Beautiful Drupal - growing the designer community and its impact
by Jay Batson
I'm happy to have seen the good response to my "What shall we do about themes?" post. I'm particularly glad to see a bunch of self-described designers participating, and to see the thoughtfulness of the comments.
From the 50+ comments, a few consistent messages emerged (no editorial pen here; just consolidating / summarizing):
- Designers need a non-CVS way to submit themes. Drumbeat. Drumbeat. Drumbeat. (Of course, this doesn't solve the problem of how we actually do version control on those themes, but hey - it's a clear message.)
- "Default" themes need to be linked to a purpose, e.g. identified use cases (i.e. intranet, ...), and either leverage install profiles, or (it sounds like a preference for...) the patterns project (along with a request for a tool to build same).
- Some desired pre-defined things: blog, magazine (media generally?), forum site, eCommerce, gallery, basic brochure-ware business site.
- Provide theme listings (on d.o, presumably) with a way to incorporate / display sub-themes derived from a base theme
- Tools for Dreamweaver to assist in development of Drupal themes (I note that I've seen one; it hasn't rocked my world, but it helps.)
- A "Drupal layout engine" (panels on steriods), plus block theming. (See also (orthogonally?) Gabor's blog).
- Feelings on both sides of the argument re: the notion of encouraging Premium Themers. And a notation that if such a community does grow, those themes can't "live on" d.o, due to licensing or other conflicts.
- More cleanly separate content from theming during page-building - e.g. Drupal needs to construct its content during page-building in a way that is more (semantically?) structured, and have a more rules-based (e.g. XSLT) method to actually create output. (This has the side-benefit of being able to output content several ways, e.g. web services, expose data to Yahoo search monkey / semantic search engines, ....)
- RSS feed for new themes - both commercial and GPL
- A(nother?) base / starting theme that's a bit different in approach (vs. Zen, ...): One with all the theming settings defined, but "minimally" themed so the designer can make it look as they wish.
- Separate front-end and admin layouts. (I think this, however, may be better discussed under the D7UX redesign context.
- Different orientation to documentation. Instead of a theming handbook for developers, a handbook targeted at designers to teach them to develop themes for Drupal.
- Less concern than I might have thought about the requirement for designers to learn a little PHP - though the "Drupal learning curve" remains present.
- A showcase of "what Drupal is for" - how it's being used, some of the designs that have been created for it, etc.
- A repository of little re-usable snippets for theme designers
- Improved documentation on d.o - eliminate need to muck through D5 to find D6 details, eliminate wading through comments, etc.
In the interim since that post, I've seen several things that seem to be addressing some of these desires:
- Tools for Dreamweaver. Chris Charlton posted a link on groups.drupal.org to a page on Adobe.com that gives a tutorial on how to use his Dreamweaver Drupal Theme Starter software.
- Base themes. There seems to be a consistent drumbeat of new "base themes" on d.o, each approaching the issue different. Today, for instance, Starkish appeared, claiming to be a derivative of Stark but with no CSS at all. Morten also has the mothership theme he's working on. Maybe we need a common theme with layers / subthemes that can address the various approaches?
- Re-usable snippets. It's interesting to see that this such thing has already been on drupal.org since 2008; is it that these aren't findable, or useful, or simply not what people were looking for? I'm not sure what the answer it, but a non-d.o alternative has now appeared. (Is it that simply organizing in book fashion wasn't enough of a way to find them, and if so does / could the new Drupal faceted search solve that problem?)
However, the occasional blog post in Acquia's general blog isn't going to be the way to systematically address all these things. We'll need another place to do it, and people showing up with high-bandwidth interactions to get stuff done.
One good place to start: This weekend's Design4Drupal Camp. I proposed a session for this Camp to talk about this topic. I'm honored that the organizers felt it was an interesting enough topic to make it the Keynote on Sunday. (Thanks, guys!) If you've got the time, and transport, to get here this weekend, and care about this topic, come to the Camp, and let's get something done.
I'm hoping we can come from that with an actionable list of things we - Acquia and the designer community - can do. My next post will come after D4D, with my list of things I know I & we at Acquia can do.