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Forensic Theming - DrupalCon London


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The theme of your website has the capacity for beautiful, semantic markup...and also the hacky HTML soup. You can build a new theme by downloading a free theme and tearing out its guts--or you can …

The theme of your website has the capacity for beautiful, semantic markup...and also the hacky HTML soup. You can build a new theme by downloading a free theme and tearing out its guts--or you can learn how to become a theme surgeon.

In this session you will learn two key techniques needed to build a successful theme: crime scene investigation (identifying Drupal page elements in your design files) and power tools for copy-cat theming (things you need to recreate your design using Drupal). From start to finish we will transform a design file into a Drupal theme. With special attention given to your all-important questions: how do I save time with grid-based design? Should I use Panels? How do I make this bit of stuff appear next to that bit? Yah, but how do I start?

[This presentation was given at DrupalCon Chicago but the recording failed. Slides are available from]

About The Presenter
Emma Jane Hogbin is well known in the Drupal community for her engaging presentations and kickass theming book, Front End Drupal. She is currently working on her second book, Drupal: A user's guide which is due out shortly after DrupalCon. Through her training company, Design to Theme, emmajane has empowered thousands of people to create the Drupal site of their dreams.
Intended audience

Small business site builders who partner with graphic designers but have no idea how to make Drupal look like a design file. Intermediate themers who start with a free Drupal theme that looks "close" to the final site and then start hacking to make their theme. The audience currently does not use base themes and are frustrated at how complicated all of the code is. They are looking for shortcuts and some quick-fix solutions to make theming faster and more profitable.
Questions answered by this session

What are the key tools I need to use to make themeing Drupal easier?

How can I make Drupal markup less yucky?

Where should I start when building a new theme?

Yeah, but how do I theme *that thing*?

I want to see how you build a theme: show me!

