Improving WordPress Performance: Everything You Need to Know

We want our websites to be fast, but we also want them to be easy to manage. Unfortunately, these two goals are frequently in tension. The fastest website is a static website, where pure HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are stored on the server and can be sent directly to users without any processing. When the web was new, that’s how things were done. As websites became more complex, the overhead of managing static sites became a significant burden. In the modern world, we need sites that can be managed by people without the training of a web developer, which is the motivation behind content management systems like WordPress and Joomla!. While these dynamic applications are significantly easier for the average person to manage, their dynamic nature requires the execution of PHP scripts and large numbers of database calls, which can make them much slower than a static site.

Out-of-the-box WordPress is not particularly slow in comparison to other dynamic platforms, but it is lower than a static site. Fortunately, there are plenty of easy-to-implement techniques for improving the speed of a WordPress site. In this article, we’re going to look at the main strategies for speeding up a WordPress site and show you some straightforward ways to implement them.

Caching

Every time a visitor requests a WordPress page, the site must execute several PHP scripts and make numerous database queries to build the page. Each step incurs a time penalty. By default, WordPress will generate a page on-the-fly for every visitor. However, in many cases, that’s not necessary. If the information on the page hasn’t changed recently, there’s no need to regenerate it. Caching is a process of storing previously generated pages in memory or on disk, so that they can be quickly served to the next visitor.

The two leading WordPress caching plugins are WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache.

WP Super Cache will serve static files to 99% of users, resulting in significantly faster page load times for almost everyone on your site. WP Super Cache is fairly straightforward to use, and if you don’t want to spend a lot of time tinkering with options, it is the best choice.

W3 Total Cache bills itself as a WordPress performance optimization framework and is highly configurable with many additional features such as code minification and HTTP compression. Which of these plugins you choose to use is dependent on the particular needs of your site, but this writer prefers W3 Total Cache because of its extensive set of performance enhancing functionality.

Content Distribution Network

Content distribution networks are similar in principle to caching. But, rather than storing static assets on the server they are distributed to a series of edge nodes around the world. Page requests are diverted these edge nodes, reducing round-trip time by ensuring that assets are served from a location near to the user and also reducing the load on the site server.

Many companies offer a CDN service including MaxCDN and CloudFlare. Once you have selected a CDN provider, the easiest way to hook your WordPress site up to the CDN is with the W3 Total Cache plugin, which includes options for most of the popular content distribution networks.

Lazy Loading Of Images

Usually when a webpage loads, all of its assets are loaded at the same time. For image heavy pages, users can be left waiting while every image on the page loads. Lazy loading loads only those images are currently visible in the browser window. Lazy loading doesn’t actually make a page load any more quickly, but it does decrease the perceived load time from the perspective of the user.

Many popular websites use lazy loading – you’ve probably seen it in action when you quickly scroll down a page and see images loading as they enter the browser window. One of the most popular lazy loading WordPress plugins is BJ Lazy Load, which replaces images with a placeholder until they are required. The plugin will also size optimize images, automatically serving scaled-down images for responsive designs and serving high-DPI images on retina displays.

Hosting

However much you tweak your WordPress site for performance, without the right foundations it will never be as quick as it could be. Hosting has an enormous impact on site performance. The performance impact of a badly optimized hosting platform will overshadow all other speed improvement measures. A good web hosting company will implement performance optimizations such as PHP acceleration, an optimized Web server using SSDs for storage, and an external caching mechanism like memcached, all of which can make a huge difference to WordPress performance.

If you’re going to make the most out of your WordPress hosting and provide users with the best possible experience, these simple additions to a WordPress installation will give you the biggest bang for your buck. All else being equal, improving site performance is an effective way of both improving conversion rates and giving your SEO a boost, so it should be at the top of the priority list for any business webmaster.

About Rachel Gillevet – Rachel is the technical writer for WiredTree, a leader in fully managed dedicated and vps hosting. Follow Rachel and WiredTree on Twitter, @wiredtree, Like them on Facebook and check out more of their articles on their web hosting blog,http://www.wiredtree.com/blog.

How to Manage Your WordPress Site from an iPad

I’ll admit, I use my iPad more than my laptop. Equipped with a ZAGG keyboard case and 4G, this little puppy does almost everything I need it to. With the exception of bigger word processing jobs and more complicated image editing, the iPad meets my needs. I did, however, have trouble managing my WordPress sites using Safari on iOS/the iPad. For some reason writing posts was nearly impossible because the WYSIWYG did not work correctly. I had to switch to HTML mode in the editor to get anything done. In the WYSIWYG mode you can’t scroll or add the cursor to the text field.

