Get WordPress Tips Through Twitter!

We just launched a WP Limits Twitter account. It will feature short (140 characters or less!) tips on WordPress or links to other great articles. Don’t worry, we won’t update more than once per day, so we won’t be spamming your account. Lots of great resources coming!

Make sure to follow the account here: http://twitter.com/wplimits

If you have any ideas to contribute we would greatly appreciate it as well!

Top 5 Reasons we use WordPress as a Content Management System

These days every site must have a content management system (CMS), or else it will very soon be outdated. Try selling a site to a client and then telling them they can’t actually update any of the content or photos themselves, somehow I don’t think they will be very happy.

Now in searching for a CMS to use you will come across everything from free, outdated systems such as Joomla, to some very expensive (think $50,000) corporate solutions that offer less functionality. In addition to that entire range a lot of development companies have created their own proprietary CMS. Having taken over clients from many of these development companies I can say that they usually produce nightmarish code, and have no documentation.

In a look search for the perfect CMS we finally settled on WordPress, no it’s not perfect, but here are the reasons we love it:

  1. Easy Template System. WordPress will integrate very quickly into an HTML and CSS template using some simple PHP tags. Once you get the hang of how it works, then you can convert a template over to a basic WordPress theme in minutes.
  2. Clean Code. WordPress outputs clean, semantic code. There are no outdated, table-based layouts, or anything else that gets in the way of web standards. Also the text editor will only let the user style text in a semantic way (such as using H1s for headers) that follows the CSS for the site (meaning the designer can set the style, and the site owner has to stay consistent with it).
  3. Robust Backend. Since the WordPress backend has been recently redesigned, it offers greater functionality. Some of the best web designers in the world worked on it, and it includes hours of usability studies. Know that your clients are using the best interface around.
  4. Regular Updates (including security). WordPress is updated regularly, which means that as soon as a security flaw is discovered, an update is sent out for it. Also you can rest assured that your client won’t be left years down the road with a system that is out of date. It will move with the times, and everything will just keep getting better.
  5. Excellent documentation. Some people say you should buy from them because they can offer something nobody else can. I say don’t, because if they aren’t around to fix it, then nobody else can and you will be stuck. With an open source system like WordPress you have excellent documentation and resources available including a huge support community. So if your web designer falls of the face of the earth it won’t be that hard to find someone else who can work with your system.

There are many more reasons, but those are the five that are most important to me and my clients. Do you have any more to add, or better yet, reasons you don’t like WordPress as a CMS?

Are Premium Themes Dying Out?

Recently there have been a lot of changes in the WordPress theme scene. A little over a year ago it was hard to find quality themes anywhere, so that is what started the Premium Theme market. Brian Gardner started this trend with his very popular Revolution Theme.

Why did they become popular?

It was very hard to find high quality themes as there was no longer a central theme directory. What was available had no standards for quality, and also themes often included hidden links, or backdoors into your WordPress blog. All things to be avoided.

With premium themes people no longer had to worry about the quality, and the $30-80 people would usually pay was a small price for the level of code they were receiving.

Are they here to stay?

After talking with Matt Mullenweg at WordCamp Utah a few weeks ago, I think they will die out. With the new theme directory we have standards that themes have to meet, and a blog designer can now go to one central location and know that every theme they are looking at is high quality. This takes the hassle out of it since someone else (who is usually more qualified) has already proofed the code, so now you don’t have to. And you are getting this quality for free.

Are free themes sustainable for developers?

The big question is how will these developers who were/are selling premium themes going to still make their money? It will definitely take some more innovation, but I believe it is possible. Take a look at WordPress, it is distributed for free, but is also quite profitable. There is plenty of money to be made off of blog ads, theme customization, and support.

Another example of giving themes away for free is Small Potato’s site WP Designer. He gave away a lot of great themes, and in turn it increased his site traffic (which he turned around and sold for a lot of money).

There are many ways to give themes away and still make money off of them. Maybe you are always being asked to customize certain themes, you can charge for this and make quite a lot. It all depends on what your specific community is looking for.

Recent changes.

The largest news in the premium theme world is that Brian Gardner (the founder of premium themes) is now switching all of this themes to open source. He obviously found a way to make this new business model profitable, so it shouldn’t be too hard for others to follow him.

You can read more about Brian’s changes on his website, as well as an interview with The Blog Herald.

Final thoughts.

For the last couple of weeks I have been trying to decide whether to release several themes open source or as premium themes. Last week after talking to Matt I decided on open source, but was still writing this post (Brian, I have been working on this post since before you made your big announcement!) so I hadn’t announced anything yet. In the next week or so look for several new theme releases including a never before created knowledgebase theme.

