Why Are There No New Drupal 8 Themes?

Drupal 8 Themes for Beginners

Back in January this year, we talked about Drupal 8 themes. At that time, there were 86 themes for Drupal 8 on Drupal.org.

9 months later? There are only 133 themes for Drupal 8.

In the whole of 2016, we’ve added only 47 themes for Drupal 8.

In fact, the problem is worse than that. New themes are hardly getting published at all.

Understanding the problem

Click this link and you’ll see a list of new Drupal 8 themes published.

In September, eight themes were published. The breakdown was two themes for the aGov distribution, four base themes, and one administration theme.

In August, two themes were published. That’s not a typo … two themes in a whole month.

Looking at the August themes, one was a base theme and the other was “Drupal 8 Custom Theme“. This second theme is ready for beginners, but it was published on August 4th. That’s not a typo either. Right now, we’ve now gone eight weeks without a single site-builder friendly theme published to Drupal.org.

drupal-8-custom

What about themes published before August 4th? We have to go back to July 11 to find a new theme. That’s nearly a whole month with zero new Drupal 8 themes.

So, not only have less than 50 themes been added to Drupal.org this year, but the pace is actually slowing:

  • Around 80 themes were available when Drupal 8 launched.
  • 36 themes were added in the first half of 2016.
  • Only about a dozen themes have been added in the second half of 2016.

Why are we facing this problem?

I wish I knew. In contrast to the problem with themes, new modules are added to Drupal.org daily.

It’s possible to guess at some reasons why themes are not being published:

  • The Drupal community is standardizing on a small set of base themes (Bootstrap, Zen, Foundation)
  • Designers are taking a while to get used to the new Drupal 8 theme layer.
  • This was just a summer slowdown. As people get back to work in September, more themes are being published again.
  • The theme review process is brutal. It’s taken us over 3 months to get one theme close to approval, but the process is incredibly slow and opaque. Drupal.org’s theme review is one of the most frustrating and broken processes I’ve seen in 14+ years of open source work.
  • The lack of any commercial theme designers focused on Drupal 8.

I don’t know if these explanations are valid, but I’m sure that the lack of themes is a hinderance to the success of Drupal 8.

Over to you …

What are your thoughts on the state of Drupal 8 themes?

Are there ways we can encourage Drupal designers to publish on Drupal.org?

Updates

Update 1: A couple of Drupal community members have helped continue this discussion: Malcom Young and Benjamin Melancon.

Update 2: I underestimated the scale of the problem. Not a single theme has completed the approval process in 2016. Zero. That’s absolutely astonishing. Every new theme in 2016 has come from a long-term contributor who can skip the approval process. There were no new contributors in 2016. The most recent approvals are from December 2015:

Instructor

  • Steve is the founder of OSTraining. Originally from the UK, he now lives in Sarasota in the USA. Steve's work straddles the line between teaching and web development.

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Daniel

This is positive. It means a higher entry barrier for click monkeys and cheap projects, a manifest that Drupal is shifting to a side of the spectrum opposite to the one that WordPress covers (where Drupal has no chance at fighting).

daniel-pickering

Hi Daniel
In terms of quality I would have to disagree I dislike a few of the themes available. In terms of quality.
That is an interested perspective to take on it. I’m looking forward to what others think about it.
Thanks

Daniel

Aimee Maree

I think its market adoption? and commercialisation more then aka “enterprise” grade CMS I mean thats a debatable topic? and I am someone who took Drupal into the first financial enterprise before Acquia did lol. I think it is the changing community aka the commercialisation aka what you call the enterprising of Drupal… However in saying all of that and the above I would like to see comparison numbers between Drupal7 and Drupal8 as D7 was a high learning curve albeit not as lengthy a curve as D8?

Ahmed Abderraham

Imagine if there wasn’t a review process.

steve

@ahmedabderraham Somehow, I can imagine a happy medium between no review process and no themes getting approved.

Andrew Wasson

I agree; less is more.
I moved all production (large and small) to Drupal 8 as soon as it was released in November 2015 and retooled (SASS, Grunt, Bourbon, Git, etc… oh, don’t forget [b]Twig[/b]). I switched to Basic Theme and can’t imagine using anything else. I’ve launched a couple of smaller near brochureware sites and a couple of larger more complex sites. IMO, it’s a much easier platform to build on than Drupal 7 was once you know the ropes and it’s miles easier to administrate too.
It’s all good people. Grab one of the excellent starter themes, learn it and start building.

malcomio

interesting article, although you’re focusing mainly on the supply side of the market – I think the demand is more relevant
this prompted me to write a response with my ideas: [url=http://red-route.org/articles/wot-no-themes-might-be-why-there-are-so-few-themes-available-drupal-8]http://red-route.org/articl…[/url]

steve

Thanks Malcomio, your thoughts on this make a lot of sense.

