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Review: Best Joomla Templates & Frameworks

Review: Best Joomla Templates & Frameworks

With all the available options online, choosing the right Joomla template framework can be frustrating. What if you choose one that doesn't suite your needs? Luckily, there are many good options out there, and its hard to say that there's a best one for every situation. There are different features, designs, and specializations that should be taken into consideration when choosing your template, and I recommend trying different frameworks before deciding what you like best. Personally, I don't just use one framework; I pick whichever one works best for the website I am building. Here is a review of some of my favorite frameworks:

 


 RocketTheme Logo

RocketTheme - Gantry Framework

The Gantry framework (http://www.rockettheme.com/joomla-templates or http://www.gantry-framework.org/ for the stand-alone framework) has been around for a long time, with a plethora of template options dating back to as early as 2005 (they release 1/month, so you do the math). 

 

Template User Interface & Administration

Based on the 960 Grid system, it's most powerful feature is its template manager interface, and the features it provides. Their layouts tab lets you set the number of columns for each individual row, with a total of up to 78 different positions. Additionally, their  templates have a ton of different color and style options to choose from. I recommend using Gantry as a standalone template if you are willing to provide your own design. The only complaint with their admin panel is the lack of additional responsive features (more on that below).

Template Design

Unfortunately, this is an area that RocketTheme performs poorly in. Of course, design is all relative to each user's preference, but to me their designs over the last year or two have had more or less the same look and feel. This is crucial because usually you will want to pick from the latest designs. If you're looking to make a professional looking, clean website, look elsewhere. It's not all bad though; as noted above they do offer a good selection of pre-determined styles with different colors and background images, which is helpful for people with less coding know-how.

Responsive Functionality

This is another area that RocketTheme has struggled with. Other templating frameworks have incorporated features that allow you to configure the layout as browser widths decline, however with Gantry you're stuck with what the default is, unless you want to do some additional coding. Another nuance with their templates is that every time I build a new site, their headers have responsive issues. This is due to the fact that they always have the logo and menu in one row, while not accounting for different logo dimensions/sizes or a large amount of menu items. I usually end up spending a couple extra hours re-sizing images, making menu fonts smaller, etc.

 

Template Features

RocketTheme includes their arsenal of extensions in their templates, which are more or less hit or miss (but the ones that hit do pretty well).  RokBooster is one of their good ones, which seems to be one of the more reliable compression tools. RokSprocket for tabbed/rotating content is also a nice feature, which manages content based on articles (which tends to be easier for managing content). Their other extensions can usually be overlooked and replaced by more refined options.

 


 

 Gavick Pro Logo

Gavick Templates (Gavern Framework)

Gavick (http://www.gavick.com/joomla-templates.html)  is relatively new, with 28 templates available as of this writing (first one is from Nov 2011). You can't download the framework separately, so the only way to use it is to purchase one of their templates. One thing to note about Gavick templates is that they have excellent browser compatibility - I usually have no issues with supporting IE7 & up with their templates.

 

Template User Interface & Administration

Gavick's admin panel is good; while not as user-friendly as Gantry's, it does have some notable features that I found to be very helpful. It's additional configuration for responsive layout is very useful, althought a little bare-bones (more on that later). It's caching and compression options look good on paper, but more often than not they didn't function properly. The font manager they included is better than in any other template frameworks I've seen, and it has a Social API integration feature that looks pretty cool, but I never had a need to utilize it. 

Template Design

Gavick has an excellent choice of design options, making this one of the areas that it really shines. It seems like they try to diversify the designs and layouts with each release, and they typically include some nice animations and styles that really help your website stand out without looking too extravagant. 

Responsive Functionality

Another area Gavick does well, I found myself spending less time doing responsive testing on their templates than with others. Their layout admin options, which govern adjustments for responsiveness, are very simple. They allow you to adjust content centering, widths for different devices (which switch to different style-sheets per device), and side-bar position/width. The simplicity is nice, if that's your cup of tea; however, I think that the Shape 5 framework provides the best versatility due to having the most configuration options. 

