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Board index Themes Brainstorming: What do we "need" template-wise?

Skinning and designing Serendipity (CSS, HTML, Smarty)
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yellowled
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Postby yellowled » Tue Jan 23, 2007 4:53 pm

I'd love to do a new template, but I'm kind of missing an inspiration, which made me think about this: What kind of template(s) do we "need", and should we be offering more templates "to go" in order to attract more users? So let's think about this a little, shall we?

How can we categorize templates anyway? Well, the first disctinction is quite obvious: text-based and graphical. By graphical I mean templates using a lot of background images, which is something I'm not really good at since I'm a complete and utter failure with Gimp, Photoshop and the likes. I'll leave that to people like Dave and Bex who actually know what they're doing :wink:

Another way to approach this is the layout type. Lately, there seems to be a trend not to do the traditional column-based layout (two or three, or even more with the new possibilities in 1.1) but to use the whole width for the actualy content and put sidebar plugins and stuff below that. Do we "need" more of those, or do we simply need to find new ways to do the traditional stuff? I seem to recognize another trend to switch the classic header-left-middle-right-footer to just left-middle-right and include header and footer into the sidebars.

Yet another idea would be to go for, uhm, let's call them "topic templates". I remember Carl doing a soccer template, do we "need" more of those? Something for kids? More dark templates for the gothic types?

Did I miss or not notice anything else? (I probably did.)

Let's hear what you other template guys out there think ...

YL

mgroeninger
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Postby mgroeninger » Tue Jan 23, 2007 5:42 pm

Well, I can't say that I know what we need, but if you want some inspiration you might want to think about dynamic templates a bit. They can be some real fun. (And, obviously, they can be a pain in the ass, too, like the weather template.)

I've been meaning to post a thread in this forum asking for some help with some of my ideas. I think the basic ideas I have are mentioned here:
http://www.theledge.net/2006/12/29/320-Serendipity-v1.1-and-Dynamic-Templates.html

I'd love to see a redesign of the Time of Day template by someone who knows what they are doing. It is demo-ed at http://beta.theledge.net/pages/about_this_template.html and I hope to get it into Spartacus sometime (it doesn't rely on any PEAR modules, but I have been hesitant to add it because of the problems we have had with the weather template... plus I have run into a time crunch that might last a while).

As I mentioned in the post above (the one on my site), I also have some beta code for a theme which calculates the number of requests in a five second period does a css overlay based on that (fades white to a limit, then overlays red) (also uses a PEAR module, so that might not work for you, YellowLed, until I figure out what is going on with that part of the code). I also have some beta code (somewhere) that calculates the age of the last post and throws that to Smarty. I think that a theme that "ages" the look of the site as the most recent post gets older and older would be fun. I could also probably do it by the age of the last comment without a problem.

I've had other ideas, but I haven't had the time to flesh them out (and can't remember any of them right now).

The weather template is perhaps the most complicated idea we have had, and has been a bit of an albatross as a result (all my fault; Carl and Ceejay have done a tremendous job with the template design!). But other ideas don't have to be so complicated, and I think they would be relatively easy to implement.

I can post the code I have for these somewhere if people would like to play with them, or people can email me if they would like to work on them together.

YellowLed, sorry if I hijacked this thread. But seriously, I hope one of these ideas piques your interest.

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Postby d_cee » Tue Jan 23, 2007 5:56 pm

Hi Yellowled

I think this is a really good question. When I look at my site stats, particularly search keywords, the same ones appear over and over again - wedding templates and baby templates! So there is quite obviously a demand for these kind of graphical templates. However, the most popular download from my themes site is 'Kamouflage' which is not a particularly 'graphic' template. I've never really been inclined to produce a 'baby' template - although if someone specifically asks for one...

My view on what we need for the future leans more towards what Matt & Carl have recently done with the 'weather' template. Collaborations between coders and designers, more 'Web 2.0', more interactivity (ajax?) and more 'non-standard' layouts and designs. I've been spending what few spare hours I have learning a little javascript and ajax with a view to making my next design more dynamic as previous posts about collaboration here have always had lukewarm, at best, responses.