Aimee Maree

I think this is occurring because of the use of twig aka for old school smarty themers etc twig is a nice step back to the old days of a true templating language however anyone who came inro theming through Drupal PHP templating might be struggling with the change? another fact might be with the increased commercial nature of the platform aka the enterprise CMS alot of people just are not allowed to release a theme that they work on? aka the changing dynamics of “Paid Open Source” contributions etc? Personally I do not see it as a bad thing for me one of the issues with Drupal ecosystem has been the high number of modules/themes looks great from the outside until a client or beginner starts going through them.. also so many are abandoned and just clutter up the mess? I would love to see the Drupal ecosystem clean up its act with defunct projects? Maybe the D8 learning curve might have a side effect of a module marketplace clean-up?

steve

Thanks Aimee Maree. What you say makes a lot of sense.
I’m seeing a lot of standardization on just a couple of theme frameworks. In particular, the Bootstrap base theme has been everywhere we’ve been this year. If that works for most Drupal users, I guess that’s a positive.

Megan McDermott

I think the Enterprise nature of the platform is on the right track. A design is by nature unique to a particular site. Your client wants it to look unique and not be used by any other site. And they’re probably paying you for that. A module provides functionality that could easily be shared with other sites, and the client who is paying for it probably won’t care if you share that with the community.
The other thing is that making a contrib theme is a lot of work. I have a contrib theme that I built more just as a community contribution, and upgraded to Drupal 8 as a learning process. You have to anticipate all the possible ways that people might use that theme (e.g. what if they put the login block in the footer?), make sure the layout and regions are flexible enough to suite a variety of purposes, provide documentation etc. If you’re not using this for a real site yourself it’s very difficult to get right.
Then, if you really want to make it useful you probably want to add color module support and some other theme settings. Implementing color module is *hard* too (it was originally developed for Garland theme, with 2006 expectations for CSS support). It seems like very few themes even bother trying to implement it, and for good reason.
This all ads up to a huge output of time. If you could develop this for a paid project and contribute it back, that would be great, but most clients aren’t going to agree to that.
I think this is the primary reason why there are so few good off the shelf themes for Drupal. It’s a lot of work and you’re probably not going to get that time back. So, why would you do that? I’d like to be able to build more contrib themes but I certainly don’t have time to do that for free.
And, yes, it’s also true that the Drupal 8 learning curve is steep. I’m still learning the best way to do things (after 3 sites launched and 2 more in development), so a lot of people probably aren’t comfortable enough with it yet to release something that other people could use. The people that are probably have better things to do.
I do think it’s important to have themes like this available, for a variety of reasons.

Ben Nash

I believe this is because the base themes are so good. The bootstrap base theme is very popular, and it has starter themes that are meant to be used as a base for themers to build their site specific new theme. I never used a third party theme as-is, and it’s getting easier to build site specific themes these days.

steve

That’s a good point, Ben. We see the Bootstrap theme *everywhere* these days.

Adal Arasu

I build this drupal theme generator [url=http://cmsbots.com]http://cmsbots.com[/url], for both 7 and 8, out of nearly 4000 themes generated by users, almost 70℅ are for drupal 8.
But main reason for less drupal 8 themes is. Most people not ready to put 50mb and 15000 files for simple website. Drupal 8 is not for small and medium projects.

Andy

From my experience in building my first Drupal 8 site..next to zero community support, and documentation is extremely poor. I learnt by pulling apart a core theme. Very frustrating experience.

steve

@andyjohnstrong Thanks. Did you end up getting a site live on D8, or did you take a different approach?

Andy

still in development, but the theme is done [url=https://seahub.com.au]https://seahub.com.au[/url] 🙂

Tommy Lynge Jørgensen

Just out of curiosity, did you contribute your findings back to the community, by updating the extremely poor documentation?

Andy

No as I’ve been trying to make a living and start my own business. Will consider this when my workflow slows down.

Tommy Lynge Jørgensen

Does your count of released themes include sandbox projects, the ones you don’t need approval to create? Unless something has changed drastically recently, everyone can create new (sandbox)-projects on [url=http://drupal.org]drupal.org[/url]. You make it somewhat sound like it can’t be done, without the approval.
Getting permission to create so called “Full projects” are cumbersome, agreed, but I went through it, and it gave me a clear idea of what was expected of the code that I published under a full project (with a nice URL as the icing). So create that sandbox project, and your project is published. Then you can go for the approval if you like. It is completely optional.
And if you have any issues with the approval process itself, take part in the various discussions that are taking place on [url=http://drupal.org]drupal.org[/url]. [Community Initiative Proposal] Project Applications Process Revamp ([url=https://www.drupal.org/node/2666584)]https://www.drupal.org/node…[/url] would be a good place to start giving your inputs.

steve

Hi Tommy
Yes, full projects. No end-users I’ve met would feel comfortable using a sandbox project. This is really about creating a good environment for people who are not Drupal experts.