Template Features

Gavick includes their own module (ImageShow) which does its job, but is a little cumbersome to administer - content is managed in the module, so training clients to manage it is a little more difficult. Their e-commerce templates also include Virtuemart, which is probably their best option for an e-commerce solution since it's free. One big caveat to using Virtuemart is that I would never recommend it for a large and/or complex e-commerce site. Even with their overhaul in the 2.0 release, it is extremely difficult to administer products, and you will likely end up purchasing several 3rd party components/plugins, making the product less free than it really seems. Of course, if you're a Virtuemart user, you probably already know this, and either hate it or love it. On a side note, I prefer Hikashop, but if you implement Hikashop into a Gavick e-commerce template, expect to do a good deal of extra coding to get their styles and animations to apply to its pages.

 


 shape5

Shape 5 - Vertex Framework

Shape 5 (http://www.shape5.com/) has some great things going for it - it has the most features when it comes to responsive design configuration, it's been around for a while (since 2007), and has some excellent design choices. Also, you can download their framework, Vertex (http://www.shape5.com/joomla/framework/vertex_framework.html) and use it with your own design. Unfortunately, Shape 5 templates are plagued with a tragic flaw; they often have jQuery conflicts, which cause many extensions to not work properly with them. Almost every installation I did of a Shape 5 template had an issue. This applies to both their 2.5 and 3.0 Joomla versioned templates, and they offer absolutely no support on their forums if you run into an issue.

Template User Interface & Administration

As stated above, the Vertex framework has the best configuration options for handling responsive design - this includes a plethora of options for setting widths of module positions, setting the number of columns and hiding different elements as device resolutions scale down. As with many of the other templates, I usually have issues with their caching and compression tools (Gantry's seems to be the best). 

Template Design

Shape 5 templates have a great selection to choose from, many of which are clean and modern-looking. They tend to have lots of gradients, box-shadows, and lessened opacity, but they don't go over-board  with them. This does take a toll on their browser support though, among other things. 

Responsive Functionality

As noted above, the Vertex framework is very versatile and configurable when it comes to responsive design options. The administration panel allows you to configure different width %s per page, which is a nice addition.

Template Features

Shape 5's built in extensions aren't bad, but they don't really stand out in any area. I typically end up replacing them with other extensions that are more versatile. They have several extensions that are managed sliders, tabs, content rotators and so on, which do OK, but there's plenty of better options out there in the Joomla Extensions Directory. 

 


 joomlart logo

JoomlArt - T3 Framework

There's some kind of affinity I have with JoomlArt templates (http://www.joomlart.com/joomla/templates), and I can't just pin down what it is. I wouldn't call them my favorite template makers, but they certainly have their own charm. Many of the templates don't have anything too fancy going on with them, which I like, and they do very well with their designs (I even have clients picking templates from them that are several years old, so they have quite a bit of choices). Their templates are usually not too script heavy, so their offering of minified CSS (no javascript compression) usually suffices. You can download the T3 framework and provide your own design, although I would recommend Gantry if you decide to go that route. One weird thing about JoomlArt is that their site is extremely inconsistent - I occasionally end up at pages that are down, and usually that's only when I need something important from there. Also, I don't recommend using any templates from them that are from 2012 or earlier. They've been doing good the last year or so, but their earlier templates aren't implemented very well.

Template User Interface & Administration

If you want something simple, look no further. The T3 framework is so bare-bones, you can step inside the admin panel for a few minutes and be done. This makes it a good choice for beginners. Advanced Joomla-ers should also be able to accomplish about as much as with any other template, although their layout configuration options are really lame when compared to the competition.

Template Design

JoomlArt has been around a long time, and they have plenty of options to choose from. They've been playing around with some alternative designs and features lately( as is much of the competition) but their other templates that are more simple and clean-cut are my favorites for professional looking websites. 

Responsive Functionality

There's not really much to say about their responsive design - it works pretty average. Based off of bootstrap, it uses media queries only and isn't quite as elegant in it's responsive handling as other templates. However, it gets the job done with only a moderate amount of tweaking required.

Template Features

JoomlArt offers a wide variety of extensions to use, and the ones I have used have been pretty good. They're still usually not as good as using a specialized extension for a specific task, but versatile enough to modify to a unique look and feel if you know some CSS. One cool feature of their framework is the ability to develop in LESS by switching their development mode on, if you like that sort of thing. One complaint I have about their templates is the way they implement logos; by placing it in an H1 tag - they're blog says it doesn't hurt SEO, but I always change it anyways just in case. 

