The T3 framework is a Joomla templating framework that was originally developed by the team at Joomlart. It was created in the days of Joomla 1.5 when rapid development of the CMS was non existent and new features and functionality were desired but weren't available.
Since they found themselves reusing code over and over again it made sense to reuse the code and add it into a base framework that they could build upon for each one of their template releases.
This idea wasn’t just appealing to template clubs but also appealing to many web design and development studios/agencies around the world including us at PB Web Development. Many of these studios were producing solutions for clients everyday but finding that they were in the same situation of using the same code over and over again on various different websites.
There were many base templates out there already, such as 960 grids or even the free templates that came with Joomla that could have been used as a base template framework but people wanted more than what these could provide. Hence the more complex template club frameworks.
Evaluating the frameworks
Back in late 2009 we started evaluating all of the template frameworks out there and narrowed down our decision to two frameworks to really test and apply to our work processes. We looked at many from Helix, Warp, T3, Gantry and many more but we narrowed down our final evaluation to T3 Framework V2 by Joomlart and Gantry by Rockettheme.
They both had an array of great features in them from flexible premade module positions, CSS and JS compression options, JS features such as mega menus and many other easy ways to access and implement features or hooks into the template without needing to look at any of the code.
On the technical side of things, Gantry came with almost everything you could ever possibly want. Lots of administrative controls, switches and options to create different template styles, turn on and off module position with a few clicks and dragging of the mouse. Very powerful and very flexible, especially for a novice never really dabbling in code before.
On the other hand T3 was a little more restrictive. It had way less module positions, it didn’t have as much flexibility in regards to turning on or off, moving, or dynamically resizing modules and quite clearly didn’t have as many bells or whistles as compared to Gantry, but this suited us and it was perfect for what we were delivering for clients.
What did we want from a framework
The three main features that we wanted out of the frameworks were, JS compression, CSS compression and mega menus and that was it!
So we opted for T3 and started building everything from there and never regretted the decision.
We actually implemented our templates in a different way compared to how templates were normally done in T3 framework V2. We didn’t use the block system within the framework which I will explain a little later. Because we didn’t use the block system, we didn’t pull in a lot of the additional bulk of the framework which we normally would have to when building templates on the framework, but again this was intentional and worked out for the best in regards to performance of the templates.
Ability to update Bootstrap and its addons
Boostrap changes on a regular basis with bug fixes and improvements on a regular basis.
Unlike templates that are purely just built using Bootstrap, T3 allows for the updating of the Boostrap base template framework within T3 itself.
For example, if you're using a template that is built purely on Bootstrap with simple Joomla code in it, it will be quite lightweight and simple. Easy to install and maintain, but if there is a bug or added feature in the next release of Bootstrap, that is release the following month, it is a little harder to update to this latest version of Bootstrap to take advantage of the fixes and changes.
On the other hand, with T3, you can simply download the latest version of Bootstrap, and upload it into your T3 system plugin folder where it pulls in the core files to add to the template. This means you can always be up to date with the latest bug fixes of Bootstrap with out having to work with the code in your template itself.
We use this method personally to add in additional plugins and extensions to Bootstrap such as the 'accessibility project for Bootstrap' by PayPal. This way you can take a more modular approach to your template code and plugin external libraries as needed.
Adding in the plugin will allow you to immediately have WAI-ARIA markup to:
- Modal dialog
- Dropdown menu
- Tab panel
If you're a developer and you use Composer, then you will be familiar with the idea of packages and being able to pull in additional packages and compile your project together on the fly.
Updates and Maintenance
We also wanted a framework that had a community behind it. Some of the other frameworks are purely run and owned by the template or theme clubs. T3 on the other hand is an open source and free template framework. Primarily supported by Joomlart but there is indeed active development and a community of users behind it.
Check out the change log of feature additions and bug fixes.
The changing Joomla environment
As the web change though through 2010 and 2011, we saw the rise of other base templates such as Responsive 960, Bootstrap and the birth and growth of the mobile and responsive web This meant that we had to change with the times and our framework practises as well so we could produce and provide responsive solutions for our clients.
In September of 2012, we saw the release of Joomla 3. The latest and greatest version of Joomla with Bootstrap integrated into its core. The packaged admin templates and free front end templates came with ready working responsive templates and a few months after we saw the release of Joomlart’s first free and fully responsive template for Joomla 3.
Along with the release we also saw the release of the brand new Joomlart T3 framework V3 which great and became quite popular. Furthermore, Joomlart decided to make their framework fully GPL, that is the framework was now open source and could be worked upon and used by anyone for whatever reason they chose.
I spoke to Hung, the CEO of Joomlart and told him that we were going to adopt T3v3 as our base framework for all of our work from now on. I told him just how much I loved the framework and how perfect it was for our clients. He told me that Anthony Olsen, owner of JoomlaBambo was adopting T3 for all of their template club templates as well as were retiring their old Zen framework which use to power all of their templates.
This was big news, and I managed to interview Anthony at JoomlaDay Melbourne as a part of the podcast as to some of the reasons why he decided to do this.
Slowly I started hearing about other template clubs and other service providers that were all jumping onboard, providing code to the framework and working on it to make it that much better.
So now fast forward a year later, to the beginning of 2014 and we have an amazing base framework to work upon that has grown quite a lot over the course of just one year.
The latest release sees the adoption of Bootstrap v3 and also the addition of additional web coolness in the form of FontAwesome 4 allowing for the embedding of glyphicons into your sites.
It is now one of the only free and open source templating frameworks for Joomla that has its own little community of developers supporting it driving new features and pushing the boundaries of the web.