Is It Time For Kubrick To Retire?


Dion Hulse a.k.a. DD32 who is a very active WordPress contributor created a ticket in Trac about eight weeks ago outlining his proposal for a new theme to be based on the current WordPress codebase. It’s long been known that a majority of themes that are created for WordPress end up using Kubrick as the base theme. In this day in age, that is not such a good idea as this leads to themes that are not easy to customize, little documentation, and possibly ugly code.

DD32’s proposal for a new base theme contains the following suggestions:

  • Uses clean markup
  • Has a basic style included, Which is designed to be replaced.
    • The default style should be able to be used by itself, But it should be in such a way that its simple to be customized
  • Doesn’t rely upon fixed width styling, or fixed background images
  • Uses limited JavaScript
  • Uses the Theme api correctly
    • comments_option() instead of ‘open’ == $post->comment_status
    • post_class(), etc.
  • Look good even when the user modifies the theme slightly (ie. changes widths or floats an item)
    • I realize it’s impossible if they’re changing it, But a simple small change should not break everything, It should be designed with the purpose of looking good whilst having its layout moved around
  • includes custom Widget examples, SIMPLE widget examples
    • Ie. Something with no control, Just a simple “This little widget Adds this theme-specific functionality, It requires no modification, just does this when inserted”
  • Uses ALL the current functionality WordPress offers

The way I see it, if you attack the root of the problem and replace Kubrick with a base theme that contains everything DD32 mentioned, this could do nothing but positive things for the WordPress community. First time theme developers would have an excellent base to start from and learn a thing or two in the process with documentation included within the theme. Of course, with the new Syntax highlighter along with function lookups which are now going to be part of WordPress 2.8 and at some point down the road, POSSIBLY template/theme versioning which would work in much the same way as post revisions, we could see a WordPress in the near future where you can build your theme from within the software itself.

So is Kubrick really being replaced? Right now, it’s an idea that is on the table. In fact, this years WordPress Google Of Code projects list Theme Frameworks as a project which possibly would be used as a default theme. So if anyone decides to tackle this issue head on, we could end up seeing Kubrick replaced with a much more modern, useful theme.

Are you ready to see Kubrick retire and be replaced with a theme that matches DD32’s criteria or do you want to see something else?




  1. DD32 (2 comments.) says:

    I’d just like to make a comment: It was never my aim to replace kubrick, or to have it included as a WordPress ‘default’ theme, rather just an included theme.

    • Andrew (31 comments.) says:

      It’s a good point whether it needs to be replaced or not. Personally I think all the current themes should be replaced by one which is much plainer. With the ability to search for themes from within the admin there is no real need to bundle a theme that people would want to use out of the box.

    • Banago (84 comments.) says:

      However, what you have brought forth would make Kubrick useless, so, why not kick it off?

      • DD32 (2 comments.) says:

        Mainly Back compat. (Which i’m generally a fan of).

        Many child themes would have “Template: WordPress Default” in them, Or… well.. not many since those who make child themes realise kubrick is the worst base..

  2. NiKo says:

    Thematic would be the perfect replacement for Kubrick.

    • Banago (84 comments.) says:

      Thematic is very heavy in code. As a theme developer I would require something that is developed minimalistically and would be very easy to alter and build up in.

      • Deryk Wenaus (2 comments.) says:

        Thematic could be an excellent choice if it was made into Thematic Lite: strip out much of the powerful but confusing child theme stuff and you’re left with one of the best base-themes out there. Thematic is basically Sandbox with incredibly typography. Also, the css and code are very clean and logical, so it’s very easy to use.

  3. JLeuze (12 comments.) says:

    DD32 has some great suggestions in that proposal. You’re right, a freshly updated theme would be nothing but positive!

    I think that it is easy enough to switch themes in WordPress that the default theme serves only two key functions. It should be a learning tool for new users, and most importantly, just look good and match the style of WordPress well, to promote WordPress throughout the Web.

    • aw (8 comments.) says:

      Yes, easy but well-look should be very adoptable for new WordPress users. That’s the job that a default theme should do.

      • JLeuze (12 comments.) says:

        Definitely, you can tell from the number of unaltered Kubrick themes out there on the Net that there will always be some users that just install the software and use it as-is.

