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Custom WordPress Homepage with Customizable Widgets

In this Tutorial, you’ll learn how to build a Custom homepage for your WordPress Theme using Page Templates: Complete with a featured content slider, and customizable Widgets.

Materials Needed:

A lot of people I have seen asking about how to make a custom landing page for their WordPress website. In most standard themes, the homepage is a listing of recent posts.

What if instead you want to display a separate landing page? Maybe your site isn’t a typical run of the mill blog.


The Structure

To have a custom template page for WordPress to recognize, simply create a new PHP file, I named mine custom_home.php, and at the very top when you call the header as you normally do, include this little snippet with the name of your custom page, so it should look like this,

	<?php
		/* Template Name: Custom Home Page */
		get_header();
	?>

Upload this file to your Theme Folder.

Now, when you’re adding or editing a page in WordPress, you should see a new Template in the Template Dropdown (inside the Attributes box).

You can use it now, but it wont do much for you just yet, since this is a blank file.

How you develop your template is completely up to you. In this tutorial, we’re going to craft something based off the illustration below:

Image Description

So go ahead and code this in HTML as you would any other page, keeping in mind that your header and footer should still be called with WordPress,

	<div id="main_wrapper">
		<div id="featured_area">

		</div>
		<div id="column_wrapper">
			<div class="column">

			</div>
			<div class="column">

			</div>
			<div class="column">

			</div>
		</div>
	</div>


Adding a Featured Content Slider

At the top of this page, we’re going to add a featured Content Slider using the awesomejQuery plugin Easy Slider 1.7 by Alen Grakalic. I love his plugin because it is very easy to implement and built really well. Go ahead and download and unzip the file. Move the "easySlider1.7.js" file into your theme folder (if you’d like to stay organized, placing it in a /js/ folder makes sense)

Jump back into the featured_area div we created earlier, and build yourself a little list of links like so,

	<div id="feature_slider">
		<ul>
		<li><a href="#"><img src="<?php bloginfo('template_directory'); ?>/images/image1.jpg" alt="First Slide" /></a></li>
		<li><a href="#"><img src="<?php bloginfo('template_directory'); ?>/images/image2.jpg" alt="Second Slide" /></a></li>
		<li><a href="#"><img src="<?php bloginfo('template_directory'); ?>/images/image3.jpg" alt="Third Slide" /></a></li>
		<li><a href="#"><img src="<?php bloginfo('template_directory'); ?>/images/image4.jpg" alt="Fourth Slide" /></a></li>
		</ul>
	</div>

Notice that the links point to nowhere for now, you can put any address you like there. Also, the image path points first to the theme directory, where you will be uploading this very file you are making, so simply upload your images into an images folder in your themes root.

Now we need to add a bit of CSS to handle the slider and columns. So open up your style.css located in your theme’s root and find a cozy place to add some styling.

Careful

If your theme already uses some of the ID’s and classes we’re trying to use, you may need to rename them. Otherwise, some styles may not work properly.

#main_wrapper{
width:940px;
}
#featured_area{
width:720px;
margin:10px auto;
border:1px solid #333;
-moz-border-radius: 10px;
-webkit-border-radius: 10px;

}
#feature_slider{
margin:0 auto;
position:relative;
width:700px;
}
#feature_slider ul, #feature_slider li{
margin:0;
padding:0;
list-style:none;
}
#feature_slider li{
width:700px;
height:250px;
overflow:hidden;
}
#column_wrapper {
width: 940px;
height: 200px;
margin: 10px auto;
}
#column_wrapper .column {
width: 290px;
margin-left: 15px;
float: left;
border: 1px solid #333;
-moz-border-radius: 10px;
-webkit-border-radius: 10px;
}

This is assuming that you are using slides that are 700 pixels wide by 250 pixels tall, naturally you can adjust at your leisure. Also note, we are installing only basic functionality of what this slider is capable of, feel free to add to it by examining the downloaded plugin files. We also set a wrapper for the columns and gave them each a width of 290px and spaced evenly.


