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WPTavern Design Almost Done

Wow, been a little while since my last post. Here are a couple of updates for you.

Last week, I sent in my letter to relinquish myself from my duties at BloggerTalks, Problogger, BloggingTips, and other duties to give myself more time for WPTavern.

I thought I came across an awesome theme to use for WPTavern. It’s called Arthemia Premium.. Now, the theme still looks great but it was a pain in the ass for me to mess around with. I thought about using the featured post section from that theme and transferring it to a new theme but it’s deeply integrated within Arthemia and so, I wasted $70.00. However, perhaps at some point down the road, I’ll redesign WPTavern.com again and that will be the design I go with.

So what does WPTavern look like right now? Have a look.

wptavern

Yes, the WPTavern theme should look familiar as it’s a hacked version of the theme I use on this site. As it stands, I really like a lot of the things as well as the layout of this theme on Jeffro2pt0. I don’t want to hack up another theme to add these features so I decided to just hack up a version I could use for WPTavern. I did add two more widget spots near the footer that I plan on using and I also added the 5 featured posts block along with post thumbnails to give it just a little bit of a magazine look.

Right now, this should hold me over until I gain some momentum and get things going. I’ll worry about a proper/unique identity once the time presents itself.

With the majority of the design out of the way, my focus is now on plugins and the forum. I’m still on track to open the site up for public beta on February 1st. Until then, the site will open with very little content.

Because of this, if anyone is open to writing a guest post to be part of the launch of the site, please send the HTML version of the post to my email address or through the contact form on this site. If you have images that go with the post, label them accordingly in the HTML file and I’ll add them in on my end. Don’t forget to email me the images as well.

I’ve been working like mad between the two podcasts I produce and getting things set for WPTavern. However, It’s been exciting and my head is continuously overflowing with ideas for the site once it launches. Stay tuned for more info as I get time to publish it.

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New Design Is Finally Complete

If you haven’t noticed by now, particularly those who are reading this from your FeedReader, come check out the site in your favorite browser as I have finally put the finishing touches on the Jeffro2pt0 redesign. The problem with blogging for other people is that it leaves little time to do things to my own personal site. So, I spent two very long nights/days going through my theme and doing a complete redesign so that I could get the weight off my chest. The weight stems from looking around at other blogs and noticing they have a pretty good looking theme and when I look at mine, it just sucks. Also, I was sick and tired of worrying about doing the redesign when all I really want to do is publish content. Thats why I really put some elbow grease into the design and got it done as soon as possible so I wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore.

I have to thank David Peralty for launching his new blog design (BrandingDavid.com) which started my thinking process of redoing mine. His site has a minimal look to it, doesn’t fill the page with widgets or chichlets so that all he has to worry about is writing and publishing content. I wanted to travel the same road by eliminating things from my theme that I didn’t need and get back to basics. I’ve eliminated the featured post block as well as the container that held all of the categories I write about. This used to be displayed underneath the header.

With regards to the header image and the trees. The fact of the matter is, I love forests. I love forest photography and I love hiking through them so I figured I’d take something I love and put it on the blog so I can see it everyday. The great thing about this header image is that I have about 6 different scenic images that I can substitute the trees with. Once the first day of Winter arrives, I’ll be changing the header image to a picture of snowy mountains.

As for the color scheme, I’ve always enjoyed darker themes but I can never seem to get the link colors and content presentation down pat. This time however, I browsed through template monster and through the galleries presented at VandelayDesign.com as sources for inspiration in terms of text colors to use on a dark theme. The current design is definetly colorful but it falls right in line with my header logo. Also, the colors don’t make the site boring and in fact, the color scheme changes slightly from the home page to a single post page view.

I was going to use the comment threading feature found within WordPress 2.7 but I’ve found out that it’s current implementation sucks. I can’t style it and modify it’s look as easily as I could do with the old comments system. So, I’ve decided not to use the built in threaded comment feature or threaded comments in general. However, thanks to some code that was given to me via Kaspars (Konstruktors.com) commenter’s can now click on a reply link which works exactly like the link in the WP Comment Remix plugin except now I don’t have all of the extra baggage that the plugin provided. The code is not publicly available but with some coaxing, we might be able to convince him to release it.

Speaking of Kaspars, I really want to say thanks to him for all the help he provided to me. Thanks to him, I was able to finally get a styled, working version of his Tabbed Widgets plugin. Also thanks to his help, I’m able to configure specifically where widgets are displayed within the theme using his unreleased Context Widgets plugin. I’ll write about this in a future post but in a nutshell, it is an easier to configure version of Slayers Custom Widgets.

As for comments, I completely redesigned that area as well, thanks again to Kaspars. Ajax edit comment works and so does the comment luv plugin although you can not save the options for comment luv. There is some sort of incompatibility that the plugin author is aware of. I also installed the Quick Tags plugin to make it easier for you to style your comments if you choose to do so. Much better plugin than the Tiny MCE for comments.

There is plenty of other stuff to talk about including a post describing why threaded comments in WordPress 2.7 sucks. Stay tuned for that and more, including an updated list of plugins I’m using.

