Why Ephermeral themes

I’ve been creating and working with WordPress themes for quite a few years, I even worked on some default ones, this hasn’t meant seeing as many things changing as other fields. Themes have been fairly stable for quite a while now. Of course there have been builders and new techniques for front end development, but the actual creation of a theme using WordPress hasn’t really changed. Things are changing though. The block editor is opening up a world and that’s why I wanted to start this experiment site, where I share my reigniting passion for themes.

lasting a very short time; short-lived; transitory: the ephemeral joys of childhood. lasting but one day: an ephemeral flower. being of temporary value or passing interest: ephemeral news clips about forgotten but overhyped crises.


Ephermeral release

I chose the name for this project for a very specific reason. This is a personal opinion, however for me, themes over the years became a chore to create over a pleasure. They also became more and more fixed. Where in the past you’d create for an event (fond memories of CSS reboots) or for a season, or just ‘because’, now I found myself sitting with a theme for a year, or even half finishing one. Any adjustment or change to that theme was cumbersome.

Now, many might suggest that I could have used a framework, in many ways I was taking lots of shortcuts. I over the years built up a heavy backlog of custom tools. I was a contributor to _s, I then spun up my own variation of that, I had my Sass adjusted to what I wanted.. yet it all was a stack balanced so delicate.

As someone part of the core editor team and having worked previously at the heart of that experience, I was also not removed. I wasn’t having to play catchup on insights or knowledge. Yet, it was all just so much to do the smallest of adjustments. Blocks didn’t make this easier for themes, they made it harder because for a little while there was a halfway state where themes still were trying to ‘be all’ yet failing. It wasn’t Gutenberg’s fault, it was themes because they were still trying to be plugins.

Striping it all back, sharing

As part of this experiment you might notice this site itself is rather minimal. I am going to be creating using the editor and the new tools provided, from theme.json, global styles through to full site editing. This means there’s it’s all very new so a large part of this is going to be discovering by writing about it.

I want to take this opportunity to bring back some of the way I and others used to write about themeing, I think it’s missing and would love to see more of it again. If we don’t share, we don’t blog, we don’t ensure the next generation of themers grow. We maybe forgot about that. We used to all learn in the open, so I want to start doing that again. I likely will be doing things wrong, which is great, because I can learn through feedback and we grow together. I don’t claim to know everything I am discovering my way of working with themes with these new tools, just like everyone else.

Rediscovering style

A large part of this and getting back to the word ‘ephermeral’ is, I want to explore in ways maybe themes and myself have stopped. I honestly feel it’s all got a bit too serious.. I have got a bit too serious. There’s opportunity to create art, to create themes ‘just because’. I am lucky enough that this is going to be a passion project not for profit, so I want to in doing that indulge in really seeing what could be style wise. I have some ideas and some will get released on Github, some in the .org repo – I don’t know the full extent yet as want to see where this adventure goes.

Let the adventure begin

I truly feel for the first time in years that making a theme is exciting. I have had the most fun over the past few weeks learning about block based themes and theme.json, than I’ve had in several past years around themes. I dipped my toes into patterns and that is also something I’m going to cover here (ephermeralthemesandpatterns isn’t so catchy a domain). This theme the site itself runs on is block based, very simple setup and I’ll write about that too over the next few weeks. Onward!