I struggled to find a good iPad solution for a while, quickly testing the official WordPress app. On first glance, it looks to only work with WordPress.com, not self-hosted installations. It turns out, it works for both. In fact, I’m writing this post from my iPad, although I will need to switch to the laptop for some minimal photo editing stuff.

This post is a review and summary of the official WordPress app for iOS/mobile devices like iPad and iPhone.

The official WordPress app

This app is smooth and easy to use, but it is extremely limited. It is clearly made for writing and editing text content and not much more. You don’t have access to most administrative tools.

  • You can insert images from your camera role or take an image. This would be really handy for flash bloggers that are writing on the fly.
  • There is a very interesting WYSIWYG editor that integrates the HTML and “pretty” text. I actually quite like it.
  • Tags include bold, italic, link, quote, strikethrough, unordered lists, ordered lists, code and more.
  • You can choose tags and categories from pre-existing ones.
  • You can add a featured image but can’t manipulate them.
  • Saving is a little tricky. You only see a publish link, but tapping “Cancel” and choosing “Save Draft” works. This is actually smart, mimicking the iOS email interface.
  • There doesn’t appear to be any other features such as word count. And needless to say, any plugins you utilize that affect the post writing screen in the full WordPress are not available in the mobile app.
  • You can also edit pages, access stats (if you have Jetpack installed) and admin settings which are very limited.
  • There is a nicely integrated comment moderating interface. This is another time saver for people running busy blogs with a busy life.
  • The folks at WordPress did a great job utilizing the rotating feature of the iPad. Tilting the iPad switches the interface based on what you’re probably doing with a vertical vs. horizontal orientation.
  • The last major feature is for WordPress.com users. If you have an account (umm, you do, right?) with WordPress.com, you can read blogs you follow within this app. It’s easy and fast.

Overall, this is a really simple, efficient app. I will need to go into the full WordPress interface in order to clean this post up, add images and do some other things I do to each post I write. But it let me more comfortably put this content together.

Of course, the whole thing will rely on your theme to drive styling. But for a simple blog post, it works very well. It’s important to note that this app does not give you access to publishing features like scheduling. So you can just save and publish.

wordpress ipad login
The simple WordPress iPad app login interface.
wordpress ipad writing interface
The WordPress iPad app writing interface. Simple and clean.
wordpress ipad admin dashboard
The WordPress iPad app “dashboard”.

I was unable to find any solid third party solutions for managing one’s WordPress site. But maybe I missed something. What do you use? Or, if you use the official app, what do you think of it? Perhaps there is room for a premium/paid third-party app.

A Guide to WordPress as a Web Application Platform

Wait, what?  WordPress as a SaaS (Software as a service) platform?  “But WordPress is just for blogging” they say.  It turns out, WordPress can do so much more.  Plus, Matt Mullenweg recently announced the focus of WordPress 3.7 will be modifications that make WordPress even better as a software platform.

WordPress already comes with many of the key functions needed for a SaaS web application.  It has a robust user management system, a secure administrative back end, and a scalable framework that can grow with your service.

The new WordPress will include some features that make it even better for SaaS.  This includes improved security and a full Application Programming Interface (API).  The latter will allow web apps to directly manipulate WordPress.  This will open up a whole world of WordPress-based SaaS.  I’m very excited to see what comes of this.

From what we know about the upcoming WordPress 3.7 and the existing features of WordPress 3.6, we can examine the opportunities for web apps built on WordPress.  The following is a guide and resource list for building web apps using WordPress as a platform.

Some light reading

  • A three part series from the folks that built HelloBar on a WordPress platform.  Start with Part 1.  The second part is particularly helpful for building a fast and scalable application.
  • The main Tut on using WordPress as a web application framework.

And a little watching

Some examples of WordPress as SaaS

  • A prime example as I mentioned above is HelloBar.  This is a great one to look at since you can read a companion series on how they built it with WordPress.
  • HappyTables is a service for restaurants.  They make websites at a free and paid membership tier.  It’s likely they are using the multi-site feature of WordPress (formerly WPMU) but I’m not sure.
  • ClickBank Powered is another example of websites as a service (WaaS).  Did I just make up a new phrase? #claimedit
  • It turns out, Automattic has seen this trend coming.  They’ve created some applications for folks who use WordPress.com.  They include a Portfolio and Restaurant website service.

happy tables

Discussion

So what exactly is the difference between WordPress as a blog, WordPress as a software platform, and just plain software?

