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Help me take my site and design from MovableType to Wordpress
April 4, 2011 10:20 PM   Subscribe

Can I switch my site's CMS from MovableType to Wordpress but KEEP my site's design? I'm a coder and looooong time MT user, and I've got questions.

I've been blogging since before there was a Wordpress. I've used MovableType since 2003, which is far longer than I should have. I stuck with it because I design my own html/css (themes don't appeal to me) and I prefer static pages rather than dynamic.

I assume I'd have to create a theme to use my site's design if I switch to Wordpress. Am I right about that? How hard is this to do? My design is centered three columns. We're not supposed to link here, so click WEBSITE in my profile :)

I'm mostly considering Wordpress because it's free and I assume has a huge support userbase.

The main thing that kept me with MovableType is that I've created some custom templates that generate specific code. For example, I post playlists on my blog. I created a custom template in MovableType that makes a list of all posts in the Music category and saves them as a list of links. I have a perl script that pulls one of those links for the bottom of my music player as a link to generate another random playlist. Will I be able to create custom templates (or whatever Wordpress calls them)?

Did you convert your site and design to Wordpress? What did you wish you knew before you did?
posted by 2oh1 to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sure, a theme in WordPress is mostly a collection of custom template files. The best way to learn how it all fits together is to install WordPress, duplicate the default theme ("twentyten"--you'll find it in /wp-content/themes), change the duplicated theme's metadata in its stylesheet, activate the new theme from the admin screen inside WordPress, and basically read the template files one by one, making tweaks to see how they work.

The most essential WordPress-ish concepts you'll want to understand are the loop and the template hierarchy. For those two concepts, really try to see what's happening in the code relative to what the docs describe. Other than that, it's all plain old PHP/HTML/CSS and a buttload of custom functions called template tags.

Plugins that change WordPress's functionality are another story, but it doesn't sound like you'll need to write any.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 10:50 PM on April 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Monsieur Caution's synopsis is dead on, but I'm not sure you need to change. What is your motivation? I wouldn't suggest designing a new site on MT, or even a big redevelopment, but it sounds like you just want the same site. Those static pages are dead simple and secure! (This is coming from a guy that builds WP sites all day every day.)
posted by letitrain at 10:55 PM on April 4, 2011


My main motivation to change is that MovableType is basically a dying platform. I upgraded all the way to MT5, only to downgrade all the way back to MT3 because each version that followed became slower, more bloated and more buggy. The entire platform is basically dead, and eventually I'm going to have to switch to something else.

My static pages are secure, but my MT installation is probably not since it's an outdated install (intentionally outdated) and since the future of MT is so bleak, it's time to start the process of abandoning it.
posted by 2oh1 at 11:08 PM on April 4, 2011


Yikes! As I read that info on The Loop. I'm seeing a ton of PHP code. Do I need to learn PHP in order to design with Wordpress? If I'm not mistaken, The Loop is a simple concept that's similar to what I'm already doing in MovableType.
posted by 2oh1 at 11:11 PM on April 4, 2011


The PHP in a WordPress template file is typically just variable assignments, if/then clauses, while loops, and print/echo statements. And for the most part, you'll be working around the edges of it or cutting/pasting chunks of it rather than writing it from scratch.

Here's a more introductory page on the loop that shows you less code--just the heart of what you're looking at. If you do need a bit of original PHP, e.g. for the playlist thing, your coding experience should allow you to figure it out from the online language reference. The main thing a Perl programmer will observe about PHP is that it's mostly obvious except for the oodles and oodles of built-in functions you have to look up or guess the existence of.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 12:09 AM on April 5, 2011


If your site does what I think it does, and what you really like doing is presenting categorised information on pages you can easily replicate, you may like textpattern.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 1:04 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


The best way to learn how it all fits together is to install WordPress, duplicate the default theme ("twentyten"--you'll find it in /wp-content/themes), change the duplicated theme's metadata in its stylesheet, activate the new theme from the admin screen inside WordPress, and basically read the template files one by one, making tweaks to see how they work.

Twenty-Ten is a very advanced theme, because it has so many options, which makes it not very useful for someone who has never seen one before.

Older themes, like Kubric, give a better idea of what to expect.

The only thing you'll need to have a bit of knowledge of PHP for, is to understand the many standard functions that Wordpress uses. Those functions are codexed, and examples are given about how to use them in a template of a theme.

Reading the codex in itself would be useful for anyone wanting a bit more than a standard site.
posted by ijsbrand at 3:03 AM on April 5, 2011


I am not what you would call a "coder", but I'm familiar enough with HTML and CSS to be called "dangerous". That being said, I've customized several WP themes, including Kubric. I've rarely had to work on the PHP side of things, rather I've done most everything with CSS. The nice thing about themes is that you can create a duplicate, edit the styles.css and get a pretty customized theme.

The benefit to looking for a theme that approximates your needs is that it may already include layout and plugin choices that you are shooting for, but there are a few tutorials out there that walk you through starting from a blank page and "the loop". Takes about a day to get up to speed.

What helped me was to install MAMP on my laptop and setting up WP to work locally. I used Coda on the mac to edit files and then see the results on a browser. So, you can change things in HTML and CSS and instantly see what the effect was. Playing around like this helps to learn how WP works.
posted by qwip at 5:08 AM on April 5, 2011


I did what you want to do a long time ago. It definitely is possible. I don't really know PHP, but I was able to figure enough out.

