Mary, thanks for starting this discussion.
I am one who is pleased with the current MORE theme, with my CSS modifications, and with Collapsed Topics. Yes, I know a lot of folks are looking for more pizzaz, but when I compare what I am doing with BB, D2L, and CV, I am quite pleased with what I have. Sure, there are always opportunities for more tweaks and improvements. I like how my MORE theme works on mobile devices. As you might recall, I used to use Formal White, but mainly because its center column was somewhat "responsive."
I am sure that you will be generating a lot of interesting ideas here.
What's behind the question Mary?
Well Derek, it's hard to say...I am just curious I suppose..because whenever I add a theme I hardly get any comments or feedback. Yet Essential which is absolutely packed to bursting with settings and wonderful ways of displaying content...people seem to be always wanting something that isn't there or bemoaning the fact that something isn't as they want it. Or they become picky and want something that isn't there.
So I am just asking to find out what people want from Moodle and how much can a theme help them acheive their goal?
I am still a strong believer that Moodle should provide more core options so that we are not restricted to a set pattern of content delivery. You should be able to display course content as you want it and not as Moodle what's it.
Moodle does not really lend itself that well to alternative layouts other than the standard layouts we see already. Left center right, it should be multifaceted.
Is that enough to be going on with...?
Darn it. I know it was too good to be true. I kind of hoped you would say there was a secret initiative from HQ or the MA to improve the offerings or something.
I'll be back later with a response, even thought I suspect it will just be the same old same old people in the conversation, and little from MP or MA or HQ or PWM. This may not matter actually. I'm impressed with progress in the last month from Bas, Richard, Gareth, yourself, Chris, Jez, Fernando and sorry to miss people out. And to non coders sharing their hacks and CSS tricks like Andy and our wonderful Durian Moodler Frankie (a sort of coder) - and to plugin writes like Justin.
Just before I do engage Mary, have you looked at Pioneer, Flexibase and BCU? Just to get my bearings.
You are quite right. This is a difficult conversation. The second last time I engaged with this question was the posting over Elegance. I asked "Why do you like elegance?" here: https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=322159&parent=1293464 A month later there is nothing of real substance in the thread.
And I have my last time with this issue, a post here on themes "Wish List" https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=324459
There is little around in the way of comparisons between themes including feature lists - obviously this takes time and effort and is a moving target - I am reluctant to submit "reviews" on the plugins database for this reason, especially since I run at about 20% of "It is there. you just missed it".
I have a partial list somewhere of the unique points on various of the themes I have looked at. Like:
- Flexibase: a drop down at course level that requires NO explanation which leads to all the key items in the course classified by type.
- Snap: between section navigation built in. Unique front page style.
- Flexibase/Decaf: a search field for admins on every page that does not need a click and scroll to access.
- Flexibase: tabs in the settings pages that save a lot of time
- Pioneer: tabs on the front page
- Pioneer: banner choice at the course level. (There are variations in this in Flexibase)
- Theme X: video size is not hard coded like in code Moodle. (Can't remember which)
Many themes are bitsy. They feel like they are unfinished.
- You can do everything except change the banner.
- Can't change some key elements (sorry that is hard coded)
- From my friend who tried to fix some CSS: "Sorry, There are eleven places where spacings, menu bars, buttons are sized, it's just too hard to fix the look and adjust a few of the spacings"
Very very few people have reported actual testing.
- BCU is an exception I think with the work of Stuart Lamour.
- And so is Snap (Paul posted here, but his comments raise more questions and doubts in my mind than answers)
Some posters really have not done their homework and looked at what is around as a comparison. Others have I suspect never asked a teacher or a student what they like or want. Or watched them to see what they actually do. Hence sometimes posts (including my own) are more based on assertions. And to be honest, I'm not going to knock a theme ever here in public. We are grateful for the work that does go in.
I have looked at every Bootstrap based theme that works with Moodle 3.0 in the past month that I can find in the plugins database, and one that is not in the database (Snap). You have probably glossed over some of my recent rambling posts in the themes forum (AKA "Thinking aloud") I have had some extensive (ie long) email interchanges with a few theme coders. in trying to to converge on a view of what is needed in My/our theme - which I think I am approaching - sometimes personal elements (like I like serif in the body) and sometimes research based.
I want to choose a theme for us to use by 6th January for 3.0 if I can. Otherwise we will stick with the current one and change later in the month - or the year.
And after that, I'll probably move on to the next question (which is navigation and the SoD problem caused by inside a section navigation.
Thanks for asking Mary. As I said: I'll post here later.
Mary, your statement about "Essential being absolutely packed" caused me to install Essential on one of my experimental Moodles. I see what you mean! Gareth has done a remarkable job. Yep, if I was going to change from MORE, I would really be looking at Essential. Seems to be what many people (not me yet, however) want.
Let's say that there is a general desire to move away from the stodgy old three column look, or the inane two column look to something that is a little more "user friendly". Though, what on earth that means is beyond my limited imagination.
IMNSHO, Mary is asking for ideas and our thoughts on what a "great theme" looks like. I have no idea actually, I know what I would think looks good, a simple interface that allows me plenty of visual clues as to "intuitively" find where I need to go next. Something that is not cluttered with unnecessary, in my view, blocks, or calendars or category/course listings. Unfortunately, someone else would take what I think is good and place it at the bottom of their list of what "looks good"- the perpetual dilemma of "good web design".
Basically, in answer to this question I would suggest a theme that can be easily modified to suit the business needs of the site. [In this sense, "business need" means whatever the site does, its main purpose.] Modified, to me, means adding and subtracting things, colour schemes, font selections, background images, banners, scrolling headlines, news feeds, announcements, whatever the demands of the stakeholders are, whatever the requirements of the owners are. In short, a theme that allows the OWNER, the Admins to take complete control of the appearance of their site.
To me, this means we will get some great looking Moodles and a lot of rubbishy Moodles. Mainly because of differing views on "what looks good". It also means that Moodle needs to promote certain ideas as to what looks good, and lots of mentions, and links to, of things like Vince Flanders' "Web Pages that Suck" and what makes good/bad design articles.
As someone once said, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."
Colin, following up on your comment "I know what I would think looks good"
Have you had a look at Snap?
@ Derek, Snap! by Lectora you mean? Flash driven isn't it? Not useful at all now I would expect. I haven't heard of a Snap theme....
@ Mary, the more I think about it, the more I am thinking that there has to be a way of giving "ownership" of a theme to the owners of the Moodle. Let them sort out their own look. Marcus has said, somewhere, that he is not sure that this is going to be easy to change the UI, but I am thinking easy or not, it might just have to be done.
