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WordPress Coding & Design

WordPress Theme Inheritance

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The WordPress template system has a relatively unused gem in the template system, Theme Inheritance. Theme Inheritance allows you to set your theme to inherit files from a parent theme, meaning you could create your theme in the colours you choose, but then you can create a number of new themes with just a stylesheet in them, and set each stylesheet to inherit from the main theme, and then just override the styles set.

So, if we use the example of having perhaps 6 different theme styles on one site, and offering user’s a style switcher to select which one they preferred to see. Often people may just have the 6 themes online, each directory having the index.php theme file, the functions, page, archive, category, single and comments template files. That’s fine until a new version comes out of WordPress, there are maybe a few new tags you can use, or you decide you want to add a bit of code to say the footer of your site. 6 themes may not be so bad, but if you run a multi author blog, perhaps on WordPress MU, then try changing 6 to 60. Suddenly it’s not so good!

Our main theme (we’ll call it ‘Parent’), would consist of all the theme files we need. The typical files being:

  • style.css
  • index.php
  • archive.php
  • single.php
  • page.php
  • comments.php
  • sidebar.php
  • header.php
  • footer.php
  • functions.php

Of course you may have additional files as well, but those are a selection of the most common theme files. To define the theme, the style.css file will have the following at the top of it:

[sourcecode language=”css”]/*
Theme Name: Parent
Theme URI: http://www.mysite.com/
Description: The default Parent theme from mysite
Version: 1.0
Author: Me
Author URI: http://www.mysite.com/
*/[/sourcecode]

We would then put this theme directory in the usual place under /wp-content/themes/.

Now we can move on to creating a child theme. So for example, our parent theme is quite plain, standard letter sizes and black and white. We can then create one child theme that uses a variety of colours, and a second theme that increases the size of the font and allows the site design/layout to work with the increased font size. So for the first child theme we could call this one Rainbow, and tell it to inherit from the parent theme. We would create a new stylesheet for the Rainbow theme, and at the top of style.css we would place

[sourcecode language=”css”]/*
Theme Name: Rainbow
Theme URI: http://www.mysite.com/
Description: The Rainbow child theme from mysite
Version: 1.0
Author: Me
Author URI: http://www.mysite.com/
Template: parent
*/[/sourcecode]

The additional line in this to tell the theme where to inherit from is the last line ‘Template: parent’. The template name should refer to the directory that the theme is stored in, and it’s case sensitive.

You can then set all of your styling in this style.css file for the site and upload it to a new theme directory called ‘rainbow’. If you wanted to inherit the styles from the parent theme then you would need to import the parent stylesheet in, then add your own CSS below to override any styles necessary. So you can add:

@import url("../parent/style.css");

below the top comment in the file.

Then we’ll create our second stylesheet, for increasing the overall size of the site (yes a well coded site shouldn’t require a second stylesheet to increase the text size and size of the site, but this is only an example!). This one we’ll call Large B&W. So again we do the same as above in our new style.css file

[sourcecode language=”css”]/*
Theme Name: Large B&W
Theme URI: http://www.mysite.com/
Description: The Large Black and White child theme from mysite
Version: 1.0
Author: Me
Author URI: http://www.mysite.com/
Template: parent
*/
@import url(“../parent/style.css”);[/sourcecode]

We then put this into a directory called largebw.

Our themes directory would now look like

  1. parent
    • style.css
    • index.php
    • archive.php
    • single.php
    • page.php
    • comments.php
    • sidebar.php
    • header.php
    • footer.php
    • functions.php
  2. rainbow
    • style.css
  3. largebw
    • style.css

Up until WordPress 2.7 that was all we could do. It served a purpose, but was obviously limiting in its usefulness for most people. However, since WordPress 2.7, you can now also add PHP theme files in your child directories to override the parent’s where necessary. So, for example, if you wanted to put an advert in your Large B&W single post theme file for a screen reader, then you would take a copy of the single.php file from the parent theme, add in the additional code for your advert, and then put this into your largebw theme directory. This directory would then have the files style.css and single.php, the other theme files would inherit from the parent directory.