The easiest thing for you to do would be to find a skeletal starter theme that's kinda-sorta got a structure you like ( Roots looks like a good starter theme that's based on HTML5) and create a child theme where you start hacking on the css, and then gradually start replacing template files with customized versions. A starter theme will have all the PHP in place already, and you don't need to modify anything you don't want to.

And I strongly second the advice that you do this all in MAMP.

Wordpress has some nice bells and whistles, like menus, header art, and widgets you can customize through the admin interface that don't (I think) have any equivalent in MT, so if you want to take advantage of those, you might need to make some accommodations in replicating the look of your blog.

There are some conventions and conceptual underpinnings in Wordpress that are just different than in MT. Some things will be easier to do, some things will be harder. Sometimes it makes more sense to go along with the Wordpress way of doing things than meticulously reconstruct the way you did things in MT.
posted by adamrice at 6:59 AM on April 5, 2011


I convert a lot of old sites to Wordpress. You know what made it a lot less of a headache? Thematic. You take a prefab all-purpose theme and just mess with the CSS to make it look like the old site. Then there are "hooks" for anything else that isn't covered.
posted by Victorvacendak at 7:46 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


If I may hop on to this question, regarding the suggestions to 'duplicate' the theme and then use the new them... what exactly is the purpose of this? Is it so if you screw up the new duplicated theme you can always go back to the original theme and start over?
posted by ratherbethedevil at 7:58 AM on April 5, 2011


If I may hop on to this question, regarding the suggestions to 'duplicate' the theme and then use the new them... what exactly is the purpose of this?

It's so you have a clean copy of any file you muck about with. It's easy enough to do and costs nothing but a little time and a bit of space.
posted by qwip at 11:40 AM on April 5, 2011


Can I switch my site's CMS from MovableType to Wordpress but KEEP my site's design?

Yes.

I stuck with it because I design my own html/css (themes don't appeal to me)

Any WordPress site uses a theme as the core for how things are displayed. There is a ton of functionality to use default WordPress conventions or override them.

and I prefer static pages rather than dynamic.

WordPress does create dynamic pages by default. Use a plugin like WP-SuperCache or WP-Cache to "freeze dry" your site.

I assume I'd have to create a theme to use my site's design if I switch to Wordpress. Am I right about that?

Yes.

How hard is this to do?

Not hard. At the core, only two files are required to create a WordPress theme: index.php and style.css. There are excellent resources online for theming WordPress. Start with Theme Development (codex.wordpress.org)

The main thing that kept me with MovableType is that I've created some custom templates that generate specific code.

Without looking at your site, if the templates are portions of pages, like components in the sidebar, these may be Widgets or plugin based elements.

For example, I post playlists on my blog. I created a custom template in MovableType that makes a list of all posts in the Music category and saves them as a list of links.

It's likely you could use a links widget on your sidebar by category.

I have a perl script that pulls one of those links for the bottom of my music player as a link to generate another random playlist. Will I be able to create custom templates (or whatever Wordpress calls them)?

I am not sure, but it sounds like this might be a custom widget or sidebar element.

Did you convert your site and design to Wordpress? What did you wish you knew before you did?

I wish this existed when I started: http://wordpress.stackexchange.com/

I've done a fair amount of theming based on existing sites. It's not bad, but there is a learning curve as you learn WordPress conventions.

If you can use Perl, you can use PHP. Don't fear WordPress programming if you can program in Perl.
posted by artlung at 8:29 PM on April 5, 2011


The problem for me is that I'm an HTML/css guy. I know no perl or php.
posted by 2oh1 at 3:44 PM on April 6, 2011


You can learn. Really, the stuff you'll need to pick up to modify a WP theme is not that hard.

There's a conceptual difference between MT tags and WP tags in that MT tags are more "atomic"—each tag spits out one very exact thing, for the most part. WP tags are really functions that take arguments, and one tag can spit out a fairly complicated thing, or several different complicated things depending on the arguments you use.
posted by adamrice at 4:00 PM on April 6, 2011


I'm not seeing the link to your WEBSITE on your profile. Just the Sniction link.

I think for a question like this self linking is kosher, though I will defer to the mods on this point.
posted by artlung at 7:11 PM on April 6, 2011


artlung: the link to a user's website is up near their name on their MeFi profile. In this case, the OP's address is http://jalpuna.com/

2oh1: if you get one of the themes like Thematic or similar that are meant to be blank slates waiting for your visual customization, putting together your site in WP will be a lot easier and require a lot less learning of WP's peculiarities and PHP. Of course, you always can tinker with creating a fully custom theme for yourself, but if learning enough PHP to go that route is not something you're interested in, you can still get quite good results from taking one of the template-type sites and messing with it.

There are more choices for that than just Thematic, too.
posted by asciident at 8:43 AM on April 10, 2011


And, er, sorry if you didn't want the URL right in the question on purpose. Mods feel free to edit it out if so.
posted by asciident at 8:45 AM on April 10, 2011


"I'm not seeing the link to your WEBSITE on your profile. Just the Sniction link."

It's at the top of the profile, where it says (website). At the top of the page:

"2oh1's profile (website)"

The website is the link to my, uhm, website :)
posted by 2oh1 at 10:28 PM on April 24, 2011


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