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From the Rough Cut Evaluating Themes

Evaluating Themes

At the time of writing, Marinelli is the most installed theme that is not labeled as a starter theme, theme framework and base theme. So we’ll use Marinelli as an example for evaluating themes. Visit http://drupal.org/project/marinelli and you’ll see a screen as in Figure 9.30:

Figure 9.30 The Marinelli theme’s screen on Drupal.org

We’re going to encourage you to evaluate each theme based on four different criteria. As with modules, we call this the IRIS evaluation and it involves the four areas of the page that you can see marked in Figure 7.68.

  • Introduction: this area gives you an overview of all the theme’s key features and requirements.
  • Releases: this area tells you if there is a release of theme available for your Drupal version and if it stable or perhaps only released in an Alpha or Beta Version.
  • Information: this area tell you if this module is actively updated and maintained, plus how many sites have installed it.
  • [lb]Sidebar: this area shows you the people who coded the module and when they were last active. It also provides important links such as those to issues user have found and to documentation for the module.

Area 1: Introduction

This is the area that requires the least explanation. It should provide a clear explanation of what this theme does. Figure 9.32 shows the example from Marinelli which also has a screenshot of the theme.

In the case of Marinelli, the first paragraph is clear and useful: “Marinelli is a 3 column, tableless layout theme with a wide image banner and a "top-tabbed" primary-links system.” There is also a very useful link to see a live demo.

The remainder is of Marinelli’s introduction is also fairly clear, but does contain some Drupal and design jargon that beginners won’t understand.

Figure 9.32 The Marinelli theme’s introduction area on Drupal.org

Area 2: Releases

This area is the most important of all. If there isn’t a version of the theme available for your version of Drupal, then you stop your evaluation right here and start looking elsewhere.

  • Themes in the green area are recommended for use on live sites.
  • Themes in the yellow area need to be carefully evaluated before use.
  • Themes in the red area are generally only for developers to test.

    Not all modules will have a green, yellow and red area. You can see Marinelli’s downloads in Figure 9.33:

    Figure 9.33 The Marinelli theme’s releases area on Drupal.org

    Area 3: Information

    This area at the bottom of the page contains some very useful information.

    First, it tells you if the theme is being actively maintained and / or updated.

    Second, it tells you if the theme is frequently download or installed.

    Finally, it tells you when the theme was last updated. If a theme hasn’t been updated recently, be cautious. It might mean that the theme works perfectly and doesn’t need updating but it might also mean the theme’s coders are not providing necessary updates and fixes.

    Figure 9.34 shows you the Information area for Marinelli. This proves that Marinelli is a theme that is fairly regularly updated and is trusted by a lot of users.

    Figure 9.34 The Marinelli theme’s information area on Drupal.org

    Figure 9.35 shows the Information area for another theme. Be more cautious about installing this one:

    Figure 9.35 Another theme’s information area on Drupal.org

    Area 4: Sidebar

    It was straightforward to explain the information contained in the first three areas on a module page. The fourth area, the sidebar, contains much more information and it is much more diverse. Figure 7.74 shows the sidebar on the Token page. Here’s what in each of the five areas:

    • Maintainers: This is some of the most important information of all about a theme. Marinelli has only one maintainer who was active one year ago. This is not necessarily a negative sign, but it is worth noting.
    • Issues: This area provides links to all potential bugs that people have found with the theme. A high number is not necessarily a bad thing because the more popular it is, the more bugs people are likely to find. At first, it won’t be easy for you to get useful information from this area, but as you get more experience you can read the list of issues and look for potential problems.
    • Resources: This area contains key links. Perhaps the most important of all is the documentation link. Not all themes have documentation, but you should probably avoid those that don’t.
    • Development: If you’re researching themes, this area might give you ideas for similar themes to evaluate.

    Figure 9.36 The Marinelli theme’s sidebar area on Drupal.org

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