How Everything Has Changed – Social Media




How Everything Has Changed… but nothing is new

A discussion about social media with Thomas Umstattd Jr.

Technology cannot be good or evil

There are times when technology favors the powerful

  • e.g television commercials – only the powerful could afford commercials, so smaller companies could not compete

And when technology favors the weak

  • e.g. the American Revolution
  • Today Twitter is like the musket of the Revolution – technology that both the strong and weak have access to
  • Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia

Sometimes technological change is necessary

  • As the technology for hunting large animals got easier, it became harder to find food – they transitioned to agriculture, using animals to help them raise their own food
  • The old way – television commercials
  • The new way – YouTube, blogs, podcasts

How technology has changed how we communicate

  • One to one
  • One to many – e.g. leader to people
  • Many to one – e.g. voting
  • Many to many – feels new but it dates back to a community sharing stories around a campfire
  • Twitter allows people to bypass mainstream media

Push – things that get sent without the receiver’s permission, including letters, phone calls, email; but spam makes email less appealing

  • The line between charming and creepy (for people, or for email) = permission
  • Email marketing needs to be based around permission

Pull – the user chooses to welcome the communication into their life

Twitter (and Google+) weed out the boring

  • Twitter is a meritocracy – you have to earn followers
  • You have to “set yourself on fire”
  • Do not ever post what you’re doing right now
  • Scientifically most people can’t have more than 150 friends; followers/acquaintances don’t care
  • Instead, answer “what is interesting to you right now” – which could be the same thing as what you’re doing. If it’s not interesting to you, it’s not interesting to anyone else
  • What would be interesting to your followers – which means, who are your followers?

Facebook weeds out boring in a different way – How does Facebook decide what shows up at the top of your feed

  • Likes – the more likes you have, the more people will see you on Facebook; don’t complain, but make your posts more positive
  • Comments – someone who commented in the past is more likely to see your post in the future. Ask questions, do a fill-in-the-blank.
  • Social proximity – mutual friends means your post will be more likely to show up on someone’s feed
  • Freshness – the older your post, the more likely it will be to fall off. Space out your Facebook updates. Pages can now auto-schedule posts. Remember some people do Facebook at work, others don’t.
  • Previous interactions – if someone liked your posts in the past, they will likely like it in the future
  • Promotion – you can pay to appear on the top; this is the only way people on mobile will see your ads
  • Content reputation – Text, links, videos, etc. Facebook loves photos the most, text next.

Principle – how to set yourself on fire; aka theCalrissian Principle

  • reciprocity – do something for someone else first before you expect them to do something for you
  • Plant grain now to get more grain in the future
  • Ask, who is my audience – and embrace them; who is not my audience
  • How can I thrill them? (If they aren’t thrilled, they won’t engage or share)
  • One tip to rule them all – type your question into Google (e.g. “how do I get more followers on Twitter?”) – Let me Google that for you
  • See Lesson 2 – how to measure engagement & Virality (Scroll down)
  • Don’t forget to advertise to existing fans


  • How to target advertising for authors? Thomas recommends GoodReads
  • For businesses, target users of existing Facebook pages. You can set the name of a page as a specific interest
  • Facebook needs to figure out how to do mobile well, especially the ads. Instagram figured it out, so Facebook hopes they can build on that by buying them.
  • Baby boomers joined Facebook before Gen X because they wanted to see what their kids were doing, and it jumped a generation; meanwhile Twitter favors Gen X
  • Google+ is something to watch: it’s used by the technocratic elite, highest average income; it has the best support, less noise, elements of reddit and stumbleupon
  • Google Hangouts allows you to go “On Air” which broadcasts to YouTube and archives the video after
  • The trend to use social media in political campaigns takes power away from the mainstream media and puts information and news into people’s hands to help make decisions
  • Political campaigns – now more about social media than television advertising
  • How to manage time and social media networks. Go to question “who is my audience” and focus on that one. You may need to ask your customers where they hang out. Use your phone to send out messages rather than when you’re on your computer. Don’t use third-party apps on Facebook for the purpose of putting content out there.
  • Two books Thomas recommends: Inbound Marketing and The New Rules of Marketing & PR
  • Also check out Thomas on

Final point: Kennedy beat Nixon because Nixon failed to adapt to the new technology.

Thomas’ parting words: don’t be Nixon.

Understanding the Basics of WordPress Media



We polled our attendees for ideas for upcoming Hands on WordPress meetups. If you have a topic you’d like to hear, please comment on this post and we’ll add it to our list!



Jackie Dana (hey that’s me!) is a new Happiness Engineer at Automattic. I’ll be able to work from home, so you’re stuck with me! 🙂

Deb Schmidt is moving back to Michigan. We’ll miss you Deb!

We are adding new features, including a login option, on our website, which is where you are right now. Be sure to sign up and participate in our discussion forums!


