Keep track of all our great presentations as they come online at WordPress.tv!
We’re famous! Well, famous enough to have the talented Benjamin S. Hammond record our last Meetup. This impromptu recording in our new space was done by the fine folks over at STLTechTalk.com.
You can check out the first part below, and the rest on STL Tech Talk’s site.
They wanted to help us spread the word and we appreciate the support. Be sure to check out the rest of STLTechTalk.com and their podcasts!
Thanks to J.J., Ben, and everyone for coming out, we had a great meetup and look forward to seeing you all in August!
P.S. Benjamin, the fine gentlemen behind the camera, is a film producer and director. Check out his short film “Misery Mountain“. It’s a bit spooky, so make sure you watch it with headphones late at night – after the kids have gone to bed.
Since we recently changed venues for the General Meetup, and we haven’t asked in a while about our meeting times, we put together a short survey to check-in on how things are going.
It’s 3 short multiple choice questions and a giant text box to share your thoughts. Please be honest and only reply if you actively attend our Meetups. For all you lurkers – don’t be shy, come join us!
Take a moment to let us know if our meeting time, date, and location work for you. It’s our only way of making sure our community grows and is successful in helping our fellow WordPressers.
The first one is from Chris Koerner and covers How to Get Involved in the WordPress Community.
As the rest of the videos are edited, uploaded, and approved they will show up under the WordCamp St. Louis 2014 page.
A big thanks to Chris Miller for agreeing to help edit and produce the videos. A hearty thanks to all the volunteers who helped to record the sessions throughout the day. Last, but not least, a big hug to the folks at WordPress.tv for hosting our videos for the world to see.
If anyone is interested in adding subtitles or translations for not only these videos, but any others on WordPress.tv, you should get involved!
We’re now a proud member of the WordPress Meetup Chapter Program.
What does this mean? Well first, our Meetup.com fee is now covered by the fine folks at the WordPress Foundation. That means we don’t have to raise funds or charge admission to cover the cost. It also means we’re not at the mercy of a sponsor to cover this cost every year. This will also result in more visibility to our group, and other benefits to organizing events and activities.
We are still free to pursue sponsorships and the like, and run our group as we have for the past 4 years – open, inclusive, free, and fun.
A small sliver of hubris –
we’re also the 71st largest (out of 599) WordPress Meetup Group! (Update: I misread that list. We’re actually #92!)
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)
Looking for the awesome WordPress themes? Here’s the place to find them!
As of: 7-16-2014 2,620 THEMES, 106,186,898 DOWNLOADS, AND COUNTING
Looking for the awesome WordPress plugins? Find them here!
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 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.
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.
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.
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:
- How to make a child theme for WordPress: A pictorial introduction for beginners
- Child Themes Basics and Creating Child Themes in WordPress
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
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
- Twenty Fourteen
- _underscores (which is what my personal site is build with – as a child theme!)
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:
- WooCommerce – An e-commerce plugin that has it’s own plugins!
- Jetpack – wordpress.com features on your self-hosted blog
- WordFence – a security suite for your WordPress site
- BackupBuddy – backup and restore WordPress sites
- Advanced Custom Fields – Make managing content even easier!
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.
A quick update. We won’t be having our General WordPress meetup at goBrandgo! moving forward. We’d like to thank the folks at GBG for the past 4 years of being gracious hosts and providing our rag-tag group a place to hang our hat. Thank you and good luck to you all in your future endeavors.
We were going to announce this at our last meetup there tomorrow night, but there was a scheduling snafu that has us moving a month earlier. I apologize for the short notice and hope everyone can still make it.
The leaders at GBG were kind enough to get us in contact with Dan Lohman at Pushup and Lab1500. I met with Dan and Lindi and we talked about giving Lab1500 a chance. They have a nice space, and the location is right in the heart of the lively activity on Washington Ave.
The plan was to let the community know about our need to find a new home and see if Lab1500 would be a good fit. Since we’re moving a little sooner than anticipated we hope you understand and appreciate your feedback and thoughts.
We’re also going to take this opportunity to look at the time and date for the General meetup. Does the 3rd Wednesday of the month at 6pm still work for everyone? Join us tomorrow night and we’ll figure it out together.
If you’ve been to the last few of our Meeups (both the Dev and General meetings) you may have noticed JJ Hammond and his crew. They run a technology news and community site for the St. Louis area called STL Tech Talk.
