Joomla template tutorials and tips are plenty full - but where does the novice template developer begin? The following concepts should help ease your journey.
Lets for a moment assume you know nothing about creating Joomla templates. Perhaps this is one of the first Joomla template tutorials you have come across, it surely wont be your last (or my last, plenty more tutorials on the way). I like to believe that it helps to cover the basics, and im not talking about the technical stuff, I'm talking the core ideas and concepts which I feel are very important to grasp should you decide you want to create your own Joomla template.Lets start at the top.
A web template is almost like a pre-packaged web design. Someone already designed and developed it, and assembled it in such a way that another could use the template on separate web site. There are thousands of general web site templates out there, all different types, all different purposes. The thing to understand about your basic web template is that you'll often need solid understanding of HTML and other web development code to use it. I wont go to far with these types of templates, there are plenty of great template tutorials out there, and if your here - your shouldn't be interested.
What makes a Joomla template different is that once assembled, the website owner or developer doesn't need any further coding experience once its applied. After you install it and assign it, its ready to work with your Joomla configuration.
As with anything, the benefits of good tools and habits are immeasurable. I cant say this enough. With so many poorly developed Joomla templates out there (plenty of great templates too!) it would be irresponsible of me to state otherwise. There are plenty of template shortcuts to take once you've mastered the basics. No ones perfect, but mediocre habits will always result in mediocre templates. Spend that extra 10% of your time and do it right.
Regarding tools, don't assume you'll have to spend thousands of dollars for great template building tools. Don't go buying high dollar "learn to build joomla templates" books or videos - welcome to the world of open source. There are plenty of free Joomla template tutorials, and even more free template tools (many specifically for Joomla template creation). Although pricey, I personally suggest Dreamweaver, since its helps streamline the process. If you cant buy the latest, buy used or even a used previous version for next to nothing. Many template developers prefer free tools such as NVU or several others, windows notepad works fine as well. Whatever you choose is fine, since true template mastery lies beyond practice, passion and persistence. A great carpenter can build a house with a rock as his hammer..
Depending on the particular project needs, it may be beneficial to simply edit a Joomla template as apposed to creating anew. If you allready have a good grasp on HTML, CSS and PHP, editing an existing free template may be your best bet...its already working, you just need to figure out how its working. 9 out of 10 times I will choose to create a template for my Joomla projects do to the simple fact that the template will be built for the project. Think of a family of 12 interested in buying a new home; would it be better for them to move into an existing home, maybe ad a couple new bedrooms or..or, build a new home with precisely the correct amount of bedrooms and bathrooms they need? It all depends on the circumstances.
Creating a Joomla template takes more time, yet offers much more flexibility and customization options. Editing obviously saves time, yet offers limited customization, and depending on the template your editing, the end result may be that you spend more time fixing someone else's mistakes.
Be very wary of biased template tutorials! Many tutorial writers may mean well, but if they practice poor habits, they aren't truely helping you. A classic example of this would be a template tutorial which teaches HTML layouts. I won't go to far into this right now, but if you retain anything from this tutorial...please, learn to build CSS layouts instead of HTML table layouts. There are entirely too many reasons to list, and CSS has its hurdles as well, but please...once more. Do not practice table layout template design! If you plan on pursuing a career in web development (maybe Joomla template development), you'll need to comprehend CSS to compete for the high dollar jobs - at least with clients who know better, but thats another story :D
Also understand that there are countless ways to build Joomla templates. Many tutorials omit that fact. There are some tutorials that teach you simply one method, keep an open mind. Soon enough you will have developed your own unique style or method of building templates, but a versatile template developer has many tools in his toolbox, with many ways to use them. One more time, there is no right way to build a Joomla template - there are good and bad ways to go about it, but as with any creative manifestation, the beauty lies beyond the method of creation.
I hope you found this Joomla template tutorial a solid step in the right direction. I apologize if I didn't get into the meat and potatoes just yet - soon, I promise, but this stuff is *very* important. I fully intend on producing more Joomla template tutorials as well as countless other tutorials and guides, so be sure to check back often. Thanks for your time!