Shortly after making my return to freelance web design, a familiar name appeared in my inbox. Not someone I knew personally, but someone I knew of. It seemed Chris Pirillo was in need of a redesign and had been pointed in my direction. When I got talking to Chris about what he was after, I quickly began to get excited, as a redesign was just the tip of the iceberg. Chris had this idea – a social media theme that would allow you to easily integrate the social networks you use on a daily basis into your WordPress blog. As you may know, Chris is all over the internets, and needed a way to bring it all together. After 5 weeks of development, he’s now able to do just that, and he’s sharing the wealth!

Meet WicketPixie

Named after his two dogs Wicket and Pixie, this WordPress theme pushes the boundaries in more than one direction. At first glance, it might look pretty ordinary. But what’s under the hood is anything but ordinary.

Sources

WicketPixie: My Profiles

The bulk of the development went into the Source Manager. Built from the ground up by Chris J. Davis, the Source Manager gives you the ability to catalog all of the social networks you take part in. The data is gathered via RSS feeds and stored in the WordPress database. Once a Source has been added, a widget is automatically created that displays the most recent 5 items. You can place the widgets in one of the 6 dynamic sidebars which make up the right side of the theme. One widget in particular called My Profiles, is a compiled list of all of your sources. Sorted by name and listed with the source’s favicon, which is fetched and stored on your server.

Activity Stream

But that’s not the only use for Sources. One of the options when adding a source, is “Include in Activity Stream?” The Activity Stream grabs the content stored in the database and displays it in typical lifestream fashion. The difference here, is with the content being pulled from the database, your Activity Stream is archived from the date the first source was created. Typically, lifestreams only grab whatever data is available in RSS feeds, which is normally 10-20 items per feed. WicketPixie’s Activity Stream is paginated, with 50 items per page.

Faves

Aggregating your own content is great, but Chris also wanted to display recent items from his favourite sites. Faves is a quick and dirty aggregator that lets you do just that. To create a Fave, only the title of the site and the feed URL are entered. From there, the most recent 5 items are displayed for each feed. And just like Sources, the favicon is grabbed as well. Faves can be sorted quickly via an auto-populated dropdown menu which is displayed for logged in users.

Design Customization

WicketPixie: Design Customization

One downside of using a theme, is that it’s hard for your site to stand out in the crowd. While you can’t give it a complete visually overhaul from the WP-Admin, we’ve packed in a handful of design options that let the user quickly and easily change the background image, how it’s positioned, and if it scrolls with the page or is fixed at the top. Wolfgang Bartelme agreed to let us bundle his gorgeous Solid Wood wallpaper with the theme, and there are four variations to choose from. Also, font families and colours can be changed across the board by using the built-in colour picker, or entering a hex value. Of course, if you want to really customize the design, you can dive right into the hand-coded CSS and start hacking away.

More to Come

I’ve actually only given you a quick overview of the theme and it’s capabilities. It can really do a lot out of the box, and judging by the response on Chris’ blog already, this is the sort of thing people have been waiting for. I can’t take the credit for coming up with the concept, but I’m very proud of the final product Chris J. Davis and I were able to fabricate from Chris’ vision. There’s no exact date for a public release yet, but Chris has mentioned in the next few weeks. So I would assume by July at the latest. Stay tuned to his blog for an official release.

And for those interested in learning more about WicketPixie and want to see it in action, check out Chris’ screencast.

18 Comments

I really like the theme and just noticed it by chance one day when I randomly went to Chris’ site. Then a tweet popped up right after that and you posted that you had done it. Keep up the good work!

Very nice indeed. The ‘source manager’ bit seems fairly similar to what I was trying to achieve with my "Captain Planet" lifestream/aggregator plugin (which it self was based on an old lifestream plugin by Chris J Davis.

I kind of coded myself into a hole with "Captain Planet", so I’ll be very interested to see how the aggregation part of the theme works.

The design, as usual, looks super, nice an straight forward. Congrats to you, Chris J and Chris, looks and sounds fantastic, I look forward to playing with it. 🙂

Well you will be happy to know that there will be a new version of my Lifestream plugin hitting the interwebs that incorporates some of the coolness I created for WicketPixie.

Once all the bugs are out, look for a release for WordPress and Habari on my site.

How can I test this today? I have a great idea on how to display the links to your other social profiles in a more fashionable manner.

You’ll likely have to wait until the public release. But you could try pinging Chris and see what he has to say.

This is beautiful. Sort of what I wanted to make for myself several months ago but gave up because I don’t have the php skillz. Glad someone way smarter than me wanted to do it, too!

The lifestream part is very well-integrated; like your own personal FriendFeed, but prettier. 🙂 Looking forward to getting into it myself after the public release!

This looks so interesting, that I might consider beginning to work with wordpress……

Looking forward to seeing what happens next…

Great work!

Im a big fan of chris podcasts, but his blog was a very ugly piece of "design".

But now…. Wow well done!!

Im very excited about the theme release 🙂

A friend an i worked together on a site called intuuch.com, it was the first "social stream" site on the net, i think thats where the idea came from. http://mashable.com/2007/09/19/intuuch/

Great work. You should definitely do this in the future; write about client sites. Matt, have you ever thought about making some premium WordPress themes? Couldn’t you make a fair bob out of that?

I’ve thought about premium WP themes before, but you really have to make it your job to be successful at it, or to produce top notch stuff. There’s more and more people jumping on that bandwagon every day and the market is quickly going to get over saturated.

My niche is working one-on-one with people, and I think I’ll stick to that.

You may recall I mentioned releasing some WP themes a couple months ago? That’s still on the table, and WicketPixie wasn’t part of that plan. 😉

Great idea for a site.

And I agree that you should definitely write more posts related to your client work. : )

It looks like you and Chris did a really nice job on this one. Great idea, I think a lot of people will want this theme, or at least the functions it provides. Nice!

[…] calls them. In fact, I’ve only built one theme to date. That being the soon-to-be-released WicketPixie. For the most part, I design and build unique sites for individuals or companies that are used for […]

[…] elements and colors throughout the theme. And yes, the theme was designed by the very talented Matt Brett, with app design by the Other […]

This looks like a great theme, but themes with fixed segments (in this case, the bar along the top) always cause scrolling to become ridiculously slow and choppy. It might just be for me, but it makes Chris Pirillo’s website nearly unreadable.

[…] in action on the blog of Chris Pirillo. Why it’s my favourite? Designed by the famous Matt Brett, WicketPixie provides a great web 3.0 design with some fabulous options behind the scene with which […]

[…] en acción en el blog de Chris Pirillo. ¿Por qué es mi favorito? Diseñado por el famoso Matt Brett, WicketPixie proporciona un gran diseño de la web 2.0 con algunas opciones de detrás de la […]

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