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Group WordPress Project

posted by Matt Ward on Oct 12, 2010.

This is the introduction to a social/design/development experiment that I want to run here on the Echo Enduring Blog where you, the reader, actually helps guide the development of a brand new WordPress theme, from conceptualization through to completion. Interested? Read more, and be sure to contribute your thoughts!

Alright everyone, I have an idea for a new project that I want to undertake, but I need your help to make it fly. There are a few different things that I’ve been wanting to do for a while, and I’ve wondering if I can combine them into a single awesome project. First of all, I’ve been wanting to get to work on a WordPress theme that I could distribute here on the Echo Enduring Blog. I’ve had a few people suggest that this would be something that they would be interested in.

Second, I’ve also had some requests for content that actually shows people how to build a WordPress theme entirely from scratch—or at least how to code it up from a Photoshop mockup. I can tell you right now that such an undertaking is not something that I would (or even could) do in a single post. With the amount of detail that I invariably go into, something like that would probably turn into the world’s longest blog post, and would be far to large to manage. A series of posts seems like the only real solution. I’m okay with that though. I’ve done a few series in the past.

Third, I’ve long been interested in running a kind of social experiment, by developing something based on continuous feedback from a community of users. Basically, the concept is to produce something in a number of stages. As I move from each stage to the next, I accept further ideas, comments, feedback and suggestions from the community itself, and allow that information to actually shape the direction of the project.

Lastly, I think an Echo Enduring eBook would be pretty awesome – don’t you?

The Proposal

So, if you haven’t already put the pieces together, this is what I’m thinking: over the next several months I will actually go through the process of developing a WordPress theme entirely from scratch, starting with ideas and concepts from you. Periodically, I will post tutorials working through what I’m doing at each stage of the project, and how to basically replicate the techniques in your own work.

Then, at the conclusion of each post I will ask for further feedback about where you think we should be going with the development of the project.

When it’s all said and done, I will have a fully designed and developed WordPress theme. I haven’t quite decided what I should do with it yet, but what I do know for sure is that everyone who contributes to the development of the theme will be able to download it for themselves. After all, you will have been an important part of the creation of the theme, so it will be partly yours anyhow!

Lastly, once everything is written and published here, I intend to pool it all together, polish, edit and compile it all together into a single eBook. I definitely intend on selling that, but again I’ll make sure that everyone who contributes to the project can get their hands on a copy, either free or at a significantly discounted price.

Your Part

Obviously, though, this project just isn’t going to work if I can’t get you, the reader, involved. Your comments and feedback are going to be the backbone of the entire thing, so I hope you’ll let your voice be heard and help shape the direction of this group Word Press theme project!

So, to start it all off I’ll just throw out a few general questions

  • What kind of theme would you like to see?
  • What kind of general direction should we go with?
  • Talk to me about style: clean, grungy, textured, subdued, colourful?

Basically, let’s just work to nail down a really general and basic concept of where we want to go with this group project. Think of it as one big brainstorming session here on the Echo Enduring Blog. I’ll compile and consider all your ideas and come up with a general direction for the next stage of the project, and we can start talking in more detail about things like functionality and layout concepts.

Ready to get this thing started? Good! 1…2…3… GO!

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Also from Echo Enduring Media:

An Unfolding Tale

About the Author

Matt Ward is a digital artist who lances freely under the moniker of Echo Enduring Media, and specializes in graphics design, illustration and writing. He is also the Creative Director for Highland Marketing, a creative direct marketing company based out of Waterloo, Ontario. You can follow Matt on Twitter

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Oct 12, 2010

Wanda Howe says:


Oct 12, 2010

Cameron Malek says:

I normally love minimalism but it doesn’t really stretch abilities, which is what tutorials are all about. I’d say avoid that in this case.

I wonder if there’s some way to crowd source the design beyond these comments? Something that allows for both critique and creation from your readers in an existing service out there on the web somewhere?

Oct 12, 2010

Kevin says:

Matt, this is a great idea. Some things I’d like to see are:
1. Development from concept -> Photoshop mockup -> XHTML/CSS -> WordPress. As a new user to WP (less than a year) I am impressed with the community and the software itself. It would be great to follow along and design my own theme while following your tutorials. Perhaps having readers post their themes at different stages would be a good idea (just a thought)Any style of theme would be fine. I’m interested in learning how to integrate my xhtml/css into a theme correctly. (frameworks?)
Great idea

Oct 13, 2010

Otto Rask says:

Wow, nice idea. Will be following this one. :)

A theme with good support for varying post types would be good. Post types meaning normal weblog entries, portfolio pieces, media embeds (YouTube, Vimeo, etc.), podcasts, discussion threads(?), aggregated tweets, etc.