 


logo

Yootheme - Warp Framework

Yootheme (http://www.yootheme.com/themes/joomla) is up there with Gantry as one of the most robust frameworks. They've recently incorporated css compilers with a nifty interface to style your template using inputs and dropdowns to select properties (of course, this will only be available on some of their newer templates). Unfortunately you can't download the Warp framework on it's own, so you'll have to purchase one of their pre-designed ones to get started.

Template User Interface & Administration

The warp framework is pretty minimal in version 6 and below. Version 7 has plenty more features (including the css compiling mentioned above), but as it is newly implemented I believe they need to work a little on the user experience, since took a little time to figure out how to manipulate the themes. The warp framework is also grid-based (like Gantry), and they have a useful feature for implementing different % based layouts which can be applied to individual pages.

Template Design

Yootheme's designs are very clean, colorful, and appealing to the eyes. They often have a very "soft" look and feel, and often implement cool animations and transitions that add to the "wow" factor. As with RocketTheme, they offer a bunch of pre-defined classes and themes within their templates that you can apply.

Responsive Functionality

Their responsive features work very well, and the templates offer many pre-defined percentages based classes that you can use. The percentage based layouts in their admin panel are very useful, and allow you to create a unique layout for each page if you decide to do so.

Template Features

Yootheme offers their Widgetkit to use in their templates, which is in my opinion the best toolkit out there. It's a similar approach to Gantry's Rok-based extensions (noticing a theme here?), but takes it several steps further. Rather than compartmentalizing the different extensions, they include it as a component that lets you edit each set of features in one tabular panel. Also, you can implement various features (such as lightboxes & css3 animations) from Widgetkit within your articles or modules. Their "Zoo" collection of images and css styles that you can apply to the templates also has been pretty useful.


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Thursday, 14 November 2019

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5000 characters left

LATEST ON OUR BLOG

OUR YELP REVIEWS

  • Virgo Web Design recently completed my website MeetPeopleChicago.com. Jerry was easy to work with, was attentive to my questions and was on top of things from start to finish. In addition he was very knowledgable and up to date on the latest technologies. I am very pleased with the final product and I will surely use him again for future enhancements. Thank you Jerry for the great work you have done!

    PETER S.

    Meet People Chicago

  • As a marketing communications person who knew my company needed an up-to-date website built in Joomla, I was very happy we found [Virgo Web Design]. I understood things from a content perspective, but when it came to back-end design and architecture, my hands were tied. [Virgo Web Design] was so knowledgeable and easy to work with, and was always available to answer questions, make tweaks, walk me through front-end editing tasks...you name it. [Virgo Web Design]'s accessibility and can-do attitude made such a difference to our entire team, and I hope I always thanked [them] enough for helping me through the client-side part of the web redesign process.

    CORRIE M.

    Aptude

  • "[Virgo Web Design] did an amazing job on my non-profit's website, ghhaven.org. [They] put our site together quickly and with all of the elements we requested - plus, [they] had a lot of great recommendations for things that we hadn't even considered for the site. [They were] very helpful throughout the process of getting our site launched and I found [them] to be quick in responding to all of my questions/requests as well. [They] even helped us get our business emails set up!

    I would definitely recommend Virgo Web Design as a go-to for all of your web design/development needs. I will definitely be using [them] again in the near future!"

    FRITZIE S.

    Genesis Hopeful Haven

  • [Virgo Web Design] has developed and designed multiple websites for me over the years. [Their] team are exceptionally skilled technicians. Their communication is easy to understand, and they are very proficient - even when near-end deadlines are demanding. Hiring Jerry Virgo and his team is one of the best decisions I have made for my company.

    Michael W

    One Chicago Realty

  • I've used Yahoo sitebuilder for several years and my e-commerce website was due for an overhaul. I asked around & received several recommendations from friends & other small businesses.

    Many of the other referrals came from Web design firms & had significantly higher overheads/billing rates...We had a tight timeline & [they were] very diligent at following up to avoid production delays at time when I was extremely busy. [They] did a nice all around job improving my SEO optimization, creating a polished final product, and documenting the back end with an easy to use manual.

    After the site when live, [they] stood by & helped me troubleshoot unanticipated events & helped me create work arounds.

    Chris H.

    City Tree Delivery

  • [Virgo Web Design] knocked out a full rebuild of our site in a few weeks, guided us through things we didn't understand with ease and calm and gave great advice, training and follow up service

    Nicholle D.

    DANK Haus

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