S02E08: Working with wordpress | Boagworld - Web & Digital Advice

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S02E08: Working with wordpress

This is a transcript of episode 8, season 2 of the boagworld podcast: Working with Wordpress

Paul Boag:  Hello and welcome to Boagworld.com, the podcast for those involved in designing, developing, and running websites on a daily basis.  Joining me today, me being Paul Boag, I forgot to say that bit!

Marcus Lillington:  Everyone knows Paul.

Paul:  See, if you try and change stuff it instantly goes wrong.

Marcus:  I get confused.

Paul:  Is, as you can hear, Marcus Lillington, but also Leigh is back with us, Leigh Howells.

Leigh:  Hello, yes I’m trooping in again 165 miles especially just to be with you.

Paul:  We are recording two shows back to back in order to get ahead of ourselves for transcription purposes.

Marcus:  Yes that’s incredibly boring.

Paul:  No, no, we’ve got a really interesting conversation to kick off with, which is : finally you’ve justified your golf

Marcus: membership.

Paul:  Yes.

Marcus:  Well it wasn’t actually even playing at my home club.

Paul:  After last time’s over the top sales pitch in the middle of the podcast, you’ve now turned into a stereotypical sales person who plays golf with sales leads.  Yeah, right!

Marcus:  I’ve got a suit and tie on today.  Yeah right, yes.

Paul:  So, you can justify this behavior.  So are you going to charge your golf membership back to Headscape?

Marcus:  No. That would be cool! [laughter]   What a fantastic idea, Paul!

Paul:  So yes, you couldn’t be more stereotypical if you tried.  Are you driving an Audi?

Paul:  Oh, you do drive an Audi!

Marcus:  No, I don’t.

Leigh:  No, he doesn’t.

Paul:  No, what do you drive?

Leigh:  A broken Mercedes.

Paul:  Oh, a Mercedes!  Which is equally sales-y, is it not?

Marcus:  It’s not broken anymore, really and I don’t want to talk about that. I may cry at any moment.

Paul:  Do you have a jacket that you hang up from the hook on the back of the car?  You must, I bet you’ve done that.

Leigh:  You must have.

Marcus:  I don’t have a jacket.  I’m not a jacket wearer.

Leigh:  Was it previously owned by a salesperson?

Marcus:  I have no idea.

Paul:  Do you smoke cigars?

Marcus:  I don’t smoke cigars.

Paul:  Do you drink brandy?

Marcus:  Yes.

Leigh:  Yes.

Marcus:  Brandy, yum!

Leigh:  Yes? It’s really funny.

Paul: He is he’s stereotypical salesman, its really funny.

Marcus: Whats wrong with drinking Brandy?

Paul: How can a popstar turn into a salesman?!

Paul:  It’s very sort of rock and roll.

Leigh:  It’s hard liquor, man.

Paul:  I’ve just realized something.  How the hell is a transcriber going to transcribe this?  We talk over the top of one another.

Marcus:  Well, hey.  It’s their problem.

Leigh:  I guess we should put up a little flag when we want to speak and take it in turns.

Paul:  We could do, yeah.  So, let’s say hello.  Hello, transcriber listening to this.

Marcus:  Hello.

Paul:  Let us know what your name is.

Leigh:  Hi transcriber, you’re really lovely.  I want to talk really quickly so you have to transcribe this really quickly and hard to make any sense.

Marcus:  That was mean and that didn’t make any sense Leigh, no.  That must be the hardest bit, because we probably all sound quite similar.

Paul:  Well, that’s the problem.  She did tell me… When I contacted these people, which were the ones, by the way, that Derrick recommended.  Really good.  I can see why he recommended them.  Very, very responsive.  Very, very helpful.  But she did say she might have to charge more if we all sound the same.

Marcus:  So, if put the –er on my Rs.

Leigh:  I’ll have a squeaky voice.  Make it easier.

Marcus:  Anyway, this really is pointless.  We’re awful.

