10 more WordPress website wrangles

Today felt… better. I'd recovered from the shock of massive ingestion of knowledge and, ultimately, bewilderment.

PHP and CSS can do that to better men than I. If they were foes in a Dungeons and Dragons book it wouldn't matter which page you turned to, your hero with the flaky armour would be battered and extinguished before you'd even discovered your fate. Combined, they have the capacity to bring armies down.

But despite having indulged in the wrong side of sanity I felt like I was approaching some sort of breakthrough. Hell, I'd even partly understood The Loop at about 8pm last night – and that was during the first half of Whistle Down The Wind, which was altogether unconnected to computers.

I think it was because a friend had enlisted the help of her scant memory ability to declare it was set in Burnley. An Andrew Lloyd Webber 'classic', Whistle Down The Wind features the Boyzone classic 'No Matter What'.

As the curtains rose it became absurdly clear the presentation was set in redneck country. While Burnley fits that criteria in an English environment, it was the lofty wood-built windmills and the 'yee-hah' of the priest that suggested this production was set in an altogether different town. Specifically, somewhere near Alabama, or Arkansas.

Distracted from code I was given the opportunity to review my gains. And despite my naivety in a coding context, or anything else for that matter, I realised I'd come a long way, baby.

So today was a lovely way to live. My client had enumerated an ability to count past 20 (I knew this only because the amount of amends had exceeded a score) and I was on the cusp of despatching my comfort zone altogether (Me Manifesto – tick).

What did I do today?

1. Changed the navbar to show pages in a funny order.

The WP Codex is a wonderful place to hang out if you enjoy massaging numbers, letters and special characters. There's such an array of fascinating strings waiting to be pumped.

As it happened, you simply:

  • Change the order of the pages in the Pages > Edit section, starting from 1, to 2 and so on.
  • Grab the following code: wp_list_pages('sort_column=menu_order')

There's lots more about concocting the way you present lists of posts and pages in your WordPress site at http://codex.wordpress.org/Template_Tags/wp_list_pages#List_Pages_by_Page_Order.

2. Changing the order of categories in a list

This proved to be more challenging than simply changing the order in the backend. This involved – eeoooooaaaaaaahhhhh – some mySQL amends.

Face the vortex, DT, face the vortex…


Awkwardly I needed to exclude one of the categories from the vertical navigation. Love a challenge…

So once I'd messed about with the database, hecked up one of the categories and then discovered it made no difference to the order, despite a logical intervention, I relented to the threat of sanity. And bagged a plugin – Order Category (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/order-categories/ ). I felt a little undersold that the code for the Categories sidebar widget provided by the WP team themselves offered no 'order by ID' control or similar flexibility.

3. Styled the MailChimp plugin widget. Now I'm moving on to the newsletter subscription panel. The widget they offer is frankly pants – and if these pants were for sale they'd be Primark rejects. Man oh man, who in their right mind wants a cyan box on their site? Seriously! It's the worst-designed panel I ever saw. Especially when my eyes were spoilt just a few days ago when they courted the subscription panel used by the boys at solostream on their WP-Genius and WP-Sublime WordPress themes. MailChimp: if you want to keep up with the aWebers and Campaign Monitors of this world, you'd definitely be best advised to keep an eye on the design chops of your competition. They absolutely cane you, every time. Even if you do have a way fancy website. And what's with the video section? There's nothing there!

4. Making the navbar arrow turn around. Here's a funny one. So I couldn't figure out how to make the little arrow on the drop-down navbar turn to the right when I got into grandchildren (2-deep hierarchy) territory. And then the wonderful Darren Hoyt hit the nail on the head. Create a rotated arrow and go with the li li css!

Here's the code with a class element for the arrow itself:

li li .sf-sub-indicator {
background: transparent url(images/arrow-right.gif) no-repeat;

Smart arse, he is. A lovable one nonetheless. Arrow is now summarily called into action like a dagger about to puncture its grandchild. Oedipal? Only with chips.

5. Embedding magazines from Scribd. I've been skirting round this issue for some days since I was anticipating a conflict between the new oEmbed rules brought in with WordPress 2.9.
Well blow me down with a leaf spreader. As of now you can simply add in the URL from the 'Share' button above the document you wish to embed in Scribd. Until now it's been a case of 'throw another plugin on the WordPress barbie.' Well, no more. From now on this baby's built in and my readers can breathe a sigh of relief, and save a millisecond of their time while eagerly anticipating a digital version of the latest magazine. Er, w00t!

6. Custom Admin Branding plugin. Loving the flexibility this plugin brings (and it's my theory once you attain 'I got 50 plugins!!!!!!!111111111111' status another one ain't gonna hump the turkey. A beautiful interface a delighted client makes. So it's going in the mix. And it'll look purdy.

