RCG's New Look!

So, it finally happened.  After a few years of the same theme, I gave RCG a new look last night.

There are more than a few changes to the site, but the one that will probably stick out the most are:

  • New theme.  I based it on the Andreas theme by Andreas Viklund.  It’s the same theme I’m using on 4realz.net, although I modified it a bit before launching it on 4realz and even more modifications before launching it on RCG.
  • New header graphic.  I switched out the photos.  As part of the process, some of the contributors gave me some photos to use.   Deborah Burns was extremely helpful and sent me dozens of photos of which I used both the farmers market and the space needle.
  • Updated the color scheme! (If you’re curious, I based the color pattern on color combo 220)
  • Author mini-bio at the bottom of ever post. I replaced the one photo that was at the top of every post with a “About the author” section at the bottom of each post.  Not only will this make it easier than ever to learn more about the RCG contributors, but it will also mean we won’t have the funny formatting issues that sometimes came with having a photo at the top-right of ever post.
  • Page navigation.  By moving the page navigation from tabs at the top to the left side, we’ll be able to do a bunch more with page navigation in the near future on the site.

I’m sure there’s even more, but I just wanted to pop off a quick note to get everyone up to speed.

Interestingly, in the process of looking at photos for the new theme, I came across this screenshot of the original RCG site (back when we had only 2 posts!).  My how times have changed!  😉

Rain City Guide's original theme!

Rain City Guide's original theme


Just realized I should have added that if you have feedback of any kind, especially if something is not working as you’d expect it to work, I’d definitely appreciate hearing about it!

Update #2:

I also wanted to mention that we added “avatars” for all people leaving comments.   If you want your own avatar, it’s as simple as signing up for a free one at gravatar.com (and explained in a bit more detail on 4realz).

The Big List of RCG Plugins

My list is a little longer than Greg’s

Akismet. A must for WP blogs… I’ve complained in the past how their service is somewhat of a blackhole and I can’t seem to rescue a few of the people who leave comments on RCG from the Akismet spam filter. Nonetheless, the service catches hundreds of spam messages every moment. If I didn’t have a life, I could just keep hitting refresh on my spam filter and there would always be another spam message to delete. Matt, if you’re listening... Here are the two improvements I’d like to see. (1) A way to not have spam limited to showing only the most recent 150 spam messages. Recently, I’ve had two different people leave comments who say there were picked up by the spam filter, but because my queue had already built up to greater than 150 messages, I had no way to rescue them. When I hit the “delete all” button, I only (wrongly) reinforced that these people were spam. (2) A way to rescue people who are labeled spam from deep within the blackhole of Akismet’s database. Galen, one of RCG’s contributor’s has to go “save himself” every time he posts. This sucks! (but is better than me dealing with 450 spam messages a day!)

Exec-PHP. Allows for Admin and Editors to write PHP code within their posts… Both dangerous and powerful and the easiest way to get the Archive plugin to work.

Filosofo Comments Preview. This allows for the preview button. I wish I had time to figure out how to format the “preview” page, but I remember spending a whole evening on that one time and not making enough progress, so I just leave it unformatted. It’s ugly, but better than not having the preview option!

Gravatars. This plugin allows me to easily show the author’s photo on the beginning of every post. At one point, I tried to set this up to allow commenters to have their own gravatars (which is the more common use for this plugin), but I couldn’t get it to work with my theme.

Recent Comments. This really nice plugin lets me show the most recent comments on the sidepanel. It is highly configurable and very easy to work with. I attribute the use of this plugin to the high comment level that we get on many RCG posts because it allows everyone to easily seeing where there is “action” on the site…

GeoPress. This allows me to geocode my posts so that they show up over a map. If you haven’t seen this in action, then you’re going to have to wait a little longer. Normally, when you visit adetail page on Anna’s home search tool, a bunch of little rain drops show up that represent blog posts about that location. At the moment, no rain drops are showing up and I suspect this is because of changes to the server during my recent move and Robbie and I never noticed it was broken (until now!). It’s a very cool feature and way under-utilized by me. Note that the author mentions there is a new and improved version of the plugin here.

PhotoPress. This was top-of-the-line when I first started built RCG a year and a half ago. Since then, WP has designed a built-in photo uploaded that is better integrated with the core system. However, I’m stuck on the old photo upload program because I don’t even want to try thinking about reloading all the photos to a new system and getting everything to work. I dread thinking about the day when the PhotoPress people stop updating their code because demand has shrunk. That’s the day I’m going to be forced to hire a developer for this site!

WP-Print. Add a little printer icon next to the post and allows people to print off a clean looking version of the post. I never print articles, but I’ve heard others do, so this is meant to help save a few trees.

Role Manager. This lets me be very picky about what the different contributors can do on the site… Do I want Jon to upload photos but not publish? Do I want to give Ardell all “editor” rights except the ability to run PHP within posts? This plugin handles that kind of thing.

WP-Stats. This page provides a lot of pretty useless stats, but I installed it and have never turned it off… On the day when I decide to award free-round vacation packages to the top 10 WP contributors, I’ll use this plugin because it counts links like number of posts by author and number of comments by author.

Smart Archives. Clean, simple, smart archive.

Ultimate Tag Warrior. This this is so feature rich, I’ll never even play around with half the options on my beta site. At this point, I’ve been keeping it pretty simple and using the code to tag the bottom of blog posts and create the tag cloud in the archives.

WordPress Database Backup. A backup option without the need to go into PHPmyAdmin! Greg once mentioned that he linked my quote: “I believe real estate agents are either in marketing or broke”… Today’s version: “People running website either backup on a regular basis, or they are broke!”.

WP-Contact Form. Simple, but useful, contact form. I use it on the buyer information and seller information pages. (note: this is also the way that I monetize this blog! 😉 )