Jun 242016
 

On 22nd June, Suffusion was removed from the WP themes directory all of a sudden. Someone decided that a theme whose last version was released and approved 5 months back and whose users had been generally happy did not meet requirements, and yanked the theme.

My response to the comment was simple:

However, given that I have always come out at the losing end of these discussions, please feel free to keep the theme suspended. I have neither the inclination nor energy to get drawn into this again, particularly since the customizer implementation is back-breaking, and the users of the theme had been perfectly happy with the theme in its current state and the once-in-a-while critical updates that they were getting.

If any of you is interested I can provide the rebuttals here, but it is not worth the time and effort. Stay assured that the all “concerns” about security are unadulterated rubbish. All options are written into the database in a secure manner using the recommended functions and via WP’s standard APIs and then retrieved. If they are really concerned about security, they have to look at the WP platform itself and ensure that none can access options stored in the database for any theme or plugin (not just Suffusion).

As for the rest, the sole deal-breaker is the Customizer implementation. Switching to it is akin to writing a new theme, and that is something I just cannot do.

Anyway, this has been a long and satisfying ride. Thank you for all your support in helping this theme get to the pinnacle of WP themes multiple times over. For those who have the theme currently installed, don’t worry – it will still work as it has; I just will not be able to release any updates for it and it will no longer be available as a theme from the WP directory. In case you are concerned about the “fatal error” on the ticket, the Suffusion Shortcodes plugin addresses it.

Feb 242015
 

I have updated Photonic to version 1.46. The main fix this version was to accommodate the change in the URL structure for 500px photos.

It has been about a year and a half since I last updated Suffusion or responded to forum questions. Three main factors contributed to this:

  1. Workload – Ever since I got back from Canada I switched to a slightly different line of work at my day job … and that amounted to my workload shooting up exponentially. I routinely have 80-90 hour workweeks, without time off or weekends. Let alone Suffusion, I get very little time with my family too.
  2. Stability and Maturity – I believe that from the point of view of features, Suffusion pretty much has all that I intended it to have. Moreover the last release 4.4.7 did seem to be fairly stable, thereby not compelling me to issue upgrades.
  3. Upgrade Barrier – This has been my biggest challenge. Over the past 18 months the WP theme review team has been significantly raising the restrictions for what themes may include. If you run the Theme Check plugin, you will see that Suffusion’s current version fails on multiple counts. It doesn’t mean that the theme is broken in any way – it just means that if I have to submit any change, it will not be accepted because it includes too many things that are “plugin territory”. To enable Suffusion to pass the check, I must remove probably 30% of its functionality, and fundamentally change some of the core code. That is going to result in nightmares for users.

I am posting this to solicit your opinions on what I should do. At this point I risk the theme breaking if WP introduces a new JQuery version, and there is no way I can release an update without weeks, or even months of testing. In such a case abandoning the theme and requesting the WP team to suspend it if it breaks seems to be one of the only solutions available to me, but that is going to hurt current users a lot. The other option would be to put the theme up for “adoption”, where someone enthusiastic and knowledgeable can take over the development and support activities fully. Given the amount of effort I put into the theme, talking of adoption seems like blasphemy, but of the two options, that will at least keep the users safe. Ironically I am at this unfortunate juncture because Suffusion was leagues ahead of the curve when most of these features were added, and some of the review team’s restrictions came in several years after the features were originally introduced.

In my absence on the forum Drake and Colin have provided admirable support – for that I am most thankful! I would also like to thank all users for your continued enthusiasm towards the theme in spite of not having an update from me all these days.

Aug 062013
 

This is a day I had been dreaming of for a while. Eventually a few minutes past 7:30AM Central Time today, Suffusion hit a lifetime download mark of 1,000,000. Yup. One million downloads.

One Million Downloads

One Million Downloads

Thanks to all of you for helping Suffusion get so far, right about the time of its fourth birthday!

I also wanted to provide a quick update – I fixed an issue in the Suffusion Shortcodes plugin that was preventing the plugin from accepting more than 5 ad-hoc widget areas. Release 1.03 of the plugin should work fine.

