Forums are now working again, my apologies

I have to apologize, I haven’t been paying too much attention to the seismic themes site itself. And, it seems that everybody trying to use it has suffered.

Although, I have been trying to answer all your questions that are being sent by email. I have been a little overwhelmed trying to keep up. Now, I understand why.

I think that I will take the liberty of posting some of your questions in the forum so everyone can benefit from the answers. I will anonymize the data to protect the identities of everyone while doing this. I feel this is the best action because it seems that a lot of the questions would have been posted in the forum anyways.

Thank you all for using our themes, and please feel free to start using the forums to post your questions.

The Usability and Popularity of Responsive Design

Introduction

Technology has gone from strength to strength with smart phones, tablets, and other portable hand held devices smashing worldwide sales records, tablets are expected to break the 100million mark this year alone. The rise of more advanced ways to access the internet has meant changes now to be made within the design and development process of all websites and WordPress themes.This has led to the rise of Responsive design:

What is Responsive design?

Responsive design is a web design approach popularized by the number of users accessing the internet from a portable device. As this is rapidly increasing it’s making developers and designers rethink the way information being viewed.

Responsive web design crafts sites to provide an optimal viewing experience by working across all screen sizes, from desktop computers to smart phones. Responsive design uses media queries to detect the resolution of the device being used. It uses a combination of flexible images, grids and type to adjust and fit in to the screen of the device it’s being viewed on.

When considering the change over to a Responsive WordPress theme always keep these points in mind:

1. Everything is flexible: your original concept may need to be rendered slightly to consider the best options for different browser sizes. You could try to hide some content and images, this will create a better user experience for smaller devices. Or using a simpler design scheme can help to create a more uniform look when viewed across different devices.

2. Start with a grid: Using a fluid grid can help scale proportionately based on the number of grid stops or percentages. Grids that use stops are very common in responsive design and work beautifully.

3. Consider image size: The quality of images and image load time is highly important, especially for those viewing your website via their smart phone – as bandwidth is typically limited.

4. Type must be Responsive: The most important point to consider is that line length is key. To maintain readability, do not optimise your typography according to screen width, 50-75 characters is ideal for larger screens. This drops to 35-50 characters for line on smart phone devices.

5. Navigation: Drop down navigations does not work well for touch screen devices. However, more simple forms of navigation are strongly recommended and is a key feature in Responsive design.

Responsive Design and SEO

Anyone building a website or WordPress blog for sales, branding or for self-exposure, a responsive web design can help improve search engine optimization  This is because a responsive design will only live in one place with only one URL. Any redirects do not take away from the main website or advertising campaigns.

Everything points in one location.

Responsive design appears to be the answer to cater for the ever changing and innovative technology that’s introduced several times a year.

For a blogger to be design savvy and code literate it tough, this shouldn’t compromise your need to use a responsive design on your site. If you use WordPress then we have a treat for you. Rather than investing in hiring a designer to revamp your website, you could implement one of our responsive WordPress themes.

They are designed to re-size and cater for all screen sizes!

WordPress Theme SEO

WordPress Theme SEOWhy the themes developed by Seismic Themes have superior SEO built in. Many themes out there claim to be “SEO friendly” but are they really? The answer is a resounding NO! As a matter of fact most themes out there premium and free are just plain crappy when it comes to SEO, there are many reasons for this.

Some of the major reasons for bad SEO proformance:

Site Title: Many themes out there don’t implement the title of the site in the title tag the right way. Maybe they just don’t take the time to understand what works best and what doesn’t or they just don’t care. Either way the title tag should be setup in a particular order; yes order matters here as it does elsewhere on the page and theme. If it’s the front page of the website it should be: site title | tag line or something similar to that. Otherwise if it’s a single page on the site the layout should be page title | site title or something similar. If they are arranged in any other order, chances are it’s hurting your overall SEO proformance.

Add in their own “SEO” bits: Some theme designers out there take it upon themselves to add in their own SEO bits to the theme, which can include meta tags such as description, keywords, and robots. While the intentions might be good the results that come from this aren’t often as good. If it’s showing the same description tag for every page this is definitely hurting your sites SEO proformance.

