Getting Started with WordPress

What to expect:

In tonight’s meetup, we will discuss the basic functionality of WordPress:

  • The differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org
  • How to log into your site (typically, http://www.yoursite.com/wp-admin )
  • How to create new content
  • The differences between pages & posts
  • Adding media files (images, video, etc.) and accessing the media library
  • How to modify your website/blog’s appearance
  • Choosing and installing a theme
  • Widgets
  • Plugins (see previous posts at WP Austin for lots of plugin ideas, or ask us!)
  • Settings, including privacy and permalinks

Installing WordPress

Every server/hosting company will have a different process to install WordPress. The folks at WordPress.org recommend a number of companies that optimize for WordPress and make installation simple (see http://wordpress.org/hosting/). For those who need to install WordPress on their own server, visit http://codex.wordpress.org/Installing_WordPress.

Future reference:

 

After the presentation, we will have members available to help with installing WordPress or getting your site set up.

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 Meetup: Q&A

Thanks to Clark Wimberly for setting up tonight’s meetup. See his notes at clarklab.net.

Look for the video online soon at Austin Tech Videos.


Using a staging server to deploy changes

Presented by Chris Lazan and Mark Kelnar of WP Engine

They demonstrated their staging system which allows you to upload plugins and themes and test them before making the changes live.

If you’re not using the WP Engine hosting, the best plan is to use phpMyAdmin to backup your site, work on the site on a localhost, and then upload it to the live site.

Bill Erickson has a great post on his site that details out the process to move a site from a local/development server to the live site.

 

What is a custom post type

Presented by Clark Wimberly

What is a post?

  • Posts – blog posts, which are the chronologically-based posts
  • Pages hierarchical organization
  • Attachments,  Revisions and Nav menus are also posts

Custom post types can add new content by allowing you to add additional types of posts.

When you register a new custom post type, it is separate from normal loops/queries. They won’t show in RSS or widgets unless you want them to.

Register a new custom post type in functions.php. You need to define just a few options but that’s it. The new post type will show up in your WP-admin immediately.

See Clark’s presentation for an explanation of how to create a custom post type. Justin Tadlock also offers a tutorial on how to set up a custom post type.

Themergency has a code generator for custom post types.

More info on custom post types at WP Beginner.

 

Keeping your HTML safe from the editor

Presented by Pat Ramsey

The problem: if you put HTML in your page/post, it can get corrupted if someone goes in to edit that page later. If you create a shortcode, you can place a marker in the page to some HTML that resides in your functions file rather than in your HTML code in the editor.

Shortcodes are text in [brackets].

He showed code for your functions.php file to create different shortcodes.

This is particularly useful for adding HTML to widgets. You can pop in a shortcode into a text widget rather than HTML code. You will have to enable this in your functions file.

You can read more about shortcodes on Bill Erickson’s site as well as the WordPress codex.

 

WordPress beyond blogging

Presented by Jo Carrington

Using WordPress as a content management system: allows us to define any arbitrary amount of content like posts and pages. Can use custom post types to create new content areas.

How to create custom post types with plugins.

Let’s pretend we have a bookstore website. We would need:

  • Posts
  • Pages
  • Books: Title, Publisher, Author, ISBN, Price (each of these is a field)
  • Staff: Name, Photo, Bio, Twitter
  • Events: Name, Time, Description

Two plugins:

Create the new custom post type with More Types. Then you can add additional fields with More Fields. You will need to edit your template file (php file) with a WordPress hook to get this information and display it. Go to the WordPress Codex for the get post meta code to add the code into your site.

 

What is the Loop?

presented by Nick Batik (our brave soul for the evening)

The WordPress loop basically does this:

 if there are posts

    while (there are posts)

    do something

end

 An example of the loop in the WordPress Codex – see the section “the World’s Simplest Index Page” for a simple example of the loop in action.

The loop is the core of every single page displayed on your website. Every page/post on your site will run the loop, even if there’s just one post.

Look at the template files for the default WordPress theme Twenty Eleven for different examples of the loop.

One suggestion from the group: the premium plugin Loop Buddy allows to modify the loop without getting into the code.

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

Managing a freelance WordPress development business

Tonight’s meetup features WordPress Consultant Bill Erickson.

(Live streamed at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/wordpress-austin).

Announcements:


Bill Erickson: Tools for organizing his development business



Video streaming by Ustream

Being a WordPress developer means not just knowing WordPress but how to run a business.

