc.
    • Suitable names for the centralized resource:
      Thematic Central, Thematic Resources, Thematic Solutions, Thematic Answers, Thematic Support, Thematic Guru etc.

    We have a choice. We can passively complain and run the risk of the Thematic framework becoming redundant or we can do something about it. Why settle for anything less than superseding our competitors on the merit and backbone of an active, selfless and cohesive online community. The onus is on us. The developers have already done more than enough. We all get what open-source is; let's embrace it. For those of that don't get what open-source is, I'll give you a clue; it's little to do with taking without giving back or profiteering.

    Posted 10 years ago #
  12. sowingseeds

    As a user of thematic and this forum (and rarely being a visitor to the wiki) I would wish to make a greater contribution than I have thus far. I think this would be ditto'd by many others. Probably, most of who wish to contribute would simply need a framework into which we could contribute: a 'this needs doing, and this is how to do it'. I appreciate that this comment is not exactly making a contribution - but hopefully it indicates a willingness that is likely to be replicated.

    Posted 10 years ago #
  13. @RonFresh- i think it is impossible to guarantee that Thematic will be here in 4 years. There is no guarantee that Thesis or Genesis or any theme will still be around. Not to be morbid, but there is no guarantee than any of us will still be around in 4 years. Though if we grow the team the odds improve. Thematic was Ian Stewart's baby, but it still continues w/o him.

    @m6arate - you can answer the noob questions here that you know how to answer. i see the same ones all the time, which is of course why we'd like to revitalize the docu.

    @Direct Sponsor- damn, you've given it some thought eh? I think a Wiki is the right approach, but would agree about scrapping the current one. following the suggestions of Pictrix, I'm sort of partial to calling it the Thematic Codex. I think the WP codex is using MediaWiki and that seems like it would be a good model to follow.

    i'm in contact w/ gene (read bugging gene) about getting something going. it would be excellent to capitalize on the energy that we have right now to get started.

    Posted 10 years ago #
  14. Pictrix

    I wouldn't mind seeing the current wiki go away either since I seldom use it. I usually get answers to my questions through the forum, usually by searching for key words, phrases, or even pieces of code. The tags, although helpful, don't come close to an index or a table of contents.

    Most wordpress users are already familiar with the structure of the Wordpress Codex, so using something similar for Thematic would provide an element of familiarity. My dream for Thematic would be to have a table of contents similar to the main page of the Wordpress Codex.

    An advantage to a better organized wiki is that the forum will be leaner and more productive when it doesn't have to deal with repeat questions. Most probably, the user base will expand too.

    Posted 10 years ago #
  15. @helgatheviking: "Thematic Codex" based on WordPress Codex would work. I'd still like it to look a little prettier and engaging though I'm sure the aesthetics are less relevant to programmers than designers or hybrid designers/programmers. We have at lest five willing participants in this thread alone which is tantamount to fifty solid wiki entries if each undertake the suggested ten documentations. I agree that we should act sooner rather than later to avail of the current interest and energy. Please push forward with Gene. It's for his benefit as much as ours.

    @Pictix: I derive my answers in the same manner but it requires A LOT of persistence and A LOT of time.

    @sowingseeds: Glad you're on board. A modus operandi definitely needs to agreed on.

    Posted 10 years ago #
  16. I'll need to check a few things with Ian and Gene and do some testing with MediaWiki.

    Posted 10 years ago #
  17. I think a good first step for the documentation would be to go through the forums and organize all the "resolved" threads into some kind of snippet repository,

    because let's face it, most of the posts here are in the likes of "how do i achieve x?" and then someone posts a snippet and it's done. once we have this in place it's easy to turn those snippets into checkmarks on an (facultative) options panel

    i feel like a lot of energy is wasted on these forums solving petty things, all of this time could be used to really advance the project — a lot of you are already saying this, i'm just adding my two cents

    i also think a great way to get more people interested in thematic and keeping the community alive is to release more free child themes and showcasing them, i myself have 2-3 that just need a bit more work before i can release them, i just feel like they wouldn't be showcased and that would be a bit of a waste of my time (even considering plenty of time has been "wasted" on them already). i see myself posting them here, getting the regulars to give props and then the thread would slowly slip into the depths of the forum

    Posted 10 years ago #
  18. @Chris- that'd be awesome. let me know what I can do to speed things along. gene has my email, but it is just my username at gmail.

