Working with WordPress – Part II

Posted on Friday 21 September 2007

WordPressWWow, with a lot of work and experimentation yesterday… apologies to anyone who may have experienced some of the oddities … I now have a second column on my blog that I can put ad’s on to or point to some of my favorite commercial sites (like Ferrari Coffee). I also was able to modify the new column so that it accepted “widgets” as well.

It certainly wasn’t easy at first (recalling my rant from yesterday), but after about 4 hours of studying the code that worked; then looking at other themes that had two columns and how they worked; things started to make sense.

I had decided to stay within an 800 pixel maximum width for the content & graphics portion of my blog. I thought that this would cover most of the community out there and still give me enough room to attempt a second column.

After a lot of experimentation within the style sheet I was able to find the right parameters to adjust. The text area itself had to be shrunk down by about 50 pixels less and my original sidebar was easily reduced down to 130 pixels wide. After the margins were adjusted, and the main content page itself expanded to 800 pixels (which as I think of it might be an issue for the scroll bar – something else to check later…), I now had enough space for another 130 pixel wide sidebar on the other side.

Designing a simple and widget friendly obar.php (“obar.php” for the “other sidebar”), was pretty straightforward. I then adjusted the stylesheet to ensure that my new sidebar also stayed within the same design as the original one. The biggest problem after that, was getting my new sidebar to actually appear on the right hand side!

No matter what I tried it seemed to pop up everywhere, except of course where I wanted it. It sat below the first sidebar, then it actually appeared below the footer and once it didn’t even appear at all! Eventually I had to print off the style sheet and several of the other php files and sit down and manually review and investigate every call, definition and designation!

Once again those two books by Mike McGrath proved to be indispensable, CCS in Easy Steps and PHP in Easy Steps, they both have great indexes and lots of examples of all the options. Once I figured out what the current theme was doing I then had to wade through the main php file, index.php, and figure out just where in all that mess I should cut in and make a call to my second column.

Finally, after studying the paper printouts, and “some” experimentation, my efforts paid off and like magic my new sidebar fell into place… well sort of. If you notice it isn’t quite level with the other sidebar. This is due to a hidden horizontal menu underneath the right bottom of my header that I haven’t yet decided if I will keep or not, but for now I’ll keep my options open and leave them a little “askew.”

Once my other sidebar was in place, the next step was to populate it. For now I am using a Google referral ad bar and hope to add an window at a later date. Plus it now gives me more space to play with. I have to admit both of these corporations have great support for anyone who would like to add links to their sites. Lots of variety with great flexibility in regards to size and topics and even colors! Both of the recommended pieces of code fit nicely into my new sidebar and I even found a Google search bar for my website, which I have put into the footer for those who want to investigate issues further.

After this, it should just now be “minor” tweaking and adjustments and the odd new ad or button, or link, or such…. Shouldn’t be much to write about, but then again, who knows what I will stumble across or have issues with 😉

Till next time…

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