Making of TSR Part 1: The Platform

Jan 25, 2016

A number of different options exist to make a website nowadays. Last year, a number of my colleagues and I explored some more popular approaches like Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly. Learning each of these services’ interfaces was simple enough, but each service had its limitations, and these limitations resulted in a very unique (although often cookie-cutter) “feel” to the created website. You can see a couple examples of my first portfolio website below, using Wix:

This Wix website was a great first (and second, and third) attempt, but it severely lacked a sense of visual refinement and was devoid of any sense of branding – in terms of both content and design. After further research, it became clear to me that WordPress was an infinitely more customizable platform on which to develop a website. The caveat was that one really does need a theme to extract WordPress’ full potential, and most free themes are just as limiting as Wix, Squarespace, etc.

Because this project is important to me, I was willing to spend some money on theme. I looked at about a dozen paid themes, keeping in mind the need for something aesthetically pleasing, functional, and customizable. There are some great write-ups about “highly functioning” WordPress themes, including this one:

http://www.premiumwp.com/highly-customizable-wordpress-theme-frameworks-and-website-builders/

After researching Websites made with highly functioning themes, I determined that I should give DIVI by ElegantThemes a try. Their best-selling theme, DIVI satisfied my aforementioned requirements for a website builder. Furthermore, I liked that pages made with DIVI were colorful, bold, fullscreen (usually), and responsive, meaning that they scaled extremely well across desktop, tablet, and mobile, exhibiting a minimal amount of inconsistencies in the rescaling process. Even furthermore, folks seemed to be using DIVI quite a bit for showcasing artistic work or building portfolios. Here are some examples of DIVI websites:

https://colorlib.com/wp/websites-using-divi-theme/

Another bonus with the WordPress platform is the ability to easily customize CSS to override many (not all) theme settings that one felt were incoherent or undesirable. This process is best done using a Child Theme.

Child Theming is built into the core functionality of WordPress. In a nutshell, a child theme is a series of blank CSS stylesheets and PHP files in which the developer can enter code manually. WordPress looks for differences in this code versus the theme’s code and append or overwrite the theme code where it finds differences. This way, when a theme developer issues an update – which rewrites the theme’s core files – the user can install that update without losing manual modifications that were made to the code, as these modifications are stored in the Child Theme’s files. There is a great write-up on this here:

http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/wordpress-child-themes-dev/

DIVI had a steep learning curve. In total, I spent about a week straight teaching myself the nuances and the power of this theme. After that time, I determined that it was a viable tool and allowed me to achieve my goals.

Stay tuned for the next post for more detail about these goals!

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