Fourteen and a half crazy frog burpers

5th November 2009

Quick Start Guide to Theming WordPress

Filed under: Web Design,Wordpress — Tags: , , — Alex Holt @ 8:01 pm

It’s taken a while, but I finally revamped the look of my site. Part of the problem, as always, is coming up with a design I can put up with for a while. I think that this red attempt should be OK for a while.

There a number of good WordPress theming guides out there (the one at is especially excellent) , so I don’t intend to replace them and their great detail. This post is merely some simple pointers for those that already know how to create HTML and understand enough about PHP to get by.

Create yourself a design! I’m totally gonna gloss over this part, despite being the major time consuming bit. I’m a big advocate of the multiple stage design process (Image -> HTML -> System Template). Basically – once you have a HTML / CSS version of what you want to achieve, its then time to work on how to get that into your WordPress Blog.

Create yourself a theme directory – this is within your /wp-content/themes directory and should make your theme sound totally awesome. Something like “Totally Rockin’ Monkey Burgers” should be sufficient.

Create your CSS file – Just copy your CSS file to your theme directory and make sure its named stylesheet.css You should also make sure you have something like the following in the top of it:

Theme Name: Totally Rockin' Monkey Burgers
Theme URI:
Description: Theme creation example.
Author: Alex Holt
Author URI:
Version: 1.0
Tags: red,white,fluid-fixed-width,two-columns

Copy the PHP files from the Default theme – these act as a great starting point for your adaptations. You can now adapt these to pull together to create your style. They are split into 5 easy to comprehend areas by default. You don’t need to follow this however, you can simply put everything in one big file – though I find code becomes a lot more manageable when split over a few pages:

Index – the glue of the page, it calls the other templates where required. The key lines are:


Header – has the top part of your blog that is repeated throughout your site.

Footer – similar to the header, the code that appears at the foot of every page.

Sidebar – your navigation bar. For this, you effectively only need a small bit of code. The ‘dynamic_sidebar’ function calls all the Widgets that are enabled. This then basically generates a load of <li>’s, one for each Widget (these sometimes have nested UL’s and LI’s themselves):

<div id="navigation">
    <?php 	/* Widgetized sidebar, if you have the plugin installed. */
    if ( !function_exists('dynamic_sidebar') || !dynamic_sidebar() ) {}

It is however worth mentioning that in circumstances that there are no Widgets – the above would output nothing but an empty unordered list.

Comments – Just displays the comments (if set to show), below each post. While there are a lot of bits in here, the main bit can be a touch hidden and is signified by a foreach loop within an Ordered List “commentlist”.

<ol id="commentlist">
  <?php foreach ($comments as $comment) : ?>
    <li <?php comment_class(); ?> id="comment-<?php comment_ID() ?>">
      <?php echo get_avatar( $comment, 80 ); ?>
      <div class="commentmeta">
        <?php comment_type(_x('Comment', 'noun'), __('Trackback'), __('Pingback')); ?>
        <?php _e('by'); ?> <?php comment_author_link() ?><?php comment_date() ?>
        @ <a href="#comment-<?php comment_ID() ?>"><?php comment_time() ?></a>
        <?php edit_comment_link(__("Edit This"), ' |'); ?>
      <?php comment_text() ?>
  <?php endforeach; ?>

Create yourself a screenshot – it’ll make you feel good and will help you recognise the awesomeness that is your style when you are browsing through the hundreds you downloaded that are all tosh when compared with yours!

And that’s your lot.

As I mentioned, I don’t want to replace what is already out there on the web with this guide. In fact, I don’t the word ‘guide’ as it gets me quite excited and I expect something more dramatic than I’ve delivered. I think maybe prefixed with ‘Quick Start’ however, it might become acceptable… Yes. Yes, that seems not to have got my blood pumping!

28th June 2009

Changing Hosting Providers & IIS WordPress

Filed under: Hosting — Tags: , , — Alex Holt @ 10:08 am

There has been half a reason for the absence of articles of late, a change in hosting providers! I appreciate, that’s lousy and actually you’re not interested, nor did you probably even notice I’d been gone – but what the heck, I’m back :)

For years, probably 6, I’ve been with PowWeb who were OK, but as renewal time came around – I was starting to think twice about paying the 2 years up front, when I could limit the period down a little bit. With the credit crunch and all this recession lark – it seemed a logical idea to control my cash flow. So I took a day off work, did a bunch of research and eventually concluded that GoDaddy’s Grid hosting, currently in beta, looked like a good alternative. So I prepared for the move.

I’ve never moved a website before without the support of people who know DNS way better than I do, so this was going to be a bumpy ride. However, making sure that I did as much as I could, I dumped the database, got a zipped up backup of the filesystem and did an extract straight from WordPress and prepared for the inevitable feeling of foreboding.

