Archive for Personal

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

lifehackerFor this blog I want to talk about, how I went about designing my theme in a bit more detail. I have touched upon this briefly before, but in this post I will be more specific.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants essentially means, building upon work that has already been done. You don’t always have to create something that is entirely new and inventive. OK it’s not bad if you can come up with something that is just that. Butt more often than not, you will waste your time
and money doing something that other people have already done.

When I start planning for a project I always try and get a sense of what is out there already. But I also do this frequently throughout the development and design process. If I run into a situation or a problem, where I need a solution, I will look around and see how others have solved it.

In my design I wanted to find the best place for my navigation and how it should be implemented. I specifically looked at the search bar, how prominent it should be? how important would it be for my users. All this would take months to research if I had to do it on my own.

Rather than do that, I had a look at other collaborative blog designs to see how they used the search bar. These blogs are some of the most popular on the web, so I trusted them to give me the solution. It turns out that they ALL had the search bar very very near the top of the page. I effectively decided to build my design around the search box, and made that together with the categories, the absolute first priority of the design.

WordPress Search Box

WordPress have two search boxes that can be used. You can hard code the search box into your theme, or you can use a search widget. The difference is essentially that widgets can be controlled
by the user, and the hard coded search bar is controlled by me. Because this feature is so prominent for this theme, I decided to hard code this search bar into the theme. It is always good to give the user control, but in this instance I trusted my own judgement to be the best thing for this particular theme.

searchform

Luckily WordPress already provide a search form that calls the database and searches through all the post in the database. This comes with all default Wrodpress Themes and the php files is called ‘searchform.php’. Now to include that in the coding of your theme, you use the php include statement. You can then call the php file by using:<?php include (TEMPLATEPATH . '/searchform.php'); ?>

Breaking that apart; The include statement tells the server to include a particular page here. The between the brackets you tells the server exactly which page to include. Here we have provided a URL that uses the TEMPLATEPATH function that is build into WordPress. When this is parsed by the server WordPress exchanges the word ‘TEMPLATEPATH’ with the absolute path, to the directory in which your theme is placed. The in this directory the server looks for the files called ‘searchform.php’, and then include all the code from this file, into the current page as XHTML code.

The alternative is to just hand code the snippet from the searchform.php file into your current php file. But the advantages with having a separate file for the search bar, is that you only have to type in one line of code every time you want to use it. This makes it easy to reuse the search form over many pages. And equally handy is it if you want to change some of the code, you don’t have to go back and change 5-6 pages or more, you just change that single searchform.php file and it will automatically update on the other pages when it’s parsed by the server again.

/Kasper – on Twitter and Delicious

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Planning and Managing Projects

Planning and managing projects can sound really dull and it almost certainly makes you think of piles and piles of administrative paperwork. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be, in fact when you are working on your own or in small groups; I think you can do too much planning and managing. Planning is always good, but if you do too much it can start to detract from your final outcome. You get set in stone and try to work around your planning in order to make it fit your project instead of using that time creatively on your project.

There are many tools and charts out there that will help you manage your projects. But if you were to use all of them, you could do nothing but plan. I think it’s important to filter out and selectively decide what planning and management you want to apply to a particular project. There was a great article on FreelanceSwitch the other day about pricing freelance work. This could be applied directly to you planning of the project, larger expensive projects involving a lot of work needs to planned more carefully than quick and cheap work.

I have personally found that most of the planning that you do with using charts is exactly the same planning that goes on in your head when you start thinking of a project. Most of these criteria are the source of your project idea. Why did you get the idea ion the first place, because you saw some kind of gab in the market or someone asked you to do it.

I think these charts are great for larger projects to manage people and tasks. For freelancers and smaller companies I think there main use is to show to clients. It shows that you are professional and they can see approximately how long a project will take.

I have included some of my charts below which I have made to analyse my WordPress Theme project. I’m glad that I didn’t do this at the beginning of my project, because I think that would have limited my creative process. I simply didn’t know enough about the possibilities of this projects until I started working with it in detail.

SWOT Analysis

A SWOT analysis measures a business unit, a proposition or idea; a PEST analysis below measures a market.

