Since I made the switch from blogging platform Movable Type to WordPress last year I’ve never looked back. Not only is it easier to customise the theme, easier to extend the platform itself in any way you can imagine and has an enormous user and developer community, but every version just gets better and better. The most recent release – 2.5 – comes with a completely redesigned administration section among a host of other cool things. Since everybody hates change (we all get used to doing something in a certain way and learning to do things differently is painful) there were quite a lot of negative comments about the redesign initially, but these have quickly quietened down – and I have no doubt it’s as a result of the user experience being a hell of a lot better. It’s amazing how a piece of software can make you feel more creative but that’s exactly how I feel when I log into my installation of WordPress.
Anyway, I thought I’d take a moment to explain a couple of changes I’ve made to the layout of this site and how easy they were to implement in WordPress. Firstly, snippets. You may notice some posts that instead of having a big banner with the title, the date underneath, the post itself and a link to the comments at the bottom, they have a blue bar to the left, no big banner and… Well, in short they look like this:
I felt the weight of expectation of my site’s design bear down on me every time I wanted to post something. If all I wanted to do was put up a link to something interesting I could hardly justify writing a full article about it and a one-sentence post just looked wrong. So I wouldn’t post. I saw that Matt (that’s Mr. WordPress to you) creates mini-posts when he wants to say something briefly so I pretty much copied his layout (I hope he doesn’t mind)! What is it Picasso said? Good artists copy, great artists steal…
Next, I’ve wanted to post more of my photos to this site rather than over on Flickr but have never had a really neat way to do it. I had on my to-do list “investigate or write a photo gallery app” for ages. Well, fortunately WordPress 2.5 supports image galleries and I could finally get my wish! Out of the box the image galleries don’t do much but since WordPress is endlessly extensible it didn’t take me long to display a gallery as a single image with a description and link that takes you to the actual photos:
Each photo is a post in its own right so can have a description, has links to the previous and next pictures and can accept comments. It’s simple, effective and all I really wanted out of a photo app. Since WordPress reads the EXIF information of all the photos I upload (that’s all the data your camera sets in the picture file like the shutter speed, date, time, etc.) then in time I can change my design to show more details about them as well as other related photos. In fact with only a few tweaks to my templates I could pretty much replicate your average Flickr photo page. Not that I will mind, I want to keep it simple and not spend all night every night redesigning my site!
Anyway, with WordPress I was able to make these changes quite easily and only required a few lines of code added to my template. And the really cool thing is that whereas in my old Movable Type days (note that I used MT3 and MT4 is now available so my knowledge is out of date somewhat) if I had an idea for a way to change my site I’d likely give up as it would require a lot of investigation and work to get it implemented, but it feels like with WordPress I can turn an idea into reality in less time than it took to write this article. Which in the case of snippets and photo albums is absolutely true.