Go Marching, a Minimal Photo Theme for WordPress

I really enjoy taking photos. Not like, professional photos, but off the cuff pictures, usually with my iPhone. I’ve always wanted a theme that did nothing but show my pictures, and maybe a title and description. So I made one. I’m calling it Go Marching, as in “The ants go marching, one by one…”

The theme shows a single photo at a time, filling up the entire browser window. You can check out the initial version of the theme over at my (new) photo blog: http://photos.shaunandrews.com/

I plan to add a grid view for archives, as well as add support for comments. Once the code is a little more stable, I’ll see if I can submit it to the WordPress.org theme repository.

The Past Few Weeks

The blog has been fairly quiet for the past few weeks, and with good reason! I’ve been in “mole mode,” working on a few WordPress plugins with the hope of getting them accepted into Core for the 3.8 release schedule to launch in early December. I’m happy to report that all three plugins have been accepted!

Widgets Area Chooser (WAC)
This plugin started as a suggestion from Matt. He mentioned in a Skype chat that the “simplest thing we could do” would be to provide a list of sidebars to choose from when clicking on an available widget. This was one of the first plugins I’ve ever built, and having a super simple scope made it doable. The old drag and drop method of adding widgets is still there, but the WAC makes it easier to add widgets when you have a lot of sidebars, on mobile and touch screen devices, and for users who find it difficult to use a mouse.

Theme Experience (THX)
Matías Ventura first proposed the THX project when development began on WordPress 3.7. The goal was to make the experience of installing and browsing themes better. We started by talking to users and developers; We ran a survey and setup a few tests on usertesting.com. With some basic feedback in hand, we explored a bunch of designs. After a few weeks we had a solid direction for what we wanted to do:

  • Make browsing and installing themes incredibly fast.
  • Put big theme previews front and center.
  • Make it work across every screen size.

With some help from Sheri Bigelow, we ran some more user tests to see how our vision held up with real people, and started iterating quickly. After a few more weeks, we began thinking about what we wanted in – and could realistically have ready for – inclusion in WordPress 3.8. We decided to focus our remaining time on the browsing experience, leaving the install portion of the project for a future release.

MP6 (No clue what it stands for…)
The MP6 team has been doing awesome things for months, and is the poster child for the new “feature as plugins” development philosophy that WordPress.org now uses. My involvement comes at the very tail end of the project. Joen Asmusen mentioned my name when the team was discussing their plan to tackle the widgets screen. Since I was (and still am) leading the team that is focused on rethinking widgets, Joen suggested that I may have some ideas. I offered to spend some time coming up with some rough concepts. A few days later I sent Joen some code that resembles what you see in core today. I was asked to join the team and was given commit access to continue working on the widgets component. I felt honored and extremely lucky to work with some of the best designers and developers in the WordPress community.

This coming week marks the end of active development on 3.8, with a planned code freeze and beta release on Wednesday. Until then, I’m working on cleaning up code, bug fixes, and some last-minute enhancements and polish. I’m excited about the release of 3.8, and the future of WordPress in general!

Browsing Themes in WordPress

Along with working on Widgets, I’m also working on some ideas for the theme experience in WordPress. Working with Matías Ventura, I’ve come up with the following wireframe:

Theme Browser Wireframe

The big idea here is to merge the two pages, Manage Themes and Install Themes. We ran a user test, which you should totally watch, and quickly discovered that the user got completely lost looking for a way to add/browse themes. The label “Install Themes” didn’t convey that they could search and browse. The above wireframe aims to make searching and browsing the main focus of the themes page. Your installed themes are displayed at the top, with your active theme highlighted. The rest of the page is dedicated to browsing and searching themes. Its a quick idea, but something I think could make the overall experience better. What do you think?