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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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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Creating a Mood Board with Milanote

Recently, I came across milanote.com which seemed to be a good tool for creating a mood board or style guide.

When planning a website, or other creative project, it can be really helpful to build a mood board so that you can visualise how certain colours, fonts, images etc might work together. A style guide can act as a useful reference to ensure that you, and others involved in the project, are consistent in your use of various design elements.

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Flexible, Customisable WordPress Themes

There are a couple of different approaches to choosing a WordPress theme:
1. Try to find a theme that looks just how you want it straight out of the box (or with a few small tweaks). Then just add your own text and images
2. Choose a plain looking, but flexible, theme as a starting point and customise it to look just as you want it to.

I favour the 2nd approach, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone.

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More Places to Find Free Graphics

My previous post, Where to Find Free Website Graphics, listed some of my favourite websites for downloading free images, backgrounds and other graphical resources. This follow up post contains a few more suggested sources of freebies. These ones are perhaps a little less well known and may not have such a great selection – but they are worth a look.

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Where to Find Free Website Graphics

When you are building a website, you are likely to want to add some illustrations to make it look appealing to your visitors. It’s reasonable to expect to have to pay for website graphics as these have been created through the hard work of artists and designers.

Having said that, costs can easily mount up and, like most people, I love a freebie or a bargain! Here are some of my favourite sources of free graphics that can be used on websites.

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Review of Design Cuts’ Comprehensive Texture and Patterns Collection

Design Cuts have provided me with a copy of their latest bundle in exchange for this review.

The Comprehensive Texture and Patterns Collection is available for $29 (or around £27 including VAT) until 3pm UK time on Tuesday 6th June 2017. Once the bundle has expired, some of the items may become available in the Design Cuts Marketplace.

Design Cuts say: “This is our most varied and comprehensive textures and patterns bundle ever. Inside you can discover: rough vector textures, gold/glam textures, seamless paper textures, ombre paint, clean line patterns, watercolour textures, cardboard, felt, kraft, fabrics, colourful patterns, crayon patterns, subtle grungy textures, painted papers, vintage papers, natural backgrounds, modern clean backgrounds, space textures, geometric patterns, hand-drawn patterns, marble surfaces, ink textures and even 3D patterns.” Note that the preview graphics have been provided by the designers for presentational use only.

This really does seem to be a massive collection of all kinds of patterns. The majority include either jpg or png files, which can be processed by most photo editing software, but if there is a pattern you particularly like then you should check that it doesn’t require special software, such as Illustrator or Photoshop. Design Cuts specify software compatibility in the product descriptions.

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Review of Design Cuts’ Totally Diverse Vectors Collection

Design Cuts have provided me with a free copy of their current deal, The Totally Diverse Vectors Collection, in exchange for a review of this bundle.

The collection costs $29 (or around £28 including VAT) and it will be available until 10th April 2017.

[UPDATE: This deal has expired – but some of the resources may be available separately in the Design Cuts marketplace.]

What are Vectors?

Vector graphics are made up of paths (lines, curves, angles and shapes) rather than pixels. This means that, unlike a jpg or png image, a vector graphic can be reduced or increased in size without becoming jagged and pixelated. Vector files have a number of different file extensions including ai and eps.

Here’s one of the birds from the Pretty Peonies Botanical Collection by Feanne, which is included in the Design Cuts deal. As you can see, the image is made up of numerous nodes which are joined up to form curves. This means that, not only will the graphic remain smooth when it’s enlarged, but also the individual parts of the picture can be manipulated.

 

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Review of Design Cuts’ Inspiring Artistic Design Collection

Design Cuts is an online market place for downloadable design resources. They gave me the opportunity of receiving a free copy of their current deal, The Inspiring Artistic Design Collection, in exchange for a review of this bundle. [UPDATE: This deal has expired – but some of the resources may be available separately in the Design Cuts marketplace.]

The collection costs $29 (or around £28 including VAT) which Design Cuts say is 99% off the full price of thousands of best selling design assets. Of course, a typical small business owner or blogger will have a particular style for their brand, so you may wonder whether the bundle is still good value for money even if you would only use a fraction of the resources.

I decided to see how someone might use assets from the collection if they had one of a couple of styles for their website. If your brand does not fall into one of these categories, then you’d need to look at the other items to see whether you feel that this bundle could be useful for you.

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Online Resources for Choosing a Colour Scheme

I love colour and can spend ages playing with different colour combinations, but I find that it can be very difficult to narrow down all the different options and come up with a colour scheme that is more than just a unco-ordinated mix of beautiful colours.

If you are serious about using colour in the most effective way and would like to do some research, then I would highly recommend a series of three articles by Smashing Magazine:

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