Do you give a choice of skins?

Discussion in 'Community Styling' started by Lala, Mar 6, 2018.

  1. Lala

    Lala Participant


    We have a few skins, created years ago, and I'm not sure if if the functionality is still relevant.

    On one hand we cater to a diverse crowd, narrow niche but cutting across all demographics; 20yo guys have different preferences than 80yo women. Staying neutral loses both, we need to be personal and visually attractive.

    On the other hand forums are just a part of the site, so if we decide to continue giving a choice of skins on forums - we'd have to mirror that across the site too. And giving visitors the option to change style might interfere with branding, i.e. visitors won't recognize the site the next time they clear cookies. On the other hand the only difference between our skins is color and background image, so the impact on branding might not be too bad. I never tried skins outside of forums, not sure how it would go. I guess worst case scenario I could enable it for users and disable for visitors.

    What I'm unsure about is - do visitors even get to the point of skin selection, or do they browse away when the landing page doesn't match their needs, style-wise? Say I'm a 30yo man looking for a gaming site; if I land on something pink - I'm out of there in 0.5 seconds, wrong site. Extreme example of course, my landing pages are more neutral, but really some of my users want black metal while others want daisies and butterflies.

    What's your experience?
  2. Brad

    Brad Meh

    Depends on how badly I need the sites content. I prefer a dark skin if available, if one is not available I will use a browser add-on like stylish to see if anyone has gone through the trouble of creating one, if not and I really need the content I'll hack one together myself. In my experience colors don't matter too much here outside of having a "light" skin and a "dark" skin.
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  3. Pete

    Pete Flavours of Forums Forever

    My experience is that it mostly depends on the niche.

    Gaming sites generally seem to like dark, gritty and edgy. More neutral/general sites want a more neutral theme but might offer a dark and a light variant to cater to different reading styles/environments.

    My experience though is that the roleplay segment responds very well to multiple different theme options of various colours and styles, bonus points if they happen to be different but appropriate (e.g. a Harry Potter fan fiction site responds well to themes for the different houses)
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  4. zappaDPJ

    zappaDPJ Administrator

    I'll consider providing a light and dark version if members express a preference, particularly so if their preference is because they find one or the other to be easier on the eye. Otherwise I never offer a choice because I want my forum's visual appearance to be consistent. I feel this is important especially if the forum is well established because a) it helps define the forum's brand and b) I don't have to worry about inconsistencies in layout that multiple skins will inevitably bring.

    That's something I've never really considered but definitely something I'll keep in mind for the future.
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  5. Lala

    Lala Participant

    Thank you!

    I'll cut it down to the light/dark choice.
    It won't work for two types of my users; one I'm fine losing, the other is a "maybe some day" project, they'll need more than just a skin. Everyone else should be fine with just light/dark, and it's much cleaner this way.
  6. Solidus

    Solidus Stupid machines!

    Nope. One theme only at all times.
    It is refreshed usually once a year.
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  7. LenKaiser

    LenKaiser Participant

    Usually I try to provide one dark & one light skin. Some people cannot read light or dark skins so they can have a choice. The only real issue for me is I have HEAVILY modified my vB skin for my site. So then it becomes cumbersome to duplicate it on a new skin. So I complete a skin as the default and then copy it and create another skin changing the colors and/or CSS to reflect the different look. Then I just have to remember to update both skins if I make changes lol. I really don't feel you need any more than 2 skins on one site at a time.
  8. Wes of StarArmy

    Wes of StarArmy Adherent

    I always keep a light theme and a dark theme, because people have different reading preferences. I also like to keep the default Xenforo style available as an option for people who don't like change. During October and December I change the default style to a Halloween or winter holidays theme, but retain the normal themes as options.
  9. Sockio

    Sockio Participant

    People like different skins but it's hard to have a good variety at times. I always find it nice when sites offer a whole lot of skin options but also find it quite intimidating as there is always going to be a user who will either complain or protest about the different options as they don't appeal to them.

    It is a nice feature to offer, but I personally feel that having one skin is enough - updating it once in a while to keep the community alive.
  10. shinyfirefly

    shinyfirefly Neophyte

    We have a default which is a dark, fluid theme and all of our branded media is in line with that color scheme, so we like to stick with that. But we do offer a light and then a minimal theme for folks with slower/older devices, limited skills, etc. Last month we did a fun theme in order to nurture a certain segment of our community and it pretty much looks like a bottle of Pepto Bismol exploded all over the screen. It's aptly named, "Pepto." o_O

    In short, I think it's important to offer a few choices to cater to vision and device limitations and preferences. Otherwise you can lose valuable members.
  11. LeadCrow

    LeadCrow Apocalypse Admin

    We still offer a selection aside from the default skin for users and visitors, mostly as a way for curious folks to check and offer feedback for wip changes.

    It made sense when nearly all users browsed on large monitors and incoming traffic was organic and not dependant on search engines, but is nowadays turning into a liability since the effort to accomodate large resolutions is wasted for mobile visitors.
    Complex designs are troublesome to maintain and dont necessarily generate a strong visual identity for your forum compared to a simpler visual palette and a selection of well-integrated features.
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  12. Reverie

    Reverie Aspirant

    We always like to have a dark and a light theme. Both of them can be customizable by the members somewhat such as making the theme fluid or not or to hide the sidebar. If you have at least 2 options though I think someone can find something they like. During holiday seasons I typically add a seasonal theme so there are more options during that time. I also intend on adding an add-on where members who donate to our forum can have themes only for their group.
  13. Morrigan

    Morrigan I put the Cute in Exe"cute".

    It's actually beneficial for sites to offer both a dark and light theme for their end users. First and foremost it's not just "Gaming Sites" that have gone to the dark theme route. There are a lot of potential benefits of having both dark and light elements but I digress.

    I personally like a dark theme with a light theme option. This allows end users with visual impairments to choose what suits them best. Mind you I've offered a light and dark theme to my users for about 2 years (since this site opened) and out of about 1500 members only 50 of them use the light theme. It's not because they don't know its there, in fact the light/dark switch around has its own guide and is in my welcome PM, but a light theme is unattractive on a lot of screens not to mention light themes kill batteries.

    What do I mean by that? Well light themes require more light from mobile screens which in turn makes the battery drain more quickly than a dark theme which requires less light. I know there is science behind it, and I've tested it on my own phone before.

    That being said. I always recommend if you have a lot of content to consume to let your users decide. I use and on off light icon to indicate the theme switch instead of the traditional theme switcher.

    To go back to the visual impairments bit, there are users that range in age that can have difficulty reading things on light or dark backgrounds even with high contrast. I have one user that cannot view sites for like than about 90 seconds at a time if they have a light or white theme due to issues with their eyes. I alternatively have users with the reverse issue. If you want to be accessible you always offer one of each.
  14. OUTL4W

    OUTL4W <style>OUTL4W GFX</style> :p

    On my gaming site I have a dark and light theme along with allowing users to pick their own image/pattern. The choice is only available in the desktop version or depending on screen size (tab that contains the cog wheel on right side of screen) of the site since the background image/pattern is not noticeable on mobile so no need to load any extra kB if not needed.
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