Design on a Dime

WordPress South Florida Meetup
August 1, 2013


Design on a Dime...

OK, this presentation should have been called

Design on a Dime is a Myth

The Hidden Costs of
Customizing WordPress

My bad.


  • Left Dilbertland in 2005
  • Papasoft: Father of Bloggers
  • $_CMS[] == see($a[mess]);
  • I ♥ WP


  • Site/Business Owner? - This is for you
  • Developer, Designer, Project Manager?
  • Educate your customers

Choose Your Battles

  • In running your business
  • In building a website
  • Know your strengths
  • Know others strengths
  • "No" is often the best answer

This is not a rebel song...

  • Stop focusing on "how-to" for a moment
  • Start thinking about "why?" and "when?"
  • And HOW MUCH? 

Why WordPress?

  • Free (ish)
  • Super awesome community
  • Easy to use admin
  • Extensible with plugins/themes

The Good

  • Easy to get a site up and running
  • Mucho themes
  • Mucho mas plugins
  • Google a tutorial
  • Find a solution on Stack overflow
  • Attend a WordCamp or meetup

The Not So Good

  • Easy to get 90% of what you want
  • Absurdly painful to get the next 10%
  • You want custom?  

Developers! Developers!


You Want a New Website?

  • Build a static site from scratch:  $$$$
  • Build a custom CMS from scratch: $$$$$$$
  • Use WordPress: $$
  • Either way you will end up customizing

How About a New Home?

  • Build a custom home: $$$$$
  • Buy the land, cut the trees, 
    build it by hand:  $$$$$$$$$
  • Buy a manufactured home: $$

WordPress is Like a Double-Wide

Let me 'splain...


  • Mobile home size 2X
  • Manufactured in a factory
  • Select your options
  • Transport to your location
  • Lay it on the foundation
  • Hook it up and turn it on


  • Sophisticated system 
  • Built and maintained by smart people
  • Everybody starts with the same model
  • Select your options
  • Install it wherever you want
  • Hook it up and turn it on

Design Options

  • Lots of choices
  • Limited layouts
  • Limited design combinations
  • Part of the package
  • Sound familiar? (WP Themes)

Tool Time

  • You love your new home (website)
  • It just needs a little makeover
  • Time for some DIY!
  • Home Improvement

The "Design on a Dime" Myth

  • Before: "My house is butt ugly!"
  • Design team comes in and remodels
  • And they are ALL gorgeous!
  • Work completed for under $1500!
  • After: There is much rejoicing!

The Reality

  • Yes, the materials came in under budget
  • Skilled labor was either free or subsidized
  • Architect, designer, contractor, carpenter,
    electrician, seamstress, artist...

Any home owner can go to home depot and buy everything it takes to do the job. But to get the job done right you need skilled labor and experience.

Got Skillz?

  • Do you need a plumber, carpenter, 
    electrician, designer, finisher?
  • General purpose contractors
    can do all these things but may not
    excel at all of them
  • Get the right person for the right job

Own It!

  • A home owner needs to know enough
    about how the home is built to either fix
    it or get the right person for the job.
  • As a WordPress site owner (or admin) you
    need to know how WordPress and the web
    work regarding the basic technologies

Technophobe No More!

  • Browser (HTML, CSS, Javascript)
  • Server Scripting (PHP)
  • Database (mySQL)

The following is over-simplified and
not comprehensive. Please don't send
me any RFCs to correct me.


  • Makes a request from a web server (url)
  • What does it get? HTML (text in view source)
  • "Knows" HTML, CSS and Javascript
  • HTML - structure
  • CSS - design
  • Javascript - interaction
  • Images and media resources
  • The browser "knows" nothing of PHP or SQL,
    only HTML and its friends

Web Server

  • Responds to requests made by a browser
  • "You want that? OK, here it is."
  • Response can be HTML, files, images, media
  • HTML can be in a single file (.html) or 
    built/generated by scripts (PHP)
  • Regardless, the results is just HTML (text)

Server Scripting

  • WordPress
  • PHP scripts "build" the HTML
  • PHP scripts also piece together the
    CSS and Javascript referenced by HTML
  • PHP reads and stores data in the
    WordPress database (mySQL)

Themes & Plugins

  • Use any of these technologies
  • Each has its own PHP scripts that
    "build" HTML, CSS, Javascript
  • All of this gets combined into the
    final response that is returned 
    to the browser

1,000 Words

The Perfect is the
Enemy of the Good


  • Focus on what is important:
  • Don't sacrifice the 90% for the 10%;
    it's probably not worth it anyway 



WordPress: Design on a Dime

By papasoft

WordPress: Design on a Dime

The hidden costs of using WordPress.

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