Paul:  So, what are we talking about today?  We are talking about WordPress.  Basically, we’re going through the process as you will have gathered, dear listener, of the redesign of Boagworld there’s a kind of case study, I guess for the web design process and how it works, and all the rest.  And we’ve covered loads of stuff, from setting up business objectives to design.  We’ve talked about responsive design and making our site responsive last time.

This time we’re talking about practicalities of actually building a website.  Will you stop eating food in the middle of the podcast?

Marcus:  Aww, I love those.

Leigh:  What is it?

Marcus:  You dissed my cereal bar.

Leigh:  I didn’t diss it.

Marcus:  Yes, you did.

Leigh:  When did I diss it?

Marcus:  So let’s split this three ways

Leigh:  No, I don’t want it.  Because I am a professional.  I’m not going to talk with my mouth full.

Marcus:  I’ve got the bigger half. That will annoy some people.

Marcus:  That’s only fair.  Thank you.  It is mine. Mmm, Dorset Cereal.

Paul:  We’re now taking a cereal break in the middle of the show.              Yeah, how is she supposed to transcribe that?  Biscuit eating.  Now we’re really self conscious because of this transcriber.

Marcus:  Yes, that wasn’t a good idea, was it?

Paul:  Right, move on.  So, we’ve kind of reached the build stage of things and this time we’re going to be looking at WordPress and content management systems, that kind of stuff.  And the next time, we’re going to be looking at HTML and CSS and all that kind of good stuff, and talk about some of the techniques I wish I’d used but didn’t.

So, WordPress.  WordPress has come a long way since its humble beginnings as a blogging tool and now it’s basically a fully fledged content management system.  But, was it the right choice for Boagworld?  Is it still the right choice for Boagworld?

As soon as I started talking about the redesign of Boagworld everybody asked me what content management system I was intending to use and to be honest, it wasn’t really a subject I’d given a huge amount of thought to.  I’d used WordPress for years and didn’t really see any value of changing.  Nevertheless, I then thought I should ask and it should be something we talked about on the show.

And boy did I open a can of worms, as is my world.  Every web designer and developer in the entire world seemed to have a strong opinion about which content management system is best, and rarely did they ever agree.  It quickly became clear that content management systems are one of the points of contention that everybody argues about and bickers about.  And I think, probably, it’s because we’re all invested in our content management systems.  It’s taken us time to learn them and it’s been a lot of work to learn it and we’ve imported large amounts of content into it, and changing it would be a steep learning curve and a hassle to move all that content across from all the rest of it.

Not that I’m any different.  I’m quite happy to say that although people suggested Drupal to me and ExpressionEngine and various other solutions, I couldn’t really face switching from WordPress.  What I would gain from switching CMS just didn’t seem worth it because the return on investment didn’t seem worth it.  That said, I did have some concerns about WordPress.

Marcus:  Yeah, what does WordPress not do that say, Drupal would?

Paul:  I don’t know.

Marcus:  Or is it just the way it does or doesn’t do it?

Paul:  Yeah.  I mean, most content management systems seem to do pretty much the same thing

Marcus:  Because I quite like WordPress, as a CMS user.  And using ExpressionEngine, I didn’t like it that much.  But it’s quite hard to pin down why.

Paul:  Yeah.  I mean I think the admin user interface with WordPress is really quite nice now, and I think it was Happy Cog that did some brilliant work on that.

Marcus:  Yeah, they designed that.

Leigh:  They’re still oriented around the blog format, isn’t it?  So posts are the first thing.

Paul:  Yeah, it’s a bit of a hassle to create.

Leigh:   Yeah, you’re not really thinking in the way that you think with other CMS’s about sections.

Paul:  No.

Marcus:  That was my problem with ExpressionEngine, the same thing.  It’s not sitemap based.  It’s not pay structure based.

Paul:  It amazes me how few content management systems have a hierarchical tree structure.

Marcus:  You have to ask yourself why that is, and is it because it’s not the way people work?  We like that because it’s a very visual kind of – you can see the site in its entirety, but.

Paul:  I think it’s the way normal people work.  I just don’t think it’s the way developers work.  Not that I’m implying developers are not normal people.