Nov 102012
 

It seems like one rather nasty bug slipped through the cracks in 4.4.0. These are the symptoms: when you upgrade, you might suddenly start seeing your images stretched to the full width of your post, not respecting any custom width that you have specified for them.

The fix is very easy:

  1. Open style.css. You can do so from your WP Dashboard by going to Appearance → Editor and selecting style.css for editing. Alternatively you can use FTP to modify the file locally and load it back to the server.
  2. Look for this code:
    .entry img {
        max-width: 100%;
        width: auto;
    }
  3. Change it to:
    .entry img {
        max-width: 100%;
    }
  4. Save the changes.

That’s it – the images should show up correctly. My apologies for any alarms that this might have caused you. I have already fixed it and submitted a patch.

Nov 022012
 

WordPress recently introduced a new review system at WordPress.org. Under this system you can write a review for any theme or plugin and it gets attached to the theme or plugin page. Earlier the only way to put in a review was to comment on the support forum at WordPress.org.

If you have liked my work (and even if you haven’t), I urge you to provide a review. The review sites for some of my projects are:

  1. Suffusion: http://wordpress.org/support/view/theme-reviews/suffusion/
  2. Photonic: http://wordpress.org/support/view/plugin-reviews/photonic/
  3. FontMeister: http://wordpress.org/support/view/plugin-reviews/fontmeister/

I have been gradually wading through things on the professional front and will hopefully free up some much needed time to code. The responsive version of Suffusion should be out shortly, as will some enhancements to Photonic and FontMeister.

Oct 272012
 

Normally I am quick to announce landmarks such as 300 theme ratings, however in recent weeks I have had very little time to devote to Suffusion development. So here is a belated announcement: Suffusion now has 300 ratings on the WordPress.org website! This is a huge achievement since there is only one theme that has been rated more often than Suffusion, and among all top rated themes, Suffusion’s average rating is the highest. So thanks to all of you who have given the theme a 5-star rating. Since ratings are pretty much my only remuneration apart from the coffee fund, perfect ratings are welcomed with open arms.

Over the past few releases I have been gradually opening up Suffusion for better public collaboration. I started with the FontMeister plugin, which I could have built into Suffusion, then released the shortcodes functionality and I have been adding lots of hooks to the theme.

The latest development in this is the setup of a new mechanism for translations. You can now get your translations from the new translation pool. To download a translation:

  1. Visit the above site.
  2. Look for your translation.
  3. If you find it, open the page for your translation.
  4. At the bottom you will see a link to “Export”. Click on that to get the PO and MO files. Rename them according to your locale (see the Codex for the file names you need to use) and save them to the translation folder of your child theme.

If you wish to modify / add a translation, register at the Aquoid Community. Then log into the translation pool, open the language you want to edit and put in your changes. Note that if you are not a validator for a language, your changes will not be final until approved. In such a case tweet me (@sayontan), and I will approve the changes.

If you wish for a new language to be added to the list, or if you want to be made a validator for a language tweet me.

The Translations page has been updated with the new instructions.

Sep 192012
 

Version 4.3.2 of Suffusion has been approved, but it hasn’t gone live yet. While I wait for that to happen, I would like to post a few updates regarding what’s been cooking on Aquoid.

Along with the development of 4.3.2, I worked on a plugin called “Suffusion Shortcodes”. This plugin unshackles shortcodes from the theme, by bundling all of them and making them available separately. I did this to quell the debate of whether the shortcodes belong to a theme or to a plugin. With my current approach the shortcodes could coexist in both places. If you decide to stop using Suffusion in the future, you could use this plugin and keep all your shortcodes and content safe. If you use this plugin along with Suffusion you will get the added benefits of some customizability. The plugin is currently awaiting approval from the WP admins.

Another thing that I have been working on is FontMeister. You will be happy to learn that I have almost completed the support for Font Squirrel. I am in the process of ironing out some kinks, and once I am done I will release the update.

The third aspect I am working on is Photonic – apparently the last release broke some functionality in 500px.com. I am in the process of troubleshooting and I will soon have an update for you. In addition there is some other code in the works for OAuth2 authentication. This will let me add private photo support for Picasa, and will let me define new sources such as Facebook and Instagram.

