WordPress Polar Bear Club – Part 1

January 27th, 2010

I’d like to welcome you all to my first series of blog posts, where I’ll detail the steps I’m taking to customize my WordPress theme and plugins, turning this bland old default theme into a well designed site. I’ve never worked with WordPress, had a dusty old portfolio, and decided it was time to jump right in to the icy cold water. In this first part I’d like to talk about what I’m doing as I get ready to theme this site!

Starting with SEO

I usually don’t start with SEO, but I have a few friends who run a blog called Scrappy Marketing, and they put up a great post entitled SEO 101 for your WordPress site – In 7 easy steps. Because I had never even installed a plugin before, going through this tutorial was a great introduction to some of the UI features, such as easy plugin installation,  configuring said plugins through the “Settings” menu, getting setup with Akismet, etc. Essentially, they have you:

  1. Activate Akismet, the spam blocker for WordPress. Done and done.
  2. Download and configure “All in one SEO” for better meta information and title tags
  3. Get Feedburner rockin for better stats about my readership
  4. Download Evermore, which adds the “more” tags automatically. (I actually skipped this step)
  5. Download and Install Social Bookmarking Reloaded. I did, but I’ll probably look at other options or figure out how to customize this one a little more to my liking.
  6. Install XML-Sitemap, making it easier for teh robotz to evaluate your worth
  7. Setup a permalink structure. Clutch.

What a great way to begin. I got to work with WordPress a bit, and also configured some important things up front, such as my meta data, permalink structure, and Feeburner. Not a bad way to spend 30 minutes!

Local Dev Environment

After instlalling those plugins on the server, I realized that I was probably going to need a local dev environment to do my theming. No worries there: I just grabbed the free version of MAMP (Windows users can grab xampp, Linux users — you know what to do =P). I also use a program called Navicat Light, which is basically a desktop version of phpMyAdmin, to create databases and users.

After firing up MAMP, using Navicat Light to get my database ready, and installing WordPress locally, I was ready to move onto playing with some themes!

So… how does this work?

I’ve worked with PHP and Django themes enough to know the basics of how to pull the content I need, but I thought it would make sense to start by looking at other porfolio themes to see how the structured their theme folder, categorize content, and pull it through with specialized templates. While I thought about buying a professional theme, I found some good free ones from the following links:

After installing 10 or so from those sites, I feel like I have a pretty good idea of how I’ll proceed from here. In my next post, I’ll discuss what I’m doing in the background, from my initial brain dump, to sketching compositions, to my first photoshop mockups. Stay tuned!