    @jopperon - "i feel like a lot of energy is wasted on these forums solving petty things, all of this time could be used to really advance the project " THIS! well i might rephrase it a little, but so much time is spent on redundant questions. of course, i also think that overwriting the postheader is the same as overwriting the postfooter, at least procedurally- which is why i'd love a good wiki to explain the procedure of creating a code snippet and not just code snippets.

    Posted 10 years ago #
  19. echo @helga
    we need solutions with explanation. organised.
    cut and paste snippets will end up as confusing as this forum. although maybe a good short term fix, i feel we need to build from the bottom up. correctly.
    there needs to be an element of education.

    a mediawiki serves as the central resource and build everything around it. for each topic, include instruction, explanation and external resource.
    a section to showcase more child themes would also be useful.

    Posted 10 years ago #
  20. Hi,

    Sorry, I'm late to the discussion. Work and family have dominated my life this Winter and my focus has shifted from Thematic but I'm getting back in the swing of things and catching up on a lot of missed threads.

    First off, I want to thank all of you for showing some real passion for this project. I'm impressed to see that you have similar ideas and desires for Thematic as I have.

    Better documentation, a better organized forum, and a stronger community have been at the top of my list since I arrived. The reality is these things require a sustained effort and it is no easy task for one, two, or even three core individuals. So I'm glad that you're showing and interest in helping Thematic grow.

    GIve us a bit to sort out some details and in the mean time keep the discussion going. Compliments and criticism, all contributions are welcome here.


    Posted 10 years ago #
  21. Hello Colleagues -

    Excellent discussion, thoughts and brainstorming. Thanks. Kudos to Chris and Gene who have helped me since I started with Thematic. Some thoughts...

    WIKI: Agreed that an expanded Wiki would be very helpful, and strongly insist on making it illustrated, at least with screenshots. Joperron is right, that many answers are already on the boards here, so what we need is a strong Editor to lead the project. That's right -- crowd work is OK (anyone could have contributed to the current wiki), but leadership is essential. I will assist with some technical illustrations. Did you know that several popular WordPress books have large sections covering Thematic? More on that below, but check out "Wicked WordPress Themes", published by SitePoint, and "Smashing WordPress", by Smashing Magazine.

    THEMATIC GROWTH & FUTURE: Without wandering into the whole open-source vs. commercial debate, I think that Chris has made a good point about the comparison themes being commercial endeavors. I know people have to pay bills. I like using money to reward fine work. I therefore suggest that Thematic enable a donation mechanism (to keep the open-source spirit) mechanism (keep it simple with PayPal), so that the core programmers may at least enjoy some coffee, beer and pizza money. I have suggested this in the past, but had it brushed off. Nice sentiment, but we need to ensure the future of the platform. Let's do this.

    OPPORTUNITY: There are a number of people here who do make a living off Thematic. There are a number of paid child themes out there. And, a number of authors are making royalties by covering WordPress in their books. This spells opportunity to do more than buy a few beers, for those entrepreneurial souls here, and opportunity for the future of Thematic.

    * I wonder how much those authors might give back to continued development of Thematic which they relied on so heavily in their books if a donation system were in place?

    * Why couldn't the community of board pros here (talking about us) write a book and split the profits, making sure that Thematic gets paid back? We're really all talking about the "Missing Manual", right?

    * Is there a way to create a kind of "foundation" like wikipedia has, to keep Thematic great for the future?

    * Note that Wikipedia has teamed with a a one-off book company who will print custom books from wikipedia and kick back some of the profits. If our enhanced wiki for Thematic is done well, this is another way to get money back to the Thematic "Foundation".

    We all support and appreciate Chris and Gene, but let's face it -- there's a big risk here if something happens to one or both of them. Then what? We really need to address this.

    - Scott,

    Posted 10 years ago #
  22. This sounds awesome! It’s great to see so many other Thematic Fanatics wanting to see it grow into something bigger and better. I’ve been meaning to contribute here more often, myself for that reason :-)

    i also think a great way to get more people interested in thematic and keeping the community alive is to release more free child themes and showcasing them.

