Having developed websites by hand as far back as 1995, I have followed the evolution of how websites are made with keen interest, due in large part to my aversion to website development pain. Justin Tadlock’s Hybrid theme framework represents a very welcome leap in website creation pain management. Here are 10 reasons why developing WordPress sites in Hybrid is a pleasurable thing to experience!
Update on my WordPress development…
There are wise ways to spend time these days, and there are unwise ways to spend time these days. It turns out that the worst way a freelance graphic designer, who’s days are measured in dollars and minutes measured in gold shavings, is to spend time trying to build a website by hand. After years of lovingly and achingly “staying true” to my craft, I’ve adopted WordPress to do all the heavy lifting of putting together and running a website. I feel like an old-world watch maker who sees the new Seiko factory cranking out digital watches by the pound for pennies on the dollar. Amazing insight: “craft”, while noble, no longer applies to tinkering with every piece of HTML code, if one wants to stay afloat in the graphic design world as freelancer. This is a good thing. That kind of attention should go towards fine art, illustration, better print pieces, etc. In other words, I’ve awoke from a bad dream (hand coding everything, writing home-brewed CMS systems, etc) and found that an amazing community of people have done all this work once and for all, so that freelance graphic designers like me can focus on what matters. And what matters? Content! I’ve known this for some time of course but the constant nagging of overly-customized work was taking all my time. Projects went too long and I would eat the overage on a fixed bid job. This is bad if you want to stay on as a freelance graphic designer in a competitive environment!
Here are some WordPress tips learned so far:
- Keep your blog design simple. Think whitespace.
- Use a high-quality template. Even better, use a template framework with a budding and buzzing support community. Don’t bother with one-off templates from one-shot Joe designer
- Discover, through astute observation and archive reading, what your favorite WordPress blogs are doing and emulate it. Chances are they have let the cat out the bag for you. There is no “secret” to blogging other than, apparently, reading a lot and doing what those with more experience tell you to do.
- Work hard at the basics and you will have more time later for what you really should be doing, like in my case, freelance graphic design.
- Don’t fiddle with things that take away from what is most important: content.
Anyway, I’m rapidly working my way through implementing a new design in WordPress. I’m using Theme Hybrid (themehybrid.com) and getting through the initial orientation and learning curve. So bear with my franken-site for a few more days!
Over the next few days, I’ll have the new blog coming together, built on Theme Hybrid, a WordPress theme framework. I’ll be using the “Skeleton” child theme which is really just the raw output of WordPress with all the HTML tags in place, together with a complete bucket load of empty CSS styles ready for me to fill in. This will be an experiment! I’m used to coding from scratch, but the classes and reasonably semantic names of the HTML tags of Theme Hybrid should make this a relatively easy endeavor.
I couldn’t bare to look at the temporary theme with no header up there on top of the new blog, so I tossed my new header (which is wraping because it was too short). So, yeah, the site looks befuddled as of 9/03/2009. Don’t let that fool you!
WordPress vs ExpressionEngine
Going to WordPress from (rather, in addition to) Expression Engine feels a bit like giving up my chisel, hammer and leather apron for a lathe, band saw, and lab coat. However there is so much packed into WordPress, and Theme Hybrid in general, I’m looking at it quite differently. Different solutions for different problems indeed, but in wanting ever to be the craftsman, it feels strange and liberating to hand over the custom functionality I’m used to creating in ExpressionEngine to the WordPress backend. It is very, very powerful stuff!
As a freelance graphic designer, time is limited, and time is money. When it comes to publishing on the web, the key is speed and ease, since spending time on a fully-customized blog or web tool is simply counter productive, when at the end of the day, it would take months of work to equal what WordPress with Theme Hybrid (or any of the other popular frameworks) provide practically right out of the box.