My biggest challenge with my final project was that WordPress made everything seem too easy. I get it, programmers are lazy. Every time I tried to make a customization, I found out that there was a plugin that did all the legwork. Also, there was a customizer (pretty sure it came with my theme) that worked through all the code and gave me a scary warning message when I tried to access the code manually. I was brave and bypassed it, which allowed me to customize the front page code.
Most of my code ended up being shortcode (that I did still customize) so I felt like I didn’t do the work on my site. My interactive map, which I feel is the pride and joy of my site, took the most work. I spent a lot of time inputting the photos, creating markers and linking to photos. I could not figure out how to make the photos on the markers bigger, so I had to settle with linking to larger photos. Between creating the map and the child theme, I feel like a real coder.
Overall, I found myself scrambling to create more customizations. Some things I incorporated were social media feeds, my interactive map, my resume, a custom meta box that allows to select which publication an article was written for and a contact form. My favorite feature on my site is the hero video. It makes me feel like my site is very modern.
Aside from the difficulties I had throughout the process, I have one major issue. My site still isn’t up because I can’t access the SFTP client. 🙁
As the deadline for our final projects drew close I have to say I had mixed emotions about my site and the progress I had made. On the one hand, I did not complete one of the customizations I set out to achieve. No matter how many articles I read, plugins I studied, tutorials I followed, or videos I watched, I could not get my slideshow plugin to function properly. This caused frustration, disappointment, and left me feeling quite defeated.
On the flip-side, however, as I sat there wracking my brains for ways to fix the plugin, I realized I had learned more than I ever thought possible in a 10 week window as relates to web development and coding. I knew how to check the connection between my local files and FileZilla to ensure things were transferring properly; I figured out how to create a Site Manager connection that automatically logged me into my page each time I opened FileZilla; I learned to understand the error messages that popped up on both my local and live site – what do these messages actually mean and what do I need to do to solve the problems; I figured out how to create a child theme and get it to work properly; I created a functioning form that emailed data to my personal email; I knew how to download Plugins and get them working; I was comfortable with all aspects of WordPress and site layout, from posts, to pages, and categories, to media, and pretty much anything in between; I figured out when something wasn’t work how to check for bugs in my software and, although I have yet to fix the code, I have identified that my slideshow plugin is somehow impacting the ‘featured image’ section of my posts, making it impossible for me to link photographs to the slideshow; and lastly, although I did not fix the problem, I was able to read tutorials and understand the basics of what they were saying, whereas at the beginning of this class I truly felt as though I was reading a different language.
I think, in retrospect, I may have bitten off a bit more than I could chew with trying to create a customized slideshow plugin that would connect to each of my posts as this involves so many different and complex (at least complex for me) pieces of code. Nevertheless, I can say without a doubt I gave this project my all – I spent hours upon hours over the past month reading, practicing, researching, and occasionally screaming at my computer and I am proud of all that I have accomplished and learned through this course.
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
- 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.