You may still wonder if this is of any use to you. If you decide to purchase a theme (or find one for free at WordPress) then you would hope that the theme be kept up to date with the newest WordPress additions and functions. Yet, you may want to make some changes to it to suit your own style. Perhaps change the sidebar to use h3 on headings instead of h2, maybe change the header to have a big advert across the top, or maybe add a flickr badge in the footer. However, when the theme is upgraded, you have to do this all again – which usually means it’s unlikely you’ll upgrade your theme! With Theme Inheritance, you can create your child theme to inherit the untouched theme and then you can just copy the files you want to change into it, make your alterations, and leave the rest as normal. Yes you would still have to make a few alterations possibly on upgrading the theme, but it wouldn’t be as much hassle.

So, hopefully now you can see the potential for using child themes on your site, regardless of whether you have one theme or many, it has a use that is not widely used yet but I’m sure will be in the future 🙂

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A PHP Developer using WordPress to power both blogging and commercial CMS sites. I've written and released a couple of plugins for WordPress and am currently writing plugins for use on commercial websites.

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WordPress

Will Artificial Design Intelligence Takeover Web Designing and Development?

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Artificial Design Intelligence

The worlds are colliding.

Web designing and development happens in two primary ways:

  1. DIY (bloggers and small business owners buying readymade themes, web hosting account, and setting up the website after reading a lot of online resources)
  2. Agencies (dedicated agencies that create websites from scratch, using manual coding and templates, and these are usually high budget)

There is a third way, which in the next couple of years can replace both the above methods to a large extent. Will it? Let’s see.

Artificial Design Intelligence

Artificial Design Intelligence (ADI) is the ‘third’ way wherein companies are creating technology where a website could design and build itself. In 2003, prior to ADI, Adobe unveiled its suite of web designing tools and the industry experts spelled it as a doomsday for designers.

Will this ADI technology completely eradicate the need for website designers and developers? Certainly not, says David Kosmayer from Bookmark. Bookmark is a website builder that uses ADI to cater to each user’s specific and unique needs. Kosmayer opines that ADI technology will become a productivity tool for innovative developers and designers where the technology will improve and escalate the efforts of the team involved in automating the website development process. He is anticipating a website building ADI revolution with Bookmark, thriving to be at the forefront of this inevitable movement.

David gave me an insider peek into the ADI technology they are developing, scheduled to release in the next couple of weeks. Here it is:

The ADI technology improves possibilities.

I create my own websites and blogs. Now, if I have access to technology that Bookmark is designing, it will simplify my work. It’s unassumingly perfect for eCommerce stores. The ADI asks what kind of store does the user want – from a Bistro to a Laundromat, the user has tons of varieties. Once the basic is uploaded, you can add Focus Groups and Modules, and make the site live.

This ADI technology is akin to a personal assistant that understands my business needs and creates a customized ‘product’ to use.

After Bookmark, companies like Wix and TheGrid have ventured into the AI technology space too.

AI for website development and designing is an uncharted area. Chris Lema has a brilliant article title, Has Website AI Arrived?

The world of content marketing should rejoice. AI technology will strategically and dynamically depend on content to design the layout of the site. Here, content could be anything – article length, article quantity, images, videos and more.

Artificial design intelligence is still in nascent stages.

Who could use ADI technology? Bloggers, digital marketers, affiliate marketers, consultants, and other small business owners will find AI entertaining and useful. This group of professionals is usually a one-man army with a small remote team. It cuts down cost on resources as users will probably use the ADI service on a monthly subscription basis. As such, businesses can focus on branding and generating revenue.

The stress of creating dynamic websites, learning technology, and implementing them is removed entirely.

Personally, I agree with Lema that AI technology for website development and designing is yet to mature. With the coming of chatbots and other AI software, give this a year or two before the artificial design intelligence technology for websites booms.

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How to Stop Comment Spam in 60 seconds with CleanTalk

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Blog comments can be one of the most valuable assets to your blog, but they can also be a huge burden at the same time. Even with Akismet installed on my blogs, I still have to manually go through and remove the junk and spam comments many of my sites gets on a daily basis.

When I login to my WordPress dashboard, I will continually junk like this just sitting there and waiting for my approval or deletion. The majority of comment spam happens because they are trying to get a backlink to a site, either through a link within the comment or from the username.

How_to_Stop_Comment_Spam

If you have a small WordPress site, you might not be getting overwhelmed with spam comments yet, but it’s simply just a matter of time. The worse part is that it’s pretty much all coming in on an automated basis, which means cleaning up your spam comments manually can waste endless hours of your valuable time.

