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Author Tom Geller demonstrates how to create and publish a complete web site with the powerful tools in Acquia's hosted service, Drupal Gardens. The course shows how to leverage the pre-built page layouts and add custom styling using the ThemeBuilder tool; integrate rich site features, such as surveys, user ratings, and media galleries; and push content to Twitter and Facebook. The course also covers transitioning from a Drupal Gardens site to a self-hosted Drupal site. Exercise files are included with the course.
Now, I'll admit it: even though I have been working with Drupal for about three years, I never made a serious attempt to create themes until I got hold of Drupal Gardens' Theme Builder. Once I started, I discovered some tricks that are specific to Drupal theme design, and augmented them with guidelines I learned from print and traditional web design. What I have done here is I have started a brand-new Drupal Gardens site based on the Campaign template, just to show you eight of these tips I have picked up. First, less is more. Studies show you only have a few seconds to grab people's attention.
I like that Drupal Gardens gives you all of the sample stuff down here when you create a new site, but in practice it's just too much stuff. For example, nobody is going to read and understand these seven menu items in the first few seconds, so cut down as much as possible. There are several ways of doing that. One is, as you saw in the finessing video, to get rid of some of these blocks. You don't necessarily need to have all of these comments on the front page, or blog posts. Even once your site is lively it's not necessarily a good thing to have all of that information thrown in people's face once they get there, so start cutting back.
Another way to simplify is by going up to Appearance, to open up the Theme Builder, and switch from the Campaign design to something a little bit simpler. One that I like is Minima. That was the one that we used to build our old site, the Explore California site you saw throughout this course. There are others, though. The Bare Bones one is specifically made to be very, very simple, and to give you only a little bit of stuff so that you can then create your style exactly your way.
My third tip is to expand and narrow CSS selectors, so you're changing the styles of things exactly as you want, and not doing more or less than you mean to. The way to do that is by clicking Styles in your Theme Builder, and then let's click around a little bit. Once you have something selected, turn on Power theming and Show CSS. Now have a lot more control. If you don't want use the CSS names, you could just have Power theming on, but the important thing is that you would be able to click to add and subtract these different parts.
For example, if we look up here at this title, it has The header inner, The site name, All links. Well what exactly is it you're trying to style? By removing some of these or adding others, you can narrow it down or broaden it out as you like. My fourth tip is to move the logo out of its traditional position. In traditional core Drupal when you're looking at the site--and I'll close out the Theme Builder to give you an idea-- you would have a logo up here in the corner, and to be honest I'm glad that they took that out of Drupal Gardens so that you don't have this default logo that you accidentally leave into your site.
But you know not every logo has to be up there, and I showed you this in a different video: "Changing the site's main logo and favicon." I kind of like having the logo down here in the left-hand column, or even in the right-hand column. Whatever you do, just make it fit in with the rest of your site. On the same note, I recommend that you hide the site's title once you have a logo up. People understand that a logo is your name and usually will click on it to go back home. My next tip is to use borders and backgrounds creatively.
You can apply borders and backgrounds to everything with the Theme Builder. It's easy to overdo, but a few judicious touches can really make an impact. And I'll show you that by again going into the Theme Builder, scrolling down on my screen so I see a little bit more of the content, and then go into the Minima theme. Let's take, for example, this article content here. I'll click Styles > Borders & Spacing, and then I'll select this right here. Take a look at this.
You could actually make this interesting way of having text stand out by adding a border there. You could do the same thing with graphics, add a little bit of a border around them. Well, that's not the most tasteful border, but you get the idea: have fun with it. Play around with the spacing as well. My next tip is to use repeating backgrounds. We did that in our earlier site, and you saw how it created this nice little fade from the top to the bottom, with just a very small graphic. You can get a lot of punch out of those little graphics by designing one that repeats in background areas.
It's not that hard to do, but it does take a little practice. The way I learned how to do it was by watching Jan Kabili's course Photoshop for the Web. My next tip is to use main graphics boldly, and to demonstrate this I am going to take a look at our completed site, just to remind you what it looked like before we put in our main graphic. To do that we'll go back to explorecalifornia.drupalgardens.com, go up to our Theme Builder > Styles > Background, and select that header there.
Now when we remove that, you can see it completely changes the feel of the site, so don't be afraid to use them, especially as light backgrounds, like you have back here. Finally, I would recommend that you do something special on the front page. In the video we showed, "Inserting raw CSS code into themes," I showed you how to use that .front selector to make something appear only on the front page. That's not the only way to do it, though. If we go up to Structure and Blocks, you can make blocks appear only on the front page or on every page but the front page.
To do that--and I'll just down and edit one. Let's say this Need guidance block. Click Configure, scroll down, and here you can say which pages you want it to appear on. If it should only be on the front page, you would say Only the listed pages, and then front. All of this is explained in the text below it, and you can do some pretty complicated rules so it will little show up on all pages that have a URL that starts with a certain word, or anything like that. These are just a few ideas of how to use the Theme Builder and the rest of Drupal Gardens to make your site truly yours, but more important than learning a few tricks is to spend time using it.
Don't be afraid to experiment; you won't destroy anything. And if you save backups, as you learned in the video about switching, saving and copying themes, you can always undo errors and try something new.
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