Perhaps a good way to start looking at this would be to try to organise the themes and templates in Spartacus into some sort of categories and then we could take a look at what we've got and what we need. Maybe we should open a thread or better still a new forum section for template requests. Cubecart - the ecommerce script I generally use for online shops
- has a section like this on their forum which seems to work really well.

my two penn'orth

Dave

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Postby yellowled » Tue Jan 23, 2007 6:19 pm

mgroeninger wrote:I've been meaning to post a thread in this forum asking for some help with some of my ideas. I think the basic ideas I have are mentioned here:

I remember stumbling over that in your blog, but I didn't really find the time to read it then. However, depending on what this should ideally look like some time, I think this would be a job for someone with a little more talent in graphics :) It should probably be spruced up with some sun/moon graphics and tuff like that.

mgroeninger wrote:YellowLed, sorry if I hijacked this thread. But seriously, I hope one of these ideas piques your interest.

No harm, no foul :wink: I intended this to be an open discussion on template development, so everybody is welcome to chime in on this with any kind of idea. Frankly, I'm a little bit fed up with these "I want to do this and that, how do I do that?" - "Do this and that here and there." - "Okay, (doesn't) work(s), thanks." threads in the forum, so this is sort of recreational anyway :wink:

YL

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Postby yellowled » Tue Jan 23, 2007 6:31 pm

d_cee wrote:I've never really been inclined to produce a 'baby' template - although if someone specifically asks for one...

Well, that shouldn't be too difficult anyway - two colorsets, pink and light blue plus an easy way to include a baby picture into the header. Maybe we should to a 'baby kubrick' - the original kubrick for boys plus a pink variation for girls. Combine that with the header nugget plugin and you're done :wink:

d_cee wrote:Collaborations between coders and designers, more 'Web 2.0', more interactivity (ajax?) and more 'non-standard' layouts and designs.

This is a point I've been thinking about, too. However, I have no knowledge of Javascript whatsoever. Frankly, I'm still trying to figure the code for the Hemingway template :?

d_cee wrote:Perhaps a good way to start looking at this would be to try to organise the themes and templates in Spartacus into some sort of categories and then we could take a look at what we've got and what we need.

I think this is a great idea, however we'll need a word on this from Garvin.

d_cee wrote:Maybe we should open a thread or better still a new forum section for template requests.

Also a good idea in my opinion. Maybe it's time to split up the Themes forum into request for new themes and help with existing ones?

YL

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Postby d_cee » Tue Jan 23, 2007 6:44 pm

Hi Matt

I too read your blog only the other day and have been thinking about how to use some of your ideas and code.
mgroeninger wrote:I think that a theme that "ages" the look of the site as the most recent post gets older and older would be fun.

I think this is a great idea - although last night I read in a web design mag that Shaun Inman has done this on his blog. I'd be happy to pick up on this and work on it with you if you'd like.

cheers

Dave

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Postby carl_galloway » Tue Jan 23, 2007 7:30 pm

This is a great discussion, my 2cents are;

I did what Dave did and looked at my stats, I'm getting a lot of traffic for Andreas Viklund templates and soccer templates which is hardly surprising, but if I Google for users of my templates most are using the standard colors (ie blue) for andreas' templates and hardly anyone is using my soccer template.

In terms of the emails I get for template customising, most are from people who already have their own graphics but have no idea how to convert these into a Serendipity template. I think my experience in porting WP and open source templates is the reason for that. Of these, there is no common thread, some are small business sites, some are hobby sites, others are just bloggers who want a picture of their hometown in the header.

The questions that I am most often asked are how to add extra links or extra html into the template, or how to change the header.

So, to actually give yellowled his answer, I think the way we organise our templates at the moment is flawed, users can only see the small screenshot, which tells them what the template looks like with a single colorset but if they are looking for a different color then they might not even realise one of the templates will do the job for them. Also, a small screenshot doesn't tell users what options are available to them, like if the sidebar can be swapped or if the template places all of its sidebars at the bottom instead of the side. I think this discussion needs to focus on improving information to users (by sorting templates into a small number of groups) and then filling in gaps.

