Last weekend, 362 other WordPress fanatics and I attended WordCamp Milwaukee 2014.
WordCamp speakers, volunteers and sponsors gave us three amazing days of presentations, networking and discussions of all things WordPress at the UW-Milwaukee School of Continuing Education in Grand Avenue Mall (and an awesome Saturday night after-party at the Hilton.)
My WordCamp weekend started early Friday morning in the Theme Design and Development Workshop.
I don’t have a background in design, but I do try to gobble up as many books and online tutorials on the subject as I possibly can.
To me, WordCamp is an opportunity to learn about design from people who design for a living.
During talks by Heather Acton, Michelle Schulp and Stacy Kvernmo, I noticed a recurring theme in their approaches to designing and creating custom themes (pun intended and kind of unavoidable): The _s starter theme. (That’s not a typo—it’s pronounced “underscores.”)
Instead of starting with an existing theme and working your way backwards through the design process—hunting and pecking through someone else’s CSS to make changes to elements you might not even need, the _s starter theme gives you a bare bones framework with very little style applied to the look of your site.
With _s, you build the look of the site from the ground up by adding your own CSS to the theme’s style.css page.
That might sound like an odd process, but thinking back on some of my experiences with premium themes, I can totally understand the appeal of _s. Too many times I’ve looked at a premium theme and thought, “Well, it’ll be cool if I just change this, that and the other thing.” Then, 40 dollars and 40 hours later, I start reaching for the ibuprofen.
My next project is definitely going to start with a visit to underscores.me.