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10 Requirements I look for when picking a Skin

10 Requirements I look for when picking a Skin

After reviewing skins on a weekly basis for the past 3 years, I have seen and assessed over 1000 skins personally. Just trying to give a bit of background as to why you should keep reading this article and find out how I go about assessing a skin to use on a DNN site.

The good news today is that skin sellers have really raised their game and are producing stunning skins, not only from a design point of view, but also from a technical perspective. If you look back just about 2 years ago, it was quite a different scenario, so the majority of skins promoted by the DNN Store on their weekly newsletter already cover the "Must Have" requirements quite well.

I have broken down my skin requirements into two lists:

Must Have:

1 - Demo: If a skin doesn't have a demo, how are you going to be able to assess it? Just check thumbnails? A demo is not optional! It is a mandatory requirement.

2 - Responsive: There will be controversies about this requirement, but let me ask you this: Would you like to have your site looking nice on a tablet or a smart phone? I bet that 9 out of 10 people will say "Yes" to that question.

With the exponential growth of Internet usage via mobile devices, of course you want your website to shine on those devices too. Someone may say that not all sites need to be responsive, and I agree, but if you are a skin seller and you are not catering for the mobile audience, I will have to question the type of product you are putting out. Most likely, with so many great alternatives out there, I will put their skin on the side as the last option.

3 - Page Template: Have you come across a beautiful skin demo before, and after you purchase it you realized you would have a lot of work in front of you before you could see something similar on your own site? I know the feeling. I have been there too. Remember this: A skin is just the skeleton of a page. The actual content needs to blend with the skin to create that awesome site.

With all that said, this is where the "Page Template" or "Content Template" comes in place. This is the sample content that can be loaded onto the site together with the skin to give you the same results as you saw on the demo, and it should be provided to you as a starting point for content population. If you see a very nice demo, you should expect to find in the skin page something that says it comes with "Portal Templates", "Page Template" or "Content Template". With that you know you will be able to reproduce the nice content you were sold on.

4 - Version Compatibility: This may sound obvious, but you have to ensure the skin you are buying is compatible with the DNN version that you are using. If you have a brand new DNN site, this is not a problem.

But if you are buying a skin for an existing DNN site, you should check its version and see if the skin is compatible with your version. Usually skin sellers are very good at identifying which DNN version the skin is compatible with, but in case it is not there, just drop them a note via the "Ask a Question" link located on the top area of the DNN store page.

5 - Modules: I would classify this one as a "Must Watch Out". Sometimes we are checking a skin demo and we see this nice banner slider, image gallery, contact form and even a blog module. You should keep in mind that if you expect the modules you saw in the demo to be included with the skin, you need to buy the appropriate package.

This might seem obvious to some users, but it is usually not that clear to me whether the module I like is part of the purchase or not. How do you know if the skin comes with the module you like? Check the skin package options. If that is not clear enough, which at times it is not, ask the seller which version includes that module.

6 - License Terms: This is an important one that is quite overlooked. Some skins will come with restrictions in terms of its usage. All skin terms will cover the basic usage: at least one site in one DNN installation. But if you are looking to use the same skin on multiple sites in the same DNN or on multiple DNN installations, then you should make sure the option you are purchasing will allow you to use it that way. If it doesn't cover your case, reach out to the seller and see if they can provide you with a license that will cover your needs.

Nice to Have:

7 - Flexible Color Scheme: Not a show stopper, but it would be a big plus if the skin has a control panel where you can set your own color scheme. It is quite impossible to find a skin that has the exact color scheme of your brand or corporate identity. So a skin that allows you to pick and choose the colors for different elements will help you a lot. You will not need to mess around with style sheet files yourself, therefore, saving you a lot of time.

8 - Animations: This one should be on a "NOT Nice to Have" list. This is my personal taste talking now. I understand that sellers want users to see all they can do in terms of making their skins fancier than the next guy, but there are some sellers that go overboard here! You can get dizzy with so many animations going around on their skins such as Icons spinning around and Text moving from all sorts of directions. Mouse-over that, you may think you are playing a game! Come on! A touch of animation is good but too much, and you will get your site's visitors just distracted. It’s just my personal taste.

9 - Bootstrap: First, what is Bootstrap? It is an html, css, javascript framework that you can use as basis for creating web sites or web applications. For more information, go to In the last 2 years, Bootstrap has become a widely adopted UI framework, and it promotes standardization and usage of simple HTML code. One of its main advantages is that it makes your site responsive as well.

