Install a ready-made Drupal theme
We have to admit that Drupal was not famous for its plethora of available themes. Until recently, the Drupal community was focused on developing the backend, debugging the code, and creating new modules. The release of Drupal 6 made theming much easier and helped the theming community to grow. Now, there are not only thousands of Drupal themes, but also dozens of themes designed and customized especially for Ubercart.
Basic principles when choosing a theme
Choosing a theme for your online shop is not an easy task. Moreover, it can be even harder considering that you want to promote specific items from your catalog, you need to change first page items often, and you need to rapidly communicate offers and loyalty policies and other business-related stuff. Ubercart-specific themes mostly target the following special areas:
- Product catalog
- Shopping cart
- Product-specific views
You should keep these layout regions in mind, while going through the following section on theme selection. Before you search for any kind of theme layout, provide your neurons with enough input to inspire you and help you decide. Perform a quick Google search for online shops in your target market to get some inspiration and track down sites that make you, as a customer, feel comfortable during product searching and navigation. If you decide to search for professional help, a list of existing sites will help you to communicate your preferences much more directly.
What better place to search for inspiration and successful practices than Ubercart’s live site repository! You will find good practices and see how mostly people like you (without any development background) have solved all the problems that might occur during your search for themes.
Next we describe the main user interface components that you should keep in mind when deciding for your online shop:
- Number of columns: The number of columns depends on the block information you want to provide to your end customers. If you need widgets that display on every page, information about who bought what, and product or kit suggestions, go with three columns. You will find a plethora of two-column Drupal themes and many three-column Drupal themes, while some of them can alternate between two and three columns.
- Color scheme: From a design perspective, you should choose a color scheme that matches your company logo and business profile. For instance, if your store sells wooden toys, go with something more comic such as rounded corners, but if you are a consulting firm, you should go with something more professional. Many themes let you choose color schemes dynamically; however, always keep in mind that color is a rather easy modification from the CSS. You can get great color combination ideas from COLOURlovers online service (http://www.colourlovers.com/) that match your logo and business colors.
Be careful though. If you choose a complex theme with rounded corners, lots of images, and multiple backgrounds, it may be difficult to modify it.
- Drupal version: Make sure the Drupal theme you choose is compatible with the version of Drupal you are running. Before using a Drupal theme, look up notes on the theme to see if there are any known bugs or problems with it. If you are not a programmer, you do not want a Drupal theme that has open issues.
- Extra features: Many Drupal themes expose a large set of configuration options to the end users. Various functionality such as post author’s visibility or color scheme selection are welcome for managing the initial setup. Moreover, you can change appearance in non-invasive ways for your online marque.
- Regions available: We have discussed column layouts, but for the Drupal template engine to show its full capabilities and customization, you definitely need multiple regions. The more regions, the more choices you have for where to put blocks of content. Therefore, you can have space for customizing new affiliate ads for instance, or provide information about some special deals, or even configure your main online shop page, as we will see in the next section.
- Further customization and updates: When you choose your theme, don’t just keep the functionality of version 1.0 in mind, but consider all of the future business plans for approaching your target market and raising sales figures. Make a three-year plan and try to visualize any future actions that should be taken into account from day one. Although you can change themes easily, you are better off choosing a more flexible theme ahead of time than having to change the theme as your website grows.
Always bear in mind that the famous razor of Occam also applies to online shop theme design. Keep it simple and professional by choosing simple layouts, which allow ease of use for the end user and ease further customize designs and themes (changing colors, adding a custom image header, and so on).
Before you start, clearly define your timeline, risks, total theme budget, and skills. Theming is usually 25-40% of the budget of an entire online shop project. Drupal’s theming engine closely integrates with actual functionality and many features are encapsulated inside the theme itself.
There are a number of different ways in which you can get yourself the best theme for your online store. We will go through all these approaches with useful comments on what options best suits your needs.