Finding a responsive theme for your next Drupal project isn't difficult, but selecting the right one for the job takes a bit more thought. Surprisingly, we found very little advice when doing so for our latest project, so we decided to do some research.
We were afraid Omega and AdaptiveTheme were going to be overkill for us so we decided to do some of our own investigation. We did stumble across a few other themes worth considering, including Mothership, but none matched the popularity and support of Omega, AdaptiveTheme, and Zen.
Zen 5 was exactly what we needed. The others are definitely flexible, but the graphic configuration that Zen lacked was easily accomplished in code using the built in Zen Grids system and SASS/Compass support.
Did we spoil the article too soon? We don't think so. This decision really does depend on the specific needs of a project, so Zen might not be the answer for yours. We suggest you continue reading.
For ours, these criteria were important:
- Responsive functionality out of the box.
- Panels support.
- Standards-based HTML5 with fallbacks for older browsers.
- IE-specific Support. This was crucial for this specific project.
- Strong community support, use, and stability.
- Performance. Has a small page loading size and time.
- Accessibility requirements are met.
Zen had no graphical responsive configuration options, but by default had a flexible and responsive layout. We didn't need per-breakpoint layouts, but found them extremely easy once we discovered how SASS and Zen Grids were working behind the scenes. By manipulating the grid-related variables in responsive-sidebars.scss, we could accomplish just about anything that the others provided graphically.
Zen won this category for us. We don't mind using code instead of GUI configuration.complex layout structure involved.
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Zen won this category as well.Context in combination with the Delta module. AdaptiveTheme's configuration options for per-panel/per-breakpoint layouts are endless. Zen, on the other hand, has nothing special built in. JohnAlbin (maintainer of Zen), claims “There’s nothing special about Zen + Panels. Zen is just like any other theme if you are using Panels. We use panels extensively with Zen and haven’t had any issues” in an issue queue.
AdaptiveTheme wins this one, as it does all the heavy lifting for you.W3 Validator, we found that all three themes followed sound best practices for HTML5.
When it came to fallback options, Zen by default uses html5shiv but makes it easy to swap for a custom build of Modernizr. Omega also uses html5shiv while AdaptiveTheme simply suggests using the Modernizr module.
Zen and AdaptiveTheme were comparable through W3's "experimental" validation, but Omega produced almost three times the errors.
Zen wins this category for us, with AdaptiveTheme close behind.
A majority of IE8-related issues were closed in all three, but AdaptiveTheme only had one open. Omega had poor responsive support (if you consider that important with IE8, see Respond.js) and Zen includes easy but optional (off by default) support for IE6 and IE7.
AdaptiveTheme escapes as the winner by a narrow margin.drupal.org, we consider a solid history of support, stability, and use of high importance. For this we look at commits, issue queues, usage statistics, and other key signs that a project is worth using. When doing so for these themes, we found:
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All three have pledged to #D7AX. Additionally, Adaptive Theme claims “WCAG 2.0 level AA compliance” and has been proclaimed in the issue queues as “the most accessible theme and far ahead of others in accessibility”. Zen is also very strong with accessibility.
We'll give AdaptiveTheme the win on this one.
Drumroll, pleaseSo that's it. If you haven't been counting along, the final tally is as follows:
All we are saying is this:
When your client agrees to responsive, think twice before instantly installing your favorite.Have you had similar or different experiences? Do you prefer any themes we have passed over? We would love to hear your thoughts!