Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

Short tips or tricks about WordPress. Links to YouTube videos, etc.

August 2014 General WordPress Meetup Notes

We had a great turnout this month – even with the Cards game happening just a few blocks down the street. Thanks to everyone who came out!

Main Event

The main topic of the night was covering some handy tools that help you keep tabs on your WordPress site. We covered Uptime Robot, Infinite WP, and Google Analytics.

Uptime Robot

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 9.56.48 PMThis handy website lets you know when your site is down. When a site is down that means that visitors aren’t able to see the site and won’t know why! By using Uptime Robot you can setup alerts to be notified via email or SMS when your site is inaccessible.

This is a free service and you can track up to 50 sites! They don’t have to be WordPress sites at all – this works for any site you’re interested in tracking. The service is hosted, so there isn’t even an installation process. Just sign up, add your sites, set how frequently your site should be checked and wait!

It’s also super handy if you have multiple sites across clients. You can know before they do when a site is having an issue. You can quickly figure out what’s going on, and let your clients know preemptively!

Infinite WP

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 9.58.41 PM

Infinite WP makes managing plugins and theme updates across multiple separate WordPress installations a breeze. You install a simple client on your web host, a plugin on each of your sites, and away you go!

Infinite WP will let you know when your sites have an update available and you can update by site (all plugins at once), by plugin (this plugin on all sites where its installed), or even piece mail – one at a time. There are a ton of add-ons for Infinite WP that extend it’s capabilities even further.

A recent update also brings easy backups to your sites. So your workflow could be something like:

  1. Get a notification of an update via Infinite WP
  2. Backup your Dev/Test site.
  3. Update your Dev/Test site to make sure things are hunky-dory.
  4. Backup your Production site(s).
  5. Update your Production site(s) without leaving your beach chair.

All of that without leaving Infinite WP.

Google Analytics

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 10.05.20 PM

We could have easily spent multiple evenings covering the various ways you can leverage Google Analytics it’s that powerful. In a nutshell Google Analytics allows you to keep track on how visitors get to your site, what they do on your site, and some demographic information like geographic location and what browser it uses. It becomes even more powerful when you get into developing campaigns and set goals for your visitors.

Say for example you’re promoting a big event or a new item in your store. You can send out emails, tweets, and Facebook updates with a specific URL that will tell you, in Google Analytics, which outlet lead to that person arriving at your site, and what percentage of visits turned into ‘conversions’ – someone did something you wanted them to do like sign up for a newsletter or buy something.

Google has some great resources on getting started with Google Analytics. Integration with WordPress is a snap with numerous Google Analytics plugins. My particular fave is Google Analytics for WordPress by Joost de Valk.

Bonus Tools

A few other tools that were mentioned in the similar vein that we didn’t get to spend a lot of time on are listed below. Take a look and you might find a handy addition to your utility belt.

IFTTT – Hook up WordPress to hundreds of other services all with simple to create ‘recipes’. Want your Instragram photos to automatically publish to your blog? Easy peasy .
 

Piwik – Don’t like Google? Want to host your own analytics? Pwiki’s your solution.

Woopra – A real-time analytics package. See who’s on your site right this minute. Some say better than Google Analytics!

Next Month

In September we have the talented Gregory Ray taking us through the best practices and dark art secrets of Hardening WordPress. Join Gregory and the gang on Wednesday, September 17th at Lab1500.

Photo by Dean Gugler – Licensed under Creative Commons

The many, many uses of Advanced Custom Fields

Editors note: This is a guest post by Brian Goldstein. Brian is a freelance WordPress developer in University City. He’s also nearly completely self-taught.  To see some of his work or to get in touch,  check out briankappgoldstein.comIf you’d like to be a guest writer here on STL WP, let us know.

brian-treehouse

There are a few plugins I tend to use on just about every WordPress install I do – for me or for a client.  I always use a back-up plugin, SEO by Yoast, and I’ll almost always use Advanced Custom Fields.

As a developer or a designer, it’s tempting to hide everything away from your clients, so they can’t break the site you’ve just built. ACF helps maintain the design and code integrity of the site while giving your client a way to update content without you. It uses the same logic as the WordPress Loop, so implementation and troubleshooting is simple.

In this article I’ll show 3 simple use cases from a few sites I’ve worked on recently.

