GROW Academy Bootcamp 2012

This week, Jeff and I will be presenting at our second GROW Academy Bootcamp session. We’ll be discussing “Website Design & Development” with the recruits, running through WordPress and how to setup a website using WordPress.com or WordPress.org.

The GROW Academy is an initiative to educate and empower the youth of today through technology. The Bootcamp session covers everything from social media and setting up e-mail, all the way through to search engine optimisation and an internet super-user course, for those who wish to continue on with more advanced studies. The GROW website’s “About” page (built on Canvas and Canvas BuddyPress by WooThemes) has a detailed explanation of the initiative and it’s founding partners.

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What a blog redesign means to me

Today’s question, folks, is; “What does a blog redesign mean to you?”. Lets dive right in, shall we?

For me, a blog redesign means quite a lot. It means the opportunity to hone my skills, experiment with new ideas and techniques and put a fresh coat of paint and a new engine behind my blog. Let me elaborate on the paint and engine for a moment.

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Obox launches the Obox Theme Store

Well, guys, launch day is here. The Obox Theme Store is online! After weeks of watching Dave, Marc and Nat at Obox working late nights and early mornings, weekends, public holidays and all other kinds of days imaginable, the launch has happened, the first sale has come and gone and I must say, it’s looking AWESOME!

For those who haven’t been following the hype marketing campaign for Obox Themes over the past few weeks, Obox Themes is a premium WordPress theme store set up by the team at Obox Design, selling WordPress themes of a premium grade, with extensive additional functionality and keen attention to design detail. The Obox website has had an overhaul as well and now boasts an integrated theme store and support forums for customers.
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If content is king, design is queen

The phrase “content is king” is splashed around so much these days. Content is the “meat and potatoes” of your website, and can be the reason why users return, as well as being one of the core aspects of successfully optimising your website for search engines.

What about the design then? Does having “good content” render the design of your website unimportant and “obsolete”?

My answer is “no”.
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A quick word on inspiration

This afternoon, while thinking of what I could write about today, I got to thinking about the concept of inspiration. Where does it come from? How do we channel it? What is it, really?

I find inspiration to be an enigma. It can come from anything (a walk in the park, your favourite band, a smell in the air) and can be channeled into anything. For me, I’ve discovered that inspiration usually stems from things where I appreciate the quality of the end result; for example, a really slick looking design, really neat and streamlined code that serves an amazing function or a song that makes every vein in my body jump for joy.
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How do you browse through a blog?

Blogs in general seem to cater for similar functionality: tag clouds, categories, post tagging, search functionality, etc. My question here is, which browsing method works best for you when browsing a blog? I’ve been considering adding “related posts” into this blog’s current design. I’m just wondering, do users in general find a related posts block to be useful?

It can be so easy for a layout to become bloated or cluttered. Hence, the reason for streamlining the blog navigation and reading process. The only thing is, everyone reads through a blog with a different process. How do blog theme designers and developers factor this into development?

… but why the redesign, Matty?

As you may or may not (I hope you have) noticed, I’ve launched a redesign for my blog today. After a week or two of planning, thinking, designing and coding, the redesign is finally here. You may, at this point, be asking yourself; “but why?”; here’s why:

A fresh look and feel. – I wanted a look that was clean and simple, yet fresher and more graphically driven than my first layout, while still echoing elements from the original layout.
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A nerd’s definition of ‘beautiful’

Recently, after I got a Macbook, I’ve been thinking a lot about the subtle elements that make working on a Mac different to other operating systems. The icons, the interface and the subtlties in the intuitive nature of the system as a whole. How every application designed specifically for OS X integrates into the system, makes use of native functionality and interacts well with other OS X applications (example: Pixelmator and iPhoto, or Apple Mail and Safari).

A while later, I expanded the above topic of synchronicity to the overall concept of beauty. How beautiful the synchronicity is. I then thought; “this is definitely a nerd’s definition of ‘beautiful’“. Hence, my latest nerdicle on Nerd Mag discusses this further, stating, “beauty is:”.
Read my latest Nerd Mag article.

What do you look for in a “premium grade” WordPress theme?

… Is it an advanced feature set? Is it a cutting edge design? Is it a combination of both with a sprinkling of pixie dust for extra magic? What do you look for in a “premium grade” WordPress theme? I use the term “premium grade” as I’m not refering specifically to paid-for or “premium” WordPress themes, but rather to themes of a high standard.

With such a vast array of free (and paid-for) WordPress themes on the market today, it’s easy to get lost, wading through the thousands of themes available. As many of the themes are user created, and not everyone has experience or training as a web designer or developer, users get presented with many sub-par WordPress themes. In contrast to this, the themes market is becoming more and more advanced on a daily basis, opening doors for users to experiment with more advanced, theme specific, functionality, enhancing their themes and making them unique and personalised.

With this advancement in the “premium grade” themes market, users are also becoming more expectant, and critical, of the themes which they are presented. It is becoming more common and expected for a theme to have a clever design hook of sorts, some nifty Javascript or an additional “unique” custom feature, if not all three.

So my question is; “What makes a theme ‘premium grade’ in your eyes?”

Win a signature series WordPress theme

So, the good fellows at Obox Design are delving into the WordPress themes zone. Over the past few months, there has been much discussion, and a few sneak peaks, of “Hash One”, the first in the Obox Signature Series of WordPress themes.

“Hash One” has had an awesome amount of work put into it and is set to include several theme specific features, courtesy of the Obox development department (aka. Mr. Marc). The dudes (and lady) at Obox are running a competition to get a chance to own 1 or approximately 40 unique versions of the “Hash One” theme. Here’s how it’s done:

1. Find the tweet on Twitter sent out by @obox (or @MarcPerel or @NatPerel) discussing the Obox Signature Series theme, “Hash One”.
2. Retweet the above-mentioned tweet.
3. Visit your profile page and get the direct link to the tweet you just made.
4. Paste this URLĀ  into a comment on From-the-Couch with a message.

That’s it. An easy 4 step process to get yourself in the running for this really cool theme. For screenshots of the theme and a bit more about the features and whatnot, visit From-the-Couch.