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[resolved] Advice on direction and theme support (33 posts)

  1. markhem
    Member
    Posted 8 months ago #

    Hi. I hope this is the appropriate place to ask for input. I couldn't find another category that seemed to fit.

    I have been using wordpress for over a year and need some advice on where to go next. I've created a child of the Oxygen theme, which I'm happy with for now. My website, if you want to look, is http://www.sorrentostoneware.ca. I feel I've got a decent start with wordpress, but I want to go further.

    As a beginner I bounce around from tutorial to tutorial, and book to book trying to learn as much as I can. However, I'm beginning to find this frustrating because the learning is so piecemeal, plus, there seems to be very many ways of doing things in wordpress. I look at themes in the repository and find they can get pretty complicated when I go through the template files trying to figure out how they're organized, even just to do some simple css styling. I do my explorations on a localhost, wampserver, so I'm willing to roll up my sleeves to some extent. In the past I have coded a site in html and css, but don't know php.

    What I'm looking for is a place to call home in the wp solar system, one that will support me in learning over the long haul, and that uses wordpress best practices.

    I was toying with building my own theme, but realize I don't actually have what it takes to become a theme developer, even with underscores 1000 hour head start. I work full time, but I have a couple hours a night that I want to put into learning how to do better SEO, Db backup, caching, Google analytics, security and all those sorts of site maintenance practices.

    I am also looking for another theme, which I am willing to be patient about. I want a theme that has a good support community behind it, so when I want to do some customizations (like add dynamic sidebar/widget areas, or move a menu, or style something) I will have someone to ask specific questions about the template modification, code issues, functions.php and those kinds of things. I want to work from a code base that isn't complicated, and that I can begin to understand over time. If underscores were a theme, and had a community around it, that would be perfect.

    I guess my problem is, I don't know enough code to know what I'm looking for. But, I do know that I need some sage advice from someone who's been there. Hope you can help.

  2. byankov
    Member
    Posted 8 months ago #

    Try to start with a community supported theme such as:
    Twenty Ten Downloaded 12,656 times
    Twenty Thirteen Downloaded 9,910 times
    Responsive Downloaded 10,370 times
    http://wordpress.org/themes/

  3. markhem
    Member
    Posted 8 months ago #

    Thanks for the quick reply byankov. Much appreciated. I get the idea behind that; there's lots of discussion about these themes that I can search and learn from.

    I have tried using Responsive, however I find their front page set up confusing, and a lot of the questions in the forum deal with how to manipulate the particular layout.

    I'm looking for a theme that's a little more straight forward, or universal. I think that's why I like the underscores approach.

    Hadn't really considered Twenty Thirteen, but I'm open to that, and its responsive too! I like that. I will give it another look. Is there any particular forum you like for Twenty Thirteen, beside this one, of course?

    Thanks again.

  4. leejosepho
    Member
    Posted 8 months ago #

    Maybe also have a look at this new theme:
    http://wordpress.org/themes/tiny-forge

    If I ever switch out of Twenty Twelve, I think that will be the one.

  5. markhem
    Member
    Posted 8 months ago #

    Thanks leejosepho. I was actually thinking about twenty twelve since it is a minimalist theme out of the box. Have you found it to be a good learning tool?
    What's the difference with tiny forge. I don't get it.

  6. leejosepho
    Member
    Posted 8 months ago #

    I switched from Twenty Ten to Twenty Eleven and then ultimately to Twenty Twelve (and added footer areas) some time ago since Twenty Twelve is "mobile first" (for small screens) while still being sufficiently flexible for browser compatibility all the way back to IE8. But from what I am understanding so far, Tiny Forge has all of the above plus certain additional features added by the WordPress Team in Twenty Thirteen.

    Edit: I have yet to decide about Tiny Forge for my three sites presently using Twenty Twelve, but everything I am seeing so far on its Support Forums and Reviews seems appealing...
    http://wordpress.org/themes/tiny-forge
    http://wordpress.org/support/theme/tiny-forge
    http://wordpress.org/support/view/theme-reviews/tiny-forge

    Also, it has some rather impressive Stats so far:
    http://wordpress.org/themes/tiny-forge/stats/

  7. markhem
    Member
    Posted 8 months ago #

    Thanks for those links. I'll read up on Tiny forge.

    Do you find there is good community support for Twenty Twelve?

  8. leejosepho
    Member
    Posted 8 months ago #

    Do you find there is good community support for Twenty Twelve?

    No longer as active as a year ago, but some patient searching at these forums can yield just about anything you might ever need in relation to Twenty Twelve.

  9. markhem
    Member
    Posted 8 months ago #

    Maybe that's one of my problems; I haven't really asked a lot of questions in the forum, and I get a bit discouraged when searching, weeding through so many threads.

    Do you have any thoughts on themes that stay active and up to date, ones like Twenty Twelve that are accessible to a beginner who wants to do some tweaks?

    I like Twenty Twelve. I even added a left sidebar on a test sight, and find it reasonably logical to get around in. I guess I was thinking its getting dated, so dismissed it.

