Excuse My Mess…

So, the look of the blog is obviously in the process of changing. I’m basically redesigning (well, redesigning would require that I had designed something in the first place…) everything from the scratch.  What I’m trying to say is, please pardon the fact that nothing will look the same for more than a couple of hours at a time over the next few days. Also, navigation may temporarily become a little difficult if I accidentally neglect to re-add some links during the transition.

I really like the high-class look of the Thematic theme, which is what I had been using, but it is just incredibly plain.  I am having real difficulty learning how to modify WP themes manually, so I didn’t have the ability to spice it up like I would have liked. My solution to this problem is making a switch to Weaver.  Based on the default Twenty-Ten theme, Weaver also happens to have 20 premade sub-themes and a metric $#!&-ton of customization options.  The settings pages even allow you to modify the CSS for each element without having to dig into the stylesheet file directly, which is just awesome!

The idea is pretty simple: I switched to Weaver, and now I will utilize its customization options to get the majority of the content styled in a Thematic-esque motif. I will be using Weaver mostly to add the decoration that I couldn’t figure out in Thematic, and I think it will really look sharp.  I’m also going to do a graphical header sometime over the next two or three days.

Please, if anyone has anything to say at any point, speak up.  Tell me what you like, what you don’t like, and what you think might make things look or work better.  It’s so hard to be objective, and I’d love to get some feedback about the redesign.  Even negative comments are appreciated as long as they are constructive.

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5 Responses to Excuse My Mess…

  1. Customizing WordPress doesn’t require anything more than understanding how to edit core php code and how to work with HTML and CSS. Master “divs” and “css” and you can do anything you want with WordPress.

    The WordPress Codex (http://codex.wordpress.org/Blog_Design_and_Layout) is the best place to learn how to call certain features, how to work with functions, etc. However, if you’re more interested in the overall “look” of things, CSS is the primary thing you should worry about.

    Also, if you’re using Google Chrome, all you need to do is right-click into the elements you wish to change and select “Inspect element.” This will allow you to take a few shortcuts and test things out via your browser before actually making the change to your core WordPress files.

    – Yolanda

    • Cory says:

      Yolanda, my programming background is in Python (and Apple Basic, if you really want to go back to when I was 12), and even with that it has been about six years since I’ve done any real coding. PHP is a totally new language to me, so I am learning it a little bit at a time. I’ve been trying to get CSS down for several years off and on, and it has always confused me to no end. Within the last week or so, though, that mental block has started to finally break for me, and I’m able to visualize what the CSS is actually doing. Having to hack a premade, static CSS template for my second niche site made me really focus on understanding what was going on.

      What I really want to do is design my own themes at some point, both for this blog and for my niche sites. It’s just that learning enough to build one from scratch has been difficult, and trying to modify other people’s code is nigh impossible without knowing exactly what everything does first. Web design isn’t my forte yet, and with trying to do so many things at once, it’s taking longer to learn than it should. Right now my goal is to get this blog looking a little more professional for purely cosmetic reasons. Then, I want to focus on getting the content done for my second niche site and getting my backlink strategy implemented. After both of those things are done, I am going to return to my first niche site and do a bottom-up redesign, which I believe will be the one that genuinely requires me to learn the inner workings of themes.

      By the way, after your first comment here on the blog, I headed over to Paid In Passive and spent quite a bit of time reading. There’s a lot of great content. I’m using the WP-SpamFree plugin you recommended, and it has been working quite well for me. I’m considering getting the Auto Backlink Bomb software you recommend, but I have some other (free) backlinking strategies I want to try out before I purchase any more software. I know it isn’t very expensive, but I’ve been putting quite a bit of red ink in my books so far, and I don’t want to run out of what little working capital I have. If I get the software, though, I will definitely go through your affiliate link. :)

      • Cory,

        Your background is far more diverse than mine in terms of programming languages. I learned Visual Basic maybe 11 years ago, but it wasn’t until 2009 that I actually started fumbling around with PHP.

        In terms of CSS, what really helped me was watching YouTube videos. Prior to that, I was a big fan of WYSIWYG editors — the problem with that is you always get completely bloated code that makes it hard for spiders to read/index your website.

        This particular video lit the fire under me a few years ago: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBWiS6soZfs

        …nowadays I can pretty much design a website from complete scratch in under a few hours without using too many lines of code. The link above will help you get started so that you can visualize things, but once you really get started, you’ll notice that you can clean things up much neater than what is shown in the video.

        Another great resource to help you get started is: http://www.w3schools.com/css/ …which allows you to play around with things since they have a “Try it Yourself” feature. This is especially helpful if you’re a visual learner.

        I’ve been meaning to add more tutorials to my blog and I think I may start that some time soon…

  2. Cory,

    I forgot to add that if you really want to play around with WordPress without your website having to display those changes to your readers, then consider creating a virtual test environment on your computer:

    http://sixrevisions.com/tutorials/web-development-tutorials/using-xampp-for-local-wordpress-theme-development/

    …this is what I do now instead of shutting my website down for maintenance.

    …okay that was my last comment. lol :)

    • Cory says:

      I certainly don’t mind the comments, Yolanda. You are, as always, giving me lots of great info.

      I actually tried to set up a local XAMPP installation a few days ago so I could have a local development environment, and I was having all kinds of trouble. I had gotten it to work a few years ago when I was playing around with Joomla, but this time I just couldn’t get it to work. I think my computer is to blame, as it has been pretty wonky for a while. I am going to buy an upgrade to Windows 7 (I’m running the fetid pile of crap that is Vista right now) and just doing a clean install to get it back up to par.

      With so few readers at this point, I decided to just do it live to get it done faster than waiting to get a local development environment set up. In a few months, that probably won’t be an option, but I will hopefully have things set up better by then.

      By the way, I realized that you are only getting no-follow links on your comment posts. I will work on figuring out how get the core files modified to give link juice to my approved commentators. Until then, I’m going to make sure to give you and another person some do-follow backlinks in my next post.

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