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.

An article about the Grove Library on ALA Tech Source looks at this library’s process of choosing and switching to WordPress. The Grove Library chose an already-made WordPress theme called Suffusion for a clean, simple, and direct layout that I think looks nice.

The library migrated to WordPress with the intention of eventually switching over to Drupal, but ended up sticking with WordPress due to the “vast support community, the variety of customization offers available through themes and plugins, and the flexibility of WordPress.”

One employee, Kathryn Greenhill, who the ALA Tech Source article describes as “already an expert in WordPress,” was in charge of the migration process. She purchased server space and multiple domains to prevent typo squatting. She then worked with other library employees to select a theme for the site. According to Greenhill, the library was looking for “a style guide that included colours, fonts and provided us with a number of standardised brand-based images that we could use in the header-banner throughout the site.” This search ended up with the selection of the aforementioned Suffusion theme.

As for the site’s architecture, it seems to be fairly consistent with WordPress sites, including both pages and posts. There is also a sidebar, populated with different widgets and post information such as categories.

I also looked at a list of public libraries using WordPress, put together by the Massachusetts Library System, which is where I found the majority of the following sites. I also briefly looked through Usable Libraries, the blog of a Systems Librarian at Harvard. This looks like it will be a really great resource for more ideas and inspiration based off of well-made library websites, and I’m excited to look through it more in the future.

I found three public libraries using the Arras theme, a multi-column, color customizable theme with lots of individualized widget areas:

Other examples that I found helpful in conceptualizing the different approaches to WordPress themes for libraries were:

  • John Curtis Free Library – Another highly widgetized front page, arranged into three columns.
  • Manchester By-the-Sea Public Library – Has a different approach than some of the others I’ve seen, with a feature image-focused layout. I like the cute, home-y feel, and also am glad to see that it’s responsive!
  • Elizabeth Taber Library – Another responsive design. I think this theme succeeds at being clean and minimal, and I like the styling of the main navigation drop-down menus.
  • Reading Public Library – Also responsive, this site has a front page with lots of featured images, including an image slider.
  • Malden Public Library – Probably one of my favorite public library sites I’ve seen in awhile. I like the original layout, the color scheme, the use of the icons in the “Today at the Library” section, and the clear and understandable header/navigation area.

I also looked at an academic library that appears to be using WordPress: the University of Miami library. While it’s not responsive, I do think these design is interesting in envisioning a different approach to a WordPress theme that doesn’t rely on the use of sidebars.

Things I saw on other library WordPress sites that stood out to me as being characteristics of a theme or site I DON’T particular like:

  • Extremely long front pages
  • Sidebars overpopulated with widgets and info that causes them to run far beyond the length of the main posts or content (although this is probably more likely an issue of the maintenance of the site itself, than necessarily a flaw in the theme design)
  • Too-small font sizes
  • Questionable color combinations
  • Lack of responsiveness
  • Drop-down menus that aren’t indicated (with a downward pointing arrow to distinguish from non-drop-down links in the main navigation)
  • Too many choices for navigation — should I start with the top, horizontal row of links, or the vertical, longer list running down the left-side of the page, for example?
  • Too much info spanning across the entire horizontal page-width instead of being condensed down into readable sections

I point these out since these are all things that I will be keeping in mind that I want to avoid when working on the development of my own themes!

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