Posted 02.20.2015

Posted 02.20.2015

A Modular Approach to WordPress Theming, Using Flexible Content

I do a lot of WordPress Development. I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a WordPress developer, I have experience on other platforms, but I use whatever tool will meet the client’s needs best. Recently, that means WordPress.

One of the things I’ve started doing is coding custom themes so they’re modular. What does this mean?

I just launched On the home page, each “stripe” is considered a module. This gives Bill the freedom to rearrange the elements on the home page on the fly. If he has a podcast release that day, he can move the podcast stripe to the top, increasing its visibility.

ACF Flexible Content Demo

As a designer, I don’t feel like the design of the site is being compromised because I’ve designed how each section should look. It’s just providing more flexibility and more value to my customers accommodating their digital strategy.

So, how did I pull this off?

The trick is the Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) plugin. — It’s one of those WordPress Plug Ins I could not live without.

Let’s walk through the setup.

Within WordPress

I have the ACF Pro Plugin installed. Once it’s activated, it gives you a Custom Fields nav item in the left sidebar. Click on that and then the Add a New Field button.

Add a New Field within the Advanced Custom Fields plugin

Let’s call this field group “Home Page” but you can really call it anything you like. This label is will be displayed on the “Edit Home Page” above our form fields.

Naming the Field Group within ACF
On the new Field Group screen

Naming Flexible Content Field

How the field will be displayed on the Edit Home Page screen

Before we start adding fields, let’s adjust our Location rules. I want this field group to display on the home page only. Meaning, Bill will have to click on Pages and then find the Home page to edit. There are several ways I could set the rules.

I could say if the Page is equal to Home.

Locations within ACF

or I could say if the Page Template is equal to Home.

Locations Options within ACF

Personally, I prefer the second option since the template itself is really dependent on these fields.

Then, in the Options box, below that, we can control the display and the other elements on the page. I try and hide all the elements I don’t need to minimize confusion:

  • Content Editor (all content is within the stripes, no need for body copy which all means, no need for an Excerpt)
  • Excerpt
  • Comments
  • Author (don’t need to set an author for the home page)
  • Featured Image
  • Send Trackbacks
  • Custom Fields (this refers to the WordPress built in Custom Fields, not the Advanced Custom Fields we’re creating)
  • Format
  • Categories
  • Discussion
  • Tags

Options within the Advanced Custom Fields

Now for the fun part, the actual fields. Click the Add Field button. I’m going to name this “Home Page Content”, but call it whatever you like.

The Flexible Content label within the Edit Page Screen

On the new Field Group screen

Label on the Edit Home Page

How the field will be displayed on the Edit Home Page screen


If you’re looking at my screenshots, I have a few other fields on the home page (background, subheading, and tertiary heading), in addition to the flexible content fields we’re creating. I don’t go into details about those fields, here, since our focus is on the flexible content.

You can see that the Field Name gets filled in automatically based on how you name the label field. I usually keep the default name unless it adds in dashes (“Home – Page” becomes home_-_page).

Select Flexible Content from the Field Type dropdown menu.

You can add instructions if you’d like. I usually leave this blank unless it’s a link (I’ll remind people to include the http://) or an image (I’ll include the image dimensions).

Within the Layout Row let’s start naming our stripes. We have 5.

Let’s name the first one “Receive Email Updates.” We don’t need any additional fields here since it’s simply a MailChimp Signup Form.

Click on the Add New link under Layout to add another row.

Add New Layout Row

Name this one “New Podcast”. It will automatically pull in the most recent podcast. The only additional fields we might need is a background image. Click on the Add Field button. Name it (Podcast Background Image) and select Image from the Field Type dropdown menu. In this particular case, I’m going to select the Image URL radio button, but the Image Array option is useful when you want to grab a particular size and include the alt text.

Podcast Background Image within ACF

Click on the Add New link under Layout to add another row. You get the idea. I went through the same process for the “Testimonials” (no input fields), “From the Blog” (no input fields), and the “Services” stripe with the following input fields:

  • Column 1 Heading
  • Column 1 Content
  • Column 2 Heading
  • Column 2 Content
  • Column 3 Heading
  • Column 3 Content

Within the Code

Within my WordPress theme folder, I have a subfolder called partials. This includes smaller elements that I can reuse in other places on the site. In the case of Bill’s site, that folder contains a file for every stripe:

  • stripe-email.php
  • stripe-podcast.php
  • stripe-services.php
  • stripe-testimonial.php
  • blog-excerpt.php
Wordpress Theme Folder Structure

You’ll see the folder structure in the left pane and the code for the services stripe on the right.