The JavaScript

So we have a list of pictures and some styling to surround them, but they still wont do much without a final step. Open up header.php and inside the

<head></head>

area, we need to both include the slider script, and call the function. So somewhere below

<?php wp_head();?> 

add the following;

	<script src="<?php bloginfo('template_directory'); ?>/js/easySlider1.7.js" type="text/javascript" charset="utf-8"></script>

	<script type="text/javascript">
		jQuery(document).ready(function(){
			jQuery("#feature_slider").easySlider({
				auto: true,
				continuous: true,
				controlsShow: false
			});
		});
	</script>

What happens here is we call the plugin function and send in the arguments to override the default behavior, setting the slider to start automatically, and keep on going. We now have a sweet working content slider!


Add Custom Widget Areas

Now you can guess what comes next, we have three nice columns just begging to be widget friendly, so I think we shall comply. Inside each column, we will include the code to let WordPress know they are ready to accept widgets. To do this, we will need something like this:

	<?php if (function_exists('dynamic_sidebar') && dynamic_sidebar('WIDGET_TITLE')) : else : ?>

This first checks to see if widgets are activated, and if so will call the appropriate widget based on the argument passed in, currently it calls a dummy widget named WIDGET_TITLE, we will change that. But for now go ahead and add one of these inside each of the column classes:

	<?php if (function_exists('dynamic_sidebar') && dynamic_sidebar('left_column')) : else : ?>
			<p><strong>Widget Ready</strong></p>
			<p>This left_column is widget ready! Add one in the admin panel.</p>
		<?php endif; ?>

	<?php if (function_exists('dynamic_sidebar') && dynamic_sidebar('center_column')) : else : ?>
			<p><strong>Widget Ready</strong></p>
			<p>This center_column is widget ready! Add one in the admin panel.</p>
		<?php endif; ?>

	<?php if (function_exists('dynamic_sidebar') && dynamic_sidebar('right_column')) : else : ?>
			<p><strong>Widget Ready</strong></p>
			<p>This right_column is widget ready! Add one in the admin panel.</p>
		<?php endif; ?>

Take note that all three must have unique names in order to function properly. Additionally, don’t go try and play with this yet because it won’t work! We still need to tell WordPress we are making up our own widget areas.

So go now and open up the scary functions.php file, found once again in the root folder of your theme files. Once open, we are going to add this ugly chunk of code, don’t worry though we will step through it.

	if (function_exists('register_sidebar')) {

		register_sidebar(array(
			'name' => 'Left Column',
			'id'   => 'left_column',
			'description'   => 'Widget area for home page left column',
			'before_widget' => '<div id="%1$s" class="widget %2$s">',
			'after_widget'  => '</div>',
			'before_title'  => '<h4>',
			'after_title'   => '</h4>'
		));
		register_sidebar(array(
			'name' => 'Center Column',
			'id'   => 'center_column',
			'description'   => 'Widget area for home page center column',
			'before_widget' => '<div id="%1$s" class="widget %2$s">',
			'after_widget'  => '</div>',
			'before_title'  => '<h4>',
			'after_title'   => '</h4>'
		));
		register_sidebar(array(
			'name' => 'Right Column',
			'id'   => 'right_column',
			'description'   => 'Widget area for home page right column',
			'before_widget' => '<div id="%1$s" class="widget %2$s">',
			'after_widget'  => '</div>',
			'before_title'  => '<h4>',
			'after_title'   => '</h4>'
		));

	}

Alright, so it looks nasty, but all that happens here is WordPress sees that we are creating our own areas capable of being widgetized. First it checks if we are allowed to register new areas and then creates a couple of sidebar arrays. Don’t worry, they will not become sidebars, that is just the name. Inside the array we identify a few values such as the name of the widget area and a unique ID to assign it for CSS purposes and the like. The description is, well, a description and then the weird stuff. The before and after widget attributes open and close a div element, and use a WordPress magic to make sure the class and id are unique to each. The title before and after set, optionally, what surrounds the user entered title of the widget. This places it inside a set of h4 tags.

Not too bad right? And we are almost done! Go ahead and call the footer in at the very bottom of your new custom home page, and this will close up this page for now, yay!