@Colin, no, the Snap I'm referring to is a Moodle theme.
It is the most different of the themes for Moodle 3.0. Emma has dismissed it with this comment "and I am not totally sure that I want the Windows 8 look on my Moodle site"
And this, your other comment:
"I am thinking that there has to be a way of giving "ownership" of a theme to the owners of the Moodle"
I have no idea what you mean by this. Do you mean it has settings adequate enough for a person to customise a theme without being either a) competent in CSS or b) a coder? Is this what you mean by ownership?
Exactly right Derek, and a most difficult proposition I know. Obviously the Admin of a Moodle is going to have some skills but like most of us will likely have a pretentious regard for their own abilities as a designer (I know this to be true, I am great at it, even if others do not think so, terrible ego problem sometimes, but otherwise all good ) But everyone should be given the opportunity to make their own mess. That is, for me, the offering of and the taking of "ownership", where the end user has the ability to do anything they want with it. It is a huge ask, and will take a long time to reach that goal, if ever, but if it is not achievable, then something close is going to have to be good enough.
As it is, the Dark Side route has been taken, where all you can do is change colour scheme in your interface, and shuffle things a little like in Windows Explorer, that is really insufficient in the modern environment. I suggest essentially a blank canvas and let people build a front page they like. Remember Google's original front page? That was just so simple it appealed, and considerably more than Yahoo's. (In the early days, I thought Yahoo's search was actually better, but the simplicity of Google got me in.) A front page could be made to look like Volkswagen's front page, and like The CIA's World Factbook inside. Ok, they are highly sophisticated, but if the owner of the site wants it, they should be able to get it. More likely it would be something like a cross between Freddie's garage and local grocery store sales brochures. But it is their choice, as owners.
RE: As it is, the Dark Side route has been taken, where all you can do is change colour scheme in your interface, and shuffle things a little like in Windows Explorer, that is really insufficient in the modern environment.
I disagree with the 'dark side'. There are lots of themes that perform a substantial amount of customisation through the user interface already. And with 'insufficient in the modern environment', do you actually realise how much work is involved in making things 'easy' beyond the file manager? As an example, Shoehorn's accordion block feature which has one on / off tick box and took me a day to code, not counting investigating its feasibility and post implementation testing. And I have been writing code on and off for thirty two years, so I 'really' know my stuff. I've taught myself PHP, HTML, CSS etc. from scratch because when I left University with my Computing degree they did not exist as technologies.
Therefore you have several real choices:
- Get the theme for a low cost or free and be prepared to learn the additional skills needed to customise the theme for yourself.
- Pay industry standard rates and ask a developer to make the changes for you.
- Invest many years educating yourself to learn the skills required to make the theme you want from scratch.
In reality you get what you pay for and certainly here the low cost / free is certainly extremely good value for money. Before you can have your cake and eat it you must first pay the chef.
Therefore let me turn this around and change 'if owner of the site wants it, they should be able to get it' to 'if owner of the site wants it, they should be willing to pay for it'. Open source might be free, time is not.
With desires and tastes....
All the themes I maintain have different perspectives that satisfy the tastes of different groups of people. Everybody has their likes and dislikes. There is no right or wrong, just what is best for you. Essential is different to Shoehorn. The former is Julian's view and the latter mine. Both I like for different reasons. I love all of my themes and course formats. Each of them have their different aspects that change the way you look though the window to the learning world.
With the purpose of this thread....
It has got me thinking about the user interface.... It is time for some changes.... I think that there needs to be a reduction in the availability of features from everywhere. That there needs to be 'perspectives' that cater for the needs of each type of user in the way they need to work. But it should not be restrictive. Perhaps it already exists with roles and capabilities and the defaults just need to be changed.
- Have column layouts had their day?
- What would be really great to make learning interactive where the tool facilitates dynamic collaborative peer work and just in time feedback?
- How can the system break down barriers to learning and engage learners with a sense of ownership of their learning environment whilst at the same time mesh with other learners and the educators that facilitate learning itself?
- How can the virtual classroom be better than the real one?
Hi Richard, I suggest the two biggest mistakes made by web developers are, one, trying to be all things to all people, two, not giving any environmental control to the end owners. (I don't mean stakeholders, I just mean the people who own the site.) These are the extremes, agreed, and while these are two options, they are not suitable solutions.
And yes, I do understand how difficult it is to make things "easy", as I said above, it may be an unachievable goal to give full control to end users. So is it possible to do away with themes as they are currently used? One thing that comes to mind is that a skin can be made for a MediaWiki, a scheme for a WordPress blog, (even though the structures of those tools usually remains unchanged), so is it possible to simplify Moodle to allow that sort of development? It may not be possible, IANAD, so all I can do is ask questions. Mostly I get, "No, it can't be done," only to find someone else has done it. (The environmental site that Derek referred to in another thread some time ago that I can't find, for example.)
Essentially, the entire edifice of Moodle may need to be reconstructed to give end users the kind of flexibility they are starting to demand in their tools. More organizations want to brand the tools they use, like they never have done in the past. How can Moodle help them achieve this?
Which means what?
I assume you are not happy with that theme?
If you are not happy with the Clean theme then please say so as this is crutial to this discussion.
Without real feedback Moodle will aleays have a boring and bland appearance.
I am planning a new theme for the New Year, so I want as much feedback as possible.
Sorry, my post was meant to say exactly the opposite of its most obvious meaning.
What I meant was is that if I have a theme I never want it to be so broken that I need to revert to clean to ensure functionality ?theme=clean has occasionally been a life saver and I rather like an uncluttered interface (and I rather like clean)
@Marcus: I have the same question as Mary about your cryptic comment with no context. Although I have a different interpretation. Do you mean when a coder says, "so you have an error, check to see if it appears in Clean?" and typing this means your theme is faulting.
@Colin. You say "As it is, the Dark Side route has been taken, where all you can do is change colour scheme in your interface, and shuffle things a little like in Windows Explorer, that is really insufficient in the modern environment" I'm not sure I agree with this. In some ways, that is why I asked you if you had seen Snap, especially since you said "Mary is asking for ideas and our thoughts on what a "great theme" looks like. I have no idea actually" My first port of call was to see what is out there for a start. Then check out maybe BCU, Flexibase and Pioneer . . .
The website you refer to I believe is this: https://learn.unitedforwildlife.org/ posted by Tim.