        So why not improve it for them a bit? The better the theme is, the better advertising it will be for WordPress ;)

  4. Andrew (31 comments.) says:

    A solid but minimal theme example focussing on best practices would be a great idea but there is a danger that it might become a framework, which would be bad, or that the temptation to include the stuff that is cool right now might become too much.

    A very light but solid functions.php file without any extra functionality.

    A HTML 5 version (as well as, not instead of, HTML 4) would also be a good idea to help people make the transition.

    • pundit (6 comments.) says:

      Why would a theme so good that it serves as an ideal base for a theme framework/engine be a problem?

      • Banago (84 comments.) says:

        A framework would kill coding creativity. I agree with Andrew, a light weight theme would be a good solution.

  5. MisterHobbes (4 comments.) says:

    agree with Andrew, a very light version is the answer. Not only that, it must blend or come with another version for BBpress.

    • Jeff Chandler (295 comments.) says:

      Why should it when BBPress is independent of WordPress?

      • Martin (1 comments.) says:

        Having a BBPress theme that matches a default WordPress might help BBPress get a bigger fan base imo.

        I like the idea.

        I would get rid of the Classic theme before Kubrick.

    • Banago (84 comments.) says:

      I have been thinking long ago to lunch WordPress and bbPress themes as one pack. That would be cool. They are different enmities in fact, but they are a couple, they should fit.

  6. Mark says:

    I’d want to see lots of widget locations – so we can expect each theme to have similar locations.

    Thematic has the right idea in this regard.

  7. CertifiedIntergalactic says:

    Well, the writer asks for a vote but have nowhere to vote except by making a comment, so …

    Yes, I think classic was run-down a long time ago and default is worn-out.

  8. Darran (9 comments.) says:

    A while back, we were discussing parent child themes being the future of WordPress themes. Thematic as mentioned earlier is a great example, but as impressive as it is, I don’t think that should be a Kubrick replacement as we would be defining a framework, and every single theme would follow its layout.

    WordPress themes are getting more and more unique, pushing out of the bounds of regular web design. But I do agree on the point that its replacement should be something light weight and customizable.

    • Ian Stewart (28 comments.) says:

      No WordPress theme worth it’s salt (or bytes, I guess) should impose a layout on Child Themes. At all. Thematic doesn’t, of course.

  9. goofydg1 (6 comments.) says:

    I’d like to see another cleaner theme option as well.

  10. Jorge (5 comments.) says:

    i don’t like the kubrick theme, but i don’t want it replaced with let’s say the K2 either…but i like where this is going

  11. Hicham (36 comments.) says:

    Customizing a thematic theme that implements the new WP codes as of version 2.5+ is something good. I just wonder wether the upcoming versions of WP will have new features regarding themes; like comments for example that might need new tweaking :)

  12. Banago (84 comments.) says:

    I have never used the default WordPress theme as the base theme upon which I build. I have used the classic theme instead and it is for more easy to customize and go around than Kubrick. Since than, I have been reusing my themes as base code including new available code on them. I do think Kubrick should retire.

  13. aaron (1 comments.) says:

    yes! for reals, it’s about time for a new one.

  14. Ian Stewart (28 comments.) says:

    I mentioned this last fall, in A Revolution in Theming : WordPress Theme Frameworks, where I suggested:

    The future of WordPress theming is in Theme Frameworks. If WordPress included three or four theme frameworks in the core it wouldn’t just be the easiest CMS to theme, it’d be the smartest.

    • Remkus (1 comments.) says:

      hear hear!

    • Banago (84 comments.) says:

      Imposing theme developers to build on frameworks is not always a good solution. That would keep things inside the box. I would love the have a light theme with the basic function file and with the best practice of CSS usage on the theme. That would be a good foundation for building strong normal and out-of-the-box themes.

      • Network Geek (21 comments.) says:

        Why do you think including a default theme that is framework oriented would force theme developers to use a particular framework? Even including framework functions in the core code wouldn’t force anyone to use them. There is lots of code that’s not used in every theme as it is. My installation has been happily using an old, slightly modified version of the default theme from 1.5 for many versions now.
        You even say in another comment that you build your own themes from scratch! Do you really think that would stop by including either framework code or a default theme that included a framework?