	<?php get_footer(); ?>


The Endgame

Ok now grab your completed file, custom_home.php (if you named it same as mine) and if you have not already drop it into your theme root folder and lets make this happen. Log into your WordPress Admin area and be sure the theme you want is activated. Create a new page and name it ‘Home’ then be sure to set its template to the one we just made, like this,

Image Description

Now head into the settings area and click on the ‘reading’ option. Up at the top where it asks you what the front page should display, click on static page, then choose your freshly made ‘Home’ page from the drop down menu.

Image Description

Only one more stop! Hit up the widgets panel now, and notice you have three of your own widget ready areas sitting on the side begging for some content.

Image Description

So comply! Fill them up and save it then visit you site and you should see an awesome custom home page now, enjoy it!

117 Comments

  1. Add point Subtract point

    This is EXACTLY what I’ve been looking for!!
    I’ve been searching all over for how to do this, and I posted on the wordpress forums but nobody helped me, I’m sooo glad I found this site.
    This is the BEST tutorial on wordpress I’ve ever read and the easiest to follow, for the first time ever something worked on my first go! Thank you so much and keep writing you are incredibly talented!

    Flag as inappropriate
  2. Add point Subtract point

    I have followed the tutorial great really helpful with customizing my themes!

    but I have a problem where it doesn’t display the widgets? it only displays the message ‘This left_column is widget ready! Add one in the admin panel’ ect… just wondering why this would be?

    Flag as inappropriate
  3. Add point Subtract point
    Jaffasoft (6 Points) December 17, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    I’d like to do this because wanted three columns for a long time on a home page. All themes should have a few templates to choose from for a home page. I don;t need the slider just trying for three columns of widgets.

    But I’m getting errors all over the shop! It won’t take my functions and save it.

    When you say build a regular html page the div’s and column info and php goes into the template php doesn’t it?

    Flag as inappropriate
  4. Add point Subtract point
    Giovanni (2 Points) December 14, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    Simply great! thanks a lot
    gio

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  5. Add point Subtract point

    Thanks you guys, happy to see this tutorial is still helpful! :)

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  6. Add point Subtract point

    Just wanted to thank you so much for a clear, understandable tutorial. This really helped me get through a project that I found very challenging and consequently also reduced my stress levels significantly. Thank you!!

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  7. Add point Subtract point
    Christine (1 Point) November 27, 2010 at 2:33 am

    Awesome. Thank you for the great tutorial! Page looks great.

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  8. Add point Subtract point
    LaundryBasketcollapsible (1 Point) November 22, 2010 at 3:30 am

    nice, you help me alot

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  9. Add point Subtract point

    Thank you! This is really great and worked! It’s exactly the information that I needed with great step-by-step and clear instructions. Well done! This site is a keeper!

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  10. Add point Subtract point
    تقنية (2 Points) September 28, 2010 at 10:05 am

    well i got it thanks for that helpful tutorial

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  11. Add point Subtract point
    lacbeetle (2 Points) September 27, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    Thanks for this it is a very well written tutorial.

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  12. Add point Subtract point
    Tejas Ramakrishnan (2 Points) September 17, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    You do not know how much i needed a tutorial like this. I had made by blog in a /blog folder because of the issue of needing a separate home page.

    Can you, hence, tell me how i can move my blog – http://www.tonz.net/blog to http://www.tonz.net ? Thanks once again for this tutorial.

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  13. Add point Subtract point

    still stuck please help

    Parse error: syntax error, unexpected $end in /hermes/web04/b1941/pow.sbty/htdocs/wp-content/themes/blue1/custom_home.php on line 42

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  14. Add point Subtract point

    Awesome tutorial!
    im haveing a problem

    the error

    Parse error: syntax error, unexpected T_VARIABLE in /hermes/web04/b1941/pow.sbty/htdocs/wp-content/themes/blue1/functions.php on line 1028

    the code

    ‘before_widget’ => ”,

    please help

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  15. Add point Subtract point
    vibe web design (4 Points) September 13, 2010 at 8:51 am

