Archive for the ‘blogging’ Category

1000 downloads

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

The Nice Wee Theme has now been downloaded more than 1000 times:

1000 downloads

Nice Wee Theme

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Over on Nice Wee Sites we recently released the Nice Wee Theme for Wordpress, and it’s just been approved for inclusion in the Wordpress theme directory. It’s loosely based on the design of this site (but nicer) and has a customisable header icon and avatar, allowing you to tailor it to suit the style of your site. View the demo site or download here.

Update: This site now uses the Nice Wee Theme by way of a demo.

Nice Wee Theme

Wordpress as a CMS

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

Wordpress is open-source blog publishing software with a MySQL database running behind it. The content and structure of the blog is stored in the database, and Wordpress uses PHP to retrieve and display the content in a variety of ways. You can either have a hosted blog on Wordpress.com, where everything is set up for you, or you can install Wordpress yourself (download it from Wordpress.org) on your own hosting package at your own domain, providing the package has a MySQL database and PHP support.

Installing it yourself gives you complete control over the appearance and functionality of your blog. Because of this, and because of the intuitive interface and the fact that there’s an active and helpful support network and an impressive range of plugins, we’ve found it an excellent tool for developing websites:

  • that contain different kinds of content (e.g. news and events as well as static pages)
  • with regularly updated content
  • for clients who want to be able to edit the website themselves without learning HTML or using FTP software.

With a bit of planning and tweaking, Wordpress can become a powerful content management system (CMS) – much more than a simple blogging system. Here’s a list of what I’ve found to be the most useful methods and plugins for using Wordpress in this way:

1. Static front page. This option is now built into Wordpress (version 2.3+) and can be found in the dashboard under Options > Reading. A traditional blog displays latest posts on the homepage, but here you can choose a “static” page to display on the front of your site instead, and select another page on which to display your posts, or even show no posts at all. This is useful if you want to tuck your news or events away in a less conspicuous place, or if posts aren’t appropriate for your site (as in the Polochar Inn website). This option alone opens up huge opportunities for using the software in unconventional ways – and this leads to more experimentation and interesting plugins.

2. Fold Page List. This plugin can be used in websites with a hierarchy of pages and creates a “folding” page menu – in other words, subpages are are hidden in the menu unless the user is viewing a parent or sibling page. This sounds complicated but the effect is simple and intuitive. You can see it in action over at Grogarry Lodge.

3. Fold Category List. I haven’t used this recently, but it creates a folding menu of categories and sub-categories in the same way as Fold Page List.

4. My Page Order. Another simple but powerful plugin. It allows you to control, through the Wordpress dashboard, the order in which pages are listed in your website’s menu (Wordpress’s inbuilt ordering is alphabetical or by date/time the page was created, which is not always how you want your pages to be shown). In my experience, it works seamlessly with the Fold Page List plugin.

5. Page templates. Not a plugin but a part of Wordpress’s core functionality, this requires a bit of coding and moving of files but allows you to have pages on your site that look different from other pages. For example, by default Wordpress (or rather your theme) may display the header, title and content, then the footer for every page in the database. If you want a page that looks different from the others (for example a “splash” or entry page), you can create an alternative template for Wordpress to follow when it displays that page. Fully explained here; see it in action on the Nunton Steadings homepage, which looks completely different from all the other pages.

6. Dagon Design Form Mailer. Another plugin and great if you need to include any kind of form on your website. I’ve used it a couple of times (here and here) and have found it simple to set up, easy to configure and surprisingly problem-free. What it does is fairly complex, but it works “out of the box”.

7. WP-SNAP! This makes it possible to order your posts alphabetically by title and list them on a page. Useful for directories, indexes, glossaries, etc. – in fact any site containing lots of posts and where users might want to browse content by title. I’ve only used this once (and with a lot of tampering) here and the plugin’s developed a lot since then.

Plugins to help the client:
8. Wordpress Database Backup is arguably the most important plugin. It backs up the content of the MySQL database in one click, and is essential for websites that are updated regularly. The backed up file can be emailed, stored on the website’s server or downloaded locally, and backups can be scheduled to occur every hour, day or week. No technical skills necessary.

9. Custom Admin Menu. This is a smart little plugin that enables you to control the appearance of Wordpress’s admin menu (dashboard). Menu items can be hidden, moved around or nested – ideal for tidying up the administration area before handing over the website to a client, and for hiding unused functionality or options you don’t want them to play around with. The screencast shows it all.

Update: The barunsingh.com website has just been down for a couple of days, and I noticed that in my version of the plugin the path to the images for toggling between making a menu item visible or hidden wrongly points to barunsingh.com. To fix this, edit the last and third last lines of custom_admin_menu.css to point to visible.gif and hidden.gif in your own directory (the images themselves are included in the plugin) and upload. You might need to do a hard refresh to make the images appear.

10. SlimStat. A statistics plugin that shows up-to-the-minute data on visitors to your site (how many, who, where they came from and when). Easy for clients to access and follow.

Ten’s a nice number to stop at – there’s plenty more I could mention but I’ll save it for later posts.

Not really a blog

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

The plan is to use this website to keep track of tips and techniques I come across in the world of editing and web design, as well as things of personal interest. Not really a blog, exactly, but a collection of notes and links to useful “stuff”. That’s the idea, anyway; we’ll see how it turns out.