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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.