Another problem that often comes along with the implementation of these features is that even if they do work they end up “locking” you into using and being “stuck” with that theme. What I mean by this is that if you would like to easily change the look of your site you can’t, without disrupting everything else that you might have had setup with the functions that were built into the theme.

H1 overuse: Almost all the themes out there use H1 for the site title, which is fine for the front page; but is that really the most imporant part on single pages? The answer is no, on single page the most important words that should be encapsalated inside H1 is the title of that page or post. It make it much easier for search engines to understand what the title of the page is and what words should be focused on.

Code Setup: The last major problem that I am going to point out here is the code setup, and by code setup I mean two different things. The first is where the main content of your page is located in the HTML and second I mean how many stylesheets are used and how many JavaScript files are loaded along with what the actual markup looks like.

To cover the first issue of where the content is located within the HTML markup, I would like to point out that some themes will actually put sidebar content into the HTML before ever getting to the main part of the web page. This isn’t good from an SEO standpoint, the lower in the markup something is located the more its viewed to be unimportant to the actual page itself.

The second issue of how many files are being loaded, and what does the actual markup look like. If the theme is loading many stylesheets and alot of JavaScript files it can be assumed that the page load speed is taking a hit. This causes your sites visitors to lose interest in the page possibly before it has even loaded, and search providers know this which causes the site to be ranked lower in the results. The problem with the markup is similar, if it’s all bloated with extra elements and unneeded classes, and ids the page load time will be taking a hit again, albeit usually much less significant but its still there none the less and it shouldn’t be.

How is Seismic Themes Different?

We’re different because we know all of this and strive to make our themes the best they possibly can be. The site title is implemented in the correct order for every page, H1 is only used on the front page and we even go the extra mile to add H2 to the tag line on the front page. The code setup is as light as possible and the markup is as clean as a whistle, nothing unnessary that will cause anybody a hit in page load times.

As for the other SEO bits, that’s left alone for plugins to deal with. There are some mighty fine plugins available that implement everything just the way it should be, in particular Yoast has one of the best that will soon be natively supported by all of our themes.

Securing WordPress

Securing WordPressHow do I secure my WordPress site? I see this question being asked quite often, so I thought that I would take sometime to cover at least some of the basic steps to take in order to secure your WordPress blog. Most of these steps are quite easy to take care of on your own, and if you’re not sure how to do it yourself it should be fairly easy to find somebody that will help you out for a couple bucks.

Not only will this help you out and possibly save you some headaches in the future, but it could make all the difference for your users as well. If something happens to your site it means that you will have to spend hours cleaning it up and getting it back to the way it was and is supposed to be (headaches). However, you’re not the only one that is being affected here. Your visitors will also be affected, when they visit your site they are exposing their computers to harmful content, and this could also come back to effect you in the long run as you may loose visitors because your site wasn’t secure.

Let’s dig in

The first and easiest step to take is making sure that your WordPress Core is up to date with the latest version. The team over at WordPress working on the core go through a lot of trouble keeping everything updated, and quickly clearing up any security issues that might have been found or uncovered. They have also tried to make it as easy as possible to update, you still should back everything up before attempting an update but non-the-less a core update is a one click process.

I’ll admit that I am and have been guilty of avoiding core updates, because a plugin that I use wasn’t compatible with the latest version. Sometimes you may be able to get away with doing this but, it’s a risk that shouldn’t be taken. Even if you can’t write code, it might be possible to make a donation to the plugins author in order to get the process of updating the plugin done more quickly.

Next up, themes and plugins. These also require updates from time to time, plugins for the most part shouldn’t be any big deal to update. However, some of them can be found to have security issues; in this case they are pulled from the directory right away until they are fixed. If you find that this is the case for a particular plugin you have installed it would be best for you and your site to disable and remove the plugin as well to avoid exposing yourself to any potential security threats.

