Oct 112012

How Does It All Work?

Unlike a standard web site that is made up of pages, images and embedded and separate code files, WordPress is mostly made up of thousands of bits and pieces of program code along with some images and a WordPress specific database. Of course, no one needs to be too concerned about all these bits and pieces unless you want to change the way WordPress works or you want to add some functionality to WordPress. For the most part, the administrator of the SVWM web site need only be concerned with the active Theme and a few very useful Plugins. These will be discussed below. There are three exceptions to this rule: the Casualty Details page, map pages and pages generating PDF documents.

The Casualty Details page is very complex programming and contains almost 1300 lines of programming code to create the page. Map pages are a hybrid of SVWM code and Google code to generate a map. The PDF document generation code is completely external to WordPress and cannot be generated from within WordPress. (Although there are plugins that will generate a PDF of the page being viewed, they leave somewhat to be desired.)

The WordPress Database

In WordPress, almost everything is stored in the WordPress database which is created when WordPress is installed. This includes all the content for pages and blog posts, all WordPress, plugin and theme options, image gallery information, PHP programming code, and lots of other good stuff such as the last 25 revisions for each page and blog post. Generally, images themselves are stored as separate files on the web site–the same as the previous SVWM.


The general look-and-feel of any WordPress site is determined by a theme. A theme is a cohesive set of files and images that work together to present the web site pages and blog posts in the same layout and colours. In fact, WordPress does not display anything without an active theme. That’s why it comes with at least one theme that is active by default.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of themes to choose from. The selection is mind-boggling! The “Suffusion” theme was chosen for SVWM because almost every element of presentation can be controlled by the hundreds of options offered by this theme. This means that whomever is maintaining the web site can make layout and colour changes without having to find another theme or with minimal, if any, changes to Cascading Style Sheets (i.e. manually). If a theme needs a little tweaking, a “child” theme can be created that contain all the necessary tweaks.

For SVWM, a bit of tweaking was needed and a “Suffusion Child” theme was created and is the active theme. Without getting too technical, a child theme uses all the features of its parent theme and add the changes that tweak the theme. Both themes need to be installed as is the case with the “Suffusion” and “Suffusion Child” themes in SVWM.


WordPress on its own, along with one active theme, will do a commendable job of presenting pages and blog posts as a cohesive web site. That said, there are some specialize features that are not part of WordPress that are required to allow the web site to accomplish certain desirable thing.

WordPress for SVWM has been extended with a number of plugins. A description of what these generally do will give you an idea of why they are needed and how they extend the features of WordPress.

The Dashboard Site Notes plugin allows detailed technical information to be written and available to the WordPress administrators. These notes should be carefully reviewed by whomever is the SVWM web site administrator as they explain how and why the site was setup the way it is.

The DMSGuestbook plugin adds a guestbook feature to the SVWM web site. This is a page where anyone can leave a message about the web site as a whole.

The Easy Contact Forms plugin allows all but the most complex forms to be created within WordPress in a graphical user interface. Only the Advanced Search form was not created using this plugin.

Lazyest Gallery consists of a set of plugins that are used to generate all the image gallery pages in SVWM and the slide show of casualty headshots displayed on the sidebar.

Litebox Plus is used with Lazyest Gallery and with the WordPress Media Libarary to display images in an overlay window.

The Shortcode Exec PHP plugin plays a two-fold role: it allows pages and blog posts to run PHP programming code and it provides a separation of programming code and text content. Because programming code can be malicious, WordPress will not run such code when it is entered directly into a page or blog post. This plugin makes it possible for SVWM pages to display dynamic content such as all the casualty lists. The program code is created as separate and reusable snippets and represented in pages and blog posts as as “shortcode” as described above. This effectively separates the text content from the programming making it easier to maintain the text content.

Signature Watermark is different in that this plugin is only activated when some images are uploaded that require a watermark to appear when the image is displayed on the web site.

TheThe Image Slider takes a group of images a displays them in a slide show with overlayed text as seen on the web site’s home page.

Widget Context is a plugin that controls where widgets are displayed. In SVWM, for example, it is used to hide the display of the fallen casualty slide show on the right sidebar of the Home page because it takes a long time to load.

WP Simple Spam Check is a plugin that uses a complex algorithm to try to eliminate spam/scam comments which are the bane of any site that allows comments to be created for pages and blog posts.

WordPress comes with a basic and serviceable text editor. The Ultimate TinyMCE plugin builds on that editor by providing many additional editing features.

To make the web site faster, the W3 Total Cache plugin provides a number of features to help web site pages load more quickly to enhance the visitor experience.

As you can see, the standard WordPress has been extended quite a bit for SVWM through the use of only a handful of plugins. There are literally thousands of plugins to choose from!