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What are themes and templates?

From: CMS Fundamentals

Video: What are themes and templates?

One of the most attractive things about using a CMS is not having to build every single page in your site by hand. Basically, the CMS can automatically generate pages based on your site organization and content. This is primarily done through the use of themes and templates. So what are templates and themes? Well, I have to admit, the terminology used to describe page generation in content management systems can be a bit confusing. The terms 'templates' and 'themes' are used frequently across multiple content management systems, but they don't always mean the same thing.

What are themes and templates?

One of the most attractive things about using a CMS is not having to build every single page in your site by hand. Basically, the CMS can automatically generate pages based on your site organization and content. This is primarily done through the use of themes and templates. So what are templates and themes? Well, I have to admit, the terminology used to describe page generation in content management systems can be a bit confusing. The terms 'templates' and 'themes' are used frequently across multiple content management systems, but they don't always mean the same thing.

In a general sense, a template refers to a single file that contains generic content. Themes, on the other hand, are usually a collection of templates, or presentation rules, that control how sections or even entire sites are displayed. To help add some clarity to these terms, I want to talk about some of the basic methods that various CMSs use to generate pages and site structure and then how templates and themes come into play within those systems. In some cases, templates, which can either be the system's default templates or templates that you've created, are tagged with dynamic regions indicating where content should go and what type of content to use.

These templates are often labeled in the CMS as a page type. When a user generates a new page, they simply choose a template they want and a new page is created using the template's layout. In some cases, these templates operate independently of each other, while in others the templates can be grouped or controlled through use of themes. In those cases, themes can control not only which templates are being used, but options like color schemes and typography as well. Drupal is a really good example of a CMS that works this way.

Another common means of building pages is to assemble pages from a collection of page regions. This modular approach allows users to have multiple headers, footers, content regions, and sidebars to choose from. In these situations, the page regions themselves are often referred to as templates. You might have four sidebar templates and two footer temples to choose from, for example. In this system, themes often describe the dynamic files and the complex logic they contain that's used to create pages from the various template modules.

WordPress is a really good example of a CMS that builds pages this way. From just those two examples, it's easy to see that the terms 'template' and 'theme' are not interchangeable from one CMS to another. In some cases, you'll be able to access and modify the template or theme code directly, while in others you'll need to understand how the themes are assembling pages to accurately modify the template files. Regardless, it's important to understand how templating and theme-based architecture works in whatever CMS you decide to use.

You'll also want to make sure when you're selecting a CMS you carefully explore how it uses templates and themes. You should research how easy it is to customize templates, change or apply themes, or modify the logic of default themes. It's easy to get frustrated with a CMS if it doesn't give you the amount of control over the layout and presentation of your site that you require. What's more, designers, developers, and non-technical users are likely to have dramatically different goals regarding how they're going work with templates and themes.

Explore this carefully so you can make sure that you have a CMS that uses templates and themes in a way that makes it easy to achieve your own goals.

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This video is part of

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CMS Fundamentals

44 video lessons · 25706 viewers

James Williamson
Author

 
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  1. 2m 44s
    1. Welcome
      1m 0s
    2. What CMS means for this course
      1m 44s
  2. 22m 52s
    1. What is a CMS?
      2m 47s
    2. The evolution of CMSs
      4m 4s
    3. CMS types
      6m 7s
    4. Basic CMS capabilities
      5m 4s
    5. When is a CMS right for you?
      4m 50s
  3. 1h 23m
    1. Comparing CMSs
      4m 28s
    2. Core features to research
      4m 41s
    3. Commonly overlooked issues
      4m 12s
    4. Properly assessing needs
      4m 39s
    5. Knowing when to seek assistance
      4m 15s
    6. Choosing a CMS for designers
      4m 45s
    7. Choosing a CMS for organizations
      4m 12s
    8. The pros and cons of hosted solutions
      2m 58s
    9. Hosted solution examples
      5m 51s
    10. The pros and cons of open source solutions
      4m 36s
    11. Open source CMS examples
      7m 6s
    12. Proprietary CMSs
      7m 48s
    13. A closer look at Drupal
      5m 7s
    14. A closer look at Joomla!
      4m 0s
    15. A closer look at WordPress
      5m 33s
    16. Resources for comparing CMSs
      9m 2s
  4. 43m 58s
    1. What is an open source CMS?
      3m 4s
    2. What is a LAMP stack?
      2m 53s
    3. What are WebDAV and FTP?
      2m 39s
    4. What is MySQL?
      2m 24s
    5. WYSIWYG editors
      3m 56s
    6. Understanding users, groups, and permissions
      4m 12s
    7. What is metadata?
      5m 19s
    8. Understanding taxonomy
      3m 35s
    9. What is version control?
      4m 23s
    10. What are themes and templates?
      3m 30s
    11. What is SEO?
      4m 42s
    12. What are web analytics?
      3m 21s
  5. 36m 31s
    1. Content management as a process
      4m 38s
    2. Properly defining roles
      5m 3s
    3. Planning a content strategy
      4m 1s
    4. The importance of taxonomy
      5m 7s
    5. Controlling content lifecycle
      6m 22s
    6. Challenges for CMS migrations
      3m 45s
    7. Steps for migrating content
      4m 16s
    8. Avoiding distractions
      3m 19s
  6. 2m 24s
    1. Additional resources
      2m 24s

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