An interesting point of view

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working pretty heavily in theme design, specifically for WordPress.  After taking the time over the Christmas trip home to learn CSS, I dove right in.  (It’s a testament to how long I’ve been playing around on the web, as CSS was still in its infancy when I started, and dynamically driven pages/sites and CMS’es were hardly around, but I digress.)

Running three different CMS softwares over the last year and change, I’ve come to some basic conclusions about the two most prevalent – Joomla and WordPress.  I can appreciate each one for the differences and likenesses they possess.

Quite frankly, WordPress has to be the most designer-friendly site.  For obvious reasons, it’s geared towards the more “simplistic” use of a blog (the application seen here).  To do anything though, such as manipulate menus to show specific data, you’ve got to hand-edit the theme files.  Not a terribly difficult thing to do if you understand what’s going on, but not fun in the least.  There’s a lot of plugins and such to add functionality, but it’s still somewhat limited, I think.

The last two weeks, I’ve been working on the re-design for my friends over at halftonreviews, and I’ve had to delve deeper into manipulating the base code to accomplish the look and feel they want.  I’ve had to work with them to re-think their application of the data they have so that it looks less like a blog and more like a real site.  (The validation came last night when a professional designer friend of mine had to ask me if it was still a WordPress site!)  The re-design’s about done, there’s a lot of little things left on the table to do.  But I’m pretty pleased with where it’s at so far. (I’ll post again when they go live with the template)

In contrast, Joomla is a site that’s geared towards the true nature of a CMS – content management.  The code is designed in such a way that no one with any inkling of markup and coding can create a content-rich site.  However, to accomplish anything more with the overall design is really an exercise in frustration.  To re-theme the site is a pain (if you aren’t using a professional theme).  But that’s what makes it so great for sites such as the alumni association site I maintain.  There’s so much flexibility and ability to really manipulate the content without needing to edit the theme files.  You just download a mod, a plugin, or a component.  Expanding the site is a breeze.

I have another project to work on after I finish up the halfton design and ship it off to the twins.  When I ordered the new game server for the upcoming season, I went with a small group of guys that have been working to manipulate the Source Server binaries to create the ultimate gaming environment.  Their servers are able to maintain a stable framerate, which is the panacea of the FPS gaming community.  When every bullet you fire needs to hit where you aim, they’ve managed to tweak the server so that each shot rings true.  But anyways, one thing I suggested to help them drive sales was a custom MOTD (message of the day) that pops up on a new server sold when you initially join.  I’m researching how to use html or php or something else to actually query the server, get a value (such as sv_hostname) and return it in the html.  My idea was to have the header line say something like “you’re playing on *server name* hosted by padgaming”, give a little spiel about how special their servers are, and then the price list.  What’s going to make it unique is that it’ll use the same type of language behind a CMS – querying a database to update the data as needed.  So, the file itself would be minimal, just referencing the database values to return, and then all the text would be in the database.  I’ve had to learn how to do PHP/mysql coding, and it’s nowhere near complete, but that’s the plan.

After that, it’s either another new theme here, or I start to delve headlong into Joomla templating.  God in heaven help me.  That’s going to be a rough time.