Strengths Weaknesses
  • Better usability
  • Easier to navigate
  • Better design
  • Improved author profiles
  • Niche market
  • Content specific
  • Limited scope for design
  • Customization could break layout
  • WordPress specific
  • Small market
  • Can’t offer 24/7 support
Opportunities Threats
  • Expandable market
  • Community development
  • Limited competitions
  • Self branding
  • Recognition
  • Competitors
  • Future software upgrades
  • Untested model

PEST Analysis

The PEST analysis measures the market and the users of your product.

Political Economical
  • GPL Licensing
  • Open Source Movement
  • Comment moderation
  • Freelancers
  • Web Professionals
Social Technological
  • Bloggers
  • Online community users
  • Open Source movement
  • Form strong community bonds
  • Tech savvy
  • WordPress users
  • Untested model

Gantt Chart

Developed by Henry Gantt as a tool for displaying the progression of a project.

kasper-gantt-chart

/Kasper – on Twitter and Delicious

Talking to WP Theme Developer Justin Tadlock

As I said in one of my first posts, I really wanted to get in touch with Justin before getting too much into WP Themes. I have used some of Justin’s articles and tutorials before, especially his series on using custom fields are very useful for learning about the power of this feature. He kindly answered some of my questions and provided some really helpful links for further exploration.

What is the main advice you would give to someone who is creating their first Theme?

My main advice about creating your first theme is to just get the basics down. Learn from the Default WP theme. It’s a good example of a very basic theme. Don’t try to get too fancy with all kinds of neat features.
Know the Codex. That’s the single best thing you could do:
If nothing else, you should know how to find things quickly there.

If you’re looking to do this more long term and would like to build up a presence within the community, then you need to have a support system set up. Also, make sure you put your theme on WeblogToolsCollection.com.

Are there any “Rules” you have to follow?

The only rules you should try to strictly follow are these (especially the Plugin API stuff)

How do you publish your themes? Purely on your own site or do you make them available on WordPress.org as well.

I’ve never put any themes on WP.org because some of mine are too complex for the basic demo they have set up. Magazine-type themes definitely won’t look good there because, most of the time, options must be set before using the theme. I do plan on adding my next theme there though.

What are your thoughts on Premium Themes vs. Free Themes?

Premium vs Free? Mostly, I think you should do whatever you want, but I don’t like to see users getting ripped off because they bought a crappy theme. More thoughts on this:

http://justintadlock.com/archives/2008/05/29/screw-the-premium-theme-market

http://themeshaper.com/blog/the-ethics-of-premium-wordpress-themes/#comment-5101

Anything you want to add?

I also had a forum member ask about learning to develop with WP. I have a pretty lengthy answer with lots of links that you should bookmark.

If anyone is more interested in the stuff Justin does, then follow his tweets and his bookmarks and make sure you add his blog’s RSS feed to your reader.

/Kasper – on Twitter and Delicious

Marc Taylor

I’m Marc, a current 3rd year studying for a BA (Hons) in Media and Communication; undergoing a variety of different modules including Web Design, Interactive PR, CD and DVDROM design, Digital Imagery, Public Relations, Media Photography, Editorial Photography, Television Location Studies, and theory modules Globalisation, Digital Cultures I’ve got a big graphical art background which I try to bring into all my work.

So far I worked with a variety of companies, including V2 music, Galven Ltd software designers, Storm consultancy, Logoworks, Izonedesign & dK web and new media etc etc…

To date all my work has been created in a mixture of HTML, XHTML, CSS and Actionscript, however I wish to learn more in order to make me more adaptable (and employable) within the near future. My interest during this module is the coding script of PHP, as it has been one of the main components of the Web2.0 invasion. Knowing the code, I feel is required to keep up-to-date with the fast moving industry; its ability for audiences and clients alike, to edit pages, without the need for expensive programs has changed (and will further change) the way we use and interact with computers and the internet. 

I have little knowledge in the areas of PHP and MySql at this current stage and within this module wish to research into this area in the aid to benefit me next semester when I under a huge project which require this coding ability. Also in learning the coding I feel that within future projects the knowledge will be called upon again and again, to make websites more dynamic for the clients to edit or interact with.  I am next going to research into the history and functions that PHP has to offer and look at some tutorials to help in my professional development. More info to come….  

Marc
http://marc.izonedesign.co.uk