Category Archives: WordPress Themes

TEA Time: New England GiveCamp 2012 Recap

Last weekend I was in Cambridge, Mass. for New England GiveCamp 2012, the third of annual meet-ups that match technical and design people with nonprofit organizations that need their help.

The Charles River Esplanade

The Charles River Esplanade. Photo courtesy user Daderot via Wikimedia Commons.

My cause was The Esplanade Association, an organization that cares for the Charles River Esplanade Park.

The Charles River Esplanade Park is the Boston-side green space along the river, from the Museum of Science to the Boston University Bridge. While it’s owned and managed by the state of Massachusetts, TEA (which has to be the coolest acronym possible for a Boston-based group) exists to organize people to help protect and care for the park.

Much of their work involves organizing volunteers to clean up the park several times each year. TEA also holds a number of programs in the park — yoga, Zumba, dances and the like — and runs several fund raising projects.

They came to GiveCamp, initially, looking for a way to better coordinate singing up groups and individuals for cleanup days.
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Looking To Trade Web Design For Programming Time

This Web site is in sore need of a redesign — something cleaner, way prettier, brandable and unique — and it’s painfully obvious to me I’m not the guy to get that done.

So to all the ad agencies, creative houses, Web designers and graphic artists out there: I’m looking to trade my time and materials for your time and materials.

If you’ve got the skills to apply a brand to this site that kicks much ass, I’ve got the skills to hack your CMS, ride herd on your troublesome Web server, write you a WordPress plugin, fix your stove-up online store, clean up your messy database,  build you an ASP.NET / PHP site, do some Microsoft Office VBA, apply some jQuery or API code, and much more.

This site runs off WordPress and I’m pretty neurotic about making sure it’s the latest version. I have zero brand identity at the moment in terms of aesthetics, so you’ll have near total creative freedom. And since I’m in the business, you can be sure I’m not going to be one of those pains in the ass who expects the moon and stars for nothing, or who constantly asks for tweaks, needless gizmos or ridiculous “features.”

The only hard requirements on my end:

  • The design must use WordPress coding standards and follow best practices (e.g., no hard-coding of menus / widgets on template pages; style hooks for unique divs / sections; no deprecated WordPress functions; page, index, archive, comment and other templates put in unique files; etc.)
  • It must be XHTML 1 Transitional and CSS 2 compliant. I’d prefer if it was HTML 5 and CSS 3 compliant, but I’m not going to be pushy about that.
  • No Flash or other animations.

Interested? Shoot me an email at dougvanderweide@gmail.com describing what you think would work here and what you’d like me to do in return.

Web Site Changes: New Theme, New Root

As you can see, I have been working on this site’s theme.

I’m designing specifically to support the IAB Universal Ad Package. The way I’ve done that is through three columns: The left, “content,” column is 728 pixels wide,  which is the same as a leaderboard; the center column is 180 pixels wide, which supports both the rectangle and wide skyscraper formats; and the right column is 300 pixels wide, which supports the medium rectangle.

I remain committed to never having advertising on this site, nor ever charging for any content here. (I greatly appreciate donations, and I do charge for customizing / specific implementations of my code). The reason I am designing my site this way is to both have a base template from which to develop client sites that need to support advertising, and because the WordPress Codex is thin on templates specifically geared toward supporting display advertising.

Finally, I moved the blog from a subdirectory to the root of my Web server. When I started blogging with WordPress back in 2006, I thought I might do something else with the site, and didn’t want to clutter up the root with WordPress-specific rewrite rules and files. Since then, WordPress has become a much more robust content management system, and I’ve discovered that a blog is all I really need, so it’s high time everything went to the root.

As a result of all these changes:

  1. The template has some problems still, which I’ll be fixing over the next few days. If you spot a problem, please leave a comment.
  2. Many local links, namely download and image links, are likely broken; I will be fixing those, too, over the next few days.
  3. I’ve not installed WP-Syntax, my old code highlighting plugin, because I’ve gone completely over to SyntaxHighligher Evolved. Thus, some code may not wrap properly or look pretty, especially on older posts. You guessed it: I’ll fix that over the next few days.

Again, if you spot something that needs fixing, please let me know by leaving a comment to this post. Thanks!

A Quick Note About The Blog’s Design

Hey everyone, I know the blog looks pretty 1996 right now, and some stuff just plain looks like crap. That’s because I’ve decided I’m going to put together my own theme.

To get things started, I have gone with Sandbox, since it lays a strong, style-hooks-heavy base, which means about 90 percent of the design work can be done in CSS alone. But, like all things on this blog, I get to them when I have a moment, and at the moment, I am in the middle of the holidays and blizzard clean-up.

Anyway, things will get better soon, I promise. Please bear with me and thanks for stopping by.

All links in this post on delicious: http://www.delicious.com/dougvdotcom/a-quick-note-about-the-blogs-design

Blog Changes: New Themes, New Syntax Plugin, Several Plugins Deactivated

Since I’m reviving the blog, I decided to give it a good going-over, in terms of theme, plugins and other aesthetics / tools I’m using.

The most notable change: I’ve switched from Fluid Blue to F2, both by SriniG. I really like the straightforward, clean appearance of Srini’s templates; when it comes to Web design, I am decidedly minimalist.

I’m inclined to agree with Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, authors of Trust Agents, when they strongly suggest having a personalized blog template. Experience certainly tells me that packaging and logo is vital to building any brand.

Truth be told, I can’t make anything anywhere near as nice as F2, and I’m too cheap to hire someone who could. Maybe, someday, I’ll trade a Web designer, programming for design. If you’re interested, let me know. Anyway, I like the new look, which I’ve hacked a bit, mostly by keeping all the fonts sans-serif.

I’ve also turned off several plugins. As previously noted, WP-PostRatings was not very popular. AskApache Google 404 did not deliver the SEO optimization I expected, and is a bit too ugly out of the box for my taste; I didn’t want to invest the time it would take to make it look pretty.

Global Translator is really just some buttons to use various online translation services. It does provide a local caching mechanism, which is why I installed it in the first place: I wanted to have the search engines index my posts in multiple languages.

But I couldn’t get the cache to work properly, which caused all kinds of 404 errors (which, again, AskApache Google 404 didn’t really help to fix). To top it off, the translation services were translating my code blocks, rendering them useless. Again, I could hack these problems myself, but since visitors can use the same services Global Translator uses, I decided to simply scrap it.

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