This post is just about certain WordPress issues.
So another style may, or may not, come with the next WP install.
I am writing this from the standpoint of probably having read more forum posts than the majority of others, and certainly from the position of having responded to more than anyone else. Given the amount of time that I spend not just in the forums but also using email and IM helping people out, I think my view has a certain validity. I am fully expecting what I write here to be dismissed by some, and attacked by others. Destructive / abusive comments will be deleted, and your IP will be added to my .htaccess file (just so you know).
Actual WordPress issues are generally fairly easy to solve – at least the ones I can tackle. Installation is a ‘one-off’ job, as generally is installing plugins and putting back bits of code, and such things are probably not going to be touched again by the user.
CSS issues are a whole different bag of spanners. I have yet to see a post where someone says that they would like to alter something, but have not yet tried because they are unsure. They more usually come to the forums with some complete mess due either to them not using the default CSS and wondering why they have bullets all over the place, or they have tried and not realised that what they have done has had knock-on effects. They come along because their knowledge is exhausted, they don’t know what to do, they want help to fix it. But it’s not a quick fix is it ?
If the helper and user are only using the forums to communicate, it’s slow. The helper has to try to be specific in what they say and has to assume some level of knowledge in the user. How many times do we have to say “CTRL-F5” ? We can also only see the source, and have no real way of seeing what other php they are using. And it’s painstaking and frustrating work – have YOU tried to do it ? At least with PHP you may know the core code and hooks into it or failing that send them to php.net – I assume you realise that css.net does not yet exist (and don’t be a pedant). Even Carthik said today that it takes an investment of time. But the forum help is slow simply because of the medium and the depth of the issues. I’ll admit I have looked at a thread before, checked the link, and inwardly groaned because I know how long it will take. Sometimes I’ve then helped, sometimes I’ve moved on to another post. But what we have now is at least some work we can point people at for some of the more mundane issues. That work takes load off the forum helpers. Note I said helpers.
The forums could cope with several thousand more posts a week – it’s software. The helpers cannot. (You know if everyone who inhabits the IRC channel answered just a single question a day, no matter how beneath them it was, it would help out hugely. But they do not). I noted today that Michael (who designed Kubrick) said “As for Gemini and Trident, I hadn’t heard of them before just now”. Now I’m not digging at him, but given the profile that those two stylesheets have, and given that he may not frequent the forums as much as some (and why not – I have no life away from my keyboard) then if support is going to be offered, Michael may not be in the best position to do that (and again, that is not a criticism). But that means someone else has to do that support. Someone else has to learn the CSS, learn how to change the CSS, produce some sort of guide that enables people to figure things out on their own. Do not forget that as much maligned as the default CSS is, it is not as complex as Kubrick. And if my site has had over 40,000 visits for an uncomplicated stylesheet, how many forum posts will we get for a complex one ?
One of the best quotes I ever heard was this : “A question is only difficult if you do not know the answer”. Sounds stupid maybe, but it’s true. But a question becomes even harder when no-one around you knows the answer anyway. WP has a reputation for good support forums. Recent bitching aside, that help comes from a minority of users. A small minority, and the simple fact is that we could not cope with an influx of issues. We just couldn’t. And that, like it or not, will reflect onto WordPress. So people aren’t using WP because they don’t like the default CSS – how many may be alienated if not only does it look and act in a more complex way, but the level of help they need just isn’t there ?
If WordPress wants to become even more widely adopted – as I am sure the aim is – then regardless of what actually comes out of the zipped download, there must be lots of good help around in the form of guides, and enough people in the forums willing to help. The latter cannot be made to happen – the former can, and should. And in any download, there should be links to those resources. Yes, there will always be some who run to a forum yelling for help as soon as something looks wierd, but I would bet the majority want to work it out for themselves – guides make that happen, and I don’t mean a book from Eric Meyer. People can only customise what they understand, and do we really want people to stay beholden to the forums ? Or do we want people to enjoy the freedom of being able to alter their CSS knowing that they can ? There will always be questions – as there are with all the PHP – but if WP wants to be a success, then the work that needs to go on behind the scenes to prepare for a new default/bundled CSS needs a lot of careful attention. And then some.
(And seeing as this is about WordPress and I get enough email and IM’s about this on this issue, I’ll take the opportunity to tell people that no, I am not a WP dev, I’m not connected with the project in any way other than a user – like most of you reading. The work I’ve done started out from a post written by Southsea back in March. Nothing more, or less, than that.)