Why are there few Drupal Designers?
One of the biggest reasons that Drupal has not attracted designers is because developers have been the main Drupal users. Drupal’s power and flexibility have allowed developers to create custom functionality. We are usually left brain or right brain dominant. Left brain dominant people tend to be strong in analytical and technical skills. Right brain dominant people tend to be creative and artistic. Left brain inclined developers are often not naturally good at design.
Lets be blunt. For a designer who only has Photoshop, html and css skills, Drupal theming is not an easy task. This is the barrier that exists for designers. Even though the theming layer has been significantly improved in Drupal 7, Drupal theming requires knowledge of php to control the PHPTemplate engine. Where Drupal has the potential to shine is when you can bring together a strong designer and a strong developer to get the task done. To shift perceptions of Drupal towards stronger design would require a major paradigm shift. This shift would change Drupal to become perceived as a well designed cms, rather than a code monkey’s playground. This would then open more designer’s eyes to consider designing for the Drupal cms.
One of the design challenges of other open source cms systems, such as WordPress and Joomla, is that there has been an exponential growth of pre-made themes. There are now many popular online theme market places. In fact, it is coming to a point where some might consider it to be saturated. On the other hand, the pre-made Drupal templates are few in comparison. This means less competition for Drupal designers and this lack of competition is a significant advantage for designers.
Ready Made Themes
Even though the marketplace for Drupal themes is small, if you are looking for a ready made theme, the availability of prebuilt Drupal themes is increasing. With the release of Drupal 7, many more beautiful looking themes have become available. This is fantastic for content websites and a vast array of options are being offered. Although on the flipside, currently only few Drupal themes for Ecommerce are available. It will be some time before more ecommerce themes are produced.
How to improve Design with Drupal
To allow a seamless transition from design to development, it is important for those who are designing mockups for Drupal to have some familiarity with Drupal. Drupal designers should use standard graphical elements without changing the size, design forms as standard Drupal forms, style consistently and using a grid is often helpful to maintain a consistent layout. It is also worthwhile to consider creating a template with all the important graphical elements, without needing to design them from scratch for each design.
Drupal is Great for Design
Bringing these ideas together, Drupal design becomes a very attractive endeavor when you utilize a dedicated graphic designer and when you consider the lack of competition. Designing for Drupal does require some familiarity with Drupal and although not in depth knowledge. The key point here is that we need a change in the way Drupal is perceived. The more beautifully Drupal designed websites are out there, the more it will be perceived as an ideal cms to design for. This shift is starting to happen now with Drupal 7 putting more emphasis on design and usability. It is likely that we will collectively see Drupal as a great cms for design in the near future.