Marcus:  Well, ExpressionEngline just lists every single page.

Leigh:  And then you put a sort in.

Marcus:  Whereas if you can just think, “I need to change or add a new page to this section of the site,” going to that section of the site and hitting “add a new page” makes a lot of sense to me.

Paul:  I mean, the ones I like best really are the ones where you actually navigate around the site and say edit this page.

Marcus:  I couldn’t agree more.

Paul:  I mean, it’s like Drew and Rachel from edgeofmyseat, their perch thing.    I mean, I know it’s only a very light weight content management system, but it’s really good from that point of view.  I love it.

Marcus:  Yeah, there are a few.  It tends to be the bigger, the more enterprise for want of a better word, CMS’s that do that.

Paul:  Yeah.  I  mean, perch is opposite of doing that.

Marcus:  Do it in a way that gives you the same functionality.

Paul:  We prefer our own CMS.  I’m not going to pimp it, but it’s not a kind of “off the shelf” CMS.

Marcus:  That you have to go in and kind of change things.

Paul:  But at least there’s a site map there, which you can never get around.

Paul:  Anyway, that’s irrelevant.

Marcus:  Yeah, we’ve gone off a bit on a tangent here, haven’t we?

Leigh:  That’s so weird!

Paul:  I know!  How come we do that?  Yes, WordPress.  I have some concerns, right?  So yes, I’ve been using WordPress for years.  Yes, but as soon as other people starting saying, like, “PFshhhhh”, like the builders when they come out to look at your house, “That’s not a straightforward job you’ve got there, PFshhhhh.”  Can you tell I’m going through this pain at the moment?  We found out we’ve got asbestos in the back of our house.

Marcus: Oh, just burn it. You can’t burn it, can you?

Paul:  No.

Leigh:  Just saw it up into lots of pieces.  Let’s go put it into bin bags.

Paul:  Oh joy.  Yes, good advice from my colleagues.  As soon as people started going FSschhhh, like that, you immediately end up having all these doubts going, “Oh, am I right, going down the WordPress  route?  Is this really the way to go?”  So, I wrote down a load of questions, including things like many people have been suggesting now.  Performance issues, and I’ve experienced some performance issues in the past.  I was worried about, “Is that going to reoccur?”

Then there was Ryan.  Ryan Taylor, who used to work at Headscape and had done a load of work with custom post types and task taxonomies which, to be honest, I didn’t know very much about. Yeah, you’re pulling faces too!

Paul:  I didn’t really know a huge amount out there.  I do now, but I didn’t at the time.  They appeared really powerful, but they’d also created some issues for me and I didn’t really know whether that was really the best approach to go forward with.  Not that I didn’t trust Ryan.  Obviously Ryan’s a wonderful person.

Leigh:  But he was kind of editing files and adding lots of code and setup files which looked like magical mystery, kind of.

Paul:  Yeah.  It’s actually not anywhere near as bad as it first looked, but I know what you mean.  Then there was all the legacy content that concerned me.  Boagworld has been going up since 2005 and I’ve accumulated lots of posts.  All of which were coded in slightly different ways, as you do over the years, and I wanted to standardize these over time without having that be a huge amount of effort, so how was I going to do that?

Then there was best practice regarding plug-ins.  Ryan used to tease me and call me the plug-in king because if in doubt, I’d throw a plug-in to it.  He thought I used an excessive number of plug-ins, and I was worried about that and am I doing that wrong, and is it going to be hard to configure or cause me problems later down the line, or whatever.

And then finally I had concerns about the future of the site itself and the current Boagworld site wasn’t coded particularly well, and I’d built upon that over a period of time as had a number of other people, and I wanted the new version to stand the test of time and make sure I didn’t break if WordPress was updated or whatever else.  In short, I needed to talk to somebody about it.

Now fortunately, I’d met a guy called Ian Stewart who’s one of the people responsible for WordPress.com, the Future of Web Design.  So I decided to give him a call and so this is the interview that I had with Ian, who is a great guy and he provided me with some really useful help.

Ian Stewart:  Paul, hello.

