… 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.

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 URL  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.

Internet Explorer 8 has been released

So Internet Explorer 8 has been released. It’s been on the cards for a while now, and now it’s here. Boasting several new features including a “Compatibility View” (allowing users to view pages in older versions of the browser) and visual search suggestions in the search box (in a similar fashion to an auto-complete script) amongst others.

Just when you thought browser compatibilty testing was a laborious task, another web browser pops onto the scene. Internet Explorer conditional comments will hopefully adapt to reflect the addition of IE8, allowing users to customise their CSS and XHTML code for the specific browser… as well as possibly notify users of their browser of choice.

I’d love to read your opinions on this release. I look forward to testing IE8 and seeing how it renders my web code.

One CMS to rule them all…?

The age old question, discussed by developers for years past…and for years to come.

Is there one CMS to cater to the needs of any and all projects?

CMS stands for Content Management System. This is an application, usually run on the web, that allows end-users to update the content of their website with ease. It can also allow content to be added en mass and worked with by the system (for example, an events guide that only displays upcoming events). For large websites with reams of content, a CMS is invaluable in the organisation, management and authoring of content. In the web industry of today, content management is becoming more and more important, as users with to have as much control over their websites as possible, while minimizing the time spent on the phone or emailing a web developer to update their website for them.

Various options present themselves when faced with the task of selecting a content management option. A variety of pre-made systems exist (WordPress, Expression Engine, Drupal, Joomla, Textpattern, etc) that have been tried, tested and extended by users worldwide. While many of these systems have limitations to their functionality and control from a development perspective, they have been tried, tested and are maintained by users worldwide, which is a huge advantage when developing a system that will grow and flow with the constant change that is the web.

Another option is building your own CMS. While this option is an incredible approach, allowing full control over functionality, integration of a design and extension of the core, it is difficult to keep up a custom CMS with a minimal developer count on the team constructing the system and potential security risks that may have been overlooked. While a these concerns are true, a custom CMS can also be as lightweight as desired, carry only the functionality necessary and be tailored to suit the needs of each website it is used for.

There are pro’s and con’s to each decision. What are your thoughts?

Google give “checking the surf” new meaning

While catching up with posts on Mashable, a popular social networking and general web innovation blog, I came across an interesting article discussing Google Earth. The digital earth clone (created using satelitte imagery) has announced a move to include underwater feeds in their unique mapping architecture. My first thought, when reading this article, was; “what an awesome way to check the surf”. It then occured to me that these are still images, and the lightbulb quickly defused.

HOW TO: Track the sports score using Twitter

Here’s an interesting paradox. Sports (lively, active, outdoor, sweaty) and Twitter (prodominantly indoor, digital, non-verbal, ‘geeky’). Who ever thought that ‘geeks’ liked sport? It seems that many do.

Since the cricket started a few weeks ago, I’ve seen streams of tweets coming in from avid cricket fans, commentating on virtually every play and sharing their thoughts. This is a great way to get the score and the latest info on what’s going on with the game currently being played. Just the other day (before, during and after the Manchester United vs Chelsea soccer game) I saw a tweet congratulating Manchester United and, almost straight after in the same stream, a tweet from another user cheering on Chelsea. What is the common denominator here?

Blogging…now with threads!

With the release of WordPress version 2.7 came a host of new features and details. A redesigned administration console with a vast array of new features, a range of features to streamline admin-to-user conversation and threaded comments.

As I mentioned in my first post, this theme is still in testing phase. Thus, I have added threaded commenting to the theme, in hopes of streamlining conversations on posts. Also, in keeping with development trends on WordPress and forward progression, I thought it a good idea to look into threaded comments.

At first, when coding for threaded comments, they do seem to be somewhat of a nightmare to get one’s  head around. Once you get it, however, they aren’t as difficult as you innitially thought. 🙂

How have your experiences with threaded comments been? Let me know in the comments.

Not much of a techie? Check out some of my nontechie posts. 😉

The first post

Here it is, at long last. “Lost In Mattyville” is live. 🙂 I have, over the last few months, been experimenting with several ideas for themes, content, an approach, etc…and here it is, version 1.0 of “Lost In Mattyville”.

On this blog, I intend to discuss trends in technology, design, the web, music, WordPress and whatever comes to mind, really. I also would like to share some writing and possibly a few tutorials on things I’ve picked up in either design, code, music or whichever direction this blog takes me in.

Before I move on, some credits and shoutouts I want to put out there.

– Icons used in this theme by Liam McKay of Function Web Design.
– Lifestream widget by Darren Hoyt and Matt Dawson at Category4. Originally created for the Agregado theme.
– Original flickr widget by WooThemes for the Typebased theme.
– Theme inspiration and reference from the BASE theme by FRESH01.

Thanks guys. 🙂

On a last note for this post, this blog is still under development. If you notice anything that could be better or that isn’t working well, please let me know. I hope you enjoy reading my writings. 🙂

Post image courtesy stock.xchng.