with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Recreating Camera on the Road with WordPress

[Note: The following is the thought process I went through as I slowly turned my site over from static HTML to WordPress, a database driving PHP-enabled site management system built originally for bloggers. Following along with this, you will learn that many of my first assumptions turned out to be wrong, and others were smack right, but I've left the process of discovery stay within these articles to help others. If you need specific help with WordPress, or to validate any of my finds or miss-finds, please check the WordPress Codex, the source of WordPress documentation, and/or the WordPress Support Forums. Enjoy the ride!]

After trying a few Content Management Systems (CMS) to convert our website from static html to dynamic html using PHP and MySQL, a programming code that works with a database for generating web page content, I finally decided to give WordPress a try.

Reasons? I’ve been using their blog software for several months now and I adore it. Simple interface, clean, and incredibly easy to use. If you want to do nothing more than post your thoughts and opinions publicly, and never want to lift the hood, this will not only do it, it will change your life. I wanted more, though. I needed something that had a smooth, clean, easy to use interface with power under the hood because I was going to lift it. After a lot of research, WordPress rose to the top.

Now, I learned very quickly that WordPress is NOT a CMS. It can be and will be, at least for me, but making it into one means not only lifting the hood but getting in there and getting your hands dirty – a lot.

So as I make my transition, come along for the ride and maybe those who wish to do the same thing will learn from my mistakes.

Learn Before You Burn

Before making the conversion, there are lessons to be learned and decisions to be made. There are several steps to this process and all of them involve some level of knowledge, skill, and expertise in HTML, XHTML, CSS, PHP, MySQL, and how all of these work together to create a web page and website.

Familiar already with HTML and CSS, I had to learn about XHTML and what the differences between HTML and XHMTL were. That turned out to be fairly simple, at least as far as I was concerned. I learned that I would have to change some of the tags in my HTML because XHTML requires that all tags be closed. For example, a line break is represented in HTML as <br> which is easy, but it isn’t part of an open and closed pair, so it has to be changed to be self-closing to <br />. Other non-closing tags like the IMG also had to be changed to be self-closing with a space and a slash before the closing >. These were small things I figured I could clean up with some search and replace techniques.

In preparation for my first steps into this new world of jargon code and foreign speak for understanding PHP and MySQL was through the book “PHP & MySQL for Dummies” by Janet Valade. Now, before you start laughing at me, understand that I didn’t know a ? from a PHP from a $ from a SELECT. When you don’t know the terminology, jumping in with both feet can drown you in words you don’t understand. And while the words look familiar (ALTER, SELECT, GET, INCLUDE), they don’t make a lot of sense when you don’t understand the context. This book worked wonderfully to get me into the terminology and to get a grip on the core elements of PHP and MySQL. Besides, it was on sale at the bookstore.

I poured over pages upon pages, heaps and mounds of pages of material on the web. Here are the sites I found most helpful to help me get a grip on what is PHP and MySQL and how they work together to generate HTML:

HTML/XHTML

PHP

2 Comments

  • Posted March 15, 2006 at 11:09 | Permalink

    Actually you dont need to know any PHP mysql if you have fantastico that comes with any standard cpanel install. Its a one click install and even a serious “tech dummy” can install wordpress
    Anyway, nice to see you learning PHP :)

  • Christian
    Posted August 18, 2006 at 6:15 | Permalink

    WordPress is really easy to install once the host contains fantastico. It is also one of the best and easiest blogging platforms out there. Also there are many additional plugins to help a site be more user friendly. You can even change permalinks to have more search engine friendly url’s.

One Trackback

  • [...] I test drove WordPress for a couple of months, and then decided to convert my entire site over, a major undertaking. There was so little I knew and so much that I had to learn, I decided that I would start hanging around the WordPress Codex to read what there was to read and to learn more. Unfortunately, my second document featured the word “seperete” over and over and over, throughout the entire document, until I wanted to scream. I did some checking and found out that anyone could edit the Codex. So I went in and fixed every one of those missed-spellings to “separate”. [...]

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