To Theme or Not To Theme (Part 2 of 3)
There is a software development mantra that states: “Release early and release often!” In the software development world, which WordPress themes belong to, teams of programmers rapidly fill in functional requirements and features. Just imagine multiple writers writing a book, each with their own topic, tone and style of writing and regardless of any standards in place, plot holes and inconsistencies appear. Software development flows in very much the same way. But in development world, these anomalies are listed, documented, resolved and tested with each version. This process applies to WordPress themes, plugins, and even the underlying technology supporting WordPress like MySQL and PHP which is up to 7.x now. And yes you will have to keep the versions of these technologies in mind when updating themes.
With each theme developed and release there may be another theme in it’s sunset phase. When themes expire they leave a website vulnerable with security holes and unresolved bugs on features which could eventually render a site useless as Malware, error messages and unpredictable behavior start to appear.
Fortunately most repositories whether it’s ThemeForest or the WordPress Theme Directory offer a few bits of information to give an ideas on how well supported any given theme is. Let’s take an example: Twenty Seventeen, a theme included with Wordpess themes is up to version 1.6 and was last updated May 17, 2018. The theme downloads has an upward trend. Another good clue is the theme’s revision frequency, i.e. how many version shave been released during a span of time.
For example: TwentySeventeen, there have been 7 versions from 1.0 to 1.6 where 1.0 was released December 2016 and 1.6 was released about two months ago respectively. If a theme hasn’t been updated within 3-6 months, the sustainability of the theme is called into question. Anything beyond this threshold, the theme should not be used.
Small update frequency and upward download trends are all good indicators that this theme will be around for a while. The version frequency for TwentySeventeen is 7 versions per 2 years, which roughly is 3 or so months between releases.
Try finding themes that support your site for at least 3 years. Selecting the correct themes is not only based on which ones provide relevant features but how will the theme be supported and maintained over the long run.