Example 1

A common way to use ACF is with another popular plugin, Custom Post Types UI which makes creating custom post types a breeze. Once you create a custom post type, you then create the field groups you want to use and then make them available only for that post type. Once you enter in all the information, be it text, images, or video, you write a php loop calling in those custom post types. Here’s a more concrete example:

ACF_Example

Here, each of these boxes of content are custom post types. One advantage is that once your client “gets” how to make a new blog post, they also know how to change a custom post type. Here’s a screenshot of the editing view of one of these custom post types.

ACF_Editing

As you can see, instead of the standard WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) content editor, you can show the custom fields. ACFs documentation is a clear and an excellent resource.

After you enter the content for each custom post type, we’re ready to edit our theme files to dynamically loop in our custom post types.

On this project, because I also want to display that content elsewhere, it’s inside content-services.php, not the service.php template file. In this case, they are closely related, as we’ll see.

Here is the code for the query that calls in content-services.php on the service.php template :

We open a php block and define an array with the post type we want, then query that array in our loop. The loop pulls in our content-services.php file, where the code that pulls in our fields live. That code looks like this:

Every time you see “the_field()”, that’s pulling in the information you entered in your custom post type. Because the loop ends in services.php and this is inside that loop, you only need to make sure you close each php block, not the loop itself.

Example 2

This example and the next require purchasing the repeater field add-on to ACF. It’s one of the few premium plugins I’d ever recommend buying.

Using the repeater add-on makes displaying a lot of the same kind of information super simple.

For instance, on a restaurant site I recently built, the client needs to be able to change their menu without calling me each time they want to update a menu item. So I built out the menus using ACF’s repeater function.

Each menu section was its’ own field group – so they could add or remove the groups at will. Then, using the repeater I created 2 or 3 sub fields depending on the menu section. Next, I entered in all the data for those menu items – the name of the item, the description, and the price. Finally, it was time to code it out. Here’s what that looked like. These are inside a container div, which has at least one row, and it’s broken into 2 columns in the bootstrap grid, for some context.

Similar logic – you’re telling it to find the field group app here, and if there are rows, while there are rows, to display the sub fields Item, Price and Description.

Example 3

Using ACF repeater to dynamically insert images into a carousel.

Again, similar code: creating a loop that checks for the field, and then if there is data for the subfield, injects it into the source attribute of the img in the carousel. Because it’s just PHP, you can use it just like you use other WP tags. The client can use the photos they want to use without my involvement. You can see this example and the previous example live on plantershousestl.com.

Truth is, I haven’t even scratched the surface of what ACF can do. If you have an ingenious use for ACF, I’d love to hear from you. ACF’s simple code, easy integration on the WP dashboard, and versatility into any design you can imagine make it a go to plugin for me.

Brian Goldstein, freelance WordPress developer
briankappgoldstein.com
@briangoldstein

New, Must-Have Plugin: WPCore Plugin Manager

Wow, I’m impressed! WordPress has been needing something like this for quite some time. I just wish I would have thought of it first.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, it’s a new plugin called WPCore Plugin Manager. This plugin allows anyone and everyone to create a custom collection of plugins for WordPress and install them all at the same time on a WordPress website. You can have private or public collections.

Screen for adding a custom plugin on wpcore.comIt even allows you to add custom plugins that aren’t on the wordpress.org plugin repository! This is a serious game changer!

Questions?

You no doubt have some burning questions that need answering…

How much does WPCore cost?

Nothing, it’s free…seriously, why are still reading and not installing this plugin?

How do I get started?

Great question, register!

I typed in a plugin name and it doesn’t show up. What do I do?

I’ve noticed while searching it doesn’t always list your plugin. All you have to do is find the plugin on wordpress.org and grab the slug from the url for that plugin.plugin-slug

Other Questions?

Check out WPCore’s FAQ or ask em in the comments below!

Themes and Plugins – Notes from the July 2014 General WordPress Meetup

After a roller coaster of scheduling fun we had our first Meetup in our new location at Lab1500 (home of Pushup). We talked about Themes and Plugins. For those who couldn’t make it we put together some notes from the evening’s presentations. For those of you would did make it, feel free to add your own thoughts via the comments below!

First up, Bob Barker shared with us an official Bob Barker Whitepaper. Here’s the copy from his handout.


