New LinkedIn page

I’ve created a page for Grit & Oyster on LinkedIn. If you are a user of that service please follow the page to get company updates.

Trying out a new body text font family on the Gri…

Trying out a new body text font family on the Grit & Oyster website — Asap

Grit & Oyster provides and supports websites built with WordPress. Which is a simple enough definition of what I do — but in order to clarify things for clients and to ensure that I can maintain a high level of quality I’ve been working on some new definitions of the services I offer. 

I have designed four distinct services to meet the needs of a range of different individuals and organisations. 

  1. For individual professionals, freelancers, campaigners and bloggers looking for a personal home page or portfolio website there is the GritPress network. This is currently in development and will enter a beta phase soon.
  2. Small and medium sized organisations and businesses looking for someone to sort them out a website may be interested in signing up to the GritHost network.
  3. Larger organisations or those with more complex websites looking for the reassurances of someone to look after their installation might benefit from my WordPress Concierge service.
  4. Finally, I am available as a freelance WordPress developer for hire for custom development projects.

This weekend (4th & 5th of January 2014) the data centre where the main server that I use to host websites and provide web services suffered a temporary power failure. This resulted in the server experiencing a significant fault which meant that the websites were not available throughout the weekend.

The full service was resumed this morning.

I’d like to sincerely apologise to all customers affected for the inconvenience caused. The problem was entirely due to circumstances beyond my control. However, I will be reviewing my set up and procedures to see if there are any lessons I can learn.

I’m Andy Strange and I build websites with WordPress. Grit & Oyster is my company through which I provide web development services to meet the needs of a range of different individuals and organisations. Grit & Oyster is also where I write about digital media, technology and WordPress.

Ideally what I want to provide to clients is a customised solution where we have taken the time to work out their requirements in detail and then I have built them a website with functionality that is tailored to meet those requirements.  However, it is often the case that I am talking to people who aren’t ready to make the level of commitment necessary for such a project. They want me to answer the question; “Can’t you just set up a simple website for me?” The problem with this is that, given that I want to do the job properly, the answer has usually been “no”.

To solve this problem what I’ve needed is a way to get a basic website on-line quickly — but with all the configurations, customisations and essential plugins I feel are necessary, and a quality theme, so that the finished result is of a quality I am comfortable with. One of the things I have been working on over the last few weeks is developing a way to do this. The result is what I have called my Managed WordPress Hosting service.

The idea is to make this as hassle-free for the client as possible. Making use of WordPress multi-site, a range of plugins and themes that I have chosen, a few customisations of my own, and some templates I can set people up with a basic website. I will also take on the responsibility for maintenance and backups and so on. Inevitably, what the client can do with this website will be limited. This is not a custom solution and they won’t have admin access to the website. What they can focus on is keeping their content up-to-date. I hope it will be an ideal way for individuals, bloggers, small organisations and small businesses to get on-line quickly and cheaply.

Although it will take a little longer for me to get the infrastructure of this Managed WordPress hosting service fully operational — I think I have developed it sufficiently to start offering it to people. If you think this is something that might be useful for you please do get in touch.

Well I have been making progress on refocusing my business activities and preparing for my relaunch over the last couple of months. This has included more work on the Grit & Oyster website. I’ve just completed a major phase of developing the theme and most of the component parts are now there. This has taken a little longer than I had planned because I decided to step back before going forward.

I decided that I wanted to create a ‘template’ or ‘starter’ theme to act as a reliable code base for future development. Essentially this is a WordPress template which works and has all the necessary code and files, but has a limited amount of design and styling applied to it. This is so you can use it as a platform to build other themes on.

I did look at a range of the existing ‘starter’ themes and templates that are available. I had a good look at the code of some of the more popular ones. But while they provided inspiration, and in some cases some useful bits of code, I decided I wanted to create one for myself. Partly this was simply for the challenge, but it was also because I felt that if I was going to use it to build websites for clients I really needed to know and understand the code thoroughly — and the best way to do that is to write it yourself.

What I’ve ended up with I’ve called “Oystershell” and while not yet perfect it is finished enough to be used in anger. I am rather pleased with some of the features:

  • It has the option of a responsive or fixed width layout
  • The status, aside and quote post formats are included
  • It has a number of customisable functions that will make theme development a lot easier
  • I’ve included a range of action hooks that I can make use of in custom plugins
  • I also think the CSS style sheet provides a pretty comprehensive base covering all the common and a lot of the not so common page elements

The theme for the Grit & Oyster website is now a child theme of the Oystershell starter theme. Creating that child theme was a good test of using it as base for theme development. The main additions were the colour scheme, the use of web fonts, and getting the particular responsive layout I wanted. There was also some tweaks to the post formats and the addition of special features for the website home page.

I’m aware that what I have ended up with is not the most stunning piece of graphic design – but then it wasn’t really intended to be. My objective was to come up with a technically solid implementation of a WordPress theme that uses standard compliant code. I wanted to avoid the use of JavaScript where possible, preferring intelligent use of CSS, and to try out techniques of responsive design. All of that I believe I have achieved.

Now to concentrate on some actual content!