And the last thing I have been working on is Responsive Design for Suffusion. As you can guess, on a personal front I am a lot more settled at this point of time. So while my professional work takes up a lot of time, I am able to dedicate some time to new code. So what is the status of Responsive Design so far?

What’s Done

  1. I have finished and tested sidebar repositioning features. I have ensured that whatever the layout you will be able to see the sidebars below your content. In true Suffusion-style you will be able to pick what you want to do with the sidebars. E.g. On screen sizes between 650px and 980px you can opt to have your sidebars where they are. From 320px to 650px you can opt to have your sidebars below your content, but you can choose to have the sidebars side by side if you have 2 of them.
  2. I have also put in code to switch the navigation menus to “Select” lists if the screen gets narrow. You get to pick which width the switch occurs.

What’s Being Worked On

  1. I am testing out code for making the featured content responsive.
  2. I am also trying to figure out how to handle the Custom Layout Template and the Magazine Template. Along similar lines what needs to be handled are the horizontal widget areas (“Widget Area Above Header”, “Widget Area Below Header” etc.), which can have multiple widgets in a row.
  3. I have put in some preliminary code to tackle the “pullout” style bylines. On narrow screens the pullout will cease to appear as a pullout and will show up as the more traditional single-line byline display.
  4. Lots of other code is in the works, to handle the multitudinous options of Suffusion.

What May Not be Included

  1. Responsive images – Ideally if you are viewing a site on a low bandwidth connection (typically a mobile) you would want to reduce the size of images. Most themes fake this by setting the max-width for images to 100%. That works fine in appearance, but it defeats the purpose of responsive design because you are essentially downloading the full large image, but you are only scaling it down. Instead there should be a mechanism to control the image size from the server.
  2. Hover effects – Touch devices have a drawback in the sense that you cannot hover over links. While most of them compensate for this by letting a single click function as a hover, the trouble happens when you have a menu item that is both, a link and has a drop-down under it. E.g. See the menu item for “Suffusion” in the menu on this site (Themes → Suffusion). That links to a page and it has child pages under it. On a touch device you would find it hard to click on the child pages, because the click on “Suffusion” will take you to the page for Suffusion. The click on “Themes” works fine, mind you, because that tab doesn’t go anywhere (its URL is “#”). I have to figure out how to handle this behaviour.

The Responsive features are very configurable. You can turn them on or off as you wish, and you can control what type of breakpoints you want to enable. E.g. If you don’t have people visiting your site from a 240px browser, you don’t have to handle that as a breakpoint.

Completion of all of these will take time, particularly since things are really hot on the professional front for me. But I will keep you posted.

Aug 032012
 

As I sit alone in a large house with no furniture save a sleeping bag, a couple of suitcases and an internet modem, Suffusion is celebrating its third birthday. These have been 3 long years of toil and happiness, and I have all of you to thank for its success.

During this year Suffusion has crossed several milestones:

  1. Over 800,000 downloads – The default themes TwentyTen and TwentyEleven get the benefit of being bundled with all WP installations, but them apart, the only non-default theme with more downloads than Suffusion is Atahualpa, which has been around for about 2 years more than Suffusion.
  2. A 5-star rating – It is one thing to have one rating of 5 stars. Slight credibility is gained when you have 10 ratings averaging close to 5 stars. But doing it for over 270 ratings is, well, impressive. As things stand, Suffusion is second in the list of all-time number of ratings, and very few in the first page come close to Suffusion’s average rating. Thanks to all of you who have rated Suffusion so highly!
  3. Alexa-verified popularity – In a study done of the top 1 million visited websites in the world, the ones using WP were analyzed. And Suffusion featured very prominently among the top 20 WP themes used on these most popular websites.