My thoughts on the entire premium vs. open source is summed up here:

Everything changes very quickly on the web. You always have to be ready to adapt the new markets and the desires of your community.

Will other premium theme providers follow?

WordCamp, Carrington Theme, and Great Design

Over the weekend I was able to go to WordCamp Utah and hear some great talks. I will have a more detailed write-up coming soon. Our weekly resources post will feature a lot of information from those talks.

  1. WordCamp Utah Video Streamhttp://www.ustream.tv/channel/wordcamp-utah
    This has all of the videos from the conference. In particular check out Matt’s keynote address and Cameron’s talk on design. By far the best.
  2. Good vs. Great Designhttp://cameronmoll.com/speaking/wordcamp/
    Cameron Moll is a great designer and very well polished speaker. He has a lot of things to say on the topic of design, and being a great designer. The link is to his slide deck for the talk. You can view the video on the uStream channel linked to above.
  3. Carrington Themehttp://crowdfavorite.com/wordpress/
    Announced by Alex King of CrowdFavorite during his talk at WordCamp, Carrington is a new kind of theme. Or rather more of a theme framework. They have a lot of great features and an interesting new approach to theme development. Here is what Matt says about it:  http://ma.tt/2008/09/carrington/

Creating a WordPress Theme Without Images

What do I mean?

If you are creating a basic theme for distribution, consider designing it, or at least offering a variation of it, that is image free. As in style everything with CSS, and don’t resort to images for the layout and design.

Why do it?

Customization. It makes it so much easier for the novice user to change a bunch of color values in the CSS, and add in their own images, then to try and remove yours or change the colors. I have spent a lot of time re-skinning themes by trying to make sure that the images I use in a design match up with the original theme.

Also you will be surprised by just how much can be done with CSS without using images as a crutch. Often what the user is looking for in a theme is the functionality and layout, not the pretty styling (since everyone else who purchases the theme will have the same style). So make it easy for the user to get the functionality, remember after they purchase the theme, it is their theme, not yours. Design with the user in mind.

Who is doing it?

We are! Though the theme is not released yet (look for it in the next week or so). It is a theme that focuses on structure and functionality for a CMS style site. The look and feel of the theme can be changed in a few minutes, a new background image can be placed in easily, and then you have a totally new site, but with great functionality!

Also check out the News theme by Quommocation. It looks beautiful, has great typography and layout, and doesn’t use a single image (except for that post photo). Check out the Demo.

Anything else?

In attempting to try this style remember a few things:

  1. Comment your code. I have encountered lots of themes that have far too little commenting, but never a theme that has too much. Since we are creating themes for the purchaser, I would aim for too much commenting. Make that code very easy to understand.
  2. Separate out style code. Consider adding a section of your code for the colors and other aspects of the theme that can be changed. This will make it easier, instead of having to look through code for the :hover style on that <a> tag.
  3. Design places for images. Just because you don’t include images, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make it easy for your user to. Consider making it so that you can add a background image to the <body> that will completely restyle the site, but without having to change any code. That would be a graphic designers dream come true.
  4. Focus on typography and spacing. These are the cornerstone of every good design. Get these right, and everything else will follow. Now you have to focus on them because you don’t have any images. Check out Khoi Vihn’s site Subtraction. Yes, he does use an image, but focus on the structure, typography, and grid. It’s beautiful.
  5. Think outside the box. CSS is powerful. Use it in new ways.

That’s your new idea for the week. Feel free to post any other examples or what you come up with in the comments. Enjoy!

Themes, Default Content, WP Coder, and Widgets

  1. How to Create a WordPress Theme From Scratch (Part 2) – http://nettuts.com/working-with-cmss/how-to-create-a-wordpress-theme-from-scratch-part-2/
    Earlier we posted a link to creating a WordPress theme from scratch. Here is the next part in that great tutorial.
  2. Easier Theme Development with Sample WordPress Content – http://wpcandy.com/articles/easier-theme-development-with-the-sample-post-collection.html
    Want to thoroughly test your theme for every situation? This post details how you can create sample content to make sure that your theme covers every angle.
  3. WP Candy Launches WP Coder – http://wpcandy.com/articles/wpcoder-affordable-psd-to-wordpress-coding.html
    As a bit of community news, the people behind WP Candy have launched WP Coder, a new PSD to WordPress conversion site. There prices look pretty good. If nothing else, the site design is worth looking at!
  4. Create a Widget Ready Footer in WordPress - http://help-developer.com/index.php/2008/07/creating-a-widget-ready-footer-in-wordpress/
    Widgets are powerful. Too often people don’t use them to their full potential. Take a look at this post to learn a new way to use them in your footer.
  5. Displaying WordPress Categories as a Drop Down Menu - http://anthologyoi.com/wordpress/displaying-wordpress-categories-in-a-horizontal-dropdown-menu.html
    Often for a good magazine layout instead of using pages, you will use categories. This post shows how to create that navigation.