Next meetup:

Next week: July 3rd, 7pm, new location: 16th floor of the Omni Hotel (7th and Brazos) at the Capitol Factory offices. Look for announcement on coming soon!


Main topic: Understanding the Basics of WordPress Media Features

Presenter: Eric Weiss

Demonstration live on a brand new WordPress install, using the Twenty Eleven theme.

Media Settings:

  • Image Sizes – different themes will have different settings here; you can modify your settings if you need to do so.
  • Uploading files – you can change the default location to upload files; usually you should just leave this alone. Organizing uploads into month and year based folders – usually a good idea to leave this checked.

Adding media:

  • You can add files by dragging and dropping into the box. You can select multiple images and drag them in all at once.
  • You can add media from a URL, but note that this can be risky. Usually this is a good option only if linking from an image hosting site such as or Flickr.
  • Title – will display when you hover over the image.
  • Alternative text – this is the “alt tag”. It is what search engines, screen readers see; also what is displayed when images are not displayed. Very important for SEO. Will be given more priority over title. You should always include alt text if the image is content for your site/blog (though not for decorative images).
  • Caption – adds a caption under the image.
  • Description – information for your own use.
  • Link URL – if you want to link image to another site/page.
  • Alignment – will determine where the image displays in relation to your text.
  • Size – options are determined by size of original image. You may not get all of the options on an image.
  • Attachment Post URL – allows you to link to a different display of the image
  • Using the File URL will allow you to link the thumbnail to a full-sized file that is suitable for printing.

Once you have inserted an image, in the Editor window you can click on image and edit the image. This opens up a box to Advanced Settings that allows you more fine-tuning of the the size of the image and other settings.

All images you add to a post will display in your Media Library. The Attached to column will show you which post(s) or page(s) the image appears on.

Edit Image button:

  • In the Media Library if you click “edit” under the image you can crop, flip, rotate or resize an image right within WordPress.
  • Using the crop option you can modify your thumbnail image. By default it selects a section from the center of the image but by cropping and applying to thumbnail only, you can change how the thumbnail displays.

Inserting a Gallery:

  • A gallery is a display of all images, as thumbnails, attached to a post or page.
  • Once you have multiple images on a single post or page, the gallery option will show up at the bottom of the listing of images attached to that page. You get a variety of options including how many columns to display and what the thumbnail will link to.
  • When you insert the gallery you will get a shortcode (in your HTML editor you will see the shortcode in brackets [ ] ).

Featured Image:

  • You can set the featured image on a post/page in an option on the right side of your editor window. This will display as the main image for that page, and how it looks (and the required dimensions) will be theme-dependent.
  • Some themes don’t use featured images, some rely on them for the homepage layout, so this is something to consider when choosing your theme. Many themes that have sliders on the homepage will be using featured image option as well.
  • The featured image is also the image that will be associated with your post on Facebook, Google, etc.
  • You can also choose to select an image as your featured image when you upload the image.


There are a lot of plugins that allow you to modify and manipulate your images. A few ideas:

  • NextGEN Gallery creates its own media library
  • IMSanity allows you to specify the maximum file size you want to upload.
  • Vintage JS allows you to make your images look, well, vintage.
  • Add from Server allows you to import media & files into the WordPress uploads manager from the Webservers file.
  • SSDownloads is a plugin that will allow you to require an email address for a file download.
  • JW Player can be nice for flash videos.

Embedded video:

  • You can insert a YouTube link directly into your blog and it will create an embed link automatically.
  • YouTube will give you some options that you can modify and get more specific embed code.
  • If you want more control, WordTube gives you a bunch of configuration options.
  • Append code at the end of your YouTube video to get it to start later in the video. So #t=30s starts the video 30 seconds in. You can change the 30 to any seconds, or put in m instead of s for minutes. Example: .


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; 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 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 All I did to embed it was post the following URL into my visual editing window (without any special code):



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 and

Easiest answer:

A few key points of difference: 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 will cover your bandwidth!), modify your CSS, and other features. If you upgrade, you also get free support from You cannot run ads or modify the php template files, or use plugins. 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.



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)


Getting Started with WordPress

What to expect:

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

  • The differences between and
  • How to log into your site (typically, )
  • 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 recommend a number of companies that optimize for WordPress and make installation simple (see For those who need to install WordPress on their own server, visit

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


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



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 for Bloggers

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


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.


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

Free WordPress Theme Frameworks

Hands-On WordPress meetup 8/9/11

What is a Theme Framework?

According to the WordPress Codex, a theme framework is:

a Theme designed to be a flexible foundation for quicker WordPress development, usually serving as a robust Parent Theme for Child Themes. Some Theme frameworks can also make theme development more accessible, removing the need for programming or design knowledge with options pages.

