We’re half-way towards that time of the year again. Summer brings a new energy into an already brisk-paced rate of development, with interesting takes on Moodle’s customary look and feel. The growing popularity of diverse takes on Moodle is making a dent in preconceived ideas of what Moodle is supposed to look like. Add to it the increasing work by Moodle HQ to part ways with its old, overfunctional-bordering-on-hostile interface to which most associate the LMS. Perhaps not for long.
Trends for nerds
Before getting into our picks, let’s take a general look at what Moodle themes have given us in the past six months. Features that started as selling points were soon adopted across the board and became minimum requirements: Responsive design and compatibility with Moodle’s dashboards and navigation features are musts at this point. Others are gambles away from the pack, most of which are still uncertain on whether they’ll pay off despite their warm reception. Here are the Moodle theme design trends we noticed:
- Image richness. Perhaps the most distinctive signal that the old face of Moodle is history is the universal ability of themes to add high-definition images as backgrounds and headers. “RemUI” and other themes can let individual courses set their own cover images.
- Layout pickers. For the top of the pack in terms of element customization, dedicated pages where users can arrange blocks and panels are a blessing, if not a necessity, to make sense of hundreds of choices.
- Readable their way to accessible. If we must be picky about something, it would be that work on accessibility was timid. All modern themes are accessible and compliant with standards such as WCAG. Our complaint is that none of them went the extra mile, as they have in so many other aspects of the Moodle experience. In all fairness, support for high-contrast color schemes and Font Awesome (available in default Moodle “Boost”) is common.
- Minimalism, or better yet, a “back to basics” pursuit. A few themes are responding to the concerns that often follow a “feature rush.” Instead, they focus on simple yet modern, high-impact interfaces which often resonate better with users and can actually give cutting-edge features more resonance.
MoodleNews’ Readers Choice
Here are the top 8 themes of 2018 so far, according to reader response, in ascending order
Honorable mention: ‘RemUI’
The best-rated premium Moodle theme lags at the bottom of the pack, which yet again demonstrates for the community’s preference for good ol’ free, run-of-the-mill, DIY attitudes that make the MoodleVerse so vibrant. “RemUI” is a polished, professional take on Moodle that still might be out of reach for most users.
Previously in MoodleNews: King Among Kings? Premium Moodle Theme ‘RemUI’ 3.4.1 Is Out
7th place: ‘Crisp’
A minimal, no-nonsense theme ideal for brands and organizations that just want to get straight to business. Install it, load it, tweak it’s layout options in under a minute, and you’re all set.
Previously in MoodleNews: This Moodle Theme Is A Crunchy Bite – You Can’t Click Just Once!
6th place: ‘Training’
This newcomer did not make the list because of an overload of features. Just the opposite. “Training” is expressly “decluttered,” mixing default features from Moodle’s default “Boost” theme with carefully chosen new ones: Light and dark modes and support for logo, favicon, and custom CSS. Amateurish-looking by choice, “Training” targets the first-time Moodle theme user, with surprising success.
Previously in MoodleNews: Try ‘Training,’ A New, Clean, Simple Way To Get Started With Moodle Themes
5th place: ‘Degrade’
Color-intensive, feedback-fueled “Degrade” almost seems happy just to be mentioned. The theme plays it safe with a slow-and-steady pace towards mobile compatibility. In its fairness, it was a late arrival to the official Moodle Plugin Directory.
Previously in MoodleNews: Add This Theme To Your Moodle To Easily Upgrade Its Look
4th place: ‘Fordson’
MoodleNews’ darling is going its own way this semester. Its development has focused on perfecting great ideas and coming up with new good ones. We expected nothing less from one of today’s living pioneers in Moodle development. Likely, Moodle 3.5 will bolster the theme back on top before 2019 knocks on the door.
Previously in MoodleNews: Made In Michigan ‘Fordson’ Theme Gets Ready For Moodle 3.5 Style ‘Shake-Up’
3rd place: ‘Shoelace’
“Reinvented” and refurbished with a new coating, “Shoelace” brings a friendly face but adds a few spins: a focus on color and contrast, Font Awesome, and what is perhaps the best example of a ground-breaking layout picker.
Previously in MoodleNews: This Moodle Theme Really Ties Your Site Together
Note on 7-10: Developer Gareth Barnard writes: “Thanks for Shoelace in 3rd place – but it is a Bootstrap 2.3.2 theme, not a Bootstrap 4 theme”
2nd place: ‘Moove’
Will this be the year where “Moove” finally rises to the top against its perennial competitors? While historical favorites like “Adaptable,” “Essential,” or even “Academi” seem in hibernation, “Moove” got the worm, with an uncontested, third-in-a-row, early bird badge up to Moodle 3.5.
Previously in MoodleNews: Bold Updates Coming In Moodle Theme “Moove” 2.3.0
1st place: ‘square’
This almost post-modern theme counts as another of 2018’s comebacks. But far from offering a standard path for the rest to follow, it prides itself on its idiosyncrasies, namely its overreliance on, well, squares. To its benefit, it comes loaded with high-quality features. Let’s check back some six months from now if we’re still talking “square.”
Previously in MoodleNews: Don’t Be ‘square,’ Try This Radical Moodle Theme ■
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