“How to Code in HTML5 and CSS3” is a free e-book about making websites in HTML5 and CSS for beginners. I just read the first chapters and love the style of writing. Step by step instruction are provided along the way and these are clear and very well explained. This is a great resource for anyone who is interested in learning how to build websites. Students and teachers alike will find it a very useful resource.
One of the reasons why people love WordPress so much is because there are so many resources, such as thousands of themes to chose from. Unfortunately, just like everything else, the quality of all of these themes can’t be guaranteed.
I was recently asked by two clients to help them out with their new websites. Both were almost ready to launch, but weren’t happy with a few things in their WordPress admin.
The first client, hired a developer and was a bit shocked to hear that they wouldn’t be able to update WordPress ever, or any of their plugins. The developer they hired, purchased a theme that was no longer supported and broke if anything was updated. Not only does this open you up to security vulnerability, it’s also just shoddy work. This is the equivalent of me buying my friend a new laptop running a XP them being stuck with using IE8 forever. I’m not sure my friend would appreciate.
In both of these cases, I spent a few hours poking around the theme and tried to figure out what was going on. But I gave up very fast. Both contained so many files, it was hard to understand what was needed and what was not. In the end, I simply re-built the themes from scratch. Both were happy with the way the site displayed on and functioned on the front end, they just wanted to have an easier back end to manage.
In my opinion both of these commercial themes displayed what I resent most from them:
They have too many options.
Theme vendors want their theme to satisfy a large pool of clients, thus the more features there are, the better. These options come at a price though. More options, means more complexity with increase in error, and more files to load which makes your site load slowly.
Many love to customize the WordPress admin.
Perhaps this is meant to be helpful, but it’s not. As soon as you modify an interface, you’re asking your audience to relearn how things are set up. People shouldn’t have to re-learn out the WordPress admin works when switching from theme to theme.
So how do you know which theme you should use?
That’s a great question.
You might think to yourself that free themes won’t be as good, but the quality of themes in the WordPress.org repo has improved greatly over the years. In addition many theme foundries release their themes for free on WordPress.org and then offer a pro version for a fee. Before purchasing these, I would encourage anyone to look at a few free versions first.
If a theme from a foundry caught your eye, the first thing I would recommend before buying it, is to look at the theme’s rating and look at how the developer is addressing support issues. Are questions in the support form answered well and in a timely manner? Have many people written great reviews or are all of them one star only?
Make sure that the theme you are purchasing contains 99% of what your looking for. If all you want to do is change one or two colours, that’s easy enough to do with some custom CSS or a child theme, but if you want to make major changes to the layout, then you might as well start from scratch or look at free themes. Keep in mind as well, that purchasing a theme may not save you all that much. Hiring a good developer who builds theme from scratch will be able to give you a bespoke theme made just right for you.
Has you may know already, I’m a big fan of the Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) plugin. I’ve used it to build carousels, call to action boxes, additional content such as sub-titles, extra featured images, etc.. When building custom themes for clients it’s important to ensure that updates and adding new content will be as easy as possible. Thus the reason I favour ACF to create meta boxes rather than shortcodes.
In my opinion shortcodes aren’t intuitive, and although as developers were used to seeing brackets and tags, clients may not “see” that a shortcode isn’t closed properly. Meta boxes on the other hand don’t require clients to add tags, brackets or code of any kind.
Not only is the ACF plugin well maintained it also has great documentation and this just got better. Today I discovered another great resource all about using ACF on your website. This free PDF resource written by Steve Grunwell takes a look at the plugin, walks you through some practical examples of building carousels, alternate page headlines, and more, and then discusses the future of the plugin with the upcoming ACF 5 release.
I would encourage you to check it out. Even if you’ve been using ACF for a while, Steve has some great code snippets to share.
I’ve been meaning to write a post about a few handy plugins that I use all the time. Some of these have saved me tons of time and effort.
