My theme review process

Updated September 2017.

The Theme Review Team on encourages reviewers to find their own flow and tools that work for them.

‘There is no right or wrong way to review a theme, as long as the requirements are checked and the author receives useful feedback.

My personal review process require a lot of manual effort. I know that some of the things that I do manually can be replaced by the new Theme Sniffer plugin, and I will eventually adjust to that.


I use VVV (on Windows 10) but also have a live install available in case I need to show the author something.


The new developer version of the Theme Sniffer.


I always import the Theme unit test and I keep the requirements page and the WordPress developer reference open.


Normally it takes me 5-10 minutes to see if a regular sized (or underscore based) theme needs to be closed because there are 5 distinct issues, or if the review can continue.
But summarizing the findings and adding references, explanations and images to help the author fix the issues takes longer, from 20 mins and up.

I try to consider whom I am writing the review for:
-Do I need to add references?
-Do I need to help them find a solution, or is it enough if I mention the issue?

Not all steps are performed on all themes, it depends how the theme is built.
I also split large themes over several reviews, because I don’t always have enough time to check several hundred files in one go.
If I quickly find 5 distinct issues I may close the theme as not approved without doing a full review.

First I check if the screenshot in the ticket is reasonable and not a logo or mockup.
Then I check the Theme and author URI before I download the zip file.

I look through the theme files before I install the theme.
I normally start by opening functions.php, header.php and footer.php:

  • Are there hard coded scripts?
  • Is there text that is not translation ready?
  • Is everything escaped?
  • If there is a footer credit link does it match theme or author URI?
  • Are the functions in functions.php prefixed and are scripts and styles enqueued correctly?
  • Are menus, widget areas and theme support added correctly?

Then I check if there are folders named js, css, dist, assets or similar, and if there are minified files. I also check if there are any plugins, demo files or similar included in the theme folders.

  • If there are minified files, is the non-minified version included as well?

Then I open style.css, readme and license files and make sure that the license and copyright information for the theme and the assets have been added.

This is when I start making notes and adding items to the review.
I already have texts written for common errors that I can add and adapt for the specific theme.

Run Theme Check

  • Are there any errors reported?
  • Check any warnings manually.

Then, depending on the theme, I use my code editor to search the entire theme folder for the following:

  • get_theme_mod -This helps me find theme mods that are not escaped.
  • remove -This helps me see if the author has removed any customizer settings or non-presentational hooks.
  • function, -This gives me a handy list to help me check prefixes and whether custom functionality is used in place of WordPress functionality.
  • script -This helps me find hard coded scripts.
  • alt=, title=, placeholder= -This will help me find translated texts in attributes and make sure the texts are escaped.
  • add_theme_support – This helps me check if the author has added support for title (required), custom logo (instead of using their own) etc.
  • If there are multiple post formats and templates I might also search for wp_link_pages, query and reset.

Then I install and activate the theme to make sure that:

  • There are no php or js errors.
  • There is no redirect on activation.
  • Notices are not global and can be dismissed.
  • Plugins are not required, only recommended.

I don’t spend more than a few minutes on testing the theme layout, more effort is put into testing any custom options.

  • Is the correct number of posts displayed?
  • Are comments displayed correctly?
  • Are there any php or js errors?
  • Perform a search.
  • Test the 404 page.
  • Test the navigation.
  • Set up a menu, is it working? Test the menu in a smaller window, is it working? Make sure that it is not overlapping or in other ways disturbing the admin bar.
  • Test custom widgets and make sure there are no php notices, warnings or errors.
  • Make sure that there is only minor content creation.

When I go to the customizer and test the options, I also open the customizer.php or related files in my editor and make sure the options are sanitized and set up correctly.

  • Check to see if there is demo content, content creation or plugin territory functionality.
  • Is the upsell reasonable and is it added with the customizer API?

Go to the post editor and double check if any meta fields has been added, and that they are for presentation, not content.
Test the meta options.
Repeat for pages.
Test page- and post templates.

If there is starter content, reset the install to fresh and test it.

Is there any functionality or special items that should be granted an exception from the requirements?
Does the theme match the tags and description in style.css?

Whether I find issues or not, I still open each file in the theme folder manually and review them quickly, including minified files.
This is still the fastest way for me to check for untranslated texts and anything that stands out.

When the review is finished, I save it as a .txt file and then cut and paste the text in the Trac ticket.

By saving the reviews, I have built up a library of texts that I can re-use for other themes with similar problems.


  • The more themes you review, the easier it will be for you to find things that stand out, and your reviews will be faster.
  • Read the WordPress code, read more themes and also read other peoples reviews.
  • Read the theme developer handbook and get familiar with the developer code references.
  • Learn Underscores.
  • Share your knowledge with other reviewers, and accept that you can’t know everything, -ask questions when you are not sure about something.