I'd like to see the info.txt extended so that designers can add a description, and maybe a general category that spartacus will recognise so that templates can be sorted within the 'manage styles' page. Simply sorting by folder name isn't good enough anymore. I don't know what the categories should be, but they should definitely be more user understandable than 'dynamic' or 'standard', other engines and the many open source template sites sort templates by the number of overall columns and this may be the way to go if only because users are already familiar with this.

As for new templates, well, most of our users don't actually seem to like the hemingway style, but I think thats because the hemingway template itself is so unusual, other templates that borrow its codebase would be more successful if they look like a blog template with bright colors etc. Also, its was a straight port of the WP version and is way too complex for anyone to do anything with, but is much less complex in the weather template and the version I'm using for s9y-users.com so even though it isn't used by too many people, once the vanilla version can be released I expect we'll start to see a lot of users picking it up.

As we move forward I think users are still going to be asking all the questions that YL mentions, so maybe now is the time to say to those users they need to be using v1.1 and then they need to use the template config. I know that this might set up a 'them and us' kind of system but the reality is that this is how it is already so lets formalise it and split the templates forum into two groups like you've suggested. At least this would allow new users the opportunity to get to know who the more experienced users are by seeing who responds to the template requests forum. If our templates give users the option to change navbar links or header images why would we continue to support the older versions where they have to know html to make the changes, far better to say to those people forget about us helping you learn html, that's not what this is about, what's more important is that you get on with the job of blogging, so upgrade to 1.1 then come back to us if it doesn't work.

This will also tells us what updates we need to add to our existing templates, and what features new templates should have. We've mastered the art of the navbar link, but other things that users keep asking about are less common in templates, so maybe the first priority should be to update every single template to v1.1

Once all that is done, I think the gaps in our existing range of templates will become quite obvious, but I'd like to see a lot more theme based templates like the baby template you've mentioned, just remember that murphy's law says the user who asks the most questions about it will be the one who wants it for their moterbike club so we need to make sure that the template can be easily modified away from its theme, or provide colorsets that support a different theme. For example a baby template might have, boy, girl, toddler, playschool, kindergarten etc so that any kid up to the age of 4-5 could be featured within it.

More themes? I think we need more
1. grunge,
2. 'hometown' where users can change header image
3. female oriented
4. sport oriented
5. politics or business like

mgroeninger
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Postby mgroeninger » Tue Jan 23, 2007 8:08 pm

Hi Dave!
Interesting...
I think this is a great idea - although last night I read in a web design mag that Shaun Inman has done this on his blog.

Neat! I just dug around his site an found a description of what his does here:
http://www.shauninman.com/post/about/the_heap/

His is a lot more detailed than what I was thinking, but it is a really cool way to solve a number of problems the idea presents.

His is a great way to present information regarding archives without having to spell out the age, etc.

I was thing of something far simpler, with just having the blog start to look shabby if you don't keep posting to it *grin*. Kind of like a garden goes wild if you don't maintain it.

I'd be happy to pick up on this and work on it with you if you'd like.


Cool! I'll try to get the code pulled together a little and send you a copy.

Hi YL!
YellowLed wrote:I think this would be a job for someone with a little more talent in graphics Smile It should probably be spruced up with some sun/moon graphics and tuff like that.


While I agree that graphics might be neat, I don't actually think that a graphic theme is the only way to go with the time of day... I think subtle changes in theme colors with something as simple a an open/closed rose would work really well. (Obviously, that is a graphic :D but I think it illustrates what I am trying to say...

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Postby carl_galloway » Tue Jan 23, 2007 8:10 pm

ooh, please let me do the one with the opening rose, that sounds like a really groovy template idea

mgroeninger
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Postby mgroeninger » Tue Jan 23, 2007 8:19 pm

ooh, please let me do the one with the opening rose, that sounds like a really groovy template idea


Please, feel free! You want "time of day" code or old post code? Either one would actually work... (For the first one, the flower opens in the morning and closes at night, the second one the flower could close up if you don't post often enough.)

