Quick Introduction – I’m Sarah and I will be writing each Sunday on intermediate to advanced WordPress topics including template development, tips and tricks, PHP coding for use in WordPress and plugin development. I’ll be basing my posts on the latest version of WordPress, and also assume an understanding of HTML and CSS, and presume you don’t run at the sight of a little PHP 😉 I’d love to hear what you want to read about on this subject so please let me know in the comments.
Understanding the WordPress Template Hierarchy
At the very least a WordPress theme requires just two files, style.css and index.php. Everything on your site can run off just these two files. However, having just two files would create the same look throughout the site on every page. Whilst you could use some conditional tags in your index file to control what is displayed on different sections of the site, this would create a larger and more complicated file to deal with, especially if you decide to change things in, say, 6 months time. So to keep things easier to read you can work with several files to keep things organised, allowing you to control different aspects of each section easily.
WordPress runs off a Template Hierarchy, which means it will look for a particular file for the current page viewed, in the active theme directory and if it cannot find that file it will then look for the next filename in the hierarchy and so on until it finds a match. Understanding this hierarchy can help with creating your own template and also modifying one of the many free templates available online.
So we have the several sections of a WordPress site including Front Page, Categories, Archives, Single Post and Static Pages. The Front Page is best kept as index.php (home.php could be used however this is no longer necessary since WordPress 2.1). The hierarchy of the other sections are:
- category-ID.php Where ID is the selected category’s ID
- Single post
- Static Page
- Specified Page Template
- Tag Page
- tag-tagname.php Where tagname is the selected Tag’s slug
- Author Page
- Search Results
- 404 Page
This means that if you view a specific category e.g. ‘Design’ with an ID of 3, WordPress will first look in your template directory for the category-3.php file, if it doesn’t find that it then looks for category.php, if that doesn’t exist it will look for archive.php and finally it will use index.php as a template for laying out the page.
If you intend to have two or more of these additional section files eg. index.php and archive.php, then it’s more efficient to separate your general header and footer into their own files, and the sidebar/menu into its own file if it cannot fit into the header or footer, or if it is not going to be on every page (like the way the default theme Kubrick works).
You may wonder why the need for the various files (or maybe not!). This hierarchy gives the option to have a different structure for different sections, for example excerpts of posts displayed on the front page, category and archive pages, the full post on the single page with a comments form, and the full content on a static page, without the comments form and category details (as pages are not put in categories). Alternatively you may want a different structure for your category and archive pages, compared to your front page.
Hopefully this has explained the template hierarchy, giving a basic understanding of how the file system works. Understanding the basic concept of this means we can start to look at developing your own theme from scratch in the forthcoming posts.
Will Artificial Design Intelligence Takeover Web Designing and Development?
The worlds are colliding.
Web designing and development happens in two primary ways:
- DIY (bloggers and small business owners buying readymade themes, web hosting account, and setting up the website after reading a lot of online resources)
- Agencies (dedicated agencies that create websites from scratch, using manual coding and templates, and these are usually high budget)
There is a third way, which in the next couple of years can replace both the above methods to a large extent. Will it? Let’s see.
Artificial Design Intelligence
Artificial Design Intelligence (ADI) is the ‘third’ way wherein companies are creating technology where a website could design and build itself. In 2003, prior to ADI, Adobe unveiled its suite of web designing tools and the industry experts spelled it as a doomsday for designers.
Will this ADI technology completely eradicate the need for website designers and developers? Certainly not, says David Kosmayer from Bookmark. Bookmark is a website builder that uses ADI to cater to each user’s specific and unique needs. Kosmayer opines that ADI technology will become a productivity tool for innovative developers and designers where the technology will improve and escalate the efforts of the team involved in automating the website development process. He is anticipating a website building ADI revolution with Bookmark, thriving to be at the forefront of this inevitable movement.
David gave me an insider peek into the ADI technology they are developing, scheduled to release in the next couple of weeks. Here it is:
The ADI technology improves possibilities.
I create my own websites and blogs. Now, if I have access to technology that Bookmark is designing, it will simplify my work. It’s unassumingly perfect for eCommerce stores. The ADI asks what kind of store does the user want – from a Bistro to a Laundromat, the user has tons of varieties. Once the basic is uploaded, you can add Focus Groups and Modules, and make the site live.
This ADI technology is akin to a personal assistant that understands my business needs and creates a customized ‘product’ to use.
After Bookmark, companies like Wix and TheGrid have ventured into the AI technology space too.
AI for website development and designing is an uncharted area. Chris Lema has a brilliant article title, Has Website AI Arrived?
The world of content marketing should rejoice. AI technology will strategically and dynamically depend on content to design the layout of the site. Here, content could be anything – article length, article quantity, images, videos and more.
Artificial design intelligence is still in nascent stages.
Who could use ADI technology? Bloggers, digital marketers, affiliate marketers, consultants, and other small business owners will find AI entertaining and useful. This group of professionals is usually a one-man army with a small remote team. It cuts down cost on resources as users will probably use the ADI service on a monthly subscription basis. As such, businesses can focus on branding and generating revenue.
The stress of creating dynamic websites, learning technology, and implementing them is removed entirely.