Tips to waste less time communicating with clients

  • Clear communication eliminates frustration & sets expectations
  • How much does it cost – state rates and mimimum charge upfront
  • Give example of projects
  • What services do you provide
  • Stock emails for every kind of client interaction and stage of process

Managing business

  • Uses email as initial form of contact – contact form rather than phone number
  • Clear emails serve as a contract/agreement with client.
  • Once email contact has been established, all information goes into custom CRM (Customer Relationship Management tool) for prospect and project management
  • Clearly communicate scope of work, billing, timeframe
  • Once they agree, invoice is sent out for 25%; project completion at end of one week (not including changes); balance is due in 3 weeks regardless of whether or not the client has all changes in.
  • Everyone on calendar has paid 25%
  • Clear rules and deadlines – everything is organized.
  • Keeps track of time spent, budget, effective hourly rate
  • Tracks inquiries, conversion rate
  • Define time for calls – you can’t get work done if you’re always taking calls. Schedule phone calls, and be accessible by phone. For example: 8-10 am – emails; 10-12 pm – phone calls; 1-5pm – coding
  • Follow WordPress development for information on new features, code
  • WordPress is based on backwards compatibility

Bill’s CRM tool – more info (and download link): http://www.billerickson.net/wordpress-genesis-crm/

Recommends plugins to use with CRM:

When migrating sites, Bill recommends never use WordPress’ Import and Export tools – it doesn’t grab everything, sometimes breaks links. Bill has a different process – visit his post on how to move a website.

Also referenced:
Flex Slider for WP Rotator – plugin developed by Bill Erickson: Turns WP Rotator into FlexSlider, a fully responsive jQuery slider.

Toggl.com – time management/billing tool

 

Security – Backing-Up Your Site

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series WordPress Security

Install a plugin or use cronjob to create database and file backups on a regular basis. This may not be directly related to security, but in case you detect intrusion, you will be glad you make a backup.

I personally like BackWPup.

Security – Locking Down Your Site

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series WordPress Security

Hide WordPress Version in the Header Tag

Although you have deleted the WordPress version meta data from your theme, you may still get WordPress version line in the page returned by the blog software. The culprit is, since version 2.5 WordPress has added the feature to generate this code.

Add the following line to the functions.php file in your theme directory: (Create a blank PHP file with this name if your theme doesn’t already have one)

<?php remove_action('wp_head', 'wp_generator'); ?>
It is important to note that even with all of those above implemented, there is no guarantee that your blog will be safe. Just that you decrease the chance tremendously and discourage those crackers from targeting your blog.

New exploits are discovered every so often and when a fix has not been made available yet, everyone is at risk. However, by implementing all or some of the tips above, at the very least it should give you peace of mind that you are not leaving your house unlocked.

I recommend the plugin Better WP Security which is easy to use and configure, and does many of the security functions for you.

Security – Proper WordPress Installation

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series WordPress Security

Change The Default “Admin” Username

The problem
Brute force is one of the easiest ways to break a password. The method is simple: try as many different passwords as possible until the right one is found. Users of the brute force method use dictionaries, which give them a lot of password combinations.

Knowing your username makes it easier for them to guess the right combination. This is why you should always change the default “admin” username to something harder to guess.

Versions of WordPress starting with 3.0 let you choose your desired username by default, so there should be no excuse for not doing it right. If you have a site that was created with an older version, Admin renamer extended.

Pick Secure Password for Admin

Changing your admin username to something else is not a guarantee that people will not be able to guess it. For instance, if you use your username as the displayed meta data in every post, or you enable author specific page in multi-author blog, you will reveal your user name to the world.
With that assumption, you should pick secure password for your WordPress login. Combine upper and lowercase characters and numbers.

You can change your password after your site is installed. You may even want to to change it on a regular basis. I recommend the plugin WP Security Scan because it has a password generator.

Populate wp-config.php Properly

Go through each line in wp-config.php, not only the first block for database configuration.

Use WordPress secret key generation tool to generate random salts for WordPress cookies. These keys are used to insure better encryption of information stored in WordPress user’s cookies.

There is an automatic generator for these at: https://api.wordpress.org/secret-key/1.1/salt/

You also want to modify the WordPress table prefix to something other than wp_. Adding random characters and numbers to the end of wp, such as wpRbX3i_ obfuscates it enough but still allows you to recognize the tables as those belong to WordPress.

Security – Prevent Directory Browsing

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series WordPress Security

By default, most hosts allow directory listing. Because there are a standard set of directories in a WordPress installation, the hacker can go directly to the directory inside your site and see all of the files in that directory. This is definitely a security risk, because a hacker could see the last time that files were modified and access them.

This is a simple but important problem to fix. You have three options:

  1. Place an empty file in each directory with the name INDEX.HTML or INDEX.PHP
  2. If you are using an Apache webserver, modify your .htaccess file
  3. Use a Security plugin (see the end of the series for suggestions)