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BEST PRACTICES: Theme Selection Checklist

PITFALLS:

A very common newcomer mistake is to select a theme that looks “Ultra Cool” on first impressions – and then reverse engineer the complete site based on the theme – INSTEAD of the other way around.

Another extremely common rookie mistake is to ignore the non-functional requirements of your web application.

So how should you go about selecting your theme?

BEST PRACTICES:

The absolute first thing you should do – is to put your requirements on paper – even before you start looking at themes.  

What are YOUR specific requirements?

1. Know your target audience, you should have clarity on the demographics of your audience and users.

2. Define your target audience, the demographics, the domain, the business plan, and the features of your application – (most important), do not invest any time in the theme selection process without knowing the web application features. 

THEME SELECTION CHECKLIST

1. Is the Theme available in YOUR target CMS version?

The very first thing would be cut-off themes based on the version number. If a theme or module is not earmarked for YOUR target CMS version – don’t even bother looking at it. Even if you can hack it somehow to work – don’t bother, because the maintenance issues, later on, will just be worth it. If your target version is NOT available in a stable release – but only in Development version – do not bother.

2. Is the theme actively maintained by its team?

What is it’s popularity? (you can leverage other’s diligence), is there documentation for a theme, maintainability, how should you maintain after customization? what are the REGIONS provided by the theme – does this match your requirements – or can you create new regions easily?

3. What are the issues in the issue log? Who is using it?

Look for any demos, any reviews, any big names using this theme? any of your competitors?

4. Is the theme responsive? (HINT: If a theme is not mobile and multi-screen friendly – that’s a big drawback today).

Does the theme use new technology (like YAML)? This keeps changing every day – so more appropriately you should be asking if the technology organically matches what your technology stack.

5. Is there a support system for the theme?

the discussion forum for this theme, either on CMS or any other forum – or on the developer’s website. A QUIET forum could both mean that all issues have been resolved – and hence a SOLID theme – or it could mean exact reverse also. So you have to evaluate the support.

6. How old is the theme? 

Again there are both positive and negative connotations to this. An aged theme USUALLY means a mature lifecycle with bugs ironed out over the versions. It could also mean an older design.

7. What are your special requirements on browser support? 

Do you need explicit IE 8/9 support? Several corporate offices use IE in large numbers.

Again, these are guidelines on how you should be approaching making your theme selection. If you are going to custom design your theme – once again, these questions will help you.

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