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wordlog.com » What Do New Users Need?

A weblog authored by Carthik about the latest in the WordPress world.

Monday, August 30, 2004

What Do New Users Need?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Carthik @ 9:26 pm

What resources do you think new users need to help them modify their designs — what appears in index.php and how?

I am not looking for links here. Please post what you think makes a complete set of helpful documents for someone customizing the default WordPress template?

I have some ideas of my own, but I’d like to hear what you have to say, and then put together the links, and create any essential documents that might be missing.

Thank you.


  1. Heya Carthik. I think that the customizations of templates is very straightforward. A good doc in the wiki (already available) is the thing needed. I am of the idea that new users must be given the tools, but not the results. Sites as this one and WTCollection are the ones that help us most.
    I also think that the css file given in previous versions must continue. Why? Because it is so ugly that users *have* to change it, and in that way, every blog has its own identity and personality, contrary to other blog systems (CMS BLog, for example.) Keep up the good work.

    Comment by Jesus Vargas — 8/30/2004 @ 10:21 pm

  2. That’s an interesting take :)
    Thanks Jesus, I just wanted to check with everyone to see if they really think something is missing.

    Comment by Carthik — 8/30/2004 @ 11:46 pm

  3. I think this question is dependant on where the WordPress dev community feel WP is aimed at. If it’s aimed at newbie site admins/owners, then it needs simpler mechanisms than the CSS/XHTML and a Wiki based explanation, otherwise that seems fine.

    (Some kind of plugin system for templates & styles might be nice though.)

    Comment by Simon — 8/31/2004 @ 3:49 am

  4. I don’t think we should stay with CSS style coming with WP 1.2 because it has some major flaws like the letter-spacing in the body text which makes some site almost unreadably. I would prefer a really simple and very usable style (this includes changing the index and comments) as starting point for changes and some good styles usable out of the box for the ‘I just want to write’-people.

    Comment by Zarniwoop — 8/31/2004 @ 4:13 am

  5. A list of recommended freeware editors for a start, a couple for each system.

    Same for freeware graphics editors maybe ?

    And in the download, have a fully commented index.php and css file. Help people make the link between the 2 – and try and dispel this WP=PHP geek myth :)

    Comment by Podz — 8/31/2004 @ 6:00 am

  6. Simon,
    I was, indeed, talking about how to make the defaults friendlier for newbies who are editing them to make it work the way they want. I was looking forward to creating a set of customization resources for 1.3 as soon as it comes out.

    A good set of defaults is essential, and is probably going to make it’s way into 1.3 . The question I ask here is — What bunch of documentation do you think is essential for a beginner, in general?

    Yes, editors are a good place to start from.
    Fully commented index.php and css file — I think that is really important, Maybe one in the wiki, well linked-to can replace so many more bytes in downloads :)
    Trying to dispel the WP=PHP geek myth is simple enough — ask the person to start using WP ;)

    Comment by Carthik — 8/31/2004 @ 8:31 am

  7. Speaking as a newbie (using WP for 1 month), I would like something that helps me figure out how to make changes to my template, theme, whatever. Right now I spend time trying to find advice on how to change something (like making my blog 3 col) and then hours trying to get it to work for my blog. Usually I end up frustrated and revert back to the only change I’ve managed to make that works every time.

    The support forums are okay but they aren’t always helpful if you have no background in php, css, etc.

    Comment by Laura — 9/3/2004 @ 11:41 pm

  8. Laura,
    So a comprehensive overview of what PHP and CSS are, and how it all fits together would be nice, yes?
    I will get to it later. I will try to link to as many existing resources as possible, and write my own when I run out of existing resources.
    Thank you for the feedback :)

    Comment by Carthik — 9/4/2004 @ 9:56 am

  9. I also agree that a good overview of PHP would be useful to newbies. For example, I am trying to figure out how to run a horizontal menu, faking a WPCMS. Yea, there are tutorials, but all given from the standpoint of someone who is already familiar with PHP.

    And yea plugins are great, but if you are trying to install them in multiple templates versus (like Kubrick)the default (which needs a lot of corrections), PHP becomes a must.

    Comment by Dominick — 9/14/2004 @ 3:06 pm

  10. I too am a newbie. What I would like to see is more ‘front end’ controls in the admin. eg: I have been trying to find the way to remove the numbers after the catagories. Should I have to delve into php files (after hours on discussion boards and wikis) just to make a simple change?
    If Wordpress is going to move beyond it’s current geekiness IMO it really needs an easy to use user interface for the admin side.

    Comment by Pete — 9/14/2004 @ 8:14 pm

  11. I am a brand newbie. I have been trying to teach myself PHP/MySQL but it’s really a little over my head and I know next to nothing about CSS and absolutely nothing about XHTML.

    Fortunately Word Press has been installed for me, so it is working perfectly, but beyond using it as is, I really have no understanding of how it works and how to create templates etc. This is unfortunate as aside from the ability to include photos/other media (which I beleive is coming in a future version), it does almost everything I want.

    I would really appreciate a really simplistic, ‘for dummies’ style guide that 1) gives an overview of how WP works, how and where on the server it stores information, what the different pages/files/folders in the isntallation do, etc. 2)how to create/customise templates 3) how to add/remove page elements (like the calender for example) or change where on the page they appear 4) how to create static pages. 5) How to set up WP so that instead of running from the site index it runs from a sub index page, so that I can have a flash/static index page (if this is possible?) 6)I’d also like to know how I can use Dreamweaver (which I use in conjunction with fireworks/photoshop/flash)to make changes to templates as I am not a hand coder.

    From the comments above, it seems that users fall into 2 categories. Those who actually undersatnd exactly what they are doing…and those who really don’t have a clue. I suspect there are lots of the latter category, who would do far more with WP if given the ability to do so (without having to learn half a dozen languages first). This can only happen if the front end is simplified for people like me (how about built in templates that one can switch between or change visually as with dreamweaver) and/or someone writes a step by step guide.

    Comment by Paul — 9/18/2004 @ 10:27 am

  12. Paul,
    For those that don’t have a clue, wordpress, with it’s forum, and extensively spread out help can actually help accelerate the learning.
    There is no one simple way to make some web application, like WordPress completely customizable, using only buttons and options.
    The more you want to customize something, the more the effort you have to put into learning the tools that let you do that. No one needs to learn PHP to use or to personalize wordpress in a limited fashion, but yes, if you want it tweaked to high degree of individuality, then you need to read up and learn about PHP, CSS and how things work in general.

    The reason I have not started a tutorial on how PHP works, is because there are already so many good tutorials out there.

    I would really love to write something about how WP works, ie, how it puts together pages and about what the files in wordpress do and so on. Maybe in the process I will introduce a little bit of PHP – just enough to break the ice, and make it look less formiddable. :)

    Comment by Carthik — 9/18/2004 @ 12:03 pm

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