The other cool site in the thread is https://elearning.elevatehealth.eu (Username and password here: https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=314373#p1272741)
@Emma. "I keep meaning to submit it to the plugins database but then Gareth updates collapsed topics again and I keep thinking that I need to update mine!!"
Just do it.
In response to Dereks question, I have worked with themes where certain reports are slightly broken and I don't see as much of the gradebook as I would like, plus a few other minor quirks. So to get around this test with clean. Then there are other occasions when I test with clean just to see if the theme is breaking stuff.
I think a lot of theme developers do things their way to make a theme look good on their site and forget that Moodle pages are based on the Clean theme.
I think they have stopped testing Base theme, but that theme is also a good indication of how Moodle core really looks! It's a eyeopener and not one that many have seen.
Point taken about testing using quick link ?theme=clean saves time and effort.
Perhaps we should concentrate on making a better admin theme base on Clean so that Admins can be sure that it displays correctly and one that is constantly updated in Moodle by Moodle Devs
Perhaps we should open a Moodle Tracker issue to ask for a desktop only Admin theme with new interfaces for Admins, Managers and Editing Teachers?
@ Derek, the Elevate site is actually closer in look to what I am thinking, but I don't read Dutch(?) so took a few seconds to work it out. But yeah, closer anyway. The navigation needs a little work, could be a little more obvious, but is good enough to work out without too much drama and without being able to read the language.
What Fernando and yourself have both suggested (below) are worthy ideas, and are not mutually exclusive, but not that easy to code, I would think.
Richard mentions bootstrap themes for v3, and so on, but unfortunately, I am stuck with decisions I made in the past on my one and only Moodle I fully admin these days and any major change is likely to meet with resistance now.... I am an admin to 4 others, that are hosted by a third party engaged by my employer, and I do not have the sway or political presence to get them to offer anything more than 4 themes, Clean, More and two rubbish themes they had someone create for them. I mean, what do I know?
(The point being is that they are not inclined to listen and categorically deny me access to the server. I requested the progress bar be incorporated after MoodleMootAu [July 2015]. I was informed on the 22nd of December that it will be available after the next upgrade, July 2016. Wow, lightning fast. So I have no chance with getting a more modern theme set.)
The point made about the Front Page and Course pages having different requirements is blindingly obvious, so a Front Page like VWs and course pages like the CIA's World Factbook would, I think, be the sort of thing that would captivate User interest. And I am going to leave that point there, I can't make any more contribution to that discussion.
My only real interest has always been to use this and other discussions to highlight the difficulties in separating these issues from the management of the appearance of a site via its Theme. These are three very separate issues, but the concentration is so heavily focused on the first two that the third runs a paltry last.
Richard assures me this is changing, but as stated, I won't see it for a while yet. My wrecking test Moodle is down and since going to a SSD and Windows 7 I don't seem to be able to get a server up and consistently running, so my NAS Moodle is being used as my test bed, but the environment is so heavily secured that I can access the directory on the NAS but can't see anything in it, can't even increase the file upload size let alone do anything else. So if anyone knows who writes the Synology NAS Moodle package, please let me know where I can get in touch with them!!!!
Colin, I can't agree with you. In the last years Moodle Themes have evolved a lot from the first themes. Do you remember the 'wood' or 'metal' themes? No options, no settings and very old fashioned style.
Now, Essential, BCU, Elegance and some others have many settings where the admins can modify an adapt the theme to his needs. Not only the logo and some colour. I can talk about BCU that actually has more 100 settings and the Beta version more 200 settings. That should be enough to custom the theme.
Should be this the way to follow? No in my opinion. At least no like now.
The backend architecture is the same from many years ago and probably need an overhaul as Gareth mentioned (Well, I will rewrite all from scratch but this only my personal opinion)
Probably I'm repetitive because I wrote the same before, but there are other scripts born in the same years that moodle that evolved and they use a modern backend and frontend totally different of moodle. We are still stuck in the past in many moodle parts but themes and administration are the worse.
With the existing architecture, if you want to create a complex settings page, you need to use the old renderers provided by moodle. Oh, yes, theme developers can create other renderers but should be moodle that must provide a new renderers and tools for the settings, not the developers. We develop themes not core renderers.
In other scripts, the themes, or templates, developers create the settings using external frameworks because there are no internal renderers. So you can do it using your own tools (or 3rd party) and create your own settings page clean, usable and accessible.
This screen shot is from a Joomla template. In a few lines you can modify most of the style settings.
Compare it with moodle. You will need to scroll several pages to get the same. This is one of the reasons to limit the settings.
Your idea is good and already exists. Use Bootstrap and add a bootswatch. And you will get a nice theme easily or even you can create your own bootswatch (there are some tools available for it). You do not need development skills to create a bootswatch bur even for me could take a few minutes for others can take hours.
So the best choice is the internal theme settings where you could change even the buttons border radius. Now just need to wait a backend overhaul where developers can create easy settings pages and admins can custom its themes.
Anyway, stay tuned. There will be news soon.
Fernando, what is the Beta BCU.
I have seen https://bitbucket.org/bcu/moodle-theme_bcu/downloads but can't follow it.
And talking about the settings pages, have you seen how Flexibase does it? Tabs across the page to navigate between settings pages in the theme?
This is not a sigbnificant UI change, but it is very useful.
Also, you say: "And you will get a nice theme easily or even you can create your own bootswatch (there are some tools available for it). You do not need development skills to create a bootswatch bur even for me could take a few minutes for others can take hours"
Can you give me a link to something you recommend to find out more about this?
the BCU Beta version is located here: https://bitbucket.org/bcu/moodle-theme_bcu/get/e8a1b8ca6258.zip
I was taking a look to Flexibase and notice the buttons with links to the settings pages. Notice that are buttons, not tabs. I'm working to get tabs for the settings and display only one page. But I need more free time.
If you want to experiment with Bootstrap then you can add bootswatches. There are available in: http://bootswatch.com/
Just open the drop down located in the Download menu and save the css code in a file (this is the easiest way)
Then add this css file to the Bootstrap config file and you will get the desired style.
$THEME->sheets = array('moodle', 'bootswatch');
The moodle Cerulean child theme for Bootstrap is the same idea but creating a child theme.
You will find many Bootswatches but you can create your own. Go to http://bootswatchr.com and you can create it from scratch. There are also more bootswatches created by other users. It takes time but not difficult to do.