I'm not sure when I will get time to get code together, but I will shoot for early next week. Time of Day would probably be easier for me to revert to a "basic" template right now.

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Postby d_cee » Tue Jan 23, 2007 8:25 pm

Hi Matt
mgroeninger wrote:I was thing of something far simpler, with just having the blog start to look shabby if you don't keep posting to it *grin*. Kind of like a garden goes wild if you don't maintain it.

Sounds good to me
Cool! I'll try to get the code pulled together a little and send you a copy.

Great,I'll be having a think how to use it in the meantime
Hi YL! While I agree that graphics might be neat, I don't actually think that a graphic theme is the only way to go with the time of day... I think subtle changes in theme colors with something as simple a an open/closed rose would work really well. (Obviously, that is a graphic :D but I think it illustrates what I am trying to say...

Funny, when I read your blog, I thought exactly the same as YL - a kind of old 'Grandfather clock' sun and moon kinda graphic. But your rose sounds really good so I think Carl and Ceejay should get their digital cameras busy :-)

Dave

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Postby carl_galloway » Tue Jan 23, 2007 8:28 pm

I'll take whichever is easier for you, or whichever one is left if someone else also puts their hand up. Just email me the vanilla template when you're done, keep it really simple, that way I can make the template as simple or complex as it needs.

@YL, your skills aren't so shabby anymore, you have a solid grasp of css etc, why don't you give one of these a go as well, for graphics you could either find some clipart or a series of photos that could be cropped to fit. I'm sure the graphics people here would be happy to help if you put out a request for artwork of a certain color/size etc

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Postby carl_galloway » Tue Jan 23, 2007 8:33 pm

@dave, you mocking me? :D

Oh man you have no idea how frustrating it is being an amateur photographer in a world of experts who think you should have x or y but they don't consider me! You're lucky being a pro photographer you already know what you need. Actually that's a good example of what's missing in s9y template design, we're doing all the talking but I have yet to see a user get involved in any of these sorts of discussions. Where are all the other users who have great ideas?

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Postby d_cee » Tue Jan 23, 2007 9:15 pm

Hi Carl
carl_galloway wrote:@dave, you mocking me? :D

absolutely not - ceejay's got some great flower pics in her flikr stream so the skill's there - and it only takes a day to take a set of pics.
Oh man you have no idea how frustrating it is being an amateur photographer in a world of experts who think you should have x or y but they don't consider me!

If you want any help or guidance just ask :-) happy to help
we're doing all the talking but I have yet to see a user get involved in any of these sorts of discussions. Where are all the other users who have great ideas?

couldn't agree more

Dave

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Postby carl_galloway » Tue Jan 23, 2007 9:46 pm

Getting back to the original question, what do we want to see in future templates, YL mentioned a growing list of templates that incorporate the header and footer into the content or sidebars, these seem to be reasonably popular, but far and away the two most popular styles for new users are the traditional header-content-sidebar-footer (2 column) or header-sidebar-content-sidebar-footer (3 column) designs. In fact every single request I have received for custom templates would be a variation of these. With 2 column designs users seem to appreciate the ability to swap the sidebar, almost everyone likes the navbar, but very few users seem to want the small about box that I have included in a couple of my templates.

Sadly I think that the vast majority of new users are only interested in standard type layouts. In fact if you look at the theme viewer for that other engine you'll notice that the overwhelming majority are traditional layouts, in fact it almost seems as if the only people who use the newer layouts are designers or css experts. So with this in mind, we should probably set ourselves a target of creating an additional x number of traditional designs to give s9y users more choice.

How about we set a combined objective to produce 200 new designs this year with the majority being traditional style layouts. Between us we should be more than capable of doing this, and it will give encouragement to new designers to present their own template because they don't need to worry about being shown up by one of the 'experts'. In fact we could take this one step further and package up a small selection of basic templates with virtually no styles and let users download these and add their own graphics or colors, and then let them post their zipfile for everyone to download. I know that spartacus will fill up pretty quickly but if we start using categories and better descritions of templates then this might not be a big problem, except the garvin would need to re-write the spartcus site to handle the extra data.

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