Three Useful Tools for Theming Your Drupal Site

Installing a pre-built theme into your Drupal site can help save time on design if gone about the right way. However, if you try to theme your site without the right tools, it can quickly become a time-consuming, laborious process. Most themes do come with screenshots, but they are rarely of a raw install – the theme-designer usually wants you to show you what the theme can do, rather than what it does straight out of the box. A lot of new developers or designers wind up installing theme after theme after theme, attempting to get some idea of what the site will actually look like. But doing that might not give you any idea as to how the basic elements of your site will work or look with that theme. Plus, if you go in blindly like that, you might find yourself halfway through designing your site and hating the basic elements of the theme you chose. In order to avoid getting stuck down a rabbit hole, you should consider utilizing a few different tools to help you figure out what theme you actually want to install and customize.

Switch Theme

The Switch Theme module was actually built with the end user in mind, rather than the administrator, but it can still be a very useful tool if you want to see how a basic version of your site looks with different themes installled. Essentially, this module creates a block that will allow anyone visiting the site to change between different themes. If you throw up a quick page with a couple of pictures and other blocks, and then enable a few different themes, you can easily switch through and see what works, what doesn’t, and what you might want to change. You can also switch the permissions around for the module if you’d like to use the  module solely for testing purposes, so that only administrators can change the theme.

Theme Builder

Theme Builder is a set of tools designed by Drupal Gardens, which means you have to buy into Drupal Gardens to use it. But, for the novice user, the theming tool and support might be worth the price, as Theme Builder allows admins to easily modify and design elements of their site’s theme right in the browser. After you give it permission to edit your site, you’ll see a box taking up the bottom half of your screen. In it are five different tabs – style, brand, layout, advanced, and theme. The first four will allow you to fairly easily change different aspects of your site. Style gives you the option to customize elements, brand helps you choose color palettes and change your logo, layout (obviously) changes how content is presented on the site, and advanced gives you the option to add custom CSS styles to the site. Any changes you make will be reflected in the preview of your site above the toolbox, and if you don’t feel like making your own theme, Theme Builder comes with a few pre-installed themes that you can play with.

Style Guide

But if you don’t feel like paying for access to a theme-building tool, Style Guide is a great option. After you install the module, you’ll be able to compare different Drupal themes quickly, and see how each theme handles whatever elements you need to include in your site. If you want to get a little bit more advanced, Style Guide is also very helpful when building your own theme, as it can essentially act as a consistency checklist by scanning the HTML output of your theme and showing you examples of different parts of your site – elements that should be uniform but might have different fonts or spacing are then easy to catch. Style Guide may be a bit more advanced than something like Theme Builder, but is still a powerful theming module, whether you just want to compare themes or design your own.

Conclusion

Giving your Drupal site a theme is a great way to keep your branding and trade dress consistent. But because no two sites are exactly the same, chances are good that, even if you like a theme out of the box, you will still need to tweak a couple of things before your site looks like you want it to. The right tools make the theming process, which is typically a large part of designing a site, much easier. Whether you are just comparing a few popular themes, or if you are designing your own from the ground up, each of the above tools can help you make the perfect Drupal-powered site.