For the past week or so I’ve been playing around with a TwentyEleven child theme for a soccer team project I am fiddling with. For the most part I’ve been able to accomplish what I want using a TwentyEleven child theme. Using TwentyEleven as a base for this project isn’t bad but it certainly is different than using a theme framework (e.g. Thematic).
Last week I had posted that I didn’t care much for how the header was constructed and after working with it for a week, I still feel that way. TwentyEleven has a number of filters and actions but customizing the header isn’t among them. I also find it very odd how the default behavior is to use featured images as the header if there is one available. I can’t imagine what application that turns out to be a good thing. Fortunately it is fairly easy to disable that and set your own header.
TwentyEleven has a showcase template that is sort of like a magazine style but not exactly. For it to work it requires that posts be tagged as “sticky” which also means they appear at the top of the list in a standard chronological post view. What I really wanted was functionality like the showcase for the latest articles and let that view become the default home page. I was able to accomplish this by copying the showcase.php file from TwentyEleven into my child theme directory and calling it latest-news.php. I now have a new template that shows the five latest posts using the featured content slider which TwentyEleven has built into the showcase template.
Now that I have it working, I am finding that images in the showcase template are wonky and adding a featured image really messes things up. I am sure I’ll figure it out but the decisions the theme designer(s) made in this area are odd. It’s like having an 80% solution but the other 20% will take a while to work out.
The one thing I am pretty happy with though is how well it seems to work on my iPad and I didn’t have to do anything special to make it work. It just works which is nice. Once I am done with this I will probably turn it into a generic soccer theme but for now it is really only useful for CASL teams.
I have been doing some testing with the WordPress Facebook Connect plugin. There are a couple sites I work with, particularly our swim team web site, MacDolphins.org, where I need users to login and add data to the site. Each year when we do swim team registration I get lots of questions about how to register, forgotten usernames and passwords, etc. With the popularity of Facebook, I am thinking that leveraging Facebook login credentials could make things a lot easier for me and our swim team parents.
As a test, I have installed it on the site I am putting together for my youngest daughter’s soccer team (CASL Sharks) to see how it works. For the most part, I am impressed – it pretty much works as advertised. I was able to login using my Facebook login and once my user was added to the WordPress user tables, I could change my permissions to allow my Facebook user id to post. I still need to do some work to support Facebook Connect for comments but the instructions look pretty straight forward. I think this would work well for the NCLTC and NCLUG sites as well although Facebook Connect requires PHP5 and those sites are hosted on a PHP4 based server so I’ll have to sort that out.
I asked the other day if Sandbox was dead and even though there was a minor update, it appears that Sandbox isn’t really dead but it is in a purgatory of sorts. Not dead but not actively being developed either. So
Soccer season has started and I need to update the Soccer theme I used for my daughter’s team because they changed uniform colors. Since I had based the Soccer theme on Sandbox, I could either continue with it or start again. For now I am continuing with it because (a) I know it pretty well now and (b) it works. However, I do want to check out the Elastic theme editor I heard about recently on the WordPress Weekly podcast.
When I did the MacDolphins theme this past spring, I had based some of that work on the Soccer theme but was able to fix much of what had bothered me, in particular, the need to install the Sandbox theme itself and the Soccer theme as a child theme. I love the idea of a child theme but for the casual user, the relationship between parent and child theme isn’t real obvious and failing the install the parent theme results in a non-functional blog and likely frustration.
By structuring the theme architectures such that it referenced the Sandbox source as a SVN external, I was able to bundle all of the files for the parent theme and child theme together as one theme. This makes distributing the theme much easier and also solves the problem where the theme preview shows the parent theme instead of the child theme. This preview problem doesn’t affect the functionality of the site but it is confusing if you don’t know what is going on.
I expect to have the soccer theme updated in the next week or so and probably offer a few more color schemes. But first I am working on a Sandbox based LEGO theme which I’ll finish first because the NCLUG and NCLTC web sites sorely need an updated theme as the one they have now are old and don’t support widgets. This LEGO theme is a good exercise in setting theme options, particularly the header area as I expect I will need it to make a generic version of the MacDolphins theme for any swim team to use.