Understanding our theming framework

Article author
John Smith

Our themes and plugins make it easy to deliver a branded Zendesk Help Center to your customers in record time. Whether you need a ready-made template or the ability to customize pages quickly and confidently, we provide you with everything you need to get the job done.

Some theme providers attempt to provide layout and styling options through the use of theme settings alone, but this approach doesn’t come close to addressing the countless possibilities that exist. Because these themes are limited to a set of options defined by the theme author they often look the same and are difficult to customize and maintain.

What makes your themes different?

Our themes and plugins are all built on top of a powerful theming framework which provides a structured approach to customization and allows layouts to be copied between themes or from our ever-growing Pattern Library. You can think of the framework as starting with low-level settings and gradually building up to patterns which can occupy entire pages.

  1. Settings offer direct control over basic aspects of your theme’s appearance, including color palettes, fonts and images. Changes made through both theme settings and Sass variables are reflected in the theme’s base styles and form the foundation on which everything else in the framework is built.

    Learn about settings

  2. Utilities are single-purpose class names that you can use to make quick, specific changes to existing layouts. There are utilities for almost everything you could want to change, including colors, typography, positioning and sizing. They can even be combined to create entirely new designs.

    Learn about utilities

  3. Elements are building blocks that you can use to update or create new page layouts. They include common website and Help Center components like buttons, lists, cards, rows and columns. As with utilities, you can combine them to create new layouts or define your own using custom CSS.

    Learn about elements

  4. Patterns are predefined layouts, ready to copy, paste and tweak. They are often compositions of both elements and utilities and can be copied in their entirety between themes or directly from the Pattern Library. Use patterns to get ideas and significantly speed up the design and development process.

    Learn about patterns

  5. Plugins instantly extend the functionality of your Help Center in ways that are not possible using Zendesk’s standard templates alone. They can be used anywhere in the theme, both as a part of broader page layouts and within article content.

    Learn about plugins

This makes branding and customization faster, allows for rapid prototyping of ideas and ensures that changes are made in a consistent way based on the parameters decided by you when configuring top-level settings. There’s a practically unlimited number of ways that you can combine elements and patterns, to say nothing of the changes that you can bring about with utilities. The only constraint you’ll face is your own imagination.

Of course if one of our themes already meets your requirements, you can simply import it into Guide without making any changes at all!

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