Rapid Theme Development was: Re: [development] AdministrationSurvey: Theme improvements, theme help system, theme mailing list

Jeff Eaton jeff at viapositiva.net
Tue Dec 13 17:26:19 UTC 2005

> *Design* is hard. A completely custom look and feel for your website 
> is hard. Cross browser CSS is hard. Designing individual pages in HTML

> and uploading them via FTP is hard. None of these things have anything
> do with Drupal. 

I concur. I wrote a mini-essay a while back on the nature of this
problem. In a fit of narcissism, I will copy-and-paste a relevant

In the world of Movable Type and WordPress, it's a foregone conclusion
that connecting your blog to your de.licio.us favorites or adding a
'quote of the day' in the sidebar will involve wading deep into
templating languages and perhaps Perl or PHP. One of the snappier
WordPress themes, K2, boasts features like "compatability with multiple
authors" and "Showing the latest comments." A lot of work has gone into
making K2 flexible enough to deal with more than one or two
configuration scenerios, and the work shows.

What really struck me was that any Drupal theme released without that
sort of flexibility would be sent back to the drawing board as broken.
New modules are released almost daily, shoving new content types and new
presentation paradigms and new tools and options into the Drupal
framework. The Drupal themes one can download from the main site take
them in stride thanks to the tremendously flexible templating system.

I've thrown together quickie themes for Drupal that make all sorts of
assumptions (we'll never had sidebars, we don't need to display
comments, only Module X and Module Y will ever be installed...) and it's
as easy as any other system. Easier, in some cases. In about twenty
minutes , I whipped up a very rough 'compatability theme' that lets a
Drupal site use CSS skins originally designed for Movable Type blogs.
But making a theme that's visually stunning, cleanly designed, AND
flexible enough to handle anything J. Random User installs into their
Drupal build can be a pretty daunting task.

That's a DESIGN problem, not a DRUPAL problem. It's certainly something
we can try to take a stab at improving. It's certainly an opportunity
for some highly-skilled designers to step in and create some great (and
highly flexible) themes... But the only way to make theming 'brain dead
simple' is to dramtically reduce the number of scenerios themes have to
deal with. That means admitting that your 'easy' theme will only work
with a small subset of Drupal's features.


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