First Day of WordPress Class

Today’s class is WordPress class. As usual for the first day of a new class, Erik Fadiman gave a lecture talking about wordpress, design and business. Firstly, he said that he’s no longer going to talk about responsive, quoting “if it’s not responsive– it’s not web design.”

Wordpress.com vs. WordPress.org

WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org

The beast: Fadiman said if a client comes to you with a wordpress.com site, just stay away. It’s limited in many ways. Unlike wordpress.com, wordpress.org, the one we are going to be learning, can be customized, stylized and broken. You can change the file structure or style.css like any website. WordPress has a dashboard with widgets, themes and a thing called php. Essentially, it’s a birdcall to connect to SQL which is stored in some magic WordPress cave somewhere. The html is generated dynamically. Because it is an open source content management system, people are coding for it all the time, giving it new ways to interact with other applications like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc as well as giving it better plug-ins.

How to tame it: Purchased themes end up being more work to customize. Buy a theme only if you absolutely have to. Start with a good theme, like 1140 Fluid Starkers WordPress Theme | thedotmack. Download it and put it in your site in the themes folder. Remember that wordpress’ “html” structure is 4 buckets of delicious php: header, footer, index and sidebar.  Treat it like a big document. In the head, within the header php, you can add your fonts, google metrics (Google Analytics Official Website – Web Analytics & Reporting – Google Analytics.), etc. and the opening tag for the container is in the header.php and the closing one is in the footer.php. (Which is rad when you are adding pages, you don’t need to copy-paste those sections.)

screenshot of wordpress files

Today, I uploaded a new theme to my new project, a wordpress.org blog.

“When in doubt, consult the codex.” The nice part about open-source is that all of these people are coding for this. If you have a problem, one of these geeks will have solved it for you. Fadiman recommends WP super cache and contact form 7.

Your client: Before even starting a website for your client, ask them: How much you want to spend? Who is your audience? What are your goals with this website? Ask for analytics. Sometimes, their budget, audience or goals might indicate that they don’t really need/want one of these beasts you are about to tame. They just want a simple and limited wordpress.com blog that is free (not including domain costs) and you can send them on their way. Design is a job and you need to get paid for good work. A part of that job is to take on good clients.

The goal after creating the site is to be able to hand off the site to your client and confident that they are ready to take over the site and empowered to say things to their audience. Training your client to use the wordpress controls may take a long time and they might have some questions days, weeks after. Make sure to account for this in your invoice. As a wordpress designer, you are shaping the experience not only for your client’s audience, but for your client. If your client has a good experience with wordpress initially, it’s more likely your site will be put to good use. In fact, get the client familiar with the dashboard interface before you start styling.

Follow-up: Part of your job as a blog designer is maintenance. The best and worst thing about the Internet is that it changes so quickly. It will happen that your plug-ins are updated and new ones become more relevant. Put monthly maintainence meetings into your invoice as well. A good blog is a blog that’s updated regularly and often.

Web Presence Blogging is a corner of the trifecta of web presence (the other two being social media and graphic design). For my internship last summer, the company I worked for wanted me to explore social media (previous blog post). Social media is about broadcasting your brand. Blogging is about supporting your brand, giving it authority in the industry and attracting an audience with relevant information. When using WordPress, explore its social media widgets and get connected.

Links:

WPMU DEVs premiere WordPress blog – WPMU.org.

1140 Fluid Starkers WordPress Theme | thedotmack. (unstyled, but nicely commented-out)

Respo Theme | Themnific | Most useful WordPress themes!. (needs a lot of overrides)

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