CDCK should develop new default Discourse themes on a regular basis to keep it looking current

Late reply, but better late than never, right?

Erm, no, you do have an “aesthetic opinion”. It’s just a “simple” one. But don’t make the mistake of believing that is “not much of an opinion”. The same way that not “making a decision” is in fact a decision in itself. :wink: And the very fact that a judgment call must be made as to what constitutes “simple”, or “not much of an aesthetic opinion”. I realize there are arguments you’re making that are partly technical (e.g. no drop shadows means a less complex CSS definition), but you can’t ignore the resulting design aesthetic that comes from this, and it is “opinionated” in its own way.

I don’t exactly see how, with the existence of a powerful theme system and a variety of base themes to choose from, having the default be “fancier” (or more opinionated or whatever) really makes it harder for people to customize.

But before I bury the lede, I’ll just say what I came here to say: Wordpress provides a new default theme frequently with their major versions. This does two critical things that I think Discourse would highly benefit from (especially the second).

  1. It provides an opportunity to highlight new functionality from a design perspective.
  2. It means that all new Wordpress installs will look newer, different, arguably more current and thus perhaps even “better” (depending on your preference, hah).

Discourse’s design looks a bit “outdated” to some not-insignificant subset of admins/community builders and users. Updating the design on a regular cadence, perhaps with each major-minor version (e.g. 2.8, 2.9), or at least every few of them, could be really beneficial for Discourse in a variety of ways.

  • Keep Discourse looking modern and fresh out of the box for all new installations
  • New designs can be marketing/PR tools/events, both actively (“Announcing our new Discourse theme!”) and passively (visitors to forums that update default theme, or are newly installed, or seen on, see a more modern design that compares more favorably to other current tools)
  • Developing new core theme iterations internally might help the team better identify work to be done on the theming system or other core systems, vs. the more casual approach to the many (appreciated!) themes that core team members do already create

I think the regular core theme updates/releases have a lot of potential benefit. And I’d love to see Discourse consider doing something similar. I recognize that updates are made to the core theme, of course (e.g. new PM styles), but this is a different approach that I think has unique value.


That makes good sense to me. Having a cool new theme annually or with each major release that looks a bit different and/or shows off some new features is a great idea.


And quite few are using those, and for that can be found several reasons. The biggest difference between WordPress and Discourse is size, in every meaning of that.

Discourse is a forum, and WordPress is almost everything else than a forum. And that is the main reason why out there is really much bigger variety of themes and plugins in the WordPress world, and some can even make few buck selling those.

Let’s imagine 1 % of admin’ish can code so much they will produce something usefull, or something anyway. That means out there is more wordpress-coders/devs only than discourse-admins totally.

WordPress is made for almost everyone, even for those who has limited tech skills — and if they are really limited, out there is one-click installs, documents and webinars AND paid consultants to help. Discourse is a way more demanding.

Business model of Automattic (nowadays) and Discourse are totally different too.

All those together means fewer theme options for Discourse :wink:

But is more or less false idea to claim that lesser amount of themes is Discourse’s fault and variety comes from Automattic.


Regarding the yearly themes in WordPress: the features being shown off are, hmmm… major. This has been happening for a couple of years, and will certainly continue into WP 6.0, where the entire theming system is undergoing an overhaul. There are now “Classic” themes and Block themes, which call upon different skill sets to approach customizing.

If we separate that from the new user experience, I hear what you say about folks seeing Discourse as a new, constantly updated product that persuades folks to try it.

I’m just kinda personally traumatized as a WordPress developer on what is happening with the themes, how they are tied to new features, and the pace of rolling them out. I’d like to learn lessons from that project’s approach to new themes/features, and apply them in Discourse. :slight_smile:


Thanks @awesomerobot for splitting this into its own topic. I suppose it does deserve discussion as a feature request. :slight_smile:

Yes, but I don’t really know what this has to do with my suggestion, which is that CDCK itself create such themes. The issue of not having as many community/commercial theme creators is also of concern to me, but a separate topic.

I didn’t make this claim, so… I agree with you. :smile:

Yes, exactly.

100%! I would definitely not suggest CDCK take Automattic’s approach in full, only that they consider a similar basic idea of making new, official theme(s) or theme “versions”/generations to showcase Discourse features and overall progress. Learning lessons from Automattic’s approach is definitely the way to go, and adapt it to CDCK and Discourse’s needs.

The thought occurs to me that the theming/structure changes I’ve been hearing about for the last 6-12 months might (if they’re not already finished and in Discourse core) be a great reason to update the theme and perhaps start (or at least experiment with) this sort of thing!


Because no one does that :rofl:

Yes, I know — that is lousy argument. But the weak point was comparing to WordPress is… pointless.

But true — theme and plugin creating can grow only when Discourse has bigger share, and growing comes from CDCK and different themes are part of that.

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It’s too complex and always will be.
Compared to making themes or plugins on PHP forums, Discourse is another level of complex.
All you can realistically change is very superficial.
A more complex layout is liable to break all the time as Discourse constantly evolves.
Pavillion do a great job and try to get around this with their monthly updates but it must be a pain (for Pavillion).

