For beginners to WordPress design, it can feel like a daunting task trying to compete with other, more-experienced, designers. To help, here’s 5 quick ways which I’ve found invaluable in creating a more complete theme.
1. Separate Trackbacks & Comments
Nothing ruins a great conversation in a comment thread more than a load of trackbacks appearing all over the place. They look ugly and completely out of place. But thankfully, there’s an easy solution.
With just a few extra lines of basic code you can move all those Trackbacks (and Pingbacks) straight to the bottom of the list where you can display them in a much nicer layout. I honestly don’t know why this isn’t built straight into the WordPress code!
2. Multiple Widget-Ready Sidebars
Including one sidebar in your theme is easy, but what if you need two or even three? Well, that’s just as easy! But trying to find how to do this quickly becomes a pain – all the solutions seem to be outdated and aimed at much older versions of WordPress.
However, Stefan Vervoort of DivitoDesign wrote up a great article on creating multiple sidebar areas.
3. Using Custom Fields
The ‘Custom Fields’ section of the Write page is probably the most confusing section of WordPress: “What the hell do I use that for?”
After a Google search, you will see the WordPress Codex gives only a few examples for this, which are mainly adding a ‘Current Mood’ to the end of your post which is completely pointless. In fact, it’s not completely clear on how to actually use it.
Actually, Custom Fields are probably one of my favourite features of WordPress. If done correctly, it allows you to enhance your blog in a way to rival much more complex CMS systems.
Most people use them to display an accompanying image with your post outside of the normal loop (such as in ‘Magazine’ themes). And I’ve used a lot of them in my latest theme – GamePress – to create a featured reviews page.
So take your themes to the next level with a great article by designer Justin Tadlock:
4. Breadcrumb Navigation
Including a breadcrumb navigation bar on your site is a great way to improve navigation on more complex WordPress-powered sites. They allow you to easily see where the current page is located within the rest of the site structure; and it’s a shame more themes don’t include this.
Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t include native support for a breadcrumbs, so you have to get your hands dirty a little. There are a few ways to do it, but my preferred way is the Breadcrumb NavXT plugin. Simply drop a piece of code where you want the bar to display and you’re done!
You could also go that extra step further and integrate the plugin into your theme directly. Simply copy the plugin’s code and paste it at the bottom of your theme’s functions.php file — Instant breadcrumbs! (You are allowed to integrate the plugin to your theme just as long as you give credit to the author.)
5. Featured Posts
There are many WordPress powered sites which don’t have a traditional “blog” feel. They feel more like fully-blown News sites and handle a lot of content on a daily basis. For site’s like these, it’s a necessity that the most important news is displayed first.
For example, a news site like the BBC may publish a very important article such as “Aliens Abduct The Queen” and then five minutes later a few more less-important articles are published (such as “Man Grows Biggest Potatoe”).
It’s clear that those more important articles need to stay on the front page for much longer, with less-important ones appearing below. This is usually referred to as creating ‘Featured Posts’ and I’ve wrote a tutorial on creating this at NETTUTS.