Download via preferred ZIP files, SVN access coming soon – WP Tavern

Earlier today, Dion Hulse announced the results of a six-week survey of the WordPress.org theme’s download process. The goal was to find out if downloading a ZIP file was a “pain point” and see what other methods theme authors prefer. Then move forward based on the comments. A total of 256 people responded to the survey.

Among the weighted results, downloading themes via ZIP remained the most popular option. Engaging through Git or integrating with GitHub came in second and third, respectively. The use of SVN or a CLI tool was also supported.

Next steps should include permission to submit theme updates through SVN. Trac tickets will also be removed for updates, which the Themes team no longer reviews. For theme authors who prefer Git, the plan is to encourage the use of a GitHub action for automatic deployment to SVN.

There are no tickets to implement the changes yet, but they are coming. Hulse said he was awaiting comments on the announcement post or at the theme team meeting on September 14.

Nothing was said about the original theme submission. It will probably stay the same.

The upcoming SVN access will have some limitations compared to plugins. Updates will be stored via a strict /theme-slug/version diagram with a standardized version format. Theme authors will not be allowed to edit commits once an update is submitted. Like the ZIP download system, they will need to change the version number to send a new update. The goal is for the theme repository to be simply a deployment destination and not a development location.

This should be a welcome change for those who yearn for alternative theme download methods. As far back as I can remember, theme authors have requested SVN access to the WordPress.org theme directory. This is an ability that plugin developers have had for a long time. This was before the proliferation of Git and the growing popularity of GitHub. From time to time, the topics would pick up the discussion again, but it always ended the same way. Uploading a ZIP file was the only way to submit a new theme or update to an existing theme.

Ultimately, these discussions included discussions on Git. However, it seemed like most of the passion for integrating with any version control system (VCS) had died down. Most were simply living with the status quo.

It hasn’t necessarily been a bad thing. Downloading a ZIP simplified the process. Theme authors can use their preferred VCS (or none) and submit the final product to WordPress.org.

Looking at the poll and thinking about it, I changed my position. Throughout my history as a thematic author, I was clearly in the camp calling for the integration of VCS. I wanted SVN (possibly, GIT) access to my projects in the directory. However, I had long ago customized my development build process to incorporate a ZIP build step. The extra 30 seconds it took to download this file through the theme download form didn’t seem to matter as much anymore.

Like the plurality of others who responded to the survey, I now prefer to download a ZIP file. This might be what I’m used to, but it wouldn’t have been my answer a few years ago. I have come to appreciate the simplicity of the existing system.

However, opening the theme download process to other methods should make things better for more people. In particular, I could imagine theme stores incorporating something similar to 10up’s GitHub Action for plugins deployment in their release process. Essentially, the action automatically sends an update to WordPress.org’s SVN repository when tagging a version.

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