Meetup: Dashboard and Post Formats

This week’s Focus on Content WordPress features a discussion of your WordPress Dashboard and what Post Formats are (and why you should care!), led by Corey Ellis and Bobbie Wilson.

To start out, Corey explained the features of the Dashboard itself. He showed the Google Analytics Dashboard plugin, which shows a snapshot of Google Analytics on the Dashboard home page.

He explained the Quick Post widget, great to use if you want to make a quick update from the Dashboard.

The Adminimize plugin will allow you to modify your Dashboard options to hide sections that you either don’t need. The Developer Mode plugin will allow you to hide features that you don’t want a client to have access to.

To add functions to your Dashboard there are tons of plugins that can add functionality to your admin area.

Using WordPress Roles, you can assign levels of access to different users.

Pages and Posts:

  • Pages: static pieces of content. One piece of content that isn’t going to change much. About me page, Contact me page, etc.
  • Posts: generally thought of as blog posts. You will be generating posts more often. Can be a blog, news releases, quotes, or other things that you want to add as new content, usually in a dated format.
  • Keep in mind that most themes will display a “page” slightly differently from a “post”. For example, most themes will display a date and author for a post, but not for a page.
  • You can have child pages which are hierarchical – you have a page that is a child of a parent page. This is how drop down menus work. Posts do not have the same hierarchy.

Categories and Tags:

  • Allow you to differentiate content.
  • You could have a category called “Dogs” and then have child categories of that category. Tags, however, have no hierarchy.
  • Plugin Term Management Tools allows you manage your categories and tags.
  • Tag clouds – there’s a Tag Cloud widget you can use in the standard WordPress installation. There are also other plugins that add extra functionality.
  • A good, responsible use of tags and categories can help users navigate your site better, and may help improve your SEO.

Comments:

  • Usually only on posts, but this is theme dependent. Comments, with the right plugins, can be used for more things, like reviews. They are reader-created content that are attached to a specific post. Some themes have CSS attributes that can hide all comments that way.
  • Settings > Discussion is where you can modify your comments settings. You can restrict who can comment, or turn off comments altogether.
  • Akismet – a plugin that ships with WordPress. The cost is on a sliding scale – you can contribute as much as you want to the project, but it is free if you don’t want to pay for it. It will require you to connect to WordPress.com, so if you don’t have a WordPress.com account (also free) you will be directed to set one up.

Plugins:

  • Plugins allow you to do pretty much anything you want to do to extend the functionality of WordPress
  • Go to http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins to search for plugins.
  • All plugins on WordPress.org are free and maintained by the developers who created them, and are created as the plugin developers’ way to contribute to the community. Some are better than others. Look at the comments, if the plugin is recently updated and compatible with the current version of WordPress, and most importantly, check to see if the author is actively paying attention (there is a link to the support forums on the plugin page).
  • You can also search on Google to find  other plugins, including premium ($$) plugins.
  • Google Fonts plugin: WP Google Fonts . Recommended that for purposes of design, you restrict a website to two fonts.

WordPress Codex:

  • The WordPress Codex documentation on how to use all of the functions within WordPress. This is all maintained by the WordPress community.

Post Formats:

  • Post Formats have been around for a while
  • Post format Documentation in the WordPress Codex
  • New theme Twenty Thirteen (still in beta, will be included in the upcoming WordPress 3.6 release) (information on how to download it prior to release at WPTuts)
  • Different formats will format a post differently depending on which one you choose.
  • There was a new user interface that was scheduled to release with WordPress 3.6 but has been pulled from that release
  • If you don’t see the Post Formats, you can turn them on with your Screen Options tab at the very top of your editor window (unless your theme does not support them)

Mobile posting:

  • Post by Email (Be sure to use a secure email)
  • The official WordPress mobile app is a great way to post from a mobile device

Business Plugins for WordPress

Class Notes For:

WordPress for Business —  Central Location 03.11.13

and WordPress for Business — West Location 03.18.13

Business Plugins for WordPress

Business websites are tools for building relationships with clients, they are stores, branding tools, and content libraries for customers and employees alike. WordPress is so popular with the business community because it is a FREE, open source, powerful content marketing platform. There is a huge ecosystem of developers supporting it, adding features to the core functionality through regular updates and plugin development.

A basic WordPress install lacks some of the functionality needed to meet the expectations of business owners. With the right plugins, an easy to install, and managed WordPress site can turn into a stable, flexible content management solution for business owners and managers.

Plugins extend the functionality of WordPress business site without writing code. Installing these plugins will fill-in the majority of the gaps present in a basic WordPress install, and will assure that your small business website is ready to make you money online.

Most plugins are free, but the ever expanding use of WordPress for business has created a niche industry of very advanced plug-ins that provide even greater functionality at a very affordable price.

It’s easy to get excited about all the possibilities the WordPress Plugin Repository offers, but, it’s not always immediately obvious which plugins are truly beneficial for your business site. Since we use quite a few of these plug-ins on a regular basis, we thought we could save you hours of research and testing, and share the go-to-list of plugins we use when developing business websites.

Testimonial Management

This plugin lets you manage testimonials as a separate type of information in your WordPress blog, which makes it easier to include them in other blog posts and pages.

Business Hours PlugIn

The Business Hours Plugin allows you to post your daily working hours and show it to your visitors:

  • In a configurable and templatable widget.
  • In a page / post using shortcodes

You’ll be able to choose between showing only today’s working hours, or a collapsible table with the hours for each day of the week. If you want to show only today’s working hours, the plugin will check your time zone settings to calculate which day to show.

Connections Business Directory

You can use Connections to create a simple address book, maintain a staff directory and even run a business directory or link directory. Connections was built bottom up to be as configurable as possible while providing the features you need. Connections offers simplicity in design and function, and a  vast array of unique features and versatility.