You are quite right Fernando, the flexibase links between settings pages are buttons not tabs. The three main reasons for that are:
1. The settings pages were already created as separate pages and I added the link buttons to the language files in a quick response to one of Derek's suggestions/requests which I thought was a good idea
2. For flexibase I have been trying to keep elements modular so they can be extracted, both for future ease of maintenance of the theme and for the 'features plugins' I was working on and I think that's easier keeping the separate settings pages - I have the same thing with lib and renderers, where the main file calls from a series of modular 'includes' rather than a single monolithic file. Thats not saying there is anything wrong with the single file approach, just I personally find it easier to work with and to transfer my work on one theme to another I may be working on for someone else
3. I like the fact that as they are separate pages I can have them listed on AwesomeBar and in the Admin menu, rather than just listing a single settings page.
Tabs are an alternative way of providing the separation and organisation for users, but I'm actually quite happy with the buttons and the separate pages, rather than tabs on a single settings page, but that's a personal preference (and one I might do differently in another theme in the future, or if someone was to suggest to me that there is a sufficiently good technical/usability reason for an alternative approach that I have missed)
I'm working also in the same approach. I'm working also in modularity for settings. With more 300 settings you need to organize them or will be a nightmare for an admin to setup a theme.
One answer to the Mary's question are the tabs. Why do we need to add tabs to organize the settings? Why moodle core do not provide tabs, a colourpicker (I mean a usable colourpicker not the awful thing we have now) and many other tools that developers need when creating settings for a theme or any other plugin?
Actually some themes are really complex and we need this architecture in the core just for a simple standarization question. Others scripts do it (Joomla, WP, ... and yes, I know that I repeat always the same) but moodle never take cares of backend (and the 3rd party developers) while for others this is part of the general architecture.
And this is one of my concerns when developing a theme because developers can add hundred settings but are very difficult to organize for users. And I will not talk about usability. This is another topic.
A thought occured to me just now. Perhaps we should go down another path and incorporate blocks and course formats into themes, thus make this a Blocks n Themes n Course Formats (BTCF) into a software program that links to Moodle via some kind of interface.
Just a crazy idea...
Well, in my opinion all is related. Course formats probably would need to follow some standard rules.
Blocks are added in the last theme I'm working. You can modify the main settings from the administration. So yes, they are part too.
But many other parts of moodle should be taken in count. Now is difficult to grow a theme due the complexity of the backend. So I think the administration is the most important for now. Last years the focus was the front page and the backend was forgotten totally by everybody.
Mary, I think some areas of layout would be helped if some things became separate individual blocks - for example the elements of the front page, that can only be turned on or off and ordered by the front page settings, the elements of the user dashboard.
If these were blocks, then a theme could create multiple block regions, and a user could position those blocks where they like on the page.
RE: Perhaps we should go down another path and incorporate blocks and course formats into themes, thus make this a Blocks n Themes n Course Formats (BTCF) into a software program that links to Moodle via some kind of interface.
- Themes express the overall look and feel of the site be it enforced or personalised learning environment. Primary purpose = styling.
- Blocks are functional elements that need to have basic out of the box styling that can be then overridden by themes if needed. Primary purpose = functionality.
- Course formats are concerned with the way a course is orchestrated for the learner by the educator. They set out and establish a flow / layout structure for the material they contain in a way that suits the learning objective. Same concept as a teacher arranging a classroom to suit the needs of the lesson. Have their own out of the box styling and overridden by themes if needed. Collapsed Topics does go a bit further with styles as at the time of development I did not want every theme developer to add in the facility to style each course - thus the colour was a 'how I want my classroom to look' feature. Primary purpose = layout.
I think the line between functionality and styling/layout is becoming ever more blurred. A lot of the LX design research going on at the moment is highlighting the importance of layout and styling - sort of, if I don't instinctively find the element then it doesn't matter how useful it is. Finding the element isn't simply putting it in the right place.
For that reason, I'd say that the theme is in a stronger position to control the learner experience. I could imagine that a theme with more course format control would be a better product that two specialist tools that may, or may not, work well together.
Equally, just about every comment in this thread makes a good case which shows just how complicated being all things to all people really is!
All the best
I'm interested in your comments here Gareth, having just tried to come to grips with Shoehorn.
I think Mary's comment is a reflection on how some issues that have cropped up here are much much more than just styling. There are complex interactions now required by users.
In your theme you have a thing that looks like a block (but I cannot remove it - I tried) This is much more of something I'd want as a user to install as an addon, not as part of a theme.
You also have a course format built in (the sliders)
It's not so easy to keep all the three things separate as you suggest. That's why Shoehorn does a good job - it addresses all three areas.
Andy put it really well in his post:
I think the line between functionality and styling/layout is becoming ever more blurred. A lot of the LX design research going on at the moment is highlighting the importance of layout and styling - sort of, if I don't instinctively find the element then it doesn't matter how useful it is.
Officially the priorities (from memory rather than looking up the thread) are Students > Tutors > Admins > Developers.
My point is that general priorities like that are fine, but once they become hard and fast rules, developers begin to suffer from things like the multiplicity of ways to do things (look at renderers & templates as an example)- all intended to improve the front end, but actually making things harder for the developers. Unfortunately, making things harder for the developers eventually has the knock on effect that it is harder to put things in place for the front end users - such as your suggestions for a better colour picker, standard way to organise settings pages, etc. - it takes longer to develop things, maintain things, and improve things, as well as being a disincentive to getting involved in the first place.
I don't disagree with the HQ priorities, but sometimes, I think they need to show the developers some love and attention, or in the end the front end users lose out because the development process is over-complicated.
A good question! I love MORE theme, however, I hope More theme wouldn't be stodgy. If so, it would be easier for us to style.
I think there are three major things that I am looking for:
1. Clean uncluttered look right out of the box (e.g. Elegance which is still my theme of choice).
2. Flexibility and easy customization (marketing spots, customizable navbar, front page alerts, mass of color settings).
3. Easy access to key features (e.g. BCU's course links in header).
I have recently been looking at themes as I get ready to upgrade to 3.0. I love the look of Snap in the demo but when loaded realized that it will take a lot of work to get it looking that way, and I am not totally sure that I want the Windows 8 look on my Moodle site. I like Shoehorn too - lot of great features there but haven't taken the time to do the customization that it would need for my site. The winner for me is still Elegance (clean and simple, lots of features) with BCU a close second (still see some bugs in BCU theme which stops me from making the jump).
For course layout I use my own course format which combines Gareth's collapsed topics with Julian's course tiles. I keep meaning to submit it to the plugins database but then Gareth updates collapsed topics again and I keep thinking that I need to update mine!!