Themes on the other hand, you may find yourself avoiding an update because you made some modifications to it on your installation. I have been guilty of this on myself. The good news is that there is an easy way around this with child themes, if you want to make any changes to a particular theme just go ahead and create a child theme and make your changes in there. If you go about doing things in this manner you can easily update any changes to the parent theme without having to worry about the looks or function of your site being effected.

Lastly on the themes and plugins note, if you have a bunch of disabled themes or plugins stilled installed just sitting there is would be best to just go ahead and fully remove them. Fully removing them is the only way to make sure that they can’t still be exploited, if it comes out that there is a vulnerability in a certain theme or plugin every “hacker” and “script kiddie” out there is going to be hunting down WordPress sites and checking to see if they have the vulnerable theme or plugin on the server.

Next up, is doing your part to make sure that everything is secure as it can be. What does this mean? It means that you should do your best to pick out a password that would be hard to crack and than storing it someplace safe. To make sure that your password is even more secure you should consider changing it often.

Lastly, if you’re able to do so it would be best if you change the default admin login name. Everybody is sure to know right away that the login username is admin by default. By changing this it will give your attacker one more hurtle to overcome before getting into your blog (some themes give this away with links to the author page).

If you follow these simple steps you can make sure that your WordPress blog is secure as it possibly can be. These steps shouldn’t be to hard to follow or execute, however some of them do require a little bit of technical knowledge so if you find that you aren’t able to figure one of the steps go ahead and find somebody trustworthy that can help you with this.

New Free WordPress Theme: TwentyTen Plus Two

Seismic Themes is happy to announce a new WordPress theme today. It’s based on the TwentyTen Theme and looks very much just like it, however it does have some major upgrades that improve on the already great theme. First let me show a screenshot of the new theme and then I’ll tell you a little more about it.

This great new theme is built so that’s it’s responsive all the way down to mobile. We didn’t mess with the max width, which is still set at 960 pixels. Next we set about adding some jQuery and JavaScript features that would really make the theme pop.

The first jQuery feature was to add a search input to the main menu, which I personally think looks really good. But, if the screen size decreases to much the search switches back to only being available in the side bar.

Next up we added an easy scrolling feature, so that your sites visitors can easily reach the top or the bottom of your page/post with just one click. This automatically changes based upon their scrolling position.

What if they don’t have JavaScript Enabled?

That’s a great question, but we have you covered. If it turns out your visitors don’t have JavaScript enabled they won’t see any more than the original TwentyTen WordPress theme.

The best part of all of this is that it’s all free. Go ahead download it, give it a try and see if you like it. I think that you’ll find that you will and so will your visitors.

The Importance of a Website’s Design

The Importance of a Website's DesignFirst impressions count, just like many other things in life the impression a user will get of a website will first come from the way the site looks. A study conducted by Dr. Gitte Lindgaard at Carleton University in Ontario showed that most users will form an opinion about a website within 1/20th of a second, which means the design of a website is very important when it comes to its success.

This doesn’t mean that the look of a website is the only thing that matters, and will be the only thing that keep visitors coming back time after time. However, being that it will be the first thing visitors see and will be what they form their initial opinion on. It better be a visually pleasing design.

When it comes to site design it best to leave it to the professionals or at least really take your time and think things through.

What does this mean?

In particular this means think about what is being placed in the design and whether it really needs to be there. Does it improve the design or turn it into a cluttered mess?

Professional web designers will keep in mind that users will look at certain part of a web page expecting to see a specific element, and they know that if the visitor doesn’t see what they want they will quickly become frustrated.

Another important thing to keep in mind is the use of white space, they is such a thing as to much clutter when it comes to a web page. Also it’s important to keep in mind that to much white space isn’t good either. There’s a fine line that must be found and stuck to when it comes to designing a web page.

In the coming days and weeks, I’ll be putting together more posts, better describing the proper way to plan out and design a web site. Covering positioning of elements on a web page, choosing the right colors, and discovering who the audience of the website will be. So be sure to add the blog to your feed reader so you can keep up with all the latest and greatest news and info.

