I’ve been a bit quiet recently – leaving Lucy to blog and tweet away in my absence – but can finally reveal what I’ve been up to. After a particularly busy time at my day job in London (building websites for corporates), I’ve been spending some of my free weekends rebuilding this site.
We decided to launch the site last year without any kind of fanfare or flashy design as we wanted to just get started, telling the stories of our discoveries as we made them. A couple of months ago, however, we decided it was time I took a look at Eat Anglia, and turn it from something that looked like a poorly churned out WordPress template into a proper site.
After reacquainting myself with WordPress and PHP, and having a slightly quieter time at work that allowed me to think more about this site, I started experimenting with some code a few weeks ago – and after some work over a couple of weekends, here we are.
So, what’s new?
- An “events” page, which details both recurring and one-off events, from Farmers markets through to specialised festivals. At the moment these are run through Google Calendars, but we’ll be integrating them into the site more thoroughly over the coming months.
- A map, which plots all our geographically specific blog posts.
- Twitter integration, showing our recent tweets directly on the site.
- A responsive layout, so the site should work on a variety of devices/screen sizes.
- Filters in the blog that are hopefully a little easier to use – by author and/or category.
Hopefully the site feels a little nicer to use after this work!
For those more technically minded, I’ll explain what’s going on here!
The site remains based on WordPress (as it was before), but has been heavily tuned and customised. It no longer runs on the usual WordPress themes hawked around by some agencies or developers – I found them to be clunky, buggy, and far too “heavy” for successful use as a responsive site, especially on mobiles. There’s simply not the ability to fine-tune code that you get with hand-crafting – something that I’m not willing to give up.
So, instead of “themes” I decided to go for a custom front end built in PHP, with WordPress handling the heavy lifting of content and post management. Sitting between the two is a lovely little plugin called JSON API, which is a restful API for WordPress, allowing you to return WordPress content in JSON format.
We’ve used a few other plugins, but without fail they’ve only been used to allow us to add data to posts and pages – the actual surfacing of all data on the site is custom code.
- We use the Pronamic Google Maps plugin to allow us to geotag posts.
- Twitter authentication is provided by the Twitter Widget Pro plugin.
- Extra editable data areas are provided by the Secondary HTML content plugin.
Moving away from WordPress, we’ve chosen not to support older versions of IE – sorry for folks using them, but seriously please upgrade or switch to another browser. The site uses a few additional tools:
- the front end code for the site is all written in HTML5
- CSS is written using the LESS preprocessor
- Google Maps API 3 is used for our mapping functions
- Google Fonts are used for some heading styles
- Our colour palette is derived from FlatUI
- Modernizr is used for feature detection
Anyway. that’s enough of that. The point is, we’ve done some weird stuff with WordPress to make it work this way, and are quite pleased with the results.
As we move forward with Eat Anglia, we’ll possibly offer help with websites – from just general advice, through to actual build services. If you’re interested – please get in touch!