During this year I took away some development focus from Suffusion and managed to release a bunch of plugins:

  1. Photonic – A year back I pulled out the planned photo-blogging features of Suffusion and released them as Photonic a few weeks later. By far my favourite plugin, this is an absolutely fantastic way of including photos from Flickr, Picasa, Smugmug and 500px.com on your site. More importantly, I am working on a few enhancements that will let you include from Facebook, Instagram and some other sources too!
  2. FontMeister – This was something I had promised in the second birthday announcement. It is a very simple yet fully functional plugin that lets you include fonts from various sources in your sites. More importantly, this integrates with Suffusion’s font drop-downs too.
  3. Suffusion Commerce Pack – This helps users use popular e-commerce plugins with Suffusion.
  4. Suffusion bbPress Pack – This lets users use bbPress with Suffusion.
  5. Suffusion Custom Post Types – This is more of a basic transitional plugin to help users use custom post types that they have formerly defined in Suffusion with new themes. The whole objective is to not make you feel shackled by Suffusion.

Of course, Suffusion received some nice additions too:

  1. New Skins – I added the “Photonique” and the “Scribbles” skins. The former is ideally suited for a photoblog.
  2. HTML5 Support and Semantic Markup – This was the big addition of the year, obviously, and the only one that could potentially break things. And I am happy to report that the transition was generally smooth, thanks to the extensive testing by Mark van Jaarsveld.
  3. More Framework-like Features – There are some things that you cannot customize via Suffusion’s options panels. For those rare situations I have been steadily adding framework-like features to Suffusion.
  4. Custom Post Types – I have added some good support for Custom Post Types, letting you define their layouts and take advantage of custom taxonomies associated with them.
  5. Custom Layouts & Mega Menus – These are features that are hard to find in commercial themes, and Suffusion gets them to you for free.

As for the future, obviously there is the whole aspect of responsive design. For once I will be coding something I don’t believe in. I have also been promising some interesting sidebar concepts for a while now. With all my work I never got around to delivering those.

To close, I reiterate something I said last year – very few big features will be added, apart from the ones committed. Of course, you will see responsive design. But apart from that you will mostly see new skins and support for new WP features.

Lastly, thanks are in order to all the ardent supporters of the theme:

  1. To Colin and Drake for the awesome job on the support forum
  2. To Mark for extensive testing during the beta releases
  3. To all the fine folks who donate to and / or vote for the theme
  4. To all of you who write to me in person thanking me for a release, or help me out with snippets of code that I can add to my theme or plugins (Bart, Marcel etc.).

If nothing else, Suffusion and my other projects showcase the power of community collaboration.

Jun 192012
 

The biggest event in the WP universe last week was the release of version 3.4 of WP. While the event generated a fair amount of press, I honestly found the release very underwhelming. Broadly speaking, here are a few highlights of this release:

  1. New Theme Customizer
    From your Appearance → Themes menu you will see an option to “Customize” themes or see a “Live Preview” of them, in addition to the already existing “Options” link. The key difference is that for the “Customize” or “Live Preview” feature to work, your theme doesn’t have to be active. You could try out basic customizations and then activate the theme. While this is a useful feature, from a developers’ point of view this is merely eye-candy with very little value addition. Themes that rely extensively on options will find it nearly impossible to embed all their options in the customizer, and I don’t believe the intent of the customizer was to have developers do this (Suffusion has more than 700 options – imagine all of them in the Customizer!!). The only benefit I can see is from a skinning perspective, if a developer offers previews of multiple skins via the customizer (which is something I have bundled with Suffusion)
  2. Header and Body Background Customization
    Back in version 3.0 of WP, capabilities were introduced to natively support custom headers and backgrounds from WP itself. The functionality has been modified in version 3.4 and custom headers now support flexible widths. Apart from this, there is no impact to end-users.
  3. Better Theme Searching
    The theme installer has been improved to have an “infinite scroll”. In other words, if you search for a theme from Appearance → Themes → Install Themes and there are several matches, WP displays a few, then loads the rest on the same page as you scroll down.
  4. Templates in Sub-Directories
    One of the more painful aspects of developing a theme was in the way WP handled template files: all template files had to be in the theme’s root directory. In this release you can have template files in sub-directories. This is a feature I like, because it simplifies file organization significantly. For an end-user this has no impact.

What didn’t make it

There are several tickets that have been submitted with patches to the WP core, and they have been submitted several months back. Yet, release after release such tickets fail to get merged into the core, though the changes would be small to add and would provide immense benefit. Here is an example that I had submitted, which incidentally was a duplicate of an ages old ticket. This is an easy change to make and verify, and adding this ticket would let different plugins play nicely with each other while modifying the custom menu functionality. As things stand now, two different plugins cannot modify the menu items under Appearance → Menus.

This is one ticket I am aware of because I wrote a patch for it, and I am sure there are scores of others that got triaged in such a manner. Another that didn’t make the cut was the support for multiple screenshots in the theme back-end. Of course, the live preview functionality makes up for this somewhat.

In essence, the feeling I got from this release is that it was very light on good features. The developers might point to the Theme Customizer, but, the Live Preview feature apart, the only people who will benefit from it are those who have just a handful of options screens. Bear in mind that theme developers have been building options screens since a really long time, so a lot of users are used to seeing comprehensive options.

Having been in consulting for a while managing projects worth a few million on occasion, I do understand the process of triaging and prioritizing issues and fixes. It is perfectly normal for a few things to be prioritized over others, but maybe the good folks developing WP should stop once in a while and grab the low-hanging fruit. This is not meant as a criticism of this release of WP – I am sure what was done was done well enough. It is just that I was very happy when the last few releases came out: 3.0 had navigation menus, custom post types and native support for custom headers & backgrounds, 3.1 had custom post formats, 3.2 had TwentyEleven and had phased out PHP 4 support, and 3.3 had some neat APIs. But in 3.4 apart from the ability to define templates in sub-folders I didn’t find many appealing features.

Impact on Suffusion

In general I manage to stay on top of releases by silently yet actively tracking changing requirements and issues reported on other folks’ tickets. So most of the time users don’t have to wait for me to make Suffusion compatible with a new WP version.

However, this time I am compelled to make a change in theme behaviour. Recently there was a heated discussion on the Theme Reviewers’ mailing list about the way WP’s custom background works. The TL;DR version of the discussion was:

If a theme implements WP’s “custom background” feature, it should do it fully. In other words, if Appearance → Background doesn’t have an image, the site background mustn’t show an image.

So here is what I did for the next version of Suffusion:

  1. If Appearance → Background has a background image, that image will be shown as your site’s background (no change in this behaviour).
  2. If Appearance → Background has no background image, there will be no background image for your site. This is a big and disruptive change, because users might have set no image in this section. Sorry, but if I had my way, I wouldn’t have forced this on you.
  3. If Appearance → Background has the default background image, only then will the settings from Appearance → Suffusion Options → Skinning → Body Background take effect. If you have left this section to have “Theme Styles”, then everything will be as default.

So, if you upgrade to the next version of Suffusion (4.2.3) and your background suddenly goes AWOL, please don’t be alarmed. You can go into Appearance → Background and simply restore the defaults there.

This is something that bears repeating, so I am going to post the instructions again when the new version is released.

Jun 052012
 

This is something I hate doing, but unfortunately with new features come new changes. I did mention in my previous posts that I am working on a new skin. The skin is called “Scribbles” and you can see a demo of it.

If you look at this skin closely, you will see a lot of new features such as:

  1. A new byline style (which places the byline beside the post, unlike the earlier “pullout” style).
  2. Some markup changes, allowing you to use a separate image for the post header (like the top of a notebook) vs. one for the rest of the post (like the rules of a notebook).
  3. Some snazzy CSS effects, like the “tape” at the top of widgets, more use of shadows etc.
  4. A very informal looking icon set based on the superb Web Design Creatives icons, which is a GPL-licensed icon set.

The first two in the above have required me to closely scrutinize all my existing markup up to this point, and at several places I have had to add a few new lines of code, mostly to ensure that a particular action or filter was getting executed. Unfortunately this has meant changing some of the files in the custom folder, some layouts etc.

So, if you are upgrading to the new version, you will have to reconcile any files you may have edited in a child theme with the original source files. If you want to get a headstart, take a look at the GIT repository for the theme.

I am putting the finishing touches on this version and I should be able to submit it in a week or two. I desperately want it in before I leave for my vacation at the end of this month, so I will make every effort to ensure that the development is completed.