I see Discourse as being more and more for business sites.
It’s formal and rigid. Very unpersonal.
Great for business, boring for communities.
Discourse doesn’t do the fun forum stuff.
Follows, Whos Online, Emotions just basic (but non-business) community stuff took third party plugins and months of swimming upstream, butting heads to get. (Anything ‘social’ was fiercley opposed)
I can’t see much changing, the team has tunnel vision and it serves them well.
It’s great software and wouldn’t be what it is today without the focus.

I’ve learnt to use just use the dark/light official themes, official plugins only.
This is very limiting but it’s the way Discourse works.

If an enterprise customer pays for it … you might get it.
If you do ask for a feature, non-coders be careful … being asked to do a PR will stop your request now and also stop you asking for anything in the future.
There is a CLI for creating themes … not a friendly GUI.
Everything is complex and no attempt is made to make it friendlier.
Welcome to Geekland.


I don’t understand the argument you’re making, this is a reason in favor of CDCK (Discourse developers) making regular theme updates.

OK, but what if CDCK provided improved themes on a semi-regular basis (once or twice a year). Then you’d have more really high quality options that make full use of new features and look modern.

Overall I really don’t understand either of these responses, they both seem to ignore the whole idea I am proposing here. I am saying that CDCK creating new themes is potentially beneficial for them (as well as for users/admins like us), to improve their perception in the market, to help Discourse remain competitive aesthetically (which actually matters a lot to many potential customers).

I’m saying in the real world Pavillion are already doing this and have been forced into a monthly update cycle to cope with the speed that Discourse evolves.
Even then stuff breaks and sometimes they have to do ‘fixes’ outside of this schedule. I think once or twice a year in reality would be once or twice a month.

There is a reason why there is not one commercially available theme for Discourse and there are/were 1000’s for vBulletin (haven’t checked lately) … they are difficult to create and a absolute nightmare to maintain especially if you change the layout from the default (sidebars etc) . There aren’t any ‘official’ Theme Components but everyone would hassle the theme creator when they didn’t play nicely together.

I think CDCK plan to release a sidebar theme for the chat. Perhaps that will be starting point for some more creative themes.

At least no one from the team has suggested —> #marketplace
That’s another standard feature request killer … or could you do a ‘mock up’ of how you see the Theme looking please … :wink:

Good luck with the request.


Actually they kind of do exactly what you are requesting already … they just don’t make them official or add a date like WP.

@awesomerobot made a wonderful theme Isabelle

Grogu by @meghna is just one of many of her recent themes.

All they have to do is choose one of their themes add a the year and a common title … Disco21, Disco22 etc. (sorry Grogu) make it owned by @ Discobot so it gets all the hassle. :laughing:
A January launch with fanfares :tada: and your feature request is fulfilled.
May the force be with you…

Star Wars Helmet GIF by Disney+

btw I ‘skinned’ a lot of Vb forums back in the day … lol but it was the gallery addon and the way you could place category sorted thumbnails throughout the forum that had the biggest visual effect and created a real impact - better sign up and better community.
Sorted by Recently added, Most Views, Highest rated or Random … vertical or horizontal (1-10) thumbnails in places where hooks for banners and for ads already exist.

Forums on Cars, boats, bikes, vans, dogs, cats, goats, tropical fish, gardening, hiking, biking, sailing, gadgets, tech, 38" monitors :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:, food, recipe pics, fitness etc. … a few suggestions from a few niche areas that need a gallery as well as discourse in words.

Then you have sorted thumbnails uploaded by your users on your home page and in sorted categories to visually improve your forums appeal. It really does improve the look, sign-up, and engagement.
Unfortunately business forums with :moneybag: : probably don’t need one.
Or one would exist.
The user uploaded to ‘their’ gallery and selected categories. So user profiles had value and were visited.
Here I can’t even load a pic of my cat or grandkids to my profile … zero community.
I’ve been on here 6-7 years what do you know about me? (Occasionally ‘arsey’ is a given)


These are definitely not the kind of thing I am suggesting though, and I referenced that they are not in an earlier message. The entire point is to not be some specialized (e.g. Grogu) theme, but to be good and comprehensive and polished and well maintained enough to be a new default, and to make every new Discourse instance look that much better and more current as a result.

They should be the responsibility of multiple people at CDCK, not just one or two people who choose to create and maintain their own themes, whether for personal interest, or perhaps for a company desire to have more theme options/examples, I don’t know. But what I’m suggesting is an infrequently released major update to the default theme. Wordpress demonstrates this extremely clearly, and you can see how dramatically different it is from what CDCK and its staff do currently. I hope that clarifies.

I agree that profiles need improvement! They’re pretty boring except when you want to stalk/find stats about someone. :smile: I’ve mostly found use for that as an admin looking for mods, but seldom as a regular user. I think avoiding the “MySpacing” of profiles is important (i.e. too much customization), but adding options for a bit more personality would be nice.


Perhaps an annual theme design competition with a poll might be fun.

Kudos or $$$


Oh, I like it! That’s a cool possibility.


There have been some in the past: