Tag Archives: child themes

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

We’re halfway through the semester, and it’s time to start thinking critically about our final projects. This week’s readings (plus the extra time to think thanks to a well-timed spring break) reminded me that the time for thinking abstractly about these new concepts is coming to an end—it will soon be time to put the lessons we’ve learned into action.

I know that I want my final project to be a micro-site for student life and community-building here at SCS. In our final project pitches, we were encouraged to spend more time on the “what,” rather than the “how.” But reading about WordPress child themes has started turning the “how” gears—just a little bit.

Here are my takeaways:

  • The WordPress theme we create can’t just be about changing the site’s appearance; “Good themes improve engagement with your website’s content in addition to being beautiful.” But themes also shouldn’t bear the weight of adding functionality, because when a user changes their theme, they lose access to that functionality. So, then, are good themes just based on good design thinking? What does that look like, and how can you test it?
  • The functionality should instead be borne by plugins, which ensures that a site’s functionality can remain consistent, even if its theme changes. But with so many useful and well designed plugins already in existence, how can we hope to build a new one that would be better/or different from one that’s already been published?
  • I’m most excited about the idea of incorporating metadata and meta boxes into my child theme, because I think it will help alleviate the consistency issues that can arise when a site has multiple users. For example, if the student life page is opened up for student contributions, creating a certain number of required, customized fields will ensure that the content looks and feels exactly the way it should. Since meta boxes can be changed depending on the user, it may also provide increased functionality for “admin” users of the site.
  • Debugging: “Configuring debugging is an essential part of WordPress theme development,” the reading says. This will be critical for us to deploy in order to maintain functionality of our sites. I also anticipate this becoming a source of frustration…

I’m excited and anxious to see how this final project shakes out, and how much I’ll have to compromise between my wish list and what I can realistically create. Remember, self: simple is better.

WordPress, PHP, You Name It

Before starting to read the readings about WordPress, I was excited about the upcoming final assignment. I have some experience using WordPress in journalism classes at Wake Forest where I did my undergrad, but I haven’t used it to make something of personal significance. Moreover, it’s comforting to know that we’re not building everything from the ground up, but working off of templates that have been created. I think this will help with making the site more dynamic in nature and focusing on using code to customize the site to fit the subject matter. Not to mention, it takes some of the pressure off of having to think about both the big picture of a site and on a granular level with the functionality. WordPress will make it manageable to be able to do both.

Something that stuck out to me when completing the reading (that are now due the following week), that I think is important is: “Good themes improve engagement with your website’s content in addition to being beautiful.” At the end of the day, while we’re making this website for ourselves, we have to continuously keep the user in mind and ensure that they have a pleasant user experience. Otherwise, no one will want to visit our site. With that being said, in order to do this, I will have to work on both the front and backend of the site to be able to deliver a good site.

It was very helpful to go through each of the readings. It broke down, step by step, what we will have to do, including the taxonomy and naming of the folders. The guides, in particular the Child Themes guide, will be very helpful as we start creating our WordPress sites.

Other important information I noted:

  • WordPress debugging tool
  • Plugin: controls the behaviors of the feature
    • made up of PHP, CSS and JavaScript
    • builds additional functionality to what WordPress themes can already do
  • Theme: controls the presentation of the content
  • Development environment: develop the WordPress environment locally on your server (why we downloaded MAMP) and supplement this with a text editor like sublime or atom.

Surprisingly, I really enjoyed the PHP Codecademy lessons. It made sense. I didn’t feel as lost when I was writing out the code because I already understood variables, strings, functions, etc. I hope to be able to work more in PHP and continue developing those skills because it makes more sense.