WordPress as a blog is what we all picture when we think of WordPress.  Well, maybe not all of us.  But WordPress got it’s start as an easy and free tool for people to disseminate information.

WordPress as a software platform can best be described as a WordPress is the foundation.  The service being provided is built as added functionality.  As the above examples and readings describe, this usually combines existing plugins, custom themes and some custom coding.  The high end services include all three of these in order to create a seamless experience.  In the words of Digital Telepathy (the HelloBar people), in part due to security and in part due to user experience “we didn’t want users to even realize it was WordPress they were using, nor did we want to expose any administration interfaces that would take them out of the application’s simple and streamlined experience”.

Just plain software is almost a thing of the past.  With the exception of big bulky and robust software like Microsoft Office, most software applications are making the transition into the cloud.  Software CD sales are way way down and software as a service (cloud based SaaS) is way way up.  Generally, software has been installed on a local machine.  As I write this, it sound really antiquated, but I realized it was just 5 years ago this was the absolute gold standard and the norm.

The summary: get ready WordPress World.  You are about to see a whole slew of new applications built on the WordPress framework.  I’m excited to see what creativity the developer community brings forth.

Sending Encrypted Email From WordPress

One of the primary functions of many business sites is gathering leads and inquiries using forms. There are many plugins available that make this possible, including the popular Contact Form 7, most themes provide contact forms of some sort, and WordPress has built-in email capability.

However, as anyone who keeps abreast of tech news knows, email is not a secure method of communication. In fact, email is insecure by design: it was never intended to be a secure and attempts to make it secure are largely bolted-on remedies that don’t work very well. Services like Gmail provide moderate levels of security by encrypting the connection between client and server, but, because most email servers around the world are incapable of handling encrypted email, everything sent outside of GMail is transmitted unencrypted, and, of course, emails are not encrypted when they are on Google’s servers.

For many businesses, secure communication is essential, both because of security and privacy concerns and for regulatory compliance. For such companies, the standard WordPress email system is not adequate, but fortunately there is a WordPress plugin that allows companies to integrate content forms that send emails that have been encrypted using OpenPGP.

Understanding OpenPGP

OpenPGP is a set of standards for public-key cryptography. Public-key cryptography is a method of encryption which relies on a key-pair which consists of a public and a private key. Information is encrypted using the public key, which, as the name suggests, is distributed publicly. That data can only be decrypted using the private key, which is kept secret. In this way, data can be sent securely from a sender to its recipients.

Encrypting Form Mail On WordPress

The snappily-named wp2pgpmail plugin integrates openPGP encryption with WordPress forms, allowing users to very easily send encrypted enquiries via email to the site’s owners. For the person filling in the form, the process is simply a matter of entering information into the form and hitting “encrypt”. The plugin uses a client-side JavaScript implementation of OpenPGP so information is encrypted on the user’s computer and no information is transmitted before encryption.

screenshot-wp2pgpmail-2-1

Site owners will need to already have a key pair, the public part of which is entered into the plugin’s configuration dialogue. They will also need an email client that is OpenPGP capable so that they can decrypt mail received from the site. There are many email clients that are natively able to deal with encryption or that have plugins that enable OpenPGP functionality, including Mail on OS X with GPGTools and Gpg4win on Windows.

About Graeme Caldwell
Graeme works as an inbound marketer forNexcess, a leading provider of Magento and WordPress hosting. Follow Nexcess on Twitter at @nexcess, Like them on Facebook and check out their tech/hosting blog, http://blog.nexcess.net/.

WordPress 3.7 Beta Released: Here’s What’s New

As ever, the busy beavers in the WordPress development community have been hard at work fixing bugs and adding features to the world’s most popular content management system. It looks like 3.7 is going to be something of a subdued release, with nothing to match the more showy features that saw the light of day in the 3.6 release, like a new default theme and changes to the post locking and autosave features that were welcomed by those who run multi-author blogs.