My favourite one, and I’m sure lots of developers will agree, is Regenerate thumbnails. While working a theme, if you decide to change an image size of aspect ratio, this plugin will simply go through all of the images in your media library and resize them at once. Fantastic tool.
A new one I discovered a few months ago via twitter, is Imsanity. This tool is brilliant and makes so much sense. I’ve had clients upload 8MB images in the pass and these just end up clogging up the server. This plugin automatically resizes huge uploads to a decent more reasonable large size.
I’ve been a huge fan of the image widget plugin for a very long time. I’m not sure if there’s a better one out there, but this one does exactly what it says, very simply and elegantly. I love it.
Finally, this new plugin, hilariously called My Eyes are Up Here allows you to control how thumbnails are cropped based on face control. I haven’t had the chance to play with it much, but it looks like a great plugin and the authors are stellar developers. I’m guessing this one will soon be everyone’s favourite.
What image plugin have you found awesome? Care to share?
I set up wpyogi.com years ago after setting up a WordPress course.It took me so long to prepare that material, that I decided to put it up online for students to use on their own and for teachers to use in their class room. I no longer teach and as a result the material now needs updating. A few weeks ago I reached on on twitter to see if anyone would be willing to take over the domain and Syed at WPbeginner kindly agreed. Not only did he take the domain name, but also took the content with the aim of updating it soon.
I look forward to seeing how the content evolves.
I had a great time at WordCamp Vancouver this weekend. I had the privilege of hearing great talks, had great conversations and learned a few things. At the end of the day, someone who I just met, asked me a very interesting question. “What do I get out of attending WordCamps?”
I had to think about it for a few seconds. My first reaction to that question was, does he mean financially and does attending help my business? He then proceed to clarify that yes, that’s what he meant, but then also said, has it improved me as a developer to which the answer is YES.
I think that the big thing for me is that WordCamps, do NOT generate leads and thus I don’t consider them as big networking events where lots of business deals are made. However, it does get be motivated to learn and research more about the topics I discovered that day/weekend and in turn, makes me a better developer which then generates “better” business for me.
This weekend was no different and I was encouraged by his question to make a list of the all the things I need to go and learn more about. I thought I would share it would you. So here goes:
- Review Mandi Wise’s extensive list of resources
- Make sure to watch Mel’s presentation about making your own custom widget when it is published on WordPress TV, because I just couldn’t be in two rooms at once
- Look into WP CLI. I’ve known about this long enough… Enough with the procrastination already.
- Play with Flexbox and Picture fill… again, stop procrastinating
- Make a fully accessible theme and add it to the repo
That list isn’t too long, but some of these items may take me a while… What about you, what do you get out of WordCamps?
WordCamp Vancouver is just around the corner and if you do any kind of development work with WordPress, you should join us. This year’s WordCamp is the developer edition and the schedule has something for everyone. WordCamp is held on July 26 at the BCIT campus downtown Vancouver. Tickets are on sale and going fast, so make sure you grab yours soon.
I’ll be doing a lightning talk on handling multiple screens and responsive design using CSS and mobble. If you’ve never used the plugin you should come by and ask your questions. If you have any right now, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer you right away or I’ll chat to you at the conference. See you there.
Digging a bit further and reading about the author, I discovered GitBook. GitBook is an open source platform that let’s authors publish books for free using Markdown and Git. If you’re not familiar with these, don’t worry, you don’t need to know about this stuff just to read the books. There were 174 books to choose from when I last checked and many are offered in multiple languages.
Have a look and see if something catches your interest. I’m reading ProGit next.
Water lily is my latest theme released on the WordPress repo. I had initially chosen lotus, but that theme name was already taken and since all names must be unique, I had to content myself with water lily. This process did teach me the difference between water lilies and lotuses though. Seems like many make that same mistake.
Need a pattern for a design projects? Subtle Patterns has been my go-to website for finding the right one but today, I discovered these two new resources.