Paul Boag:  Hello, Ian.  How are you?

Ian:  Awesome, how are you?

Paul:  Very good, very good.  Thank you for letting me pick your brains.  It is much appreciated.

Ian:  It’s not a problem.  My pleasure.

Paul:  So the kids got off to school alright?

Ian:  Yes, mostly alright.  Probably late.

Paul:  Yeah, they often end up late.  So, I heard your talk at Future of Web Design, which was so timely because I had in the back of my head that I was going to be redesigning the Boagworld website, and Boagworld is built on WordPress.  So, I thought, “I’ll give this guy a ring, and I’ll pretend that I’m interviewing him, but actually what I’m doing is just mining his brain for useful information.”  So I hope that’s alright.

Ian:  No, that’s perfect.

Paul:  Excellent.  Ok, so it was a brilliant talk and incredibly helpful from what I heard of it, but I do have some specific questions, which are kind of partly related to Boagworld, and then some general, kind of WordPress-y stuff that’s relevant, as well.

Ian:  Sure.

Paul:  One of the things that I wanted to kick off with is you mentioned something called the Toolbox theme.

Ian:  Yes.

Paul:  Can you just kind of go over that again, just so that I can get my head around that and work out whether I think it’s probably going to be a good starting point for Boagworld, but I wanted to make sure what it was and how it worked.

Ian:  Okay.  Alright, so Toolbox started out as a project for us at WordPress.com.  So, I work for Automatic, and we run WordPress.com, and I look after all the themes there.  So, we’re launching a lot of themes, somewhere around like 50 – 60 a year, is the goal.

Paul:  Wow.

Ian:  Yeah, and so we have a vested interest in making sure that they’re bug free, and that they’re well coded.  So, what we did is make a theme that we can use to start out making themes.

Paul:  Oh, okay.

Ian:  Right?  So, it serves two purposes.  Like a tool box that you would reach in and pull out a tool, we’ll copy/paste stuff out of there, into maybe an older theme because we know that this code snippet in there works correctly.  And the other thing we do is just start making new themes with it.

Paul:  Oh, okay.

Ian:  Yeah.  Sort of fork it.  The open source term is fork it.

Paul:  Yes.

Ian:  And turn it into something else.  And so that’s what we’ve been doing.

Paul:  So that would be very appropriate then, as a starting point for me to begin development with Boagworld.

Ian:  Yeah, and one thing that we try to do with it that’s really cool is, it’s all semantic HTML5.

Paul:  Oh, is it?  Oh, good.

Ian:  Yeah.  So, that’s super fun.  It was a fun project to do, and so all of the new themes that we launch on WordPress.com are all semantic HTML5.  Yeah, so every post is an article.  Your comments are lists of articles.  There’s nav elements in there, widgets are asides, and so forth.

Paul:  Oh, brilliant.  That kind of saves a lot of work then, for me starting out, and speeds things up a lot.  Brilliant.  That’s what I like to hear and I’m sure that will help other people as well, but I don’t really care about that, I just want to make my life easier. (Laughs.)

Ian:  Yeah.

Paul:  Okay, the other thing I wanted to ask you about was custom post types, which you kind of touched on, but you didn’t go into that much detail, really.  The existing Boagworld site, when I built it, custom post types didn’t exist.

Ian:  Correct.

Paul:  And then I know of Ryan Taylor, who worked at Headscape.  He made some updates to the site and introduced custom post types, and now he has gone off into the world of freelancing.  And I’m left with a site that uses custom post types and it’s like, “Crap.”  I mean, I could ring up Ryan, but I don’t want to admit weakness that I don’t know what I’m doing.  So, I thought I’ll ask you.  Tell me a bit about custom post types.  How do they work?  How do you go about using them?  When is a good time to use them, and that kind of thing.

Ian:  Okay.  So, the best way to think of custom post types is, you know what a blog is, right?  Like, WordPress and its posts, right?

Paul:  Yeah, yeah, I worked that out.

Ian:  And, but there’s also pages, right?

Paul:  Okay, yeah.