Features

  • Seamless integration with the WordPress admin.
  • A Dashboard admin page where you can keep up to date with Connections related news, such as updates notices for templates and the pro addons. Also see at a glance today’s anniversaries and birthdays as well as any upcoming anniversaries and birthdays.
  • When inputting an entry there are multiple entry types from which to choose. They are individual, organization and family. The family entry type is unique to Connections. This entry type allows you to group individuals together as a family which makes Connections ideally suited for creating church directories.
  • You control which entries are viewable to the public and which entries are private, viewable for logged in users only. You can even have entries set as unlisted so only admins can view them.
  • Fields, fields and more fields… no other directory plugin offers more. There are fields for addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, IM, social networks, an image, a logo, bio, notes and more. Want more? Many fields, such as addresses and phone numbers, you can assign as many as you need. Wait, I’m not done yet… want to be able to list the business phone but keep that cell phone number private? You can do that, too. Most of the fields have selectable visibility. What this means is you can have an entry set as public but keep personal details private or even unlisted so only them admin can view it.
  • Connections is being used to manage directories which contain thousands of entries so the ability to manage them easily is a must- a task which Connections stands and delivers. You can filter the entries list by category, entry type and visibility. You can search for entries. You can even search within the filtered entries. Of course Connections doesn’t stop there, there are several bulk actions available to make changes a breeze.
  • Category support. This feature was modeled after the category feature for WordPress posts. So if you know how to add and manage categories for posts, you know how they work for Connections. Categories can be hierarchical and entries can be assigned to any number of categories.
  • Extensive role support. For your users that have access to the WordPress admin, there is extensive role support. You can define which roles can perform tasks to manage entries in Connections.
  • Unrivaled customability with templates. Connections comes with many basic templates to get you started. For many, these meet their needs. But if you need more than these basic templates provide, check out these great premium templates.
  • Displaying your entries on the front end is as simple as putting a shortcode on a page. Don’t let this simplicity fool you. The Connections shortcode provides almost a dizzying array of options that are just too numerous to list. But if you want to know more, you can find it here.
  • Even a bit of SEO was sprinkled in. Every entry outputs following the hCard spec.
  • One last item. Extensibility.

WP Customer Reviews 

WP Customer Reviews allows your customers and visitors to leave reviews or testimonials of your services.

WP Customer Reviews allows you to setup a specific page on your blog to receive customer testimonials for your business/service OR to write reviews about multiple products (using multiple pages).

  • WP Multisite and Multiuser (WPMU / WPMS / WordPress MU) compatible.
  • All submissions are moderated, which means that YOU choose which reviews get shown.
  • Reviews are displayed to visitors in a friendly format, but search engines see the hReview microformat.
  • Multiple anti-spam measures to prevent automated spambots from submitting reviews.
  • Provides a configurable Business hCard, to help identify all pages of your site as belonging to your business.
  • Completely customizable, including which fields to ask for, require, and show.
  • Shortcodes available for inserting reviews and review form on any page or widget.
  • Works with caching plugins and a majority of themes.
  • Includes an external stylesheet so you can modify it to better fit your theme.
  • Reviews can be edited by admin for content and date.
  • Admin responses can be made and shown under each review.
  • Support for adding your own custom fields.
  • The plugin can be used on more than one page, and can be used on posts.
  • Supports both Business and Product hReview types.
  • Shows aggregate reviews microformat (hReview-aggregate).
  • Fast and lightweight, even including the star rating image. This plugin will not slow down your blog.

Contact Us 

Contact Us adds the ability to enter business contact information, business hours, business location, etc and output the details in your posts, pages or templates. Contact Us adds the ability to enter business contact information, business hours, business location, etc and output the details in your posts, pages or templates.

Contact Form 7 

Contact Form 7 can manage multiple contact forms, plus you can customize the form and the mail contents flexibly with simple markup. The form supports Ajax-powered submitting, CAPTCHA, Akismet spam filtering and so on.

Docs & Support
You can find docs, FAQ and more detailed information about Contact Form 7 on contactform7.com. If you were unable to find the answer to your question on the FAQ or in any of the documentation, you should check the support forum on WordPress.org

Contact Form DB

Saves submitted form data to the database and provides short codes to display it. Captures data from Contact Form 7 and Fast Secure Contact Form.
This “CFDB” plugin saves contact form submissions to your WordPress database and provides short codes to retrieve and display the data.
By simply installing the plugin, it will automatically begin to capture submissions from:
•    JetPack Contact Form plugin
•    Contact Form 7 (CF7) plugin
•    Fast Secure Contact Form (FSCF) plugin
Other form submissions can be saved with the addition of the [cfdb-save-form-post] short code on the target submission page.
Contact form plugins are great but generally one thing…the ability to save and retrieve the form data to/from the database. If you get a lot of form submissions, then you end up sorting through a lot of email.
Looking at your data in the WP Admin Area

Acobot Live Chat Robot

This subscription plugin will enhance your WordPress with Acobot live chat robot in 3 minutes or less. Boost online sales like never before. It’s simple, easy and fast.

An Answer Beats a Thousand Web Pages! Go to the beach without worrying about your online business. This happy, chatty and clever robot will say Hello to the website visitors, answer their questions and turn them into paying customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Business Directory Plugin

Business Directory Plugin allows you to build local directories, business provider listings, Yellow-Pages style business directories, Yelp-like review sections. Increase interaction on your website, improve customer retention and a add revenue-generating section to your site with Business Directory Plugin. Business Directory Plugin allows you to build local directories, business provider listings, Yellow-Pages style business directories, Yelp-like review sections and more. You can add any kind of directory using Business Directory plugin.

