Over the last two evenings I have created my first real theme. I based on it on Sandbox and called it Sandbox-Soccer. It is a three column theme with two sidebars on the right hand side.
My daughter is playing on a travel soccer team which is going to Sweden later this year and their coach would like to chronicle the team’s activities leading up to and including the trip and he asked me if I could set up a web site for them. I used his requests as a compelling reason to get off my butt and design a theme.
Since I have little design expertise, I found some soccer related vector art on Wikimedia Commons and purchased some from iStockPhoto. It is amazing how much art is available for free (Wikimedia Commons) and for a very reasonable price (iStockPhoto).
With my art in hand, I started working in Illustrator to come up with something I liked. I had found the Watch Football Soccer WordPress theme a while back and I like the look and even downloaded and installed it. However, like a lot of free themes, it has some encrypted PHP code in the footer that does something. I dug through some of it and it adds links to things I don’t want to link to but some of it I couldn’t get decrypted enough to figure out what it did. Regardless, it was enough to concern me about using it so while I like the look, I didn’t like the implementation.
It turns out the artwork used in that theme is available from iStockPhoto. There are also several other variations. I like the silhouettes and found a collection of female soccer silhouettes (important for a girls team) created my own header graphic in a red/yellow/orange color scheme.
At this point it is usable but I will continue to tweak it too. There are some CSS bugs still in it which I need to fix. I also plan to do multiple color variations of it and have both male and female header graphics. I’d like to set up the color and gender choices on a theme options page.
The demo is running on my Theme Demo page. I will make a download available soon.
In my quest for theme ideas, I ran across this interesting post. It is a collection of ~140 WordPress themes. The thing I like in particular about this article is the way the themes are presented. The images are large enough that you can actually see the design without having to navigate away from the article itself. I wish more theme sites did this. It would make browsing themes much easier.
I was out of town last week for work and thought I might have some free time to work on the plugin but other than my plane ride home, I had none. So I didn’t make much progress but this morning I was able to finish up the admin side of the Swim Team Jobs and Volunteers.
Most swim teams rely heavily on volunteers so having a system where parents can sign up to work meets and practices is really important, at least I think so. I know it is important to the MacDolphins.
Because all volunteer jobs aren’t equal, I decided to allow a value to be assigned to a job. This way a report can be generated which reports the amount of volunteer contribution associated with each swimmer. Some teams may elect not to use this and I will end up making it a configurable setting at some point but for now, it is on.
Now that I can define all of the jobs, I need to let people sign up for them – that is next on the to-do list.
My Villanova Wildcats are playing really well right now – I hope they can continue it through the season and into the tournament. Last night they beat Marquette which is particularly nice because my mom, dad, and one sister all went to Marquette as did a good friend of mine who calls me all the time to talk about hoops.
My buddy pointed me to a good VU Basketball Blog which I didn’t know about. It is pretty good reading. I have been relying on the VU Message Board which is all right but not great for VU hoops news. The Rivals.com message forum format leaves a lot to be desired.
Villanova plays this Friday night at West Virginia. This Friday night Big East game must be something new – Marquette played (and lost) to South Florida last Friday night. It is on ESPN so I will get to see it. I only got to see the second have last night as I was at a swim team meeting – yep, it is almost time for swim team to start again.
I got word from our IT department last week that Dell is going to replace the motherboard in my E4300 sometime in the next couple weeks. The rumored BIOS update that was supposed to be out on January 19th still hasn’t appeared. The only thing that is making life with my E4300 palatable is that the connections problems seem to under control now that I reinstalled the Dell Connection manager software. It still behaves oddly from time to time but at least it is mostly usable.
The one behavior which still drives me crazy is the unwillingness to turn off or go into Stand-By. I can press the function key or use the Start Menu option but the computer simply remains powered on. Sometimes it will go into Stand By only to turn itself right back on a minute to two later. Very annoying when it happens while it is in my computer bag.
The intersection of good weather and sufficient time in my schedule to get in a round of golf has been hard to come by. We have some warmer than normal temperatures in the Raleigh area this week – it was almost 70 yesterday – and I was able to play yesterday.
I was supposed to play last Friday but the course was closed because it had been so cold all week that they didn’t want to take any chances. I was bummed because I had rearranged my schedule so I could play. Yesterday was nice but the wind really picked up after we had played 4-5 holes. From that point on it was really windy.
I shot 96 which I wasn’t too unhappy with considering I hadn’t played since just before Christmas. I hit the ball, particularly off the tee, really well. My chipping really let me down, particularly on the back 9. I just don’t have much confidence in my ability to execute a short (10-30 yards) wedge shot. On the part 5 17th I hit a great tee shot followed by a very good 3 wood to leave myself 30 yards from the green for my third shot. What do I do? Duff the chip and hit it maybe 10 yards. I do the same with my 4th shot. I think get fairly close with my 5th and 2 putt for a double bogie. 30 yards from the green in two but take five more shots to get it in the hole. I had a number of holes like that yesterday.
Still, it was good to get out and I am going to try and play again tomorrow although I may only be able to play nine holes due to my work schedule. We’ll see.
I have an initial demo site up and running at http://demo.wp-swimteam.org/. The demo site still has a few issues but I expect to flush those out of the next week or so. If you are interested in this plugin and want to play around with it, feel free to register with the demo site and add some sample swimmers. It will give you a feel for how the end users uses the site.
If you’d like to explore the administration aspect of the plugin, go ahead and register and I will give your User Id the appropriate permissions. The demo site has been populated with a bunch of dummy users and swimmers and a few swim clubs. A sample schedule has been set.
One thing about going through the process, it exposed a few things I failed to include in the GUI redesign! I’ll fix those issues in the next couple days.
When I am working on the plugin I find that I frequently need to populate the database with a bunch of user and swimmer information. It is easy to add a few opponent swim clubs and some other information but adding a bunch of dummy users and swimmers takes a while.
This past weekend I started working on a separate plugin that will populate the database with a random number between 25 and 100 dummy users each with between 1 and 4 swimmers, each registered for the current season. This generation of users and swimmers happens when the plugin is activated. The plugin can be deactivated and then activated again to add additional users and swimmers.
This plugin was used to populate the database on the new wp-SwimTeam Demo site.
There was a thread today on Wp-Hackers regarding multi-instance widgets. While I don’t need this right now, I was curious because I expect to do something with widgets for my wp-SwimTeam plugin. If and when I do, I want to make sure I don’t design myself into a corner.
The discussion referenced an interesting article which outlines how to develop a widget to ensure it will support multi-instances.
I want to use a theme framework to develop a couple themes. Why do I want to do this? Because I don’t want to reinvent the wheel. There are several to choose from or I could write my own. I really don’t want to write my own.
I am sure there are more but these are the ones I have looked at. I had pretty much settled on Sandbox as I found it easy to work with and there was some discussion a while ago about including it as part of WordPress. I was a bit concerned that it hadn’t been updated since last summer but thought "hey, maybe it is done”. So I started playing around with it for my LEGO Blog. What is there now is very much a work in progress. I got it working enough that I could see where I was going.
Then I saw this: http://www.plaintxt.org/2009/01/looking-for-a-wordpress-brand/
Uh-oh. What is the future of Sandbox? I posed a question on the Wp-Hackers mailing list but the thread went wildly off track and it was never answered. The comments on the announcement indicate that it might end up as part of WordPress but other than that, I haven’t seen any other mention of it anywhere.
I am reluctant to invest more time in a Sandbox based theme until I know where it is headed. I guess I’ll go back and look at the others again. I really like the idea of child themes so I want to explore this some more before giving up.