WordPress’ Trusted Authors Program: What It Is and How You Can Get Onboard

The WordPress theme review process has become notorious for the sometimes long delay between making a submission and receiving approval. This waiting period is often understandable, given the vast array of new themes that are regularly submitted, but it doesn’t help when you’re trying to push your new product live quickly. With that in mind, …
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The WordPress theme review process has become notorious for the sometimes long delay between making a submission and receiving approval. This waiting period is often understandable, given the vast array of new themes that are regularly submitted, but it doesn’t help when you’re trying to push your new product live quickly.

With that in mind, the new Trusted Authors Program looks to fast-track developers of reputable standing, so their themes can be approved quicker. The hope is that waiting times will drop overall, while the directory and its offerings still maintain the high-quality WordPress is known for.

This post will look into the details of the Trusted Authors Program, talk about why it’s necessary, and discuss some of the metrics the review team looks for when deciding to approve new themes. Let’s get started!

The Current Process for Reviewing WordPress Themes

Before we explore the Trusted Authors Program, we should take some time to talk about the current process for reviewing WordPress themes. This procedure isn’t actually changing, it’s just being folded into the new initiative.

Currently, themes go through an 11-step review process, which goes some way towards explaining why there are so often bottlenecks that hamper quick approval. Here’s a concise overview of those steps:

  1. A developer uploads a theme, which joins the end of the queue.
  2. That theme is allocated to a team member, who reviews it and makes recommendations if necessary.
  3. A ticket is populated with the review’s results, for the developer to assimilate.
  4. If the theme author doesn’t update the ticket within seven days, it’s usually closed due to inactivity.
  5. The theme is approved once it’s passed all of the required checks, and is added to a new queue where it’s given a final review.
  6. If there are still issues, the process cycles back around to updating the ticket and awaiting approval.

Once there are no more significant concerns, the theme will go live. However, it’s clear to see that getting a theme into the final review stage is a long-winded process. In fact, this is something of a longstanding issue among the WordPress development community, which many people felt needed to be addressed.

Why There’s a Need for Change to the Existing Process

Even if there were no other issues, it’s clear that having 11 steps in the process invites plenty of bottlenecks and other delays. Plus, there are a wide variety of unique individuals involved. The Theme Review team allows for personal workflows, which leads to inevitable variance when it comes to efficiency.

Developers are also limited to having only one theme at a time within the queue. For those looking to offer a number of products, this could literally mean that years go by before their entire product line is live.

Of course, no one is suggesting that the review process doesn’t work with regard to user security and safety. There are an array of checks and balances in place to make sure every free theme offered through the WordPress.org Theme Directory is of the very highest quality. However, even this results in the potential for approval delays.

For example, there are actually three entire categories of requirements: those that are non-negotiable, recommended requirements that will help your cause but are optional, and finally what WordPress terms ‘case by case’ situations. This last is when a theme is deemed to require extra consideration, which will naturally delay the process further.

Finally, because of the rigid ticketing system, if neither the author nor the reviewer makes an update to a theme it can be closed. It’s easy to see how a lax reviewer could cause a theme to drop out of the queue altogether, leaving the developer to start all over again.

In short, the theme review process is well-meaning but due for an update. Fortunately, this been recognized and implemented in the form of the Trusted Authors Program.

Introducing the WordPress Trusted Authors Program

As we’ve discussed, the current theme review process is arguably unfair to long-term developers with exemplary records, who wish to submit an entire suite of themes to WordPress.org. Their frustration is understandable, which is why this new program exists.

In short, the WordPress Trusted Authors Program is a fast-track or ‘VIP’ service. It lets certain members jump straight to a final review with a Key Reviewer, by simply commenting on this post:

Trusted Author comments on a WordPress.org blog post.

Of course, right off the bat, you can see how this would eliminate a portion of the existing queue. However, that isn’t the only benefit to be had. Since it will be able to put out high-quality themes at a quicker pace, the Theme Directory should end up offering more and better options.

This program also means that reviewers can theoretically work alongside developers more closely, and secure a higher rate of approvals in the long-term. That’s a big win for both the developers themselves and the end users.

As you might expect, theme authors will need to follow some strict guidelines, although the rules are not as tight as you may think. To be accepted into the program in the first place, you’ll need to have at least one theme that’s been approved using the standard approach.

If you meet this first criterion, there are a few other requirements to bear in mind:

  • You can only apply with parent themes.
  • Accessibility-ready themes are exempt from the program.
  • You can’t transfer themes accepted through the Trusted Authors Program for a minimum of six months.

Theme authors are able to submit one theme per week. As long as the following criteria are met, you should be approved:

  • A maximum of three escaping or sanitization issues.
  • A maximum of three licensing issues, although everything your theme uses must be 100% GPL compliant.
  • Correct use of demo content and no created content included.
  • No PHP or JavaScript errors or plugin territory functionality, and the correct use of prefixing, enqueue translations, and advertising.

The consequences of not following the rules are, unsurprisingly, strict. Content creation and licensing issues carry a one-week suspension, without warning, and immediate removal from the program. You can reapply three months after the theme is reinstated. Of course, hacks and malware will result in a permanent ban and a removal of your themes.

All other offenses carry a warning, and a deadline of seven days to fix the issues raised. There’s a three-strike rule on infractions, with a four-month suspension from applying again for the program.

Overall, experienced developers shouldn’t have too many issues with these requirements, and there are plenty of positives to be had from the program as a whole. Still, it’s still a brand-new venture, and it will be interesting to see how the Trusted Authors Program develops and performs over the next few months.

Conclusion

It’s well-known that the standard process of getting themes approved for inclusion within the WordPress repositories is slow and often frustrating for developers. To be fair, this is hardly the fault of the entire team, but of the increased popularity of WordPress as a whole. In other words, WordPress is an excellent platform, so a lot of developers want to offer their solutions.

To try and alleviate the waiting times, certain members of the WordPress community with good standing are now able to bypass the process and publish their themes without going through all the normal review steps. The Trusted Authors Program looks to be a fairer system for everyone. Plus, it should result in less stress for the review teams, who work hard to make sure assets offered on WordPress.org are safe for all to use.

What do you think of the Trusted Authors Program? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!

Featured image: rawpixel.

Tom Rankin

Tom Rankin is a key member of WordCandy, a musician, photographer, vegan, beard owner, and (very) amateur coder. When he’s not doing any of these things, he’s likely sleeping.

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