        And, I don’t mean to sound antagonistic, rather, I’m genuinely curious if that’s how you feel. Honest.

        • Banago (84 comments.) says:

          You are right, including a framework by default would not force theme developers to use it, neither me. Rather, my concern is that, as a theme developer, I would love to have a basic light theme to built upon, which is updated regularly with new Template Tags and CSS code that WordPress uses. In my opinion, that would make developers code better and there would be less messily coded themes out there. The one that would profit directly from this move would be the vast WordPress community.

          • Network Geek (21 comments.) says:

            Ah, I think I understand. And, if I *do* understand correctly, I agree that it would be better to have a simple theme as the default, but also a relatively simple theme that is built around a framework included also.

            I’ve seen several posts/pages/articles about various WordPress theme frameworks and I like the idea quite well. The only problem is, there are so, so many to choose from that I don’t know which to pick! =) I had been thinking I was going to start working on something based around Sandbox, but, then I saw all these others and now I’m not so sure. Maybe with all this interest in frameworks, we’ll see some reviews of not just themes but the frameworks on which they were based as well.

  15. Ian Stewart (28 comments.) says:

    That said, a default theme that didn’t include a functions file might be smart. Something dead simple, where it’s all in the template files. But then, if you wanted to use it as a framework for Child Themes …

  16. validBen (1 comments.) says:

    The code as evolved and so should the default theme. I definitely agree, we see to many templates using deprecated syntax because they are based on Kubrick.

    Having a default template updated with each release would make it much more consistent imo.

    Plus there are some very nice features that never get used because people don’t think to use them, the default template could show those better than a release log.

    • Banago (84 comments.) says:

      Having a default template updated with each release would make it much more consistent imo.

      I couldn’t agree more. That is crucial to make the most use out of WordPress potential.

  17. Samir (9 comments.) says:

    I do not really agree with people here.I believe that kubrick has a very clean and understandable code.Also the layout is very much neat and modifiable.

    Hence my sincere opinion is not to replace kubrick from default theme.You can provide more themes with kubrick in wordpress installation but please dont remove kubrick as it is very good theme to learn wordpress for newbies!!!


  18. Lee Rickler (1 comments.) says:

    Kubrick lasts about 5 mins when we do fresh installs before our own custom theme is used as the ‘default’.
    Would I miss Kubrick? No.
    Would I use a new ‘default’ theme? No.
    I’ve spent a fair bit of time developing our own version which suits us fine.

  19. Jay Yu says:

    Can’t you just bundle K2? I like that these guys still seem to put a lot of effort into their theme, they have a running support forum, and it is fairly easy to customize…

  20. Dave (15 comments.) says:

    As a very amateur coder who loves to tinker around – which probably describes a lot of users – I would like to see both a simple Kubrick-replacement with a minimal functions file, and also some framework themes as Ian suggests: Thematic, Sandbox, Carrington, etc. I’m persuaded that these latter are the future of WordPress theming, and the sooner we can kill off Kubrick, the sooner the offical themes repository will lose its depressing monotony and mediocrity.

    • that girl again (41 comments.) says:

      Nobody hates Kubrick more than I do (hell, I hated it when everyone else still loved it) but it’s not quite fair to blame it for the ‘monotony and mediocrity’ of the official repository, which is mainly due to the restrictive licence imposed by Automattic on all submitted content. The number of people willing to release professional-level graphic design under those terms is vanishingly small.

      Among other things, a standard framework that could be used with child themes would potentially resolve a lot of those niggly legal issues and allow designers more freedom in chosing an appropropriate licence. That’s probably why Automattic aren’t too keen on promoting them…

  21. Carlton Bale (1 comments.) says:

    I think a new default theme long over-due, but for a different reason. I would like to see it offer many simple customizations through the configuration page, so that every blog using the default theme doesn’t look identical. I think there should be options for configuring the colors of fonts, links, hovers, boarders, headers, etc. as well as an uploader for header/background images. The widths and sidebar location perhaps should also be configurable.

    Providing a more modern basis for those that want to modify the underlying code is a great reason to replace the theme. Allowing users with no coding knowledge to make quick and simple appearance changes without having to load a new theme is another compelling reason.

