Customizing widget areas to display different page and post sidebars

Don’t you just hate it when you launch a site, hand it off, get paid and a few weeks later the client says, you know… I think I want to change the templates now. This is not working for me.

My first reaction when I hear this is, “crap, I didn’t do my job properly, how can I fix it“. And the reality is, that without user interaction, it’s often difficult to anticipate what they and the client will want and so this type of feedback should be expected and in fact welcomed.

My last project with Tod Maffin allowed me to learn a great deal from such a request for change.

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Chris Coyier’s Blank WordPress Theme

In case you missed it, a few weeks ago, Chris Coyer, one of the authors of “Digging into WordPress“, released his blank theme. In his article he states the following:

I have a “blank” WordPress theme for myself, because I make a lot of WordPress themes. Starting from Kubrick, or any other pre-made theme, would be absurd. There is to much stuff there that would have to be stripped out or fought against to be useful. So, I have my own.

Music to my ears. When I started using WordPress years ago, I couldn’t get my head around Kubrick. Cleaning the code took way too much time and energy. I originally created my own theme for a WordPress class. In order to teach students how to theme a site in 6 weeks, I needed something clean and void of excess stuff so I set up my Basic Theme.

I was thus curious when I read Chris’s article and downloaded his theme. It’s super clean and to my delight it’s not so different from mine. I have a lot more CSS than he does and he’s got some fancy stuff going on in his header.php, but overall I would highly recommend it. Starting from a clean theme to design a WordPress site is the best way to work. If you haven’t had a chance to try a blank theme, you should check it out.

Creating a custom page template in WordPress

While designing your WordPress site, you may want to create a page that’s different from your other pages and posts. I’ve created many websites which have a custom home page, portfolio section, site map etc… WordPress allows you to create custom templates in a few simple steps:

  1. Open up your page.php or index.php and add the following code at the very top of your page:
    <?php
    /*
    Template Name: Name of your Template
    */
    ?>
  2. Save your your file as new-template-name.php (you may want to use portfolio.php, sitemap.php, etc..)
  3. Upload your file in your themes directory
  4. In your WordPress admin, edit the page that you want custom and select the newly created template from your “Template” drop down which is found under “Attributes”

That’s all it takes to create the template, but now you will need to customize it to make it look different from your other pages. You may want to have a different background, dimension, etc…

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