Simple Breadcrumb Navigation

Using a plugin is the most common way to create breadcrumb navigation. The most popular plugin is Breadcrumb NavXT Though this is a functional plugin, it is not the best (too many database queries as well as having to include a plugin with your theme is rather clunky).

This article:

http://www.kriesi.at/archives/wordpress-tutorial-simple-breadcrumb-navigation

Details how to do it in a simple, efficient way. It may not have as many features, but it gets the job done.

Integrating Twitter Into Your WordPress Blog

Twitter is the new cool thing. You can waste hours on it, or you can use it productively. Personally I like to use it as another way for clients to keep their site updated and fresh. This will help their customers see that there is a real person behind the company. But for it to be really visible you need to integrate Twitter into your WordPress blog. Luckily we have a plugin for this.

  1. Setup a Twitter Account. You can visit twitter.com to signup for an account.
  2. Download Twitter Tools. Twitter Tools is the plugin from Alex King, that we will be using to pull twitter feeds into your blog. Download Here.
  3. Unzip Files and Upload to Your Plugin Folder. If you are running a WordPress blog you should know how to do this. Pretty standard stuff. Now activate the plugin.
  4. Configure Settings. In your WordPress back-end go to Settings > Twitter Tools (make sure you activated the plugin first). Here you will need to enter your twitter login information. There are also a lot of other settings you can configure here. Personally I just want it to display, not create blog posts or anything like that. Configure to your hearts content.
  5. Displaying Your Tweets. If you want to display a list of Tweets (number configured in the settings page) then use this code:
    [sourcecode language=’php’]
    [/sourcecode]

    Now if you are just looking to display one tweet use this code:

    [sourcecode language=’php’]

    [/sourcecode]

  6. Enjoy! That’s all there is to it! You may want to change the settings some, as well as design some cool way for your tweet to display (default styling is lame!). Also check out J. Alexander Fine Woodworking for an example of Twitter in use on a blog.

Beyond blogging

As advocates of using WordPress for more than a blog publishing platform, we make a vigilant effort to find ways to push past some perceived limitiations of WordPress. There is a gem of a post over at Web Designer Wall that discusses WordPress theme hacks. While the post is a little older, there’s many items to explore especially for beginning WordPress developers.

During your next go-around with developing for WordPress you should be looking for opportunities to employ some of these hacks, as you can manipulate some default items to make your WordPress-based site work the way you need it to.

Additionally, this post over at WPCandy will fill your appetite for even more in-depth WordPress manipulation. Use the items in here as a basis to make some rather substantial changes to the way WordPress handles page items by default.

Play around with some of these techniques and check back frequently for some more advanced resources from us.

Navigation Tips: Suckerfish, Sliding Doors, and Breadcrumbs

  1. Sliding Doors Navigation with WordPresshttp://hackwordpress.com/sliding-doors-wordpress-navigation-css-technique/
    WordPress by default cannot support the infamous sliding doors technique, but with this simple change, you can create beautiful navigation to your hearts content.
  2. Sliding Doors + Sons of Suckerfishhttp://www.jappler.com/blog/archive/2007/11/12/sliding-doors-sons-of-suckerfish-jappler-menus
    Last week we talked about Sons of Suckerfish and how to use them in a WordPress blog. Now we have an article detailing using sliding doors and Sons of Suckerfish (though this article is not WordPress specific).
  3. Breadcrumb Navigation for Categorieshttp://www.7879designs.com/wordpress-tips/wordpress-categories-breadcrumb-navigation/
    A lot of magazine sites use categories as the main navigation to better separate content. We all know that for both SEO and usability breadcrumbs make a huge difference, so why not add them in for categories as well as pages? This article shows you how.
  4. Tips on Writing WordPress Tipshttp://www.blogherald.com/2007/07/09/tips-for-writing-good-wordpress-tips/
    Want to have your WordPress related content featured on mainstream blogs? Well, here is a list of the criteria to follow to make that happen. It is a great list on what mistakes to avoid when writing your WordPress tips.