Features:

  • Fully customizable form fields
  • Accept payment for listings OR have free listings
  • Allow for featured/sticky listings for an upgrade fee
  • Create multiple fee plans, which can be assigned to categories for posting
  • Support for reCAPTCHA to avoid spam listings
  • Users who post can edit listings without access to WP dashboard
  • Support for ratings (NEW!)
  • Support for Google Maps (NEW!)

All-in-One Event Calendar

If you have a regular schedule of events you need to broadcast to your audience, this calendar system combines a clean visual design, and a powerful set of features to create the most advanced calendar system available for WordPress. It’s completely free and also includes Facebook  Integration, and an interesting Posterboard View that displays events like a Pinterest board. The calendar system combines a clean visual design, solid architectural patterns and a powerful set of features to create the most advanced calendar system available for WordPress. Best of all: it’s completely free.

Calendar Features For Users

This plugin has many features we hope will prove useful to users, including:

  • Recurring events
  • Filtering by event category or tag
  • Easy sharing with Google Calendar, Apple iCal, MS Outlook and any other system that accepts iCalendar (.ics) feeds
  • Embedded Google Maps
  • Color-coded events based on category
  • Month, week, day and agenda views
  • Upcoming Events widget
  • Direct links to filtered calendar views

Woo Commerce 

We have tried many of the cart solutions out there and we settled on Woo Commerce. It delivers enterprise-level features all within the WordPress CMS. This robust system is based on a core plugin that provides the basic store functionality. It is then extended by a collection of modules that can be added to design the custom commerce experiences our customers need.

Features:

Security

WooCommerce 2.0+ has been fully security audited by the leading WordPress security firm Sucuri to ensure it meets the highest WordPress security standards possible.

Reporting

Get a birds-eye view of your stores performance or drill down to check out reports per month, per product category or even per individual product.

Intricate tax & Shipping options

Use WooCommerce various methods including shipping classes to create intricate shipping rules. Configure comprehensive tax settings with tax classes and local tax rates

Comprehensive Store Management

Easily manage your simple, digital and variable products in WooCommerce with our intuitive UI. Assign Store Managers to handle the day to day management of your stor

SEO

WooCommerce markup adheres to Schema vocabulary to fully assist your search engine rankings and is, of course written in fully semantic HTML5 markup.

 

WP-ecommerce

Whether you use your site for selling products, services or collecting fees this is a great plugin. This is especially helpful for sites where you are focusing on bands and record labels, selling clothing, crafts, artwork, books, or media, have membership opportunities or need ticketing capabilities.

Features:

WordPress Integration

  • Easy to install WordPress plugin
  • Works with any standards compliant WordPress theme
  • Plays well with other Plugins
  • Supports regular WordPress widgets, as well as a few snazzy ones of our own
  • Utilizes shortcodes and template tags (just like WordPress)
  • Works out-of-the-box with WordPress MU (make sure you use sub domains with your MU setup)

100% Customizable

  • A designers dream – use your own HTML & CSS and have complete control over the look and feel of your store
  • Easy to modify templates

Support

  • Lots of video tutorials
  • Guaranteed speedy response (through our premium forums)
  • Access to instant support from our community of users

Payment Gateways Integration

  • Manual Payment (checks/money orders) (included)
  • PayPal Payments Standard (included)
  • PayPal Payments Pro (included)
  • PayPal Express Checkout (included)
  • Google Checkout (Level 2) (included)
  • Chronopay (included)
  • PayPal Payflow Pro (available with Gold Cart)
  • Authorize.net (available with Gold Cart)
  • FirstData/LinkPoint (available with Gold Cart)
  • eWay Payment (available with Gold Cart)
  • iDEAL (available with Gold Cart)
  • BluePay (available with Gold Cart)
  • DPS (available with Gold Cart)
  • Paystation (available with Gold Cart)
  • SagePay (available with Gold Cart)
  • If you still aren’t happy, we provide you with the necessary info to write your payment gateway

Marketing

  • Flexible coupon/discount pricing rules
  • Product specific sales
  • Quantity discounts
  • Free shipping options
  • Multi-tier pricing for quantity discounts.
  • Search Engine Friendly URLs
  • New Products widget
  • Cross-sells on product pages (in 3.8 this is now available as a Plugin)
  • Google Site Map
  • Uses the popular “Share This” button for easily promoting your products on popular social networking sites
  • Integrates with Facebook Marketplace (Facebook Marketplace API has closed – we’re working on it)
  • Integrates with Google Base
  • Integrates with Campaign Monitor for advanced email marketing
  • Integrates with Intense Debate for shared comments
  • Mail Chimp integration coming soon

Search Engine Optimization

  • 100% Search Engine Friendly
  • Meta-information for products and categories
  • RSS feeds for products and categories
  • Integrates with Google (XML site maps and Google Merchant Centre)
  • Integrates with the All in One SEO plugin for WordPress (which includes Google Analytics)

Internationalization Support

  • Multi-lingual (the first Plugin to fully utilize and integrate with GlotPress)
  • Support for multiple currencies
  • Ability to target specific countries

Shipping

  • Integrates with UPS, USPS, Australia Post and Shipwire for real-time shipping rates
  • Flexible built-in shipping rate calculators
  • Domestic and global shipping rates
  • Flat rate shipping
  • Table rate shipping
  • Weight rate shipping

Checkout

  • One-Page Checkout or Stepped Checkout, whichever you prefer
  • SSL security support for orders on both front-end and back-end
  • Checkout without account/Guest Checkout
  • Shopping Cart with tax and shipping estimates
  • Option to create account at beginning of checkout
  • Fully customizable checkout page

Managing Orders

  • Admin dashboard for sales overview
  • Export orders and customers into CSV formats
  • Order history with labels for order processing status
  • Email notifications of orders
  • Print invoices and packing slips

