Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Dec 10, 2011
Over this past week I’ve been helping a local business colleague build a new website. Actually that’s kind of a misnomer, as it’s actually more of a sales page of sorts, only it looks a bit like a website. Don’t ask. 🙂 Anyway, she wanted to know if I could do it using WordPress software, something I’d never done before, and I decided to take up the challenge so I could see what it might all be about. It’s possible one of you that reads this will have done it and may have gone about it differently than I did; let’s find out.
The one thing I think I knew was that it wasn’t WordPress one modified so much as it was a blog theme. In this case there’s one theme in particular that I’ve used for multiple blogs that I decided to work with because I’m familiar with it. This theme has two sidebars already with content in the middle, like this blog only I didn’t use it for this blog; maybe one day I’ll update it (yeah, right! lol).
The first thing I did was to go into the Privacy area under settings and told it to not let search engines go through it. I knew that as soon as I loaded the WordPress software onto the site it would send a message to the world that a new site was being born, and I didn’t want that to happen before it was ready to go; actually it’s still not really ready to go as we’re now in tweak mode. After that I loaded the theme I mentioned about, and for all intents and purposes it looked like a blog.
I went under Reading in settings and changed the tab to Static Page; that’s what makes it look like a website with two sidebars instead of a blog. The difference now is that instead of going under posts to get content to the site, you go under Pages instead. You can add a blog page later on, but this isn’t her intention; at least right now it’s not.
You have to be ready to do one of two things. One, you have to be confident enough to go into the CSS settings and start altering things, because you know your client, or even you, aren’t going to want everything looking like it does as its blog theme. You’ll probably change fonts, width of columns, colors, etc. Some of it’s big, some of it’s minor, but I’ll say up front that if you have any skill with CSS it’s much easier already having it there for you.
Two, you have to be confident enough to go into the PHP files and remove things when necessary. This takes guts, but luckily, if you’re smart you’ll have two things. One, you’ll set up a file of some kind where you note everything you remove and where you took it from. I opened a Notepad file, named it after the client, and put everything in there. Two, you’ll have your original file to look at some of the things you might have removed if you can’t remember exactly in which spot something you took out was in. I had to do that when she wanted to see what the site looked like without sidebars, then decided she wanted them back in there and I knew which PHP file I took it out of but not exactly where it was. The thing is that it doesn’t have to be in the exact position all the time, but sometimes there’s a lot of “div” tags and you don’t want to get caught putting stuff between the wrong ones.
The wildest thing is that instead of writing a lot of code and then trying to figure out if you closed all your tags, this time you’re looking for things to see where they are, what they are, and how you can alter them. I found that because I use Firefox, I could open up the source code, do a search for what I was working on, and it would tell me which CSS container I needed to work on; that’s pretty neat.
In overall time I’ve spent less on it than if I’d had to write code. I can’t say everything’s easy, and I also can’t say that it handles everything the way I could get it to fit if I’d coded things. For instance, her initial drawing had different items on the sidebars on different pages, and as you know, when you go from page to page the sidebars are almost always the same. I had a plugin I tried to use, but it turned out it only worked on posts and not on pages. If I were coding each page separately I could have made the change, but she decided to deal with it.
It’s been an interesting process. The best part is that in this case I really don’t have to worry much about the content because she’s already used to using WordPress, as she has it for a different blog, so once we get the tweaks done I’m done, and she can go about her business. I’m in an odd place trying to figure out if it’s easier to do that code so I’ll say this. Since I’d normally have to create a frame before doing anything else, this was easier because the frame is already done. The CSS already being done works well also. However, I’m thinking if this had been a site with a lot of details and complications I’d have wanted to just write the code for it. I also don’t know if I’d have known how to add a fancy background image to it, or where I’d have put it. Luckily, I don’t have to deal with it.
How many of you have tried creating a website from WordPress from scratch, and what have you encountered?