All posts tagged authorsite

Authorsite reborn as Polymath

If you’re a regular visitor to my site you will no doubt have noticed that things have changed a little today.

What you’re seeing is the evolution of my theme for authors. Formerly known as “Authorsite”, I renamed the theme to “Polymath” to better suit it’s nature. I needed a theme that would cope well with a variety of posts in a variety of formats on a variety of topics.

Today, Polymath:

  1. Is built on _s (underscores),
  2. Adopts a Pinterest style “masonry” layout, powered by Desandro’s Masonry plugin
  3. Has a drop down “mega menu” with built in widget areas
  4. Has three footer widget areas
  5. Has sidebar and banner widget areas built into the masonry grid
  6. Supports post formats, changing the design of the grid elements based on the post type

There’s more work to follow, including some rigorous mobile testing. In the meantime I’d love to get your feedback on the theme before I upload it to WordPress.org.

 

Authorsite V0.3 – Time to start making it configurable

After another few hours of hacking, and I think Authorsite is starting to really take shape. It’s still monochromatic, it still has lots of widget areas, and it is slowly developing a sort of “newsprint” look that I personally really like.

The next challenge will be learning how to use the WordPress Customiser and making sure that all of the options either work or are removed before I start thinking about what options I might want to provide to users myself.

Other changes:

  1. Swapped the main text font – turns out Cutive doesn’t have an ellipsis character. Lora is the new main text font.
  2. Wider, block coloured footer (or “colophon” as WordPress calls it)
  3. More work tidying up the wooCommerce output

All of the typography is now running in rems, which means everything is relative to a base size. This should make it easy later to introduce some media queries and have the font size be a bit cleverer when dealing with different devices (I’m relying on vw at the moment).

The main authorsite.css has had a bit of a tidy up as well, so things are logically structured for anyone who comes along after me.

Authorsite V0.11 – A site looking slightly less like a dog’s breakfast

More changes to Authorsite today as a I chase down the “perfect” super-flexible, minimalist, monochromatic theme for writers and authors on WordPress.

I’ve changed the layout of categories, archives, searches etc. to make the Featured Images smaller and increase the amount of text on the page at any one time. It also makes the Featured Image worth having when you drill down to a specific article, rather than it just being a same-size and same-place repeat of what you’ve already seen. Sidebars and footers are currently decked out in a very fetching shade of Gainsboro, something I would like to make configurable in the final version.

wooCommerce support has been further improved with some more formatting, but there is definitely more work to do in this area. One particular area I am happy with is where I’ve added some CSS to reformat the “List of Products” widgets if they are placed in one of the widget areas that are intended to be used in a landscape orientation rather than portrait. I’m planning to add another three widget areas in a concealed/collapsible menu, something that I’ve not seen on any other free theme so far.

The underscores (AKA _s) base theme continues to be a boon and a nightmare in equal measure. It is a great way to start out with building your own theme, but the default CSS strays into setting font-size, padding, and margins too much for my liking. I want a vanilla theme to be just that – vanilla. I had planned to keep the styles.css of _s untouched and just add my own overrides to my own .css file, but I will need to review the content of that file now to tidy things up.

Authorsite V0.1 / Why does my site look weird?

True to my word, I’ve been working on a new WordPress theme specifically tailored to writers who want a flexible writing workspace with enough features to help them promote and sell their books.

I’m not ready to put the theme up on WordPress.org just yet, but quite a bit of progress has been made including

  1. Fixed top of page menu
  2. At least 9 fully working widget areas
  3. 50-70% complete wooCommerce support
  4. Fully responsive
  5. Monochrome colour scheme

Having not built a theme before some things are taking a little longer than I would like and I’ve yet to look at what is required in the WordPress Customiser to ensure that my design choices are forced on anyone who wants to use my theme.

In the meantime, I’m pretty happy with how the front page is shaping up now. It feels more like a “landing page” and less like a blog, which is what I was going for. The #yearofbrandingdangerously continues…

Building a better WordPress for Writers

WordPress is the de-facto standard for writers who want to set up a website to publicise their work. It’s such an important part of the eco-system for writers that I use it even though I run a business that has its own content management platform!