Catalog Management

  • Single-page product data entry
  • Ability to duplicate products
  • Quickly edit your products from the store front (saving you heaps of time)
  • Smart Groups allow you to organize your products with hierarchical categories, as well as by brand.
  • Batch import/export of catalog
  • Google Base integration
  • Product variation management
  • Create attributes on the fly
  • Downloadable/Digital Products
  • Support for donations
  • Customer Personalized Products
  • Media Manager with automatic image resizing
  • Handles multiple product images with easy drag-and-drop sorting
  • support for Special Prices
  • Tax rates per location
  • Basic inventory control

Catalog Browsing

  • Live product search – mmm just like apple.com (available add on)
  • Cross-sells
  • Product listing in list format
  • Product listing in grid format (available with Gold Cart)
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Product Image Zoom-in Capability
  • Stock Availability
  • Multiple Images Per Product (activated with Gold Cart)
  • Product comments
  • Filter by Product Tags
  • New Products widget
  • Features Products widget
  • Live updating shopping cart (put it wherever you want)

 

Editorial Calendar 

The Editorial Calendar makes it possible to see all your posts and drag and drop them to manage your blog. Did you remember to write a post for next Tuesday? What about the Tuesday after that? WordPress doesn’t make it easy to see when your posts are scheduled. The editorial calendar gives you an overview of your blog and when each post will be published. You can drag and drop to move posts, edit posts right in the calendar, and manage your entire blog.

Features

See all of your posts and when they’ll be posted.
Drag and drop to change your post dates.
Manage your drafts with our new drafts drawer.
Quickedit post titles, contents, and times.
Publish posts or manage drafts.
Easily see the status of your posts.
Manage posts from multiple authors.

Events Calendar 

This is a free plugin, but also has a paid version if you need extra features. The Events Calendar is a nifty calendar plugin that allows your customers to see what events you are at and also what is happening with your business. You can advertise your own events or the ones you are going to. There are also extra plugins for this plugin (like woocommerce) that adds to the functionality of the plugin, such as connecting it to eventbrite.

Events-Calendar is a versatile replacement for the original calendar included with WordPress adding many useful functions to keep track of your events. The plugin has an easy to use admin section that displays a big readable calendar and lets you add and delete events.

The plugin is widget ready so you can easily add a small calendar to the main sidebar with the ability to roll over the highlighted event day to see a brief description of the event or click the day to get a full description of the event without ever leaving your current page.

The ability to add a large public calendar is available by posting a page and adding [events-calendar-large] to the page content to create a stand alone calendar page. Also, when entering an event from the admin section, you can check the box saying “Create Post for Event”, which will cause a post to be created with the event information.

Additional features will be added so make sure that you keep up to date on upcoming changes and new features by subscribing to the RSS feed on the Events Calendar site.

 

Job Manager 

Your business needs quality new employees and you want to make the process easier for yourself.  A job management board on your website. Ad job descriptions, potential employees apply from a form on your website. You can then review all the applicants straight from the dash board.

 

J Shortcodes 

 

This plugin allows you to easily create customized styled web elements like buttons, content boxes, tabs, accordion panels and more. It’s an easy way to help content stick out without having to know CSS or HTML.

Simple Business Manager

Simple Business Manager allows you to manage your company, track invoices and keep finances in order. Letter generator allows you to create letter templates and then send them to your customers. A Company report allows you to quickly see your company finances, expenses and deposits as well as the ability to track miles traveled.

 

Installing a Plugin

To install a plugin on your website all you have to do is click on plugins, search them and install them click through the steps and lastly activate the plugin.

 

The future of design: Responsive Design!

Announcements:

  • Next month’s first Tuesday WordPress meetup will focus again on Responsive Design, but this time at a more intermediate/advanced level.
  • We will be adding yet another monthly WordPress meetup! The new meetup will be for beginners and bloggers and will focus on the basics of WordPress, content strategies and how to get the most out of a WordPress blog. We will welcome people who have both WordPress.org self-hosted sites and those blogging on WordPress.com. Date and time TBA; keep an eye on the Meetup group for announcements.
  • We also plan to start hosting monthly/twice monthly lunch meetings/coworking sessions. These will be at local restaurants or coffeeshops during the day. If you would like to help coordinate these WordPress lunches, please contact Jackie Dana through WordPress Austin or the WordPress meetup group.

 

Responsive Design, presented by Nick Batik:

Presentation at: http://presentations.pleiadesservices.com/category/designers-guide-to-working-with-wordpress-developers

Responsive design is a way to design a website to display properly on both a large HD television and on small mobile devices like an iPhone or tablet.

Every developer has a different idea of what responsive design is, and how it should be implemented, and even these ideas change regularly.

Raises the questions: How much content do you show, how do you organize it, and how does it display differently on different canvases (devices)?

Responsive design requires collaboration between designers and developers, and also requires information on how people use a site and which devices they are using when they do so, to make appropriate decisions on design.

Chris Coyier of CSS-Tricks.com suggests that responsive design is probably the best thing to ever happen to developers and designers, because they will always be in demand! Check out his site – he has all kinds of tips and tutorials on how to develop WordPress sites, use CSS, and everything in between. He has text and video tutorials that are useful both for beginners and advanced developers alike.

(So what the heck is CSS? CSS stands for “Cascading Style Sheet“. This is how you set all of your design specifications/style for a website.)

It’s worth noting that in a site’s CSS, responsive design can be triggered by the browser window dimensions as well as specific device information.

A couple of free tools: you can The Responsinator to view how a site looks on an iPhone or similar device. StudioPress has a site where you can view your site at different resolutions.

WP Fluid Images (created by our own Pat Ramsey!) is a plugin that makes your images responsive rather than the static size set by WordPress by default when you upload it.  It “replaces the fixed width and height attributes so your images resize in a fluid or responsive design.”