Things were messy when I realised that to move a domain name, it has to have been at the current provider for more than 60 days. I think when my hosting ran out it was about 55 days. I’m not sure why, nor am I altogether worried by it – but my email stayed working for almost all that five day period, though my website (unpaid) continued for maybe a day (probably due to it expiring on a Sunday). I thought about re-pointing my name-servers for to GoDaddy’s, but the FAQs weren’t as helpful as they might be – so I gave up pretty promptish and decided I’d have a period of deadness.

The period of inactivity proved useful, as the hosting package I chose included IIS7, PHP5, ASP.NET 3.5, MySQL and MSSQL – so stuff to play around with while I waited. Eventually, everything went well and my site was up and running with my email being down for about 2-3 hours (all said and done, a minor miracle actually). I had a pickle with the Name-Servers on the way, but a quick call to GoDaddy tech support (which I expected to be tosh – but were actually fab, helpful and friendly), that was quickly resolved.

So the move went perfectly?… not quite.

GoDaddy’s hosting isn’t perfect for my liking. You have access only to your webroot, not a folder directly up from your webroot. When I tried to create, this meant I had to create a directory within my webroot for the blog too – something that wasn’t the case at PowWeb. However, the big pickle came when I tried setting up Permalinks on IIS7 and PHP5 for WordPress. Jeez Louise! That’s a mother of a bitch! Basically, saying Permalinks, IIS and GoDaddy Subdomains don’t see eye-to-eye is somewhat an understatement. There is an excellent solution that works for most cases, but it assumes you can set the 404 page for each of your domains – another flaw in the GoDaddy subdomain implementation means your hosting account only has one 404 page – irregardless of the number of (sub) domains you have. I literally couldn’t find an ideal way around this, other than to use my main domain name and drop the blog prefix and add it as a suffix instead.

This means that all my URLs are goosed. Again. I almost feel ashamed that I’ve been here before and yet here I am again. None-the-less, it’s not totally bad. The blog subdomain homepage does still work, but all the links now point to their www counterpart but don’t exist on blog.

The pain suffered through this process is exhausting, but there is light and I’m happy. Hopefully I’ll like GoDaddy and won’t have to do that for at least long enough for me to forget how painful it actually was!…

I think I’m gonna bill the new domain name as a strategic re-branding to harness the dynamic synergy of Web 2.0: ;) I guess it’s time for me to actually brand the site somehow, instead of using all the downloadable themes…

9th May 2009

Changing WordPress Permalinks

Filed under: Wordpress — Tags: , — Alex Holt @ 3:29 pm

I didn’t think enough at the start, that’s the bottom line here.

I set up my blog and just had a little wander through the settings, not really examining them like I normally would do when I get a new toy. This is how I missed the settings for permalinks or at least I saw it, but paid it too little attention. When I eventually did decide I didn’t like this layout of URLs (/archives/%post_id%), it was too late.

I basically came to the decision to change them when looking at Google Analytics and the following was part of my report.

Wow, post 41, ooh yeah. A sweet, sweet day.... remind me what it was again?

Wow, post 41, ooh yeah. A sweet, sweet day.... remind me what it was again?

I was reviewing the most popular pages and I realised I had no idea what post 41 was. Absolutely no idea! So it was then it hit me – that archive permalink naming schema-thingy, it’s a bit, ya know, poop. But behold! I could change that! I’d alter the URLs so instead of this useless URL with a number in it, I’d change it and make it fantastic and include the URL-friendly post title as part of the Permalink.

There was much rejoicing!

So, I changed them – and the obvious happened. All my old links broke and became 404′s – losing all inbound Google traffic.

I decided I could live with that. I’m a grown man! What’s a 404 here and there, pffft! Google would update itself, right? It wouldn’t take long, surely…. But alas, it was a lie to myself as it was pecking at my head every time I thought about it. So eventually (today – after something like 3-4 weeks), I decided to do something about it. I thought that I would have to dig around with .htaccess files and MOD_REWRITE rules, something I am not masochistic enough to indulge in just yet. But, alas, a search around the Internet solved my problem!

I stumbled upon Dean Lee’s Permalink Migration Plug-in for WordPress. Genius! You can simply search for it in the plugins area of your blogs admin and install it simply from that route. It’s done what I needed exactly and it behaves how I wanted exactly!

After installing, I simply told it what my old links were clicked save and…. and…. oh. No change. My permalinks were already setup, so why wasn’t this working. I decided what I’d do is re-save my permalinks settings page and delete cache to see if that made a difference – I maybe should have checked after each one – but either way – one of them fixed it for me and now all my old links work again! :)


Yes, that music you hear is the angelic chorus declaring the fantasticness of my links! :)

The best thing about this plug-in (other than not needing to delve into MOD_REWRITE), is that it redirects to the new URL instead of pretending the old one was fine. Well done, Dean Lee – take a bow!

So the bottom line is. Choose your permalinks wisely – they should be helpful enough that you can work out the content of the page from reading it, while at the same time being very nice to Google (and the other search engines…). I’m lucky because my blog isn’t popular – no one really noticed. But there were people hitting these 404′s who maybe could have done with some of the info in the posts.

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