    That really interesting article,im really enjoyed it.Thanks

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  16. Add point Subtract point
    Filippo Maria Caggiani (0 Points) August 24, 2010 at 5:45 am

    Hello, thanks a lot for this great tutorial! :-)
    I had an error, and I’m sure it’s something stupid, but I’m not able to fix this… Can you please help me?
    When I connect to my homepage http://www.paroledimusica.com I get this error message:

    “Fatal error: Call to undefined function php�bloginfo() in / … /header.php on line 39″

    This is line 39 of header.php file:

    <script src="/js/easySlider1.7.js” type=”text/javascript” charset=”utf-8″> 

    File easySlider1.7.js is correctly located where it should be.
    Can you help me to understand what’s wrong?
    Thanks a lot.

    Filippo

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  17. Add point Subtract point
    roneybalack (1 Point) August 8, 2010 at 3:43 am

    In this photoshop tutorial we will learn to design a clean website layout. … This photoshop tutorial show you how to design a very beautiful and shining …
    thanks.. find more best tutorials here http://newsclub1.com

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  18. Add point Subtract point
    Doug C. (2 Points) July 17, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    Would have been nice to see the finished page.

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  19. Add point Subtract point
    ask directory (1 Point) July 6, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    Great! Dreaming ask directory Are Introduced Last Week!

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  20. Add point Subtract point
    Blogstarta (1 Point) July 5, 2010 at 8:29 am

    But ‘hard coding’ the features images in the plugin defeats the purpose of a feature slider, no?

    Flag as inappropriate
  21. Add point Subtract point
    Xtence (1 Point) June 23, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Great tut !
    You could also make some fields ready for a particular category, like i did here http://www.quadrisun.be (sorry, only in dutch)

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  22. Add point Subtract point
    Gebel Scarduzio (1 Point) June 19, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    Download60s.com is a graphic designing website. photoshop tutorials.
    http://download60s.com

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  23. Add point Subtract point

    aigo
    hi, it’s aigo, thanks for your sharing

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  24. Add point Subtract point
    Brad Iroff (1 Point) June 18, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    Very Nice!!!! This taught me a lot… Appreciated!

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  25. Add point Subtract point
    Arizona Lawyer (1 Point) June 14, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    Nice tutorial. It’s detailed and informative. This customization is a great way to make your site stand out against competitors.

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  26. Add point Subtract point
    Arizona Lawyer (1 Point) June 14, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Great tutorial. It’s great and informative. This customization is a great way to make your site stand out against competitors.

    Flag as inappropriate
  27. Add point Subtract point
    Arizona Attorney (1 Point) June 14, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Nice tutorial. It’s great and informative. This customization is a great way to make your site stand out against competitors.

    Flag as inappropriate
  28. Add point Subtract point
    Web Design Nottingham (1 Point) June 10, 2010 at 6:30 am

    Very nice tutorial for a beginner wordpress designer. These tutorial are really pushing the wordpress community forward to create new and exciting ideas! Great work.

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  29. Add point Subtract point
    Riyaz Shihabdeeb (1 Point) June 8, 2010 at 2:17 am

    Excellent! very nice tutorial for a wordpress theme designer. Thank you so much for this.
    Cheers.

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  30. Add point Subtract point
    Pavan Somu (1 Point) June 1, 2010 at 7:23 am

    Thanks for the share. I will make a static page with this demo.

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  31. Add point Subtract point
    Axel Giqueaux (1 Point) May 16, 2010 at 11:57 am

    A very complete solution! Thanks for sharing.

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  32. Add point Subtract point

    Great yaar…..
    really great work

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  33. Add point Subtract point
    Web Design (1 Point) April 26, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    Great info thanks for sharing :)

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  34. Add point Subtract point
    Thomas Craig Consulting (1 Point) April 26, 2010 at 7:21 am

    This is great post, with another alternative solution to creating a WordPress homepage. Thanks for sharing.

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  35. Add point Subtract point
    Florence (1 Point) April 23, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Wow Ryan! Lengthy tutorial no doubt, but this is of high degree of usefulness indeed. I’ll try this out in my next holidays.