Emma, not sure what bugs did you find in BCU. I use BCU and high custom version from several months ago and never had serious bugs, just little issues with styles.
In any case, did you try the BCU Beta version?
Link color does not always update and does not apply everywhere that you would expect.
I had an issue where when there was an alert, the header would float weirdly but that might have been a cache issue because I do not see it today.
I am currently retesting BCU - I really do love the features in this theme. Definitely my number 2 choice!
RE: "For course layout I use my own course format which combines Gareth's collapsed topics with Julian's course tiles. I keep meaning to submit it to the plugins database but then Gareth updates collapsed topics again and I keep thinking that I need to update mine!!"
Interesting. How is this different from using the 'columns' functionality in the format please?
Best described with a picture!!
My thoughts so far. For me it is several things:
- Suitable to be used quickly in a classroom environment when under pressure. So where possible things are kept intuitive or explained easily. Collapsed Topics (clearly not a theme but I think we need to look at the UI as a whole here) having the post-fixing 'toggle' word when desired. Elements are grouped into suitable settings areas.
- Features that support teaching and learning. Syntax highlighting in Shoehorn.
- Features that satisfy the needs of the institution as well as the classroom it supports. So Shoehorn has 'site pages', an image bank and a publishing functions like Wordpress.
- Remove clutter when possible. Accordion menu in Shoehorn.
- Innovative. So Shoehorn and another theme where the standard icons can be re-coloured via the user interface.
But, ultimately there are many stakeholders with different perspectives. The institution wants a consistent look and feel. The educator wants to provide a personalised learning experience. Given that the two are conflicting at times and the only solution is compromise. Also the administrator wants to be able to manage everything quickly. All three have different needs and ways of working. This is where the solution as a whole needs to adapt to address the differing 'views'.
I much prefer this than the columns format.
For me I guess its always been about trying to provide the ability for a site admin to style their site without the need to go into the theme files at all.
flexi_ii was an early attempt to allow such extensive control but probably went a bit over the top in terms of settings, which because of the styling of them to make them more usable, could really only then be used from within flexi_ii itself.
multilayout was one of my first attempts to enable users to control the page layout without having to alter theme files to do it (I know that's often not too difficult to achieve with the right knowledge and file access, but in some/many instances a front end administrator may not have access to those files)
flexibase now attempts to bring the power of flex layouts, less, bootstrap3 and fontawesome into a theme that allows a significant amount of control without (I hope) an unwieldly number of settings. The layouts have made it easier for me to add a large number of block regions to allow even greater flexibility of design layout - some of which is in the control of the site admin, but some of which gives the course tutor an amount of freedom too.I do like the idea of giving the ability to control as much of the theme as possible over to the site admins and let them decide the style they want to see - rounded corners, square corners, blue red or green, 2 columns to the left, 1 column to the right or no side bar columns at all. All without needing to access the theme files, as I know when I started out, as a teacher, that would have been my main wish.
I think the conflicting requirements of the stakeholders is an important one, but giving the choice to the various users trumps that. For me there can't be too many options - but there can be very badly set out options. Some media players have pages of switches that an experienced BBC engineer would need to look up to know what to do, and that makes the basic options almost impossible to find.
I would like to see an appearance management page with tabs for basic changes, more advanced items, and maybe a Master of the Known Universe tab for the really deep stuff.
I suspect though, that this would just create a lot of work for the theme developers. A starting point might be a list of attributes that can be set by the user, and all themes submitted to the plugin directory should allow those changes as a minimal functionality. An example would be the ability to set a background image instead of a colour. It may not be everybody's cup of tea, but I think it's something that every theme should offer on the management page.
Something along those lines would make the process of choosing themes much simpler.
Just my thoughts before the last bit of Christmas shopping!
Firstly - we need to differentiate between 'users' and 'site admins'
At the moment 'users' cannot influence the theme directly through settings. I have in the past enabled user profile settings to affect the theme, but was only able to do this with theme designer enabled because of the css caching. While it would be possible to give users a choice of a limited number of options that are already in the css by using a user profile setting to apply a body class. But then we are into asking site admins to set up and enable user profile settings as well as install the theme. 'Users' do not usually have the ability to access site appearance theme settings so would need a different mechanism that bypasses (or overrides) css caching.
"I think the conflicting requirements of the stakeholders is an important
one, but giving the choice to the various users trumps that. For me
there can't be too many options"
There we are also into the perennial discussion of what needs to be a setting and what can be done through the theme with minimal (ok, what is minimal varies according to the existing knowledge and skills of the site admin and what they are trying to achieve) effort anyway e.g. customcss (especially with Gareth's development of the media store) and that is the balance theme designers are always trying to get right. One person's 'every theme should offer' is another person's 'I wish they wouldn't clutter my page with this that I'm never going to use' - and I don't think any single theme can ever get that balance 100% right for every single institution. And while one person states 'there can't be too many options' others complain about the overload of settings
The 'should be there in case someone needs it' argument is part of the issue I had with flexi_ii - I responded to everybody's calls for 'can we have a setting for...' and it became enormous. Some people loved that, some responded with criticism that it was unfriendly because of the sheer number of settings. Some admins want that ability, others want simplicity - where do we draw the line? For me, its a decision and one (whatever setting we are talking about) where the decision made will satisfy some and not others. To take your example, I wouldn't want a background image on every page, so I see no reason to make it a setting. That doesn't mean I wouldn't add one if there was sufficient call for it, but for me its one of those things where I am happy that if someone wants to do it, they can fairly easily do it through customcss, so as a low priority (for me) I haven't added it as a setting - and at this point would also point out that flexibase was originally a commissioned theme built to a client's requirements and if it had been that client's requirement to enable adding a background image then the setting would already be there .
As for the organisation of the settings that you suggest - Basic, Advanced, SuperAdvanced. I'm never sure about that kind of structure as you can end up with settings relating to similar things in Basic and then have to switch to Advanced for more of them - and I'm not just talking about Moodle here, I see that kind of thing in lots of software, and I can fully understand it. My personal preference though is to organise the settings according to function - colour scheme and branding, front page settings, or carousel, marketing, alerts. I think the essential bit is that they are clearly marked and easy to find and therefore use. The actual organisation chosen doesn't really matter, so long as it is consistent and user friendly. Perhaps if there were a range of roles (general users were able to access 'basic' settings, site managers able to access 'advanced' settings and only the site admin able to access the 'heaven and earth' settings, then that would be a different use case, but the way things are now, I think clearly identified function based settings pages are my personal preference. Possibly within those pages though it may be appropriate in some cases to bring 'simple basic' settings to the top of the page, with more complex options further down - or even onto a second page if the number and usability warrants that (taking flexibase as an example, standard branding colours are on one page, while more advanced additional LESS colouring adaptations of those main brand colours are on a separate page. If you set the main brand colours, there is usually no need to make any changes to the additional variations).
