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.

Will Vancouver 2010 be the year we put TV to bed?

Did you get your mitts?My husband and I debated intensely over the period of several weeks prior to the Olympics, whether of not we should get a TV. I was dead against it and he only wanted it for a two week period. I reminded him that as a Brit, he might be annoyed by the “Canadian” focused coverage and thus won the argument.

Personally I was a bit blazé about this whole Olympic event. But once it got started, I found myself caught in the whirlwind of excitement. Walking through the city, the buzz just took control of me and I became an immediate fan. We invited ourselves to a few friends place and went to a pubs to watch the events on their TVs, but we couldn’t justified doing this everyday.

To my delight and more importantly my husbands’, we discovered that we could watch most events on the Internet. CTV streamed all of the events including the medal ceremonies. Using my dual monitor set up, I was also able to follow most of the events at work.

As Mhairi wrote a few weeks ago in a post discussing Social Media and the Olympics, this year was also the first “Twitter” Olympics. Using a series of hashtags such as #van2010 and #olympics following the events became quite fun. I was also able to get and share info about the different houses and free venues using Twitter. For example on day 2 of the Olympics, I found out that the queue for the zip line was already 2 hours long an hour before being opened and posted the info on Twitter. A follower thanked me and made different plans for the day. How great is that?

Prior to giving up TV I also stopped my subscription to the newspaper. The only time I ever looked at the sport section was during the Olympics, but now I no longer had that option. Flickr of course came to the rescue. Following the appropriate tags led me to discover fantastic photographers and photography blogs.

I’m not sure that Vancouver 2010 would have been as much fun without the Internet and I didn’t miss having a TV one bit.

Add unique styles to your pages using the body_class() function

When WordPress 2.8 was released, a new function called body_class() was made available to developers allowing us to style our pages differently. This new function places a location-specific class on the opening <body> tag. I must admit, I missed this function when it came out and only discovered it recently. But it’s proved very useful. I can now specify different background images for my pages and posts.

Here’s how to do it.

Open up your header.php file and change <body> to <body <?php body_class(); ?>>

The function will automatically generate extra html code. Have a look at the source code to see what classes are available to you and simply create new styles.

For example if you have an about page which has a page id equal to 2, you will notice the following code:

<body class="page page-id-2">

In your css, you could add a new style such as {background:yellow;}

This would change the background of all your pages to yellow.

Or {background:yellow;}

And now the yellow background will only be applied to the page with id #2.

Nathan Rice wrote up a great article about the body_class() function and you can, of course, get more information by visiting the Codex.

January 2010 has been a wirlwind of activities

With Vancouver gearing up for Olympic frenzy, I thought that everyone would have sat back and waited for the party to begin, but no.. It’s been crazy busy at Bluelime Media. So much so, that I totally missed track of January and now heading into February with yet another full plate. I’m not complaining though. Some of the projects we’ve worked on have been delightful.

During the holiday season, I took a stab at redesigning the blog. The original design was somewhat too constricting and Rob wanted a few features added. The greatest addition is the incorporation of random banners submitted by the community. If you ever find yourself in Kitsilano and snap a few pictures, simply upload them to flickr and tag them with kitsilanoca, and you never know, you’re picture may be used as a banner on the site.

We also completed a blog for Patricia Robitaille’s company, PR Strategies Inc. Being self-employed since 1993, Patricia’s wealth of knowledge on self-employment is incredibly valuable. Her blog will allow her to share tips and tricks with those wanting to learn more about self-employment.

Another self-employed colleague of ours, Bruce Clarke is president and co-founder of Superna Life Sciences which is a specialty pharmaceutical company focused on the commercialization of treatments for niche diseases and indications, primarily hematology and oncology, in the Canadian marketplace. We built a simple, yet elegant website for Superna allowing them to promote their new venture and raise funds. The branding and design of the website were created by Johnny Kuan at Avenue Creative.

Next, we also collaborated with Splat Designs and built two websites for the Yaletown Laser Centre and Cosmetic Dentistry. Both sites used the same layout and look and feel but display different content. Building two sites at once was very efficient but also very confusing. More than once, I inserted the wrong image and content on the wrong site.

Last but not least, my on-going collaboration with Tzaddi at ThriveWire continued and we put together a WordPress site for the Vancouver Convention Centre‘s Intranet. Unfortunately, this site is located on their own private server with no public access so we can’t show you anything. Working with the VCC’s IT team, we developed it on an IIS server which proved very challenging at times, but the the team at VCC is very happy with the end result and it will serve their company well.