Just another Bob Barker Whitepaper. Whitepaper (defined): useless or minimally valuable information that someone distributes so as to obtain your email address in order to send even more junk of even less value (aka fodder).

Places to check out… 

  • Spybar  – a handy toolbar that shows you the software (and plugins) used to build the site you’re visiting.
  • WordPress Theme Generator
    •  (ed note: Chris Miller also mentioned Headway as a similar solution)
  • WPMU 
  • iThemes

Looking for the awesome WordPress themes? Here’s the place to find them! 

http://www.wordpress.org/themes/

As of: 7-16-2014 2,620 THEMES, 106,186,898 DOWNLOADS, AND COUNTING

Looking for the awesome WordPress plugins? Find them here!

http://wordpress.org/plugins/ 

32,251 PLUGINS 695,392,281 DOWNLOADS, AND COUNTING 

Disclaimer: All information and advice provided by Bob Barker, Mid-American Marketing Associates, The Barker Companies, Their affiliates, associates, Their Foundations, employees, or associates of any of Bob’s companies are NOT warranted or carry any guarantee whatsoever. Please seek the professional advice of an attorney or accountant before proceeding with any endeavors as a result from information provided or questions answered; we do NOT guarantee or give any warranty of the information we provide. Please proceed at your own risk.


Chris K. (that’s me) then talked about the various kinds of themes.

From the most raw and basic (and heavy code knowledge to use), to most advanced and determined (with little code editing) there are generally 4 different kind of themes.

  • Starter Themes
  • Regular Themes
  • Child Themes
  • Theme Frameworks

Starter themes

Starter themes are the raw stuff of theme design and function. Many are minimal, barebones themes that you would use to customize and develop up on.  Most have few (or no) design decisions made beforehand. So no pre-defined colors, layout, grid, etc.

A few popular starter themes are:

A starter theme should probably not be your first theme to muck with. Instead I recommend you take an existing Regular Theme and play with it first.

Read more:

  • https://thethemefoundry.com/blog/wordpress-starter-theme/

Regular Themes

These are the majority of themes you’ll find on wordpress.org, elegantthemes, themeforest, etc. In most cases they are well build and well designed themes that have a certain visual appearance (trendy, retro, dark, earthy, etc.) and purpose (photography, real estate, blogging, e-commerce, etc.).

For most of these themes, many design, layout, and functionality decisions have been made for you.  Most will offer some customization via the theme customizer, but to really change things up you’re looking at building a child theme and getting your hands dirty with code.

Child Themes

So let’s say you download a regular theme, make some changes, and maybe even dip into the css or functions.php to add some custom functionality or style. Then an update to that theme is released. Being a good WordPress owner, you click the big update button.

What happens?

Those custom changes are overwritten with that update. Whoops.

Let’s say you get into custom post types, or custom fields – some fairly advanced stuff. How do you keep those changes across updates to your themes? Especially with advanced themes (like the frameworks mentioned below) there are security risks with not updating – updating is good!

The answer? You should create a child theme!

What is a child theme? Like real children, they need a parent to survive and they inherent traits and capabilities from that parent theme.

A child theme allows you to modify an existing theme (even a starter theme. They too have updates!) without worrying about your changes being overwritten with theme updates.

A basic child theme is as simple as having only one file – style.css. From there you can modify any additional files from your parent theme. header.php, single.php, heck even functions.php!

There’s a great article on the codex on creating a child theme. Remember, files (and their modifications) in a child them override the parent theme files, but not overwrite them. Meaning child themes are a great way to take apart an existing theme to see how it works, without making your changes permanent.

For example, let’s say you wanted to modify the footer from a them you found on WordPress.org. You could copy the footer.php from your parent them into your child theme and edit to your heart’s content. When your site is visited, your custom footer.php is loaded in place of the existing file!

Read more about child themes:

Theme Frameworks

Theme frameworks are like a micro eco-system within WordPress. There are tons of options, development hooks, and extensions outside of the stuff you normally would do with vanilla WordPress and a traditional theme.

Some theme frameworks have options that you’d normally see in separate plugins included as part of the framework. SEO options, custom widgets, layout options, security, support, etc.

Generally, frameworks have many custom features and functions that WordPress doesn’t offer out of the box. The catch is that many have a financial cost, and require (or work best with) a smaller selection of themes.

