The Art Of Converting A Design To A WordPress Theme – Part 1

As we have gotten more and more into WordPress, eventually you will get to the point where you need to take a design and convert it to a WordPress theme. I am by no means an expert, and I am learning a little more about WordPress every day. I am going to go through, in a series of blog entries, the step by step process of creating a WordPress theme. This is not for the hard core, since this is for the light programmer/scripter like myself who wants to be able to quickly take a design and port it over to WordPress.

Don’t fret. The process can be boiled down to a few critical elements, many of which you will easily find examples throughout the web and in a book at your local Barnes & Noble. So, first, before we do anything, this blog entry is just about the initial steps you should take before going ahead and doing this.

One first step, if you are not a programmer, is to get familiar with PHP. If you are not fluent in the PHP programming language, this will be a challenge, not a challenge you can’t necessarily overcome, but a challenge none the less. Along with getting familiar with PHP is getting familiar with WordPress. If you have just begun the process of learning both PHP and WordPress, you may want to put this design conversion off for a bit, till you are ready.

The next step is to get your design. Now, you may already be a designer or you have hired a designer and you are getting closer to the point of wanting this design in WordPress. If you already are using this design (see I am giving you some ideas here) on another site and just want to convert it over, for instance, so your blog looks the same as your main website, you will have to free your design from that site and have it handy in your page editor.

Remember to get a program like Textpad or Homesite or Visual Studio, or whatever editing tool you use, especially one that can hold many files at the same time. That is why I use Textpad, since it is a basic program and its free.

You should also be familiar with HTML, CSS and possibly javascript. Also, we will encounter Flash and other technologies, most of which are ready for you to integrate with your design. So, sign up for this blog and come back when I have the next in this series ready.

From Regular Website To WordPress Website – Article 2

If you are getting ready to move from a regular old fashion html site to a wordpress site and you are doing the work either yourself or working with a developer, here are critical issues below:

1. Planning out the pages and posts.
2. Keeping a division between web pages and articles. (Do you still know the difference).
3. Choosing/buying a wordpress theme or having one developed for you custom.
4. The process of moving over content.
5. The importance of wordpress plugins and how they will improve your life greatly.
6. Other details such as where your site points now and how to migrate.

Let’s start with the planning of the migration process. What I did at first to not lose any continuity is create a /blog directory beneath my main site and began creating the wordpress version there. I figured when I am finished I will either point the site to this directory or move the wordpress version up to the root directory (which is what I decided in the end).

While getting ready to make the move, I decided to take advantage of the wordpress posting method, which is one of the critical reasons why you want to be using wordpress. Unlike web pages which need to be crawled, wordpress posts ping out to search engines like blogspot and google and tell the search engine you have just created new content. So, I have been creating a series of articles, like this one, in advanced of the final site migration.

Choosing a Theme…

What you will find as you look around for a free theme, is most free themes out there are really for pure bloggers. The best themes I am convinced you have to pay for. However, I found a theme I could live with and have implemented this on this site currently. Once I find a theme that I like in the future, I will just swap em out.

Getting The Main Links Right

One of the things that took me a couple of these wordpress iterations to get right is getting the home page in the right spot on the headers. Typically you will find that the theme you are using has hard coded the word and like “home” pointing to “/” your root. This means that you have to actually go into the theme and comment out or removing the hard coded home link. No worries, there is an editor under Themes. Just edit the header.php file (typically what it is called) and find the tags and comment them out with a . If you find you can’t write the files, (that would be why the save button would be missing), you need to change file permissions. This is relatively easy as well, even from ftp. If you have ftp, login and right click on the permissions for all the files in your theme directory. Then set them to at least 775 or rwx fully. If that does not work, then set the theme to 777 and make the changes.

That’s it for now.

Dan

From Regular Website To WordPress Website – Article 1

This article is in a series of articles about migrating from a regular website to a WordPress website…

Like many things on the web, whether you a 100% techie or 100% marketing or somewhere in between the day comes when you have to improve, change or modify your website. I am about 50% techie and 50% marketing, at least that is my perspective. When you are a techie, you build your website (your personal site) once and never touch it again. When you are a marketing guy, you are adding so much to it that it looks like a target ad special. But overall when it is your personal site, like StrategicPoints.com is my personal site, how it works, what it says and what it does, is really important if you want to impress upon your clients, your com-padres or your parents, that you know something about the web.

For techies the concept of using wordpress is sacrilegious, and that is why I am using kid gloves in this first article, explaining why I am switching to StrategicPoints.com to a WordPress site. It has been a long time coming, and I am switching it over in stages. These stages will be discussed in this series of wordpress blog articles that cover the why, the how and the little details in between. Now that we are down the road a bit on this WordPress critical mass that has been occurring, I bet a lot of techie and marketing types out there would like to switch to WordPress, and best of all to be able to do it yourself, and not lose a step along the way.

That is why I am documenting this process. One for those out there who care, and two for myself, to learn. Whenever I teach something I learn, and trust me the migration of a old fashion html website to WordPress is a learning process.

So, before the next article, let’s cover the difference between a regular website and a WordPress site. First off, there are so many answers to what is a regular website, so let’s limit this to two categories, the old fashioned HTML website and the programmed language website. The basic HTML website is a series of tags in a page that you run through a web server and the more advanced programmed website does a bit more with a database, forms, reports, interactive actions and anything imaginable. Now my original strategicpoints.com site was and still is an HTML site (until I finish up this process). By HTML, you can sometimes check this out by seeing index.html or index.htm or directories like /services/ at the end of the URL. This is still somewhat misleading, because in the web world any URL can look like any URL if you use redirection and other techniques… The more advanced “programmatic” site can become a wordpress site, but this gets into the more difficult integration and creation of plugins. We will get into that last, and then it becomes a question or whether or not the wordpress migration is worth it. (It is if you are starting from scratch, but if you have already made an investment in .net, Cold Fusion, python or any of the other languages out there not a freely distributable or not available on all flavors of websites, you may want to hold onto your pocketbook and stay put).

So the final part of this article will try to explain why I think most people would benefit from WordPress instead of their regular sites (unless you don’t want to be found on the web and manage a website, but then you wouldn’t be building a website unless you did not want to be found). Here are the reasons:

1. WordPress is opensource and free.
2. WordPress has many of the nice SEO features you can’t get so easily on your own. SEO means Search Engine Optimization and you needed to know that, this is perfect for you.
3. WordPRess is gaining critical mass and like Microsoft DOS, you don’t want to manage CPM.
4. WordPress has an easy to use CMS, while if you had a regular html site you would not have a CMS. By CMS I mean Content Management System.
5. WordPress has easy to upgrade path and new version every month or 2 if you want new features.
6. Literally thousands of plugins out there on the market and if you need something it will be free or cheap.
7. Tens of Thousands of support articles like this one.
8. WordPress not only can run on any hosting plan on the market from Linux to Windows, but many hosters have it already ready for you.
9. Tons of free and cheap themes out there to choose from and easy to switch theme.
10. Probably a hundred other reasons out there and too many to think of.

So, there you have it… Check back on this article as I go through the process of converting StrategicPoints.com from a regular HTML site to a WordPress site.

Dan