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.

Read moreBuilding Static Websites Using WordPress

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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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.

Read moreA Simple Page Layout with the WordPress Block Editor

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:

FooGallery has been a favourite of mine for some time and, when I started this exercise, I expected to find that it was the plugin I would be most likely to recommend. However, having played with the alternatives listed above, I feel that if you just need a simple gallery, then you may prefer GT3 or Kadence Blocks.

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

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

Building My “Boxed” Demo Site – Part 1

Boxed is one of a handful of WordPress websites that I’ve set up to demonstrate some of the different formats that can be achieved using my favourite WordPress 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
  • a navigation menu on the side of the page.

The layout of the site is inspired by the “Sider” GeneratePress site which uses CSS code to move the navigation menu to the side.

  • This first article explains how I set up and customised the website and then added code based on the “Sider” site to move the navigation menu.
  • Part two will be about using the FooGallery and Smart Slider 3 plugins to add galleries and a slideshow.

Read moreBuilding My “Boxed” Demo Site – Part 1

Adding a Row of Image Links with the WordPress Block Editor

Some time ago, I wrote a blog post giving instructions for adding a row of image links to a WordPress website. The methods I described should still work, but now that the new WordPress block editor (a.k.a. “Gutenberg”) has been released, I would expect it to be easier to carry out this task without using the plugins I had looked at before.

I thought I’d write a new post to give an update in the light of the changes, and this accidentally turned into a mini review of some third party blocks plugins.

Read moreAdding a Row of Image Links with the WordPress Block Editor

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.

Read moreCreating a Mood Board with Milanote

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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Self-hosted WordPress Versus the Rest

WordPress have an old article (The $64,000 Question: WordPress.com or WordPress.org?) with an analogy that I’m going to borrow. The original article was written in 2013, although I see that it has been updated to mention the WordPress.com Business Plan (more on that below). I’ll extend the analogy a bit and throw in some things that weren’t mentioned.

The idea is that self-hosted WordPress versus WordPress.com is a bit like buying a house versus renting one.  I like this comparision and would extend it to include other platforms such as Squarespace, Weebly and Wix.

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