That’s not to say that there’s nothing to look forward to this time around, so were going to highlight some of the more significant new features. It’s always worth repeating that beta releases are not to be used on production sites unless you want to spend several hours tearing your hair out when something breaks. But, if you want to test the beta to see what’s coming down the pike check out this article we wrote a few months ago for details.

Automatic Updates

This one’s being greeted with both groans and cheers, depending on the perspective of the commenter. On the one hand, a major cause for the constant stream of stories revolving around hacked WordPress sites is site owners neglecting to update to recent versions. If WordPress can slip in security and minor feature updates without webmasters having to do anything, those damaging stories will become less frequent (once everyone has updated to 3.7, anyway).

On the other hand, developers and experienced site owners are loathe to give up control of their updates. Most of them will have experienced at least one sleepless night caused by WordPress updates that broke part of their site or plugin compatibility. Some just object in principle to the idea of a third party silently installing software on their servers.

It appears that there will be an option to disable the updates, which is probably wise: expert users will turn it off if they choose; novice users will probably never even know it’s there.

Password Meter

This is a small change, but it’s of a piece with automatic updates. Both are intended to make WordPress more secure and stem the tide of “OMFG my WordPress has been hacked” stories. Familiar to almost everyone from the many sites that implement similar functionality, the password strength meter will prominently display a weak password warning when users try to use their dog’s name or “pa55word” to secure their site.

Better Search Results

At the moment, search on WordPress is not very good — results are sorted by date, which is not useful for most people. In the coming release the search system will be updated so that results are ordered by relevance, which is much more sensible.

As I said, these are changes that aren’t likely to blow anyone’s socks off, but the automatic updating in particular is significant. Many of the major feature releases appear to have been reserved for the 3.8 release, which is being led by Matt Mullenweg, the creator of WordPress, and promises to include more radical changes.

The 3.7 beta is available now, with the final release expected some time this month. We should see 3.8 arrive some time before the New Year.

About Graeme Caldwell

Graeme works as an inbound marketer for Nexcess, a leading provider of Magento and WordPress hosting. Follow Nexcess on Twitter at @nexcess, Like them on Facebook and check out their tech/hosting blog http://blog.nexcess.net

Monetizing WordPress: Going Beyond Ads

Lots of people make money with WordPress.  In fact, a large number of people make their primary income using WordPress as a framework.  Some use WordPress to offer information as a service, while others use the WordPress framework itself to offer a software service (SaaS).  Those folks deserve their own dedicated article, but for today we are focusing on the weekend WordPress warrior.  The people that have day jobs and other primary incomes, supplementing it with their WordPress ventures.

This article is all about how they do it.

Besides ads, there are other ways to monetize your WordPress site.  The following are different strategies, plugins or themes that will help you squeeze a few (or a lot!) dollars from your site.  Keep in mind, the best websites are not overly monetized.  Choose a few strategies that fit with your mission and vision.  Make sure they also fit with the “feel” of  your website and target the right kind of visitors.

1. Affiliate Sales

affiliate

This is perhaps the close runner up to advertisements.  Maybe it’s even #1.  Ads rely on volume and quality of visitors while affiliate income can grow with smaller numbers.  You still need the right kind of visitors though.  For example, if your site focuses on WordPress themes, people who visit probably aren’t looking to buy premium plugins (and therefore sales generated from your website will be infrequent).

The best affiliate accounts have tiered plans that pay you a small percentage when other people become affiliates.  But these plans are becoming less common.  Another good plan to look for has recurring payments.  Elegant Themes is an example of a program that pays affiliates every time someone you sent them renews their membership.

2. Premium Content

pay wall

If you are a content producer like a blogger, offering extra special content for a select group of visitors can generate some income.  In order to do this, you should have a pay wall installed.  This works best when you already have a large group of dedicated visitors.  It also requires a clear line between what constitutes free content and premium content.  This isn’t absolutely required but helps define your model.  An example could be providing simple tutorials for free, while reserving the complex or detailed tutorials for premium users.

3. Develop a product

wp product

If you’ve got a WordPress related website going, you can create a WordPress related product to sell.  This can be tricky if you’re not ready for success.  We’ve thought about developing a theme here at Pingable but decided not to because we couldn’t provide the level of support customers might need.  Developing a free and premium version of a product is another strategy that pulls in users.  This too requires a level of continues availability that you have to be prepared for.

A product can be something tangible or more virtual.  A good “starter product” might be an ebook or comprehensive guide to something.  This doesn’t require the follow up support of a theme or plugin, but may still generate income if the product is good enough.

