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In the building of sites and eating your own dogfood as it’s often called, I haven’t for a long time had the time or energy to take time out from my client’s work and do something for myself. This I’m sure has many bad-for-business ramifications, but when there’s not enough time in the day and there’s clients calling, what can you do?
Well over the holiday season I took the time to do something for myself, long overdue. This is part of it that you’re looking at now. I had a blog setup that I enjoyed writing bits and pieces for but never got around to doing the template properly, and to be honest, I’ve done a few blog templates so I wanted my own to show a decent level of professionalism.. at breaking point I just decided to go ahead and pick a new template and came across the Platform template that you see now.
I think for most people who build websites, the idea of paying someone else to work on your own is a painful thought, and of course that’s not what I did, but there’s no need to start from scratch.. so alongside the pre-built templates that you get with wordpress (I’m not going to use the out of the box one and skin it this time), there’s a ton of free and premium options. Like most things, you always want to try the free first, and I did.. in fact I tried the trial of squarespace.com which everyone seems to be a huge fan of. I didn’t dislike it, it was pretty good, but after building a few wordpress templates I was more familiar with wordpress and felt that I have much more control to add in widgets and things, or just throw some PHP around to do specific things.
I ran into a couple of things that had been locked away in the pro version. Of course at the end of the day it’s a wordpress template, so I could go into the code and fix these things myself, but I decided to put my faith in these guys and buy the pro version so that it’d be simplified. The thing that actually made me realise was digging around in the code to hide the search bar at the top. I found and figured it out, but it felt like a hack. I had the feeling that as any new versions of the template came out the things I’d changed would be overwritten. They have you covered on that with sub-templating that lets you customise things and not lose it all in an upgrade.. I’ll give that a go when I’ve had more time to play.
The point of this site was to get something up and running with minimal effort so I can concentrate on my clients work. Not no expense spared, i.e. I’m still doing it myself, but where there’s some code out there that does the job already, why rewrite the wheel.. time is money!
It won’t be for everyone, some people will definitely like the “I can do it all myself”-ness of squarespace, and probably tumblr too (*which I’m yet to try but it’s on the horizon), but this site will maintain to use PlatformPro for the foreseeable future, I’m quite enjoying it and am excited to exploit it’s features and probably end up extending it in some way.. there’s already a couple of things that I want to do that are requiring some PHP in the template files, probably a good candidate for a plugin!
So as with anything wordpress, there’s still a learning curve to setting it up at the moment, but once you’ve figured that out it seems like it’s going to be an easy ride. Some of the template settings aren’t immediately obvious, but there’s a lot of power in the drag and drop interface. You can put in box callouts for adverts, galleries and menus. You can make full on websites that look miles away from a blog, with the power (and community) of wordpress behind them.. I’m still working on figuring out some of how to use different parts, for example getting different settings to work for different categories. Some bits might need a bit of PHP thrown here and there for good measure, but I still think it’s worth the cost. At $95 for the pro version, it seems to be saving me days of work, so at my rate it’s paying for itself many times before it even starts.
There’s a developer version which gives you Illustrator template files to make your own graphics and chop up.. I didn’t go for the ‘developer’ version this time, partly because I wanted to test it out before parting with too much money, and partly because I read in the FAQ somewhere that there’s an upgrade from ‘pro’ to ‘developer’ which also gets you matching bbpress templates. I’ll probably do that once I’ve got the main bits all set up. I’d usually say one step at a time, but setting this up has been more like 3 steps at a time!
Not only was this an experiment for myself, but if it works out like it seems to be I’ll probably be building PlatformPro based sites for my clients in the near future. I don’t want to sound like a massive shill here but I feel like it could be a new kick in the pants that makes wordpress that much greater than the other options, for it’s particular strengths anyway. I’ll no doubt be building sites from scratch where the things I want to do are hampered, or at least held up by some of the code restrictions of wordpress, but this is a step closer to wordpress utopia.
I’ll come back to my experiences with the pagelines pro template and it’s settings later as I learn more, I know it’s a bit meta to write a blog post about my experiences of building this site, but that’s part of the plan, for my own reference as much as anything else.
It’s late but I feel I have some posts on hosting and IE in me before I sleep..