I Love WordPress, aka How I Make Sites

It’s about time for a blog post that has nothing to do with farming! And even then that’s a bit of a lie.

Today I’m going to talk a bit about how I administrate my websites nowadays and how that has changed over the past decade and a half.

This blog, my HPRF siteĀ  and my yarn blog all run on a content management system called WordPress. What is a CMS? It’s a tool that lets you manage the content apart from the visual display and functionality of the website. A good analogy would be to think of the way a pressroom works. Each writer works on the content of their story and hands it off to the editor, who wraps it up in the newspaper’s theme and presents it as one whole work.

This simple concept has changed the way I’ve chosen to develop websites.

I was a relatively early adopter of HTML given that I was like 8 at the time. Back in those days content and presentation were one and the same, you had one file with both things and to change one you could potentially mess up the other. Jump forward five years or so and while the adoption of the internet increased you still had one webmaster who was responsible for combining content and presentation. It was taxing work.

Nowadays though, with the adoption of the internet and blogging and social media in general, people are more confident with their abilities to create and manage the content. But it’s still a great idea to keep the presentation separated off in its own area, that way it can be changed independent of the content and vice versa.

Combine this concept with the open-source movement and you get a project like WordPress. Here’s another analogy for you, making a website with WordPress is a bit like going to a Build-a-bear store and making your custom stuffed animal. There are shelves of themes, tweaks, and plugins for you to modify your site with, and in the end you will end up with a website suited to your liking. As a designer I love this because I hate reinventing the wheel. If I want to integrate my Flickr pictures, I can simply install a Flickr plugin, authenticate the plugin with the Flickr site itself, and bam it’s done. Now with one click I can insert a picture from my Flickr account. The ease of plugins like this lets me as an admin improve my site constantly to end up with a great user experience.

This is what the screen looks like for writing a post on my blogs and sites. You can see I have my Flickr pictures loaded in below and clicking on them puts it right into the post!

And thankfully my skills as a coder and designer are not for naught. While there are tons of themes available for free and for money, having HTML and CSS skills lets you create and modify themes on your own. So I can still build you the exact site you want if you started out with a sketch, it will simply be powered by WordPress underneath, which lets you come in and put your content whenever and wherever you want.

Speaking of which, I have some time nowadays so if you’d like to have a website created or know of someone who does, give me a shout! From little personal family blog to serious money-making websites I can do them all for you.

In the coming days I’ll be posting more posts here about my WordPress love, such as listing out some of my most valued plugins and tweaks.

Project 14 – Chore Game Website

This project is an idea for a website game I’ve had from time to time.

The basic concept is roughly similar to Chore Wars – the website is a game where you can log your household activity and complete it for points. The point of it is to motivate you to do various cleanings that you wouldn’t normally do, as well as have a clean household.

Some things I dislike about Chore Wars include
– The entire medieval premise and the RPGness. Let’s not fuck around, we’re cleaning a house. I don’t want to “entertain a water beast” while doing dishes. I don’t want to input stats that don’t make sense. I want a tool that helps me track my chores and rewards me for them, not a button pressing slot machine.

Some things I would like to have in my version:
– Achievements! Everyone loves achievements, and if they were awarded at a certain rate, I imagine people may be motivated to get to the next level.
– Limits. You can’t clean a bathroom ten times a day.

I think I will start creating this site by thinking out the motivations and incentives via achievements or reporting.

New Theme

I swear this is it! No more theme changing! I’ve found a basic layout that works for me, and am slowly bending it to my will code-wise.

The base is a theme called valid-blue from the guys at Xhtmlvalid. I’ve themed it red to start, and I’ll be adding in various details to modify it further. Plans include integrating more gold/sand colors, adding in elements taken from my guitar, and making it perfect for me to use (a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that won’t probably interest you).

Yeah, it’s totally NOT a fluid layout. In the end, I decided I value having great looking posts over having a full-screen layout; this requires I use a fixed-width column so that WordPress (and the CSS properties of the various themes) don’t choke on trying to properly display pictures. But ultimately, all I want is a good theme that incorporates all the elements of my life in one place, so I’m satisfied with where it’s at right now.

Ugh, more tweaking needed.

So I took a quick peek at this blog design in IE….. BLEH. Ugly borders, ugly formatting, ugly padding.

Sigh. I should know not to expect anything to work in IE period, but I still have my hopes from time to time!

So the hunt is back on for a nicer template that’s IE compatible. I’ll probably have to find a nice base template and modify the hell out of it to get what I want. But hey, that’s why I have these web design skills! Might as well use em and ensure they don’t rust out…

Tired of this layout

I’m not very happy with my old Orange layout anymore. It has way too many broken HTML functions (not my fault!), and displays things in a very weird and not pleasant way.

So I’ll be looking for a new theme, one that’s a bit more open. Perhaps one that’s more flexible over rigid. It’s sad that my tweaks on this theme were ultimately pointless, but at least I’m exercising my skills.

Edit: I’ve found a nice new theme! It’s live right now. I’ll still have to beat it into submission, but at least the Tweets and Flickr stream are working! Yay!