In essence, I agree with you that theme users (at the moment that is site admins) should be given as much flexibility and power over the look and feel (and layout) of their site as possible - and as I said, that is one of the things I have always looked for in the themes I build - and preferably making that flexibility available without the need to access server files. But it also has to be (from previous experience) a usable and useful level of control and settings.
Have a great Christmas
Just a quick post to say a big thank-you for the responses so far.
My personal feelings are mainly to do with Moodle, as I feel that the majority of the time most themes are duplicating settings, where I suspect that these common settings could be part of Moodle. I also believe that we need to concentrate on internal page layouts, as there are times that the 'standard' page layout of a three column eg. side blocks (left & right) with centre contents. There are some I course pages that just do not look right. So most of my findings is not so much a theme issue, but more about creating better Moodle layouts would be welcomed.
My other thoughts, on similar lines, are tha Moodle Core CSS should be contained in Moodle itself and work independent of any theme. This then would allow themes to consentraight how best to design the areas outside of courses, like the Frontpage, Login, My Dashboard, My Public, and Theme settings.
This then takes me to the Admin UI which needs a complete overhaul.
But these are only my thoughts...
RE: This then takes me to the Admin UI which needs a complete overhaul. = Absolutely!
Mary, some comments.
I thought I'd start with the question of design and navigation. I know Rick, Emma, Colin, Gareth and Marcus have commented.
I'll consider what I think are good points for Moodle in general, and I'm starting with what is possible now. ie I'm not looking at possible UI designs or trying to fight against Moodle core approaches. At least not much.
There are at least two key things to consider in design:
- site home page
- course home page + sections etc
In my view, these are different: they have different needs for the home page - like branding, coping with new users, and providing help - and in the courses, well that's more about learning.
IN GENERAL, most key decisions should have a toggle. They should not be hard coded or dependent in making a field blank to 'switch off' something. eg
- Site notices. A text box and a Display Yes/No toggle
- a slider. Tons of pictures and text and a Display Yes/No toggle
- Menus and dropdowns: If you have a preference for there to be a link to Badges in a dropdown: don't force this on all users with hard coding.
At least one column as an option. And a choice of left or right.
I just note Gareths comment: "Have column layouts had their day?"
I also note Mary's comment in this thread: "Moodle does not really lend itself that well to alternative layouts other than the standard layouts we see already. Left center right, it should be multifaceted"
And just to check guys that we are really talking about the same thing. Does this site have columns: http://moodle.leedscitycollege.ac.uk/ It is Moodle, But what is missing is the blocky surrounding lines in excess.
For the future: there may be an opportunity here for some experimentation with options here
- I think Dearborn/Pioneer prefer one right column.
- Snap has built in section navigation and one column on the right.
- Flexibase has five choices of layout, and can even have four (maybe five??) columns
My opinion: ditch the two side columns. This is an old Moodle/website look.
One column at the most, but without the boxes.
SITE HOME PAGE the first debate: what to do here?
IN GENERAL: All decisions on the use of real estate to be selected by either settings or custom CSS. Don't make me have one large banner with NO choice.
You can of course do all sorts of things here. Where we are now with Moodle core development, I'm suggesting simple banner option in every theme, unless they have a totally new look (eg Snap/the old Sky High/Squared)
THE BASIC STANDARD OPTION: simple banner image - you can then give a lot of power to the user.
- Enough settings to choose size/height, background colour (etc) in settings/custom CSS. This is kind of like the stock standard web basic.
- Possibilities written up with help in the settings notes, advice for custom CSS etc. Please don't make the user guess things like size of image, how to choose padding etc.
- And making use of the full width with a choice as to whether to show it or not on all (course level) pages.
SITE NAME: Ability to have site name easily styled and to be where you want it.
SLIDER: toggle on/off, speed of transition, images and links. And height. Especially height.
FOOTER. Some may like the three column footer, floats, responsive etc.
MARKETING SPOTS. FEATURED COURSES: increasingly common with Moodle sites designed to sell courses. Toggles, As above. These can be incredibly complex, with images, links, text, rollovers - Users should be able to choose "Minimal" - maybe just unstyled images.
There are some great Moodle sites that show how this can be done well.
HOW COURSES/CATEGORIES ARE DISPLAYED on the front page.
OTHER OPTIONS FOR THE GENERAL LOOK AND FEEL
Sadly, some of the themes with interesting facets to them have quickly come and gone and were never properly finished.
TWO INTERESTING OPTIONS
- Squared. https://moodle.org/plugins/theme_squared This is unique, and has gone a little off the radar since 2.8, probably due to no funding.
- Snap. This also is unique. https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=323863
WHAT COULD BE DONE, THE MINIMALIST BLANK CANVAS OPTION
Colin suggested this: "I suggest essentially a blank canvas and let people build a front page they like"
ie Have a top menu with a few things on like Courses, About, Help and Login; Have a footer.
Then the rest BLANK: just allow the admin to put in some HTML.
- Andy has done something along these lines with his "Jazzed up home page" https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=324375 ie nothing to hint at the "Moodle look".
- This is the theme from the Edinburgh Moot. http://moodle.moodlemoot.ie/login/index.php A theme that is so unMoodle like.
- Here is another interesting look: http://moodle.ccad.ac.uk/ (Squares again!! - but not really impressed beyond the front page. The first six links I clicked on took me to a login page!!!!)
SOME SPECIAL ITEMS ON THE FRONT PAGE
- The Front page Tabs in Flexibase - which now I see it in action is a great option. I can post a link if anyone wants to see it in action. In Richards course here http://roelmann.no-ip.org/moodlemaster/ it is not set up.
- Some have special site information blocks.
I'm sure there are a few more special features on the home page in other themes. I see there are several needs to meet:
- What is this site all about
- Buy my product!!
- How do I join?
- Where is help?
- Where is my course?
COURSE HOME PAGE - and the section level pages etc.
- This is where the learner will spend most of their time I guess.
- In my opinion, good use of Real Estate is the key.
- Here, design and UI are really important.
- This is there the scroll of death can move in and be here to stay in Core Moodle. We have no examples on the Orange School that show progress with the SoD, with one exception: hugely time consuming hand coding of links. Or if it is not a problem, it is because the course is linear and prescribed.