Personally, I agree with Lema that AI technology for website development and designing is yet to mature. With the coming of chatbots and other AI software, give this a year or two before the artificial design intelligence technology for websites booms.
How to Stop Comment Spam in 60 seconds with CleanTalk
Blog comments can be one of the most valuable assets to your blog, but they can also be a huge burden at the same time. Even with Akismet installed on my blogs, I still have to manually go through and remove the junk and spam comments many of my sites gets on a daily basis.
When I login to my WordPress dashboard, I will continually junk like this just sitting there and waiting for my approval or deletion. The majority of comment spam happens because they are trying to get a backlink to a site, either through a link within the comment or from the username.
If you have a small WordPress site, you might not be getting overwhelmed with spam comments yet, but it’s simply just a matter of time. The worse part is that it’s pretty much all coming in on an automated basis, which means cleaning up your spam comments manually can waste endless hours of your valuable time.
Comment spam is something all bloggers have to deal with, and while there are ways to minimize worthless and fake comments with plugins like Akismet or using CAPTCHA forms, these methods either don’t work or are just too annoying to setup.
CleanTalk.org felt the same way and they wanted to create a comment spam solution that works for all blog site owners, while also having a solution that actually works.
How CleanTalk WordPress Spam Plugins Works
Like most things in the world, you just want the product or service to work and not have to deal with the complexities of how it’s made. This is how most online marketers and bloggers feel — they just want a solution and not have to deal with coding, programming and working with a dev team to figure it out.
CleanTalk is quite advanced on the backend, but super easy to setup and use from a site owner perspective. Through it’s cloud based platform, CleanTalk actively monitors the visitors on your site and makes sure the comments being made, are from actual visitors (not spam bots).
The process of how CleanTalk works, is as follows:
- A visitor writes a comment or registers.
- CleanTalk plugin sends action parameters into the CleanTalk cloud.
- Service analyzes the parameters.
- If this is a visitor, the comment will be published. If it’s a spam bot, then CleanTalk blocks this comment or registering.
- Parameters are written to the log which can be viewed in the Control Panel service.
Not only does CleanTalk protect your blog comment area, it also covers all forms throughout your site (contact, registrations, etc). When logged into your account through their site, you will also have access to real-time stats on how well it’s protecting your site and showing you what activity is happening where.
How to Install CleanTalk on WordPress
Since CleanTalk is a WordPress plugin, it’s super easy to setup. All you need to do is visit their main site at http://cleantalk.org, create an account and grab your access key on the following page.
After that, all you need to do is head over to your WordPress dashboard, go to the “Plugins” section and search for “CleanTalk”.
Install the plugin and then throw in your access key and you are ready to go!
To make sure the plugin is properly installed and running, go back to your blog and complete a dummy comment, registration or contact message with the email address email@example.com and you should then see the plugin react with the message like the one in the screenshot below.
You can also head back to the main dashboard at CleanTalk.org to monitor your site comment stats and manage how many sites you would like to add the plugin to.
Get Your Free 14 Day Trial of CleanTalk
You can register on the CleanTalk.org site and install the plugin right away. After completing this step, you will have 14 days of free access to their comment spam blocking service. After the 14 days, you will then have the renew your account.
The good news is that the cost of CleanTalk’s comment spam blocking plugin is just $8 per year, and you can save even more by using coupon code “BLOGGINGTIPS“.
Head over to http://cleantalk.org, create your free account and add the plugin to your site. It’s only takes a couple minutes and it will save you a massive amount of time in the long run. Eliminate comment spam from your site forever!
The Importance of Responsive Web Design
Responsive web design is quickly changing how sites are viewed on the internet and on mobile devices. Back when I first started making money online in the mid 90s, everything was so basic and simple with web design… it was pretty much all HTML.
Then in 2007 I started using WordPress to create my first blog and the rest of my sites there after.
However, this was only the beginning. Now with everyone so focused on using mobile and other various devices to browse the internet and with the wide range of desktop sizes for viewing, it’s now more important than ever to make sure you have a site that is capable with all solutions.
I still find it amazing that I can look up sites on my phone or iPad and still come across sites that aren’t mobile optimized or that don’t load correctly. It’s quite a shame and something that really needs to be fixed immediately. Statistics show that 25% of internet users only access the internet via a mobile device. Have you checked how your site loads on a mobile device lately? If not, it might be time for you to invest some resources into your web design and development. By working alongside a respectable design team, they will be able to improve the performance of your site, while making sure it is fully optimized in the process.
Thus bringing us to responsive web design…
Responsive web design refers to a website designed to adapt to whatever device a visitor is using. The same applies for desktop viewing as well. You can make the browser bigger or smaller and the content on the site will continue to adapt to your viewing solution.
Most premium wordpress themes are now responsive as well, as it’s almost become a requirement for site owners now.
When it comes to designing and coding wordpress themes, I’m the last guy that wants to deal with these issues. Fortunately there are designers and teams dedicated to mastering the art of design and wordpress.
For those of you who are wondering how responsive sites are created and the various tech specs involved, be sure to check out the infographic below from verveuk.eu.
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