Ian:  So, if you cracked open WordPress itself and dug deep into the code, you would discover that there is no difference, really, between posts and pages.  Except one is a custom post type, and that’s what a page is.  So, when I think of a custom post type, I think of any sort of content for your WordPress site, your blog, which is out of that post order.  So, the posts are in reverse chronological order and it shows up in your feed, but the pages don’t.

Paul:  Yeah.

Ian:  So, if you ever need content that’s outside of your regular posts, and isn’t really a page, and it’s not a post either, a custom post type is probably the solution.

Paul:  So the way that we seem to be using them is as seasons and episodes.

Ian:  Oh, okay.

Paul:  There seems to be some kind of hierarchy that he’s created between the episode set within the season.  So, instead of having those just as normal posts, because obviously our bloggers are on the site a lot as well, he separated those out.  So, is that the kind of thing?

Ian:  Yeah, that’s a really cool use of custom post types, because you don’t want it to be part of your blog, and you don’t want it to be really flat, like a page.  You want it to have some sort of continuity between seasons, so you can navigate back and forth between those, and that’s a perfect example of why you would want to use custom post types on your blog.

Paul:  So how do you go about creating the relationship between custom post types?  I mean, he seems to have got some kind of hierarchy going on between seasons and episodes, and I’m quite interested about how that works.

Ian:  Okay, so what you can do; to make a custom post type there are functions in WordPress that let you just add them with a simple plug-in or with a theme, but you can also add your own taxonomy to them for organizing them.  So a taxonomy is like a category or a tag your taxonomies .  You can make your own just for organizing them.  So you can tag them in certain ways, and not pollute your regular tags.  So if you have a tag cloud on your blog, you might not want to see your posts or your season tags mixed up there.  You create your own, just for that custom post type.

Paul:  Ah, okay.  Can you recommend any resources for kind of digging into that?  Because obviously I’m going to have to get my head around this.  Where is the best place to start?

Ian:  Yes.  The best place to start, just to generally read about it, is the WordPress Codex.

Paul:  Right, yeah.

Ian:  If you go to codex.wordpress.org.  But, going back to my FOWD talk, I made a theme that uses custom post types, and custom taxonomies as well, and I tried to make it really dead simple.  So, on ThemeShaper.com the featured post right now is powering your design with WordPress.  Themeshaper.com is our blog for WordPress.com themes, the theme team that I’m a part of there.

Paul:  Oh, okay.

Ian:  It’s a blog about stuff we’re working on, and I turned my Future of Web Design talk into a post there, and if you grab the theme from that post and take a look at the functions file, there are some dead simple examples of how to implement custom post types that are not too complicated.  They’re easy to get your head around.  As well as in the post too, I explain what’s going on there.

Paul:  So Theme Shipper.

Ian:  Theme Shaper.

Paul:  Shaper.

Ian:  As in, “Shaping Themes.”

Paul:  You strange Americans with their weird accents.

Ian:  Strange Canadians.

Paul:  Oh, sorry, oops!

Ian:  Yes.

Paul:  I knew that!  That’s the ultimate sin!  We talked about that, didn’t we?  When I was at FOWD I said that the first time I was introduced to Daniel Burka I presumed he was American.  It’s the ultimate sin, isn’t it?  It’s like calling British people European.

Ian:  Yes.  We both get the saying, “God save the queen.”

Paul:  Exactly.  Certainly, I feel more of a kinship with you.  All because of that.  Okay, that’s brilliant.  I’ll check that out.  That’s really good.

So, the other problem that I have, which is a silly little problem, is one with legacy content, right?    So, what I mean by that is that I’ve got, like, hundreds and hundreds of blog posts, I think 800 plus, that I’ve been writing since 2005.  And there are all kinds of things in there that maybe I want to strip out because I don’t use it anymore, like a break out box for example.  Or, I might want to change all of my H3 headings into H2 headings in order to kind of fit in with HTML5 or whatever.  Is there a kind of mechanism to do that?  My instant reaction when it’s anything to do with WordPress is, “Oh, I bet there’s a plug-in for that.”  But I sometimes wonder whether that’s really the best way of doing that, if you want to makes those kinds of universal changes across the site.

