New Year. New philosophy. New direction.

Many of you know that I’ve been hinting at some different things here for Theme Hybrid. I’ve been carefully planning some new goals I’d like to achieve with the site in the past few months. While nothing is set in stone yet and it’ll be a while before all things are implemented, I wanted to share some thoughts with you all.

One of the goals of this site has always been to offer free and open source WordPress themes, plugins, and other nifty things. Those of you that know me know that I’m a big supporter of open-source projects. This is something that won’t be changing.

New philosophy on building parent themes

First, I wanted to start by saying that this isn’t really a “new” philosophy for me. It’s something I’ve had in mind for a long time. It just took a while to get to the point I wanted to be at.

Months before Theme Hybrid ever opened its doors, I started the initial work on Hybrid Core. It’s always been buried in the site’s flagship theme, Hybrid, so the core framework has gotten plenty of use. Yep, we’ved dragged it through the mud a time or two. It’s a veteran in many ways, but it’s still in its infancy as a viable framework solution for other developers.

New themes released on this site will be parent themes. Many of you are used to seeing child themes for a single parent theme.

I know some of you have been frustrated when trying to mold a single theme into something it’s not or when putting together 20kb+ function files. I know I have. More than anything, it’s been a energy-draining process trying to come up with creative ways to do things that could be done in an easier way.

Many of you have even asked the question, “How do I update my child theme?” The new goal is for you to never have to ask that question. Since new themes will be parent themes, your child theme will never have to be updated, providing you with the most future-proof way of running your site as possible.

New philosophy on building child themes

Just because new themes will most likely be parent themes, it doesn’t mean there’ll never be a child theme released here. Actually, that couldn’t be further from what I’d like to do.

Essentially, any child themes released will be nothing more than a design, a style.css file. Stylesheets rarely need an update, so you likely won’t see child themes being updated on the site.

I’d like to stay away from advanced child themes. These are the child themes with extra templates and lots of functions (things that can’t be updated). A prime example of this is the Hybrid News theme. If I built that theme today, it would be a parent theme. Then, I might build child themes with different designs. For example, you might have child themes with red, green, yellow, and purple designs. Each child theme would offer a unique design for the given markup of its parent theme.

This has always been the intended use of child themes in WordPress, so it’s the direction we’ll be going in.

Changes on the site

For the past few weeks, there’s been a good discussion on the future direction of the site in the support forums. I’ve gotten some invaluable feedback from many members, and I still encourage more discussion on that topic.

The biggest changes I’d like to make happen in 2011 are the following:

  • Put more focus on the many plugins I’ve written. Right now, they don’t get much attention here.
  • A dedicated documentation portal to make theme/plugin docs easier to find.
  • A code snippet database for finding quick snippets of code, especially for commonly-asked functionality in the support forums.
  • Allow user submissions to the showcase.
  • Add WordPress e-books to the selection of tools for the members here (more on this later).
  • Allow theme developers to host their parent themes (built of Hybrid Core) and child themes on the site.

All of these things won’t happen overnight. It’ll take some time and ideas may change as I get deeper into the process of putting all of these pieces together. Feel free to leave your feedback on things you’d like to see in 2011 for Theme Hybrid.

I hope all of you have a great New Year’s Eve and look forward to seeing what we accomplish in the coming year.


  1. There is nothing but potential for Theme Hybrid. This community you built will continue to grow. I think the ideas you have in mind are all positive toward building a larger, more engaged WordPress community.

    I think Hybrid Core is also leading the charge of rethinking the parent / child theme relationship. Certainly your best product yet and others will undoubtedly follow.

    1. Hybrid Core has already made my life about 100 times easier. Now, I just need to continue documenting it and getting more people building on top of it.

  2. Justin,

    my offer to help still stands, in any way 🙂

    your plugins get a lot of attention from the community (you probably mean you haven’t updated them in a while)

    happy new year

    1. I mean that they don’t have a dedicated section on this site outside of the forums for plugins. I want to set up a page called “Plugins” (like we have for themes now) that links to individual plugins and has online tutorials.

      New people to the site might not realize that there’s plugin support or even that I’ve written plugins until after they’ve joined.

      Those are the things I want to fix.

