Thinking back on the first knotions site, there were several things I wanted to avoid:
- the graphical headers looked good but they added a lot of production time
- while DNN (the CMS I used) worked ok, it didn’t have the open source support and community – and I missed that
- pattern layouts were more manual than I wanted – there were too many steps to take to get a pattern ready for the web
I also had a laundry list of what I wanted from the new site:
- easy to update
- good theme
- good means well-coded and known for security
- images in a lightbox
- social sharing right from the image view
- good SEO
- links to social media
- better Google Analytics integration
- aka, eat your own dogfood. I don’t have to tell you that better analytics leads to smarter efforts.
I knew where I wanted to start – with WordPress.
I know PHP fairly well and I know WordPress. I didn’t want to waste time figuring out the technology.
Next up was the theme. I considered several and landed on the genesis framework (made by StudioPress) and the Foodie Pro child theme. I know you might be asking yourself “why a food theme for a knitting site?” but it gave me what I was looking for:
- responsive layout with 3 sizes
- category pages with big images
- home page widgets to rotate through featured posts in a variety of sizes
- easy management of the sidebar
- good documentation and support
With a CMS, framework and theme under my belt I started to look at plugins. These are important because I can’t install a plugin that slows down the site or exposes security threats. And it has to be easy to use. I’m still in the “try and see” phase, but here are a few of the stars:
- Yoast – just get this one. I’ve only scratched the surface on this plugin. It has SEO, custom titles, RSS footer, XML sitemaps, social integration and a lot more.
- Gravity Forms and Gravity View – Forms, polls, surveys and present the data back to users. Drag and drop and standard form fields make it easy. I installed the plugin and designed 3 forms and views in (seriously) under an hour.
- OIO Publisher – for the ads. Flexibility to add ads to the sidebar and also shortcodes to add them anywhere else. Schedule ads to publish and come down and decent analytics.
And then I looked at other support services:
- MailChimp – for the newsletter signup and RSS via email. They give good template and list management and “try before you buy” so I could see if it was right for me first.
- WPengine – for hosting. I read a few good reviews but they’ve really gone beyond my expectations. They email you if you don’t upgrade wordpress when a patch comes out and they give you a staging site so you can try things out before applying them to your main site. Great for wordpress upgrades, theme upgrades, plugins and anything else you want to try.
I’ve spent more time on PHP and CSS in the past 2 months than I have in the past year, but it’s been (mostly) fun and I like that it keeps me relevant. (or at least I think it does).
I’ll give you more of the details in future posts