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  • Thank you for the clarifications, CrouchingBruin.

    Based on your advice, someday I hope to try child themes. Meanwhile, I hope you understand, good suggestions do not always work out for me–as I have discovered in the past when I had a lot of sleepless nights modifying WordPresses and such. Eventually I decided that–until I find a local friend to work with directly–I no longer have the time to experiment, and must stick with what I know.

    I agree, it is important to document and save any software modification. I have a text file for that.

    However, I also suggest to all my friends who operate WordPress sites: for every update of every web page, always do a Browser > File > Save As > Complete Web Page. So if you get hit by a hacker–or if your webhost goes out of business–or anything whatever goes wrong with the standard restore or backup systems–you can always reconstruct every page manually at any webhost.

    This “Save As” method of course automatically will save a copy of the latest embedded <style> sheet in the source code of every page via Header.php. I.e. with my system of a head-insert style sheet, then so long as I have a backup of the web page, I have a backup of the key custom modifications. This might not be the best method. However, it is simple, fully understood by me, and therefore bulletproof so long as that particular Theme is available.

    Therefore I also use only “Twenty Something” themes, aka standard out-of-box WordPress themes, always likely to be available. In the past, the out-of-box themes did not have “flexible layout,” therefore causing sidescrolling for anyone who wanted to reduce eyestrain by enlarging the text. In my opinion, this is intolerable and inexcusable. Since the “Twenty Eleven” theme, however, “responsive layout” has become a standard feature–apparantly an upgrade on “flexible layout.”

    Therefore, I am happy that I can keep my life simple–and build tolerable free websites for friends–that can reliably be backed-up and restored–simply by using WordPress and out-of-box Themes and CSS style head-inserts and the “Save As” protocol.

    I would appreciate a little help with the CSS commands. That is why I started this discussion. But otherwise, going as far as I can by myself, I have nonetheless gotten my system to be tolerably functional as well as idiot-resistant. (And, even if nobody makes the CSS suggestions, I am glad to have learned a few things from CrouchingBruin and Santeven.)

    Thank you, CrouchingBruin, for clarifying for me that the last CSS in the <head> will have the highest priority. I have been placing my <style> just before the close of the </head>–but did not know for sure whether this mattered–so I am glad to know.

    However, I suspect that maybe I was not clear enough in describing what I am doing.

    I am not tinkering with the entire <head> section, as you seem to imply. I am only pasting a <style> insert just before the close of the </head>. This is partly because the Twenty Eleven Theme has a section under Dashboard: Appearance: Editor which readily enables the instant editing of numerous “templates” including “Header.php.” In the past, I have used a CSS customizatin plug-in–and on another site I use a “head insert” feature in the Weaver Pro theme–both of which seem to amount to the same thing: pasting something just before the close of the </head> section.

    I agree that pasting a style sheet into the header.php might require tweaking or re-pasting slightly more often than the use of a customization plug-in. However, teaking my “header.php insert” is very simple. Worst case scenario: the changes caused by my <style> insert are so minor that, if necessary, I can simply remove my <style> insert until I have time to figure out the problem. Whereas when a plug-in goes bad or is delayed to update after a major WordPress update–that can be a lot more bothersome and can cause the site to be messed up for months before I have time to figure it out.

    (I am not saying that plug-in problems are not generally simple or can not be solved quickly–I am just saying that plug-in problems are “less simple” and “less assuredly easy” to fix immediately than the tweaking of my own CSS style insert. Also, the details of my CSS style insert are generally something that I learn once and improve constantly–not like the figuring out of something totally new as might be required with a plug-in problem.)

    Also, as you say about JetPak, “”…it comes with so many other features that I tend to avoid using it…” I think that I am saying something very similar: the simplest and least-invasive solution is the best. I might be wrong, but so far, it still seems to me that pasting some <style> into the <head> is the simplest.

