Sorry, Terracoding is no more as of August 2016. Thank you to all of our wonderful clients and partners over the last five years! It’s been a blast. – Dom, Rob & Sam

Dynamic Rails App Theming

Themer UI

We started work on an exciting new project this week that requires a single Rails app to power multiple similar websites. The websites are all going to have the same features and basic structure but the client wanted to be able to customise colours, fonts and images for each site themselves.

To get our heads around the feature, we built a prototype app that provides a theme editing interface. You can try out the demo!

Themer UI

Technical Details

You include theme style rules in special comment blocks using color(), font(), and image_url() helpers:

body {
  /* defaults */
  background: white;
  color: black;
  font-family: sans-serif;

  /* THEME --------
  background-image: image_url(bg);
  color: color(text);
  font-family: font(body);
  -------- THEME */

Running rake theme:update will then generate a theme template from those comments at app/views/themes/show.css.erb.

Theme attributes can be easily added to the Theme model. The controller :show action is cached and the generated stylesheet is available at /theme.css to be included in the head of any page.

The theme editor presents a live preview by injecting styles into an iframe as the theme values are changed. This includes images, using the FileReader API to read them locally in Base64 before they are uploaded to the server.

To make sure override rules with missing values degrade gracefully, the app utilises browsers’ behaviour of ignoring any invalid rules whilst continuing to render the rest of the styles. This means any default styling can simply be included in the app’s main stylesheet (or anywhere you like).

Open Source

All of the source code is available on GitHub. Please fork and reuse the code as much as you like! Feel free to open an Issue on GitHub or you can reach us on Twitter @terracoding.

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