By Ishmael Sanchez
One of the major benefits of using content management systems such as Drupal is that website content is stored separately from the rules for the visual presentation of that content. This means that it is possible to change how a website looks without having to recreate all its pages. In Drupal, the layer that controls the visual presentation of content is called a "theme". Thanks to Drupal's active community, many ready-made themes are available to download and use. But selecting a theme from the many options available can be a time-consuming task. I evaluated 25 themes that you should consider when you are looking for a good Drupal theme for your Drupal-based website.
When you first install Drupal, a core theme named Garland, is enabled and selected as the default theme. Drupal also ships with five other core themes: Bluemarine, Chameleon, Marvin, Minnelli, and Pushbutton. You can select other themes by visiting the
/admin/build/themes and selecting a new default theme.
|Below shows the same page with three different themes applied|
You are not limited to these core themes. Many Drupal contributors have created themes and share them with the rest of the Drupal community. Contributed themes as they are called can be downloaded at drupal.org/project/themes. Once you download a contributed theme, you extract the files and upload them to your site at
/sites/all/themes/. Once you have done that enable the theme by checking the "Enabled" box and select the "Default" radio button at
/admin/build/themes page. To use a different theme simply install and enable another theme. You can configure Drupal to use multiple themes. For example, it is possible to enable one theme for public users of a site and a different theme for the site administrators
Change the theme from the admin interface
All Drupal themes can be categorized into five types:
I set out to identify 25 Drupal 6 contributed themes which would give end users the ability to use the theme immediately after install and provide some additional benefits for their site. I evaluated mainly colorable and end user themes as they are geared more toward the user experience than the three other types of themes.
Before I list my findings I want to mention that I have no affiliation with any of the themes mentioned in this article. Also, note these are simply my observations and my personal opinions based on having used different contributed Drupal themes. In a nut shell all this information is subjective.
I tested the 25 selected themes on my local machine running Windows XP and XAMPP. The following are the web browsers I tested the themes in: Chrome 220.127.116.11, Internet Explorer 5.5, 6, 7, 8 beta, Firefox 3.0.8, Opera 9.52, and Safari 3.1.2. I used IE tester to render the page in different version of Internet Explorer. I conducted my tests in April 2009 and used the latest version of each theme available at that time.
After selecting 25 themes that matched the selection criteria I evaluated them based on:
/admin/build/themes/settings/theme-namepage. Features of a theme give a site admin with limited knowledge of theming the ability to toggle on or off features simply by checking or unchecking a boxes.
|Theme Name||Screenshots||Interesting Feature/s||SEO Optimization & Cross Browser Support||Look & Feel Description|
|A3 Atlantis||User images, light text dark backgrouud||Yes, Yes||Smooth|
|Absynthe||Unique images and unconventional design||Yes, Yes||Welcoming|
|Acquia Marina||User images, SEO modifications, fun icons||Yes, Yes||Web 2.0|
|Acquia Slate||SEO modifications, rounded corners, sleek design||No, Yes||Modern Corporate|
|Bluespan||Rounded corners and prominent header||Yes, Yes||Stylish|
|celju||Tabbed naviation, large header, clean presentation||Yes, Yes||Warm|
|colorpaper||multiple subthemes, good use of typography||Yes, Yes||Fresh|
|darkelegance||User friendly icons and layout, distinctive login box||Yes, Yes||Crisp|
|deco||Clever use of background image, clean color scheme||Yes, Yes||Classy|
|dreamy||Clean layout, suited for bloggers||Yes, Yes||Grabbing|
|Fervens||Rounded corners and lots of colors||Yes, Yes||Smart|
|InfO8||Tabbed main navigation and emphasized header||Yes, Yes||Clean|
|Inove||subtle design features and simply layout||Yes, Yes||Professional|
|Light Fantasic||Pleasing color scheme and background graphics||Yes, Yes||Inviting|
|Lemontwist||Rounded block corners, naturalistic design||No, Yes||
|Magazeen||Large text, rounded corners, prominent header||Yes, Yes||Logical|
|NewsFlash||Traditional look, suckerfish menu support||No, Yes||Streamlined|
|Nitobe||Rotating masthead,creative navigation sytles||Yes, Yes||Simple|
|Painted wall||Customizable color scheme, cool background images||Yes, Yes||Stimulating|
|Pluralism||Attractive use of gradients and backgrounds||Yes, Yes||Sharp|
|Sapo||Large banner image, original color scheme||Yes, Yes||Quirky|
Gritty and innovative design
|Smooth Blue||Lots of rounded corners, very blue||Yes, Problems with some rounded corners||Fun|
|SuperClean||Cool styles for primary navigation, easy to scan||No, Yes||Classic Corporate|
|Twilight||Light text dark background||No, Yes||Straight Forward|
Ishmael Sanchez is a web Developer at Urban Insight and a Drupal theme contributor. Urban Insight, a Los Angeles-based web development firm, offers Drupal consulting.