    — joperron

    I think a more in-depth Thematic Child theme repository/marketplace(?) would be a great place for this. The current child theme listing works, but it doesn’t immediately “show off” how cool child themes have gotten with Thematic. Both Thesis and Genesis really push their wide variety of Child Themes which i’m sure works wonders for them on a marketing level. I don’t think Thematic needs to compete for a piece of the pie, but a new potential Thematic user may not be convinced without some examples of how great the final product comes out. I doubt they’ve ever visited the How are you using Thematic thread.

    Also, seeing working examples is a great way to learn, share code and promote best development practices. I’ve used code from many of Devin’s various example themes and paid for some of Ian’s themes just to see how certain things were achieved. Even a repository for Demo sample themes based on common support requests could help support the goals of the Wiki. Moreover, if things were to go into the marketplace route, a percentage of a theme sale could go into supporting the hard work needed to maintain the forums/wiki. Admittedly, a theme marketplace is a slippery slope, but I think there could be some potential there — just a thought.

    I think we all agree here that under-the-hood, Thematic is still one of the best Frameworks to date. Unfortunately, that doesn’t come across with the state of the Wiki/forums and the lack of live examples of how much you can accomplish easily with Thematic. I’d personally be willing to offer some time to improve on all of this. I’m anxious to see what happens in the Gene & Chris (& Ian?) huddle.


    Posted 10 years ago #
  23. @allan, be useful for you on board because 99/100 questions for child themes (found elsewhere on the net) are usually regarding autofocus haha

    you've made some great forward-thinking themes.

    Posted 10 years ago #
  24. HA! Thanks Jonny. I actually emailed Gene a few months back to try and get involved a little more here. Looking forward to seeing how things shape up :-)

    Posted 10 years ago #
  25. wprunner

    Gene, I think it would also be helpful for the cause to make this post sticky!

    Posted 10 years ago #
  26. @wprunner thanks :) I made it just made it a sticky and moved it to the Development Talk Section.

    Posted 10 years ago #
  27. It's great (and humbling) to see some more of the Thematic elite getting on board for this project. The proliferation of the Thematic framework is beginning to look promising.

    Posted 10 years ago #
  28. I think it's really important to have a non-commercial theme framework to use, but I also know how difficult it is to fully support a side project with everything else going on. My own participation in the forums can be closely tracked to when I had paid projects that used Thematic as a base.

    It is interesting how Genesis is getting so much traction (along with the other commercial frameworks). They have better marketing, definitely, but I think their commercial child themes also really showcase well how the framework can be used. That's something us less-hardcore theme devs could also probably work on, building more example themes.

    I am guessing that most end users actually find Thematic through the Gallery Theme, or through Alan Cole's projects. If the WordPress repository could start accepting child themes I think it would be really great for Thematic's overall popularity.

    I'm +1 for all the suggestions about the wiki. I would also be nice if we could tie the forums into that. Right now it seems like there's separate islands- the wiki, the forum, the themeshaper site. We should have a menu bar that integrates it all together. (It's been a while since I've edited bbPress templates, but I'd be happy to volunteer for that. Do we have access to those?)

    Excellent write-ups like could be moved out of the forums and into its own page in the wiki.

    I also agree with what @Kathy and @joperron wrote. We should have a (nearly) complete list of example filters and hooks in the wiki. This has always been a really popular post on my site: which I'd love to redirect to a nice spot on the wiki and help flesh out.

    In terms of future development, I know that no one is wanting a full fledged options panel to control everything in Thematic, but a nice options API (like would be awesome. I keep tackling this and I think eventually I'll have a solid patch.

    Chris and Gene, are there any other big projects you're working on / would like help with? Are there any things in Genesis (or the other frameworks) we should think about bringing over?

    Posted 10 years ago #
  29. Agree with everything here and would be happy to contribute. Another part of the showcase might be the child themes we build for individual sites, along with the ones we distribute. And some sort of intro guide that spells out when you do things the easy way - hooks/filters/shortcodes - when you mess with the php - and when you make changes to the css, along with where to find what elements in the style sheets.

    Definitely like the idea of the distributed workload and, again, would be happy to help.

    Posted 10 years ago #
  30. yes,
    a section for downloading child themes.

    a section to showcase sites built with Thematic.
    came across this but it hasn't been updated in a long while.

    showing people whats achievable can help

    Posted 10 years ago #

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