Regular readers will know that I like to play around with different themes on this personal site. This site exists to experiment with, to trial new plugins, SEO hacks and other bits and pieces. Anything that works out well I will then move out to the “proper” websites that I run.
One thing I like to do is try out different themes and e107 is enjoying renewed interested in theme creation right now. There are some great designers working with e107 at the moment and their work deserves a wider audience.
The reality is that a bespoke premium e107 theme is never going to get the uptake of a leading WordPress one as there are less e107 users out there on the Internet. But, the good news for designers is that because the e107 community is much smaller it is much easier to make a name for yourself. And who knows, this could turn out to be a lucrative move if the new version of e107 gains more recognition (and it should!).
Click through to read the full post.
Find a Theme for e107
Check this article for some good starting points, read the comments too. If I were honest the majority of “old” e107 themes do look a bit dated and not really up to modern standards. But follow that link and you will find some really up to date work. Nice clean looking themes with some nice effects and great looking designs.
Installing an e107 Theme
This part is covered in the e107 documentation. If you get stuck here then ask on the e107 support forum! The purpose of this post is to highlight what you need to check out once you make that switch…
Setting up your e107 Site
This is the core part of this post, and really the reason for creating it. I wanted to document the things that I typically need to change when switching to a new theme. Thankfully for the most part it is an easy process but the following steps should give you an idea of what you will need to think about if you are upgrading a site.
I would strongly advise getting your site up and running in a test area on your local PC. You can install Apache, MySQL and PHP directly onto your computer and get e107 up and running locally. If you are unable to do this you could always set up a second e107 install on your host’s server but keep it hidden from the wider Internet.
In your offline environment, think about how you will handle the following:
- Menus. This is probably the biggest thing you will need to get right. It is highly likely that your new theme’s menu areas will be different to the old ones. This can be reconfigured under Content->Menus in the admin area. On your offline copy, play around with placing the different menus in different places. Try out some of the core menus that you might not have used before – maybe they will fit into the new theme in an unexpected way!
- Set page layouts. Most themes will have several standard page layouts. Ideally there will be a full width layout and perhaps a one or two column layout too. Within your theme.php file you can specify which pages on your site will use which layout. Generally the forum or an embedded Amazon astore might use a wider page, with the front page having multiple columns. Hopefully later version of e107 will allow this to be configured without needing to edit the theme file.
- Remember to import any plugin shortcodes that you might have added to your old theme. These will need to be readded to your new one. For example if you have added my tagcloud or forum thanks shortcodes manually at any point.
- Bespoke tweaks. Theme designers do a great job of creating a layout for your site, however it is likely you will want to carry out some personalisation. Don’t worry, the designers won’t be offended and will often help you tweak it to suit your needs perfectly – however you should check with them first and it is likely you will not be able to redistribute your tweaked version without permission. Here are some things that I like to change:
- I prefer to have a reduced list of social media links, too many just looks confusing
- I prefer to use a text based H1 header at the top of my site, not a logo
- I like to add a comment count to the news style if it doesn’t exist
Always take a backup before making any modifications. There are several approaches to getting your new theme running live on your website:
- The preferred approach would be to set the maintenance flag Tools->Maintenance on. This will close down the site whilst you make your changes. The downside is that your site is offline for a short period but it gives you a chance to get things right and no data will be lost.
- You could just make the changes on the fly. So no visitors are turned away but they might see the broken site. Only consider this if you aren’t too bothered about user experience!
- And finally, a more professional approach could be to make the changes on a local copy of the database and roll out the changes to the live site after thorough testing. You could either push out the whole database, ideal if you have had the maintenance flag on so no new forum posts etc are lost, or you could just push out the changes that effect the theme. The latter is the most complex method but it can be tested carefully and developed into a repeatable roll out and the key advantage here is that it involves the minimum amount of down time.
I tend to do things on the fly on this site – so if you notice it looks broken – you know why! Check back soon and it should be fixed ;)!