In some cases a framework may just have robust code “under the hood” making it easier for a theme developer or designer to implement changes, but without necessarily including additional features in the admin panel. Many of these are “blank” themes with very little (to no) CSS code. These can be very powerful foundations for theme design, but are not appropriate for beginners. For others, an entire site can be designed using nothing but the options in the admin area


Free frameworks to help non-designers build a site:

Use the simple “check-box” interface to easily change colors, fonts, header and footer, menus, sidebars, theme width, and much more. Then, take control of your content using powerful Per Page and Per Post options, including unlimited custom widget areas. Over 15 page templates, including “Page with Posts” to show posts and content where and how you want. Easy for the newcomer, comprehensive for the expert.

Configure your custom theme: Fixed or flexible width layout, with min/max width, 0 – 4 sidebars, very browser safe (incl. IE6), create custom widget areas, import/export styles (several styles included), color pickers, over 200 options.


Blank frameworks:

A rich blogger friendly theme with customizable header, colors and AJAX options; and developer friendly theme with atomic templates and an elegant override hierarchy.

The ultimate in SEO-ready themes, Thematic is a highly extensible, WordPress Theme Framework featuring 13 widget-ready areas, drop-down menus, grid-based layout samples, plugin integration, shortcodes for your footer, & a whole lot more. Perfect for any blog and the starting point for theme development.

Child themes built on Thematic

Starkers is a bare-bones WordPress theme created to act as a starting point for the theme designer.

Free of all style, presentational elements, and non-semantic markup, Starkers is the perfect ‘blank slate’ for your projects, as it’s a stripped-back version of the ‘Twenty Ten’ theme that ships with WordPress.

The Whiteboard framework for Wordpress is built to speed up the process of designing and developing a Wordpress theme. Whiteboard does so by eliminating the time spent on a website’s generic div structure and Wordpress’ back-end PHP that is common to all Wordpress themes. Whiteboard also includes non-intrusive code designed to improve the overal Wordpress theme in many ways, including SEO, speed, usability, and mobility.


A few premium WordPress frameworks:


Also of note:

Aaron Brazell’s “Battle of the Titans: Premium Theme Framework Smackdown” (from 2010; some info is likely outdated now).


If you have questions about any of this information, feel free to email me or submit your question to the WordPress Austin Google group.

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.


  • 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.

How to choose a WordPress Theme

What is a theme?

Depending on how you use it, WordPress is a blogging platform/content management system/website building software – in essence, it’s the behind the scenes code that makes a website work. Your WordPress site itself consists of content, the posts/pages/images that convey information, and a theme, which is the overall design that you choose to determine how your site will look to the outside world. You do not (usually) change the underlying WordPress code (or need to reinstall WP) in order to change the site’s theme, though on occasion you may need to modify your content.

Choosing a theme


  • Define the purpose, structure and audience for your website.
  • Consider your branding (logo, design, etc. of your print materials, signage as well as message)
  • Who is the primary audience? What characteristics define them?
  • What is your site’s purpose? Blog? News? Gallery/portfolio? Sales?
  • What features do you need on the site? Social media? Shopping cart? Forms?
  • Determine the basic structure for your site: wireframing


  • Choose a theme solely based on color, fonts, or graphics.
  • Obsess about it being ‘perfect’ (to the point where you don’t have a functioning website!)
  • Give up.

Other questions to consider:

  • What kind of media and what is most important/prominent? Text/Photos/Audio/Video
  • What kind of navigational structure do you need? How do you want your menu bar to work (e.g. drop downs)? Do you need a special way to display categories/tags, comments, or multiple authors? Do you want a sidebar – or multiple sidebars? Widgeted footers or headers?
  • How important is a custom(ized) design?
  • What is your own skill level for adding your own features/modifying a theme’s design? Are you willing to pay a developer/consultant to work with you or do you need to be self-sufficient? Are you willing to read documentation or contact support (if provided)?
  • How much are you willing to pay for a theme? Do you need/want support from the theme developer?

When you find a theme you (think) you like:

  • Does it offer the customization you need? Can you change layout, font and/or colors from the admin panel? Can you move the sidebar or increase/decrease number of sidebars/columns, or upload your own header graphic? With CSS and PHP skills, all of these things can usually be modified, but if you don’t have those skills (or don’t want to pay someone) then it’s good to have the options at your fingertips.
  • Is it GPL? (See )
  • Can you remove/alter the theme designer’s info/logo in the footer?
  • Can you figure out how to use any special features like a slideshow option?
  • Can you alter other elements or add your own as needed?
  • Is there a forum or other online support? Is the theme developer available to answer questions through their own website (some do it via comments) or via email?
  • Upload and activate your new theme with your own content. Does anything immediately break (often the navigation bar is the first to go) and if so, can you work around it?

Resources from

Sites/products discussed at the meetup:
(note: inclusion here does not imply that WP Austin recommends any of the following; they are listed here solely as reference).

Choosing a theme worksheet (PDF file)

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.