Building My “Standard” Demo Site

Standard is a WordPress website that I’ve set up to demonstrate how I use my favourite theme, GeneratePress, with its Premium plugin.

Please note that this is an affiliate link, as described on my Privacy and Cookie Notice page. I am happy to recommend GeneratePress and you can find out why it’s my favourite theme by reading my blog post “Flexible, Customisable WordPress Themes“.

This is an ongoing exercise and I intended to add to this article as I build the site. I’ll use this as an overview of the project, and will include links to other articles, both on this website and elsewhere, that go into more detail.

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Creating a Mood Board with Canva & Coolors

Some time ago I wrote an article called “Creating a Mood Board with Milanote“. I really liked Milanote, but if you use it to make a mood board you do need to find some images to start with.

In this article I want to try some different free online tools so, just for fun, I’m going to create a mood board for a fictional tea room. When doing this, I need to think not about my own personal tastes, but about my target audience. This is particularly important when considering colour schemes. I have some information, and links, in my blog post “Colour Scheme Suggestions“.

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A Simple Page Layout With GenerateBlocks

About 10 months ago I wrote a blog post, “A Simple Page Layout with the WordPress Block Editor”, as an exercise to compare using just the block editor versus using the block editor plus one of a couple of plugins; Stackable and Kadence Blocks. I concluded that:

The Stackable and Kadence Blocks plugins both made building my page a bit quicker and allowed me to make the site look more interesting without using code, but it was pretty straightforward to build the page using just standard WordPress blocks.

Since then, the blocks plugins I have used most often have been Kadence Blocks and Ultimate Addons for Gutenberg.

Now that GenerateBlocks has been released by Tom Usborne, the developer of my favourite theme, GeneratePress, I wanted to have another go at building the same layout with this new plugin for the WordPress block editor. Note that GenerateBlocks can be used with any theme, not just with GeneratePress, although there are some features that are designed to work hand in hand with the GeneratePress theme.

GenerateBlocks is described as “A small collection of lightweight WordPress blocks that can accomplish nearly anything.” It is not supposed to include a block for every possible purpose, but can be combined with core WordPress blocks and ones from other plugins.

The plugin has just four basic blocks: Container, Grid, Headline and Buttons (although strictly speaking, there is a Buttons container block surrounding one or more Button blocks). These blocks have more or less the same controls for Typography, Spacing, Colors, Gradients, Backgrounds and SVG Icons.

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Building Static Websites Using WordPress

Recently, in one of the Facebook groups I belong to, someone asked a question about how to make WordPress more secure.

Much as I love WordPress, I have to admit that for a risk adverse person it can be worrying to know that it is a target for hackers. People who build WordPress websites for clients are likely to recognise the scenario where they hand the site over to the client, stressing that it’s important to keep the theme and plugins up to date. A few months later the client asks them to do some more work, but when they log in to the WordPress dashboard they see several plugins that have not been updated. Hopefully the client, or their host, will have been keeping backups in case the worst happens.

There are ways to get WordPress plugins and themes to update automatically, and in fact this feature will be included in WordPress version 5.5 (due in August 2020). It’s possible to set up automatic backups too, but it would be nice not to have to worry about the more vulnerable aspects of WordPress.

Sometimes, I have used WordPress.com, rather than self-hosted WordPress, as this takes care of updates and security. However, it’s only with the relatively expensive Business plan that it is possible to use plugins or to install any theme you choose.

One of the other members of the Facebook group suggested that a possible solution would be to look into HardyPress.

A few days later, TechCrunch posted an article about Strattic titled “Strattic raises $6.5M to bring static WordPress to the masses“.

The premise behind these services, and others such as Shifter, is that WordPress is a great tool for building a website, but converting it to a static version results in a more secure, and faster loading, site. This approach wouldn’t be suitable for all websites as dynamic elements such as shopping carts, comments, social media feeds etc. would not work. But it seems to make sense for sites that don’t need that type of feature.

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Adding and Moving WordPress Blocks

I decided to make a very brief video demonstrating some basic methods used when building a page with the WordPress block editor.

One of the most useful features is block navigation; that little icon up towards the left hand corner of the screen. It’s easy to lose track of which block you have selected. Block navigation shows you where you are and helps you move to the next block that you want to use, by clicking on it in the dropdown list.

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Sketching a Website Page Layout with Excalidraw

Previously, I’ve written a blog post about how I used Milanote to create a mood board. I’ve also used Milanote for mind mapping. Today I came across another free online tool, thanks to the Speckyboy Design Magazine Facebook page.

It seemed that Excalidraw could be a quick way to draw out a web page layout, so I decided to give it a go. It’s quite a simple tool, without a load of bells and whistles, but I could see it being useful. It feels similar to quickly sketching with pencil and paper, but items can be moved or deleted and it’s easy to change their colour and size.

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A Simple Page Layout with the WordPress Block Editor

Around 18 months ago, I wrote a blog post, Alternatives to WordPress Page Builders, to see how easy it was to build a page with a specific layout. At the start of that post I said:

Page Builders have become so popular that sometimes new WordPress users get the impression that they are expected to use one. My own view is that it’s best to keep things simple and use a page builder only if you have a need for it. However, there’s no doubt that, compared to “drag and drop” website builders, WordPress can be frustrating when it comes to laying out a page.

I found that it was possible, but quite tricky, to get the exact page layout that I was aiming for. I followed this with another post, A Look at WordPress Page Builders, at the end of which I concluded:

If you are new to WordPress, don’t think that you have to use a page builder. Learn what can be done just using the WordPress editor first, and add a page builder plugin only if you have a need for one. Don’t use it on every page and post just for the sake of it… Having said all that, during my research for this post, I began to see the value of page builders, both for speeding up development and for making a site look more polished.

Now that the new WordPress block editor (a.k.a. Gutenberg) has been released, I want to repeat this exercise to see whether it’s now easier to set out a page, using just the block editor without a separate page builder plugin.

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Building My “Boxed” Demo Site – Part 2 Photo Galleries and Slideshow

For this post, which follows on from my previous blog post “Building My “Boxed” Demo Site – Part 1“, I experimented with a few different gallery and slideshow plugins:

Some Alternative Suggestions

Although I chose to use some of the most recommended plugins for this exercise, I’d suggest that you have a look at a few of the alternatives, look for reviews and have a play with them to see how they work. Some plugins to consider include:

Adding Image Galleries with the FooGallery Plugin

I wanted the homepage of my “Boxed” demo website to consist of a grid of images, each of which was linked to one of the gallery pages that I had created earlier. I used the free FooGallery plugin to make a gallery containing these images, and chose to use a Masonry Image Gallery with the following settings:

  • Thumb width = 200
  • Masonry Layout = 3 columns
  • Gutter Size = Normal
  • Thumbnail Link = Custom URL

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Building My “Boxed” Demo Site – Part 1

Boxed is a WordPress website that I’ve set up to demonstrate how I use my favourite theme, GeneratePress, with its Premium modules.

Please note that this is an affiliate link, as described on my Privacy and Cookie Notice page. I am happy to recommend GeneratePress and you can find out why it’s my favourite theme by reading my blog post “Flexible, Customisable WordPress Themes“.

The Boxed site demonstrates the following:

  • colours and fonts set using GeneratePress Premium’s customiser options
  • the “separate containers” layout
  • different backgrounds for the body and content areas of the site
  • blog posts with a masonry grid layout.

This first article explains how I set up and customised the website. Part two will be about using the FooGallery and Smart Slider 3 plugins to add galleries and a slideshow.

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