New Free Theme Coming Soon

So last night I had mentioned that I had started working on a new theme framework for WordPress, before writing that post I had been thinking about whether or not to release a the whole thing for free or just a free version of it. Then after writing that post I came to the conclusion, I would build a totally separate but equally beautiful theme, that I would release freely, it’s not quite done yet but once it gets there I will submit it for inclusion on the WordPress theme directory.

What it has so far

So far I have built in a custom background, custom header image, and custom header text color, and you can totally remove the header text if you would like. It also supports a custom menu with drop-downs, I initially built a version that had the option for two menus I still have that but have been moving forward with the single menu version.

Layout

It’s a pretty standard and straight forward 2 column layout with the content on the left and the sidebar on the right. I have some other style sheets that I have been working on which will allow you to place the sidebar on the left and the content on the right. It incorporates primary and a secondary sidebar widgets, which will also enable a 3 column layout which I also have a style sheet drawn up for. I haven’t decided if I will just include those file in a folder called CSS, and than just include directions for how to use them, or if I will put together a theme options page that will allow switching between them with the click of a button.

I like the later option the best but, it might be rather hard to get it to pass the directory theme requirements in that state, because of the theme root directory style sheet requirements. I’m not real sure about this though it’s something I would have to look into a little farther before making a final decision.

Conclusion

The current theme of this site (as of 22 July 2011), is running on a very early version of this theme, although there is still quite a bit of work to be done on the back end. I am very excited about getting this theme completed and released to the public, so I’ll be spending quite a bit of time working on it this weekend.

Here’s a screen shot incase I end up changing the theme in the future:

If you have any questions or comments about this theme, please feel free to leave them below.

Coming Soon a Theme Frame Work

Yesterday I wrote a post that said that this project is just getting started and while that’s true, I had a little extra time today so I started working on a new theme framework. I had already started on some code for the back-end of a theme framework sometime ago, but it just kind of got abandoned and forgotten about. That is until recently, and today I actually blew the dust off it and started moving things forward.

What’s done so far?

So far I have just been spending most of the time developing the back-end, getting all the actions, functions, and hooks defined and ready to use on the front-end templates. That has been taking quite a bit of time, and just a few weeks ago I discovered CSS frameworks and how wonderful and easy they can make things. So after this discovery I decided to go back and rewrite things so at least one of them was baked in from the start, yes that’s right I was only going to include one. However after thinking about this a little farther I came to the conclusion that not everybody would be a fan of one particular CSS framework so I decided that I would include as many as possible.

What did I get accomplished tonight?

Well as I mentioned earlier I just started working on this theme again, and after deciding that I should bake some CSS frameworks in, I started with that this evening. My personal favorite to work with is the Nine Sixty Grid System, so that’s the one I started adding support for. I only had about 3 hours to put towards this project tonight so I didn’t quite get everything in there yet, but even as a rough draft it looks fairly decent.

Here’s a sneak peak of what it looks like so far:

What’s next?

Once I get finished adding support for the 960gs I’ll start adding support for other CSS frameworks such as Blueprint CSS, HTML5 boilerplate, and the 1140 CSS Grid.

I still haven’t decided what I am going to do with this theme, I had in mind selling it right from the start, but lately I have started thinking about releasing it as open source somewhere, maybe on the WordPress theme directory or just as an open source project on some code hosting site. I have also started thinking about just releasing a barebones version for free, with the option to upgrade to the full blown version with all the bells and whistles. But one thing is for sure, if I don’t get this project finished I won’t be able to do anything with it at all. I better get back to work…

Hello world!

Welcome to seismic themes, as you can see things are looking a little bare around here right now. I promise that will all change shortly, and hopefully you’ll end up thinking that it’s for the better, because I believe it will.

Right now I have a few other big projects that I am working on so that is currently taking up all my time, but I should be able to start on this little project very soon and I’m looking forward to it. So much so that I in fact already have the first couple of themes already planned out and drawn up.

So if you would like to see what is coming up next go ahead and add this feed to your feed reader so you’ll be one of the first to know when things start happening around here.