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New Look In Store For Jeffro2pt0

After traversing the realm of WordPress themes the past few days, I’ve come across one which is an oldie but a goody. It’s called WP-Magazine. More specifically, the 2-column layout. I enjoy the featured post block as well as the layout in general. The Jeffro2pt0.com homepage will end up having some similarities with what used to be called a portal page. I’m not a big fan of the gray color scheme which is why I will be porting my current color scheme into this new theme. I’ve hacked my current theme (Shifter) to death and now it’s time for me to start over with a fresh code base and go from their.

The new site design will focus on the content as well as the community. Since most of the interaction on the blog takes place through the comments, you can rest assure that I will be taking special care of that section in the redesign. I plan on keeping a similar look and feel as I currently have within the comments section, but I’ll be adding a WYSIWYG text editor for the comments, larger text sizes, CommentLuv support, the ability to quickly reply or quote a specific comment, comment editing, the ability to subscribe to comments and more.

I don’t plan on having the new design ready any time soon, but I think I’ll have it online somewhere between the week of August 10th or sooner. As for Jeffc.me, I’ve been having some Addon Domain issues as of late and until I can export my personal posts from this site, into the personal blog, I won’t be doing much of anything.

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Jeffro2pt0 Almost Goes 3pt0

In case you haven’t noticed, this site has gone through a complete revamp. New look, new logo, new focus. What you are seeing on this blog is thanks in part to a theme system that I came across while spending over a month looking at various themes. The theme system is called Shifter. Shifter has been a dream come true for me. As I noted in Episode 7 of the WordPress Weekly podcast, I have had a good amount of experience using Joomla. One of the best things I enjoyed about Joomla was the amount of customizations that were built into themes. What I mean by customizations is that, themes had what were called User Module Positions that were built into the theme. You could place a plugin in a specific module, you could move the modules around, ect. Talk about freedom.

If you were to take a look at the current state of WordPress themes, you would realize that no one out their is truly taking advantage of Widgets. Most of your themes come with two smashed together sidebars that can contain widgets. That sucks. For themes that have widget like areas above the content and within the footer bar, these are usually hard coded functions built into the theme, meaning you have to play with the code to change or replace these parts of the theme.

Shifter changes all of that by making the best out of widgets. Take a look at the following screenshot:

Shifter module Positions

Take a look at all of those sections of the site that are outlined in red. These are all widgetized areas of the theme. This means, customizing the look of your content on your site becomes a drag and drop affair, not a code editing nightmare. Keep in mind that WordPress allows you to place more than one widget into a widgetized area on a website. This fact alone should be enough to perk your interests. This is the primary reason why I purchased this theme. As far as I can tell, there are no other WordPress themes that offer this type of functionality. I’ve been wondering why more themes don’t have more widget areas built within them. According to a recent interview I did with Shifter, they told me it was rather difficult to get all of these widget areas to play nicely within the theme. I suppose that was my answer.

Asides from being in Widget heaven, this theme is almost completely editable by selecting various options within the themes admin menu.

ShifterSettings

This is only a sample of what you can edit without touching a line of code. Within this screenshot, you can see options that allow you to adjust the resolution of your blog. The choices range from 750, 950, 974 pixels and 100% which is full width. You can choose whether you want the first sidebar to display or the second. You can also choose which size you want those sidebars to be. The check box areas are something that reminds me of Joomla yet again. These options give you even more flexibility as they allow you to decide which particular sections of WordPress where the sidebar will show up. For example, if I only wanted a particular widget area to show up on the home page, but not anywhere else within the theme, I would select the HOME option and nothing else. This means you could load up your front page with content while keeping the single page views nice and clean.

Be sure to check out the Shifter Video which explains how to configure most of the options contained within the Shifter theme system.

Words of warning. I made the decision to edit away at some core files contained within Shifer in order to achieve the look you see on this web site. This means it will be a pain in the rear for me to upgrade. I suggest you don’t edit any of the core files if you get this theme. However, if you feel as though you will stick with a certain configuration of Shifter, I’d say go for it. But try to keep core hacking down to a minimum.

Conclusion:

Shifter is not cheap. It’s priced anywhere from $79.95 for a personal license to $999.95 for a Developer License with licenses in between. However, because this theme is more than just your average theme, my $80.00 was very well spent and I believe I’ve gotten every penny’s worth and more. There are so many different combinations of widget/content layouts that come with Shifter, you truly are purchasing a WordPress themeing system out of the box.

You can try out the Shifter theme for free by signing up HERE which will net you a subdomain. In fact, if you don’t want to spend money on Shifter, you can actually move your entire blog to GetShifter.com and use it as if it were WordPress.com. If that sounds like a plan, you can check out more info HERE.

The bottom line is this. As it stands, there is no theme out there that I came across within the past month that offers anything close to what Shifter does. Right now, everything is magazine based and even premium magazine themes and freemium themes have nothing on Shifter. I hope that Shifter serves as an example of a new trend in WordPress themes. That is, a trend towards these customizations that take place in the admin panel through options rather than coding. A trend towards using the true power of Widgets. And a trend that empowers the end user to have things look the way they want, without having it hard coded for them.

If you are interested in obtaining a legit, personal licensed copy of Shifter, please show me your interest my leaving a comment. I am thinking of doing a contest on WordPress Weekly where Shifter will be the prize. I’ll go ahead with the plan if there is a good amount of interest amongst you.

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