CSS Tuesdays: Keeping it Simple

I just released my fist two commercial WordPress themes: Lucidity and Lucidity Catalog with a focus on simplicity.

After creating over one hundred custom WordPress themes – I decided to take my most requested features, coupled with a slick admin interface, and some really simple XHTML and CSS and put it together to create a really easy to use and customize theme.

If you looking for something really easy and clean – take a look at the CSS used. You can see that a little goes a long way!

Just remember – keep it simple. When you overcomplicate – you will end up with sloppy code, hacks, and problems with old/new browsers alike.

Random Fridays: Happy Fourth of July!

I have had an insane week. Three big site launches (only one made it), a huge QA project (14 sites), my first released WordPress theme (not quite released – I still need to get the about pages together for my company site), major rush jobs from all fronts, babysitting two additional greyhounds, Michael Jackson’s death,and too many conference calls. Phew. Time to take a half day and trim the bushes in the front yard Disney style…or at least thinking about how cool it would be to have a dinosaur shaped bush in my yard 😉

Anyways – hopefully next week will be a little better with more posts!

WordPress Wednesdays: Where to Begin

A lot of people want a web site or a blog but do not know where to start or what all WordPress has to offer. If you are looking for a great, easy to use system to publish content on the web – I would start here:

  1. Start Free. If you want to simply check out WordPress and see what is made of – sign up for a free account at wordpress.com You can choose from several free themes (look and feel) and have no worries about backup, hosting, etc. This will allow you to focus on the content and not get frustrated with installation/set up and hosting.
  2. Read. Take 10 minutes and read through some of the documentation.
  3. Play Around. Familiarize yourself with WordPress widgets (sidebar) and start taking control of your content.
  4. Customize. Once you are ready to move your site to a host so you can customize your theme, your plugins, etc – start looking at some free plugins before doing any custom development. It is most likely you will be able to find something free that fits your needs.
  5. Add. Check out the themes and plugin listings on wordpres.org (Extend).
  6. Learn More. If you get to a point where you have a site up, you have content, and you want to find out more about what all WordPress can offer – I would suggest either buying a WordPress book or pay for an hour of consultation with a company that specializes in blog consultation (like my company) so you can really maximize your web site presence and efficiency.
  7. Small Steps. Most importantly – start small and build on it. Blogging and maintaining a web site is not always fun or easy – but taking small steps (one new plugin at a time, or a slight change in a template) will ensure your web site will continually develop into something great!

Just remember – you do not have to be a graphic designer or a programmer to have a great web site – you just need patience and a willingness to learn!

WordPress Wednesdays: The Power of Self Publishing

Having a blog or CMS that uses something like WordPress is a great way to easily publish content and is very easy for people who have no understanding of HTML, images or design but this power comes with a double edged sword.

On one hand, anyone can quickly upload images, video, and write text…even add some floating elements (picture on the left, picture on the right) without seeing any code. While this is great for most people, when something goes wrong (unclosed HTML tag) this can wreak all kinds of havoc on a site. I often get questions like “why is my entire blog in bold” or “what happened to my sidebar – it is now under the content. I even get people who look at my portfolio and email me about “you might want to fix this site because x is all messed up”.

While self publishing is great because it gives the writer all the power – it is also problematic because…it gives all the power to the writer. With this power – comes responsibility. If you want your business or personal image to be based on what people see on your web site – please take the time to learn some basics. Images look best at x size in this spot…this is how I bold something…etc.

As a web developer – I give my clients guidelines and do a lot of defensive programming to try and eliminate anything that I can foresee as being an issue – but please remember – while systems like WordPress easily allow you to publish your content – it also easily allows you to publish sloppy content.

There is a reason why most large companies have entire departments that control what goes out to the public with complicated review systems in place. So if you want to take advantage of something like WordPress, remember that you have all the control – both good and bad. If you see a site in my portfolio that looks skewed – know that the client would not allow me to hand that over to them like that. It is like that because they have complete control over the content. 😉

Sometimes it is Just a Matter of Finding the Right Project

I have probably been busier the last four months than any other time in my life. I have not had more billable hours than usual, but I have been doing a lot of learning, debugging, learning to better debug problems, and organizing. For years I had been talking about improving my PHP and Javascript skills but as much reading/training as I did – nothing really sunk in until I found the right project to help me along and to motivate me like I wish I was years ago.

I just wanted to take some time out and thank three people in particular – Demitrious, Ken, and Brett (you know who you are!) for believing in me and being patient with me as I learned.

Demitrious showed me the way, never gave me the quick and easy answer (well maybe once or twice after driving him crazy), and always made me think about the big picture and made me get comfortable with everything uncomfortable.

Ken always knew how to do exactly what I needed – and then I learned by example, read more documentation, and made things cooler then ever before.

Brett actually never questioned if I knew how to do something – he just knew I would get it done, and done right.

Without you guys – I would probably still be relying on others instead of doing it myself. So thanks…I appreciate it!

First Step: Read

I posted a Job Listing over the weekend to try and get a few more applicants and have a few that I am going to interview this week. I am quite happy with some of the people who replied and I hope at least one of them works out. On a side note – it has been interesting to see those that actually read my listing vs. just apply. I got a number of non USA residents that applied as well as a number of people without portfolios. At least there was an easy way to separate out the “definitely nots” from the get-go.

SDAC Inc Is Hiring

I was away for a few days on a trip visiting family in Florida. While I like to travel – I really do not enjoy the hectic times planning everything (do I have everything packed? Does E have everything? Where is the dog going? Did you set everything up for the cats? Are we leaving our car in long term parking?) and the even more hectic time at the airport and on the plane with a two year old. Now that I am home, now behind on work, and exhausted…I realize I need to hire someone to help with the day to day support questions, light programming (PHP, MySQL, CSS, XHTML), and general coverage for my company.

I am looking for a responsible, local (US), WordPress savvy individual that could help take general requests as well as pitch in on bigger projects as needed. Generally – this would start at 5-10 hours a week with the potential to increase if everything worked out. If you are interested – please check out http://www.sandboxdev.com/blog/578/sdac-inc-is-hiring/.

Tabs With the Yahoo User Interface Library (YUI).

I have recently been asked to create a tabbed interface for a few projects which does not require any page reloading. I am familiar with working with the Yahoo! User Interface Library (YUI) and decided to use their tabview component to make this happen.

What you need:

  1. Yahoo User Interface Library
  2. CSS
  3. HTML (View Source)

A simple example:
Check this code out in action (reusing the tabs I created from the jappler menus).

You can easily “View Source” and use that as an example. The possibilities of customizing the “tabview” component are endless and can also be seen on jappler.com’s home page.

Moral of the story
Check out the YUI library, look at the examples and start using and reusing the code! This speeds up development and will make your life easier!

Planeguage

My company does consulting for Delta Air Lines and while watching the latest “Planeguage” video – I laughed out loud. I happened to have this experience a few years ago on Spirit Air when I happened to be in the very last row. Needless to say the flight experience was horrible and I have since to fly in the back row – or on Spirit Air. If you have not checked out the videos (or the Delta Air Lines blog) check it out: http://blog.delta.com/

My Company Blog: Reloaded

If you find my WordPress and web development posts helpful, I would also recommend reading my company blog. I have been the last few weeks making sure that the content was more organized, the layout was clearer, and the posting frequency increased. I generally post about WordPress related tricks, tips, howtos, but also post about other web development topics as well. Hopefully you will find it helpful!