    • Joni Mueller (2 comments.) says:

      You’ve just described Chris Pearson’s Thesis theme to a “T”. I am all for a lightweight, minimalist theme that takes advantage of all the current (and future) WP code with plenty of style hooks. I may revamp my old award-winning Zen Minimalist theme and throw it out there for folks to use.

      Great discussion. And yes, Kubrick is a theme whose heyday has passed. Although I laud the devs for keeping it up and providing support.

  22. Adam (1 comments.) says:

    I’m not a WP developer, nor a theme developer, just the regular user. This being said, I never liked Kubrick, I just saw it so many times used by other blogs, that I got tired of it and when I first installed WP I was happy to be able to replace it easily.

    In the same order, I see more and more, WP being used for other purpose than blogs. This might sound vague, but would it be possible to bundle a theme that would break a bit the tradition of typical blog look, like Kubrick for example.

  23. Ajay (209 comments.) says:

    One thing that WordPress can learn from is SMF when it comes to themes. In built SMF theme is extremely good looking and functional. It’s easy to modify with your own changes and you make all the modifications from within the Admin area itself.

    I’ve used that as a starting place to develop a new theme for my college site that mimicked the look and feel of the rest of the site.

    The best part was, I needed to play around with styles and limited amount of code to achieve the same.

    As for Kubrick, even though it is updated regularly, it is nowhere near even 1/10th of WordPress themes can and should do.

    Default options pages, sample widgets, better structures / customizations could do well.

  24. Al (3 comments.) says:

    I like history. So I think it’s good to see the Classic Theme along Kubrick. WordPress should be careful and remain true to those who made WordPress famous. Keeping these two themes along with a new standard theme should be no problem. Hard to say which theme would serve best as the new default. K2 and the Sandbox may be too complex. If WordPress really wants a change it should come up with a brand new standard theme.

  25. R. Richard Hobbs (4 comments.) says:

    some sort of standardized WordPress Theme Generator might be cool? Always thought Kubrick *was* the standard starting point and always sort of assumed it was being (re)developed as WP progressed…

    • Cris (1 comments.) says:

      Yes, me too. I assumed, Kubrick being the default, it would be up-to-date. I’m one of the millions who used Kubrick as a starting point. Now I learn my brand-new-theme is obsolete?

      Kubrick deserves to be canned because, besides being obsolete, it uses a TERRIBLE way of setting font sizes. You just cannot ignore the font sizes that are set by a browser’s owner. The main text on a page should be set at the default font size, not at 10px.

      • Joni Mueller (2 comments.) says:

        Not only that, but Kubrick does a *terrible* job of separating style from content, as evidenced by where you have to go to change the header graphic. This is no way to learnn how to construct a proper theme, IMHO. Any new default theme should be more friendly toward a CSS novice. And should contain plenty of style hooks.

        • Abel Cheung (2 comments.) says:

          Header graphic is a little hideous in this area — it can be changed in admin page, but only inside, not the downloadable version. Most of the necessary code is there, but there are some extra code which is fixed in default theme, but not propagated to downloadable one.

  26. SirZooro (1 comments.) says:

    It is a good idea to create new theme as default one for WP. I think that it is a good moment to add few new template hooks, which may be useful for plugin developers:
    – one just after opening body tag;
    – one before 1st post (on pages displaying single post – just before post);
    – one after last post.

    For 1st hook there is no alternative except for direct template modification. 2nd and 3rd can be simulated by adding some text at beginning or at the end of displayed post. It works, but is is possobly error-prone in future.

  27. Primal Sneeze (2 comments.) says:

    Mountains and molehills. Mountains and molehills.

  28. Scott M. Stolz (1 comments.) says:

    I agree that a new default theme that uses more features of WordPress be developed.

  29. Nicole (7 comments.) says:

    I think that most of the people here sound like .. well, most of us on the tech side of things. People who can modify a framework, build up CSS on a skeleton, or even those who understand what paying for custom CSS on MEANS .. are the people who should decide if Kubrick stays or goes.

