I recently gave a presentation about performance and scalability at one of our local Drupal meetups here in Shanghai, an got confronted with questions on Drupal theming and more particularly the type of starter theme we use here at Wiredcraft. Well, the answer is quite simple; basically, we don’t, at least not the major ones. No Zen, Omega or Fusion, no custom base theme either or CSS framework such as 960 Grid. What we do systematically use though is Tao; let me explain…
I believe that starter themes can be interesting in a couple cases;
The problem is, we think that for experienced Drupal developers there are quite a few drawbacks to these starter/base themes;
We have been using Tao as a base theme since the end of 2009. I am unsure as to why, but many people either don’t really acknowledge its existence as a full blown base theme, or don’t really understand what it does. Maybe this has to do with it having been hosted on Github in its infancy, or the fact that it was mainly built as a dependency of Rubik (an admin theme that we’ve shipped with all our sites since its first release, give it a go…).
What Tao does really, is dealing with the bulk of the issues anybody has with Drupal theming. Let me paraphrase the project page here to list what it does (well);
In brief, it gives you a solid, clean foundation both in terms of CSS and HTML to build a theme upon.; if you stick to it and leverage the power of preprocessing functions, you should be able to build leaner and more robust Drupal themes. We strongly advise anybody doing Drupal theming to give it a try; we’ve already converted quite a few clients and partners to it.
This approach has been really rewarding for us in the past couple years, the only thing is that it does require you apply the same type of concepts to your design approach; we believe that building lean, simple, information oriented interfaces is the way to go, and if you do so, your graphical concepts should translate properly with a Tao based approach. But that’s a whole other discussion.