A Collection of WordPress Theme Review Tips

Seeing a call for theme review tips on the Make WordPress Themes site inspired me to share my own workflow. Hopefully, it helps some of you who may want to become theme reviewers or hone your craft.

A team of volunteers checks all the WordPress themes that end up in the WordPress.org theme directory. They ensure that the themes meet a set of standard requirements so people get a consistent experience when using a theme from the directory. You can become a reviewer too!

First, A Quick Peek

Before I even begin reviewing a theme, I like to scan it quickly to get an idea of what it’s like, and where I might find issues. This takes about five minutes, and I follow these steps:

  • Look at the file structure: What do you see? Is it a custom theme or child theme? What frameworks or libraries are used? Is the theme set up in a standard way, like a Core theme.
  • Check out the functions.php file. Does anything make you pause and wonder why it’s done like that?
  • Load the major pages in a browser to see if you notice anything out of the ordinary or broken. Major pages include: home, archive, page and single post. Also, check out the Customizer to see what the options and theme setup might be like.

Doing that gives me a broad overview of the theme, and helps pinpoint any areas I may need to pay extra attention to when reviewing. Next, I can begin my full review.

Next, A Full Review Workflow

  • Look at the code first, going file by file. I like to start with the functions.php file first, since it’s the brain of a theme. Then, I’ll look at other include files to get a sense of what should happen on the front end. Then I look at the template files to see the HTML. Lastly, I’ll check out the JavaScript and CSS files to see how they add to the theme.
  • I like to check for code related issues first, such as function names, escaping and translations, etc. Then I look at details, like documentation, screenshot and the stylesheet header.
  • Lastly, I’ll take the theme for a spin, testing the front end and theme options making sure they work properly.

Finally, A Few Tips and Tricks

I’m always tweaking my review process because I never think it’s efficient enough. Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve used lately:

  • I have templates for replying to reviews. I’ve put them on Github in case you want to steal them.
  • I always have the current requirements open in a browser tab to cross reference during the review, just in case something has changed recently
  • I run the Theme Check plugin on a theme before anything else in a full review to get clues where I may need to focus my attention.
  • My standard setup uses WordPress VVV with all of the theme-related plugins recommended in the Developer plugin.
  • I primarily use Chrome to test themes. I will use just Firefox to test keyboard accessibility because it has no default :focus styles, and Safari to test with Voiceover on because the two are well integrated.
  • Spotting possible escaping issues always proves challenging. I like to use PHP Codesniffer with the WordPress sniffs to check for escaping issues. Running this command just executes the escaping “sniff”: phpcs --standard=WordPress-Extra --sniffs=WordPress.XSS.EscapeOutput /path/to/code/ It won’t be perfect all the time, but it will save you time.
  • I like to use regular expressions in Atom to search for various things like function names, text domains, and more.

Now, go become a more prolific reviewer, and don’t forget to share your own tips!