    For me, Kubrick is a) A good theme to use when I’m writing tutorials on editing themes because I know EVERYONE has it. b) Something I couldn’t care less about otherwise. I have the skillset to develop a theme that does whatever I want and looks however I want — the people who should be asked this question are really the people who might actually use it because it’s totally out of their range to consider building their own. It’s a theme for users, not developers. I suggest asks their users — people who are running a self-install version and know how to upload a new theme via FTP are already more tech savvy than the average person.

    • Nicole (7 comments.) says:

      Edit: areN’T the people who should decide

    • Andrew (31 comments.) says:

      WordPress should not impose a default design under the guise of letting people just get started but provide the tools to create the design and the tools to find the designs of others.

      The next release of WP will let users search the repository for their own themes, therefore there is no reason to provide a user complete out of the box theme.

      • Ian Stewart (28 comments.) says:

        You’ve got a point there.

      • Nicole (7 comments.) says:

        As I mentioned, I see the default theme as something primarily useful for people who are not using a self-installed version and instead use

        On that note about the new ability to add themes through the repository — I was not under the impression that would be available to the users, only people running a self-installed version. I could be wrong, but that’s been my understanding of it.

        I do think that most people want to see something that ‘works’ right out of the box. Having to build / piece together (even with a tool on the backend) your own theme before anything displays would likely make WordPress feel more complicated to use for the average user.

        • Andrew (31 comments.) says:

          I see no reason why the default theme that is bundled with WordPress should have any bearing on what Automattic choose to offer through their commercial service.

          Making the self-hosted version work right out of the box is simply a matter of adding an extra installation step that connects to the repository, or perhaps producing a setup screen that is only visible the first time it is run that explains what to do next. I think it is entirely reasonable to expect that anyone who is competent to install WordPress is competent to choose a theme before continuing, even if they choose to download Kubrick.

          • Nicole (7 comments.) says:

            We’re really trying to compare apples and oranges here. I’m talking mostly about and you seem to be talking mostly about self-installed.

            I don’t have any issue with having some sort of additional step to choose a theme for the self-installed version (or even an option to skip selecting a theme and take a default theme) — but it would require the repository to be reworked in such a way that it could easily return only results of tested themes requiring no additional plugins that are guaranteed to work with the version someone is installing from. While the repository has made some progress, it’s still a coin flip on whether or not the themes in it are built well enough to work straight out. It’s definitely something that would be interesting for future, but hinges a great deal on improving the way the repository works.

          • Banago (84 comments.) says:

            Actually, the whole debate is about the Kubrick theme on self-hosted WordPress.

          • Ian Stewart (28 comments.) says:

            Again—with the extra step on install—you’ve got a real point there. :)

  30. R. Richard Hobbs (4 comments.) says:

    Andrew wrote: “The next release of WP will let users search the repository for their own themes, therefore there is no reason to provide a user complete out of the box theme.”

    <<< howbout upgrade-related theme / plugin conflicts? I always disable all plugins and revert to default theme before any upgrades? Thus an argument for same.

    • Andrew (31 comments.) says:

      It is an argument for providing a better method of upgrading both, downgrading either, or preventing badly designed themes and plugins from being installed. It isn’t an argument for a completely functional safe mode just in case your choices break WordPress.

  31. Rick (3 comments.) says:

    The drawback of completely retiring the Kubrick theme is that it leaves all those of us who have customised it in the past a bit in the lurch. With every update I compare the default theme files with the previous version to see what changes have been made and learn from them at the same time as making the corresponding updates to mine. Yes, a teaching theme is good but I would be a bit bereft if Kubrick wasn’t still there.

    • JLeuze (12 comments.) says:

      Yes, they should continue to maintain Kubrick, just not have it as the default, or even packed with WordPress…

      They could retire Kubrick and Classic to the theme directory, there they can be maintained and accessible for those that want them, making room for a fresh default theme :)

      • Jeff Chandler (295 comments.) says:

        That is exactly what I would like to see happen instead of kubrick disappearing entirely.

        • JLeuze (12 comments.) says:

          Yeah, there are so many tutorials and other content out there that pertains specifically to Kubrick, that it would be a shame to ditch it altogether.

        • Banago (84 comments.) says:

          I think no one is requiring to have Kubrick disappear. All we want is a new theme as default. Still having Kubrick updated and maintained is also a great thing.

