In December we talked about essential plugins and where to find them.
WordPress.org should be your first stop to look for plugins. There you can find the Plugin Directory, which lists all freely available plugins. Aside; There’s a new version of the directory coming soon that is even better for discovering plugins! You can also browse the directory from within WordPress itself under the “Plugins>Add New” menu in the WordPress dashboard.
Plugins listed in the directory give a description of what the plugin does, installation notes, and even reviews from other plugin users. You can also see who the developers are and most plugins have an active support forum to discuss issues and feature requests with the developer. One way of determining if a plugin is good to use is to follow a short checklist.
- Has it been updated recently?
- How many sites are actively using it?
- What is the average rating?
- What do the reviews say about the plugin?
- Is the developer active in responding to questions?
- Does the developer maintain other contributions to the community (plugins, themes, presenting at WordCamps, etc)?
One thing to keep in mind with plugins is performance. Too many plugins can slow down your site. Installing two plugins that do the same thing is also not a good idea as conflicts can happen that can impact performance or down right break your site! This is why having a good development site to tinker with is helpful when managing WordPress.
On to the list of plugins we talked about. I’d love to hear of alternatives or additional items in the comments!
The discussion also covered a few other related tools for managing and monitoring your site. These included:
- Infinite WP – https://infinitewp.com
- Or the hosted solution of Manage WP, which is easier to setup! (Thanks Bob!) https://managewp.com/features
- Uptime Robot – http://uptimerobot.com
- Performance is always on everyone’s mind. We mentioned a few tools to provide feedback on ways to improve your site performance:
Thanks to everyone who came out and we’ll see you in January!
In October Alex Miller gave an introduction to page builders. These are plugins that can drastically change how you manage content in your WordPress site. From drag-and-drop layout options, easy galleries and more.
I took down a few notes, which try to cover some of the larger points Alex made through the evening. Feel free to drop a note below if you have any questions or feedback.
- Why use page builders?
- One reason is that it keep folks from messing up things they shouldn’t be messing with!
- It also makes it easy to update content without out having to be a design/layout genius.
- Only going to cover WordPress.org page builders – ones that are freely available
- Live Composer – https://wordpress.org/plugins/live-composer-page-builder/
- bunch of clutter in the sidebar you can’t remove
- navigating tools in live view are a little cumbersome
- pre-populates text fields
- lots of toolbars, confusing
- lots of tools
- can bring up standard WP editor in visual mode
- Site origin – https://wordpress.org/plugins/siteorigin-panels
- limited layout options for ‘rows’ (like only bottom margin for each row)
- no clutter in sidebar
- easy-to-use visual editor
- import/export layouts
- Beaver builder – https://wordpress.org/plugins/beaver-builder-lite-version/
- no prebuilt templates for free version
- limited media ‘modules’ (called widgets in other page builders)
- no gradient support in column/row settings for backgrounds
- some default padding/margin are a little weird
- limited modules are really easy to use
- responsive design break points can be set per module
- General notes on page builders
- Once you commit to a visual editor, switching (or going without) will be work – there’s not a lot of cross-migration between these competing tools.
- Uninstall might not keep your content!
- Beaver builder and site origin does add html and thankfully no shortcodes! Live editor is all inside their plugin – hard to salvage underlying content
- Think about what you need. Do you need a page builder (landing page) or just custom post types and ACF?
- Beaver builder is #1 pick
- good usability, flexibility, and support
In September our very own Jen Swisher, the lead organizer for WordCamp St. Louis 2017 shared how you can contribute to the WordPress community. It’s not just about code or design, but there are many ways to get involved. Quite frankly, we need your help!
Check out Jen’s presentation below and join us at our next monthly meetup and get involved!
The short version:
WordCamp St. Louis will be Friday, May 14th and Saturday, May 15th at Washington University. Sign-up for more information and we’ll let you know once our site is up.
Slightly longer version:
WordCamp central is working on revamping their process for organizing WordCamps. Part of that new process requires that we have a mentor to help us. Mentors are volunteers and we’re all out of ’em! So we’re waiting for a mentor, to get the OK, to get our site setup, to start doing all the fun things that come with organizing a WordCamp!
This month we talked about what’s new in the latest release of WordPress, version 4.4. Here’s a few notes from the evening’s presentation.
First a little history and reminder. With WordPress releases like 3.x and 4.x – these are generally bigger updates to WordPress that include new features or large changes.
3.4.1 or 4.3.2 are smaller bug and security fixes – these are applied automatically by default. You won’t often find much outward facing in these updates.
Last Few Releases
Here’s a list of the last few releases of WordPress leading up to 4.4 and what they brought to the table.
