Global E-Commerce fail

Rant, rave, fume, spit. I am so sick of web sites who say they deliver to Ireland, then don’t let you proceed without a valid UK postcode. This is 2008. Sort it out! Don’t make me fill out a big bloody form if it is not possible for me to proceed!

While I’m feeling ranty, I’m also sick of the number of things you just can’t seem to buy in this country. I seem to spend so much time looking for things that you can buy in any other country. If you have a valid postal code!

Screw you uk.insight.com you’re first on the list. Yes I just might make a list.

Installing and reskinning a WordPress blog

This post is both for people with web design experience but who haven’t yet used WordPress and it might be useful for regular Joes or small companies who want to install a default WordPress blog engine on a site at their own URL. So here’s how to install wordpress and how to reskin it. I’ve not gone into a huge amount of detail but it should be a good starting point. Let’s try the questions and answers format:

What is the difference between http://www.wordpress.org and http://www.wordpress.com?

On wordpress.com you can set up a blog that will be hosted on wordpress.com, and on wordpress.org you can download the blog engine to install on your own site.

Can you be a bit more specific?

On WordPress.com you can quickly set up a blog that will be hosted on WordPress.com, so the address of your blog will be http://websitename.wordpress.com. For example: http://whythatsdelightful.wordpress.com/. You can customise how it looks to some small degree (and a small fee). You would typically choose a template and maybe change the header image as in the example above. However you have limited access to the markup and css and have to access these through a web interface, which I personally hate doing.

However on WordPress.org, you can download the blogging engine and install it on your site. This gives you full access to all the markup (html code) and the css, so you can do whatever you want with in Dreamweaver or whatever you use to code. The other obvious major benefit is that your web address can be whatever you want, or at your existing site.

What’s the easiest way to install WordPress?

A lot of web hosts have good hosting packages that make it easy to install extra bits and pieces and this is by far the easiest way to install WordPress or setup a new site with WordPress. My web host of choice is www.blacknight.ie . I decided to setup http://www.beatingrsi.com one night before going to bed and a couple of hours later I had it setup and mostly reskinned.

  1. Get a Soho package for €35 a year.
  2. Go to your control panel and then go to The Installatron!
  3. Select WordPress and follow the very simple steps to install it

Where’s my blog?

Your blog will now be at the root of your site http://www.yourwebsite.com or http://www.yourwebsite/blog depending on whether you installed WordPress in the root directory or a sub directory. Now you’re ready to start writing blog posts or pages. It’s very easy to use. Go to www.yourwebsite/blog/wp-admin and you’re ready to go.

Can I reskin it now?

Yes. You have two choices, you can install someone else’s theme or you can reskin it yourself.

How can I install someone else’s theme?

The process for installing a theme or a plugin is much the same.

  1. Find a theme you like. Here are some http://www.freewpthemes.net/ http://www.wpthemesfree.com/ http://www.freewordpressthemes.com/http://www.woothemes.com/
  2. Download a theme
  3. Copy it to your themes folder
  4. Upload the theme
  5. Go to your Admin page http://www.yourwebsite.com/wp-admin or http://www.yourwebsite.com/blog/wp-admin and in the Design section pick your theme.

How can I reskin a theme?

There’s no point in completely starting from scratch. Pick a barebones theme that somewhat fits the layout you want, ie the number of columns, if any, that you want. The default theme that you installed (Kubrick’s theme) is a good starting point for the standard layout. The sandbox theme is another good starting point. It’s unskinned but has all the elements marked up, ready for you to skin with CSS.

The typical process from there depends on your preferences. I tend to design in photoshop. Take a screengrab of the default theme. Then set up your grid to match the width and turn on snap. This will make everything from here on a lot easier. Now, do your design magic! Here’s what I did for www.beatingrsi.com. I didn’t bother with the footer or main content typography at this stage. I prefer to get a basic design and then tweak. This is what a few of those steps look like at a high level:



How did you go from Photoshop to WordPress theme?

Open the original images from your default theme. You will find them in /wp-content/themes/default/images. For example open header.gif. Then copy the header from your design and paste it into header.gif, position it properly and save (or export as gif and save over original). Do the same with the backgound image for the page, or the wrapper image. And you’re off to a very good start. It’s all tweaking from here on. Start messing with your CSS to match the widths and height to your new images if necessary. Then start tweaking your typography, and add your footer if you hadn’t already worked on it in the original design. Then tweak, tweak, tweak.

It’s easier to work locally when tweaking, so open your blog in Internet Explorer (It’s better than Firefox for saving pages) and save it as testpage.html in your site directory and then change the paths to CSS etc.

I already have a blog. Can I transfer to WordPress?

Yes. It’s delightfully easy to import all posts and comments into wordpress from blogger or wordpress.com. At the press of a button you can have all content imported. Although you will probably have to reskin from scratch or just go for a new design as the markup hooks will be different (that’s the only reason I haven’t moved this site yet.)

What about blogger?




