Before you start down the road of a custom theme, consider your options.
In Drupal terminology, if you want to give your site a face lift you're going to need a new theme. Many people start this process by thinking about creating a custom theme. Depending on your business situation, you may actually need a custom theme, or perhaps, money isn't a big limiting factor. For most organizations, I would suggest that you might want to consider the following steps.
Your first decision point is a purchased theme vs. a custom theme:
Purchased themes. There are many sites that sell Drupal themes for around $50, like Theme Forest. (Not an affiliate link.)
- Much less expensive, and so very little investment.
- Fast to implement, assuming that you buy a compatible theme.
- If you buy it and it doesn't work for you, there are no refunds. You just need to buy another.
- Modifying these themes can be very difficult and costly. You want to choose a theme that exactly matches your desired look.
- Other websites could potentially be using the same theme.
If you find a theme that looks and functions exactly how you like, then purchasing a theme is a perfect way to go. If you need some minor modifications or updates and have some developer capacity on hand or in your company, then you can still probably make this work. However, should you desire to modify a purchased theme without having any support staff, you'll want to ensure you work with a theme provider that can facilitate customizations.
Custom theme. A designer would come up with comps that you could tweak and tune.
- You're much more likely to get exactly what you want.
- You have more control over future changes.
- No one else will have a site that looks like yours.
- Slower to implement, including design conception and programming.
- The cost is higher due to more customized work.
Often, a good place to start is to shop themes that you could purchase to see if anything there could work for you. You might be willing to try one out on your staging site. You can just google "drupal themes" and find all kinds of marketplaces.
If you decide that only a custom theme will fit the bill, you can approach this several ways.
- Hire a designer you have used for other projects. You can get a common look across other marketing material. Often, general designers develop comps that cannot be implemented as designed, requiring the developers to make changes to the final theme
- Hire a Drupal web designer. You'll get a comp that can be implemented as designed. Finding a designer whose style matches what you want is the issue.
- Go overseas. Definitely less expensive, but I can't say I can recommend this. Cultural differences can really be reflected in a design.
- Emulate an existing site. No real designer needed and this is probably the least expensive option of the three domestic options. For example, Monarch Digital could develop a comp with the minor changes designed.
- And of course with the importance of mobile-friendliness for SEO purposes, you'll need to factor in if you'll need to make your Drupal theme mobile responsive.
Ultimately, you or your company will need to choose the path which not only meets your design goals but also your budget and your implementation deadlines. The good news is you have a lot of options, you'll just have to apply some critical thinking to determine which one is most appropriate. Feel free to visit the portfolio page to review some of the theming work that Monarch Digital has completed for our clients.