The New Faces of Drupal: Theming with Sascha Eggenberger
Two of the strategic initiatives for Drupal 9 are theme related. This week brought us the first alpha release of Drupal 9.1, with Olivero included as an experimental front-end theme. There will also be a number of improvements to the Claro admin theme that bring it closer to being stable, as it moves to becoming Drupal’s default.
Despite the push for the alpha release, noted core contributor and designer Sascha Eggenberger was kind enough to answer some questions about Claro and its contrib cousin, the Gin admin theme.
Echidna: According to drupal.org, you registered Gin as a project one year ago. Happy birthday Gin! Has anything about Gin's first year surprised you?
Sascha: Time flies. Gin started a year ago as a small customization layer for Claro which just provided the possibility to change the accent colour for Claro. But since then a lot happened and eventually Gin morphed into what it is today. And it’s a lot more than just a customization layer to Claro.
Version 3.0 brought an all-new design which I often refer to as “Gin Future UI.” This is a reference to our DrupalCon Amsterdam talk “Designing the future of the Drupal Admin UI.” I was quite surprised on how well Gin was received in the community and its adoption.
Echidna: There's already a solid start to an ecosystem for Gin, with the Gin Toolbar and Gin Login modules you created, and more recently released Tasty Backend Gin. Are there other elements you'd like to see in the Gin ecosystem?
Sascha: There are already a handful of modules which did optimize their modules for Gin (like your Smart Date module.) We’re also working on some new additions to the Gin ecosystems.
Echidna: I sometimes use modules such as Responsive Preview or Moderation Sidebar, which are designed to append new items in the toolbar. These work with Gin, but only when configured to use the "Legacy, Classic Drupal Toolbar.” Have you given any thought to how the other toolbar layouts for Gin might be extensible for these kinds of additions?
Sascha: That was a much-desired feature request. Make sure to update Gin to the latest version as it now supports items in all toolbar variants.
Echidna: I see that you're looking for sponsorship to fund the development of Gin. In addition to financial support, is there anything the community can do to help the development of Gin?
Sascha: Gin is an open-contrib project like many others on Drupal.org and everyone is welcome to contribute to it. There are some very active contributors right now which provide all kinds of things like bug reports, ideas, feature requests, etc. This is a very crucial part of the success of this project.
We’re also treating Gin as kind of a proof-of-concept to eventually bring back ideas and features from Gin to Claro where it makes sense. So there is a strong relationship between the two in both directions.
Echidna: I heard an interview with Mike Herchel where he commented that he and the other Olivero maintainers "knew where the bodies were buried,” meaning there were important issues that still needed to be resolved -- even if they weren't obvious to an end user. Are there any significant issues for Gin you'd like to see the Drupal community help to resolve?
Sascha: Currently the priority is to get Claro stable. I think everybody will benefit from this step. Have a look at the "Roadmap to stabilize Claro" issue for an overview of what’s still left open.
Echidna: Almost a year ago you presented at DrupalCon Amsterdam about "The Future of the Drupal Admin UI" and a number of the improvements suggested appear to have been implemented in Gin. Do you see Gin as a kind of "proof of concept" for what Claro might eventually become or do you see the goals of the two themes as different?
Sascha: Gin itself has become somewhat the reality of how we envisioned how the Drupal Admin UI potentially could look like. Gin is a proof-of-concept of how the UI could look like in the future, but with the difference that you can already install and use it today. It for sure helps us to gather feedback on design elements, features, etc., if we want to consider including it in a future version of Claro.
Echidna: Do you have any advice for maintainers who want their module's widget to look good and work well across the growing list of Drupal admin themes?
Sascha: This is a tough question, but if it comes down to Gin and Claro. If you make sure that your module looks nicely for one of them, it will almost certainly also look good in the other one. One [piece of] advice would be to use as little custom CSS as possible to ensure its compatibility.
Echidna: There is a significant effort underway to make Claro officially stable and to make it the default admin theme for Drupal. Do you anticipate that Claro will continue to evolve beyond that?
Sascha: That’s the current plan, so yes. The current focus is to reach a stable release but there is a full backlog on new features and ideas.
Echidna: Have you played with any of the popular headless site generators like Gatsy or Gridsome? Does anything about the Jamstack interest you?
Sascha: Of course [Jamstack] does. A lot of people use Gatsby together with Drupal already. I think a lot of awesome innovation is currently happening in projects like Gatsby.
Echidna: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today, Sascha.
For more info, view the current issues for Claro or the Gin admin theme. You can also follow Sascha on Twitter to get the latest updates.