Since Twenty Twelve is coming very soon to the Extend directory, I wanted to share a bit of background on default themes and why they change from year to year.
In 2005 Kubrick launched as the new default theme, then didn’t change for five years. It became a punchline for the project. With Twenty Ten a new pattern started, with every single year having a new theme, naming it by the year. Twenty ___. This gives the theme an expiration date and it doesn’t have the pressure to be the end-all theme for the ages, because it’ll be replaced in the next year rather than in five years.
In the time between Kubrick and Twenty Ten the default theme efforts didn’t work too well as there were too many conflicting things. The efforts tried to please everyone: show off everything that’s possible in core Core is the set of software required to run WordPress. The Core Development Team builds WordPress., fully educational in every aspect, super nice-looking, and try to solve all the problems a theme can solve.
Big shoes to fill, as it turns out. Even if one theme can’t do it all, though, the default theme can still strive to be as simple as possible while still sticking to important principles. For example, default themes are coded to be fully internationalized and ready for translation. Even though this effort makes the code more complicated, it’s an important principle in an increasingly globalized world where many people don’t interact with WordPress in English.
The default theme should show off the latest and greatest features, be flexible enough to gracefully support child themes and encourage customization, work well for a blog or a website, and sport a design that is aesthetically pleasing and a bit different from the last design. Under the hood it should represent the best in coding practices and technical excellence. That said, the default theme isn’t trying to be an end-all-be-all theme. It won’t please everyone.
To get an idea of how Twenty Twelve is intended to differ from its predecessors, here’s the the core team’s post on which key features they want to see implemented: Core Team Meetup Recap: Default Theme “Twenty Twelve”. Note things like the header The header of your site is typically the first thing people will experience. The masthead or header art located across the top of your page is part of the look and feel of your website. It can influence a visitor’s opinion about your content and you/ your organization’s brand. It may also look different on different screen sizes. image off by default, promoting a static front page A WordPress website can have a dynamic blog-like front page, or a “static front page” which is used to show customized content. Typically this is the first page you see when you visit a site url, like wordpress.org for example., and no featured image A featured image is the main image used on your blog archive page and is pulled when the post or page is shared on social media. The image can be used to display in widget areas on your site or in a summary list of posts. in the header. A new look by a different theme designer.
I think a lot of people are going to really like Twenty Twelve. And Twenty Thirteen. And Fourteen. And … you get the idea.