Install WordPress on your Mac

This week, I’m teaching a Hack Your WordPress Theme workshop for Emory’s Digital Scholarship Commons. It’s fun (and not all that hard) to customize WordPress themes. The only problem is, in order to really access the theme files, you need to install WordPress on a server. But what if you’re not quite ready for that?

You can still play around with WordPress by getting your own computer to act like a server. Your WordPress site won’t be public, but you can make changes to your theme and, when you’re ready, upload it to a real server.

XAMPP is a software package that emulates a server on your own computer. Don’t worry, it’s not hard to install — there are just a couple tricky steps.

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Teaching HTML & CSS

Image depicting basic components of an HTML tag

This week I twice taught a two-hour workshop introducing Emory people (students, faculty, and staff) to the very basics of HTML & CSS. The workshop was called How a Website is Born: The Very Basics of HTML & CSS, and here’s how I described it:

Ever wondered how a website goes from an idea to the Internet? In this workshop, designed for absolute beginners, we’ll explain what HTML and CSS are and show you how you can get started making your own website.

I’d initially thought I might be a little crazy to try to teach introductory HTML and CSS in two hours, but in the event, things went relatively smoothly, and both times we ended up with about a half-hour to spare. I wanted very much to teach the workshop because HTML and CSS were my own first experience looking under the hood of any kind of interface, and it was quite powerful for me. I was excited to show others that coding isn’t as hard as they might think.

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Building a conference website on WordPress

Hey, we launched the new site for the digital humanities conference at Yale! You should come! It’s February 19 to February 20, and don’t forget to register.

I was interested in the challenge of building a conference program that’s easy to access. I wanted to make the program pretty dynamic, by which I mean I wanted to make it easy for users to click on individual events or array them all on one page. It was surprisingly difficult to do this, though. I looked at a bunch of other conference websites and they mostly have static pages of event listings. For the sake of anyone else with the same challenge, I thought I’d explain what I did.

I tried a bunch of WordPress plugins — Events, Events Manager, other permutations of the word “event” — but they’re really designed for events that are spread out over many days. Our events are taking place within the space of two days.

Eventually, I gave up on the event plugins. Instead, I made each event a post and created three categories: Friday February 19, Saturday February 20, and See All Events. (Alas, WordPress would not let me add a comma between the day of the week and the month. Don’t think I didn’t try.) Each event is categorized as both the day it falls on and “See all events.”

I then loaded up the SuperSlider-Menu plugin, which creates an accordion-style sidebar menu that lists categories and posts. See where I’m going with this?Screen shot 2009-12-31 at 12.39.59 PM Each event is accessible via the sidebar menu, and by clicking on “See all events” you can get all the events on one page.

It took some tweaking. I CSS’s out the meta information for each post (like the date posted and the auhor) and used the Custom Query String Reloaded plugin to make the posts appear in chronological, rather than reverse-chronological order.

I think it works. If I have time, I’d like to add abstracts for every paper and bios for every panelist.

Drupal would probably be a better choice for anyone building a conference website, but for various reasons we had WordPress as our starting point. So I hope this will be helpful to other conference organizers using WordPress!

So, you want to make a website

Since I started messing around with web design, people have been coming out of the woodwork, confessing that they’d like to build a website, too, but don’t know where to start. My own experience has been that figuring out how to begin is much harder than actually building the site. So here’s my attempt to make things more clear for the absolute newbie (as I was myself a year ago).

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