The WordPress.com theme directory received a facelift yesterday, as well as some functionality changes.
The new design isn't a big stretch from the previous one, but it is cleaner and more modern.
One item to note is that premium themes are now less obvious, as the “new” and “premium” banners of the old directory have been removed, in favor of a simple price shown in the bottom left hand corner.
It also appears that “new” themes are not filterable any more.
The WordPress.com advanced theme search tab has also been improved quite a bit.
New data visibility and organization
The more interesting changes to me are the data.
First off, the default tab for viewers is now “Staff Picks”. This is a good change. Most of the staff picks are quite nice. The previous default was “trending”, which I'm not sure how that was calculated, nor how it was particularly different from the “popular” tab.
The “premium” filter has also been removed from the categories to choose from, and is now its own taxonomy. So a theme browser can view themes both by category and by whether it's a free or premium theme.
Finally, WordPress.com themes no longer will show the popularity of a theme by the numbers on the singular theme page. Previously, you could actually see how many people were using a particular theme (even commercial ones), as well as how a theme ranked against others in popularity.
This change is a real bummer to me. Not only do I wish the ranking was still there, but I previously really loved seeing the number of websites using a particular theme.
I can understand it may be irrelevant or difficult to understand data for an end user (especially since premium themes will naturally have lower numbers), but as an observer of the WordPress.com theme market, I really valued that data.
The new design, in all, is quite nice. I wish the data that was removed was available elsewhere, but it appears Automattic has decided that information is better off not being public. I'll hold out hope that the data will be available upon request or perhaps in another location.
If you have a user account, you can view the new theme directory right now while logged in. The old version is still the default view for non-logged in users.