Comment spam is something all bloggers have to deal with, and while there are ways to minimize worthless and fake comments with plugins like Akismet or using CAPTCHA forms, these methods either don’t work or are just too annoying to setup.

CleanTalk.org felt the same way and they wanted to create a comment spam solution that works for all blog site owners, while also having a solution that actually works.

How CleanTalk WordPress Spam Plugins Works

Like most things in the world, you just want the product or service to work and not have to deal with the complexities of how it’s made. This is how most online marketers and bloggers feel — they just want a solution and not have to deal with coding, programming and working with a dev team to figure it out.

CleanTalk is quite advanced on the backend, but super easy to setup and use from a site owner perspective. Through it’s cloud based platform, CleanTalk actively monitors the visitors on your site and makes sure the comments being made, are from actual visitors (not spam bots).

The process of how CleanTalk works, is as follows:

  1. A visitor writes a comment or registers.
  2. CleanTalk plugin sends action parameters into the CleanTalk cloud.
  3. Service analyzes the parameters.
  4. If this is a visitor, the comment will be published. If it’s a spam bot, then CleanTalk blocks this comment or registering.
  5. Parameters are written to the log which can be viewed in the Control Panel service.

Not only does CleanTalk protect your blog comment area, it also covers all forms throughout your site (contact, registrations, etc). When logged into your account through their site, you will also have access to real-time stats on how well it’s protecting your site and showing you what activity is happening where.

How to Install CleanTalk on WordPress

Since CleanTalk is a WordPress plugin, it’s super easy to setup. All you need to do is visit their main site at http://cleantalk.org, create an account and grab your access key on the following page.

After that, all you need to do is head over to your WordPress dashboard, go to the “Plugins” section and search for “CleanTalk”.

CleanTalk Installation

Install the plugin and then throw in your access key and you are ready to go!

CleanTalk_Dashboard

To make sure the plugin is properly installed and running, go back to your blog and complete a dummy comment, registration or contact message with the email address stop_email@example.com and you should then see the plugin react with the message like the one in the screenshot below.

CleanTalk_anti-spam_setup_on_WordPress

You can also head back to the main dashboard at CleanTalk.org to monitor your site comment stats and manage how many sites you would like to add the plugin to.

Get Your Free 14 Day Trial of CleanTalk

You can register on the CleanTalk.org site and install the plugin right away. After completing this step, you will have 14 days of free access to their comment spam blocking service. After the 14 days, you will then have the renew your account.

The good news is that the cost of CleanTalk’s comment spam blocking plugin is just $8 per year, and you can save even more by using coupon code “BLOGGINGTIPS“.

Head over to http://cleantalk.org, create your free account and add the plugin to your site. It’s only takes a couple minutes and it will save you a massive amount of time in the long run. Eliminate comment spam from your site forever!

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WordPress Coding & Design

The Importance of Responsive Web Design

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Responsive web design is quickly changing how sites are viewed on the internet and on mobile devices. Back when I first started making money online in the mid 90s, everything was so basic and simple with web design… it was pretty much all HTML.

Then in 2007 I started using WordPress to create my first blog and the rest of my sites there after.

However, this was only the beginning. Now with everyone so focused on using mobile and other various devices to browse the internet and with the wide range of desktop sizes for viewing, it’s now more important than ever to make sure you have a site that is capable with all solutions.

I still find it amazing that I can look up sites on my phone or iPad and still come across sites that aren’t mobile optimized or that don’t load correctly. It’s quite a shame and something that really needs to be fixed immediately. Statistics show that 25% of internet users only access the internet via a mobile device. Have you checked how your site loads on a mobile device lately? If not, it might be time for you to invest some resources into your web design and development. By working alongside a respectable design team, they will be able to improve the performance of your site, while making sure it is fully optimized in the process.

Thus bringing us to responsive web design

Responsive web design refers to a website designed to adapt to whatever device a visitor is using. The same applies for desktop viewing as well. You can make the browser bigger or smaller and the content on the site will continue to adapt to your viewing solution.

Most premium wordpress themes are now responsive as well, as it’s almost become a requirement for site owners now.

When it comes to designing and coding wordpress themes, I’m the last guy that wants to deal with these issues. Fortunately there are designers and teams dedicated to mastering the art of design and wordpress.

For those of you who are wondering how responsive sites are created and the various tech specs involved, be sure to check out the infographic below from verveuk.eu.

What is Responsive Web Design

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