    All that I am trying to do is mostly modifying a few font sizes, font styles, paddings and margins. In my small opinion, the ability to determine the size and style of your headings and text should be a standard feature of any Theme! Or every Theme should supply a standard free plug-in that does this and that is as well-supported as the Theme itself. Otherwise, I would have to get a plug-in that works with numerous themes and therefore that would have numerous unnecessary complications including security.

    I also agree that child themes are not very difficult. However–in my understanding–a child theme must at least be re-issued with every WordPress update so as to include the updates of the main Theme! I do not like the nuisance of pushing update buttons–let alone having to make sure that changes are relevant or not relevant to my child theme, including security, etc., etc. Whereas with my <head> inserted style–I can just ignore it until something is obviously not right–and then take my time before tweaking it back into perfection. So I fail to understand how a child theme can be considered as less bothersome than pasting a style sheet into the header.php.

    In other words, if I were trying to do several different things, then I might understand how a plug-in or child theme might make sense. However, I am only trying to do one thing: to control the size and shape of the letters on my pages!

    Of course, maybe I am not understanding something correctly. If so, please explain anyone, I am open minded. I have already learned some things here and thank you very much.

    (PS–regarding the issue of using the same style insert with multiple Themes: I agree this might not be feasible. However the CSS often is somewhat related. Once I know what works with one Theme, it might be easier to build on that for other Themes, even if not identical, especially since I specialize on with the “Twenty Something” theme series. But if not, this is no more of a problem than using different settings with different themes for the same plug-in. I.e. this is not a major issue, just icing on the cake if my style insert works even partly for multile Twenty-something themes.)

    Thank you for the friendly tips and perspective, Santeven.

    However, I have used formatting plug-ins before. They can break or stop being supported and even when working are a nuisance to have one more thing to update. Once I could not even view the dashboard–had to get expert help to isolate the plug-in. Much nicer for me to stick to a simple CSS head-insert that I can understand and tweak myself.

    And I certainly don’t want to get involved with child themes. Some years ago I did extensive modifications and such. But I really have no desire to be a webdesign geek and have too many other things to focus on in my life. The beauty of WordPress is or should be its simplicity. WordPress is or should be or can be the CMS for people who do not like to change their own oil. That is what I am aiming at for my friends who do not even know minimal CSS like I do–in such a way that they and I can do other things with our lives. The only plug-in I want and need is an auto-update plug-in. Updating is simple but we are surrounded by too much technology. One more simple but unnecessary techno-thing is like one more drop of Chinese water torture–in my humble opinion.

    Technology should adjust to people, not people to technology.

    Re responsive layout: I am not super-picky about a true “responsive layout.” I am just super-picky about not having a totally static layout. Many WordPress sites force the visitor either to read fine print or to do side-scrolling even with a full-size monitor. For which there is no rhyme or reason in my opinion. It makes sense to choose “responsive” because that’s even better than “fluid”–but if “fluid” is all I get that’s alright.

    Thanks to your warning, Santeven, perhaps later I can copy-cat the Style.php more exactly, so as to reduce chances of interfering with responsiveness. However it is difficult. Initially, I had to resort to negative margins, just to reduce excessive spacing, which is probably not kosher. However I was unable to isolate the margin or padding CSS for nearby items which probably are generating the white space.

    If some expert can come along and provide an “embedded style sheet” so that it does not interfere with responsive layout, that would be ideal. It seems to me this could be useful to a lot of people. There really are not enough basic adjustments available in Twenty Eleven and probably many free themes which could use the same or similar “embedded style.” I like to keep things simple. There should be no need for a plug-in, just for basic design adjustments. in my opinion.

    Sounds good!

    Thank you.

    Upgraded to 3 stars due to appropriate response.

    This is already rated overall a 4-5 star plug-in and should be once everyone is aware of this “disappearing log-in page” problem and made to feel in control of it.

    Wishing you continued success.

    Thank you Ipstenu. You are very helpful as usual.