Resizing videos: FitVids for WordPress is a plugin that will scale the video up and down depending on devices.

Other plugins that can make your site more mobile-device friendly:

If your desktop site and mobile device displays are very different, you need to include device detection in your CSS.

 

How does responsive design impact accessibility?
Pat believes it improves accessibility because it allows a site to be device independent. Things like drop-down menus can become an accessibility issue, and a good responsive design offers an option to make these menus more mobile friendly – which will also make them more accessible to users who have an issue using them. Responsive design also works best when your site is designed to be semantically correct, which helps with accessibility as well. This means that header tags are used properly (e.g. using <h1>-<h6> tags in proper hierarchical/outline order instead of to simply change the size of text). With HTML5 you can even use tags like <section> that helps even further in the organization of the information on the site.

 

Responsive themes:
A number of premium theme companies, including Thesis and StudioPress, have created mobile/responsive versions of their themes. For example, WordPress.com has developed a mobile version of Twenty Eleven, called Minileven, that appears when you switch your site to a mobile device. You can view free responsive themes on the WordPress.org Theme Repository. A popular free theme in the WordPress Repository is called, very simply, Responsive.

 

You have questions? We’ve got the answers!

What’s the difference between plugins and widgets?

WordPress comes with some widgets by default, but to add additional widgets, usually you will need to install a plugin.

Widget areas will be defined by your theme. Widget areas are content areas outside of your main content area. Sometimes you will have widget areas in your header or footer, but most commonly you will have widgets in a sidebar.

You will find your widgets in the Widget area under Appearance in your Dashboard. To use them, you can drag and drop the ones you want into the different widget areas on the right, and modify them as needed.

Plugins extend the core functionality of WordPress. Some plugins create widgets, but not all of them. Maybe you need a calendar or the ability to display additional information about authors. These functions can be addressed with a plugin. (For people on self-hosted WordPress sites only; WordPress.com sites do not have plugins).

You can read more about widgets in the WordPress codex.
How do you find a good plugin?

Search in the Plugin Directory.

When you get your list of results, click on a plugin and in the information screen, consider the following (in more or less this order of priority):

  • When the plugin was last updated (is it being maintained? Or is it old and likely forgotten?)
  • What version of WordPress it is compatible with (is it compatible with the most recent version of WordPress?)
  • How many downloads the plugin has (if it’s a large number, that may raise confidence)
  • If anyone reports it broken or not (not always a reliable measure)
  • What people are talking about in the forums concerning this plugin
  • What the rating is (note that sometimes a five-star rating may be based on very few votes)

You can search for plugins on the WordPress.org Plugin Directory.

 

How do I use video?

You can embed videos on your website using Youtube or other video services by including the link to the video in your blog, without even needing a plugin.

For example, below is a video on WordPress.tv. All I did to embed it was post the following URL into my visual editing window (without any special code):
http://wordpress.tv/2009/01/05/embedding-youtube-videos-into-your-wordpresscom-posts/

 

Hosting

Some people may want to move their hosting from a regular, shared hosting account to a virtual private server (VPS) or a racked server, you most often become your own server administrator. You can get better service, faster websites and less downtime, but there can be an additional learning curve.

 

Difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com

Easiest answer: http://en.support.wordpress.com/com-vs-org/

A few key points of difference:

WordPress.com is free, you don’t have to worry about backups, upgrades, optimizing your site. You get free themes as well as the option to purchase a number of premium themes. You can purchase upgrades to host your own videos (and WordPress.com will cover your bandwidth!), modify your CSS, and other features. If you upgrade, you also get free support from WordPress.com. You cannot run ads or modify the php template files, or use plugins.

WordPress.org allows you to download WordPress for free. However, you have to acquire and pay for monthly hosting as well as a domain. By self-hosting, you can modify all of your code, including template files. You can install plugins. You can run ads. You have to manage your own backups, security and upgrades. You typically do not get support from your hosting company.

 

Spammers

Akismet, which comes with all installations of WordPress, is an essential place to start. Beyond that, trying to stop spammers is somewhat of a moving target, as spammers are always finding workarounds for new ways to stop them.

Gravity Forms and a few other services have “honey pots” which capture spammer IP addresses. See Project Honey Pot for more information on how this works. Some WordPress plugins utilize the data for their own spam blockers.

 

What are pingbacks and trackbacks, anyway?

The idea is for your own benefit of knowing who is talking about the same things you are, and sharing discussion. There is also an SEO value in that Google seee two sites that are referencing each other adding legitimacy to the topic and to each site.

A pingback: references another blog on your site (see WordPress Codex on Pingbacks)

A trackback: writing a rebuttal or add-on article – involves more of a discussion (see WordPress Codex on Trackbacks)

 

Informal WordPress Q&A Gathering

Announcement:

Austin WordCamp –  tentatively to happen on a Saturday during the last two weeks in May. We are currently seeking a venue for 300 people that would allow us to split into two tracks, would be low-cost, have internet access and would allow us to cater our own food. If you have any good leads, please contact Sandi at sbatik@pleiadesservices.com.

 


 

Tonight we’re taking questions from the group.

 

What’s a good theme to start with?

Each major release of WordPress comes with a default theme that has the most up-to-date code. Right now the default theme is Twenty-Eleven, and it’s a great place to start and get used to the way WordPress works.

 

How do you create a child theme?

When you want to make changes to the way a theme works, it’s a good idea to make a child theme first.

Create a new theme folder and add a .css file with the following at the top:

/*
Theme Name: Twenty Ten Child
Template: twentyeleven
*/
@import url("../twentyeleven/style.css");

(Visit my page that explains step-by-step on how to create a child theme for Twenty Ten)

 

Drupal vs WordPress

Drupal is more powerful but you really need to be willing to go into code. WordPress is easier to get started with and requires less technical skill to be successful.

