Projects come but never go

Singing my blogger blues. Rant on challenges faced when juggling creating a blog and adding content to it.

Building this blog proves to be a huge learning journey and it’s worth it to have a record of what it took to achieve the end result. I created it as a place to keep track of different projects I’ve done or plan to do. The funny thing is that “creating this blog” might turn out to be the largest project I’ve undertaken. I didn’t see this irony coming.

The theme

I’ve changed the theme several times since I started this blog 3 months ago. I’m probably around 5-theme count. It’s frustrating because each switch comes with the added time to customize everything all over again. I’m definitely spending more time fixing and adjusting than actually creating content.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the process but I’m disappointed that I’m failing at the delivery of the basic blog functionalities because I’m always catching up. Also, it’s frustrating because I installed each theme specifically for a particular feature that caught my attention and changing it means losing that special feature.

I’ve decided that I will create my own theme to include all and only those features I like but, as I know nothing of PHP, I realize that it is going to be a lengthy project which I need to put off for later. As of right now, I’m sticking with Bento theme. I’ll just have to make the best of it to make this blog fully functional first and allocate time to create a new theme only afterward.

Of course, luck and temptation go hand in hand toying with my resolution. Soon after making the above decision, I was researching themes with the thought of using a different theme for my “Projects” pages (with the help of Multiple Themes plugin) and stumbled upon another beautiful theme which I adore and I’m tempted to use as the main theme. I’d love it if looked that good! So, yet again, I’m faced with the question if I want to go through the theme changing process once more and put my timeline behind by a few weeks. Again. It’s a big question mark at this point.

Projects within projects

It’s amazing how a little project can turn into multiple ones and set you behind in your schedule.

For example, I wanted to add a subscribe button. The easiest form of all – input email address and click Subscribe. Ta-Da! Yeah, not so fast. Jetpack’s subscribe button didn’t work. I found out it’s because Bitnami (the AWS image I’m running this WordPress on) disabled needed protocol due to security issues. So, I’m researching what my other options are. Hopefully, I can find something money-free and hassle-free. Until then, there will be no subscribe button. 

You can still follow me on Twitter @CyberKitto. Twitter’s all I got at this point…

Another little project that turned more complicated was the contact form. It’s a simple, seemingly built-in feature which you’d think would work right out of the box. Nah-uh. I tested mine and it fails so I dived deeper into the settings. Following a step by step tutorial, I started to configure gmail for WP Mail SMTP. Once you get in there, it turns out there’s even more configuration to be done with Google. 

After I got those issues sorted, I still wanted to customize the form since the default came up with tiny font and overall strange look. It turned out to be yet another project and I couldn’t find where the form was inheriting that style from. After lots of unsuccessful tries, I finally scrapped it and created a brand new blank page with Elementor, used Site Origin’s form which finally allowed me to customize the style of the form (to some extent). Phew. At least, one thing works.

The actual Projects

In the meantime, I’m getting impatient because I’d like to get to the actual projects I wanted to showcase here. There’s several that are at various stages of readiness. Not getting them done is definitely giving me a guilt trip. How can I move on if I haven’t finished the old stuff? How many unfinished projects will I end up with then?

And ideas keep flowing. Just today I had an idea for a video project, something that probably won’t be a part of this blog since it’s totally off-topic (I’ll share if it turns out well). But how can I get to that fun project with a long list of unfinished ones looming over me?

The irony strikes home

Ah, and the Projects page also turned out to be a project! I wanted to separate them from posts and pages for easy management. Hey, WordPress has a neat Portfolio feature. That’s just what I need, right? It’s a great idea but it turns out that most FREE themes and plugins don’t support Portfolio.

As a workaround, I thought to use the Multiple Themes plugin to use a different theme for Portfolio pages. It works. As of this writing, uses a different theme. There are complications to that though – mainly, you can’t access the customizer so whatever changes you need to make – and some would be necessary – have to be made directly in the theme’s files. And that’s a project in itself (another project within a project!).

Sign taped to the glass says "Please do not tape anything to the glass"
Irony loves full circles

Plugins would make this easier. And again, I had come a full circle since I wanted to use my trusty plugins to give the Projects page a neat look and couldn’t since the free versions work only with posts, not Portfolio files.

There are great paid options out there and I might go for that later. As of  right now, there are two plugins worth investing in:

  • I’m very impressed with Smart Slider 3. The free version has awesome abilities and it looks that the paid version is even better. It’s like a toybox waiting for me to explore its see-through but inaccessible compartments.
  • I’m also getting the hang of Elementor editor and am curious about its paid add-on features. In fact, right now I’m nearly done designing a brand new homepage with it. It’s coming together very nicely and will be ready for rollout in the next few days.

Which one will win this particular battle? For now, I want to maximize whatever is available for free. And later... We’ll see.

Who knows? Maybe when I design my own theme, I’ll figure out how to do what these plugins are doing? I can only hope.

So, what’s going on with all of this right now?

  1. Theme: I’m sticking with Bento but will experiment with this new theme. Maybe I don’t need to switch themes but borrow that theme’s ideas – only what I like about it?
  2. Subscribe form: I’ll do more research and digging. For now, I removed it since it doesn’t work. 
  3. Contact form: I have a working form and a nearly finished contact page. The only thing missing is header and footer.
  4. Projects page: I’ve decided to move my projects to Posts. It’s not an ideal solution. It’s quite hectic in the Posts section but it will have to do for now. At least this way, I can use my trusty plugins to display them.

Priority to-do list:

  1. New home page. I’m nearly done customizing it in Elementor. In fact, I like the result so much, I might tinker with my main theme to copy the Elementor look. It’s looking great and I can’t wait to launch it.
  2. YouTube. I’ve got several videos in various stages of readiness. These will go with already published articles so I’d like them finished soon. Once the home page is finalized I’ll get back to them immediately.
  3. Projects. I’m starting to get some ideas on how I want to handle them but some decisions will need to be made. This is about more than just displaying the projects. It’s also about what counts as a project, do I publish something that is just an idea, do I publish if there’s no progress or do they go in as drafts? 
  4. Find the niche. This is an elusive but necessary item which might stay on this list for a while. So far, I haven’t settled on one specific topic. I took the “throw everything at it and see what sticks” approach but I can’t run on it forever. I’m giving myself time until all dust settles – when theme editing is finished and the real blogging + promotion finally happens. Then, the time will be up.

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