Joomla template considerations
As you have surely noticed, we strongly believe that good planning is essential to your web design and development. When you begin taking on a project that can become complex, as with designing your own Joomla template, planning from the start is an absolute necessity.
One great way to start is by taking your design and overlaying a “map” of where you want to create template positions on your pages. The great thing about going down this route is that you can design from a primarily functional perspective. Include the positions you will need to use, and leave out the rest. Simplicity is many times the best way to begin designing.
The 960 grid system is a helpful place to start if you haven’t done any design, or even if you have. Their website offers some nice tools for laying out a website, and it’s all grid based which fits very nicely with a module based design like Joomla.
Fixed or Fluid
This has at times been a very heated issue when it comes to web design. A fixed template layout stays the same width no matter what screen size you use to view a website, while a fluid layout grows and shrinks depending on your screen size, resolution and even browser window size. Some designers like to have precise control over what is shown, so they naturally favor a fixed layout. This is what you’ll find in most modern layouts as fluid designs become less and less popular.
One of the main reasons why fluid layouts are becoming less favorable is the fact that home computer screen sizes are growing so large while other devices, such as tablets and netbooks, become smaller and smaller. Not to mention the fact that more and more of us are often stuck in our smart phones and PDAs throughout most of the day. Designing a fluid template to work well and look good across all of these different situations is very difficult.
Extensions and Functionality
As we mentioned before, planning is essential. While your design might look great with standard content, you do need to take into consideration what extensions you will be using and what you are planning to do with your website. For instance, if you’re planning to add something like ecommerce or a forum, you need to ensure that there is enough content area available to keep the pages user friendly. You might have the most innovative content in your field, but if the site loads badly and the look is horrible, no one will stay. This is where design really does play a large role in the overall success of a web experience.
From Scratch or Start with a Framework
In previous articles, we discussed some of the template frameworks that are available for Joomla websites. While a framework is not a necessary piece of a Joomla website template, it can simplify the management and customization work greatly. The easiest way to determine whether or not you will need a framework is to ask yourself how complex this template, and website overall, will be. If you are running a very basic site with few modifications needed, you probably don’t even need a framework. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a foundation to start building a more complex site, hence the term “framework,” you may want to look at your options and consider building on one.
Some frameworks, such as Gantry, even include support for mobile devices, and it can be as easy as a button click to begin displaying a mobile version of your site without having to redesign and set up sub domains for this function. This is a portion of the tab page for mobile layouts in the Gantry framework:
Gantry Framework settings
As you can see, having a framework to build on can offer a lot in terms of easy customization; however, you still need to start with a good basic design. Having a fancy framework on the back end won’t fix bad layout or coding. Plan well, stick with simplicity when you can and get help when you need it.
In two weeks we’ll discuss how to create different module styles in your templates. In the meantime, watch for more info on building your own Joomla web design business!