Genesis – one of the larger frameworks available. It has a large user and developer community, many Genesis-specific themes and some brilliant features making managing content, layout, and design easy without touching code.

Thematic – an open-source theme framework

Read more:

Choosing Themes and Plugins

We then talked a little about choosing themes and plugins for use. A few things we suggested were:

  • Start at wordpress.org
  • Read reviews
  • Look at how frequently the theme is updated
  • Check to see if it has the features you need – like being responsive.

Other resources for finding themes include:

Some of my favorite Themes

Plugins

Plugins extend WordPress and new and useful ways. Plugins operate using something called a hook to insert themselves into WordPress.

Hooks basically add some code using either an action or a filter. A plugin that operates on an action works when an event happens – you load the admin dashboard, save a page, etc. Filters happen when you query the database for information – like rendering a page, or a list of pages in a category, etc.

The codex (once again!) has a great entry on Hooks.

Some plugins are very advanced in what they do. They can totally extend WordPress in new directions, giving it capabilities it didn’t have. Some examples:

Read more on plugins

One last thing, in WordPress 4.0 coming in August there is an update on how you search and install plugins. You can read a little about the 4.0 update at WordPress.org.

Like these notes? Join us at our next meetup. They’re free, welcoming meetings where we share and learn together. Find out more at meetup.com.

How to Find and Legally Use Photography for your WordPress Site

One of the more tricky aspects of using WordPress has nothing to do with the software itself, but trying to find a  good image to use as a visual anchor for your posts.

Adding an image to your posts is a great way to draw attention to an article and really make your writing stand out.

Not everyone has a large budget or the skills of photography to find a perfect photo for every post. Personally, even if I had both, I wouldn’t have the time to go out and shoot the specific image I needed.

The biggest boon to finding suitable photography is Creative Commons. Simply put, Creative Commons is a way for artists to preemptively declare licensing for their work. You can license your work under various versions of Creative Commons licenses and folks can use them accordingly without having to pre-negotiate terms.

Most of the time (remember, I am not a lawyer) you can use photos with a Creative Commons license for your work without having to contact the original artist. The catch, which isn’t insane to expect, is that you have to provide proper attribution to the author for their work. Basically, you have to give credit to the original artist.

My favorite solution to find Creative Common licensed photography is Flickr.

Why Flickr? The library is rich, hundreds of thousands of photos, and incredibly diverse, with Flickr users coming from all walks of life from around the world.

They were also one of the first photo sharing services to enable folks to license their photos under Creative Commons. You can search across all of Flickr, and using the Advanced Search Feature, filter to just show photos with a Creative Common license. Here’s an example search for “puppy dogs“.

Flickr Advanced Search

You can easily see the license for any photo on Flickr in the photo sidebar.

flickr-cc-license

Then, when using the photo, you can add something like this in your post (under the photo, in the post meta tags, or at the bottom):

Photo by Steve Wall –  licensed under Creative Commons

I hope this is a helpful introduction to Creative Commons and finding strong photos for your posts. If you have more ideas, suggestions, or feedback, please leave a note below.

P. S. There are  many more collections and options that have been talked about else ware on the web. Two other useful articles are this one from demosthenes.info and another from Dustin Senos on Medium.

Photo by Steve Wall –  licensed under Creative Commons

Three quick WordPress Tips

Everyone loves a good list of tips. These are a few of my favorite, but feel free to sound off in the comments with your own.

1. Access the Admin with /admin – You don’t have to navigate to yoursite.com/wp-admin to login. You can just point to your site.com/admin or my favorite and especially easy to remember your site.com/login

2. Command + K – What sounds like a funky European DJ is actually a recent update to the Visual Editor. When you want to add a link while writing, highlight your text and hit command + K to bring up the insert/edit link dialog box. Windows folks can use ctrl +K.

3. Turn off Comments for Pages – Nothing looks weirder than having a relatively static page (like the About or Contact pages) with random and ancient comments. Turn off comments for these sort of pages and funnel that dialog to posts, email, contact forms, or social media.

WordPress Multisite Infinite Redirect Loop After Updating to 3.9

If you use WordPress Multisite and have it setup to use subdomains, you may want to want to have a look at this article before updating to WordPress 3.9: http://www.webhostinghero.com/wp-multisite-stuck-in-redirect-loop/

It talks about how to fix the infinite redirect loop some users experienced after updating their instance of WordPress to 3.9.