You’ll notice the “From the Blog” stripe is not prepended with “stripe”, that’s because that element is not only used on the home page, it’s also used to display a blog excerpt on the archives, categories, and tags pages.

My page-home.php template has this code. I tried to include comments, explaining what each section does:

<main class="main" role="main">
<?php // open the WordPress loop
if (have_posts()) : while (have_posts()) : the_post();

	// are there any rows within within our flexible content?
	if( have_rows('home_page_content') ): 

		// loop through all the rows of flexible content
		while ( have_rows('home_page_content') ) : the_row();

		if( get_row_layout() == 'receive_email_updates' )
			get_template_part('partials/stripe', 'email');

		if( get_row_layout() == 'new_podcast' )
			get_template_part('partials/stripe', 'podcast');

		if( get_row_layout() == 'services' )
			get_template_part('partials/stripe', 'services');

		if( get_row_layout() == 'testimonials' )
			get_template_part('partials/stripe', 'testimonial');

		if( get_row_layout() == 'from_the_blog' )
			get_template_part('partials/blog', 'excerpt');

		endwhile; // close the loop of flexible content
	endif; // close flexible content conditional

endwhile; endif; // close the WordPress loop ?>


You’ll notice that my if statements do not have brackets ({ and }). They’re not needed since there’s only one line of code after the condition. However, if you need to add additional lines within the statement, be sure to insert those brackets!

If you see the have_rows() and get_row_layout() functions, that’s all ACF. You can get additional documentation for the Flexible Content fields on ACF’s site.

The get_template_part() function is built into WordPress (more information within the WordPress Codex). The first parameter of the function is the folder name (partials) and the first part of the file name before the dash (remember I named my files stripe-email.php?). The second parameter is the fiel name after the dash (email).

The get_template_part() function is great for other places in your WordPress themes, not just within Flexible Content. I mentioned the blog-excerpt.php snippet is also used within the archive.php template:

<?php if (have_posts()): while (have_posts()) : the_post(); ?>
	<!-- article -->
	<article id="post-<?php the_ID(); ?>" <?php post_class(); ?>>
		<?php get_template_part('partials/blog', 'post'); ?> 
	<!-- /article -->
<?php endwhile; ?>

The beauty in this method is if I need to change the way the blog excerpt is being displayed, I only have to change one file! I don’t have to remember every place that a blog excerpt is being implemented.

Other implementations

This modular method is also useful for formatting content. I used it on the portfolio section of my site.

I knew each page would need a different format depending on whether it was a website or a print project and what assets I have for each.

Posted 02.16.2015

Getting your Git On: A Beginner’s Guide to Git

What is git anyway? Short answer: version control. Long answer: Think of it as having unlimited undos on your code. Or better yet, if you’re collaborating with another developer, it allows you to both work on the same project without overwriting each other’s code. Awesome!

This has saved my butt on more than one occasion. I’ve vowed to always use source control, regardless of how big or small the project is.


So, now that you’re interested in git, where do you begin? To get started, you’ll need to install git on your local machine (don’t worry, I’ll explain). Eventually, you’ll want to use an online service to store your code, like GitHub, BitBucket, or Beanstalk. (more on that below, too)

Installing git Locally


I use a Mac, so unfortunately, I can only speak to that. However, if you’re using another operating system try looking here.

The easiest way to to install Git on your Mac (if you’re on Mavericks or older) is to install the XCode Command Line Tools. This is as simple as trying to run git from the Terminal.


Remember, when you’re working in the Command Line, the dollar sign ($) is the prompt and signifies a new line. No need to copy it.

$ git

If you don’t have git installed already, it will prompt you to do so.

If you want a more up to date version, or would rather run the binary installer, you can grab that here.

The first thing you’ll want to do is configure your git settings.