    I'll look at Tiny Forge and see if the Twenty Thirteen 'add ons' address this.

  10. markhem
    Member
    Posted 8 months ago #

    leejosepho - Just wanted to say thanks for pointing me toward Tiny Forge. It looks pretty impressive. Looks like good learning tool. I'm going to experiment with it and see what kind of help I get when I need to do things. Thanks again.

    Anyone else who has suggestions, please let me know.

  11. leejosepho
    Member
    Posted 8 months ago #

    Do you have any thoughts on themes that stay active and up to date, ones like Twenty Twelve that are accessible to a beginner who wants to do some tweaks?

    The WordPress Team just released some updates for the WordPress Twenties, and the biggest error I see (in my own opinion) comes about when people go for something flashy somewhere without checking it out thoroughly beforehand. But overall, and while knowing nothing at all just a year ago, I am glad I began and remained right here at WordPress.org for my theme and its support.

  12. markhem
    Member
    Posted 8 months ago #

    Thanks for your input leejosepho. Very much appreciated.

  13. Jose Castaneda
    Member
    Posted 8 months ago #

    If you haven't seen Ian's talk from WordCamp San Francisco, I highly suggest you do it. We all start off with little to no knowledge. Most of us have learned as we go. Some just catch on faster than others.

    As you've been doing: look at the themes and see how they do things. It's amazing how many ways you can create post/page navigation by using one or multiple functions.

    I've been doing theme reviews on/off for the last 9/10 months and I can tell you there really is no right or wrong way to do some things. As for best practices do look at how the core bundled themes code is because that is a pretty good example of how to code a theme.

  14. markhem
    Member
    Posted 8 months ago #

    Thanks for your comments Jose. Yes, I've seen Ian's talk, and was quite inspired by I it. I guess the thing I'm starting to take away from this thread is that the code in the core themes is a good place to start on this next part in my learning process. I'm a little weary of the bouncing around, so, staying close to the core seems a good place to be. Not to mention I've been a bit reluctant to ask questions, probably because I haven't been coming from a solid starting point. Your comments, especially as a theme reviewer, emphasize the advantage of developing my skills from the core out.

  15. Jose Castaneda
    Member
    Posted 8 months ago #

    No problem!

    If you want to look closely at the core themes I can tell you that twenty twelve is mostly focused on typography and simplicity, twenty thirteen is focused on showcasing the post formats, and twenty fourteen is a little bit of everything mixed in. The thing I do like is how it uses a 'featured content' section towards the top.

  16. markhem
    Member
    Posted 8 months ago #

    Simplicity is a good place for me right now. It will be interesting to see how Twenty Fourteen builds on these last two. Thanks for the teaser.

  17. Jose Castaneda
    Member
    Posted 8 months ago #

    You can check it out: Twenty Fourteen

  18. markhem
    Member
    Posted 8 months ago #

    Wow! That looks awesome. When is it being released?

  19. Jose Castaneda
    Member
    Posted 8 months ago #

    In December when 3.8 releases.

  20. markhem
    Member
    Posted 8 months ago #

    Jose, am I right in thinking that if I were to pick a starting point like Twenty Twelve, or Twenty Fourteen, really start reading the code and creating a site with my own sliders and such, that I'd be able to see similar things in other kinds of themes, and therefore begin to pick up on other ways to do things? Or, is wordpress built in a way that other theme builders do radically different things that require re-learning their process, as opposed to the 'wordpress way'?
    I know themes in the repository are all reviewed and need to meet a standard. I just want to make sure that what I choose to start with has some lateral options when I'm bit more theme savvy and want to use another theme. How far from core code do repository themes get?
    I think what I've been seeing is that the more complicated themes have more elaborate file structures, and even finding the appropriate css can be hard sometimes. I suppose that comes with practice.

  21. Jose Castaneda
    Member
    Posted 8 months ago #

    Sorry for the late reply. Yes, you are correct. One thing that you will see amongst many themes is the use of adding filters and action hooks.

    What is really nice is that WordPress has a lot of neat template tags and functions already built in to it that you are able to alter through filter hooks. A lot of the themes I've reviewed have that in common, mostly in part because it is a required guideline. Hooking to the appropriate function call. Like afte_setup_theme, wp_title, body_class just to name a few.

    As far as file structure I wouldn't really say complicated. I think really depends on the theme. I've seen a few themes that have several files duplicated in other folder only find out that they aren't really using them. When it comes to structuring the file think almost object oriented. Great examples are the bundled themes.

    The structure is fairly easy to grasp. In the index file the call to get the content uses the template tag: get_template_part( 'content', get_post_format() ) ;

    As you can see it will look for the corresponding file. So if the post format is an image it will look for the content-image.php file and if there isn't one it will just look for the the content.php file. It's just a simple way of keeping code both organized and separate. In particular CSS and JavaScript.

