Child of Twenty Fifteen

I’ve gained a new respect for the people who work on WordPress, WordPress Themes, and general web monkey work. I’ll tell you why.

I’m not a web monkey. That is, I do not make my living by writing HTML, CSS, or JavaScript to run in browsers. Ten years ago, I rebooted my blog. I’ve actually had a personal website since 1997. It has undergone several incarnations, including being 404 for a while when I had no hosting arrangement. The 2005 reboot was hand written using XHTML 1.0 and CSS. There was no JavaScript. Well, perhaps a little. But it was code inserted from a third party.

Back then, there was no iPhone. There were no tablets. There wasn’t even Chrome. Safari was pretty primitive back then. When I endeavored to build my site, I stuck with the W3C standards of the time. I had no patience for working around browser bugs or other glitches. There was a purity to my site. I was actually quite happy with it.

Over time, I lost interest in it. I wasn’t making new entries. I just let it sit. Time passed. While other things did happen, I’m going to fast forward to 2015. Things have changed. They’ve changed a lot. I wanted to reboot my site again. This time, I didn’t want to write HTML or CSS. I certainly didn’t want to write JavaScript. I also wanted to have a proper Content Management System (CMS) like the big guys use. I ended up choosing WordPress.

This lead me to a bit of a quandary. Choices. WordPress is customizable with Themes. And there are a heck of a lot of them. Some are free. Some cost money. I didn’t want to pay more money. I had just spent money on a five year renewal of my domain and web hosting. I won’t go into the wonderful options that are available for someone who wants to create their own website in this post. Suffice it to say things have come a long way. I even have a free TLS certificate so that I can run HTTPS instead of HTTP. That doesn’t work for hot linking from an HTTP only site (the padlock disappears due to mixed content).

I settled on the Twenty Fifteen theme packaged with WordPress. It’s a nice theme that reformats the content when smaller screens are used. It does clever things that I couldn’t imagine doing ten years ago. I can add widgets. Search is one of them. As I add content to this site, search will probably become rather more useful.

The theme you are looking at is not the Twenty Fifteen theme. It is a Child Theme derived from Twenty Fifteen. Twenty Fifteen is a good theme. Unfortunately it is very liberal in use of white space. I did not want to let this precious screen real estate go to waste. I had several options. One was to simply choose another theme. Did I mention there are lots of themes out there? I didn’t want to spend more money either.

At first, I tried hacking away at the style.css file for Twenty Fifteen. That was a disaster. I ended up reverting all my changes. I needed help. Fortunately, WordPress has support forums. So I asked for help. In a very short time, I had the exact help I needed. The solution was to create a Child Theme. No matter how much I screwed that up, I could always switch back to the default Twenty Fifteen theme with no harm no foul. Beautiful.

I set about aggressively reducing white space consumption. So much for not messing with CSS. Even worse, I also had to do a tiny bit of PHP. Fortunately not much. Although even the little bit I did managed to screw things up. The support forums came to my rescue again. A stephencottontail gave me the help I needed.

I still have a little bit more work to do. The left side menu, (About, Privacy, Blog Roll), uses too much vertical space. Obviously I need to add some more CSS to fix that. I will be creating my own custom footer when I figure out what I need to put there. I’m sure I also missed some bits too.

The important thing is that the site is now working properly. Or mostly working properly. Whether I have good taste or not is another matter. I’ve placed my Child Theme under source control on GitHub. It is free to use. Hopefully I can get a bit more feedback on improvements.

https://github.com/DavidSteuber/twentyfifteen-child

It would almost certainly have been easier to simply locate another theme. On the plus side, this has proved to be an educational exercise that leads to me tweaking my site to look exactly how I want it too.

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David S

David Steuber

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