$ git config --global "John Doe"
$ git config --global "[email protected]"
$ git config --global color.ui auto

Git is typically run from the Terminal. However, as a designer, I tend to be a little leary of the Termianal. Granted I’ve gotten more comfortable, but I still prefer a GUI (Graphical User Interface) when I can get one.

I think the easiest thing to do is learn the vocabulary. Then, it doesn’t matter whether it’s the Terminal or GUI, the same concepts apply no matter what.

Learning the vocabulary


Here’s a cheat sheet you can print out and keep handy.

Let’s walk through this as you would for a real project.

You’ll want to create a folder on your computer for your project. In my user folder, I have a folder called Code. Then, a subfolder called GIT. I keep all my project folders there.

Code > Git folder structure

If you’re trying to do everything from the command line, these commands create a new folder and then navigates inside:

$ mkdir new_project
$ cd new_project

Let’s initiatize our git repository. (All your git projects are called repositories.)

$ git init

So what does initializing really do? It creates an empty repository in a hidden folder, .git.


If you ever wanted to remove the repository, all you’d need to do is delete that .git subdirectory:

$ git rm -rf .git

Notice, I said empty. It did not add the current content within your folder. You have to tell it to do that yourself.

All the content within your project folder is considered the working copy. Once you get to a place where you want to save those files, you’ll stage your changes and then commit them to your local repository.

The advantage here is not all of the files you’ve modified since your last commit have to be staged and committed.


Let’s get an overview of everything that has changed since we last committed:

git status

git status

Git will put your changes into three main categories:

  • Changes not staged for commit
  • Changes to be committed
  • Untracked files


You can add all these changes by using:

git add .

If you don’t want to add the changes you’ve made, but cherry pick files, you can list them out:

git add assets/dist/css/main.css assets/dist/js/production.js


If we removed a file, we’d need to confirm that too:

git rm something.html


Now, let’s commit our updates:

git commit -m "Initial commit"

The first commit, I usually title as “Initial commit” but as you continue to make changes and commit your code, you’ll want these messages to be meaningful. This will make it easier for you (or your teammates) to understand the changes you made later down the road.

Your message should include information like, “What was the motivation for the change? How does this differ from the previous version?”

If you need a longer commit message than 50 characters, you can leave out the “-m” parameter and Git will open an editor application for you to write a longer message.

Here are a few guidelines from Tower’s eBook, Learn Version Control with Git:

  1. Related Changes A commit should only contain changes from a single topic. Don’t mix up contents from different topics. This will make it harder to understand what happened.
  2. Completed Work Never commit something that is half-done. If you need to save your current work temporarily in something like a clipboard, you can use Git’s “Stash” feature. But don’t eternalize it in a commit.
  3. Tested Work You shouldn’t commit code that you think is working. Test it well — and before you commit it to the repository.
  4. Short and Descriptive Messages A good commit also needs a good message.


If you want to review a history of all the commits that have been made to a project:

git log

You’ll see a list in chronological order, beginning with the newest item.

git log

If there are more items than what can be displayed on one page, you’ll see a : at the bottom of the screen. You can go to the next page by hitting the <SPACE> key and quit with “q”.

You’ll notice from the log, every commit has:

  • Commit Hash This is that crazy long string of letters and numbers (i.e. aa093b890c78e9d0869a3f267b2530cf2cbeb83f)
  • Author Name and Email Remember when we set our name and email address within the git configurations above? This is where it gets used.
  • Date
  • Commit Message


Now that we’ve made a bunch of commits, let’s publish (or push) them online. First we need to tell Git where our remote repository is.

There’s several services you can use, three of the most popular ones are:

I go into a little more detail on each service’s features below.

Regardless of the service you use, when you create a repository, they will give you an SSH address and HTTPS address.

You can use either:

$ git remote add origin [email protected]:ahhacreative/git_blog_post.git


$ git remote add origin https://[email protected]/ahhacreative/git_blog_post.git

In this case, we named our remote repository “origin.” This is the default within Git. However, I could just as easily name it something else. I usually name mine based on where the remote repository is. This makes it easy within Tower (my GUI of choice) to tell where it’s being saved:

Git Remotes on Tower

From the command line:

$ git remote add BITBUCKET [email protected]:ahhacreative/git_blog_post.git

You can see a list of all your remotes:

git remote -v

git remotes

You’ll notice there are two URLs listed (fetch and push). One is for read access (fetch) and the other is for write (push). Uusally, the two URLs are the same, but you could use different URLs for security and performance issues.