BONUS TIP: I am a fan of the bait and switch model.  This isn’t as bad as it sounds.  I believe you should offer a quality product/service/content first, then monetize.  Ever seen a blog with five posts and twenty advertisements?  Looks pathetic, right?  The highest quality sites (read: SmashingMagazing.com) have fewer ads but charge more for them.  They started with a simple design and really high quality content.  The ads came later.

4. Donations

donate

You wouldn’t think so, but donations can go a long way.  I recently stumbled upon this website, that ONLY uses donations to support their work.  It makes sense that people who use your website frequently and find it valuable will throw you a few dollars as a thank you.  If you are truly providing something useful, and have lots of visitors, the money can really add up.  This plugin will do the trick.

How have you monetized your WordPress site?  I’d like to hear about it.

 

Useful Security Modifications for WordPress

WordPress is pretty secure, especially when compared to our content management systems.  We’ve put together this handy infographic on WordPress security issues.  This post is an update with some tweaks and plugins that can help tighten security on your WordPress site, and (hopefully) prevent hacking.

1. Keep WordPress Updated!

This is not a hack or a plugin, just common sense.  The WordPress team is constantly working on updates that address security vulnerabilities first.  Everything else comes second.  So updating WordPress with every stable release is critical.

2. Deny Access to wp-content directories

Most of the critical files are kept in these directories, and mean people can execute harmful code by getting into these directories.  Lock them down by adding an .htaccess file within the wp-content directory.  In the file, include:

Order deny,allow
Deny from all
<Files ~ ".(xml|css|jpe?g|png|gif|js)$">
Allow from all
</Files>

3. Remove the WordPress version from your meta description

This will make it slightly harder for people to identify in which ways your site may be vulnerable based on the version of WordPress you are using.  Of course, since you followed tip #1, you have the latest version.

4. Change your database prefix

The default prefix is wp_ but you can choose anything during install.  This is a trickier process after install.  Change your database prefix to something only you know.  If you’ve already installed WordPress, and you most likely already have, check out this comprehensive tutorial on changing the wp_ database prefix over at WPBeginner.

5. Prevent all directory browsing

The WordPress file structure is so well known, it can be predicted and browsed, and the information found there can demonstrate certain vulnerabilities.  Add this to your .htaccess file:

# directory browsing
Options All -Indexes

6. Deny access to the wp-admin directory

You need access to this directory, but nobody else does.  Limit who can access this directory based on their IP.  If you have a dynamic IP, this is not a permanent fix.  Remember to always backup your .htaccess file before making any changes!

order deny,allow
allow from [enter your ip]
deny from all

7. Password protect the wp-admin directory

As an alternative, or complimentary step, you can password protect this directory through your hosting control panel.  If using cPanel, under the “security” category, choose “password protect directories” and follow the instructions from there.

8. Change your admin username

The default is admin.  For obvious reasons, it is more secure to set a new and secure username and password.  Choose something nobody would guess (not like mydomainadmin).  Along the same lines, choose a super-secure password, something randomly generated.

9. Prevent brute force attacks

Install the Login Security Solution WordPress plugin, compatable above version 3.3.  This plugin has a number of features that make it more difficult (but not impossible) to hack WordPress.  Most notably, the plugin will slow down the login response time if it appears someone is maliciously trying to log in.  It also adds a great deal of features related to password quality, including an option to require a new password every xx days.  Nice.

10. Move the wp-admin directory altogether

The easiest way to do this is with the Better WP Security plugin.  This plugin comes with all sorts of other security related features but it allows you to quickly change the login URL.  Why change it?  Two main reasons.  First, people can navigate to yourdomain.com/wp-login and get instant verification that you’re using WordPress.  And, because of #8, they may even have your username.  If you didn’t set up a strong password, you’ve essentially invited someone to break in.  The plugin also changes the wp-admin and other dashboard links so something with basic WordPress knowledge can’t stroll right in.

What have you done to protect your site?  Let us know in the comments or send us a message through our Facebook page.

Super Helpful WordPress Tutorials

One of my favorite perks of being part of the WordPress family is the constantly fresh content.  Because there are so many creative folks working as part of this community, there is a constant feed of really useful tutorials.  I have gathered some of my favorite, recent WordPress tutorials to help the intermediate to advanced WordPress admin.  They range from simple to complex but all are lead to some sort of time or energy savings.