No! Blogger is fine if you want a blog at www.mysite.blogger.com and don’t want to change the theme much. www.johnbraine.com is completely modified but it was a very slow process. I had to use the online editor, and managed to get most of the CSS into a separate file so I didn’t have to wait on the VERY slow blogger – it was a very slow painful and painful process, as is working with blogger: You can publish blogger to an external URL, as I do, but after a small amount of posts and labels build up, it times out whenever you publish a post. I’m dreading publishing this post! I will have to hit retry every minute for about ½ an hour! So avoid, if you want to reskin and publish to your own URL. It seems the only “fix” for this is to actually host with Blogger.

For writing, management, publishing, or reskinning, a dedicated WordPress Engine wins hands down.

Update: For a more detailed guide on installing WordPress, see Gav’s Guide to installing WordPress.

Making Babies



I’ve been frantically working on a website for the missus in time for her imminent book launch. The new site is www.makingbabies.ie and it went live today. All feedback welcome. Will be re-doing the background/header imagery. Few people already saying its a bit much.

Web design crimelord #1



I’ve had to lock up RTE NL for crimes against web design. Just what were they thinking? Scrolling text that would give a speed-reader a creak in the neck and no way to stop it from scrolling. That’s the worst crime I’ve seen on the Web in ages. And while I’m on the subject; no www.johnbrain.com is absolutely nothing to do with me. He should be locked up for crimes against web site navigation at least.

Digital Media Awards

Congratulations to The Missus for winning ‘best in blogging’ at the Digital Media Awards. We almost didn’t even go. Couldn’t afford neither tux nor tickets. But we were afforded free tickets at the last minute, and found a tux I could borrow. Then to her shock and horror she actually won the award. The look on her face was priceless.

But all that isn’t the point of this post. And none of the above is going to stop me from saying what I’ve been meaning to say since I heard of these awards; their website is a disgrace. Most of this is from memory.

  • Flash is very badly and unnecessarily used in places
  • The overall UI is terrible
  • The navigation is all over the place and inconsistent
  • They commit several web design mortal sins, resizing images in the code (thus making them pixelated) and underlining text that isn’t a link.

The reason all that is from memory, is that ever since the awards the site has been inaccessible. A flash movie loads and stays at 8% or doesn’t load at all. Sure there are plenty of bad web sites out there, but someone calling themselves the Digital Media Awards really should have got professionals to build their site.

Blog roll

It’s about time I got with the program and added a blogroll. So here’s most of the blogs I read in my feedreeder. If you don’t use a feedreeder, get with the program! Why go to the post office to get your letters, when you’ve got a postman to bring them to you. If you have a gmail account, the easiest thing to do is go to www.google.com/reader, and start subscribing to feeds. Or any blog or webpage just look out for a feed icon. If you want to see RSS explained further, here’s a simple video. Subscribe to my feed here.

Anyway, here’s most of the blogs that I’ve get in my feedreader & added to my blogroll…

Irish blogs

Annie Rhiannon

Just everyday comings and goings of a girl called Annie but I like her style. A very witty kitty.
And if you’re a movie buff check out Annie get your gun too.

Gingerpixel

Great photo blog, with the occasional insight into good photography tips and techniques.

Damien Mulley

Mostly technology news, which I don’t follow that much to be honest but there are lots of other interesting bits and bobs of fluff.

Twenty Major

Twenty mostly makes up stories about his imaginary mates and there’s also lots of good old down to earth rants about the idiots that live in and run this country.

Web design

Smashing magazine

This really is a great resource to subscribe to if you’ve any interest in web design. Lots of practical tips, advice and downloads.

A list apart

the first place to look for industry standard techniques. The regular features are great but it’s taken second place in my favourite web resources. Smashing magazine is just that bit more useful and to the point.

The designed tree

I’ve already given this a mention. The designed tree is an Irish based blog featuring well designed sites from around the world.

The Menace

Good Irish Web design blog, occasionally outing some of the many web design cowboys on the go at the moment. And I love the blog header.

Other

Limmy

If you haven’t checked out Limmy.com yet do it now. Play with some playthings and watch some videos. Then you’re allowed to have a look at his blog. Did I tell you how good his live show was?

SIFR V Dropdowns

I’ve thrown in the towel on trying to get Sifr headings to appear behind my dropdowns. I’d prefer to have plain old text headings and be able to navigate the site thanks very much. Sifr and z-index just don’t want to co-operate with each other. Sifr has caused mucho headaches anytime I’ve tried to use it. I have used it on a lot of sites to do nice headers but I have spent so much time trouble-shooting with it, that the acronym just gives me a bad taste in my mouth now. I’d rather never use it again.

Few new sites gone live:

A few of the dealer sites I did, have eventually gone live. I did these about six
months ago. Offices eh?



Moore’s Garage

http://mooresgarage.ie


Billy Barron Motorcycles

Billy Barron Motorcycles

http://www.barronbikes.com

Semi fluid layout, the navigation buttons resize as the browser window is resized.



Dogs box motorcycles

http://www.dogsbox.ie

Another fluid layout, but this time the image on the homepage resizes depending no the size of the browser window.


Lee Motorcycles

Lee Motorcycles

www.leemotorcycles.ie

Another fullscreen resizable layout.



Buckley Motorcycles

www.buckleymotorcycles.ie


Hogan Motorcycles

www.hoganmotorcycles.ie



Scotts bikes

http://www.scottsbikes.ie