Very happy to report that the new site for Loveland Habitat for Humanity launched this week. A pro bono project, I’ve been working closely with Habitat and Rob Advertising to ensure that the final result is easy to use (both for visitors and the Habitat staff that will be managing and editing the site), attractive, and focused on delivering the organization’s message with clarity.

I chose WordPress as the development platform because of its flexibility and low learning curve for the admin users. The new site integrates a custom theme, blog, Google events calendar, donation forms and Success Stories slideshow. WordPress will enable the Habitat staff to grow the website as needed in the future, and add new functionality without much fuss.

I’m also adding another custom WordPress site to the portfolio today, Front Range Factoring. FRF stretched my WordPress capabilities; the project’s intent at the beginning was adjusting a purchased theme for a live site, but in the interest of time and efficiency the client and I decided to create a new custom theme that would be easier for him to manage after relaunch.

Using the WP Framework  I worked with FRF to come up with a fresh design for his existing site. I incorporated a tabset plugin and column plugin for some of the internal pages, and learned how to add widgets wherever one might be needed in the page.

Finally, Kontour is the third new project going into the portfolio today. Kontour’s owner is a graphic designer and typographer, and she approached Red Kite to create a clean, well-commented XHTML/CSS template set that she could apply to the rest of her site redesign. I created a slideshow for the home page and a gallery template as well.

I have a pet project using WordPress that’s close to the final testing stage. I really wanted to have the page that opens when a user wants to edit their profile look like the rest of my site, not like a stripped-down version of the WP dashboard.

I’d been trying to use a combination of  the Customize Your Community plugin, which puts the login, registration, password reminder and profile pages into your theme, but Create Your Community was having a conflict with the custom user meta data display. After a number of attempts to get around that problem, I decided to go ahead and do it the other way – customize the core file responsible for the ‘edit profile’ page, which is /wp-admin/user-edit.php.

Now this work only effects the ‘edit profile’ page, it has no effect on the login/registration/password reminder pages. For that, I found the Theme My Login plugin. Works well, puts those functions right into your theme, and is oretty easy to style with CSS.

So now I’m a happy camper. I wish there’d been a way to easily make the profile page work with my theme, but going this route was not that big of a deal. I simply took the header and footer sections from my theme and replaced the “include(‘admin-header’.php);” and “include(‘admin-footer.php’); statements in /wp-admin/user-edit.php. It took only about 5 minutes to get this looking right, and now I’m just doing a little bit of styling on the form itself.

Of course, whenever WP updates I’ll have to replace the two code snippets in the new user-edit.php file. That’s not a huge deal. But eventually perhaps WordPress will have a feature that enables one to keep all the user accessible pages in the theme rather than on the admin side.

Go on vacation, then come down with the flu the day after getting back and that tends to put out the fire when trying to catch up on work.

This week has been super-productive so far. I have a shoe store client for whom I’m integrating FoxyCart, a great little ecommerce system for smaller shops; today I added FoxyCart forms to about 30 products and finished the remaining cart setup, and tomorrow will be ready to build a checkout template.

I’m also integrating OptionCart for a BMW racing parts store – that’s nearly done. And a Plogger image gallery for the same company (which is now complete).

And…what else?

  • Finishing up a custom Javascript gallery for my typographer client, as well as 11 XHTML/CSS custom template pages. That should be done this week, I’m just working on a list of revisions.
  • Adding functionality to a large site for which I’m working as the developer only. I have a WordPress theme to build this week among other things.
  • Finishing up a WordPress site for a dentist – tomorrow I’ll be creating a template for her online scheduling tool.

Whew. Time to make dinner.

Today I’m working on the integration of the catalog application OptionCart in an XHTML/CSS site, for a client who sells BMW racing and performance car parts.

I’ve used OptionCart for quite a long time – we ran an online retail shop for 9 years and used OptionCart for the last 4 or 5. OC’s a front-end for Mal’s Ecommerce, another long-time vendor for us.