Ian:  Right.  Well, you couldn’t make a plug-in that sort of, while it was running, had those changes happening.  That wouldn’t be the best way, right?  Because you’d always have to be depending on that plug-in.  The best thing to do is to change the content.  There’s a really great plug-in.  It’s something like WordPress search and replace that will search through your posts and let you change, say, all of your H2 tags to H3, or what have you.  Or if you know you have specific HTML in there, like a div with a class to make a break up box, you can just go in and search and replace, and change all those class names, or change that to an aside element if you want.  That sort of thing.

Paul:  Okay.  Yeah, that’s exactly what I need.  That’s wonderful.  I thought it would be something simple.  But, I always have mixed feelings about the plug-ins.  I’m a little bit afraid of them.  Because, you never know entirely where they’ve come from, or who’s coded them, whether they’re safe.  You never know whether they’re going to have a performance impact on your server.  I don’t know how far you go with plug-ins.  Whether you need to be careful about them or not.  Have you got any advice from that point of view?

Ian:  Yeah.  What I would do is, I would rely on what WordPress.org is providing for plug-in information.  So if you go to WordPress.org and look at a plug-in there, you can see a rating.  You can see, if you scroll down to the bottom of any plug-in page, you can see what people are saying on the WordPress support forums.  And you can get kind of a sense of what the plug-in developer is like.  You know, if it’s a one off plug-in and the developer never answers or supports requests, that would be a bad plug-in.

Paul:  Right.

Ian:  But if you check out the author and you can see a profile of the author and see if they’re contributing to WordPress, if they’re doing a lot of stuff, if they’re answering support requests, that would be a plug-in I would use.

Paul:  Yeah.  So, I mean, I just happen to be looking at that search and replace one that you mentioned a minute ago.

Ian:  Yes.

Paul:  And it’s rated four and a half and does have 98 ratings for it.  I’ve gone through to the author and there’s a stack load of plug-ins that he’s done.  He uploaded something as recently as June 19th, which I think is a couple of days ago from when we’re recording this.

Ian:  Yes.

Paul:  And so yeah, I see what you mean.  Yeah, I guess a lot of the time, what I’ve done is I’ve installed plug-ins directly at the WordPress interface, where you don’t get quite this level of detail that you get from looking at WordPress.org.

Ian:  Yeah.

Paul:  So yeah, it’s also got a compatibility area I noticed, as well, which has got a lot of detail on, so.

Ian:  So, if it’s a plug-in you’re going to depend on, especially for a production site, just do a couple minutes of research and just check it out.

Paul:  Should you kind of be limiting the number of plug-ins you use?  I mean, you can easily go ten, 20 plug-ins, you know?

Ian:  Yes, I’ve heard of someone with 500 plug-ins and I would say that might be too much.  Maybe 400 and less.

Paul:  Okay, 400 and less.

Ian:  No, I think the average is anywhere from no plug-ins, or maybe just a kismets, to maybe 30 plug-ins.  And I think 30 is pushing it.

Paul:  Okay.  So, in the teens you’ll be okay, kind of thing.

Ian:  Yes.

Paul:  Presuming they’re good plug-ins.

Ian:  Yeah.  Yep.

Paul:  Okay, that’s interesting.  Because I mean, that kind of comes on to performance issues and stuff like that.

Ian:  Right, yeah.

Paul:  Now, when I dropped you an e-mail earlier you said performance isn’t necessarily your strongest area, but is there any general advice?  Because I mean, you do hear whispers, don’t you, about WordPress?  You know, it’s got performance problems.

It’s one of these things, isn’t it?  When it comes to things like content management systems, everybody’s got an opinion.  Everybody’s got their preferred thing and I was talking to somebody else who said, “Oh, you shouldn’t be building it in WordPress, you should be building it in ExpressionEngine.”  And I’m going, “I’m sure that’s great, but I’ve got all this legacy content in WordPress, and is it really worth the hassle, and blah, blah, blah.”

