Improvements to theme browsing and previewing

Hi Discourse team! I would like to humbly request some improvements to the theme browsing and preview experience. I searched a bit and didn’t find another topic on this, so apologies if I missed it and this is a duplicate. I also recognize that this could be considered multiple “feature requests”, but I’m including them all here because they’re all related and are different ways of improving things, not all of which I imagine will be implemented, if any. I’m hoping you prefer this to me posting 5 different feature requests of each of these separately.

A Way to View Just Full Themes in Thumbnail View

One up-front challenge with the current Theme category is that, although the main category view shows thumbnails (yay!), it includes theme components as well as full themes, and even broken stuff (marked as such). There is a tag for full themes only, but it does not display in thumbnails:
https://meta.discourse.org/tags/c/theme/61/theme-full

So there is no way to view only “full themes” with previews (as far as I can see, anyway). So I either have to sift through the “all theme-related stuff” view, or I have to do without previews. Both approaches are less efficient and pleasant than a filtered “full themes” view with thumbnails would be.

Thumbnails/Images for All Themes

Another related issue is that some themes don’t seem to have thumbnails, whether because no image is included, or the preview is not loading correctly from included images, as in this case:

or the preview image as shown in the topic preview is just not useful:

I realize some of these themes are posted by 3rd parties or are otherwise unofficial, but it’s also clear that some moderation is being done in this category. So it would be nice if that could include making sure there is a working preview image.

There is this 3rd party site appears to at least categorize things in a previewable (i.e. thumbnailed) way by theme vs. component, etc:

However it is not an official source, it comes up lower in the Google search results (Themes in Meta here is naturally higher up), it’s unclear how well updated it is (although it may be drawing straight from the Themes category here on Meta?), and it has the same lack-of-thumbnail issue that exists here (presumably because it’s drawing its data from here).

Theme Picker in Theme Preview Instance

Another thing that would help is just to have an instance of Discourse (which you already have, to somehow dynamically preview themes) which has all these themes setup in a selector of some kind. As it is the previewing is clunky, you have to navigate to each topic here in Meta → Theme and click a link to preview. A small thing, certainly, but when you’re trying to compare numerous themes it is definitely a bit clunky and something of a time sink.

Theme Browsing/Previewing and Install Within Discourse

Of course there is also the theme install function within Discourse Customization settings itself. But it only shows links for “popular”, it’s not a full directory (I realize this is intentional), it lacks previews, and it too mixes components with full themes (with no way to filter). Again I understand this is intentional design of the “popular” category in the theme installer, but I’m suggesting that since there already appears to be such a connection that dynamically populates a list of popular themes (presumably from Meta), I hope you will consider in the future adding a full list of non-broken themes, ideally with previews, and filterable by full theme, component, etc. In fact both of those could just be added in two additional tabs on the left side there, just beneath “Popular” and above “From your device”. I.e.

  • Popular
  • Full Theme Directory
  • Theme Component Directory
  • From Your Device
  • From a Git repository

As a workaround what I do now is just to install all the possible themes I might want to use. Lacking a real directory within Discourse, this is a manual process, and also requires installing a theme component to really make it functional (for theme switching - I know you can do it through preferences, but that’s not ideal for testing many different options fully). It’s workable for now, but it took me a while to come around to realizing this is the best current solution (AFAIK). Other new users would certainly benefit from some enhancements to how themes are listed, previewed, etc.

Thanks for reading and considering any of this! I know some of it may seem nitpicky, but as a relatively new Discourse admin, I think this is one area where it could stand to be friendlier, and some improvements might not even take much effort.

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