As one person put it, Drupal is like a cascading brick wall, but if you can get through the hurdles it can be really powerful.

 

What’s a good slideshow?

When you’re looking for a slider or any other plugin, you may find that the WordPress plugin repository is a good place to start, though it is also sometimes hard to find what you’re looking for.

 

Social Media buttons

 

Video questions

Any good video carousels?

If you have video on your homepage, does it hurt your rankings with Google?

Probably not unless it impacts the load time significantly.

How do you generate thumbnails for videos rather than photos?

 

How do you modify more of your theme beyond the basic options using CSS & PHP?

When you’re in the admin panel, under Appearance you can go into the Editor and access the PHP and CSS files. The files also can be accessed via FTP: public_html > wp-content > themes > the theme you want modify.

 

Backing up your theme and your site

WordPress creates your site dynamically. You have your theme files (the appearance) as well as a database (all of your content).

To backup your appearance, you can download the wp-content or theme folder to your desktop. There are also some plugins that will allow you to backup your site and your database.

WordPress offers information on backing up your site.

There is also a nice plugin called BackUpWordPress that backs up both your theme files and your database.

 

How do you make your site more secure from bots randomly seeking out your site and trying to find vulnerabilities?

You may find Nick’s posts on WordPress security useful.

 

Why is my site not loading right?

Load order is important. If unstyled content loads before your stylesheet, it will display improperly. You may also want to play with where  javascript loads.

 

What is Firebug?

Firebug is an add-on for Firefox that allows you to view and play with the HTML and CSS code. Have fun with it!

WordPress Show and Tell

Tonight we welcome a few of our regular WordPress Austin members who graciously agreed to show off their websites and tell us a little about them.

 

Debra Schmidt, Cousins Count

A blog Debra started 4 1/2 years ago. It runs using the Thesis theme. Her audience is a few hundred people in her family; Debra is one of 67 first cousins. One of her challenges was that she had to sell her mom on the site and ensure everyone’s privacy. She has to be careful of which photos get posted because her audience is “fussy.”

Every family member has a category – all cousins “count”.

Debra is the only blogger – she’s the family chronicler. She’s written about 1200 blog posts. Her goal is to keep her family connected and find each other. Although people are also on Facebook, this is a more centralized way to find things. She posts memorials, weddings, photos… and writes whatever she wants about them. Fortunately she’s only had to take down a few things! :)

She used to be on WordPress.com but switched to a self-hosted site so that she could have ads and a few other features that aren’t allowed  using the free WordPress hosted option.

 

Eric Weiss, Skeptics on the .Net

He found that there was a lot of skeptical information on the web but not any centralized source of information. He organizes information by media type, subject matter, location. He has several volunteers who help contribute to the site, from several countries. He links to blogs, podcasts and other media.

Built on Newsy by Themify. He really likes the toolbar they offer.

In category views, the Alphabetical List plugin allows the posts to show in alpha order rather than in chronological order. Display Scheduled Posts gives you a shortcode to display all scheduled posts with the date that they’re scheduled to be posted. If you put it on a private page, you can see all the posts outside of the dashboard posts view.

Twitter Tools is a good plugin to post to twitter; IFTTT allows you to redirect your RSS feed to twitter, among other things.

He uses VaultPress, a backup and security option run by Automattic for $15/month. If your site gets hacked, they will fix it for you. He uses W3 Total Cache to help speed up his site.

Runs a separate blog which is an internal conversation among his volunters running the P2 theme. It’s great if you’re working on a collaborative post.

Even with his excellent presentation, the audience remained skeptical…. (just kidding!)

 

Lori Luza Austin No Kidding! and Austin ‘Canes

Lori wrote up details about her sites at her personal blog on loriluza.com, including the plugins she likes.

AustinChildFree.org runs on the Twenty Eleven (WordPress default) theme; AustinCanes.com runs on Weaver 2.2.4.

She uses these themes because these are non-profit organizations, and she wanted the sites to be easy to maintain and easy to change their basic look and feel even by someone who may not be very technically-inclined.

She uses AdRotate to manage her little ads on the site; they change monthly and the plugin sends a notification letting her know the ad is about to expire (in case she needed to bill someone). She recommends Events Manager for her calendars. It’s easy for people to book an event. She has noted that she’s not happy with how it displays the calendar.

Mobile Theme Switcher allows people to see the full site on an iPad.

Lori suggested doing a Creative Commons search on Flickr for free photos for your blogs. For backgrounds, she suggests bgpatterns.com as a fun toy to play with.

 


 

We discussed events calendars. Pat suggested amr events list and calendars .

Looking for themes? Themefinder from wpcandy.com

We ended the evening talking about themes and development tools. We talked about Builder, a WordPress theme framework, as well as various theme frameworks and the idea of building a custom theme.

 

WordPress for Bloggers

Tonight we welcome Julie Gomoll and Clark Wimberly to talk about using WordPress for blogging.

Announcements:

Getting Started with WordPress (WP 101) class: Sept. 20th, 7-9pm at Cospace.

Blogathon Austin – Oct. 1st at Link CoWorking. All-day blogging, conversations, tech support for bloggers. Join us!

Submit a question for next month’s meetup

 


 Julie Gomoll

Julie is a graphic/web designer and entrepreneur. In the 90s Julie started up Go Media, which she sold to Excite. She “rode the internet wave” going from 35 employees to 3500. She started blogging in 2004 or 2005, but when she got into WordPress she felt she could control her own destiny. She feels like she has a lot of power with WordPress without being a coder.