Now, we need to push our code up to our remote:

$ git push origin master

Hopefully, some of these things are starting to look familiar. origin is the name of the remote repository and master is the name of our branch. (We haven’t talked about branching yet. It’s OK, just trust me for now, but it’s coming.)

git push

Let’s pause for a moment. I just want to take a moment to point out: you’re more than halfway there! It wasn’t that hard, was it?! You know everything you need to know to save, commit, and publish your files online! There’s still more topics to cover, but you already know the basics. That’s worth celebrating!


OK. So far, we’ve just published our changes online. But, what if we’re collaborating with another developer? They’re publishing their changes too. How do we pull down there code?

First you may want to see what you’re pulling:

$ git fetch origin
$ git log origin/master

If you want to integrate these changes into your local working copy:

$ git pull

If you have multiple remotes and branches, you may need to specify:

$ git pull origin master


OK, so let’s (finally) talk about branching.

When you’re coding, there are usually several different contexts or “topics” you’re working with:

  • features
  • bug fixes
  • experiments

In the real world, these all happen simultaneously. You’re trying to fix a bug while a teammate is working on the new about page design.

If branching didn’t exist, how would you integrate some of these changes, but not all of them? You need to post the code for the bug fix, but your teammate isn’t ready to launch the new about page. You find out the new “members only” code you’ve been working on is going in a different direction, but you’ve already integrated that code in with everything else. How do you separate it out?

no git branches


You can create a branch to handle each of these topics. It stays separate from all the other contexts. When you make changes, they only apply to the current active branch.

git branching

Your current branch can be referred to as the active branch, checked out branch, or HEAD branch. They all mean the same thing.

Whenever you run git status, it will tell you what branch you’re currently on.

current branch by running git status


You may have noticed from my screenshots, that my Terminal shows me what branch I’m in and changes color based on whether I’ve there are uncommitted files or not.

git inside iTerms2 and oh my zsh

I’m running Oh My Zsh within iTerm2. I have more details in a blog post.

To create a new branch:

$ git branch feature/about-page


I like to name my branches my contexts. So, you’ll notice, I prepended my branch name (about-page) with “feature.” This is nice because within Tower, it treats these contexts as folders:

branches within Tower

We’ve created a branch, but it’s still not our current branch. To change branches, you’ll need to checkout:

$ git checkout -b feature/about-page

To view a list of all our branches:

$ git branch -v

The -v (verbose) flag, provides more information, than just git branch.

git list branches

Now, that you know how to create and change branches. What happens when you’re ready to commit that code to your main (master) branch?

First, you’ll want to navigate to your master branch. Then, merge in your new branch:

$ git checkout master
$ git merge feature/about-page

Once a branch is merged and deployed, you no longer need it. To delete a local branch:

$ git branch -d feature/about-page 


Remember when we talked about not committing half done work? How do you get around that?

Stashing. explains it well:

Think of the Stash as a clipboard on steroids: it takes all the changes in your working copy and saves them for you on a new clipboard. You’re left with a clean working copy, i.e. you have no more local changes.

To stash your local changes:

$ git stash

To see an overview of all your current stashes:

$ git stash list

The most recent Stashes will always be listed first.

When you want to apply a Stash, you can run:

$ git stash pop

This will pull the latest Stash and clear it from your clipboard. Or

$ git stash apply <StashName>

This pulls the specified Stash, but unlike pop, it remains saved. To delete it, you’ll need to run git stash drop <StashName>


These things are all great, but what if you’re not starting from scratch? What if you’re joining a project that already exists?

Then, you’ll want to use clone.

$ git clone https://[email protected]/ahhacreative/git_blog_post.git

This will automatically set the remote to the “origin.” Anytime you pull, it will grab any updates made to the repository.

Sometimes, you’ll want to grab the code from a repository, but start with a clean history. To do so, simply add the flag --bare:

$ git clone --bare https://[email protected]/ahhacreative/git_blog_post.git


There will be times when you don’t want to put all your code within your repository. For example, if you’re using bower, you probably don’t want the bower_components folder. Or, if you’re running grunt or gulp, you don’t need node_modules. A teammate only needs to run bower init or npm install to get those files. Committing them would only bloat your repository.