The Minerva Foundation of BC gets a new look

During the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of working on a new website for the Minerva Foundation for BC Women. The Minerva Foundation offers a wide range of financial, emotional, educational, and leadership programs. Whether it’s helping women develop new skills, assist them to return to the workforce after an extended absence or providing community grants to other non-profit societies who provide services in the area of safety for women, the Minerva Foundation is a leader when it comes to empowering women.

Working with Catherine Worrall and Marga Lopez from Ideastream Design, the Minerva Foundation created a new logo and colour palette. Instead of simply slapping the new logo on the old website, Ideastream Design approached me and inquired about converting their existing site into WordPress. The old website consisted of a huge amounts of documents, static html files (with Ack! tables) and images, making it quite challenging to update. Converting the site to WordPress, simply made much more sense. Using a few plugins, like the Next Gen Gallery, the Foundation can now create as many photo galleries as they want and the rest of the website is a breeze to update. The new website is inviting, easy to navigate and will hopefully help the Foundation with their future endeavors.

The Minerva Foundation of BC Women

Stop climate change by optimizing your website

Blog Action DayClimate change has no regional boundaries and threatens more than the environment. If we continue on this path, famine, flooding, war, and millions of refugees are the likely outcome. Given the urgency of the issue and the upcoming international climate negotiations in Copenhagen later this year, it’s only natural that this years’ topic for Blog Action Day, is climate change.

All throughout the day, you’ll no doubt be reading on the many actions you can take to help stop climate change. But did you know that if you are using WordPress, you could be making minor adjustments that also help? Making your website “green” is as easy as reducing the number of of calls to your database. Let me show you how.

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Is WordCamp the conference for you?

wordcampI had the pleasure of attending my first WordCamp conference this weekend in Portland. Yes, I know, first WordCamp, how is that possible for a WordPress focused web developer like you? I guess I just wasn’t organized enough to attend previous ones.

I was also not expecting much. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for, so how good can a $20 conference be? WordCamp PDX proved to be exceptional and went beyond my expectations.

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How to use Slimbox plugin to display your portfolio in WordPress

If you’ve been following the Bluelime Media website you will know that we’ve partnered with Barbara from BlueCitrus on many occasions to develop websites and as the saying goes, “The son of the cobbler has no shoes“, the BlueCitrus website was in need of a facelift. My latest teaching gig at Langara provided me with the opportunity to design and develop a WordPress site for Barbara. The goal of the class was to teach the students how to use WordPress to create a portfolio. So building a site for Barbara was the perfect project.

Barbara laid the ground work and designed the header, navigation and gave me a good indication of how she wanted the site to work, but I was given carte blanche on how to make the portfolio work. After looking at numerous portfolio examples, I came across the stunning work of Koldo Barroso. Koldo’s illustrations are simply marvelous and I could look at them all day. His portfolio section is simple, yet very elegant. On closer examination of his site, I noticed that he uses Slimbox to display his gallery pieces which is just a slimmed down version of the original Lightbox.

A few clicks later, I read a few tutorials on how to use Slimbox and decided to use it to build it Barbara’s portfolio section. If you’re familiar with WordPress plugins, you’ll know that beyond how to install and activate, instructions are usually fairly slim when it comes to how to use them. Since I just finished the site and the steps I took are still fresh in my mind, I thought I’d walk you through on how to set your own gallery using the Slimbox Plugin.

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Social Media works in mysterious ways

I’ve participated in a few “Ask The Experts” panels in the past few months and couldn’t help but notice that Social Media is quite the hot topic right now. People are very keen in learning how to use Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, etc… Most attendees are curious about how it works, why anyone would invest the time and energy, what’s the ROI and if it’s the right avenue for their business. These are all good questions and there are simply no easy answer. It really depends on who your audience is and where they are.

A funny thing happened to me last Friday which demonstrates how complicated and unpredictable it is to explain the power of Social Media.

I have a Twitter account and follow mostly designers and WordPress developers. This allows me to find out about latest tips, tutorials and website development news. Cameron Moll posted a tweet to a “mesmerizing” YouTube video which caught my attention. I clicked the link and watched a video taken at Kuroshio Sea which is the 2nd largest aquarium in the world.

The video is indeed breathtaking, but I was curious about the music. I watched and listened to the video a couple of times and wanted to find out who was singing. Using my iPhone, I Shazammed it and got the name of the song, band and album. A quick search on YouTube led me to a video of Barcelona singing live in San Diego. I watched a few more videos and decided to visit Barcelona’s page on MySpace. Listened to a few more clips and then I was off to iTunes and bought the album.

I’m not sure that a marketer could have predicted this, but I’m convinced that Social Media is worth investing in.

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:
    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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