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Mythic WordPress Starter Theme, and Thinking About All Developers

Mythic is a new starter theme by Justin Tadlock (with help from his friends/ collaborators). The project is designed to introduce a fully modern theme development process.

It follows best practices for coding, and makes use of things like npm (or yarn), webpack, composer, and all sorts of other plugins that improve the code and make things ‘easier’. However this relies on the fact that you know how to use these things.

Building for the internet is getting increasingly complex, but (I imagine) a lot of WordPress theme designers don’t know this stuff.

This might be a bit unfair but I imagine many WordPress theme developers were designers first; and they got into theme development because it was relatively easy. The PHP needed was quite simple and the Codex explained everything. As long as you knew HTML and CSS you were set.

At least that’s how I got into it.

Of course I’ve been using WordPress for more than 10 years now, and I’ve learnt a lot in that time. I also like to step outside the WordPress bubble, so I have experience of build tools and package managers and the things required to at least pretend I know what I’m talking about when I’m in modern web development circles.

At WordCamp London this year Zac Gordon did a presentation about developing with javascript for Gutenberg and one of the things he said stood out to me. He mentioned that WordPress developers are 10 years behind when it comes to javascript (I don’t remember the exact quote, hopefully this is close enough).

At first I was a bit offended, but having now used ES6 I’ve seen the power available to us if we take the time to learn more about these more advanced (or modern?) topics & techniques.

So perhaps us designers/ theme developers should spend a bit of time learning the newer technologies so that we don’t get left too far behind?

My point with all this is that whilst Mythic is a fantastically engineered project it’s just going to be too hard to get into for many designers. It works in such a different way to what designers are used to with WordPress that it’s like learning a whole new system.

My process when I find new starter themes is generally to dig through them and take out new things to learn and apply to my own starter theme. And I plan to do exactly that with this theme since it looks like there’s a lot for me to learn from it. Hopefully there will be for others too, and hopefully more designers can level up their technical skills.

This story first appeared in MasterWP, a weekly newsletter for WordPress professionals.

Since writing this post in the MasterWP newsletter I have had a Twitter conversation with Justin Tadlock and Sami Keijonen where they assure me documentation is coming that will explain how to use the theme for people who just want to use CSS and a bit of HTML.



Ben View All

Ben is a lifelong Nintendo fan who also likes to build websites, and develop games. He also buys way too much Lego.

4 thoughts on “Mythic WordPress Starter Theme, and Thinking About All Developers Leave a comment

  1. There’s a growing tendency amongst developers to overcomplicate things in the name of scalability and maintenance.

    There are a lot of websites that are built once, rarely changed – in terms of look and feel – and replaced by new websites within two years.

    Before we get engulfed by libraries, frameworks and CSS methodologies and naming schemes I think we should check the context of our build.

    To draw on a shelter building analogy, sometimes a tent pitched in a field will be enough, sometimes you need a caravan and sometimes you need a brick built house – it’s very rare that you’re building an entire village by starting with a road layout and building cottages one at a time.

    Defining what sort of project you’re building and estimating its lifespan would be a better approach than using the next build as a chance to learn the latest innovation in build tools.

    Just saying….

    • Hey Tony – thanks for the feedback and I absolutely agree. Right tools for the job and all that.

      My concern with not learning this stuff (at least the basics) is that in a couple of years we won’t be able to understand what people are talking about. We need to be able to follow tutorials/ documentation for whatever we are working on/ with, or we won’t be able to do our job effectively.

      • Hey Ben, totally agree, we do have to keep up, but I’ve started to wait for things to settle a bit before jumping in.

        I’m still not sure I need SMACSS, BEM or ITCSS, but I’ve looked at them all. I also learned LESS before settling on SASS.

        I think that the big issue is that rather than really learn the underlying stuff, there are too many very clever developers creating new *flavours* of things because they can, not because they’re essential.

        It’s Betamax vs VHS all the time!

        I’m now going for leading edge, rather than bleeding edge.

      • I agree with all that too!

        I too learned LESS before moving to SASS. I don’t use BEM or any other css conventions since I tend to work alone so I can use what makes me happy; however I recently read about ITCSS and it seems I what I use is quite similar to that – which was nice to get as confirmation 🙂

        I’ve recently started learning React because I think it would be useful for a future project I want to build (heavily interface oriented).

        I think the most important thing is learning the underlying technologies properly (html, css, javascript) and then you should be able to adapt to these other things that get layered on top.

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