I’d been meaning to set up a gallery ever since I started up this site. I wanted to have the “wall of images” type of look and I was afraid I’d have to resort to Flash to get it done.
The backstory on this is as follows: a couple of weeks ago, I saw Mansion listed with a bunch of other WordPress themes in a free WordPress themes article I found on Smashing Magazine. It had the look that I wanted and it was a native WordPress theme so I thought I couldn’t go wrong.
Turns out it was easier said than done to implement this.
This comes fresh off my From Joomla to WordPress article where I listed some of my annoyances with WordPress.
Well, here’s another one. Using multiple templates is a PAIN IN THE ASS.
I was extremely annoyed that this was yet another WordPress situation where I had to jump into the code. As I said before I don’t have a problem with coding when necessary, but I do have a problem doing it when I’m working with a CMS/Blogging platform that is constantly and relentlessly promoted as being so easy.
Now, coming from Joomla, which is relentlessly assaulted as being unusable, all I have to do is go to my Template Manager, choose the template I want to use, then in those options I simply click the menu item I want the template associated with, click save and it’s done.
Not so easy in WordPress by a LONGSHOT.
In WordPress, it turns out you have to install a whole separate WordPress site in order to have different templates. I found it to be pretty tiring process. First I checked out this video on how to enable Multisite in WordPress 3.0.
Ok so far so good, except when I went to enable the network option, I was told I couldn’t use subdirectories. You can either use Subdirectories (which are just easier for me) or subdomains. Subdirectories are ‘www.mysite.com/gallery’ while a subdomain is ‘gallery.mysite.com’. To me, it’s not worth the extra hassle for a subdomain.
Except now it turns out using a subdirectory was off-limits? Luckily, I then found this post on how to force WordPress to enable subdirectories.
So now I had even more steps and more code to churn through. Great. But it did work.
As it turns out, my preferred sitemap plugin, Google XML Sitemap, does not work with Multisite. Aargh. It’s always something.
Then I had to stop and research again, try to find a replacement. I came up with XML Sitemap Feed.
I installed it, but honestly I haven’t gotten around to actually checking it to see if it’s working. This weekend has been spent pretty much trying to get the gallery itself running.
So now I have two WordPress sites running in my admin area, and I have to treat that site and my main site differently.
Anyway, as you can see, doing all this for multiple templates is not quite as easy as just picking the template in the backend.
With that said, on to the gallery issues.
After the multisite install ordeal, I got the Mansion template going. I found a few annoying caveats. They’re not showstoppers, but still annoying.
I was kind of hoping the theme might pull the images from a directory or be a bit more automated. The way it actually works is that each thumbnail is a post. So you can see the amount of work that is done just for one picture.
Actually, you can just dump a bunch of images into one post, but then when any one of those thumbnails is clicked, the user will get all the images in the post. I wanted people to click and get one image per thumbnail, so that meant a bunch of separate posts.
To be fair, it generates the thumbnails and all that, but it turns out I wasn’t satisfied with the auto crop of the thumbnails, so I had to make my own (you can add a custom field to your post called “thumbnail” with the url of your preferred thumbnail and it will use that one).
But still, if you have 100 images, you have 100 posts to make. That’s a lot of work. Looking to cut down some of the tedium, I uncovered this plugin called Simple add pages or posts. As you might imagine, it simply adds pages or posts in bulk. Nice.
So with this, I could just make a list of post titles, paste them into the field in the plugin, and then it would generate all those posts for me. I actually ended up using NeoOffice to make a spreadsheet to increment the numbers of my posts.
After this, the posts are made, but you have to still populate the posts with your images. It’s quite a lot of work. I ended up uploading my entire shebang of images (along the way running into the 1mb upload limit -I was able to change this by choosing ‘Options’ under the Super-Admin menu, then scrolling all the way down to the bottom to the ‘Upload Settings’ section.) using tabs by just opening each post in a new tab and moving from tab to tab dropping in the images.
It took quite a while, but once you get the majority up there, it should be fairly easy to keep up with it unless you output like 50,000 images per week or something.
Now, what could be left to complain about. Oh, I know. For some strange reason, in WordPress you can’t change the ordering of the posts! Really? Wow. I can do that so easily in Joomla, without any extensions.
I couldn’t figure out how to do this in WordPress. If someone knows of an extension that does this then please let me know. [UPDATE] “fatluckys” lets me know in the comments that the best way to re-order the posts is to change the time/date of the post.
This matters with the Mansion theme because the big “featured” photo that shows up at the top of the page has to be the last post created. So you have to be really mindful of the ordering in which you’re showing your images, since you won’t be able to easily re-order them.
Finally, the last thing that is kind of screwy is that the loading of the gallery page sometimes screws up when loading in Safari or Chrome. Sometimes the thumbnails are all on top of each other and they don’t fill up the page until you actually resize the browser window. Very strange, but since I’m not a paid supporter of the theme, I can’t really get tech support on it.
The FAQ says that if you notice any oddities, it might be because another plugin using jQuery might be conflicting with it. I’m running JQuery Drop Down Menu on my main site, not on my gallery site, but maybe it’s possible they still conflict somehow?
If that’s the case, I would get rid of the Mansion theme and just use a Flash gallery. The drop down plugin works pretty good and may be the easiest/best of its kind in WordPress. Read my aforementioned Joomla to WordPress article on my troubles with getting a dropdown menu.
So to wrap this up, my Gallery is up and running, hopefully my minor technical difficulties are not a big inconvenience to people wanting to view my work, otherwise the Mansion theme will get kicked to the curb.
Even with all my complaining, I do realize that I’m starting to learn WordPress inside and out almost as much as I know Joomla. I guess it can never hurt to have a new skill to add to the repertoire.