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  36. Add point Subtract point
    Pontus from Sweden! (1 Point) April 19, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    Hello!
    I’m new to webdesign and coding. I must say it’s very interesting! Anyways, I’m going to begin creating my own website soon, and i wonder why is WordPress really so good?

    But the most important question is: Do I need to know PHP to creat my own template for wordpress?

    Thank you!

    PS. Tutorial9, you always have awsome tutorials!

    Flag as inappropriate
  37. Add point Subtract point

    incredible stuff…thnx for sharing

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  38. Add point Subtract point
    inspirationfeed (1 Point) April 16, 2010 at 6:47 am

    Nice read very informative.

    Flag as inappropriate
  39. Add point Subtract point
    adsl viettel (1 Point) April 10, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    This tutorial’s not new, but thanks for sharing it :)

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  40. Add point Subtract point
    Chris Olbekson (0 Points) April 10, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    Great post. This is very similar to the custom homepage template I am using on my site. If you want to modify it to pull in the content from a specific post category try something like this:

    This will pull all the post in category 8

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    • Add point Subtract point
      Chris Olbekson (1 Point) April 10, 2010 at 7:41 pm

      The code got striped out of my above comment so i will try to explain:

      before the ul do a query_posts containing: (‘post_type=post&order=asc&cat=8′)
      after the ul add the wp loop ie: (have_posts()) : the_post()
      then between the li tags call the content ie: the_content()
      close the ul then end the loop then close the div

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  41. Add point Subtract point

    OK, I think I got it Ryan. Not sure why my last comment showed up on your blog, but thanks again!

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  42. Add point Subtract point

    Well, I spoke too soon, I can’t get my other template pages to show the sidebar, so maybe I need to go back to the original functions.php and figure out what’s wrong (but I’m a php novice so that might be futile). Any suggestions would be welcomed.

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  43. Add point Subtract point

    Uh Oh, Trouble in Paradise…
    Everything was going well until this afternoon I couldn’t log in, using my testing server (MAMP). Got a blank page after password entry. Ended up deleting the functions.php file and substituting the one from the “Classic” WP theme, then adding your modifications. Everything now works, although this blocks access to the widgets from the theme I was using. But that’s OK. One question: I am using a Child theme, so should the functions.php file go there or in the parent? Or does it matter?

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  44. Add point Subtract point

    Thanks everyone! I am so thrilled to have been a help. :)

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  45. Add point Subtract point

    Perfect! Just what I was looking for! You saved my butt!

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  46. Add point Subtract point
    Kim Woodbridge (1 Point) April 3, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    Great tutorial! I could have used this a couple of weeks ago :-)

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  47. Add point Subtract point
    Dan Lockwood (1 Point) April 3, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    Awesome stuff. Just started out using WordPress and this is very helpful!

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  48. Add point Subtract point
    inspirationfeed (1 Point) April 2, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Very detailed tutorial, thank you!

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  49. Add point Subtract point
    Craig (1 Point) April 1, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    Nice tutorial…good start but knowing how to integrate this with say a your 5 most recent posts (or whatever posts you want to feature) would make it the one stop shop for tutorials like this.

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  50. Add point Subtract point
    Tyrone (1 Point) March 31, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    Nice post Ryan, Needed this tut a while ago. But now I can starting thinking about moving my business static site over to WordPress. Thanks a lot.

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  51. Add point Subtract point

    I so much appreciate this everyone. Very inspiring to write more when people read and enjoy it. So thank YOU very much! :)

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  52. Add point Subtract point
    Cameron Baney (1 Point) March 30, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    Wish I had this when I was starting out with WordPress. This is an amazing tutorial!

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  53. Add point Subtract point
    DesignTutr (1 Point) March 29, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    Lovely tutorial. I can always get some valuable insight whenever I visit Tutorial9.

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  54. Add point Subtract point
    AleXawY (1 Point) March 29, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    That’s a really good one

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  55. Add point Subtract point
    Abdullah Al Mamun (1 Point) March 28, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    WOW ! excellent……. trying now..

