Quite often people ask me why this website looks plain. People often harangue me, “Why don’t you have this featured or that design?” For people in the know about WordPress they usually say, “Why are you using a default theme?”
The answers to these questions is simple, I don’t like spending time solving WordPress theme and plugin issues. On several of my websites I’ve solved a whole lot of problems with custom themes, themes bought from 3rd party vendors, and themes I’ve tweaked myself over the years. There are a range of issues you can encounter using a plethora of plugins and WordPress theme tweaks. On a lot of my websites I’ve left some of these issues just sit there for months as I’ve wracked my brain trying to fix them. One example is a news site I help run still has a broken RSS feed because we haven’t gotten any help from the theme developers and we can’t fix it ourselves.
I’d like to think I can hang with serious WordPress developers, although I have solved a fair number of WordPress issues, I can’t really. So for some of my websites I just opt to use the default Twenty Fifteen theme. For the time being I want sites up with as little hassle as possible. Using a default theme provides that for the most part.
To people who think using a WordPress default theme is lame I usually point out many WordPress developers and leaders utilize default themes. Often the reply is, “Who?” and I have to list of some names I can’t always remember.
To combat this and show the world that master WordPress developers can use default themes too I’ve compiled this list. The majority of people on this list work for Automattic, the company behind WordPress, in some capacity.
Next time people want to question me, or you, here is the proof that default themes are perfectly fine.
The guy that founded and coded the most popular content management system (CMS), WordPress, on the web today uses a default WordPress theme. Matt Mullenweg uses the Twenty Thirteen for his personal blog Ma.TT with some color and design tweaks. I can only assume that he had a lot to do with the design and layout of Twenty Thirteen and therefore likes using it himself. Why not use what you built for WordPress?
While building the most popular CMS is pretty cool, what’s even cooler about Matt is that he plays saxophone. We all know people who play saxophone are incredibly cool. Especially when your band consists of singing dogs.
Andrew Nacin is a lead developer of WordPress and one of only a handful of people with full commitment access to the WordPress core. In laymen’s terms this means he is pretty damn good with PHP, the programming language that Wordpress is built on.
For quite a long time Andrew Nacin used the default Twenty Ten WordPress theme on his blog. I assume Andrew was too busy working with PHP code and WordPress core to worry about designing his own website. Recently though it seems Andrew decided to update to the Twenty Fifteen default theme for his personal site.
Unfortunately for the WordPress community Andrew has “gone to the dark side”, he now works for a government agency. He does not contribute to the Wordpress core code as much as he has taken a job with the US Digital Service. I guess this is some new government agency within the White House to that aims to solve issues with digital and web services that agencies offer. I hope for everyone’s sake it is not just another way for a government bureaucracy to burn more taxpayer money.
Since the White House still uses the the vomit inducing CMS Drupal, I’d say the US Digital Service has not done it’s job. We shouldn’t blame the people that work there though, we all know Washington DC bureaucrats love things that don’t work properly.
Mark Forrester is the founder of WooThemes and the most popular ecommerce WordPress plugin, WooCommerce. Forrester’s company, based in South Africa, was acquired by Automattic in May of 2015.
Mark uses the Twenty Fifteen theme with a couple of color and design tweaks. He even states on his Bio page;
This site uses the Twenty Fifteen WordPress theme with some minor customizations made via a child theme.
Why isn’t Mark Forrester using a WordPress theme from WooThemes? I have no idea. I’m sure Mark Forrester doesn’t care as he made plenty of dough, and probably continues to make plenty of dough, for Automattic via WooThemes and WooCommerce. Why make things complicated?
Forrester rocks South Africa’s country code top level domain (ccTLD) .ZA for his personal website too.
Donnacha O Caoimh
Don’t ask me how to pronounce his Irish name but Donncha O Caoimh was the first Automattic employee. He has worked on numerous WordPress plugins and current helps with PollDaddy, which helps a webmaster manage polls and surveys within WordPress.
For his personal website he also the Twenty Fifteen theme. The background is tweaked and in the footer I noticed it’s called “Z9 Twenty Fifteen” as his website is Z9.IO. I’m unsure of what Z9 is but it seems that Donncha switched to using a .IO domain now instead of .IE domain, which is the ccTLD for Ireland. Personally I’d rather use a .IE as people who read my articles know I am not a .IO domain fan.
It is unsurprising to see Takashi Irie using the Twenty Fifteen theme. Why? He was the lead designer/developer for it. Since he works for Automattic as Theme Generator it must be pretty pleasing to see so many people use Twenty Fifteen. Especially a lot of his Automattcian colleagues. Doesn’t look like he has even made any tweaks or upgrades to it. Why mess with theme perfection? Obviously Japanese people design and build the best stuff.
Ian Daniel Stewart
Ian Daniel Stewart was a project lead for Twenty Fifteen along with Takashi Irie. He uses the WordPress default theme along with Irie. Unfortunatley he CSS’ed his background and sidebar into a mustard yellow. Can some Automatticians convince him to switch color schemes?
David A Kennedy
David A. Kennedy works a Theme Wrangler and Theminator for Automattic. He wrangles themes for WordPress.com, is part of the WordPress Accessibility team, and contributes to the Underscores Theme. Underscores is specifically for hacking and making awesome tweaks. Kennedy uses the default Twenty Fifteen theme with a sparkly background.
Jack Lenox is a Design Engineer at Automattic. Like many of his WordPress colleagues he uses the Twenty Fifteen default theme with a black background but keeps the blog posts white. He also lives in the United Kingdom where he can enjoy unfettered access to Top Gear, the greatest car show of all time.
Daniel W Robert
Daniel W. Robert is a Theme Wrangler, at you guessed it, Automattic. For his personal site he uses Twenty Fifteen with a gray background and a black sidebar. lives in Greenville, South Carolina.
Kirk Wight is another Theme Developer for Automattic. He helps make WordPress.com as awesome as it can be. Wight uses the Twenty Fifteen theme and I don’t see many tweaks accept the sidebar has a widgets to his social profile.
Wight is Canadian and helps organize Wordcamp Vancouver. He is original from Montreal though. Kirk Wight likes rocking Canada’s ccTLD, .CA, much like Mark Forrester likes using .ZA for his country, South Africa.
Sooo… Why do so many top WordPress Developers use WordPress Default Themes?
You’ll have to ask these Automatticians and WordPress Developers. I assume the reason is because the are so busy designing and building themes for the entire world and working on WordPress, they don’t have much time to worry about designing their personal websites. As you can see though using the Twenty Fifteen theme is fine as it is slick, fast, and looks good.
Even this whole article shows using default themes if fine, I should let people know I will be redesigning AdamYamada.com and Singing Dogs in the coming months. They need more than what Twenty Fifteen can provide I just need to decided on what design and platform to use. Have any suggestions? Feel free to let me know with a comment below.
Also, do you know of anyone else who works at Automattic that uses a WordPress default theme? Do you know anyone that has a high traffic website with a default theme? Leave a comment below and let me know.