    However in my opinion, #6 is very multisite specific. So either we totally disagree here, or I am not explaining myself properly. I will try again…

    Choosing the default design for multiple sites MIGHT have the exact opposite of the usual fundamental requirement for choosing a design for a specific site…. in the following sense…

    • For single sites: the focus is on “catching the specific feeling” of the purpose of that site, and creating a distictive sense, with conspicuous design features.
    • For multiple sites: the focus for the default theme is on NOT over-emphasizing any specific feeling, so that it can pertain to multiple subject matter, and therefore the design itself should be less prominent and less distinctive. Such that, after simply plugging in the site’s own header and logo, that is what stands out, and the site design is instantly of ‘passable’ quality. It is less conspicuous that 10 or 10,000 other sites have the same design features, if there are no conspicuous design features. (Each individual site in the multisite then can of course seek out a more ‘distinctive’ design for itself alone, as above.)

    Now that begs the questions “What do you mean, unbranded admin?”

    Weaver has a “Weaver Admin” panel added to the backend, and numerous “Weaver” tabs within that panel. Woo Canvas similarly has a “Canvas” panel. I like these added panels. But it is certainly less confusing to newbies, and more ideal for the site reputation, if they were named “[sitename] Admin” or “Skin Admin” or “Theme Admin.” I do not say this is essential. I just say it is “ideal”–for multisites. (For single sites, obviously this means nothing at all, nobody except the primary owners see the admin panel.) (An unbranded or custom-branded admin panel also might be a desired feature for webdesigners who sometimes simply buy themes and modify them for their clients–or so it seems from the advertising of theme makers–although I am beginning to wonder.)

    Meanwhile, I am happy to report that thanks to your help in sorting out my ideas… and also after surfing for the Nth time about Themes and Frameworks… I believe that I know how to hire a webdesigner affordably to create my own Child Theme, which I can be assured will meet all of my ideal requirements. Thank you very much.

    Thank you Brasofilo. After reading your suggestion, I searched plugins for the word “clone” and found your suggestion plus several others. Note: several of these site replicators will not clone the main site, which is my best site to test for cloning because it has every complication. So before I can test these, I must manually make a sub-site copy of the main site, to become the clone template.

    Thank you Ipstenu.

    6 is VERY subjective

    No. 6 is somewhat sujective, but perhaps I gave the wrong impression because of writing unclearly. Perhaps this is more clear:

    #6. STANDARD, CLICHE, TRADITIONAL DESIGN: Header graphic on top, site name inside header, optional left and/or right columns with optional borders. I.e., the same basic layout that you most often see when you see 100 WordPress Themes for $9.95 on Ebay. Or, as I said, the rather nice versions of this seen at wpweaver.info/themes/weaver. From there it is easy to reduce or increase the header height, to move the site name above or below the header, or to cover half the page with a gaudy ‘slider’ or other fancy effects. OR simply to pop a relevant background image and logo into the header, and you immediately have a workable and somewhat individual site!

    #5: Unbranded themes: “”5 should be standard of ALL THEMES.”” I am pleased and surprised to hear this. But perhaps I was not clear what I meant by “unbranded”…

    In response to my request for an unbranded code and admin panel, the Weaver programmer said: “”At this point, the only reasonable way to do that would be via the language translation files, and they are really implemented only on the visitor side. The admin side will likely remain English for some time to come, and thus, not really a target for a “weaver-less” admin side… And… Because of the nature of PHP, and requirements for any theme that will actually work inside WordPress, there is a naming convention that includes “weaver”… All the shortcodes are [weaver_xxx]…””

    I don’t understand this programming talk. However I presume it should at least be possible to make a theme called “theme.” Also, I do not care about PHP codes that after server processing, do not show in the browser’s “view source.” Also, in the Commercial GPL listings, I found several themes with no source code branding. Perhaps this was because they use a different framework.

    At any rate, I was led to feel that perhaps branding was necessary to preserve copyrights. And so, I am interested to hear that maybe this is not the case.

    #7. I am glad to learn there is a ‘custom CSS plug-in,’–and especially, one that is so reliable it is used by WordPress.COM!

