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Figure 2.10. A WordPress page wireframe

You can also create wireframes for each custom page template you want to include, in addition to layout sketches for any custom features (such as lightboxes or galleries) that you might need once you enter the design phase.

Let's take a look at a couple of different home page wireframes for the purpose of illustrating just how simple a wireframe can be (as well as how different two unique wireframes can look). We'll look at one wireframe for a text-heavy blog in Figure 2.11, and another for a photo blog in Figure 2.12.

Notice that, while both wireframes are quite simple, each illustrates a unique layout that addresses the type of content that each blog will focus on. We'll be concentrating on the design phase of the theme creation process in the next chapter, so at this point your wireframes can be as simple and straightforward as you'd like. If it feels like something is missing at this point, don't fret: we'll be digging into the nitty gritty details of what makes up a WordPress theme next!

Figure 2.11. A home page wireframe for a text-heavy theme

Figure 2.12. A home page wireframe for a photo-based theme

Figure 2.11. A home page wireframe for a text-heavy theme

Figure 2.12. A home page wireframe for a photo-based theme

Just Recapping ...

Planning your theme using this process is a valuable way to clarify its major elements before starting the design phase. There's no need for planning to be especially lengthy, or even organized in any formal way—a notepad, text editor, or napkin will do just fine—but you should at least jot down your plans. This is particularly true if it's one of your first custom themes. To be frank, some people's planning is limited to brainstorming on the treadmill at the gym. Personally, I still make extensive notes after having created 100 themes, but in the end you should use whatever workflow makes you feel most comfortable.

Regardless of which method you select, you should establish the following before you start the design process:

■ the type(s) of content that your theme will focus on

■ a list of features that you would like to include in your theme

■ knowledge of the sort of publishers and audience that will use your theme

■ a strategy for how your theme will handle blog posts, pages, categories, tags, and custom fields

■ an idea of what content will be displayed on each of the theme's main page types

Before we move on to the design phase, let's review some ideas to ponder throughout the planning process:

Define success

What is the mission statement for your theme?

Let your content lead the way

What is the primary content type going to be for your theme? Will you be including a mix of other types of content that need to planned for? What are the key features that must be included to deliver the theme's core content? How will your site's general layout support that content? Will you have two columns? Three columns? Try to be as specific as possible.

Avoid feature bloat

Without detracting from its primary goal, what additional features should your theme include? Plan for the audience

What will the ideal visitor's path through this theme look like? Outline a few quick tasks that a visitor of your theme might want to accomplish, and plan ahead for making those tasks as easy to accomplish as possible.

Plan for the publishers

What can you reasonably expect your target authors to know? Are you planning on including features that might be so hard to use that they will confuse the average author? Are there any features authors will want that you've neglected?

Do some research

Scout out the Internet for new ideas. Make a list of the scripts, plugins, and themes that you like; then go back to your previous feature list and revise it as needed.

Plan for organization and hierarchy

How do you plan to organize the content inside your WordPress theme? Where will pages go within the layout? How will blog posts be treated? Will you have any specialized category or tag loops anywhere? What other custom organization or hierarchy notes should you make?

The theme sitemap and wireframe

Create a theme sitemap and a few wireframes that you can reference during the design process.

If you have answers to all these questions, congratulations! You're well on your way to developing a great WordPress theme. Don't pull out your code editor just yet, though: there's still more design work to be done. In the next chapter, we'll be taking the guidelines we developed in this chapter and turning them into a fully fleshed-out design.

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