I'm sorry you feel my comments were harsh Gareth - As I said I fully and wholeheartedly appreciate the effort you continue to put in to Essential and to the other themes and projects you work on. And especially the level of customisation settings within the theme - and the level of coding and programming needed to achieve that with a front end usability focus!
But those are my feelings about the changes over the last few years - a report of my personal feelings about the direction some themes have taken and the complexity now involved. It is not and was never intended to be a criticism of you or the work you and others put in.
But, my point stands I believe. Less and Grunt are developer tools and very useful ones. But a usable theme does not/should not need build tools installed on a local computer for users to begin to tweak it. That immediately, in one action, raises the entry bar for people with a side interest in how themes work.
There are, I think now, 3 levels of theme users -
- those who want to and can edit the theme to the way they want it purely through the front end settings pages
- those who want to make relatively minor changes that can be done through CSS/PHP but have neither the skills nor the time/inclination to install/learn to use build tools to compile a theme
- those who want to fully develop a theme, using all the advantages of grunt and compilers and so on
Not everyone who has to tinker with themes is, or wants to be, a developer/programmer or to have to learn to use compiling tools.
I guess Im seeing it something a bit like Linux packages - you can download
the theme, even play with the core of it to some extent - but if you want to go hardcore, then you download and compile a separate source file, complete with all the requisite less etc for development purposes.
Again, that is not intended as any kind of criticism of you (harsh or otherwise) or what you are doing - but my take on how things have developed over the last couple of years and a possible way forward, taking into account user experiences with projects such as Linux and the way ordinary users just turn away as soon as you mention taking source code and compiling it.
That may change with pre-compilers built into Moodle - not the individual themes, but Moodle core - and the compiling done on the fly (and cached) so that the less becomes the key feature and not the css, but I don't think we are there yet and its the transition period that I think we need to ensure that the second group I mention above are not overlooked. To me they are the enthusiasts that have historically been the majority of the contributors on this forum in particular, but seem (IMO
) to be dwindling as the entry level seems to be getting higher and higher. I don't have hard data to support that, just a view that i have come to over the past year and a feeling that this was my background and entry route into Moodle and theming and I would not like to see that group diminishing.
"Group 1" - the front end users are getting more and more tools to use in themes like Essential and that is a fantastic thing and a very desirable outcome
"Group 3" - are able to make use of the build tools and the support to engage with full theme development
But Group 2 - well, I
have a strong feeling that if I was approaching this area now, I personally
would not become engaged with it as things are now. That would be my loss as I have learned (and continue to learn) so much, but thats my feeling
about the entry level we now have. Option 1 wasn't available then, Option 3 would have had me telling my head I didn't have the time or inclination to do it - buy in an external theme designer, which I can guarantee would have had us not using Moodle at all at that stage.
Again Gareth - this is NOT intended to be harsh to you or to anyone else - I can see all the logical steps that have take us to where we are, and the work from David, Bas, yourself and many others (as well as the long term, massive community support of Mary E, without whom this forum would not be the community it is!!!)
But I have my own feelings about the way we have gone and my own ideas about moving forward - and the notion of a standard version and developer version of complex themes is just one of them (which I have used on a couple of recent small projects for people) and I put it forward as a suggestion for consideration and nothing more.