Comienzo a Free WordPress Development Theme

Comienzo theme file

Comienzo theme file
If you follow me on twitter you may have noticed me tweet about adding features to my WordPress development theme. Well today it’s ready for release.

Comienzo (thanks @iKitty for the Spanish help) is a starting theme built for developers or designers. This really isn’t built for non-coding users since it contains almost no styles at all. Comienzo actually started out life as the wonderful Starkers by Elliot Jay Stocks. I used Starkers to start my WordPress development for quite a while but despite its greatness I was still always adding things to it like jQuery. Thus Comienzo was born.

The readme is a bit more detailed but Comienzo includes a bunch of stuff for you like jQuery 1.4.0 in the theme functions file. 2 widgetized areas complete with descriptions (new WP 2.9 feature). One of the widgetized areas is an alert area in the top of every page.

Comienzo only loads the new WordPress thumbnails if it is supported in the current installation. Comienzo auto removes text in the search box, provides client side validation of username and email fields in the comments, provides an admin panel for clients to include website tracking scripts like Google Analytics.

In short it does a bunch of stuff that I was always doing to make WordPress development as efficient as possible and provide my clients with the best theme I could.

The theme is entirely free to use for personal or commercial projects. I’d love a link in a blog post saying how cool I am but it’s not required. So that means go ahead use it for client work and give me no credit. I’d love to see some of the things that get built out of it though so leave a comment and let me know what you did.

Support: I offer no real support on the project. You can see the project on github which does issue tracking on projects so if you have an issue submit it there. Feel free to ping me on twitter to let me know you added an issue (that included a good description and test case and even a code fix) and if I agree I’ll add it at some point. Even better fork it on GitHub and fix the issue yourself then send me a pull request. Make sure there is a good description with it and if I agree I’ll incorporate it into the Theme.

Edit: Since I’ve got the question lots already…no there are not any real styles in the theme. It exists as a foundation for building WordPress sites. It provides a bunch of features for your site development so you don’t have to go add them to each site again like the client side comment validation.

View Theme Demo

Download Comienzo a Free WordPress Development Theme.

Are Free projects worth the time?

Is Free worth the time?
Is Free worth the time?

As a web designer and coder it is always easy to find people that want work done online and just happen to have no money to pay for that job. Probably 90% of those people are just looking for a hand out. Let’s just say it they’re cheap bottom feeders, but a few are really just having trouble and wondering if someone has the good will to help them out.

Really the question today is, “Is it really worth helping that 10%?” Is it worth helping those that aren’t just out looking for free work? Those that understand that you are making a sacrifice and offer to bend over backwards for you?

The Cons

The first con that comes to my mind the is time it takes to work on these projects. Most of them seem to be the scope of month long project but have a deadline of 3 days. Who has the time for that, even if the project is paid?

Right after lack of time comes the whole money thing. I now that we’re all supposed to be altruistic and help our neighbour but at the end of the day I like to sleep inside and eat. Money is what lets me do that. I have to earn it to spend it. I can’t do projects with no pay or I don’t eat and sleep in a cardboard box I stole from someone’s recycling bin.

The third major Con that comes to my mind with free projects is the normal quality of clients. That 90% I spoke of is often the type of client with unreasonable demands for a huge site and tight deadlines. Of course they want it done for free and if you manage to convince them to pay for it they ride you even harder cause “$100 is a lot of money to put out for this web design stuff.”

The Pros

So the pros come from the 10% of people who are actually good and reasonable. For me most of them have been twitter friends that were just having trouble and needed their blog fixed. They weren’t coders really so didn’t even know how to trouble shot the problem.

The biggest pro I have gotten from doing some free projects is referrals. One small item I did about a year ago has yielded 5 referrals this month. Honestly the 3 hours I spent fixing the blog was well worth the time at this point. Sure it took a long time to get any benefit from it but there was benefit.

The Conclusion

Really for me it comes down to how the potential client approaches the situation. If they set out looking for a free ride I’m really not willing to get involved. If the person starts by looking to be pointed in the right direction to solve their problem and it ends up beyond them I don’t mind helping.

The best scenario that illustrates ‘inexpensive’ work I did recently is probably WITA. WITA and I got in touch cause she was looking for a blog redesign. She said upfront she didn’t have much cash and really was just looking for where to start in designing a blog. I walked her through the process I go through for design and she came up with a design. When it came time to plug it into WordPress she didn’t beg for me to do it free. She just asked where a good place to get it coded inexpensively was. I asked for her budget and quoted my normal rates. We agreed on a price that was affordable for her and I told her that the old “cheap, good, fast” triangle applied and she was getting cheap and good. I fit the project into the time I had that wasn’t booked by other clients and we got her blog rolling.

The bottom line is WITA didn’t come looking for a handout. She knew my time was valuable and was reasonable. She was nice. Funny how nice gets you stuff.

So what say you? Is free/cheap work worth the time?

Your Only Investment is Your Time

As any web designer could confirm there are a host of people with “good ideas,” no skills to implement them and no money to pay someone to do it for them. If this describes you read on, this post may tell you how to have a chance of getting someone to invest their time for free.

Time is money

Right away recognize that time is money. You tell me my only investment is time and you’re taking the risk with cash. As a professional designer/developer I charge a decent hourly rate. It is very likely that my investment of time far exceeds you initial cash outlay. Don’t try and play the “only time” card cause you’re fooling yourself.

Be a friend first

Before you contact someone make sure you know them and are friends in some way. I get at least 10 “offers” a week for free projects. I have never met any of them. What would convince me to do a project for someone with no pay that I don’t even know? I don’t mind helping friends a bit as many of my Twitter followers would verify but I don’t just help for free. I help those I know aren’t just looking for a free ride I only know that if I know you.

Send other business

Part of being a friend. Is helping me out. You want me to work on a cool idea for free butter me up first. Send your friends my way. Get me some work. Make sure they drop your name as the referral source. Then when you ask for a favour I’m way more likely to say yes.

Those tips won’t guarantee my help but they will definitely put you way ahead of the other 10 requests this week. Be sensible when you have a project you need help on. People generally like helping other people but appreciate the sacrifice I’m going to make.

The Daily News: Productive coding and cool shoes

We’ll start off today with a link for all programmers on how to be more productive. The one that I loved was using something like textexpander (Mac) or texter (Windows) for coding. Remember this is not just for coding. I set it up for my email signature the name of the place I work fulltime… Try it out typing will never be the same.

Second up today is a great list of plugins to add to your WordPress install. Ranging from the pragmatic delay of sending things on your RSS feed to make sure you spelled everything right to the technical that allow you to play with the PHP of your widgets. Look through and you’ll probably find one or two that will suit the needs of your blog.

Designers are always looking for cool design elements. Over at Smashing Magazine there are some cool animal RSS icons available for free right now. Take a peak and put them aside for the project that they fit.

How about we finish off with a fun one. Niki over at the Design O’ Blog asked designers to send in pictures of their shoes cause we all know that designers dress cool. There are some cool shoes in here so if your looking for a new pair head over there and get some ideas to spice up your shoe collection.