    Hope that helps you understand a little more. :)

  22. markhem
    Member
    Posted 8 months ago #

    One of the things I liked about Ian Stewart's Theme Shaper tutorial, an exercise in how themes are put together, was the way get_template_part works. I find this gave me new insight into file structure. I see the bundled themes are going that way. I also read an article last week by Justin Tadlock who (I think) is essentially moving in this direction, too; Theme template hooks are outdated.

    Is this where the development community is headed in general? Just curious.

  23. Justin Tadlock
    Member
    Posted 8 months ago #

    Yes, I have been moving in the direction of using get_template_part() more than hooks over the past year. It has made DIY users' lives much easier. get_template_part() is only one part of the equation though. Theme authors should be doing more than that.

    One of the major problems I've seen is that we've been making it too dang hard for potential theme authors to learn from our code. As themes get more complex, the code has gotten more complex, even within the default Twenty* themes.. This is a big stumbling block for anyone wanting to learn the basics of theme design. When I started learning about WP themes several years ago, this wasn't an issue at all. The code was simple and fairly easy to pick up if you spent a little time with it.

    At the moment, I'm working on a new theme project in which I hope to merge a lot of the complexity of newer features with code that is as simple to learn from as it was when I first started. Basically, the idea is for the theme to be: 1) stupid simple for new users to use and customize, 2) a great learning tool for DIY users and potential theme authors, and 3) the most foreign language friendly theme in existence.

    Those things do not always go hand-in-hand, but I think I'm on the right track so far (about 75% finished with the theme).

    Whenever I get a little extra time, I'll try to write a blog post or two to explain some of this in more detail.

  24. markhem
    Member
    Posted 8 months ago #

    It's interesting to know that there was a day when learning a WP theme was more accessible. Gives me hope that spending time with the code won't make me more confused, but more focused.

    As I mentioned at Theme Hybrid the other day Justin, I am looking forward to the theme you've been sharing glimpses of over the last months. This seems to me like the model most of us need who want to graduate from Average Joe to DIY user. I especially think the learning environment you have created around your code is important. I lurk because I don't have a handle on the basics. I read the tutorials, but its just taking me awhile.

    I don't know that I'll ever be a theme builder, but I still see a lot of value in being a competent DIY User. For this I, and probably others, need..

    • accessible code that serves as a concrete process for learning
    • identifiable themes that actually use that code on an everyday basis and have teaching/learning commentary built in
    • an open environment to ask questions, such as is offered here at the WP forum and at Theme Hybrid
    • maybe even some background material on how WP themes have evolved over the years, like your post that talked about theme template hooks being outdated

    This last point may be more a sign of the success of WP. So many ways to do things, which is great. But, its obviously an ever changing entity.

    I get that these things are all available in the WP community, that the codex has lots of this material, which I've read, that there are sub-communities all over that I can join. However, I personally have found it a little challenging to pull the pieces together. I simply haven't been able to reach a basic starting point so I can choose my path to becoming a competent DIY user. The things Jose has told me about in this thread, and the things Justin is doing have helped me to finally get some sense of orientation.

    I'd like to see a set of materials that pull this stuff together more clearly. Maybe its out there and I just haven't found it? The Theme Shaper tutorial that Automatic is maintaining would be a great piece. Justin's ideas would be very helpful.

    WP is obviously brilliant, organic, and accessible in nature. Maybe its simply time for an island of simplicity. There will always be people who just get it. But, I bet what Justin is doing will pull in a lot people who are in my boat. Could the codex do this too?

  25. MMJustus
    Member
    Posted 7 months ago #

    I'm sorry to be piggybacking on someone else's thread, but can someone please tell me how to start a new topic? I can't find the screen to do that to save my life.

    Also, is there a specific place I should go to be asking to find out about old-fashioned looking themes? I'd like to find something similar to the old Adventure Journal theme that I was using at WordPress.com before I switched over to WordPress.org. Apparently Adventure Journal isn't being supported any more, but everything I see is so modern-looking!

    Thanks!

  26. WPyogi
    Volunteer Moderator
    Posted 7 months ago #

    At the top of each forum is a button "Add New" - click on it - and you get to the new post form which is at the bottom of each forum - here:

    http://wordpress.org/support/forum/miscellaneous#postform

    You can download and use the WP.COM version of Adventure Journal from their site here:

    http://theme.wordpress.com/themes/adventure-journal/

    See link, lower right sidebar.

  27. MMJustus
    Member
    Posted 7 months ago #

    Thank you. I just found it and posted over there as well. Is it a good idea for a raw beginner to use a no-longer-supported theme?

    Are there any other non-modern-looking themes on the WordPress.org site that I'm just not finding?

  28. MMJustus
    Member
    Posted 7 months ago #

    Also, when I click to download the Adventure Journal theme, how do I get it onto my dashboard?

    This is what I meant by raw beginner [wry g].

  29. WPyogi
    Volunteer Moderator
    Posted 7 months ago #

    Where does it say not-supported? Did they say they are going to retire it?

  30. WPyogi
    Volunteer Moderator
    Posted 7 months ago #

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