There are a lot of CMS packages to choose from. Three of the most popular are WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. Which one you use is dependent on many factors but two of these will be to do with your client. If the client is not highly skilled in manipulating the internet then probably WordPress is the correct CMS for them. On the other hand if they are experienced CMS operators and want to build a large scalable site then it may be better to point them in the direction of Drupal.
Choosing WordPress for today’s article then begs the question; how do you set about designing a site theme for WordPress?
There is a myriad of excellent advice on the WordPress site, but it tends to lead the designer into the realms of hard coding which is not necessarily the most efficient way to go about this process.
Take for example the following process. Client approaches the website designer and requests a new website design, logo and general business design package. The designer has been working in the design business for 20 years and is at the top of their game with regard visual skills.
The situation then arises that complicates and waters down the effect of emplying such an experienced and talented designer. If he is so well thought of as a designer, is it likely that he will have the necessary coding skills to create a theme based on his design?
I think the obvious answer is not very likely at all. So the next step is to employ a web developer to convert the designers imaginative and creative design into a theme that will work on a new WordPress site and will grow easily as the site becomes more populated with articles, dynamic instructiveness and general advance. Of course all this extra labour made available at the website designer’s business begins to add overheads which are just not practical when trying to compete in the website design market. A $1500 project suddenly looks like a $3000-$10,000 project just to cover the massive increase in overheads that arise as a result of carrying all these extra staff.
Luckily there are programmes on the market that can almost entirely remove one of these steps. I say almost as there are caveats and they are important. Artisteer produce software that has a great drag and drop UI which allows anyone with a modicum of experience at using a computer to create fully working templates/themes for a number of the more popular CMS packages.
For the WordPress CMS, having spent quite some time with the graphic designer getting the basic layout of the site designed it is an easy task to translate what the designer has created into a fully functioning, but basic WordPress theme. These Artisteer created themes for WordPress will always include sidebars and widget areas but are not always terribly adaptable to the current theming going on in the top professional theming houses such as YooTheemes, Woothemes and RocketThemes whose templates are fantastic, but fairly pricey. Themes that have 70 -90 widget positions or in the case of Rocket Themes an almost infinite number of widget areas due to the use of the Gantry framework.
It is possible, though, to avoid the further expense, and in reality time, as these commercial themes do suffer from over complication sometimes. The solution still lies with Artisteer and a nifty little add-on package called Artisteer TT. TT stands for Templeteer and is provided by a separate organisation.
The TT add-on only works with the WordPress themes produced by Artisteer, however, it does add some great extra functionality to the theme that is missing from the original Artisteer product. For example the header image and WordPress site title and tag line are not easy to manipulate satisfactorily in Artisteer. By using the TT add-on it is possible to add widget areas in the header, change the Site Tite and tag line to a clickable image and many other multi-sidebar additions that make templateing/theming in WordPress so much easier.
However, and there is always a however, as with all time saving pieces of software the ruder more purist style website developer will turn their noses up at the way the code and the CSS in particular is generated. It is heavily bloated but it has to be to cope with the different browsers that this software has to deal with. Of course once the theme has been exported as a Wordress theme it is very simple to edit the CSS to suit. But is is important and it is also important to note that most of the themes do not pass strict CSS or HTML testing. These days it isn’t quite so important, however, since the search engines do take account of the validity of the code it would be a good idea to validate it as much as possible before releasing the final theme version.