[development] Themes - Trying to do too much in one theme?

Michelle Cox mcox at charter.net
Wed Oct 4 15:31:45 UTC 2006

I've been reading these theming threads with much interest and it seems to 
me that part of the problem is trying to make the default theme work for 
different kinds of users. With respect to theming, I think we have three 
main types:

1) The out-of-the-boxer. This user just wants to set up a site and use the 
theme that's there. Maybe change the colours, but that's it. For this user, 
a very pretty eye-candy theme is great. Everything should be styled and it 
should just work with all browsers.

2) The power user that can't theme their way out of a wet paper bag. This 
user doesn't care a lot what the default theme looks like but wants one 
that's easy to modify with very little CSS/HTML/PHP knowledge. This theme 
needs very little markup and should focus heavily on changeability.

3) The theming guru. I don't know what this class wants. Maybe they don't 
even care what theme comes with Drupal as they always make their own?

I think a big problem is that 1 and 2 are at odds with each other. Having a 
Wow! theme that's easy to change is difficult, maybe impossible. What I 
think, and this is totally IMO, is that the default theme (and maybe a 
couple others for variety) are made totally Wow! to address user type 1. 
Don't worry too much about making these easy to change. Make them work and 
make them pretty. Maybe put something for changing the colours at the top 
for a little tweak but, beyond that, expect them to be used as is.

To address user type 2's needs, what we really need is a set of wire frames 
with minimal styling and lots of comments. Take the basic shapes that most 
websites used (that is, 1 2 or 3 columns, header, footer, stuff like that) 
and code them really well so the layout holds up to whatever contribs throw 
at it. Then put in all the various elements that can be styled, but leave 
them empty or with something fairly neutral. Put lots of comments on them so 
someone with just a little CSS knowledge can look at it and know what a 
change there will do. By doing this, the novice CSSer won't have to fight 
the browser quirk layout issues and all that mess but will be able to easily 
tweak the theme to look how they want it without having to unstyle a bunch 
of eye candy.

Just my $0.02 US ;)

Michelle (type 2)

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