  3. Happy New Year to you, Justin.

    Having just got my new personal site online — running a child of Prototype for the moment, with plans to develop my own Hybrid Core parent theme down the road — I’ve found that your themes and plugins are helping me get my head around WordPress, web design and PHP all at once. Aside from Prototype, I’m building your Series plugin and Clean My Archives from DevPress into the site — and I’ve modeled my permalink structure on your sites as well, since it’s a setup that gives users the best chance at hitting a useful page if they guess or truncate a URL.

    Between the quality of your work and the excellent community on this site, there’s a great foundation. It sounds like your planned directions will keep those things — and add even more useful resources — while making it easier for visitors to connect with the information they need. I look forward to it.

    1. Those types of permalink structures always made since to me. I can find an archive by just cutting off the last part of the URL.

      Clean My Archives is probably my favorite plugin. I just needed something simple to handle my own archives that didn’t have 100 different options.

  4. mp

    I see it as a natural evolution. Building child theme now is now, relatively, commonplace – and there are many examples of how to do it out there. Understanding the implementation of a new capability based on a “core” – bridges the gap between “just getting something done” by combing through the CODEX (and not being sure if you’ve done it the right way) and truly understanding WordPress features and capabilities.

    I consider this to be the premier “best practices” site for WordPress – hands-down – especially for those who write code. I send people here when they want to understand WordPress – and not simply work around their ignorance – myself included.

    Keep up the good work – I’m along for the ride.

    1. To me, it sounds a bit funny to mention evolution here. Usually, when you think of something as evolving, you think of it as becoming a more complex system. But, I’m moving forward to a simpler system. The idea is to take all of these great advancements we’ve had with themes over the last few years in WordPress and simplify everything.

      I originally got into theming because I wanted to be a designer. Well, it turned out that I needed to be a developer to get anything done. Now that I’ve crossed a lot of the hurdles of development, I’d love to get back to what got me started in the first place.

      I’ve got several thoughts I’d like to expand on in regard to the evolution of themes and my path though. I need more time to put them all together. Maybe a new blog post is warranted.

      1. In reply to Justin Tadlock

        I agree evolution does make things more complex but you are combining evolution with innovation. I was reading a book on objective-C the other day and they compared the programming aspect to the functions of a clock. Users don’t really care about how it all functions, just that it functions and they know what time it is. You are innovating ways to make complicated things simple and continue to push that envelope.

        Glad you were able to start the year watching your Tigers win!

  5. A prime example of this is the Hybrid News theme. If I built that theme today, it would be a parent theme.

    I suppose that begs the question … would you ever consider making a replacement for Hybrid News that was it’s own parent theme?

    1. I’ve got another news theme in mind that I might build. I’m not sure if I’ll ever make Hybrid News itself a parent theme, at least not any time soon. That would likely cause some confusion.

  6. will the new documentation be free to access?

    1. No, most tutorials will be available to members with exclusive access as they currently are.

  7. Ya off-course everything goes new……..

  8. FYI, on evolution: it is a fallacy that “evolvution” has anything whatsoever to do with the supposed inevitability of “increasing complexity”. That, in fact, is a rather crude, undialectical understanding of the term. Even Darwan would have winced at the supposition.

    Much of the time evolution is startlingly simply, even “simplistic” to use an anthropocentric term. The point, rather, is that an organism adapts continuously to a changing an environment; an environment that the organism itself changes and thus coevolves with. This can of course mean “complexity” (itself a rather diffuse term) but I think it would be an error to assume—what I really think you meant—”less accessible.”

    Given the efficacious, as well as elegant, solutions that emerge from a well-designed and supported community interaction, “evolution” is actually quite an appropriate term. Especially when it is drained of all its ideological baggage.

    See Levins and Lewontin, _Dialectiacal Biologist_ and Foster, _Marx’s Ecology_.

  9. I really wish I could have corrected my spelling of Darwin. Oh well, this will have to do.

  10. boomboom

    Your evolution path is interesting and exciting. I have also seen my own themes going down that road. Initially when I was just a newbie to WP, my themes used to be overtly complicated. As I gradually started learning more, they began becoming more and more simplified and clean and yet have better functionality. I just love your Hybrid Core though it still takes me time to get to know all the functionalities by looking at the files 🙂 I am looking forward to the documentation.

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