So, a good theme will help deal with SoD.
[Distraction] Possibly the worst case in core Moodle is the Page resource. Click on one, and you loose all context except for the breadcrumbs - you even loose any blocks that may be helpful. You have only one place to go - Back. I wonder if a theme could help with this? Even a simple approach to display pages in a section in tabs. (At least then you can navigate between pages easily) A version of this is here in a post by Stuart Lamour: http://blogs.sussex.ac.uk/elearningteam/2011/05/11/moodle-pages-format/
WHAT YOU AS LEARNER NEED TO DEAL WITH AT COURSE LEVEL
- What's on this week? - deadlines - progress
- Communication of significant information
- Reference: course outline, official stuff
- Reference: course contant
- Reference: who your tutor is
I observe that these can get scattered all over the place in a Moodle course.
HEADER: at course level
- Choice to NOT show the site banner/branding
- Choice on banner to be selected at course level.
- Better still, nice micro branding at course level. eg one Tiny top left icon.
- . . . [Several good themes have these already as settings]
NAVIGATION AND SECTION CONTENT MANAGEMENT.
WHAT HAS BEEN TRIED. This question has to do with navigation, finding your way around a course etc.
Icons/arrangement of items in a course page.
- Snap has a totally new look. Files appearing in tiles, across the page for instance. Reduces the scroll of death an enormous amount, and no downside that I can see.
- Generico Filter/Tab filter enables a tabs in a section. Needs some simple markup; doesn't allow links to a specific tab - only the first tab. The tabs debate has been long going on in Moodle.org. See this from 2005: https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=25629
- Formats: Grid, collapsible, onetopic etrc bring some extra power here.
STEP ONE TO HELP IMPROVE NAVIGATION: remove the Navigation menu and the Settings menu.
- The AwesomeBar does some of this: in Decaf and Flexibase.
- Stuart's comment: https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=233520#p1016971 on their useability testing - and here: https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=233520#p1017027
- BCU I think are heading in this direction. I quote: "Future Plans: we will be adding more navigation items into the theme (configurable) with the aim of reaching a point where we can disable the administration and navigaion blocks for students giving a simplified more consistent way of navigating courses which is less dependant on the random availability and placement of blocks"
SPECULATIVE AT THE COURSE LEVEL
- Frederics Simplified 'block-less' navigation experiment https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=233520 I got a little depressed seeing this again (it came from 2013). How little we have really moved.
- Chris (Of Pioneer fame) had this to say: "I'd like to do a section/topic menu block but build it into the theme and then have a button appear in a fixed spot on the left of the screen. When clicked it will slide to the right and display the topic menu navigation" https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=323800#p1300356
- Plus? . . . an Israeli coder had some ideras, but I can't find his post.
At the risk of distraction, I have found some of the metaphors in this article helpful:
Summary: Principles for wayfinding in web sites
- Paths: Create consistent, well-marked navigation paths
- Regions: Create a unique but related identity for each site region
- Nodes: Don’t confuse the user with too many choices on home and major menu pages
- Landmarks: Use consistent landmarks in site navigation and graphics to keep the user oriented
As I said, this is issue of course level design is a difficult matter.
- I personally dislike scrolling to find things/got to things. I don't mind scrolling to read.
- I dislike too many clicks.
- Where I am I want want to be able to go to somewhere meaningful. That is the basis of my appreciation for tabs.
- It is also the basis of my interest in sections and subsections. https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=316278
I've mentioned header above.
I'd like to be able to choose H1-3/4-6 styles easily - sort of grouped CSS for easy working at the Custom CSS level
I'd like to be able to choose Serif/Sans serif for body texts
We probably all want to able to include classy fonts easily also.
I have been attracted to simple white based themes with wekk chosen (few) colours and good contrast. Nuff said. This is hugely personal.
Gareth in this thread says: "And with 'insufficient in the modern environment', do you actually realise how much work is involved in making things 'easy' beyond the file manager? As an example, Shoehorn's accordion block feature which has one on / off tick box and took me a day to code, not counting investigating its feasibility and post implementation testing"
In actual fact it is worse than this. I have spent hours coding something to find it is just not possible to acheve what I want; or I write a lot of code to find on reflection a simpler and quicker way to do what I want, and throw it out ans start again.
A hope for effectiveness and efficiency??
This is one reason I am interested in Richard's approach. "As a secondary consideration, this theme [ie Flexibase] is also being used to develop several of the features as 'plugable' options for other themes, which you can find in the 'theme components' folder of flexibase. Each component comes with its own set of instructions, but these can vary according to the theme the component is being added to - as folder structure, existance/inheritance of layout files, lib.php etc will all have a bearing on implementing these components" (From https://moodle.org/plugins/theme_flexibase)
I'm not sure I undertstand all of this, but I take it to mean you can have little plugin entities in a theme that can be shared around and reused. A big +1.
Final personal comment, in the search for a theme for Moodle 3.0.
BCU, Pioneer, Snap and Flexibase all especially have a lot to offer. Snap is not on the Plugins Database, but looks like it is popular with MoodleRooms clients. It is a standout in the design side of things. I may see if we can clone some of the look of this theme. Essential I will try again when it comes out for 3.0. I've downloaded Shoehorn and will actuate it so for a look. Mary tells me Morecandy in the database will work with 3.0. We may just roll over on the 6th January and go with our current theme, and change later to a new one.
There are a few issues which have interesting commentary in.
- Inconsistent and confusing drop-down menu design, most open/close links aren't also hyperlinks, but some are and have two competing functions https://tracker.moodle.org/browse/MDL-34838#
There are more
OK, done for now, abandoned to the submit button.
I'm afraid TL;DR will strike. But this little exercise has helped clear my head.
It all boils down to this:
At the course level, I want:
- Smooth section to section navigation
- Inside section navigation - Tabs??
- 'This week' current, progress, "Today's news" indicators done well
- All other stuff (help, grades, dashboard, badges, profile editing etc) hidden in a few nice drop down menus
- Lovely icons and attractive styling
- Just a few nice editing icons for the teacher. ie a slightly improved UI
And outside the orbit of this thread, a decent video handling solution (after all this is the new millennium)
Good luck Mary
Ok, (going back to the original question) this is a big call...
I'm trying to get a one page solution with a strongly tailorable visual aspect. I started with the Morecandy theme which goes down well with may learners. For the course overview I use the grid format (Which I sincerely believe should be a core part of Moodle!). At that point I get a bit more adventurous...