A few weeks ago JJ wrote up a nice little introduction to our group. You should check it out, but to whet your appetite here’s a choice quote.
“The group was full of people from different walks of life. A real estate agent, an attorney, a mailman, an airplane pilot, and web developers. I really feel confident that anyone would fit in here. I also was really satisfied with the turn out, and the desire from everyone to learn more about how WordPress can help them solve problems.“
JJ and the rest of his crew have a nice sit over at STL Tech Talk. It’s a great place to learn about current trends, upcoming events, and the pulse of the tech community in St. Louis. Naturally, they’re using WordPress to host the site and their podcasts offer a trove of great interviews and discussions.
Thanks to JJ for visiting out meetups and helping to spread information about our great group.
Originally a traditionally trained journalist, I naturally gravitated toward content strategy when I started working in the digital world. And where I work, content strategy includes learning about a wide variety of topics, including search engine optimization (SEO).
After writing countless WordPress user guides for clients, I became pretty familiar with the content management system and learned a lot about implementing SEO in a WordPress setting.
SEO is the practice of using keywords and/or phrases to increase the amount of traffic that a website receives from search engines. Search engines “crawl” a website and read the URLs, headlines, body copy, picture titles, author and social media links to determine what information this site is intending to share. From this crawl they gather popular and common keywords and recall these whenever a web search is performed.
The majority of traffic to a website comes from search engines, so the order in which search engines rank websites is very important. Google, the leading search engine, uses hundreds of algorithms to determine the order of websites on the search engine results page (SERP).
Here are a few basic guidelines for optimizing your content for SERPs using just the standard WordPress content fields.
Title and Body
Your title and main content area offer the most opportunity to use the keywords and keyword phrases that you have determined will produce the best SEO results. The title will appear on your website and should make sense in the context of the page or post. It should appeal to a human reader, not just to search engines crawling your site.
The content area should be human friendly while implementing strong keywords and keyword phrases. Organizing your content with headers and including outbound (send the user elsewhere) and inbound (keep the user within your site) links will aid your SEO.
Edit your Permalink to be both SEO and human friendly. It should utilize keywords and be short and descriptive of the post or page. Click on the Permalink to write in what you’d like to change it to, when you click OK it will automatically format it.
Search engines cannot read images, but they can read the text that is attached to them. When saving an image that you’re going to use on your website, use a common file type (JPEG, PNG, SVG, GIF, etc.) and a human-friendly name. Place the image within the text near the section that it is most relevant to. Use images and keywords that are relevant to the content.
When you upload your photo, choose to edit it. You can also visit the Media Library to edit pictures after they have been uploaded. Use a short, keyword-focused title. Enter a Caption if you would like to display a caption with your image. The Alternative Text, often referred to as “Alt Text,” should be straight forward and keyword heavy while avoiding “keyword stuffing.” The title and Alt Text are what search engines will use to read and identify your images, so if nothing else you should at least pay attention to the SEO value of these.
Enter a description if the person uploading the image might need to differentiate between similar images in the Media Library. Make sure to remove the Link URL so the image doesn’t open in its own page when clicked on, which can slow down your site and diminish SEO.
Categories and Tags
While Categories and Tags themselves aren’t especially powerful SEO tools, they aid in SEO in other ways. Think of categories as your website’s table of contents and tags as the index. When a search engine reads these, it helps it understand – and more effectively crawl – your website and indicates what topics your website is focused on. Categories and Tags also increase navigation and readability for users.
It’s important to remember there is no shortcut for creating quality SEO. Follow these guidelines and regularly post interesting, sharable content and you’ll be well on your way to increasing your SERP rank.
Tina Eaton, Project Lead and Content Strategist
Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/105249777997850952682/+Integritystl/posts
We’re looking for folks in the St. Louis community to be guest writers here on The St. Louis WordPress Community site.
Why would you want to write? It’s a great opportunity to get feedback, share ideas, toot your own horn about a project you just finished, talk about your company or services, or other wise geek out with a group of like-minded WordPressers.
Feel free to talk about your workflow, best practices, favorite plugin, tips and tricks, integration magic – you name it.
If you, or someone you know, would like to have an opportunity to share their thoughts fill out the form and we’ll get you setup.
There are (only) three rules.
- It’s has to be about WordPress in some relatable way (talking about CSS tips, or good color theory are OK)
- It’s positive in nature (no “Drupal Sucks” or “Clients are Goobers” type posts)
- It’s honest (no crazy pyramid schemes)