So, I just thought I’d ask you about performance with WordPress.  Is there an issue there?

Ian:  I don’t think there is.

Paul:  Says the man who works for WordPress.com.

Ian:  Yes, that’s right.  I’ve heard the evil whisper campaign of which you speak, but no.  I haven’t heard of any serious performance issues.  I mean, WordPress.com itself is one WordPress installation.

Paul:  Really?

Ian:  Yeah, with over 20 million blogs on it.

Paul:  No way!

Ian:  Yeah.  So, you can certainly scale it up.  It’s the best case example of scaling up WordPress.  Taking one installation up to 20 million plus sites on it.

Paul:  That’s just insane.

Ian:  It is insane.  But, for Boagworld, I’d probably recommend a caching plug-in.  Like WP Super Cache, which turns all of your pages into static HTML.

Paul:  That’s what we’ve been doing currently, and I haven’t really had any problems with that.

Ian:  Yeah.

Paul:  So, it’s always worth asking.

Ian:  It can certainly scale up to very high levels.

Paul:  So, one last thing I wanted to ask about.  You really have dealt with everything.  It’s really good, I’m excited to get going and digging into this.  But the last area I was thinking about was kind of future proofing the site a little bit and thinking ahead.

Because I mean, the danger is, is there anything you need to be aware of when designing your theme or when you’re selecting what plug-ins you use as to WordPress suddenly makes some upgrade or does something, and it’s going to break something?  That’s a little bit of my fear.  Because I know, for example, is it 3.2’s coming out soon?

Ian:  Yes.

Paul:  And that looks like, as every major release of WordPress is, it’s going to make some changes.  Do I need to worry about that?  That kind of thing.

Ian:  Yep, well there isn’t anything in WordPress that should break your site.  That would be very unlikely.  It’s been years, I think when tags were first introduced was the first time I really had to change something.

Paul:  Right.

Ian:  Back like five years ago.  For future proofing, the only thing I would recommend would be not relying on plug-ins that add stuff to your content.

Paul:  Right.

Ian:  So, like if you’re using a plug-in that had a short code.  What’s that, sort of like a bulletin board sort of code, and you started using that in a lot of your posts, and then you stopped using that plug-in, you would have all these weird codes in your content.  That would be the only thing for plug-ins I would worry about.

Paul:  Okay, cool.  So what is coming up?  I saw that there’s 3.2 coming out soon, but I’m quite curious as to what it’s going to contain.

Ian:  Yeah, 3.2’s got a couple of cool things in it.  For developers, the PHP version has been upped to PHP5.

Paul:  Oh, okay.

Ian:  So, everyone’s developing on that now.  There’s a new default theme, 2011, which is responsive, which is really cool.  Responsive and HTML5, it’s full of buzz words.

Paul:  Good, good.

Ian:  Yep, and there’s distraction free writing.

Paul:  Ooh, that I like.

Ian:  Yes, so when you’re writing a post you can click an icon and everything on the screen disappears.  So all you see is a blank screen, no interface, just you typing.

Paul:  Because when I write blog posts I use a piece of software called Byword, which is a basic word processor that supports Markdown and things like that.

Ian:  Oh, okay.

Paul:  It does exactly that, kind of fills the screen and hides everything else away, so having that built into WordPress would be superb.

Ian:  Yes, there’s also Markdown plug-ins for WordPress too, I believe.

Paul:  Yes.

Ian:  You can combine those.

Paul:  Isn’t that an example of something that you wouldn’t want to use, based on the advice you gave a minute ago, because if that plug-in is removed, then suddenly all that Markdown is going to show.

Ian:  It depends on how the Markdown plug-in is working.

Paul:  Okay.

Ian:  If it’s converting it to HTML after you save the posts, that would be a good Markdown plug-in.

Paul:  Right.

Ian:  But if it’s not, then that might be kind of bad.  We always depend on that, right?  Otherwise you’d be stuck with search and replacing, and a lot of Markdown.