Tommy Lynge Jørgensen

Good. I thought this was partly about getting rid of the review process, which would basically mean that all projects would be sandbox projects. I apparently read to much “between the lines”. Glad that wasn’t the case 🙂
We can never get to many contributors trying to create better environments for developers. Experienced or not.
Have a nice day.

Pedro Rocha

I believe this is a signal of more unique websites being built, without using default free themes. I think it’s great, as we had moments in years later when we look at dozens of sites with the same basic themes with few tweaks only.
Assuming that Drupal 8 is being used for high end projects, they are using React, Angular, Bootstrap, etc, leaving only the data storage and content workflow management, not presentation.
I had 3 projects with Drupal 8 so far, all with Bootstrap and I only use Bootstrap theme because of the preprocess it already offers for Drupal components, but I don’t want my website to look “default”.

steve

@pedrorocha Thanks. Yes, that’s a likely cause. Drupal is being used less and less for smaller sites, and more for the high end projects.

Marc Drummond

For what it’s worth, while yes, someone from work provided one of the reviews for my theme approval (which I very much appreciate), there were others who reviewed as well. I put in a lot of work following all the recommended steps for approval, including a Coder module review (which may not show up directly in the comments). I had a lot of back and forth to fix problems that were found. And I also went and reviewed every Drupal 8 theme in the queue at the time both to help them and to boost the priority of my theme review. I also had some fellow contributors take a look while I was at MidCamp. I just don’t want there to be the impression that somehow I skipped the line. I worked hard for that approval. I know others have as well, and I’m sorry there have not been more approvals, I really wish there were more.

steve

Thanks Marc.
That’s a really interesting overview of how much work you put into getting your approval.
I wonder how many new contributors are put off by such a mammoth workload? Judging by the results in 2016, it looks like the answer is, “all of them”.

Lowell Montgomery

Thanks for this thought-provoking post, Steve.
One thing that nobody seems to have pointed out is that you are really comparing apples and oranges when you talk about the releases of modules in a given period and the release of new themes. A complex site may have a need for many, many modules and even need to be postponed (or released with limited functionality) until certain modules have a stable release for Drupal 8. But most sites only use one theme and there are plenty enough themes to choose from, especially if you consider the fact that most projects with more than a very limited budget are happy to build a custom theme (probably extended from one of the proven “base” themes). So, while the Drupal community has a real need for more modules and more porting of modules from D7 to allow smooth migration to D8, we are relatively set when it comes to the need for themes.
That said, there is plenty of work for front-end developers comfortable with the D8 theming process—not for them to create more themes, though. There is need for documentation, helping resolve issues in existing base themes, etc. Much of the needed work relates to providing better “out-of-the-box” theming for the output from the wide range of popular (and even not-so-popular) modules. If you look at the D8 issue queues for community-contributed themes, it is largely those tasks that are in-progress, needed, or recently completed. Most themers who have time to contribute may feel more rewarded by putting time into that very necessary task than with the arduous task of creating another, totally unnecessary “me-too” base theme to stroke their egos, along with the burden of overcoming the review hurdle and all the issues that maintaining it will inevitably involve. I’m currently working on updating my own front-end knowledge and was thinking, “Gee, maybe creating a new D8 contrib theme might be a good learning experience”… but when i saw how many existing themes have need for more community contribution, I realized that THAT is where my focus should (and will likely) be.
The point that corporate open-source contribution is more likely to get behind sharing a module that provides some useful functionality than sharing the “look and feel” of their brand identity is also valid. If a contributed custom theme becomes popular, it just contributes to the original site seeming more “generic”.

Evan Karageorgos

We’d like to believe there’s still and always room for themes in Drupal, which is how we are starting to roll out free versions of our premium themes for everyone in the community, and here’s our first one in a while:
[url=https://www.drupal.org/project/showcase_lite]https://www.drupal.org/proj…[/url]
We do hope more studios will follow along! 🙂
I can also share that we do see an ever-growing number of people (at least based on our own internal numbers at [url=http://morethanthemes.com]morethanthemes.com[/url]) using Drupal 8 themes to build their SMB sites on.

steve

Thanks for sharing Evan

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