Changing Times

Digital Raindrops is a website for sharing information about WordPress and theme development, and we hope it will become a well visited and useful website and resource for visitors looking for WordPress tutorials.

After some recent feedback we are changing the way we present our tutorials, we had not really considered enough the different levels of skill our visitors have, and like a lot of websites just presented a lot of information with the assumption the visitors understood what was written.

On analysis our bounce rate (visitors arriving and leaving right away) was not as low as we would have liked, we were about 10-15% above the average, where the average bounce rate according to Google Analytics is 47.46% for a website of this size, although we are still 30% short of average visitors, but our time on site is better than average “go figure”, we think that this was down to the way we presented content, a few large pages, so we are looking again at our content making it more targetted and bite size.

We have just started a series of tutorials on theme development for WordPress 3 this is using child themes and some of the new functions, and to help the reader we are introducing a set of helper images and a clearer writing style, we liked the way the “for dummies” books use helper images to identify areas of text, and we have created a set of our own to use in our posts.

We do welcome feedback from visitors, because we cannot improve the content without knowing what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong, we know that when we are looking for answers ourself they are most often to technical or not related to the question we asked, so the level of detail and information will be key for our tutorials to be of use.

You may have also noticed the login tab at the top of the page, we have BuddyPress intergrated into the website and will be introducing groups where specific questions can be asked and answered, all this will take time but we are keen to build the website into a good resource with your support.

This website has gone through a few changes over the last twelve months from Artisteer to WordPress, but we think we have found our balance, with the returning visitors, time on site and page depth improving daily.     

Thanks for your support.

Twenty Ten Tutorials

After some feedback about the way we structured the tutorials and the content we are creating a set of tutorials for the twenty ten theme over the next six weeks, we will cover many areas of theme modification without editing a single file of the original theme, we will do this with the use of many of the new WordPress functions, the recent changes in ‘WordPress 3′ have changed our thinking on theme development.

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Titles

We often see requests on various forums asking about removing the blog and or page titles, but the advice we have seen for removing the page title often suggests just hacking or deleting code.

If we follow the steps in this tutorial we will be able to hide the title and description in our templates with css additions, and preserving all the original code in our header.php.  

The blog title is very important as it is indexed by search engines, removing the title could damage our search traffic, so we will deal with the blog title and page titles without doing any damage to our theme, search traffic or ranking.

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Smooth Slider

There are a number of different slideshows that can be added to WordPress, many of these require the addition of code to the theme, in this series of tutorials we will be using two or three of the slideshows, we are starting with adding Smooth Slider to our home (index) page.

If we follow this tutorial we will be able to add a slideshow to any theme where WordPress 3 is running, in this tutorial we will be adding the slideshow above the content of our blog entries on just the home page.

We have started with Smooth Slider because it is easy to use and administer, we will use a template part to add the slideshow to the theme, this will mean that the slideshow can be added to other pages in the same way if required.

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The Second Menu

We have all seen the websites with a secondary menu at the top with the more boring page links, what we will do in this part is to create a secondary menu in our twenty ten child theme, lets stop and think about what we want the menu to look like, it would look silly if it had the same style as the main menu so it will need a style of it’s own.

If we follow the steps in this tutorial we will be able to add a second menu bar to a WordPress theme, have looked at theme locations, which is the code that injects the menu into a themes header, and the styling of a new navigation bar. 

We will need to do the following steps, let WordPress know we want a new menu location in the functions.php file, create a new and different style for this menu and add the menu to the header.php

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Getting Started

For this series of tutorials we need to have a local WordPress setup, this will enable easy deployment of the theme files, this series will be added to over a few weeks, rather than one big set of files we are changing to a more gentle step by step approach.

 We hope that by the end of this series we would have learnt how to create child themes, create template pages with different layouts, add a second menu navigation bar, add a slideshows likesmooth slider, work with post images, and create two and three column templates.

We will not be releasing the support files for this series, the idea is that we work together in creating our templates, if you get stuck we will answer your emails, and send a the file you are stuck on.

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New Look

Well we hope you like the new look to the website, we thought it was time for a quick update.

As you can see we have been quite busy adding the plasticity theme features and BuddyPress to the website, you may have noticed the login tab in the top right of the screen, this will allow you to login and use the BuddyPress features, not everything is up and running yet but there is enough for an overveiw.

Artisteer

Many of the members and visitors here are looking for Artisteer specific content, all tutorials will work to version 2.4, however we feel that the 2.5 version of Artisteer is to much of a move away from the WordPress core code and the new structure does not fit well, we hope that Artisteer stop and have another look at what they provide, the product was so good at providing a basis to work from while allowing different skilled users to develop the theme.

The latest Artisteer offering is moving more towards a framework rather than a theme generation tool, if we want to work with a framework there are many better free and commercial offering already out there for us to use.

Twenty Ten Children  

We will be moving forward with the Twenty Ten theme and creating child themes, this will enable the Artisteer users to look at what we are doing and maybe select some elements to add to their Artisteer themes.

So you may be wondering “What is a Twenty Ten Child Theme?”, errm! well you are looking at one, this theme is called Plasticity and is a Twenty Ten child theme, it uses the theme as a foundation inherits it style and assets, we can then change and expand these to our own look and feel.

Plasticity Theme

There is quite a lot of work still to do with this theme as we want it to work well with BuddyPress, and be highly customisable, we are developing a number of template pages, like the selected category home page, left, right and two content columns, slideshow intergration and the social icons in the footer.

A lot of theme elements can already be changed, but we have a lot of tweeking and testing still to do, we have also built in the AddText and AddFunction shortcodes and widgets.

Plasticity Project   

This one will be a big step, we would like feedback before we start, the idea is an opensource plugin that will create and update a child theme based on selections made in the Admin area, a repository where members will be able to upload and download new assets shared by other members to use in thier own themes.

We were looking around the internet for Creative Commons and licence free images, they are out, there like the social icons in the footer on the home page from Aquaticus Social on Deviant Art, we also found several websites for backgrounds and other images, if some website designers use this website as a resource and want to contribute some of thier own backgrounds and menu graphics please get in touch.

To create a really good plugin we would need assets like the website graphics, anyone with php skills, solution architect, project managers, testers etc:, if you have some time and want to get involved the contact us.

Twenty Ten add BuddyPress

We had not really looked at BuddyPress because as theme developers we create themes for WordPress, but recently BuddyPress has become a plugin for WordPress and is supported in the single setup user without the need for Multi-User.

So we started to have a look at installing BuddyPress, the process was to install the BuddyPress plugin which has three steps, one includes editing the .config file so it is not quite plug and play.

After we had configured BuddyPress we went to look for a theme without finding one we really liked, so we thought it could not be to hard to merge BuddyPress into our own theme, or could it?

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