    #1-4: you are correct that these features are easy to find from the Commercial Themes page. The problem is, those who have #1-4, tend not to have #6 or #7!

    Now, it seems that #7 is no longer a problem. As for #6, after starting this discussion, it occurred to me to ask a GPL commercial theme maker, who has features #1-5, to custom-tweak one of their flexible themes, so as to deliver my feature #6 for a reasonable extra fee. This is my latest plan.

    (I might even do the tweaking myself. However I would prefer an expert, who could do this very quickly and would know more about cross-browser stability.) (P.S. I have TWO #7’s. Oops. The first is multiple color schemes. I can do this myself, eventually.)

    No answers here. But after discussing in other forums, the answer seems to be no. Unprofessional coding of themes can eat high CPU. But, I am told, the complexity of themes does not intrinsically eat high CPU. Of course, complex themes have extra functionalities, some of which can increase CPU usage IF used aggressively. But if not used, evidently no problem. Which functionalities cause high CPU is discussed in many internt tutorials about increasing WordPress CPU efficiency. The most important efficiency measure seems to be a good cache plug-in. As far as themes goes, just avoid themes and plugins with amateurish PHP coding, it seems.

    Thank you Ipstenu! I hadn’t thought of searching plugins for the word “default.” And I would certainly never have found the one that does NOT have the word “default”: yd-wpmu-sitewide-options, now renamed YD Network-wide Options: over 5,000 downloads and 5 solid stars.

    I will try these out! And if by chance anyone comes across anything else related to maintaining multiple sites, either methods or plug-ins, please post it here at any time. I am always interested.

    (Digression. “YD Network-wide Options” only has 11 ratings, so unfortunately, the 5 stars cannot be said to mean very much. As a relative newbie, I am noticing how few people seem to Rate plugins. Sometimes, the rating is low but this is based on very few Ratings–and the same plugin might have so many downloads, it’s difficult to believe it could be that bad. Therefore usually, it seems that the number of downloads is the only substantive ‘poll’ for a plugin’s quality. But of course, it’s a bother to try something for a serious time period, then return to the plugin page to Rate. Might be helpful to have a RATE button right inside the Dashboard, alongside every installed Plugin. Maybe DONATE buttons as well, if this is not already done, which I don’t yet know.)

    I am a wannabe site developer but not a programmer… I just happened to see this while doing due diligence before asking a question myself… so this is above my head and I do not fully understand… but my 3 cents…

    1. Keep life simple. If YOU can’t easily fill all client needs with one parent theme, THEN spend a week surfing Commercially Supported GPL Themes. Numerous reliable theme companies such as WooThemes supply numerous magazine/business/ecommerce child themes from one parent framework, only one license required per child theme for unlimited client usage, if you supply client support. (Or if you have high-savvy clients, you can sell the license to them, maker gives direct client support for themes, you get commissions.)

    2. Also train someone (local you can trust and watch) to do your legwork on a modest hourly or per-job fee.

    3. Or like The Beatles and the Three Musketeers, team up with at least two other programmers or webdesigners. Many hugely successful internet companies such as Automattic and Woothemes started as such a teamup. Also, savvy clients like myself may avoid paying for anything that depends on a lone wolf for long term support. My little opinion, wannabe designers and programmers should never go it alone.

    4. Or if like me you have very limited expertise, contacts or money, then do as I do not as I say, get Workspace Macro Pro.

    I am kind of new myself but saw your question not being answered…

    As you probably know, you can mouse-hover the default RSS feed in the admin panel, and find a “configure” button. Then put in any RSS feed.

    Other than that, I don’t know why you’d want to show someone’s page in your admin panel. Might be better to find a relevant RSS or make your own sub-site with your own RSS with relevant topics. But if you insist here are my suggestions…

    1. Search for “widget” and “admin” plugins. (But beware of plugins with few downloads or low ratings.)

    2. Or of course, the admin dashboard has RSS widgets which you can configure for any RSS feed. But if you know more than I do, maybe you can change this to a ‘text’ widget. Then you can code an <i-frame> and put anything there.