How to develop a content strategy

When you’re planning a blog, you need to have several ideas at hand. You should have a plan for at least a couple of months or you’ll run into trouble. Do they all have to be all long thought-out articles? Actually a mix might be ideal. A long post makes people realize you’re serious. But there’s nothing wrong with a post that’s brief and spontaneous, as in, “this is a cool thing I found today” so you are generating content on a regular basis. A blog is a living thing.

Plugin to help with this process: Editorial Calendar – allows you to plan and schedule your posts.

Reposting content

Actually reposting content is a bad idea because Google will penalize you for duplicate content, even if it’s on another website/blog. But referencing a previous article is a great idea because it will drive more traffic to your site and help with your search engine optimization (SEO).

SEO is using keywords, headlines, names of categories and navigation so that when people are searching for things, they will find your blog.

Inserting a link that says “click here” isn’t useful for Google. Instead, make the links contextual, so make your links more along the lines of “see another recipe”.

Coming up with content for your blog

An opportunity for new content that helps also bring traffic to your site: interviews. The subject of your interview will tell their friends, it will add credibility to your site, and is always a good way to generate content if you’re out of ideas. You can ask someone a few questions via email and then post the answers on your blog. Keep in mind that videos are also great but they won’t help you with SEO as much unless there’s a transcription.

Don’t be afraid of controversy!

For photos: try Flickr – search for Creative Commons photos that allow for republishing

Blog design

What’s the difference between a blog and a website? A blog is a website. It just has posts in chronological order with the most recent on the top.

What are good themes? There are great premium themes (ones you have to pay for) including Thesis and Genesis. There are also a lot of great free themes, but there are also some really bad free themes.

Newsletters

Register with MailChimp, Constant Contact, etc. first; they will then have a plugin that you can add to your site. –

Meenews – lets you style your newsletter to match your blog. (Nick recommended)

WP-Instapay – Sales Processing and Order Fulfillment system (Sandi recommended)

How to monetize your blog

Lots of options.

  • Google Adsense – ads on your blog
  • Join ad networks in niche markets
  • Sell your items – ebooks, merchandise
  • Affiliate sites – Amazon Associates, , Commission Junction
    (Keep in mind that you need to state that you are receiving compensation for items. You can have a disclaimer page that states that the read can treat all links as endorsements.)
  • Free stuff (like ebooks) can generate business leads, mailing lists, etc.
  • The best way to monetize your site: If you are becoming an expert and getting traffic, you will gain credibility all over the place. You might be asked to speak at conferences or given other opportunities to consult or write guest blogs – all of which can bring you considerably more compensation than ads or affiliate links will ever achieve.

Building traffic

  • Need really compelling content that people want to read
  • Are people who are looking for that content able to find it?
  • Comment on other blogs
  • Do you have compelling headlines?
  • Write about issues people are searching for
  • Contribute to local print media/newsletter with links to your blog
  • Follow other blogs in your field/subject matter and see what they’re writing about (and do this regularly)

Categorizing and Tagging

Categorizing is great for SEO, especially if the category is in your URL.

Tags are not useful unless you have a strategy for using them. Each tag creates new pages and it can lead to site bloat. However, if you tag effectively, it can keep people on the site as they follow the tags like breadcrumbs.

 


 

Clark Wimberly

All of the notes and links to Clark’s presentation

Clark runs the Android and Me blog.

Backup often: use import and export; back up via FTP; backup with phpMyAdmin; store offline with VP (Vault Press) or other backup plugins.

When code editing (CSS, PHP, etc.) – Edit smarter: use a real text editor; avoid the built-in editor; practice version control; run a development server.

Test smarter: use a staging area; run it locally; do it online with subdomain; find a fancy host.

Know the loop

Own your own theme: learn the template hierarchy; create custom templates; make a child or sibling theme

Google like crazy: Answers for everything; try, try again; check the date; copy and paste and tinker

Image Handling in WordPress

In today’s Hands-On WordPress meetup we discussed using the media library to upload and handle images.

Nick demonstrated the basics of adding an image using the upload/insert image option in your WordPress post/page editing window. You can modify your image title, add alternate text, add a caption, and then at the bottom you can choose the layout and size options and then finally, insert into the post.

He also demonstrated how you can go to Library under Media that allows you to batch upload a series of images ahead of time.

The media “Library” includes all images/media associated with a site; the “Gallery” is associated with an individual post or page.

You can manage a given gallery (or call one to a specific place) by using a gallery shortcode. This is a small piece of code included within square brackets [ ]. The details of different options available to you, including number of columns, display order, and so forth, can be viewed via the WordPress Codex. Shortcodes are good when you need to repeatedly place a given photo, because once you know the shortcode for an image, you can use it over and over again easily.

In your admin panel under Settings > Media Settings, you can choose the default size for each image setting (thumbnail, small, medium and large), as well as the location/name of the upload folder for your media. You can also choose the option to organize uploads into folders by date.

You can also upload music, video and PDFs using the media library.

Using featured images: how (or if) this is used is entirely theme-dependent. To select one, choose a photo by selecting ‘use as featured image’ in the media uploader. In Twenty-Eleven (the default theme for WordPress 3.2) it will place the featured image in the header image. In other themes it may place that image elsewhere on the page. It will not show up as part of the post itself, however. It will also be the image shown as a thumbnail on social media sites like Facebook.


Plugins:

  • Media Library Categories: allows you to organize your media library contents.
  • NextGEN Gallery: A very popular image plugin that allows you to organize your images into galleries not associated with posts/pages. There are also a number of plugins for NextGEN that add to its functionality by giving different slideshow/display options. One problem with NextGEN is that it creates its own media library and does not utilize the native WordPress media library, meaning you must upload all photos through NextGEN. Sandi points out that it is pretty intuitive and easy to fix mistakes, and easy to reuse images throughout your site. Also has good bulk-action options.
  • More MIME Types: allows you to specify and organize media by different file types. It will then tell the browser how to handle or display the media files.
  • Scissors Continued: expands on the WordPress media library’s functionality by allowing you to crop, rotate and resize images.