Oct 13, 2010

Rox says:

This sounds like a very interesting project and I can’t wait to see it develop :)

I think it would be great if the theme was customizable beyond simple color and graphics issues, with different style of displays depending on post types (for category pages and for individual posts). This way the theme would be usable for more than one type of blog and the tutorials and e-book would cover a lot more.

My style preference is (these days) for textured (in several color combinations, because you can never have too many color combinations :) )

Oct 13, 2010

Filip Stefansson says:

Great idea! I’m not sure about what difficulty level of this project, but I would love to see some alternative uses of custom fields and taxonomies.

Oct 13, 2010

D3sign3r says:

Sounds like a good idea. Almost SCRUM development in the social cloud. Personally I’d suggest going with a clean theme, that way at least individuals can make minor changes as people no doubt disagree on things. At least this way they can make those changes themselves.

Are you going to include some plugins as standard or leave that up to respective users?

Oct 13, 2010

Chris says:

I’d like to see a wordpress theme which has a base style and multiple extra styles for colorization. It would be nice to have a different color scheme for each category.

Oct 13, 2010

L1 says:

I think a clean style, with a placeholder main site page. By this I mean something that isn’t specific to blog type websites, and can be used for full feature projects and sites as well as Blogs.

Oct 13, 2010

Sir Emeth says:

I would like to see a community theme (great idea bytheway) for a tutorial video blog using a textured concept.

Oct 13, 2010

Robbie says:

Nice idea, my gut feeling is to develop a theme where the nitty-gritty nuts & bolts are the star, encouraging learning by making the building blocks easily understood and accessible.

So in a nutshell, a theme not so much about the end-result, onscreen appearance.

Oct 13, 2010

Johan de Jong says:

Great idea, especially the combination with the book.

And to help you out, here are some idea’s I would like to see:
– a clean, image-less “base” design
– fully HTML5/CSS3, but working in older / non-standard browsers
– full support for mobile devices (eg subthemes)
– easy to customize (by admin panel or simply an empty css file)

I’m bookmarking this post right now and will give feedback when needed :D

Oct 13, 2010

Philippe Alves says:

Why not make the WordPress theme for the Group WordPress Project itself?

Oct 13, 2010

Pedro Augusto says:

That is a great idea Matt. I’m in!

Lately I’ve thinking about a very simple WordPress e-commerce theme. Something like jcart (conceptlogic.com/jcart) without use plugins. We could use custom post type with specific metaboxes to help us in that. It would come with an option to checkout or only send an e-mail to the store with the order and customer’s info. What do you thing about it?

Will there be a way to keep updated about this project? Like e-mail group?

It will be a pleasure to be part of this project!

Oct 13, 2010

David says:

Hi Matt – What a great idea!

So, I’d like to see tutorials on the basics; in terms of design: keeping things clean and simple in terms of look and feel – not necessarily minimalistic, but certainly intelligent use of white space etc. Good use of typography and CSS3 effects with subtle fallbacks (not hacks!) for non-CSS3 capable browsers.

And HTML5 – we may as well standardise on HTML5 – even if not certified to officially be out in the wild as yet, it makes sense to use as most of us are using it today anyway?

C’mon, let’s make this one special!

Oct 13, 2010

gaspas says:

usually i like a clean layout, but for this i will recommend some layout that somehow make use and abuse of the features of WP, header-image, custom posts, backgrounds and all that… ok not all but the most importants, graphic, development…

Oct 13, 2010

Jason Gross says:

Love the idea :) and from scanning over the comments it would seem that a lot of people are interested in a clean theme with typographic emphasis. I am definitely on board with this idea and I think it presents a challenging one to the community. The more people that are involved with a project the harder it becomes to produce a clean or simple design.

Also it seems like custom post types and taxonomies are a popular request as well. I have had some issues with custom post types in the past so the opportunity to dig into this in more detail would be exciting.

I think it would be nice to have some areas of the theme where we express some creativity to come up with something new. For example a new way to present comments or post excepts. With a large pool of creative minds I would imagine we could come up with some pretty unique ideas.

Also! I like the “Post A Comment” button at the bottom of the entry these days, works well ;)

Oct 13, 2010

Kathryn McElroy says:

This is such a great idea. I’m a first time commenter and I would love to participate. I’m new to wordpress and will be building my website soon. I’d love to see a clean, subdued theme with color variations and good typography. Thanks for this great opportunity!

Oct 13, 2010

Kristina McInerny says:

Looking forward to following this. I would recommend one focus on creating extensible widget areas on the left and on the bottom. One of the frustrations I find with templates is finding one with flexibility. Or when I install a plugin, the header is missing. It needs to have FPOs so someone can grow with it. That’s my 2 cents.