    3. Or otherwise, if you control the page you want to show, you can make it a Post, with multisite you create a sub-site just for that Post, then do RSS feed for that Post, with the RSS feed set to show the entire content of the Post.

    This might show more than you want to show. But if it is your own sub-site RSS, you can enable a good free Theme such as Weaver II that enables custom CSS for that site. (Latest download at WeaverTheme.com, not yet available at WordPress.org.) Do a display:none on anything you don’t want to show.

    4. Or if you do not control the page you want to show (offsite)–make it show in an i-frame within a Post that you do control. Make a sub-site dedicted to this Post, as above.

    5. Or… I am new to RSS. Sometimes it seems you can put in any URL and it shows something. So I don’t know, but you might be able to create a static webpage which is i-framed to the page you want. After tweaking the CSS, maybe putting this static page URL as RSS feed might end up better than showing your actual RSS feed. I don’t know, but that’s what I’d try next.

    These suggestions might not be kosher. More like something by Mr. Bean. But until you come across something better, might work.

    Basically though, I don’t know why you’d want to show someone’s page in your admin panel. My opinion, better to find a relevant RSS or make your own sub-site RSS with relevant topics.

    This depends on the theme. Lately I’m using Weaver II which is a great theme. (Not weaver 2.2 which is good but older. Weaver II is only available at WeaverTheme.com.) But other themes are probably similar, so long as they have “widgets.”

    I am a bit confused about terms myself. But “menu” seems to refer to navigation links across the top of the page. By default in Weaver II, such a “menu” bar may automatically include links to all “pages”. Or you can use a “custom menu bar” to specify specific pages.

    (Do not select “accesssibility” option in admin panel. This turns off drag-and-drop.)

    For making navigation links in a sidebar, look for “widgets.” Drag-and-drop “page” widget to automatically make active links for internal pages, or “post” widget for posts. Later you can learn how to adjust these by poking around with their “configure” buttons.

    For offsite links, use a “text” widget. Then you input any hand-coded links. Such as, <a href="http://anysite.com/anypage.htm">Anywhere Link</a><br /> then more links, etc.

    It could be temporary. But if the error is still there now, did you do anything in between the time your site worked and didn’t work? Either with the blog, the server or the domain registrar? Or is any bill possibly not paid? Also, ask a friend to view the site from a different computer.

    If the site is definitely out and not caused by your work, contact Godaddy support.

    But if you did anything to cause this, try to un-do everything you did and start again, step-by-step. Or maybe you are using a poorly made theme or plug-in: use only ones that have high numbers of downloads and high ratings. Also be aware it may take 12 hours to cause this error.

    Thank you Jan and Raindrops.

    Don’t yell.

    Sorry about the all-caps, which I don’t like either. But in many forums, italics does not show up well and underlining gets confused with hyperlinks. So for awhile I used “quotes” for emphasis but was told, that’s confusing, why don’t you just use caps? My two choices seem to be caps or bold and I decided caps are less extreme. Oh well… All-caps are a definite no-no for Subject Titles but I am not sure they are so bad for highlighting a key sentence… And as an English major, I do know that caps are not necessary for a literate audience, but many internet forum dwellers are very nice and helpful people but just do not fit that description… But now that I know it annoys somebody, I will try to cap more selectively… And in retrospect, emphasis might not have been needed for my item 4… But I do think item 4 is a key point, as I will now attempt to clarify, with minimal capping. 🙂

    -> My key point. Using Child Themes is not necessarily the candy-walk it is often depicted. People who write tutorials tend to be very internet-ready, hence tend to know some PHP. Not fully considering perhaps what thorns or blind alleys they might be introducing for those less technologically inclined.

    Similarly, I know CSS pretty well. To me, “admin buttons” are slow and clumsy: separate input fields for header outline, header padding, etc., etc. But, if anyone does not know CSS, I would advise to look for a theme with “admin buttons.”

