From the most basic of sites to the most complex, Yii offers us a way to consistently format the styles and data we present across multiple pages and even multiple sites easily though the use of the CWidgetFactory and skins.
I have used and created numerous CWidget based components, and often use the CWidgetFactory for adding consistency, but it was only today that I finally delved into skins for Widgets and the capabilities that they provide. I could never quite wrap my head around all the different pieces of how to fit it into a site or multiple sites. When I did, it was game changing.
Full information about the widget factory can be found in the Yii API documentation here: http://www.yiiframework.com/doc/api/1.1/CWidgetFactory
I will share an example of how to progress from a simple set of similar views and adjust those views step by step until we have simplified them to the point that they can be themed without the need to replace the view file, or in replacing the view file, negate the need to specify all the parameters for the widget contained in that view directly (thereby reducing the chance that a crucial change will not be propagated from one theme to the next).
I should probably have broken this down into a series of posts, but I wanted to be sure that I actually got around to posting it all, and this seemed the best way. If some of the later portions are confusing, set it aside and come back to it later once the basic idea of using the Widget Factory has sunk in.