Note: I haven’t tried all of these tutorials so, as always, backup your WordPress site before trying any significant changes.

How to incorporate QR codes into your WordPress site

Quick Reference or QR codes are frequently used in print media to allow people to visit a particular URL using their phone’s camera.  So why would you need them on a website?  A QR code allows a user to take website content on the go without having to re-navigate to the content.  It’s like a “to-go” box.  Check out the tutorial here.

How to modify the dashboard for your clients

Many of us use WordPress for our own personal use.  And many of us use it for our clients.  I find it the best platform for use with my clients because I can easily train them to update their own website.  Over the years, the WordPress admin has gotten a bit more complicated though, and the simplicity is still too much for some low-tech clients.  This tutorial describes how you can simplify the dashboard even further.  This strategy also prevents clients from messing with things they have no business messing with.  Read it here.

The complete guide to custom post types

Custom Post types are all the rage with premium theme designers.  They make a powerful WordPress site into a “superpower” but allowing custom designs based on the type of content or post type being accessed.  This guide from the ever-reputable Smashing Magazine claims to be the complete guide (until the next version of WordPress anyway).  Get it here.

How to allow your visitors to generate content for you

User-generated content is a dangerous game.  A WordPress admin must walk a fine line in order to solicit quality, original content.  Also, specific measures must be taken in order to ensure the security of your site.  Allowing users to create posts without moderation or proper security opens your WordPress site wide open to hackers.  So tread lightly!  Since WPMU was incorporated into the core WordPress, it allows more options to facilitate a user-fed blog.  This tutorial explains all the different options including posting without registration (not recommended for the reasons mentioned above!)

Using A/B split testing in WordPress

Marketing is critical for the success of any blog.  Especially for those relying on user-numbers to be successful.  A/B split testing, simply put, is the testing of multiple strategies to determine the most effective.  Many advertisers try two different ads and measure which is more successful.  They then test a third, fourth, etc. types of ad against the most successful of the previous test.  This method constantly ratchets up the effectiveness of an ad.  If the original ad out performs the new ad, the old one is used instead of the new one.  Quite simple really.

This tutorial at WordPress Beginner (don’t let their name fool you!) integrates Google Analytics into the equation which provides more data than even more enterprise web teams need.  This tutorial specifically focuses on changing website layout, content or other organization in order to capture more visitors or conversions.  This is a great strategy for even basic users who wish to market their website.

Image courtesy of WPBeginner.
Image courtesy of WPBeginner.

If you have a favorite WordPress tutorial, I’d love to check it out.  Please share it in a comment or send me a message via our Facebook page.  If your tutorial rocks, I’ll consider posting it on Pingable!

Using WordPress to Fundraise

WordPress is a powerful community building tool, in addition to a blogging and public relations tool.  But did you know nonprofits/not-for-profits and non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) use WordPress to cultivate millions in donations every year?  In fact, the amount of money raised by nonprofits in the U.S. alone is staggering.  Just online, nonprofits raised around $22 Billion in 2010.  That number is 3 years old and still huge.

Although there are many many ways to raise money online, WordPress makes it super easy.  Especially when a nonprofit is using WordPress to power their website, using these themes.  Integrating with a payment gateway is simple, secure and professional.  Some of the third party fundraising sites work well too, but since we are all about WordPress at Pingable, this post focuses on the different ways to integrate fundraising with WordPress.

1. Cash in on your existing network

If you already have a large network of supporters and website visitors, this is the fastest way to cash in.  But be warned, visitors do not always equal stakeholders.  You can’t buy useless traffic using ads if the visitors don’t convert to active participants in your cause.  However, nonprofits with an engaged following that care about the mission and relate to the personal stories you tell on the website can turn into a source of consistent financial support.  Consider this tutorial that covers creating a donate form on your website.  The aforementioned tutorial covers adding a pretty complex and native donate form using a premium forms plugin and Paypal integration.  For the more novice user, you can use a simple Paypal donate widget.

2. Go pro with a crowdsourcing plugin

Crowdsourcing is all the rage.  From Kickstarter to IndieGoGo, there are a million project-funding sites.  What they promise is the ability to raise funds quickly.  What they don’t say is that 90% of funds come from friends and family unless your project goes viral.  Crowdsourcing is primarily for non-business or individual projects.  However nonprofits can get in the game too.  Using the same platforms, nonprofits can raise funds and generate income tax deductions for their donors.