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  56. Add point Subtract point

    Thanks you guys, it is always great to hear when something is useful! :)

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  57. Add point Subtract point

    Now this is a really useful post. I remember struggling with page templates way back. This is essential know-how for getting the most out of wordpress!

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  58. Add point Subtract point
    lava360blog (1 Point) March 25, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    great to read. find it very handy and useful. thanks

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  59. Add point Subtract point
    Neato Themes (2 Points) March 25, 2010 at 10:38 am

    It’s always exciting to see WordPress tutorials go out. Good job!

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  60. Add point Subtract point

    Great tut! Thanks for the help!

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  61. Add point Subtract point
    Mayyasi (2 Points) March 24, 2010 at 3:43 am

    thanks that was a mistake for sure ;-)

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  62. Add point Subtract point
    Mayyasi (1 Point) March 24, 2010 at 2:59 am

    sorry i meant this post :D

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  63. Add point Subtract point
    Mayyasi (1 Point) March 24, 2010 at 2:52 am

    Hey Ryan

    I would like to ask for permission to translate this blog if u do not mind

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  64. Add point Subtract point

    Thank you guys for your comments, I hope I get to write more for Tutorial9 it is great fun!
    What kind of tuts would you like to see, anything frustrating you lately? ;)

    @Dmitry You are right man, initially when I wrote this I had my personal site as the end result, but I since changed it around. But I have it running here as a demo for another thing, http://obox.thatryan.com/

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  65. Add point Subtract point
    Adam M (1 Point) March 23, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Amazing post. Thanks Tutorial9!

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  66. Add point Subtract point
    JesterGraphix (1 Point) March 23, 2010 at 10:15 am

    Thanks! this was very helpful!

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  67. Add point Subtract point
    Dmitry (1 Point) March 23, 2010 at 6:06 am

    Thanks for sharing!
    But it would be awesome if I could see a result − live or at least as a pictures at the end of the article.

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  68. Add point Subtract point
    Victor (1 Point) March 23, 2010 at 3:42 am

    Great tut, great details and so well structured. Good job Ryan!

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  69. Add point Subtract point

    lol I spent the last 2 weeks figuring this out. Awesome tutorial Ryan! Thank you.

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  70. Add point Subtract point
    Michael Earls (1 Point) March 22, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    I just learned that you’ll need to copy over jquery.js and put a link to that in the header, as well.

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  71. Add point Subtract point
    Michael Earls (1 Point) March 22, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    Heh. I just spent all weekend figuring this out. I wish I had waited to read this article. Anyway, I love the jQuery slider and widget idea. I’m getting started right away.

    Thanks for the great tutorial!

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  72. Add point Subtract point
    fontburger (2 Points) March 22, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Always so well written Ryan! Great detail, u make it look so easy. Those file are still scary :), but maybe I can face them with your help and with this tutorial.

    Thanks!

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  73. Add point Subtract point

    Thank you all so much for feedback and reading. I appreciate it and am inspired to write more! Thanks!

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  74. Add point Subtract point
    malwinsc (1 Point) March 22, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    You could skip the entire “create a page template” part by naming the file home.php.

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  75. Add point Subtract point
    Xtence (1 Point) March 22, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    Great ! one hell of a tutorial, thanks man !

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  76. Add point Subtract point
    MovinGood (1 Point) March 22, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    Very helpful. That what I was looking for quite a while for our blog. Seems to be easy. Thanks

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  77. Add point Subtract point
    Tutorial Lounge (1 Point) March 22, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    excellent tutorial for specially bloggers.

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  78. Add point Subtract point

    Thanks for the Tut Ryan. It will help me customize my client’s homepages. You rock!

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  79. Add point Subtract point

    Thanks Ryan, recently I was looking for a similar tutorial.
    Thanks a lot.

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  80. Add point Subtract point
    Beth McLain (2 Points) March 22, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Thanks Ryan .. Amazingly well written article. ! I’m going to have to give this a go.

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  81. Add point Subtract point
    Mayyasi (1 Point) March 22, 2010 at 10:25 am

    Great!! I have been looking for such a tutorial long time ago
    Big thanks really :)

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