Oct 13, 2010

Michael La Plante says:

What kind of theme would you like to see?

Matt, I would like to see something clean and elegant, something to go along the lines of your most recent redesign.

What kind of general direction should we go with?

As for direction, I really would like to see it focused solely on aesthetics and functionality.

Talk to me about style: clean, grungy, textured, subdued, colourful?

As for styling, something clean and elegant with cool colors and hopefully a big focus on typography worked into the design.

As always I hope these ideas help and you know where to reach me if you would want to delve more into my brain :)

Oct 13, 2010

James says:

I’d love to see a style switcher that allows for 2-3 color/style variations (minimalist as the default for users to customize themselves, a ‘retro’ style, a shiny apple-style & a textured/grunge style).

I’d also love to see custom post types worked in. Maybe the regular blog entries, a portfolio section, a ‘links-i-like’ section, ect.

Awesome idea. I’ll be keeping an eye on this for sure

Oct 13, 2010

Joseph Alessio says:

I’d suggest a theme that is well-organized and clean in general style, but uses texture subtly so it’s not sterile, but friendly instead. Like colly.com, for example, I love the use of texture without grunging or overwhelming the design as a whole.

Oct 14, 2010

Chris says:

I’ll be following this for many months. Fantastic Idea.

From another comment:
A theme with good support for varying post types would be good. Post types meaning normal weblog entries, portfolio pieces, media embeds (YouTube, Vimeo, etc.), podcasts, discussion threads(?), aggregated tweets, etc.

I would like to add:
It should also have a theme options page, with various options.

Oct 14, 2010

th says:

hi! good idea!
and what about a them with lot of admin interface?(possibility to choose a category_name in a bloc_id) it would be a nice challenge to statisfy everyone :)

Oct 14, 2010

th says:

and how to follow the projet?
maybe a twitter account?

Oct 14, 2010

hyperbrand says:

I’d like to see a nice portfolio theme with a thumbs overview site and detailed project information presented in a slideshow.

Oct 14, 2010

Eric says:

This is a great idea.

I’ve been intrigued lately with the concept Scrivs is going with on drawar.com so I’d like to see a theme with a community/social angle to it. I’d love to see a theme that allows logged in users to contribute entire articles.

The styles I’ve currently been drawn to are those that are clean and simple yet incorporate a slight grunge or retro feel to it. I think something in that vein would look very nice and is a combination that is very interesting to people.

Oct 14, 2010

George E. says:

I love this idea. I think it’s brilliant, not only because we get to learn WordPress but also doing something as a team. :)

As a new user to not only WordPress but also web design/development, I would love to see the following:

– Process: Brainstorming -> Conception -> development -> Testing -> Release
– Most tutorials that demonstrate how to create WordPress themes always start with Photoshop, why not be different and try Fireworks?
– Multi-purpose posts: portfolio, ecommerce, …
– I think since we are here to learn, I would say let’s go with something clean but still colorful and complex.
– HTML5 and CSS3
– Creating different Stylesheets (mobile, print, …)

Overall, I think this is going to be an awesome experience, especially for the ones who have not been through the process before.

Oct 15, 2010

Jorgen says:

It’s a good idea but before jumping straight in and making big design decisions shouldn’t there be some rough idea what the theme’s purpose is going to be? An online magazine, photographers portfolio, design showcase, etc., etc. These are all very different types of websites and you cannot make one template to fit all.

Oct 15, 2010

Dan says:


This sounds like a great idea.

How about a focus on simplicity, performance and speed aswell.

Kind of “less is more” and “look how it flies”!

Also a theme that has a blog page but is not purely blog focused.


Oct 27, 2010

egiova says:

It sounds really good. If my part is to suggest something, so it lies my part.

Talking about “community stuff”:
Instead of making a theme the best way to share is to build a framework with as so many features you can possibly include; as well with as so many plugins you think are useful.
With features I meant 2, 3 columns, full width, widgetized, with tabs, slider, accordeon, easy to custom, well documented, etc. So complete you will attract traffic from now till the end of time!
Well, it’s just a suggestion after all.

Nov 3, 2010

nomadone says:

Hey groovy idea, in fact I’ve been wanting to do a project like this myself and you totally beat me to it so I’ll be following the steps very closely. Really excited to see hwo this all turns out especially seeing you’re going HTML5.

Do you plan to build in theme options? I for one hate it when theme options totally invade the template code but have been trying to figure out a way of getting option in without confusing people who know less about advanced options. So keeping it clean code wise but still flexible enough for the newbie to mod.

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