Despite this, I don’t think WordPress offers a great experience for the average non-technical writer. Whether you are joining the self-publishing revolution or courting publication with a mainstream publisher, the “gurus” will all say the same thing to you.

Platform, platform, platform…

Listening to a talk recently, I heard an agent explain that the first thing they now did when reviewing a manuscript was to Google the Author. They wanted to see what their website was like and whether or not they were active on social media.

The bottom line was that an author that was already proactively marketing themselves and who had a provable, measurable audience was a much easier sell to the publishers than an author who was a total unknown.

It’s a daunting realisation, but I doubt that this agent was alone in taking this approach.

The bottom line? Having a website isn’t enough, you have to have  GOOD website.

Finding the Perfect WordPress Theme

As part of my #yearofbrandingdangerously I’d made a conscious decision to use WordPress not only because it’s a pretty good platform but also because I wanted to be able to share anything that I learnt with other authors. I’m maybe shooting myself in the foot but a series of articles about how I carved out my online brand using a piece of software over which I had total control and could have bespoked to my every need and whim seemed somehow less compelling than sharing tips and advice on how you can replicate my (hopeful) success with tools that are readily and freely available.

So, WordPress. Rightly or wrongly the first thing that I did was go looking for a theme.

As a writer I wanted something minimal. As a digital marketer I wanted something that I could control and ensure that I had clear calls to action for visitors.

Herein, I was suprised to find, was the rub.

Is there such a thing as a Minimal and Highly Configurable Theme for WordPress?

Eschewing commercial themes (everything has to replicable using free software) I spent the best part of three days looking for a theme for my website. I tried magazine themes. I tried minimal themes. I tried business themes. I tried themes that were specifically for writers, authors, novelists, and one that had zombies and blood splatter on it…

#disappointment

Nothing was a fit. There just didn’t seem to be a WordPress theme that had

  1. A minimal, typography first design
  2. Plenty of widget areas for me to configure
  3. Support for post-formats
  4. A decent mobile menu and mobile render
  5. Have all features available without subscription or payment

There are lots of themes that hit some of these. An honourable mention should go to Writee that, except for a broken mobile menu implementation was very close to being my new theme.

A word on WordPress Themes and “The old Bait and Switch”

There was a disappointing number of themes that probably could have given me everything I want, but kept their best features hidden behind “premium” subscriptions. I don’t have a problem with commercial software, even when its built on an Open Source platform, but the “bait and switch” approach that many vendors take is very irritating.

Bait and Switch: Offering a product that appears premium but that comes with hidden limitations that incur hidden costs to remove or avoid

“Freemium” software, to my mind, needs to offer all of its functionality at all levels and be limited by scale. There are too many “crippleware” themes at the moment and I dread to think of how much time I spent installing and testing themes only to discover that the demo and the reality are very far apart.

If you want a job done right…

So, enough moaning… right? After all, here you are on my WordPress site and hopefully its working well and looking pretty good. It’s minimal, but functional and very configurable – because I made it that way.

My deep-delve into the world of WordPress themes revealed a burgeoning new type of “starter” theme, lead by the _s “Underscores” theme from Automattic themselves, that allow you to kick start the creation of a theme with a minimal skeleton. It’s not an approach for everyone – you need to understand PHP, HTML, CSS, JQuery, and a bunch of other stuff. Lucky for me I do – but not every author does. In fact, I expect it’s going to be a very small number of you.

So, right now, I’m building my own theme and, when it’s done, I’ll be sharing it on WordPress.org.

I’m aiming to create the perfect theme for any writer –

  1. Minimal, typography focussed
  2. Plenty of widget areas so you can use plenty of widgets
  3. Support for post-formats
  4. A decent mobile menu and mobile render
  5. Have all features available without subscription or payment

You’re looking at this theme right now but, as I write this, I’ve yet to release the code on WordPress.org. I’ve a little way to go and a few more things to do before that happens but (hopefully) it won’t be long.

For my fellow Nerds

The current incarnation of these theme is a child theme of _tk. _tk itself is a fork of _s with Bootstrap added in. I like Bootstrap a lot and so this has been a very shallow learning curve for me. I will probably eventually fork _s myself as it has a very clean codebase and this would give me some deeper control.

If you want a job done right for you…

What would make the perfect WordPress theme for you as a writer? Do you agree with my list?