Introducing the new Curatescape Echo theme

Today we release a new Omeka theme for Curatescape projects. Curatescape Echo joins (the renamed) Curatescape Classic as an option for all Curatescape websites. This theme is fully compatible with the same set of plugins and the existing content structure, so all you’ll need to do is install and configure, then get on with your day. Check it out live on clevelandhistorical.org or read on for additional details and instructions.

Screenshots

Homepage (top)
Item/Story page (article header)
Story text (with Lede element and floating Table of Contents)

Theme Settings

Many of the same theme settings are present, though there are some significant changes (too many to list here), so make sure to thoroughly review and configure theme settings as soon as you activate the theme.

If you previously relied on IntenseDebates for comments, please note that this functionality has been removed. You’ll need to switch to Disqus if comments are a critical part of your community.

Technical Improvements

Among the technical highlights of this new design is much improved loading times and initial page load. The initial page load for a single item is now a whopping 89% smaller! The bulk of this improvement comes courtesy of modern browser support for IntersectionObserver, which allows content to be loaded in asynchronously as the user navigates through the page. As of December 2021, browser support for IntersectionObserver covers over 94% of users. Other users will have the same overall experience, but without the improved page load. We’ve also replaced the Font Awesome icon font with inline SVG, which makes the initial icon load about 78% smaller (and perceptibly smoother). We’ve also prevented Omeka’s default jQuery library and a number of plugin assets from loading except for where they are actually needed.

Theme customization should be much easier. In addition to all the built in options to control colors and other design settings, Curatescape Echo uses CSS variables for much of its design language. As such, even a CSS novice should be able to make significant changes with minimal effort.

Browser compatibility

Notably, the (very deprecated) Internet Explorer does not support some of this technology and will not benefit from the improvements, though IE 11 will still work if users have JavaScript enabled (CSS variables require a polyfill). Older versions of IE, along with Opera Mini and other outdated browsers accounting for less than 3% global usage (and all released before 2015; some as far back as 2010) are not supported. We think this is a fair tradeoff, but consider looking at your analytics to determine if this will negatively impact your user base.

Content Considerations

Curatescape Echo is a bit more opinionated than earlier Curatescape theme versions when it comes to content. You’ll want to make sure that your items/stories are consistently using Subjects and/or Tags. The first subject or tag will be prominently displayed throughout the site. We strongly recommend using the Simple Vocab plugin to streamline content creation and keep things consistent. Likewise, you’ll want to make sure that all files have complete metadata, especially the first image in a given item. This means adding to each file a title, description, source, creator, and date where applicable. As always, every item/story should have at least one image file for optimal display. We also strongly recommend utilizing the Subtitle and Lede fields if you’re not already.

Get Started

We are currently treating Curatescape Echo as a beta release, though it should be 100% production ready. If you have a clone of your site, we recommend starting there before activating on a live site. It can take a while to get all the design settings perfect and testing on a clone will minimize downtime (note that by default, your site will go into Stealth Mode upon activation, preventing users from accessing most content). Additionally, make sure to update all of your plugins as well as Omeka itself.

If you haven’t already, check out the latest version of the (unofficial) Curatescape command line utility, which makes updating themes and plugins a breeze.

If your site is hosted by us, we’ll be reaching out to individual site owners to coordinate and complete the transition.

Finally, if you want to keep using the existing Curatescape Classic theme for any reason, you can! We plan to keep it updated/available going forward. This is just a new option, not a replacement.

If you run into any issues or have questions, let us know on the Curatescape Forum.