Justine Larbalestier, 2013

Justine Larbalestier 2014

Justine still loved the 2008 version of her site, but wanted to refresh and update it a little. We decided to keep the background, which had become a signature look for her, and give the main content more contrast. We rethought the navigation entirely and replaced some of the old-school blog features with a Twitter sidebar.

Showcasing both the US and Australian editions of Justine’s books is important to her, but it had always required extra work for both of us, creating two versions of the featured image for each book (one with the US cover in front, one with the Australian) and randomizing which one appeared. I took the opportunity to automate this process in the new theme. Now, Justine simply uploads each cover and checks a box for its country (using a custom taxonomy). The covers are still displayed stacked one atop the other, but this is now handled in CSS instead of Photoshop. The three books at the top of the site are the three most recent, but the plugin randomly chooses whether to display the US or Australian cover. This same custom plugin also builds the cover gallery for her press kit and displays foreign edition cover galleries on each book’s page.

Texas A&M University at Qatar conference network

I had worked with Texas A&M University at Qatar before to set up last-minute sites for events. We agreed that this was not the ideal process, and they set aside some time for me to create a better solution.

We set up a new multisite network and created a sample site with the basic content outline every event would need: a schedule, travel and lodging information, a sponsors page, and information on how to register for the event. Then we set up the Blog Copier plugin so that new sites could be deployed using this base outline with a couple of clicks.

The network has all the Genesis child themes available, plus Design Palette Pro and Web Fonts to let the conference organizers customize their designs. The network also includes the Genesis Extender plugin to allow the network administrators to add per-site customizations using Genesis’s hooks. The site also includes the Soliloquy plugin for gorgeous, responsive photo slideshows that can be placed anywhere on the site.

The conference organizers have the choice of using Events Calendar Pro, which is fantastic for big multi-day conferences, or simply entering a single day’s schedule in TablePress. Gravity Forms lets them add contact forms or even simple, no-fee registration forms. They can also use Event Calendar Pro’s various ticket sales add-ons (like EventBrite) or the very simple CampTix plugin if they are not using the university’s in-house event registration system.

The site includes speaker profile pages that can be linked to events. Session descriptions therefore include an automatically generated list of linked speakers’ bios, and speaker pages include links to that person’s sessions. In previous conference sites, these interconnections had to be maintained by hand.

Since placing sponsors’ logos on the site was a common problem, I created an option using Advanced Custom Fields. On this page, event planners can upload and arrange logos just as they would in the text of a page. They can then place the logos in the site footer, in a sidebar widget, or in a page using the custom [[sponsors]] shortcode.

I wrote extensive documentation for this site in WP Help, so that event planners have a complete guide to setting up their sites on the network. The network also includes WP101 video tutorials and a custom wayfinding Dashboard widget that walks the event planner through the site setup process. They wayfinding widget can be edited on a per-site basis to accommodate future changes to the network.

Like all of the Qatar campus’s sites, the conference network is hosted on WP Engine, which provides daily backups, automatic software upgrades, and guaranteed security and hack recovery.

Screenshot Gallery



FirstCall is the helpdesk site for the AgriLife division of the Texas A&M University System. I worked with the in-house team to rewrite the content, reorganize the home page and the site navigation, and design a WordPress theme that reflected the organization’s new, streamlined philosophy. We chose Glyphicons to give each helpdesk topic a little personality.

For this site, I used my own lightweight theme framework, Craftory.

Cassie Alexander


Cassie had been using WordPress with free themes for some time when she sold her first novel. As its release date approached, she needed a “more grown-up” look. I took advantage of the striking cover art and worked a little magic so the text of Cassie’s blog posts wraps around the model’s silhouette — a common technique in print layouts, but one that’s seldom used on the web.

The design was refreshed in December 2013 with a new mobile layout.