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.


The font I’ve chosen to use for the Grit & Oyster logo, and for headings on this site, is Garamond. I wanted to use a traditional serif font that has an elegance and I think Garamond fits this nicely. It is a classic and popular font, although one that is more associated with print than online use. But I think that is part of the attraction as I wanted something with a slightly ‘bookish’ feel.

Ah, but which Garamond?


Claude Garamond

There are a number of different font types that are called “Garamond” and the history of this font is a bit confused. As this article makes clear:

“Garamond is the original typographic naming disaster–a source of ongoing confusion. There are many types called “Garamond”, almost to the point where garamond has emerged as a category among serif text faces. What most of the Garamonds have in common is that they are more-or-less accurate revivals either of type cut by Claude Garamond in the late fifteenth century, or of type cut by Jean Jannon in the mid-16th century.”

Here are some more resources for this history of this classic font:

My choice: EB Garamond

Garamond Ampersand

Wanting to stick with open source I’ve chosen to use EB Garamond by Georg Duffner which has been released with an Open Fonts License. This Garamond has some nice italics and also comes with a small caps version – so I’ve been able to make good use of these.

In particular, I really like the italicised ampersand which I’ve use to make the & in Grit & Oyster.


twitter-bootstrap-buttonsI’ve been writing about the creation of my WordPress starter theme, ‘Oystershell’, that I used as the base for the development of the theme for this website and how I used a range of other starter themes and code bases as inspiration. One of the decisions I made was to include the code for making CSS buttons from Twitter Bootstrap.

Twitter Bootstrap is a “sleek, intuitive, and powerful front-end framework for faster and easier web development” provided by Twitter. It has a range of components providing different user interface elements that used together can help you build a website in the style of the Twitter website.

I really like Bootstrap. The elements are well designed and stylish. But I didn’t want to include the whole of it in my starter theme. I wanted to pick and choose from the elements and happily the Bootstrap website includes a feature that allows you to customise your download so you only get the bits of code you want.

The component I thought would be most useful to include in my starter theme was the Bootstrap style buttons. You can see some examples of these here:


A Bootstrap ButtonAnother Bootstrap Button

Bootstrap Button with icon Bootstrap Button with white icon

Mini Small Default Large


Primary Info Success Warning Danger InverseButton Block

With CSS from Bootstrap added to my starter theme’s CSS I only need to add a simple class declaration to a <button> or <a> tag to turn it into a snazzy button.

I wrote yesterday about the creation of my WordPress starter theme, ‘Oystershell’, that I’ve used as the base for the development of the theme for this website. I mentioned that I had looked at a range of other starter themes to get ideas and inspiration, and in some cases actual code, to help with the development.

The most influential was ‘Underscores’ — or ‘_s’ — which ended up being, if you like, the starter theme for my starter theme.

_s has a good pedigree built as it is by the Theme Team at Automattic. I liked it because, despite its sophistication, it seemed simpler to understand than some of the others I looked at.

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!

This website and blog has been badly neglected. The “temporary” theme I was using for it, “Fluid Blue“, was installed back in September 2010 and there has been no new content for almost exactly a year. This is not remotely good enough!

However, over the last couple of months things have begun to change. I’m refocussing the business and beginning to gear up for a bit of a relaunch in the near future. More of this shortly. As a part of that I am paying some proper attention to my professional online presence and sorting out the Grit & Oyster website.

So far I’ve made quite a few changes on the back-end with a move to a new server for web hosting and setting things up so that the site can become more a cluster of WordPress installations, each serving a different purpose. I’ve also installed this snazzy new theme. This time it is one I have developed myself. The aim of theme was to be more reflective of the Grit & Oyster branding, such as it is, and to make full use of responsive design.

Obviously there is still a lot of tweaking of the theme and the layout and content of the site to do. I’m conscious it lacks images and the front page has more gaps than content at the moment. However, I am happy with the overall shape of the site. While I do want it to promote my work and the services I offer, my objective for the future is for this to become my “media and technology” blog, with a particular emphasis on WordPress. So hopefully you won’t have to wait another year for the next post!