This is how I would like to format a topic view. On the left would be two or three sticky blocks. Under them would be an accordion or something similar with the other blocks available on clicking or mouseover. Each topic would have it's own background image. Obviously some people would prefer a plain background.
The main part of the screen is a coverflow element with the materials for the topic, be that resources, exercises or whatever. (The coverflow in question is a screenshot, so the images are not appropriate - I only changed the centre image as an example). On clicking the images or tiles a modal would open with the content. Completed activities could be darkened thereby highlighting what still needs to be done.
The bottom row of elements would be key units of the module - in my case a forum belongs to most topics and as I'm teaching language, there's always going to be a key language section. A final test or assignment and a feedback element round it out. All of these would appear as modals. I could imagine three to five options here.
From playing with Bootstrap, I'd say that most of this is doable (but that might be the novice in me speaking!) Making tiles or images show web pages an documants in a modal is quite easy, even for a beginner, but getting Moodle to play nice is probably a bit trickier!
This is just a cut and paste mockup using elements I've already got, together with a wish list. It eliminates the scroll of death completely and puts everything at the learner's fingertips
So, I'll go and pillage some more turkey leftovers and come back later to see what people think!
@ Andy, that looks great, but how much design and styling experience do you have compared to the average Admin do you think? Quite a lot I would expect, unless you have a real sense of style and intuitive grasp of design. I once asked an art/design teacher to sketch up a few ideas on styling a Moodle; it was brilliant, and I expect that sometime in the next decade or two, Moodle themes might catch up.
"...I'll go and pillage some more turkey leftovers..."
Leftovers? You got leftovers????? No teenager sits at your table I bet!!!!
Colin, Any chance of sharing the design so the themers around can look and see how easy/otherwise it would be to achieve?
It may be that at least parts of it are already possible, while others could be achieved through course formats or some lateral thinking
Sorry Richard, long gone I am afraid, but in light of this discussion, I should have kept it.. oh well, my crystal ball is just not working since the great fires of 1983... all I see now is smoke!!!!
Nice look Andy,
1. Sticky blocks over accordian - One of the layout options in flexibase allows side-pre to sit over side-post on the same side of the main screen. It should be possible to style one of those with accordian style - or collapsed by default - blocks, while the other one is standard blocks (clicking would be better than mouseover as mouseover/hover effects dont work on touch screens such as tablets)
2. topic background images - not sure how to do that, would probably need some kind of code to add a bodyclass based on the selected topic, which i don't believe is currently present (contextid, courseid etc are, but not topic as far as I know). This may be more of a course format issue than a theme one (see other part of the thread for discussions into how the two may overlap, or not)
3. Coverflow elements - Sounds like a recreation of the grid format as a coverflow - I believe currently the grid format pops the content up as a 'lightbox' but bootstrap should now allow that as a modal instead
4. The buttons/panels to click on should be no problem, although Im not sure exactly how to make the links then pop up in a modal popup rather than their designated moodle page layouts.
So most of the design should be possible - I think. But would take significant coding to actually create. Probably not the kind of thing that any of us would take on as a free project (except, possibly over considerable time as a learning experience), but should be eminently do-able if someone wanted to contract a developer to create it (no, not volunteering/touting - its probably beyond my skills and definitely beyond my time availability )
It's not hard to convince a teacher / organisation that Moodle can offer them the learning support they are looking for and they will need to spend time and money in learning it. As an admin I find it more difficult to convince them that it also needs money to make Moodle their enviroment and not Moodles HQ Moodle.
Over the years I used different kind of theme's, but in the end I kept using Essentials. Since that was one of the theme's, which gave organisations the feeling it was their Moodle without me having to dig into CSS and PHP but just changing settings in Moodle.
Had a lot of happy organisations because they didn't have to go through a development process but had a direct visualisation (after installation) and just had to go "I want this changed etc". Of course the idea that there is an option they didn't need me anymore, and can do it by themself helped as well.
So to answer your question "what do you want in a Moodle theme?" from a teacher/user point of view and not an Admin point of view. A theme that gives me the oppertunity to not only upload a logo but can change colors on the page, use different kind of fonds without using Custom CSS and have options where I can choice if I want a slider, extra blocks on the frontpage, show my courses like in BCU etc.
I've no idea what i'd want in a moodle theme to be honest - too close to it!
But i have been involved over the years in a significant amount of user research with the end users - learners and educators - which is how bootstrap came about and since then alongside David Scotson & Guy Thomas - Snap.
For learners there were some significant things they thought moodle out the box should provide such as a list of their upcoming deadlines, recent feedback, messages and forum posts in courses they were enrolled on (which moodle can provide in lots of flexible ways, but none seemed to meet the user's basic information needs in a good way) - so we built these into Snap, and educators seemed to like them too.
Consistency was another thing learners valued along with trust in the content. When something changed font or colour halfway through a paragraph, course or site it creates an idea that the content is somehow dated and unprofessional because that never happens on other websites they visit.
Navigation was another thing most learners and educators found difficult in moodle, and even the bootstrap based themes don't provide coherent navigation on small screen or tablet - so we tried to make this clear, intuitive and mobile first in Snap.
Spotting what was an activity or a resource was often confusing for students - and activities seemed to offer no clue as to if they had been attempted, what their due date was and for educators if they needed to mark anything (without the clicking into each individual resource - which can be rather time consuming) so we addressed all those issues in Snap.
By interviewing real users and watching them use the system, listening to their issues along side looking at the most common help requests and training support issues we designed Snap to remove the common barriers to online learning and teaching, increase engagement and uptake and remove expensive time consuming overheads.
There is a tumblr showing some of the fun things about Snap. It's not just another responsive theme or course format, it's quite specifically designed and tested with real end users to alleviate some of the common usability problems and workflow issues learners and educators found painful in a standard moodle.
We just released the 2.9 version to moodlerooms clients, so that should be available on github this month.
Hope this helps clarify some of the discussion above and happy 2016 moodle theme peeps!
Some new information here Scott, and I like the blog.
- Do you plan to put Snap in the plugins database?
- Just out of interest, what prompted top section to section navigation rather than side navigation? It seems to me you still need to scroll. Is this for something in the mobile area?
I posted in GIT suggesting you had a Beta version for 3.0 sitting there to attract bug reports which when you came to upgrade to a proper 3.0 version you had a lot of testing already under your belt. In general what is missing from themes (being a lot more complex than many other plugins) is a list of tests somewhere we can just work through.