There’s not a lot that I can say that hasn’t already been said by the likes of @carlhancock, @mordauk and @japh. What I would like to say though, is congrats to @japh, @collis and the rest of the Envato team for implementing these new guidelines. They’ll go a long way to improving the quality of the themes sold on ThemeForest.
I’ve implemented a huge number of themes in the past, for clients, on behalf of other designers and agencies. A large number of those have been themes from ThemeForest, simply because it is such a huge market (They’ll typically provide the theme they want implemented). Without fail, it’s always the ThemeForest themes that are the absolute worst to work with. This includes themes from the so called “Power Elite Authors”. Sure, the themes look beautiful, but the code behind them is (usually) absolutely shocking. It’s ridiculous that so many of these themes can’t be used with child themes, so after making a few changes, they’re virutally impossible to update. It’s even come to the point, several times, where it was easier to re-code the design myself, from scratch, than trying to modify the theme. Just this last week I had to tell one of my clients that they will need to look at buying another theme because the (ThemeForest) theme they chose for their client, broke when I updated WordPress to v3.5.2. You can’t roll that out to a paying customer. It’s completely unconscionable.
Moving elements like shortcodes and sliders, to separate plugins, rather than being bundled in the theme will be great to see. They should be in plugins! Your theme shouldn’t provide 200 shortcodes, 15 sliders, contact forms and CPT’s. 99% of the time your customers don’t need, nor use, even three-quarters of these features. They base their purchase on how your theme looks and in the end, they end up with this bloated and slow theme. I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve seem themes include dozens of scripts and stylesheets for various sliders, when only one slider is being used! That’s just terrible coding!
After reading through these replies (yes, all 58 pages!), it’s disappointing (but not surprising) to see the number of theme authors against these changes, even to the point of arguing that they should be allowed to use inline styles! Having themes that adhere to WordPress standards and best practices is a good thing, guys! If it turns out, that as a theme author, you’ve got a lot of work to do to tidy up your themes, then you’ve obviously been doing it wrong! As a theme developer, you owe it to your paying customers to develop themes using best practices and if you’re saying that “most clients don’t care”, then you shouldn’t be developing themes, fullstop! You’re right, most people who buy themes wont know anything about code, but that doesn’t mean that you should write badly coded themes or sloppy code. Take some pride in your work. I’m guessing there wouldn’t be too many themes here that would get past the strict guidelines implemented on the official WordPress Theme Directory. It’s great to see that Envato are making such an effort to improve their theme quality, along these sorts of guidelines. It’ll be a great day when people can buy a ThemeForest theme, knowing that they’ve got some quality code behind their site.