Using a premium plugin like IgnitionDeck is a great way to stand above the fray and raise money for your nonprofit.  A premium WordPress plugin, IgnitionDeck is a very smart crowdfunding tool.  In addition to accepting donations easily, you can set a smart target which automatically moves to the next tier when a goal has been reached.  For example, a nonprofit that uses it’s WordPress website to fund a community center might set a goal for a pool table, a goal for the renovations and a goal for purchasing the property.  When the community has contributed enough for the pool table, the renovations become the next goal.  Cool huh?  Never make success the barrier to more success!

Bonus: there are some premium themes available on ThemeForest (our fave) that seamlessly integrate IgnitionDeck.  Our personal favorite: FundingPress:

fundingpress

3. Get the community involved

Crowdfunding, by definition, is micro-donations or contributions that reach toward a larger goal.  Rather than seeking a large donor or investor, crowdfunded projects get lots of little support.  So in a way, this method is also crowdfunding like all of the above, however this one really leverages relationships and community.  Using a plugin called Personal Fundraiser, your nonprofit can allow stakeholders to create their own fundraising pages.  This way, they are encouraged through many different calls-to-action to get their own network involved.

By leveraging other people’s networks, you have the potential to not only raise more funds, but reach more people which can turn into other opportunities.  Never turn down a chance to discuss your mission with someone, you never know who they are.

WordPress as a Media Powerhouse

WordPress is a powerful blogging platform, this we know.  And blogging started as a means to distribute information quickly and easily.  Some might argue blogging changed the internet, and turned it into something useful to the non-nerd.  As both WordPress and the internet have evolved, they have become so much more than tools to disseminate text.  WordPress has evolved along with the web as a means of managing and distributing media.  If done right, WordPress can be as powerful as any custom-made or commercial solution for media management.  The following are tools and methods for building a media powerhouse on top of the WordPress framework.

1. Use the Core

WordPress has come with a pretty powerful media management tool built in since version 2.5 (and has evolved with each subsequent version, significantly so in version 3.0).  The media library lets you upload media, manage some of the descriptors and parameters, and attach it to content.  This is particularly useful for themes built around media display.

wordpress media library

2. Enhance the Core with a Plugin

The freely available Media Library Assistant Plugin artfully expands the functions of the core media library.  It adds some impressive features such as bulk editing, a powerful gallery, taxonomy support and other reporting.  This might be my next go-to plugin when building a media-driven WordPress site.  Some of these features could certainly be considered for a future version of the core, but in order to keep things slim, why not leave it to the plugin developers to keep it lively?

media library assistant

 3. Enhance with a Theme

WordPress themes have come so far over the years.  Head over to your favorite premium theme provider, we like Themeforest.  And pick out a premium quality theme that is built to manage and display media.  Some themes are built for static media like images, others for video and even audio.  Some select themes are good for displaying all types of media but choose them carefully to ensure they support your preferred media types.  Also be sure users with all different types of technology can enjoy your site.  (ie: tablets running safari vs. tablets running Chrome vs. laptops running Firefox)

wordpress media theme

4.  Integrate with media services

Most internet users manage, browse and share media from social networking sites like Facebook, and media sharing sites like Flickr.  WordPress has the capability to fully integrate with these services using third party plugins.  This is a two way street, if your site is focused on distributing media, you can use a plugin to share your media with sites like Flickr.  If your site relies on media from other sources, make sure it is easy to pull it in from outside.  The Media Manager Plus plugin lets you do just that, pull media in easily from sites like Flicker, 500px and Instagram.

media manager

5. Embed Media like a Pro

WordPress is very good at inserting static media.  Embedding videos and audio or streaming media can take more effort and not work consistently.  This pro plugin, called Cincopa, is built to make that process easier.  The basic version is free but limited, specifically around storage capacity and file size.  Cincopa lets you upload, edit (resize), encode, distribute, track and even skin video files via WordPress.  The company claims their easy to use wizard is intuitive and makes the process of managing video quick and easy.  They include support for the major media players which is nice to know.  They also let you display media in galleries easily, which WordPress does not do well (for video files) and does very well (for image files).  Cincopa comes prepackaged with 40 skins which should work for most, but not all.

cincopa

Did I miss some key media management feature?  Please share it in the comments below.  We read every one!