Last Tuesday, May 28, I released an update to the Sandbox theme, version 0.9. Since releasing the Sandbox back in August of 2006 Andy and I have received lots of good feedback. I called it “the theme for themers” and it has had a really positive influence on theme design within the WordPress community.
There have been more than a few themes/designs built on the Sandbox and releasedâ€”and for good reason. Its highly semantic, dynamic structure make it immensely easy to design for, not to mention all the features built into its markup, like Microformats.
So I thought it was a good time for a new theme competitionâ€”or rather a “designs” competition. It has been around two years since the last successful WordPress theme competition (participants of the competitions in 2006 will roll their eyes and would include me). We’ve seen the launch of an official theme viewer, two major WordPress releases (2.1 and 2.2), two plugin competitions, and so on. So I think it’s time.
Now you probably have a thousand questions running through your brains. Let me try and answer at least a few of them.
Question: Why have a theme competition? The last two failed. Don’t you know anything?
Answer: Well, this isn’t really a “theme” competition. It’s a designs competition, similar to Alex King’s WordPress CSS Styles held back in February of 2004, that is only for style sheets (and images, of course). Folks won’t be competing to show off PHP know-how, or scripting abilities, etc., but how well they can design, use CSS, be creative, and so on.
Question: Uh, that’s boring. Every design will be pretty much the same, won’t they?
Answer: Not in the slightest. See, the Sandbox is special. It has these dynamic class-generating functions that sprinkle neat semantic classes throughout the markup, which means each page is the same, but it is also a little different. Using combinations of these classes means that style sheets can easily go beyond just arranging content into layouts by making the design relate to the content. There are so many classes that almost any layout, any design, etc., is achievable. For example, you could style posts by categories,
Question: Okay, that’s pretty slick. But why should I spend my time in this competition?
Answer: First, you could win more than a handful of cash. From the day one we have US$500 in cash to distribute to first, second, and third place winners (there will be a runner-up who will receive an honorarium). We’re getting sponsors to help us increase the total cash pot to US$1000. So the first-place winner will hopefully walk away US$500 richer (but at least US$250 richer). Secondly, you could be crowned a top blog designer in our little blogosphere. Not a bad title to parade around. And thirdly, you can solidify your designer creds just by participating and getting your bio tossed up on the website.
Question: Sweet, but didn’t I just read something about a plugin competition? And didn’t I read that right here on this blog?
Answer: Indeed you did. I was actually in the process of smoothing out the details for this competition, getting everything in order, when Mark announced the plugins competition 2.0. I emailed him immediately, somewhat frantically. But I feel like these two competitions differ from one another in all the right ways. Plugin developers are primarily concerned with PHP and scripting. This competition, as mentioned before, is purely about CSS and design. Put them together and you have everything that makes WordPress lovely.
Question: Word. But I blog on WordPress.com. Am I going to be left on the margins of the community yet again?
Answer: Not at all. The new version of the Sandbox will be available to blogs there soon (details to come). Furthermore, unless you like punching yourself in the face, you’ll probably want to install WordPress locally to do your designing. When the competition finishes and all the designs are available, you can rejoice in knowing you’ll be able to use the designs immediately (you’ll need the custom CSS upgrade, though).
Question: Good news indeed. Sign me up!
Answer: Sign yourself up, but not quite yet. All the details you could possibly wish for will be posted on www.plaintxt.org tomorrow, June 1, 2007. So go there tomorrow and you’ll find a lovely little post waiting to direct you to the competition blog.
Question: Well, I’m not going to submit a design, so perhaps there is something else I can do?
Answer: Indeed. If you have a design background or another appropriate qualification, you could possibly serve as a judge. Or you can simply purchase a sponsorship to show your support.
Question: Wait right thereâ€”purchase something? Uh, we’re talking about WordPress, right? So why would I do that?
Answer: First of all, you can support and encourage participation by helping raise the cash prize pot. If you’re active in the WordPress community or use WordPress, these designs can be of real benefit to you. Support our designers. Anyhow, there will be different levels of sponsorships, different prices, but basically you’ll be getting your link and/or image up on the competition blog for everyone to see. People will love and respect you.
Question: I could use some love and respect.
Answer: We all could, my friend. We all could.
So all the details will be posted tomorrow on www.plaintxt.org. Participants will have about two months create their designs and submit them. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Details, terms, etc., will all be available very soon. Until then. ;-D