Dromeas 2

Archetypon

Dromeas is a flexible scrolling theme that is based on the Foundation framework from Zurb. The Dromeas product consists of a RapidWeaver theme, and a set of seven stacks (Block, Columns, Extra Content, iFrame, Settings, Exchange, and Updater).

It should be noted at the outset that Dromeas theme only works with Stacks pages, and so requires the Stacks plugin from Yourhead Software to do anything.  This also means that you can not use RapidWeaver’s built in pages such as Contact Form, Styled Content, or Blog with Dromeas.

Additionally, Dromeas disables the sidebar, and provides no support for RapidWeavers’ standard site navigation, site titles and slogans, or  logos. However, full access to Foundations features and functionality is available. Dromeas is not to be recommended to those just starting out with RapidWeaver.

Dromeas can be used to create single page websites, which seem to be the fashion trend of the moment, but, it is by no means limited to the production of single page sites. Content in Dromeas is authored using content containers called blocks, one of the supplied stacks. The developer claims that an unlimited number of blocks can be added to any page. Blocks are arranged from the top left to bottom right with at most four blocks per row and an unlimited number of rows.

The ability to label and collapse blocks proved to be useful from a content authoring point of view as internally Blocks are assigned identifiers based on their order in the stack, but these identifiers are not exposed to the designer, and you need to know this identifier in order to create a link to a block (for navigational purposes). So devising a naming convention that includes the block number as well as an indicator of the blocks content seems to make sense.

However, should you add a new block onto the page, you will need to manually rename the blocks below the block just added, and to fix up any links to those blocks, which will now have new identifiers. Scrolling between blocks can be configured to follow an horizontal then vertical (XY), a vertical then horizontal (YX), or a diagonal path, and is achieved using JavaScript at the back end, and so is not as smooth as it could be.

In addition to blocks Archetypon supplies a special purpose Extra Content block, that can be fixed to the top, bottom, or below the bottom of the page, these blocks are ideally suited to the creation of navigation devices, page footers, and the like. You can only have one ExtraContent stack at each of the three predefined locations, and they come with predefined behaviour that you will need to discover through a process of trial and error, in the absence of  adequate documentation. Sadly missing is the lack of an “Above” ExtraContent stack that could be used as a banner, above the navigation device that would disappear when you scrolled down the page.

Every Dromeas page needs to have a Settings stack element placed above all other stacks on the page. This is used to define settings for the blocks on the page such as the relative width of blocks, their break points, the scroll speed, as well as the animation style. Additionally the Settings stack element allows the user to control setting for the default behaviours of the ExtraContent blocks, such as slide speed, break points. Unfortunately there is no documentation to guide the designer on how these settings affect the behaviour of  the Blocks and ExtraContent elements in the theme, some of the settings are obvious but others are not obvious.

Dromeas also comes with a responsive two column stack, called Columns, and a responsive inline frame called iFrame which can be used to embed another document within the block, and so can be used to playing videos.

The remaining two stacks supplied with the theme are Exchange, and Updater. Exchange allows the designer to create alternate stacks of content that will be displayed when a break condition is reached, the available breakpoints being 480 iPhone, 568 – iPhone 5, 667 iPhone 6, 736 iPhone 6+, 1024 – iPad Mini, and nobreak. The Updater stack is not something that an end user would use, and is just included to allow updates to occur, using the usual stack update mechanism.

What is to like in Dromeas is the flexibility and freedom that it gives to the designer, as well as the access to Foundation’s capabilities. Using Dromeas requires some initial design work, it requires planning the site and its content, thinking about user interaction in both full screen and mobile modes, and keeping track of block identification numbers.

What is not to like, is the lack of documentation, which leaves the website designer to second guess the theme developer’s intention. I am reminded of a comment that Dennis Richie made in response to an area of undefined functionality in the C programming language, he said something to the effect that, “things that are not explicitly defined, are considered to be defined as undefined, and so cannot be expected to behave in any particular way.” Additionally not all stacks appear to be compatible with this theme, some do not work at all, while others work but exhibit side effects.

The $64,000 dollar question, is would I use Dromeas for a client project, and the answer is a qualified maybe. Maybe if it worked with the stack set needed to provide that functionality that is not covered by the theme’s builtin stacks; maybe if the end user’s website was fairly static, and would not require too many additions to be made over time; maybe if the right project came along.

Angus MacPheep

Angus MacPheep is the man behind the mask, the ghost in the machine. Don’t be fooled by his suave good looks and reckless disregard for convention — he’s the real driving-force behind RapidWeaver Central, a madly intuitive aesthete who makes inspirational leaps of faith and conjures pixel-perfect design magic from the uninspiring ether. He’s also a real hit with the ladies.

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