You can create a file called .gitignore and list all the files or folders to exclude. For example, here’s my .gitignore file for a WordPress project:

Remote Repositories

There are several services that you can use to host your remote repositories.



GitHub is probably the most popular. If you make your repositories public, then you can create an unlimited number of repositories for free. You start paying when you create private repositories.

GitHub also has an excellent issue tracker built in among several other great resources.

Even if you don’t plan on paying for a GitHub account, I would highly recommend signing up for an account anyway. GitHub has practically become a standard for developers. Meaning, if you’re applying for a programming job, your potential employer could ask to see examples on GitHub.



I actually store all my code on BitBucket. BitBucket does everything that GitHub does, but is missing the community that surrounds GitHub.

For me, the decision came down to $$. GitHub’s business model revolves around the number of private repositories you create. BitBucket’s bases its pricing tiers on the number of users. As long as you have under 5 users, it’s free.

As a one-woman web shop, I was easily in the top tier with GitHub. But, with BitBucket, I can have as many free private repositories as I want. That’s a no brainer.


Beanstalk App

BeanStalk is another great service. Like GitHub, you’re paying based on the number of repositories you use.

It’s missing a lot of the features that the other two services provide, but the biggest benefit it has is built in deployment. Meaning, you can push changes to your repository and it will automatically send those updates to your server via FTP (or however you specify). That’s almost enough to make me switch.

In the meantime, I’m using instead. It’s made by the same company (WildBit) that makes Beanstalk. allows you to deploy commits from BitBucket or GitHub. Pricing is based on the number of repositories you’ve connected.

The Apps

OK, now that you know the correct terminology, I want to introduce a few GUIs:


Tower App

I use Tower. IMHO, it’s the best. Just from glancing at the screenshot, you can see the buttons along the top for most of the vocabulary terms covered in this post. If you want a little more information, check out this screencast (from the Tower app team):


GitHub on Mac

GitHub has their own GUI. Unlike Tower, it’s free. I’ve downlaoded it, but I rarely use it since I have Tower.

At the end of the day, it’s whatever you’re the most comfortable with. They all accomplish the same thing. My thing is don’t let the tools get in the way of making cool stuff.

Additional Resources

Granted, we’ve covered the basics, it should be enough to get you up and going. However, if you want to dig a little deeper, here are a few additional resources to check out:

Posted 02.03.2015

Posted 02.03.2015

My SASS Extends, Mixins, and Functions

Last week, I wrote a little post about the SASS I have running on my site. Continuing on, I thought I’d share my SASS broilerplate with some of the mixins, functions, and extends.

Naming Breakpoints

In my SASS breakpoints file, I’m using Chris Coyier’s Breakpoint trick. — It’s a mixin within _2_helpers / _breakpoints.scss file. It takes a break point name and builds out the media query for me.

@mixin breakpoint($point) 		{
	@if $point == zurb-xxlarge {
		@media (max-width: 1921px) { @content; }
	@if $point == large-screen {
		@media (max-width: 1600px) { @content; }
	@if $point == zurb-xlarge {
		@media (max-width: 1441px) { @content; }
	@else if $point == retina {
		@media (-webkit-min-device-pixel-ratio: 2), screen and (max--moz-device-pixel-ratio: 2) { @content; }
	@else if $point == regular-screen {
		@media (max-width: 1250px) { @content; }
  	@else if $point ==  zurb-medium {
		@media (max-width: 1024px)  { @content; }
	@else if $point ==  smaller-screen {
		@media (max-width: 800px)  { @content; }
	@else if $point ==  ipad-portrait {
		@media (max-width: 768px)  { @content; }
	@else if $point ==  zurb-small {
		@media (max-width: 640px)  { @content; }
	@else if $point ==  iphone-four {
		@media (max-width: 360px)  { @content; }
	@else if $point ==  iphone {
		@media (max-width: 320px)  { @content; }

I name my breakpoints according to the device (I know. I know.) I’m using: ipad-landscape, ipad-portrait, smaller-screen, iphone. I know the world exists outside of Apple and we are becoming (if not there already) device independent. However, I think in those dimensions.