Of course a seller could flag their skin using it, and at first look it would be hard to find out whether it truly uses Bootstrap or not without going into the technical aspect here, but let's assume the sellers are telling the truth about that. Just checking the 7 new skins promoted on the DNN store newsletter this past week, 6 out of 7 skins were already using Bootstrap framework. As you can see the skin creators have really adopted that on their new creations.

10 - Good support: I think this is quite important but hard to be sure about. Pretty much all skins I have purchased I had to get in touch with the seller to ask questions about certain features of their skins.

You should check their feedback to see if they have positive reviews. Although that doesn’t guarantee a good support experience, it can be a helpful indicator. You can also try their support by asking questions about their skin before buying it. See if they respond in a timely manner. If they don’t, you should not expect a different experience after the purchase. I would walk.

How about you? What is your "Must Have" and your "Nice to Have" lists? Do you have a "NOT Nice to Have" list? Let us know on the comments below.

This post has been cross posted to


Paul Cameron
An interesting article Aderson.
One comment though. It seems to me that most skins look remarkably similar. This is true since bootstrap became the basis of construction. Though the design may have some tweeks there doesn't seem to be much creativity in approach. Colours may change but no newness.
Has bootstrap killed imagination?
Paul Cameron Saturday, July 05, 2014 3:02 AM (link)
Geoff Barlow
Nice blog Aderson!
Clear guide-lines for people looking for Dnn Skins

1 thing I think you have missed out about Bootstrap skins is that they all say it as full bootstrap functionality and style but very few tell you (or have a solution) that you have to know how to place the functionality into their sites using that skin.

For example: A user buys a bootstrap skin and wants to have a "Tabbed content" or "Accordion" section in 1 of their pages, how do they accomplish this? They have to go to the bootstrap site find the functionality then figure out how to place it into the skin.

I think it should be made clear that without basic html/jquery/dnn knowledge these types of Bootstrap functionality is not easy to use.

Also I think its a shame that most skin developers use the Bootstrap framework, in my eyes there are better, cleaner and easier to use frameworks like Zurb Foundation and the new Google framework (essentials I think its called) that is just around the corner.


Geoff Barlow Saturday, July 05, 2014 7:18 AM (link)
Aderson Oliveira
Hi Paul,

I do agree to a certain level with your point. Mostly when it comes to skins created by the same seller. Even so I still had a hard time the other day picking a skin for a personal project of mine. I was finally able to narrow it down to one but not without major internal debates.

However, from a very pragmatic point of view, I think bootstrap has helped streamlined creativity and force some constraints of conformity. To be honest with you 90% of the sites I work with are just fine by using a bootstrap based skin. This is the type of design/skin the market right now is asking for. Seller are just following the wave. The other 10% are looking for something quite unique which will entail a higher cost and most likely a custom build. Nothing wrong with that. You can find great professionals on the DNN ecosystem that will do a fine unique design/skin for you, but it comes with a price.

At the end of the day if the designer is creative enough bootstrap can be leveraged to do some fine skins. I do think of it as a tool. You can use it to create something mundane or to create a master piece. The craftsman behind it will be the one shaping it.

BTW, this discussion is not limited to the DNN ecosystem. This is a well-known debate within the Bootstrap realm which I don't think there is a clear answer. Just passionate people on both sides. I'm inclined to be on the clapping side.

Aderson Oliveira Monday, July 07, 2014 10:38 AM (link)
Aderson Oliveira
Thanks Geoff!

You are right regarding how to go about using those features of Bootstrap. However this could be mitigated if sellers provide better Page Templates. Not ultimate solution, but would give a head start to users. BTW, this is a great topic for some nice tutorials :).

In regards to the other frameworks, I think sellers in general are just navigating the market waves. Whether or not Bootstrap is the best out there, I cannot answer that as I have not used others (but I will trust your opinion on that!), however it is the most popular one.

Aderson Oliveira Monday, July 07, 2014 10:50 AM (link)
Scippy One
They are exactly all the things I check for choosing a good skin!
Scippy One Monday, July 14, 2014 3:46 AM (link)
Phil Speth
Regarding originality of the skins and Bootstrap. It reminds me of when I was working with graphic design companies for a large site. They would tell me that DNN would limit their designs. I had to tell them to just ignore the platform and that I would deal with the implementation. We received an incredible design and were able to fully implement it beautifully in DNN.
My point is that our limitations are not technology related. It is in my opinion fully based on the work of our design community.
Phil Speth Monday, July 28, 2014 11:20 AM (link)
Aderson Oliveira
Great point Phil. Design should be done without too much consideration for the platform. A great skinner will be able to figure out how to go about implementing that design on DNN.
Aderson Oliveira Monday, July 28, 2014 11:55 AM (link)

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