OC is nice because it’s easy to use and easy to drop into an existing website. We added sample categories, subcategories and 10 products last week, and that only took a minimal amount of time to set up. Today I’ve started on the actual integration – dropping in the PHP includes and customizing the look of the categories and products to match the rest of the site.

I wanted to have the current category name show up in the header section of the site, but OC didn’t provide a shortcode for that. No worries though, even with my rather limited experience in writing PHP, I figured out how to do it:

I created a div that I could position in the right place on the page, then put in some text that I want to surround the category name, which was a little snippet of PHP to display the variable  on screen:

Looks great! And only about 4 minutes to figure it out (don’t laugh, I’m not in any way a programmer).

We just returned from a great vacation last night, and I’m finally going through about 300 emails, the ones I deleted from the Blackberry while away (I answered the most pressing ones at night).

I’m still in vacation mode. That’s not easy considering it was 95 degrees when we left Florida and we arrived home in a 29 degree semi-blizzard; it took us almost two hours to drive home from Denver. I don’t understand why it’s always snowing when we get back from vacation – the last 3 years. It’s ridiculous.  And today the high here was 30. Brrr.

Anyway I’m reviewing lots of emails. A number of requests for new work or updating older sites from existing customers. At least three quote requests for Monday, and a few more later in the week. I have one gigantic project, a number of medium-sized ones nearing completion, and a few new ones starting up in the next three weeks.

There’s an awful lot of work to be done, and a lot of it is, well, somewhat monotonous. It’s easy stuff, especially the development side. But I was just thinking about that as I unpacked souvenirs from Disney World. I don’t deny I got some interesting design ideas by being there for a week…

So I was just thinking as I wade through these new work requests – why does that development work have to be boring? Just because I can crank it out without thinking, do I have to do that?

The answer is no, I really don’t. I think that I can enliven some of the ‘easy’ stuff by looking for new ways to do familiar things. For instance – the ubiquitous gallery slideshow script. There are a few that I use a lot, for WordPress or HTML sites  (Slideshow2, Plogger, Highslide, SimpleViewer, SmoothGallery, and many small CSS-only or CSS-and-jQuery offerings). But I’m always on the lookout for a new gallery appropriate to a specific project and I’ve collected several dozen, any of which might be useful at one time or another. That list is always growing – I have a new one I’ll be trying out this coming week.

I think I’ll be trying to use that kind of expansive thinking the next time I have a task come up that I normally wouldn’t think twice about. It will help me by being fun (always fun) and giving me a broader collection of tools and techniques to draw on. I don’t know why I haven’t been doing this more – maybe it took a break from work to see the opportunity.

We’re taking our first real vacation since going to Mexico a few years ago , and I’m scrambling to get a load of project work done before we leave. I’ll be working this weekend and the first part of next week on the following tasks:

  • Building two custom image galleries for a Houston-area typographer. I’m creating a full XHTML/CSS/Javascript template set for my client to use as she builds out the rest of her new website;
  • Building a spam-resistant form and an uploader script for the same client;
  • Tweaking a page template to make it work in (ack) IE6;
  • Dropping in 24 pages of new content into a redesign project site, or as much of that as I can squeeze in;
  • Some minor maintenance on two client sites, just an hour or so of work;
  • Creating a final version of the .psd for my SEO friend’s new WordPress site (I’ll be creating the custom theme after my vacation);
  • Adding some video to a site redesign;
  • Coding a home page and subpage for a new client in Illinois who sells race car parts;
  • Starting on a custom cart for the same client;
  • Writing one or two quotes;
  • And finally, doing as much as I can on a huge (and late, but still chugging along) Joomla project. Whatever I can do on that one, I’ll fit in this week.

On top of all that, I need to do some work on my hosting site. I’ve got a redesign sketched out, and will get that into Photoshop when we return if I don’t get a chance to do that before we leave. It doesn’t look very likely at this point – there’s so much to do on the homefront too.