I’m wrapping up my work with Colin Madland at Trinity Western University creating a collection of clonable WordPress sites with custom child themes intended for the electronic portfolios TWU is proving for 500+ new students.

As an extra piece of this work, I created for their WordPress Multisite a Network Admin dashboard widget that counts how many sites there are using the three different templates.

Display showing that 511 sites have been created.

Wait a minute, there are four themes listed. What’s with the “Spartans?”

Yes, because I aim to over deliver for my clients, I gave them one more template than they asked for. Colin had mentioned strong interest from some Art professors, and we both agreed we might need one that is more visual heavy on the front and archive screens.

I offered to try making a new child themed template, and we both agreed that the Blask theme looked pretty good as a starter. It was one like two others I used that were wired to use the JetPack portfolio post type options, so I knew how to convert them to the custom post type we are using via a TWU Portfolio Helper plugin I wrote.

But after 3.5 hours of working on a version of this, I ran into many problems and was not getting much of anything like the demo. And the single item layout was a bit awkward to my eye.

So I suggested using another theme I was rather familiar with from my SPLOT work, Anders Noren’s Fukasawa theme. Colin suggested for a name the TWU mascot, hence the new TWU Spartans Theme.

Here it is!

screenshot of the template site for this new theme

In doing this theme, I added a feature that is now available on the other three portfolio templates. Each of them uses a WordPress page as the front entrance to the portfolio, with introductory that a student can change by editing the page itself. The part below, though, was hard-coded with a title “Recent Artifacts”, a sub-title “Please explore and provide feedback on my artifacts!”, and a fixed number of recent artifacts displayed (depending on the theme, some looked better with 3, others with 6).

But now, on all the TWU Portfolio templates, all of this lower section can be edited via the WordPress Customizer:

Customizer interface for changing the front screen, with arrows show where fields are that change the title, subtitle, and a menu to choose how many artifacts to show.

Furthermore, I was able to add to all themes for the artifact custom post type category and tag archives, a count of the number items in the header (even with correct grammar if there is just 1).

Archive of Artifact Type Foundations has 2 artifacts in that category

Archive of Artifacts Tagged creativity 1 artifact using that tag

Each theme also has a guide in our support site that describes the features special to each theme.

Also there was one class where they wanted to use WordPress but not the taxonomy and guides created for the incoming students portfolios, and decided to use normal blog posts and category. So I wrote a guide page for taking a new site that came with all the extras and “unplugging” it.

For this site, I also re-structured it’s series of content authored by multiple authors as a mixture of pages and posts, to be all pages, and using my favorite Page-List plugin to create indexes of subpages or sibling pages as needed for navigation (see the new structure for the Foundations and the Resources section).

And… wait… there is more! I re-wrote some things I have written before and before as blog guides for students (not about the buttons and parts of the WordPress interface, but a bit broader), How To Publish Artifacts Like A Portfolio Champ:

A girl jumps in the air in joy in front of a sign reading -- Folio

modified from creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by Lotus Carroll

WordPress portfolios are blossoming in BC, also at the OpenETC Coop I hear that some 90+ students have spawned new WP published portfolios (it was their use of the NS Cloner Plugin for users to create copies of sites on signup that I took to the TWU project).

For those interested, the child themes and plugins create are all available openly:

Thanks again, Colin and TWU for bringing me on for this work. As always, I think I learn the most in terms of new site building tricks and tools.

Featured Image:


One flickr photo by Beaukiss Steve shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


    1. That’s tremendous news, BC seems to be the vortex for WordPress portfolio activity. Been wondering on any ways to get info on activity across a collection of portfolios. Maybe a private Feed WordPress site that syndicates all of them??

      1. A front-facing way to highlight portfolios that have been recently updated would be great. https://opened.ca seems to get a dozen or more eportfolios started daily … was chatting with Troy W a few weeks ago and he showed me a plugin that provides a front facing site index organized by type. Thinking custom fields in the NSCLoner templates would allow us to display WP activity across opened.ca defined by use type. (course site, portfolio, etc)

        1. I tried to make a case to TWU for adding fields to the blog signup to get those kind of meta data fields, but we were squeezed on time to get them going, maybe in next year’s round.

          Definitely interested in knowing of more ways to surface sites and content in multisite; my uninformed gut says the queries needed are a bit intense, but maybe the gut is wrong.

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