About the Southend theme
The theme currently being developed on the web design section of the Drupal SoSLUG site is called, not surprisingly, Southend. (see menu, Networking > Web design).
While this may appear to be part of the SoSLUG site, its actually a separate site, which is being used as a test bed for the ideas and changes members wish to make. At some point these changes will migrate across to the main site. In the meantime, by comparing the two, you can judge for yourselves, whether the changes are positive or not.
Development started on the theme in 2011, and originally the design was based on Garland, the default Drupal theme for version 6.x. At the time of writing, the theme is less than a year old, and very little of the Garland theme is now left. I suspect, like other themes, it will be in a state of perpetual development and I'll be the first to admit, at the moment its still rather ragged around the edges.
The theme is a liquid layout, meaning that as the window size changes, the content portion of the page changes with it. Unlike Garland however, which will expand up to a fixed limit, around 1270 pixels), the Southend theme goes an expanding.
When Garland reaches it limit two equally sized vertical bars take up the extra space. This space is effectively "wasted", or dead space.
The left and right sidebars of the Southend theme are a fixed width, that can be altered more easily, and independently of one another. The left sidebar is wider than the right, to accommodate multi level menu's, and minimise the effect of wrapping at lower levels in the menu tree. It has also allowed a change in the font size, to improve readable.
At the of writing, the chosen font is Verdana, which belongs to the serif family of fonts, and is allegedly easier to read when browsing, compared with fonts in the Sans Serif family. Unfortunately different operating systems, as well as browsers, favour different fonts, The choice of font can also make a significant difference to the page layout, and hence the templates of any theme
The other obvious difference is the banner at the top the page which has the potential to change with each new level of the menu.
Originally views were being used which incorporated a banner. The idea being, a banner becomes identified with a given section and by moving it to the header provides more space for the content. For this to work, requires the menu_breadcrumb module, because without this, the breadcrumb trail only works with the navigation menu.
If a banner image is missing, a default image (shown below) is used, i.e. a missing piece. The dimensions of the image are 600 x 150px and they are contained in their own Banners folder within the theme.
It is left to the more artistic members of the group, to fill in the missing pieces.
Why develop a new theme?
That wasn't the intention at the outset, in fact the development started as a sub theme, however there is a limit to what can be achieved with changes to the style sheet. While other themes have some of the features we wanted, no single alternative theme provided them all. As time went on, it became apparent that starting from scratch, was going to be the easiest option.
A key objective of the design was to make it more flexible, by simplifying things as much as possible, and sticking closely to the default HTML styles. So HTML pages developed outside Drupal, would need a minimum of tweaking.