Hicks

Camino, Wordpress, and the liberation of pre-made templates

For a while I’d been toying with the idea of a PimpMyCamino with people from the Mozillazine forums. The backend would be easy enough – just copy PimpMySafari’s Textpattern database tables, and take it from there. However, I became stuck. Not with the content, but with the site design.

As a designer, I felt the expectation was on me to come up with something unique for the site. And so it was for months that ‘PMC’ wouldn’t get off the ground because I never had time to design it.

The project only became unstuck once I decided to give Wordpress a try and use someone else’s pre made theme templates (in this case, the lovely Hemingway). This meant that developement time was cut down to a real minimum. I could simply upload a folder to the site, select it in my preferences, and the site was there, ready for content to be added. While on the one hand I felt guilty, the liberation of being able to get a site up and running in small space of time was incredible. The real work in PMC came when ‘the others’ (Karlheinz, the creator of CamiTools, and David Feare, who had been running a site listing themes and optimised builds for Camino) added the content.

It also gave me the chance to really get to grips with Wordpress. I haven’t tried it since v1.2, when I was originally looking for a replacement for using Textpattern. It was an interesting experience, and I just want to share a wee list of good and bad experiences with it.

What I like about Wordpress

  • The fact that I can upload images in the write window, choose whether to add it as a linked thumbnail or full-size image, and then insert the code into my post.
  • The templating system is genius. Being able to upload a folder to your server, and choose a different site layout and style is something Textpattern needs to attract people looking for a quick solution to get them up an running.
  • Posting by email!
  • Support for multiple categories, with clean category URLs. Yum.
  • Easy static pages, with the ability to nest them, and order them.
  • I didn’t like the default admin interface, but the TIger admin theme by Steve Smith makes using Wordpress enjoyable.
  • Wordpress’s category system can reproduce TXP’s sections functionality to an extent (but I still prefer the TXP way).

What I didn’t…

  • The tag system. After the logic of TXP’s beautiful XML style tag system. Wordpress’s PHP code was a realshock. Fortunately, relying on a pre-made template meant that I didn’t need to get my hands dirty with its code too much. While I get the feeling that those familiar with PHP would find it more flexible and powerful, as a designer, I’d take TXP tags any day.
  • Textpattern has a good file upload/download system that I really miss in Wordpress.
  • The root of a Wordpress install is whole heap of files. Fortunately, there is a way of moving everything to its own directory, but it would be nice to have a cleaner install in the first place.
  • I missed TXP’s ‘reset timestamp to now’ function. In WP, to make a post go to the top (for when a plugin is updated for example) I had to manually re-enter the date.
  • When editing posts, there is no easy way to go to the previous or next entry from that screen, you have to return to the ‘manage’ page first.
  • Editing User options (without changing the password) requires you to make the password textfield (which has been auto-filled) blank. If you forgot to do this, the next screen would warn you of the error, and send you back to the page with your changes lost. Grrr! I really think the field should empty in the first place.

For hicksdesign, I still prefer to use Textpattern, but I’ve enjoyed seeing life from the other side.

As for PimpMyCamino, its still very early days, but unlike PimpMySafari, this will be a community driven site, not relying on me to keep it updated!