7. Redirection plugin – any sections from old site re-routed. We have an old site on the existing domain and sections won't tally with the new version. Now, unfortunately navigability and usability weren't strong points of the predecessor (although it had a neat line in 404s, which is just as well, since they were served up more often than fresh content) so we need to keep a close eye on those areas people may have bookmarked (ha!) or those that Google may have allocated a Page Rank of, say, 6 to. Which wouldn't have belonged to us, in any case.

8. Headspace2 or All In One SEO? I've not seen a definitive 'Spy Vs Spy' on these two brawling brothers since AIO SEO went to the dark side with a premium Pro version for bucks. My money's on Headspace2 at the moment due to the experiences of people close to me. One of the things I love about Atahualpa is it integrates strong SEO options right out the box. No such luck with our dear friend Mimbo Pro.

9. Massive colour revolution. Just waiting for buy-in from Mr and Mrs Spends. But it's my theory that we go with a palette comprising black, greys and greens – tallied with the colour of the company logo, which is kind of a blood red. Blood, mixed with soy sauce. A ninja colour, something I imagine the Triads would get their teeth stuck into. At times, literally.

10. Google News. My numero one crusade for this site on launch is to have it recognised by Google News and added to its list. This is important for any magazine-type site carrying authoritative content produced by in excess of one author. I'll update and document my plight as I progress towards the holy grail. Do you think it's important to be on the Google News roster if you're dispensing sage information that has a newsy element to it?

Well frankly this is all a bit of a poor show compared to the mighty awe meted out by D
ave Doolin on his latest WordPress in a Weekend post. That guy inspires, like a Wrigleys chewing gum satisfies.

Top drawer all the time.

What are you working on for your blog these days? Share all.

Finally, five great WordPress related resources:

10 Ways To Improve Your WordPress Site – WPShout.com is a constant inspiration and touts some of the finest hints of a WordPress persuasion around.
Find Creative Commons images for your blog – the kids at WordCast are simply sublime. Regular podcasts add an extra dimension to this fascinating subject.
30 WordPress Hacks in 30 Days – once you've graduated from Dave's WordPress in a Weekend course, get your spurs with this month-long revolution in WP props.
110+ WordPress video tutorials – says it on the tin. Expand your mind and your hard drive with this compendium of WordPress challenges.
Pro Blog Design – just like the Digging into WordPress site, this is packed with tips applicable to the very latest developments in WordPress. Excellent A+++!!!!

Posted via email from 10 for 10




  1. says

    Hi Dave,

    Ooohhh (to the tune of Mammie) how I wish I’d found your website, two weeks ago!

    (Sorry. Mammie was the first tune that popped into my head).

    Seriously. I’ve been having some headaches that have turned into aversions with WordPress. I installed Thesis theme, and found the dim and murky world of ‘hooks’. And I agree – there is something nerdy and arcane about this descent which reminds me of Dungeons & Dragons.

    I blogged about my experiences, BTW. A few people took offence. A few people offered to help.

    I have a feeling I’m going to be spending a lot of time on your site…

    Thanks so much for the perspiration inspiration in taming WordPress.
    .-= Amanda (Desert Book Chick)´s last blog ..Book Review: Random by Craig Robertson =-.

    • says

      Hey Amanda! Delighted to have a fellow literati alumni among the posse. Welcome.

      I’ve been rebounding from the wall marked Love to the burning fires of Hell/Hate and back when it comes to our never-neutral-emotion-grinding WordPress time-stealer.

      I got off on a great foot. I learned the .com way, without having to roll my own plugins, etc. Then a self-hosted avenue beckoned. I started out, simple and pure, and then…

      I suddenly decided I wanted to dance with the devil. I suggested to a client that I would totally ace their old site with a WP-powered derivative. What joy! Dave – ME! – a website developer.

      What I didn’t really expect – nor want, particularly – was for them to take me seriously.

      It was a character-building decision. I haven’t lost much hair because of it, but I’ve lost a lot of love for the WordPress platform. Maybe WP is simply covered by permafrost and I haven’t had the opportunity to get out my chisel and start looking for where the love was. I think once you turn a hobby, a toy, into something that pays the bills, you always dismiss the juvenile fondness for it.

      Meantime I’m figuring ways I can add genius to this site. This is my playpen, my creative abyss where a lot of time magically vanishes.

      More than anything, I adore the helpfulness of blogging. I don’t think I’d have the stomach for your hooks, Amanda: but then, it’s in making these things accessible that Thesis really shines.

      Would love to catch up for a chat about your experiences sometime. Why don’t you submit your blog to The Workshop? We’d be happy to chew it over and help you turbocharge it, completely free!


  1. […] Dave Thackeray has been having some WordPress Wrangles as he has been working on his new WordPress blog. While everyone goes through the torture chamber of WordPress development, designing or customizing a WordPress Theme, strangling WordPress Plugins to do what you want, and delving into the jungles of WordPress templates, PHP, JavaScript, and MySQL, his descriptions of the pain and suffering are delightful to read – and educational. I’ve been skirting round this issue for some days since I was anticipating a conflict between the new oEmbed rules brought in with WordPress 2.9. […]

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