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  • 1. Design, UX and ThemingForensic Theming Emma Jane Hogbin @emmajanedotnet
  • 2. participation● emmajane● uid: 1773● First look at the Drupal code base: 2003ish. I stole the i18n table structure.● First Drupal site “for pay”: 2006ish.● First Drupal socks: 2007.● First DrupalCon conference: Szeged in 2008.● First Drupal book: 2009.● First Drupal core patch: 2010. Removed the “welcome” screen.
  • 3. Really Tiny Web Budgets
  • 4. The Socks
  • 5.
  • 6. Book (Co)Author
  • 7. Workbook Author www.designtotheme.comDiscount Code: DCLON87488 Valid to the end of August.
  • 8. Drupal Trainer
  • 9. Lazy Front End Developer
  • 10. Ill just change this one tpl.php file
  • 11. Okay ... and a module file?
  • 12. and ...
  • 13. ... everything else too? Bugger.
  • 14. This presentation is not about ...● Best practices ● Inheritance● Anything advanced ● HTML5● Design ● Photoshop● Semantic markup ● Web systems● Responsive Web design ● Theming APIs● Typography ● Mobile devices● Grids (maybe a little bit) ● Unicorns● CSS optimization ● Sprites● CSS preprocessing ● In-the-browser design● Rick Astley ● Sliding doors● PHP ● Gradients● Hooks ● IE6
  • 15. Advanced Theming SessionsDisplay SuiteTuesday 17:00 - NodeOne Road - Fairfield Room APITuesday 15:45 - NodeOne Road - Fairfield Room DesignThursday 11am - Axis 12 Street - Arnhem Gallery
  • 16. Forensic Theming Best Practices Dissecting Themes
  • 17. AgendaTools for Forensic Theming Theming Tools Sketchbooks CSS Frameworks Sweaver ●● ● Wireframes ● Base themes Firebug ●● ● Data models ● Layout modules● Devel Themer ● Grid frameworks ● Text editorsTheme Building Summary● Base themes ● Questions/Answers● Image extraction ● Bonuses● MVTs● Forensic styling
  • 18. The Crime
  • 19. Crime Scene
  • 20. Forensic ThemingDefinition: the art ofinvestigating aDrupal page to findout how that thinggot there.
  • 21. Two Types of Clues Crime Scene Investigation Working with the rendered page: ● Available CSS selectors. ● Applied CSS styles. Crime Lab Forensics Working with Drupal code files: ● Theme templates ● Module templates ● Hard coded module nonsense
  • 22. Crime Scene Working with rendered pages. You can only look at the effects of Drupal on a rendered page.
  • 23. Identifying CSS Selectors With Sweaver● Common newbie problem: being able to find relevant CSS selectors.● Sweaver can be used as a pointy-clicky-non-scary CSS class selector.● Can save/publish minor changes to CSS to live Web sites.●
  • 24. Sweaver User Interface
  • 25. Click on Stuff
  • 26. See How a Selector Will Be AppliedChange CSS properties See the changes CSS selector to use in your theme
  • 27. Risky Live Demohttp://d7.sandbox/sweaver
  • 28. Identifying Whats Applied With Firebug● Common newbie problem: trying to identifying what CSS styles are being applied by staring at code.● Firebug can be used to identify what CSS is actually being applied to a rendered Web page.●
  • 29. Locate Properties of Page ElementsRelevant HTML Page element CSS stylessource
  • 30. Risky Live Firebug Demo● http://d7.sandbox/sbe-site3/● Inspect element.● Edit CSS properties.● Edit CSS files.● Cannot publish changes.●
  • 31. Other Useful Browser Tools● Web Developer Toolbar● IE Web Developer Toolbar
  • 32. Forensics
  • 33. Devel / Themer● The Cadillac of theming tools.● Tells you which tpl.php or theme function is responsible for that thing displaying over there.●●
  • 34. Point, Click, Analyse 3. Analyse the list of functions, templates, 2. Click on the thing variables, etc which1. Enable Themer Info you want to control this page element. investigate
  • 35. Investigate What Themer Reveals Also go to:
  • 36. Ooops.
  • 37. No risky live demo.
  • 38. Making It Easier
  • 39. node.tpl.php field.tpl.phpjplayer.tpl.php page.tpl.php
  • 40. content
  • 41. I want less yucky markup!Pink sherbert photography
  • 42. Less Yucky Markup● European vs American theming● Inheritance: start with a better base.● Base theme: mothership● Modules: Semantic Views● D6 Modules: Semantic CCK● HTML5
  • 43. Theming Tools
  • 44. Sketchbook
  • 45. Wire Frames
  • 46. Data Model
  • 47. Grid Framework
  • 48. Want to Learn Grids?Harass @markboulton and tell him to finish his book. it.Right now.Tweet him.And tell him if he doesnt finish his book youre goingto build exclusively 16-column, grid-based Web sitesuntil his book his published.
  • 49. CSS (Grid) Framework
  • 50. Base Theme●●●
  • 51. Drupal (Layout) Modules● Context● Display Suite● Panels
  • 52. Text EditorUse anything that doesnt make youwant to punch someone in the face.
  • 53. Build me a theme!
  • 54. Steps to Making a Theme1. Communicate with your whole team.2. Plan your data structure.3. Use wire frames to prove what youre saying about how the site ought to be built.4.Build the site (ignore the theme).5. Convert your wire frame to a grid layout.6.Build out the HTML fragments in the relevant tpl.php files.7. Apply your theme to the site.8.Refine as necessary based on the UX.
  • 55. Domicile● Designed by Betty Biesenthal.● Themed by Emma Jane Hogbin.● Available from● Described in Drupal: a users guide
  • 56. Theme Foldersites/   page.tpl.phpAlso: sites/all/themes/base_theme
  • 57. (1 of 2)name = D7SBE - Domiciledescription = A three-column design by Design House ( and themed byDesign to Theme.screenshot = screenshot.pngcore = 7.xengine = phptemplatebase theme = ninesixty; Stylesheets.stylesheets[all][] = styles.css; To show the grid and debug your themes layout, delete this section.; You will be able to remove this when is rolled outstylesheets[all][] = debug.css
  • 58. (2 of 2); Regionsregions[nav_left] = Navigation (left)regions[feature_middle] = Feature column (middle)regions[content] = Content column (right)regions[copyright_footer] = Copyright notice (footer); Featuresfeatures[] = logofeatures[] = namefeatures[] = favicon
  • 59. page.tpl.php
  • 60. Hard Code Relevant Images
  • 61. Minimum Viable Theme
  • 62. Locate Properties of Page ElementsRelevant HTML Page element CSS stylessource
  • 63. styles.css
  • 64. Domicile: the theme
  • 65. Summary● Plan. Think. Build. Test. Theme. Iterate.● Use relevant Drupal modules to break up content and display it in relevant locations.● Use Sweaver to isolate selectors for your CSS files.● Use Firebug to diagnose and fix CSS problems.● Use Devel to isolate theme functions and variables.● Correlate the number of tpl and PHP files you edit to the size of your budget and amount of time you have.
  • 66. The practical guide to building sites with Drupal. Pre-order eBook edition on and SAVE 45%! Use Coupon Code IUGD45 at Step 3 of CheckoutAvailable September 2011
  • 67. Theming Birds of a Feather Sessions● Advanced Theming Time slot: 24 August 13:45 – 14:45 Room 333 Part 1● Front End Development Time slot: 25 August 13:30 – 14:30 Room 333 Part 2● Theming in Drupal 8 Time slot: 25 August 14:45 – 15:45 Room 333 Part 2
  • 68. What did you think? Locate this session on the DrupalCon London website: the “Take the survey” linkDiscountsnstuff BoFs45% off Drupal User Guide Advanced Code: IUGD45 Time slot: 24 August 13:45 – 14:45 Room 333 Part 145% off Design to Theme Code: DCLON87488 Front End Development Time slot: 25 August 13:30 – Room 333 Part 2@emmajanedotnet Theming in Drupal Time slot: 25 August 14:45 – 15:45 Room 333 Part 2