How to choose the right Joomla template

Simon Kloostra

Simon Kloostra is a dutch web designer, most known for publishing about SEO and Performance related topics regarding Joomla. He owns the blog and has also written the book "Joomla 3 SEO & Performance". Also he regularly speaks about these topics in Joomla User Groups and Joomla Community Magazine.

Choosing the right template for your Joomla projects is not always easy. It is not just a matter of choosing a layout with a few fancy colors that appeal to you, there are many more considerations, some obvious and some less so. In this article we will discuss the considerations you need to think of.

You’ll Learn About:

  1. Building your own template
  2. Free Joomla templates
  3. Reliable template providers
  4. Features consideration
  5. SEO and performance
  6. Stock photos
  7. Template updating
  8. Metadata

1. Building your own template

After choosing the right CMS, choosing the right template is probably the next most important choice in your projects. Making the right choice with your template can make the rest of your work really easy and stressless, while making the wrong choice can make you run into a lot of trouble, with issues like problems with maintenance, issues with Joomla upgrades and even hacked sites.

The first choice is whether you build your own template or whether you will buy or download one online. This is unless you already like the Protostar template that ships with the Joomla core. It looks pretty simple, but you can easily turn it into a very nice template if you tune it a little...

If you build your own custom template, you have complete freedom and you can set it up exactly for the specific project you are working on, with only those features built in that you really need.

This can result in extremely lightweight templates without any overload in code, and the only costs are the hours you spend working on them. The downside is, however, that you need to be very skilled in topics like HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, Bootstrap, etc.

Building templates in such a way can be time-consuming, but if you succeed, you learn a lot and it can be really rewarding. An alternative can of course be to hire an expert to do this for you. Also, bear in mind that you don’t have to code everything from scratch. You can use template frameworks like Gantry, Warp, T3, or others as a base for your projects, though also these can have steep learning curves.

Secondly, we have template clubs that offer very nice templates, preconfigured with color schemes and features, which may very well offer you with the perfect solution, easily applied to existing Joomla sites.

Most templates cost a few dollars, though you can also find some free templates (careful!). Especially for non-coders, this is often the best choice, though there are also experts that simply prefer the ease of use. Still, between template providers there are many differences, and this is what we will talk about in the following paragraphs.

2. Careful with free templates

First of all, be careful with free templates. The best sources of free templates are the free versions that many commercial template providers offer as a means to get acquainted with their services. These are usually reliable. Other free templates can be found on spammy download sites, but they are usually free because they are riddled with spam or malicious software. Always ask yourself: why would this template be free?

3. Reliable template providers

Luckily there are a lot of reliable template providers. Some are quite big, but there are also smaller template clubs with really nice templates. Some good reasons to choose for template clubs are the following:

  • Number one is support: if you have issues with your template, you can submit a ticket or request support through forum or email support. This will ensure you never get stuck.
  • Documentation: Most providers offer extensive documentation about how to use and
    configure their templates. Also, they offer example packages of full-featured template
    installations that you can use as example, or even as a start for your own website.
  • On-line reputation: Reliable providers will usually have good on-line reputations. You can often find many user-reviews or forum posts about this if you do some investigations on-

This is a list with 10 template providers that are well known and reliable. Keep in mind that this is a somewhat arbitrary list, there are certainly more reliable providers:

  • Templatemonster of course 😉
  • Yootheme
  • Rockettheme
  • Joomlart
  • Joomla Bamboo
  • Gavick
  • Shape5
  • Joomshaper
  • JoomFX
  • Themexpert

4. Features consideration

Between template providers, your main concern will often be whether the look and feel matches your taste (or your clients taste). This is also depending on whether the template is offered in or more color schemes. However, there are more considerations:

  • Besides fixed color-schemes, it is also possible to have full customizers, allowing you to set your own color-schemes, fonts, grid-sizes, etcetera, exactly as you like them.
  • Look for freedom in the number of module positions and their placement. If you cannot apply your logic to a template it is useless. Be careful with templates with a very fixed layout.
  • Decide whether you like features like sliders or mega-menu’s to be built in with your template or not. While this can offer advanced functionality out of the box, it can also be
    code-overload if you don’t use these features. Remember that usually an extension can also achieve these goals.
  • Make sure you check whether the framework used by a template club is easy to use. Some template clubs use quite complicated frameworks, and if you don’t grasp the logic of these,
    using these templates will be a pain.

Once you have made a choice for a template provider you like, it is a good idea to stick to this
provider: you get acquainted with their logic, and if you like the general look and feel, future
templates that they release will probably also appeal to you.

5. SEO and Performance

If SEO and performance are important for you (and they should be), make sure your preferred template provider takes these into account. Efficient coding and following the latest developments with Google is very important.

If template clubs are quick to update their templates with these changes, you should usually be fine. An example are the microdata changes introduced in Joomla 3.2 and 3.3. To be able to reflect this feature, templates needed to be updated. Reliable providers were able to deliver these updates within days or weeks of the Joomla upgrade. Also, efficient coding usually results in faster loading websites.

6. Stock photos included or not

This is a very important issue. In the template demos, you often see very nice pictures being used. In most cases, you cannot use these images yourself. If you download the template, you will often see that these images are not included.

However, even if they are, check if you are ALLOWED to use them. If you use them in your projects, you could be sued by the Stock photo provider. Luckily there are also template providers that allow you to use these images.

7. Template updating

Make sure your template will be updated. Similar like Joomla, updates are often needed, for things like bugfixes, feature additions and even security updates. Also, Joomla updates sometimes break compatibility with your template, and then your provider should quickly update your template. That is why you should also keep your template updated. But of course your template club should also provide these updates on a regular basis. Plus it requires you to keep your subscription active 😉

So, hopefully after this article you know what to look out for when you look for a new template! Feel free to choose one here.