I also have breakpoints for zurb-medium and zurb-small. I use the Zurb Foundation framework and those breakpoints already exist within the framework. Since, the grid is already collapsing at those points, I need to be able to make adjustments in my code as well.

When I want to implement these breakpoints within my SASS, it will look like this:

.something {
	padding: 100px;

	@include breakpoint(zurb-small) {
		padding: 10px;

I have a snippet set up Sublime Text 3 that makes this really easy to implement.


On CSS-Tricks, there’s a post about creating triangles in pure CSS. I decided to turn that into a mixin.

@mixin arrow ($direction, $size, $color) {
	@if $direction == up {
		border-left: $size solid transparent;
		border-right: $size solid transparent;
		border-bottom: $size solid $color;
	} @else if $direction == down {
		border-left: $size solid transparent;
		border-right: $size solid transparent;
		border-top: $size solid $color;
	} @else if $direction == right {
		border-top: $size solid transparent;
		border-bottom: $size solid transparent;
		border-left: $size solid $color;
	} @else if $direction == left {
		border-top: $size solid transparent;
		border-bottom: $size solid transparent;
		border-right:$size solid $color;

Then, when I want to implement it:

.read-more { 
		&:before {
			@include arrow (right, 3px, black);

That’s easy enough.


I have a set of functions for dealing with color:

@function darkest( $color ) 	{ @return darken($color,20%); }
@function darker( $color ) 		{ @return darken($color,13.333%); }
@function dark( $color ) 		{ @return darken($color,6.667%); }
@function light( $color ) 		{ @return lighten($color,16.667%); }
@function lighter( $color ) 	{ @return lighten($color,33.333%); }
@function lightest( $color ) 	{ @return lighten($color,50%); }

I can easily make the rollover color, a shade darker by using:

a {
	&:hover {
		color: darker($red);

I don’t have to open Photoshop or create an additional variable.

Black and White (and Color)

%black-and-white {
	filter: grayscale(100%);

%color {
	filter: grayscale(0%);

Now, I can easily convert anything to black and white:

.my-image {
	@extend %black-and-white;

Then, if I want to give it color, say on rollover:

.my-image {
		&:hover {
			@extend %color;


@mixin columns ($columns: 2, $gap: 90px) {
	column-count: $columns;
	column-gap: $gap;

This mixin makes it easy to implement columns. You can tell from the code that I have defaults set for 2 columns with 90px between each column. Meaning, I can implement it without adding any parameters:

.two-columns {
	@include columns();

Or if I want to over ride it I can:

.three-columns {
		@include columns(3, 30px);

If I want to get crazy, I can even use some of my mixins together:

.two-columns {
	@include columns();

	@include breakpoint(zurb-small) {
		@include columns(1);

This just says that the two column class will display 2 columns, unless we’re on mobile. Then, display 1 column.


I have a path function that makes it easy to include images within my SCSS:

@function path($src, $dir: img) {
	$src: unquote($src);
	@return url(unquote("..")/$dir/$src);

When I set a background image, it might look like this:

.background-image {
	background: path("my-background-image.jpg") center top no-repeat;

By default, it puts my images within a img directory. I can override that, either by passing in another parameter or adjusting the function.


.left {
	float: left;

%right {
	float: right;

.text--left {
	text-align: left;

.text--right {
	 text-align: right;

.text--center {
	text-align: center;
	width: 100%;

Tehse are a few alignment classes that make it easy to knock something left, right, or center. You’ll notice I have an extends (%) as well as the class (.) that way I can use these classes on the within my HTML as well.

List Styling

%no-bullets {
	list-style: none;

This is great when I’m working on site navigation:

nav ul {
	@extend %no-bullets;

No Margin, No Padding

%no-margin-padding {
		margin: 0;
		padding: 0;

Just as the name suggests, using this will remove any margin and padding from the element:

nav ul {
	@extend %no-margin-padding;


%circle {
	border-radius: 50em;

This turns any item into a circle:

.circle-thumbnail {
		@extend %circle;


These are all great, but what’s the point? Well, instead of having to write these styles everytime I sit down to work on a project, I have a starting point. Don’t reinvent the wheel every time if you don’t have to. Make it easier on yourself!

Second, any project that I work on, I know I have certain classes available to me. I don’t have to look up the class names. I’ve established a set of standards. Remember, smarter not harder.