- Customizer came into its own
- new languages!
- better plugin installations
- “Press This” got an update (bookmarklet that allows you to quickly post content from wherever you’re at on the web.)
- emoji support (really a sneaky update for better Unicode support) for translations
- resetting password made more secure
- menus added to Customizer
- multisite changes
- updated editor – switching between visual and text with less “ugh”
- formatting shortcuts in visual editor
That brings us to our most recent release. One little note, Eric Juden and Joe McGill are two local st. Louisan’s who are code contributors in this release!
- New Default Theme – Twenty Sixteen
- Responsive Images
- supplies the relevant sizes to the browser
- visitors only get the best image size
- Built into core so themes and plugins can take advantage (like Twenty Sixteen)
- Joe McGill!
- oEmbed for WordPress
- like embedding a YouTube or tweet, you can now embed WP posts from other WP sites
- Added new services like Cloudup, Reddit Comments, ReverbNation, Speaker Deck, and VideoPress.
- Taxonomists – terms now have metadata, just like posts and users
- Rest API – you can speak to other websites and services using JSON.
- Create you own endpoints to communicate with WordPress
- Community member Paul Heirendt had a great video to share explaining APIs!
- Other – few multisite fixes, language updates
See you in January!
Thank you to everyone who came out. Our next general meetup is January 20th. I hope to see you there!
Thanks to everyone for coming out to the WordPress West meet up last night. If you weren’t able to make it or want to review what we covered in the presentation I’ve included the slides and some gists of the actual code used if you’d like to test it out yourself.
We went over registering sidebars, the difference between a “sidebar” and a “widgetized area” (hint: not much), displaying sidebars in your theme, and finally creating a custom widget.
Gists after the break.
Continue reading WordPress Meetup West Notes: Dynamic Sidebars and Widgets
Thank you to everyone who made it out to our November General Meetup. We gave a basic introduction to how you can customize WordPress beyond Themes and Plugins using the WordPress Plugin API (Application Programming Interface)
These hooks allow you to include your own custom code within WordPress to do a myriad of things. You can use Actions to inject code, or compare variables and filters to run your own routine within WordPress (like say to pull data from an external source and format it for WordPress to ingest.
This modularity is what makes WordPress so functional for so many diverse user cases. Any plugin is really just a complicated set of functions that leverage the Plugin API to create Actions or Filters.
We gave a little demo, which I won’t repeat here as it was a little inaccurate. Instead I’d like to point you to a few resources that are far more elegant in presenting the basic concepts.
WebDev Studios has a great article on getting started with hooks with a few inline examples.
Pippin Williamson also has a good introduction to using filters, the more complicated of the two hooks (in my humble opinion).
Of course, there’s always the Codex entry on Hooks and the well-organized Code Reference library.
While a little more technical that our past General Meetup topics, we hope you enjoyed the meetup and look forward to seeing you at a future event!
Photo by Thomas Hawk – Licensed under Creative Commons
I’ve had many people asking me when planning for WordCamp STL 2016 was going to start lately. Well, I’m excited to say it officially kicks off right now! The first step in getting a WordCamp up and running is getting the organizing team together. If you are interested in helping us make #WCSTL16 awesome, fill out the form below and we will be in touch. As in the past, we plan on having weekly organizer Google Hangouts and asking that organizers do their best to attend one of the two monthly STL WordPress meetups so we can have some face-to-face discussions.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to me via email or twitter. For more information about the organizing team, you can checkout WordCamp Central’s page on the topic.
You must be a member of the site to fill out an organizer response.
Jason Yingling, Developer at Red8 Interactive hosted our first Meetup in St. Charles. The turnout was great for our first event. Thanks to OPO Startups and the rest of the Red8 crew for making us feel welcome. We’re looking forward to the next meetup out west!
Jason talked about WordPress security using iThemes Security, a popular security plugin. Even if you don’t use iThemes Security (and why not? It’s a really good plugin) there are a lot of tips and tricks that can help make your site more secure. Check out the presentation below.
If you’d like to know more, Jason is hosting the August WordPress St. Louis West on the 24th. He’ll be talking about how to go from a PSD to a WordPress template. RSVP today!
In case you haven’t heard, WordCamp 2015 is officially scheduled to take place Saturday March 14th and Sunday 15th at Washington University.
While we’re having the event in the same space as this year, the organizing team has some exciting new ideas that we’re going to be working hard over the next 16 weeks to bring to the WordCamp.
While we’ll still be posting news on this site, if you want to subscribe to the WordCamp specific mailing list, head over the 2015.stlouis.wordcamp.org, or follow the organizers on Twitter at @WordCampSTL.
See you all next March!