  32. Banago (84 comments.) says:

    The point is that the theme developers are requiring something better than Kubrick to have as the default theme which they will built upon. Kubrick sees not suitable any more for that purpose, even though, I have never used that to built upon. As for the just-user, they can choose among the available theme, but however they have the right to have better coded themes.

  33. Carl from Chicago (1 comments.) says:

    As a newby who is switching over to word press from blogger I think that a more modern theme than kubrick would be a good idea.

    Basic word press books that show you how to modify the sample code use Kubrick and if you started from a more modern looking theme that would be much better.

    The default theme is really more for new users, and should be viewed from that perspective when making a selection.

    I don’t have any specific suggestions because I am not an expert. I just switched to pixeled and it was much better but I pretty much selected that one because it was one of the most downloaded themes and was recently updated so I figured it must me OK.

  34. Alison (1 comments.) says:

    Tarski would fit the bill imo.


  35. Queue (1 comments.) says:

    This might be a far jump from “minimalistic, lightweight” themes, but what about including a theme such as Atahualpa? For people who are just starting out WordPress, they might not be able to make heavy-edits to their default theme, and something like Atahualpa could help them make one. The default settings look nice enough, and quite minimalistic, but it can be easily made into a lot more.

  36. Montoya (8 comments.) says:

    Kubrick is great, but I think it has passed it’s time. A good base theme for WordPress would incorporate some of the following:

    – A CSS framework with a strong grid like Blueprint or 960gs, so that users can easily change the layout without having to dive into the code. The theme could even include a layout generator, like any of the ones that have been built for Blueprint, so that the user could change their blog layout much the same way that they change the widget in their sidebar.

    – No javascript out the box, that is, no dependence on it.

    – As few images as possible, since when it comes time for customization, those have to be taken out anyway.

    – A very logical design and structure of content… Kubrick has this somewhat already, but there is more that can be done to clean up the navigation, archives, etc.

    – As mentioned previously, code that fits the current codebase of WordPress, rather than some of the really old methods that Kubrick has.

    It should *not* be ambitious like K2 was… rather, it should be simple in a clever way and as flexible as possible. This is something I would love to work on, if only I had the time!

    • Andrew (31 comments.) says:

      Except for your first point I agree entirely.

      CSS frameworks are generally unnecessary as there are much simpler methods of achieving the basics and, for a default theme, they obscure what is really going on.

      It also shouldn’t contain any extra functionality at all.

  37. NH says:

    I like it and think it could be updated but left in there. It’s a companion to many info sites I do, so there is no reason to dump it.

    I use the default more than not.

  38. Deryk Wenaus (2 comments.) says:

    Many people here are saying “I’d never use the theme so why bother bundling it”. But there are thousands of people that will never make it to a post like this that will download WordPress, install it, check out all the available themes, not find what they are looking for and then just customize the default theme. To give them an excellent default theme to customize just makes sense.

    After searching high and low, and looking at hundreds of themes out there (paid and free), I came to the conclusion that the Thematic theme is the best starting theme out there. The whole purpose of the theme is to be a clean blank slate. I built two sites from Thematic so far, and it was a breeze. The css code is clear and clean, a joy to work with.

    Like I said in my post above, perhaps it could be simplified into Thematic Lite by removing much of the php and consolidating the css. It would then be an excellent default theme.

  39. Dan Schulz says:

    Just so you guys know, I’ve been working on a new baseline WordPress Theme that I was going to use as a replacement for Kubrick in all my personal projects.

    If I can find enough time to finish it (between my mom’s health and legal issues, my own work schedule, and other issues), I’ll be more than happy to propose it as a possible replacement for Kubrick.

    (And for those who know me from SitePoint’s forums, you already know I’m a huge stickler for minimal code.)

  40. Abel Cheung (2 comments.) says:

    What I can foresee seems to differ from most of the people here: even after the theme change happens, everything else won’t change. There will still be enormous sites using default theme (whatever it is), a large portion of new themes will be based on default theme again, and most of news themes will still bit rot in the future.

    Generally after designers finish their work, most of them would just call it a day, and just release the finished work and never look back. This is human behavior, which will never change because of new shiny WP code updates. WP was already doing a good job in the sense that not too many old themes break because of API changes and other updates.


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