    Also for myself–in spite of my having the initiative to start several multisite blogging communities–I really want to focus on site content, site promotion, and helping novice webmasters to fill their basic needs. But learning “a little” PHP, monitoring PHP files for update relevance–no thank you. (But maybe later though. So yes thank you for helping me here!)

    I have been struggling to get something serious going on the internet for five years. First I learned basic webdesign and now I am switching from hand code to CMS. No matter what you do, the internet can allow you to do it almost free. But time is not free. Internet time can literally eat up your life. Night after night it is “one little tweak before bedtime”–and the next thing the morning birds are singing. Then it is on to the day job. A month ago I developed a cough which I am just now getting over. I wonder whether Steve Jobs had similar problems. No, actually I don’t “wonder.” I know.

    Internet people often make things sound simple, which are not. And the worst is: often you can’t know this until you spend several months in that direction. Sometimes, something you thought was difficult, is really easy. More often, the opposite. I am older than Steve Jobs and just cannot afford to take such chances any more.

    I say all this with the caveat that I don’t know what I am talking about. But that’s the point. Not sure, don’t jump. I can do what I need already, without veering off course to learn Child Theming. So I think I’d better not.

    But thank you both for giving me a better idea about child themes! And if anyone wants to change or refine my mind, please feel free! I am interested! Maybe I will love these children later. Meanwhile, here are some quotes to emphasis “the (possible) other side of the coin” about supposedly oh-so-simple Child Themes.

    [Quoting D.R. above, minor edits and emphasis added]

    However if you do not use a child theme and modify the parent, then lose changes in 5 files of a modified parent, it would not be a good thing, it is your call if the updates are required by your theme or not, or if required are they security fixes or cosmetic

    …There are three ways really, create a child theme which is the correct path, copy the files into new folder with a different name then the theme update will not happen, or modify the parent and pray that you do not lose the changes.

    I.e., it seems to me, if you do not know what you are doing, it might be safer to modify the parent, keep a copy handy, and if things stop working–re-do your modifications. Then never be looking over our shoulder in doubt about proper updating. And sometimes the best strategy of all: buy a good theme and get by without any modifications–until you have enough cash flow to partner with a true geek.

    Also from my discussions about themes at other websites…

    “”Be careful when getting a [theme] programmer. Open-ended hooks and poor placement can wreck your site design in certain browsers and make your site take it’s toll on your server.”” (All of which pitfalls are not necessarily readily discernable.)

    “”I have seen a lot of clients getting their themes and additional functionality coded by a first timers to get it done at cheaper rates. Of course the product works the way they want but due to bad coding and absolutely no experience, the coders tend to write the codes that will exhaust the server. (For example, generating the same query 10 times when he could have simply used the first results. Not killing the queries.)””

    I don’t fully understand these quotes. Nonetheless they caution me loudly to beware of things I don’t fully understand. In summary, the (possible) pitfalls of child theming seem to be:

    1. Tweaking PHP code without fully understanding PHP. Like jumping into a swimming hole without knowing the depth.

    2. Even if you do know PHP somewhat: the added complication of needing to know somewhat about how updating works. Making “judgment calls” about whether or not to update Child Theme files or elements. The time and nuisance to monitor updates more precisely. Etc.

    3. Here we might certainly agree: for one person with one WordPress blog, Child Theming probably has no significant downside, is probably fun and educational. These are most people and hence, these probably are the intended audience for most Child Theme tutorials.

    Nonetheless, for someone like myself who is moving towards 3 multisite installations, and trying to get one basic theme to minimize complications for dozens of client sites: Child Theming seems not necessary, as well as “potentially” not fun.

    Thank you again for your serious help, Jan and D.R. Any further corrections or clarifications will certainly be welcome as well. One thing about the internet, that non-internet people often do not understand: it continues to prove to me that the human spirit of help and cooperation is very much alive. (It’s when things “go I.P.O.” that we seem to get into trouble. 🙂 )

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