WordPress and libraries

1. WordPress foundations continued

This week I finished up watching WordPress: Building Themes from Scratch Using Underscores on Lynda.com. I feel much more confident about my approach to creating a WordPress theme after going through this video course, and am looking forward to beginning work on my own themes in the upcoming weeks.

I also took a look at Pro WordPress Theme Development, which covers a lot of similar topics as the Lynda.com video course. I appreciated the tips on theme testing and some further info on the review process once a theme has been submitted to the WordPress theme directory. I think this will be another source that may be useful to return to in the next few weeks if I have specific areas with questions/concerns.

2. Libraries using WordPress

Switching gears a bit, I’ve been looking at some case studies and examples of libraries currently using WordPress as a CMS.

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WordPress foundations for building a theme

1. The WordPress Template Hierarchy

The first video I watched this week was:

This video delves into the WordPress Template Hierarchy. Understanding this hierarchy is crucial to understanding how WordPress determines which file is going to be displayed in different parts of your site. The official WordPress documentation on the template hierarchy also covers the topic, and in particular provides the following diagram:

WordPress Template Hierarchy Chart

Morten Rand-Hendriksen (the author of the Lynda.com video) suggests creating a framework of your site based off of this template hierarchy, which I plan to do once I get further in the semester and begin the early design phases of my themes.

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Looking at PHP for developing WordPress themes

1. Intro to PHP

This week I started studying PHP in detail. Although I’ve played around with creating some custom WordPress themes, and therefore have had a little experience with the PHP involved in constructing them, the resources from this week provided a valuable foundation for understanding what is really going on.

The two main resources I looked at were:

I found both of these resources really helpful in different ways — and especially useful in conjunction with each other. I began with the Lynda.com videos, which provided a thorough but understandable introduction to PHP, including several exercise files that I was able to follow along with in order to replicate the examples the instructor of the course covered throughout the videos.

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Community Needs in Libraries

This post was originally published as a reading reflection on the article Learn by Asking: The User Experience.

The best libraries tailor their services to the needs of their communities. And while different communities have different needs, there certainly are similarities in communities across the country. What might some of these similarities be, and how can libraries use these similarities to their advantage?

Regardless of the goals and interests of a particular community, I think that libraries should be places that offer, protect, and enhance:

  • access to information
  • assistance with finding that information
  • access to technology
  • assistance with using the technology offered
  • forums/spaces for collaborative interactions

With this image of a library in mind, I think communities have several base qualities/interests in common when using the library.

  • People are interested in information in a variety of forms, although the methods through which they prefer to seek out and receive information may vary.
  • A “community” suggests to me a collection of individuals that share something in common — be that living in the same physical location or sharing a similar set of values/interests.
  • Supporting communities and community learning therefore means looking past individual patrons and instead looking at how a community functions as a whole.
  • This means facilitating an environment (through the programs, services, etc. offered/supported by a library) that is invested in the communication and cooperation of the patrons within our institutions — that communication being just as much between community members themselves as between community members and library staff.

That all said, one of the biggest take-aways I got from this week’s readings was the importance of connecting with our users at as personal a level as possible. Aaron’s “Learn by Asking” article emphasizes this with his discussion on the necessity of cultivating empathy towards users: “if we want to make deep connections with our communities, we must figure out how people feel.” In order to make non-superficial connections and assessments of the communities we serve, it’s crucial to take as much interest in learning about the communities we work with as possible. User interviews paired with some of the other techniques we’ve been discussing this semester seem like a great way to work toward accomplishing this.

Ultimately, when talking about a community, I think it’s important to remember that individual needs/desires interconnect in different ways. It’s probably not enough to find that User A uses the library one way and User B uses the library another. It’s where the motivations, interests, and interactions of Users A and B cross paths that true community evaluation can take place.

Library Website Analysis

Originally written as classwork for the University of Illinois LIS program.

For my library website analysis this week, I decided to analyze the University of Illinois library website. The site recently underwent a complete revision, with the new version I believe just becoming live to the public this past January.

In the lecture for this week, we looked at the old UIUC library home page as an example of a not-so-great library website. This is what the old site looked like (archive from the Wayback Machine, thus the messed up chat window):


I won’t go very far in listing out the problems it had here, since I’ll be looking more at things that have been (hopefully) improved in the re-design throughout this post. But real quick to summarize I would say that this design had a few critical issues:

  • overly cluttered
  • no clear hierarchies (it took me awhile to figure out that “Most Popular Resources” was a tab referring to the links in the center column of the page, and not the navigation links beneath it)
  • no clear starting point besides the search box
  • not mobile friendly

This is what the new design looks like:

Briefly, some pros in my opinion:

  • clearer hierarchies than the old site
  • color scheme makes the sections of the site more obvious to the user
  • responsive and mobile-friendly

And some cons:

  • still pretty cluttered
  • link to library catalog not very prominent
  • design not consistent throughout the rest of the library pages

That said, I think there has been a lot of improvements made in the re-design, and I found it useful to look at the two different versions to make comparisons and really see some examples of some of the ideas Krug talks about throughout Don’t Make Me Think.

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