Yesterday I was fortunate to mentor in the Ladies Learning Code Wordpress class which was lead for the second time by Wes Bos. 75 women, and a few men, spent the day with Wes and the mentors to learn how to build an awesome website using WordPress.
I thought I’d offer some advice to attendees on what to do next.
The class brought your theme 80% of the way, but there’s still work to do to make it production ready. Make sure the content of your home page is laid out how you want it, and you’ll probably want to revisit the background colour/image. Check out BgPatterns for more subdued background options.
Picking complimentary colours is a bit of an art, so if you’re like me and artistically useless, you’ll appreciate kuler, a palette picker recommended by LLC mentor Anne Thomas. Read her tweets for other great design tips.
To really make your theme your own, you’ll need to dig a little deeper into HTML/CSS. Take a look at these videos from Google to bring yourself up to speed. Or keep an eye on the Ladies Learning Code site for future classes. Wink.
If you like having your Twitter feed in your site, make sure it’s now working. Same goes for the Flickr widget.
I don’t care what Wes says, tag clouds are rad. Use them.
You’ll also want to know how many people are visiting your Matt Barnes fan site (Yes, someone was developing this. He was their background and everything.) Tools like Google Analytics give you great detail into how much traffic your site is getting, where they come from, and what they’re looking at.
If you find you’re running into trouble while developing, consider turning on debugging. However, do not leave this turned on in a production site!!!(!). This could lead to massive security problems, should the wrong information be shown to malicious users.
Getting the Tools
At the end of the day, after the attendees left, the mentors had a rousing discussion about text editors. I’m not kidding. Developers spend a lot of time learning their tools, and develop loyalty to certain products. While a mentor was helping you, you may have noticed they insisted on installing a certain editor, or viewing your site in a specific browser. You’ll quickly become the same way. The good news is, there’s plenty of software available to you, absolutely free.
On the browser side, Google Chrome and Firefox currently rule the roost when it comes to developer preferred browsers. Chrome comes with excellent developer tools built in , but if you choose Firefox, you’ll also want to install a plugin called Firebug. Take a minute to familiarize yourself with the developer tools in your browser. Start by right clicking and selecting Inspect Element.
Ask a developer which text editors they use and you may accidentally start a holy war. If you’re on Windows, Notepad++ is a great choice. Mac users can take the lead of Mr. Bos (can we please start calling him that) and use Sublime Text (free for evaluation) or Komodo Edit, which is also an option on Windows. Good text editors will have syntax highlighting (colour coding your PHP files) and some even auto-complete as you type. If you need advanced features, you might want to start looking at an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) like Eclipse for PHP, but it’s best to learn with simpler tools.
These are just suggestions, and a starting point for your research. Feel free to mention any other tools I’ve missed in the comments.
Web hosting has become a comodity in recent years. Essentially what you want to look for is PHP support to install WordPress, and unlimited bandwidth and storage, in case your site gets really popular all of a sudden. Some hosts offer free domain registration, which is nice. Most plans shouldn’t cost more than $8 a month.
While on the subject of domain registration I’d like to give a little extra guidance. I absolutely advocate everyone claiming their piece of the internet by registering YourName.com. But when searching for registrars, look for those that offer free who.is privacy. Otherwise, people will be able to look up some of your personal information based on the URL you’ve registered.
I use Arvix for my hosting. I’ve been happy with them.
You need something for people to read when they get to your site! Get those pages in top shape, and start blogging like the digital citizen you are. Stuck for topics? Why not write about Ladies Learning Code.
On a Personal Note
Finally I’d like to say thank you to the organizers and the students. The Ladies Learning Code team did a fantastic job. Registration was orderly, the network was solid, and lunch was excellent. All I had to do was show up and geek out for a few hour. It’s pretty clear why these events sell out in minutes.
As a technologist I often find I’m teaching tech. But my audience is never anywhere near as receptive as they were yesterday. Everybody showed up ready to learn and was extremely pleasant to work with. Having students like I did definitely makes me want to volunteer again.