For a small SharePoint 2010 proof of concept a couple of guys at work have been working on they had requirements to do a small branding exercise. Nothing major, just colour changes and some nice background images in the banner area.
As per usual, with tight deadlines and conflicting demands from client, sales, company dog etc they didn’t get any time to research the best approach. Now SharePoint front-end development is on pretty much every project we do and so we have plenty of experience! Hence they jumped right in to do the branding as they’ve done countless times in MOSS. Uh-Oh!
The mistake they made was to consider a theme in 2010 to be the same as in 2007. It’s not the same. A theme in 2007 would allow you to do minor changes to the positioning of elements and add background images etc through CSS. A theme in 2010 is literally just a paint job. It allows you to change the colours of text and links etc throughout the SharePoint UI. If you have further branding requirements than that then you shouldn’t be using a theme.
This TechNet article plan for using themes has some good pointers on if a theme is appropriate over other customisation options, and Randy Drisgill also has a good post introducing the theming engine.
In terms of creating a theme it’s pretty straight forward and can be done via the UI if needed – however Microsoft have also done some nice joined up thinking and used the same underlying principles that is used for other Office theming requirements – and so a .thmx file can be used to upload themes to SharePoint. A .thmx file can be created from PowerPoint and from what I’ve seen so far will act as a good basis to get the existing company brand into SharePoint – to then tweak as required from the UI.
And the guys who dived in? Well, no big problem. They’d created CSS to do their ‘old style’ theme and so were able to use the Alternate CSS property to get the right result with minimal changes.