Paul:  Yes.  I need to look into that because I’m not sure what mine does at the moment.  Fortunately I haven’t been using it for that long, so if it is bad then I can still fix it.

Ian:  Of course, a plug-in that’s doing that wouldn’t be very complicated.  It would probably always work.

Paul:  Okay, thank you very much, Ian.  That was really useful.

Ian:  You’re welcome.

Paul:  I’m sure other people will find it useful as well.  So yeah, I might come back to you at some point in the future if I need to pick your brain more, if I may.

Ian:  Good, good.  You’re always welcome.

Paul:  Alright, thanks very much, Ian.  And I apologize for calling you American, the ultimate sin.

Ian:  As a very good Canadian, I forgive you.

Paul:  Speak to you soon.

Ian:  Alright.

Paul:  Bye, bye.

Ian:  Bye.

Paul:  So as you can tell, from the reference to WordPress 3.2 being released, the conversation took place a little while ago.  Since then I’ve been beavering away building the site.  And the advice that Ian gave me has proved absolutely invaluable, especially regarding selecting quality plug-ins.

Marcus:  That would be high quality plug-ins, I assume.

Paul:  What do you mean, high quality?

Leigh:  Quality.

Paul:  He also, the article that he mentioned, Powering Your Design with WordPress, was a great starting point for me and helped me with things like custom post types and all that kind of stuff.  Oh and yes, also, of course, there was the plug-ins he recommended.  Which was the Search and Replace one in there, the Total Cache plug-in.  Really, really good and I highly recommend those to anyone.

However, the real treasure was when he mentioned the Toolbox theme.  And I basically built the new Boagworld site entirely using the Toolbox theme as the starting point, and it has saved me hours.  Although it’s not necessarily coded as precisely as I would have chosen, it is well written, it makes use of HTML5, and it’s generally pretty semantic and I highly recommend that as a starting point.

So, definitely, if you’re going down the WordPress route, and I’m not in any way saying you should go down the WordPress route.  I think that’s got to be an individual decision and it’s entirely up to you, what route you take or what route you don’t.  If you do go down the route of WordPress, then definitely check out some of those things that Ian mentioned, and definitely check out Toolbox because it’s a really good starting point for creating your own themes.

So yeah, good stuff.  Thank you very much, Ian, for coming on the show.  It was much appreciated.

I think that about wraps up this show.  A little bit lighter and more concise than the four that came last time.  And Marcus, I suppose you need to show us out with a joke.

Marcus:  Yeah, these are going down so well, aren’t they?

Paul:  They are.

Marcus:  This one is from, weird name, Hannibal Burress.

Leigh:  I was trying to think of him yesterday.  The “Leading Elephants Over Mountains” Hannibal.  That’s weird that the name came up.  It took me all day to come up with the name, and then the next day.

Paul:  Thanks for sharing that.  I think you really added to the show.

Marcus:  It might be better than the joke.

Paul:  It wouldn’t take a lot.

Marcus:  Obviously, all of these jokes are great if they’re delivered by an expert.

Paul:  And in front of an audience that appreciates them, Marcus.

Marcus:  Anyway, here we go.  People say, “I’m taking it one day at a time.”  You know what?  So is everybody.  That’s how time works.

Paul:  That wasn’t so much a joke as a statement of observation.  Observational, but without humor.

Marcus:  I’m just going through, I’m just repeating what I heard.

Leigh:  I think we should rename the slot “Marcus’s philosophy moments.”

Marcus:  Oh yeah. Can I? Like philosophy five minutes.  Yeah, now we’re talking.  Just take one day at a time.  Now we’re talking… Just take one day at a time…

Paul:  You have to put on that, that kind of slightly warbley, Church of England voice.

Leigh:  You do have to be like Jesus as well, halfway through.  And that’s a bit like Jesus.

Paul:  I suggest we don’t go there.

Marcus:  Yeah, that’s a little rude.

Paul:  Yeah, don’t mind me, I’m fine.  It’s okay.  Alright, and on that blasphemous conclusion, we will be back again in two weeks’ time.  Thank you very much for listening, and speak to you again soon.  Bye, bye.

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