The more sites that I’ve been working on the more I’ve come to love child themes. If you don’t know what child themes are then check out the codex description about them. But, basically they allow you to make changes to a theme that you purchase without causing upgrade issues. Theme developers have built out there themes in certain ways and if you go in and update the color of the theme in the core theme file, the next update that the theme developer sends out will inevitably break your site. That’s not good.
So, we need to use child themes to make sure that we don’t cause those issues. A child theme is basically a custom skin on top of the theme that you purchased. You can change the colors, some functionality, and more without ever causing your site to break when your parent theme is updated.
I always work with Child themes and do everything I can to make sure the sites that I develop are built for longevity. It is a disservice to the individuals that I am building a site for to be continually having to call me to fix the site whenever the theme developer who built the parent theme sends out an update.
Setting up a child theme
I’m not going to write out my own tutorial for creating a child theme here because there are quite a lot of theme already out there that are great and provide you with all of the information that you need. I’ll just link to a few here at the bottom of the post. Get familiar with using child themes in all of your projects and beware of purchasing child themes and a parent theme. You will run into the same issue as we talked about before. If you purchase a child theme from another company, what happens when you want to customize that? You have to edit files that that company could very well upgrade in the future causing you a bit of pain in the future.
Articles and Tutorials
KLRParadigm was one of the first sites that I worked on. It was for a very close friend of mine and a lot of fun to be able to work on. We utilized a theme from Elegant Themes and worked to customize it a bit to our liking. Take a look at it and let me know what you think!
I’ve been trying to improve my coding skills and branch out of WordPress development into Ruby on Rails as I continue to work on my CSS skills all at the same time. It’s been a pretty daunting but very rewarding task. I’ve had the awesome opportunity to gain advice from some awesome friends and co-workers as I go through this process. They have been invaluable in helping me focus on what I want to do, great tools to use, as well as learning best practices.
The main tools that I have been using to continue growing my skills are Treehouse and CodeSchool. They are both awesome places to learn how to code and get started with any project. They also both have different focuses which is really nice to be able to utilize both schools.
Treehouse offers a great place to start learning if you don’t know how to code already. They give you a good basis from and work you up to more advanced levels. They also offer a wide range of topics to learn. You can focus on front-end, back-end, or design with Treehouse. You can check out my own Treehouse profile, if you would like.
CodeSchool is a bit more advanced in my opinion and focus on Ruby on Rails development with CSS and other courses. They have been great to jump into since I am wanting to learn how Ruby on Rails and really dig deep into that language. You can check out my CodeSchool profile as well.
I think that everyone should make themselves familiar with how computers work and how things are built on the web. We are only going to continue to see businesses and our lives on the web and it is important that we know how to work with it.
One of the key things to a website are contact forms. They should be on every single website that you build, otherwise you are making it very hard for people to be able to contact you and actually give you business. Using WordPress there are a lot of options out there to help you build out forms. The premiere form plugin is Gravity Forms. Seems like everyone is using these guys and I have used them a number of times and been very happy with the product. The only issue that I have found is that they are a bit pricey. With that, I recently heard about Ninja Forms by WP Ninjas. The thing that attracted me most to them is that they have been getting some good testimonials from some other plugin developers out there, and the core plugin is free.
I decided to try out Ninja Forms on my own site before implementing it on any client sites. Overall, I think its a great plugin. Works really well and offers some great functionality like being able to add in a user’s name in your automatic response email and more. I also like the freemium + extensions model of a business because for people like me who are trying to do a lot and bootstrap my business, I am looking to save as much money as possible. The extensions model is great as they are only $39 bucks for some awesome functionality. Go check out what extensions they have and give Ninja Forms a try for yourself. For projects on a tighter budget, I will definitely be using Ninja Forms.
UPDATE: After working with Ninja Forms for quite a while yesterday, I am sorry to say that I had to go back to Gravity Forms for my form solution in the time being. I really like what Ninja Forms does and think that they have a great product that will only continue to improve. The problem is that it is a bit buggy. I couldn’t get a consistent response from the plugin when sending notifications to users after they submit the form. Gravity Forms is consistent and something I can trust right now to deliver the proper notifications to admins and users.
I fully plan to give Ninja Forms another shot in the future and think it is still a great plugin to use.
UPDATE #2: As you can see below, Kevin fro WP Ninjas reached out to me to help me figure out the bugs that I was experiencing with Ninja Forms. They have done an awesome job with being really proactive to improve their product and make the plugin as stable as it can be. Since I last wrote this post, I have installed Ninja Forms on a client site and have been 100% happy with it. It is working flawlessly and been really easy to work with.
I highly recommend that you check them out for a great forms plugin that provides a low barrier to entry to use.