Helpful tips:

  • Add photos to media library rather than just cut and paste images into your WordPress window, and you can call up the image to use later. This will also create your thumbnail and other image sizes for additional options and functionality later.
  • Using the plugin Add from Server you can add photos and other media to your WordPress media library that have previously been uploaded via FTP.
  • Always include “alternate text” when uploading photos. This will display to anyone who doesn’t have images turned on in their browser, and will also be available to people who use screen readers to view your site. It also gives you a good boost with SEO.

For an additional resource on images, be sure to review the information provided at the WordPress Codex.

Questions? Tips you’d like to share? Suggestions for other plugins dealing with images? Please add your comments below!


Don’t forget that we have several classes coming up with Hands-On WordPress: adding and managing content; plugins; and backups and Google applications. Go to Hands-On WordPress for more information and how to sign up.

WP Austin Meetup 3.1.11

Tonight I will be your friendly live blogger for our discussion of Google Analytics. I will do my best to capture the conversation as it occurs.

Our presenters: Paul O’Brien, Nick Batik and Seth Thomas.

Plugins to use/track/monitor Google Analytics:

Paul uses a plugin called Google Analytics for WordPress, written by Yoast, an active plugin developer, but it requires a separate plugin to see the analytics on the dashboard. Nick also recommends Web Ninja, which gives you the analytics right on the dashboard. Our third presenter, Seth Thomas, uses Ultimate Google Analytics. A fourth plugin some people like is Google Analyticator.

The important point is that Google doesn’t care which plugin you use, and you won’t lose stats if you switch between them – so use one you like.

A few other plugins:

Analytics360
: allows GA integration with Mail Chimp
Twitter Tools: allows you to send notifications of new blog posts to Twitter; Twitter Tool Tagger allows you to actually track twitter traffic in tandem.

Three additional plugins Nick mentioned that might also be helpful (but for which I missed the explanations he gave) are Headline Split Tagger, and Phoenix Split Tagger, and Google Analytics Multisite Asynch.

Tips for Google Analytics accounts:

You will get one account in Google Analytics but then get individual IDs for each website in GA so you can have separate metrics for each site you administer. You can also give people view only or admin privileges to see the metrics.

Make sure your clients get their own Google/Gmail account and give them access to metrics; don’t give them access to your GA account itself.

Even if you don’t think you need the data, add GA to your site now. Let Google collect the data, and you can worry about analyzing it later when you or your client needs it. Always good to have the data collected just in case.


Looking at Google Analytics itself:

Paul pointed out the most important basic metrics:

Visitors:
He noted that this can be interesting but may not be useful to everyone.

Traffic Sources:

  • Direct traffic: people who have typed in the actual URL for the site
  • Search engine: what comes from searches
  • Keyword traffic: organic and keyword searches

Content:
This tells you which pages are being consumed, what they are looking at, how long they stay on a page, etc. It is important to look at keyword and content reports to see what people care about, which is a good way to tailor the business or blog in a way that is useful to your visitors.

Bounce rate:
A metric that shows how many people hit your site and then leave immediately. It is interesting, but may not be immediately actionable. If the bounce rate is high, it could affect how Google ranks your page. 34% is about average; if it’s above 50% it needs some work.

Goals:
These are things you want to occur on your site exclusive of buying things (for the most part): hitting a certain page, watching a video, filling out a form. These can be set up in your profile settings. You choose which kind of goal (URL destination, Time on site, Pages/visit) to track. The reason to set up a goal is the funnel which is important if you take orders online.

A goal funnel is how successful your goal is, such as how many people click from home page to the order form and then make it to the confirmation form. The data will show how many people don’t complete the “funnel” and where they leave the process.

E-commerce:
How many dollars were spent, where the orders were places, the type of purchase that was made, etc. You will see conversion rate (how many people convert, or pay $), how much is spent, the SKUs (what is purchased), where the money is coming from (did they hit site directly, or through search). Helps to see how effective the site is and what people are buying.

Paul pointed out that the GA dashboard can be customized with the content you most want to track.

Referring sites:
You can see which sites (such as Facebook) are driving traffic to your site over time. Good to look at week by week.

Advanced segments:
This allows you to slice the data in any way you want, pulling different metrics however you want. You can see mobile traffic; just the blog (with keywords, traffic sources, etc); you can look at all data from Facebook; all the traffic for a specific order type; people who return to site; and so on. It requires boolean (and/or) considerations: e.g. traffic source AND recurring users.

He suggested you play with the advanced segments and see what you get; you can’t break anything.

New features that are a little funky/buggy still:

  • Intelligence: compares site to other similar sites.
  • Overlay: shows a heatmap of the site traffic.

Next, Seth Thomas demonstrated how his company uses Google Analytics. He showed a spike in traffic that came from a blog mention, and it’s worth noting those things in case there are server considerations. Because he is a server admin, he uses an iPhone app called Analytics Pro to watch metrics on a daily basis.

He is interested in browser stats. He can tell that they are tech savvy (lots of Chrome users). He can also tell that they don’t like ads – which he knows, but he has data to prove it. He likes to see connection speed as well.

He noted that it’s a good idea to have the GA code in the footer of your site, and even better to have it be asynchronous, which helps optimize page speed. However, it may cause some discrepancies, because the full page has to load and the script has to fire, or that visit isn’t counted. Both the Google Analytics for WP and Web Ninja plugins put the code at the bottom and do it asynchronously.

(For those who get this far… bonus points if you get the joke in the post title.)