New theme for MyMoodle
Learning Environment is now starting the project of implementing a new theme for MyMoodle to better live up to todays demands on look & feel.
MyMoodle has for a long time looked the same and is today viewed upon as outdated by both students and teachers alike. It is therefore time to review how we can improve both appearance and function to better live up to today's (and future) requirements. More and more of our users are using portable devices (tablets and mobiles) as their primary device and the current theme is not always adapted to it.
It may therefore be time to modernize how MyMoodle is perceived and the management object Learning Environment is now starting a review of available so-called themes to find some suitable candidates.
What is a Theme?
A theme is a term describing a number of web files that determine how a computer system should look and feel. The theme is what you as a user encounter in the so-called user interface, that is, the visible part of how a system works with the interaction (via buttons / links) between you as a user and the underlying computer system and its databases.
Through a theme you control things like colors, shapes, placements, fonts, sizes and more. So it does not affect the functionality itself but rather how you experience the functionality, for example where buttons for saving are placed, how they look and so on.
Most of the themes on the market today are built in a responsive way. This means that the appearance changes as the screen size changes. What can fit on a large computer screen, for example, needs to be re-scaled and perhaps moved around a bit to be useful when viewed on a mobile screen. This reduces the need for different themes.
How will it affect me?
You as a user will of course notice a difference but stay calm ... MyMoodle will work in exactly the same way, only wearing a little (hopefully) nicer clothes.
All functions will be the same and behave as you are used to. What changes are things like fonts, colors, sizes. In some cases, things may have moved a bit, but it rarely concerns the activities / resources themselves in the course rooms. Nor is your course format or other things significantly affected.
Will MyMoodle be disrupted when we change the theme?
Changing the theme is a simple action, once it has been tested and installed. It's just a matter of changing a setting. It never affects the data in the system, only the appearance. This means that we do not have to turn anything off or interfere with the user's work. You may need to clear your browser cache to see the change afterwards.
Here are some examples of how a theme can change the look of MyMoodle in a short video (sorry, only in Swedish but you get the idea):
Why change the theme now?
The theme we use today is called Essential. The theme is a further development of Moodle's own standard theme Clean, where a major developer in the Moodle sphere has further developed some functionality.
Both Essential and Clean are now reaching the end of their life cycle as they are no longer maintained after the version of Moodle we use (3.6). This will mean that for the next major upgrade, we will have to switch to another theme whether we like it or not. In order not to have too many changes at once, we think it is better to introduce a new theme well in advance of upgrading so we are all used to the new style.
At Lnu, we have a policy not to change the original code that is obtained from external sources (although we can) because we want to avoid problems related to upgrades of either the basic software (Moodle) or the theme (Essential). However, there is an exception to the existing theme and it is that we have asked the developer of the theme to further improve its functionality, and it is the menu "My latest courses" which is found at the top.
Why not design our own Lnu theme?
Creating a theme and maintaining it is an extremely large project and we simply do not have the resources for it internally. It is better to use an existing theme on the market (free or paid theme) where experienced developers are responsible for the technology. Instead, what we do is modify the look of the theme to fit our needs and, as far as possible, follow Lnu's graphic design, but still be recognizable to our users.
Criterias for a new theme
We use certain criteria when finding a new theme. The requirements criteria is not super-detailed but rather a list of what, based on experience, needs to be taken into account.
We have divided it into four different main areas:
- Configurable navigation
- Basic functionality retained (unless added value)
- Purified interface
- Possibility for branding (LNU appearance)
- High degree of adaptability via settings
- Modern feel
- Full responsiveness (even larger sizes)
- Reasonable change for ordinary users
- Not data heavy for the user
- WCAG 2.1 compatible
- Must follow Moodle's principles for development, https://docs.moodle.org/37/en/Accessibility
- Large user base
- Active development (quick updates)
- Development team (not individual developer)
- Bootstrap 4
Three candidates for the new theme
We have identified three candidates that we now intend to evaluate with the help of a reference group.
When looking for themes, we have focused on those with the largest user base in the world, who have received good reviews from users in the community, while also adding something new to the theme. There are a plethora of themes to choose from, especially those sold by companies, but the ones we have chosen are so-called open source themes that are run by a group of non-profit people. They have the advantage that they can always continue to evolve, either by other people or (if we wish) by ourselves and we are not in the hands of a company's whims.
Most of the themes on the market are variants of the standard theme Boost where there are really only colors and formats that have changed. In addition, those we have chosen have, in various ways, chosen to develop the experience of Moodle with small changes that we believe will add something for all of us who work with MyMoodle.
The candidates are (in alphabetical order):
Installed on 11717 sites
Installed on 4253 sites
Installed on 4810 sites
Adaptable is the new theme
During the work on the theme, we have been assisted by two reference groups consisting of teachers and students. The views of the reference groups have been collected in a questionnaire, and via a meeting with the teacher group.
It was not an easy choice as the views of the different theme candidates varied depending on the task and question, but in general, two main candidates stood out with their functionality. The look can always be influenced in terms of color and shape, but functionality is what determines whether a theme will be better or worse for us who will work in it.
As the project was delayed due to all the extra work that was done in the beginning of the university's conversion to digital teaching and the MyMoodle upgrade which was earlier this year, we had to think a little. Instead of two changes close to each other that the business needs to adapt to, it was considered better to combine the two for an upgrade.
As a result of this, it was also decided to do everything possible to make the theme mimic the old theme as much as possible to facilitate the transition. We can make a major change in appearance at a different time. The theme that is easiest to adapt to both the current look and the new modern is Adaptable. In collaboration with one of Moodle's main developers (who also helped us with Essential), we pick the best features from the other candidates and get a very functional theme in place.
The project has a number of milestones before it is completed. Our plan is to: