Handy WordPress Theme Hacks

WordPress themes are coming with more and more handy features, some you don’t even want.  As things evolve, clever and competitive designers are putting more of the handy features into themes and there becomes less of a need to hack one’s theme to expand functionality.

That being said, there are many theme hacks that are useful for almost all sites.  This is a compilation of handy hacks and tricks meant to streamline your site and add those tiny bits of better functionality.  These are all aimed at the novice to intermediate WordPress admin.  Only basic knowledge of coding and formatting is necessary for these.

But first, an important clarification: the loop.  hacks or plugin code often say something to the effect of “this tag must be within the loop”.  Anything placed in “the loop” will be repeated for each post displayed.  This is the loop:

<?php if(have_posts()) : ?>
<?php while(have_posts()) : the_post(); ?>
// the code inside the loop
<?php endwhile; ?>
<?php else : ?>
<?php endif; ?>

Display multiple loops

This can be helpful for customizing the presentation of the first post, or first several posts.  In order to do this, simply create multiple loops and limit which posts are shown in each.  To show just the latest post:

<?php query_posts('showposts=1'); ?>
<?php if (have_posts()) : while (have_posts()) : the_post(); ?>
<h3><?php the_title(); ?></h3>
<div>
<?php the_content('Read more »'); ?>
</div>
Posted on <?php the_time('F jS, Y') ?> in <?php the_category(', '); ?>
<?php endwhile; endif; ?>

The red code shows the key modification to the loop, limiting to just the latest post.

In order to display more posts, say the next 8, you would add a second loop:

<?php query_posts('showposts=9&offset=1'); ?>
<?php if (have_posts()) : while (have_posts()) : the_post(); ?>
<h2><?php the_title(); ?></h2>
Posted on <?php the_time('F jS, Y') ?> in <?php the_category(', '); ?>
<?php endwhile; endif; ?>

The offset parameter causes the theme to skip the first post and start with posts 2-9.  This would result in 9 posts displaying on the front page.  You would use the first loop to format the first post differently, or whatever your intention was.

Conditional Tags

Are my second favorite hack.  This lets you do virtually anything with a theme if the correct parameters are met.  This is handy in a few ways that I will describe.

The simplest version is the is_home conditional tag.  The following code will display markup if the page is the home page.  Note: this is different than is_front_page.  “Home” is the main blog page, and will only work if “latest posts” is the chosen front page display in the reading settings.  is_front_page includes both the blog page or a chosen static front page.  Make sense?

if ( is_home() ) {
   echo 'Will display this text only only the main blog page';
}

Some variations include:

is_single – for single posts and pages

is_sticky – needs no explanation

is_page – only for page content types

is_page( 5 ) – will display on page id 5 only

is_author( ‘4’ ) – will display if the author is id 4

There are many more applications, see them all in the official WordPress codex.

Custom Fields

My favorite handy WordPress theme hack, custom fields let you streamline entering custom data into posts, and customize how it is displayed via the theme.  The custom field parameters are set below the post content, but you can move them anywhere you’d like in the composition screen.

Start by creating a custom field name/key, and adding a value.  Here’s an example: I want the post title to link outside of my site.  This is the case for showcase or gallery sites that really only aggregate listings but don’t duplicate content with individual posts.  I would create a custom field called “url” and a value for each post would be the URL I want the title to link to.

Next, integrate your theme.  Change this:

<a href="<?php the_permalink(); ?>">
<?php the_title(); ?>
</a>

to this:

<a href="<?php echo get_post_meta($post->ID, 'url', true); ?>">
<?php the_title(); ?>
</a>

This will change the post title to your custom field “url”.  Pretty nifty huh?

Use Body Class to display custom CSS

Designers often use filters to style a particular page.  For example, using a conditional statement to add a custom CSS class to an element like a menu, widget, etc.  Instead, and perhaps the better way to add custom styling to a specific element is to use a body class.  WordPress loads a particular CSS class depending on the page type, but this is optional.  If not specified, the standard body class will be loaded.  Using this code will specific the body class:

<body <?php body_class($class); ?>>

And here are some common body classes, courtesy of WPBeginner:

.rtl {}
.home {}
.blog {}
.archive {}
.date {}
.search {}
.paged {}
.attachment {}
.error404 {}
.single postid-(id) {}
.attachmentid-(id) {}
.attachment-(mime-type) {}
.author {}
.author-(user_nicename) {}
.category {}
.category-(slug) {}
.tag {}
.tag-(slug) {}
.page-parent {}
.page-child parent-pageid-(id) {}
.page-template page-template-(template file name) {}
.search-results {}
.search-no-results {}
.logged-in {}
.paged-(page number) {}
.single-paged-(page number) {}
.page-paged-(page number) {}
.category-paged-(page number) {}
.tag-paged-(page number) {}
.date-paged-(page number) {}
.author-paged-(page number) {}
.search-paged-(page number) {}

Were these handy tricks helpful?  Is there one I should have included?  Please share it in the comments below.

Best Places to get WordPress Support

WordPress is known for simplicity and ease of use.  Even people that don’t understand a lick of code can get WordPress up and running in about 5 minutes.  With the advent of 1-click installation, this became even easier.  Another great feature of WordPress is the foundation that allows you to build virtually any type of website on top of it.

Originally a pure blogging platform, WordPress has grown into a structure upon which one can build an online store, social network, magazine, business, even portfolio websites.  In building such advanced functionality, there comes a time when everyone needs a little help.

This help can come in form of community support, official support, paid support, or just a casual learning tool such as a tutorial.  In this post I outline some of the most common and reliable places to find WordPress support.

Official WordPress Support

The official WordPress support resource has to be the first one listed here, obviously.  From here you can access a vibrant support community in the forum, the official documentation (codex) and some handy WordPress tutorials.

Visit the WordPress forum.

The WordPress forum isn’t the most vibrant forum I’ve ever seen, but it is steadily and consistently accessed by some very smart WordPress admins that can answer questions quickly.

wordpress forum

Visit the WordPress Tutorials Section

These tutorials are basic, but helpful for the newbie that hasn’t spent a ton of time with WordPress yet.

wordpress tutorials

Unofficial Support

There are lots of unofficial support sites.  Some are dedicated WordPress support blogs,  but many are articles written by WordPress admins.  For me, this has come about when I’ve needed to learn something new about WordPress.  Often it seems sharing this new knowledge might be helpful to someone else so I write it up.

Some of the websites dedicated to providing WordPress support can be found here.  I decided not to share individual bloggers’ attempts at support because I can’t guarantee their consistency or accuracy as confidently as I can for these dedicated resources.

TutsPlus

TutsPlus is part of the NetTuts (short for tutorials) empire.  They have quite a bit of free stuff, plus some paid content that is well worth the few bucks to access.

tutsplus wordpress support

WP101

I’ve not personally used WP101 but it presents itself as a premium WordPress support resource.  It is a video-based learning resource that you can access with a monthly, annual or lifetime membership fee.

wp101 support

Crowd Support

For these purposes, I considered crowd support to be any organized service that allows people to support each other.  Whether paid, or free, a service that connects people for the sole purpose of getting WordPress help.

WPQuestions

My personal favorite.  I’ve answered many tough questions on this site.  Ask a question and offer a small monetary reward for the person that answers it.  Some people have made thousands on this site.

wpquestions wordpress support

Guru.com

Hire a pro for a little or lot of money depending on the scope of your needs.  I got my start with WordPress on this website 10 years ago.

guru wordpress support

oDesk.com

Another pro-for-hire site.  I’ve spent a lot of time on this site and found some very inexpensive and fast help with WordPress.  Mainly custom plugins and themes.

odesk wordpress support

 

Individual providers

These are a couple individual WordPress support sites who’s skill level I cannot verify but seem pretty reputable.

MyWPExpert

In addition to custom themes and such, this WP expert offers one-on-one support and training.  Not something that is widely available.

mywpexpert wordpress support

WP boys 24/7 support

This is very cool.  Pay for 24 hour WordPress support.  Scenario: your client calls at 11pm, their site is down and you can’t figure out why.  Call the WP boys!

wp-boys wordpress support

If I missed a great resource for getting support with WordPress, please leave it as a comment.  I love to hear your suggestions that make Pingable a truly rich WordPress resource.

20 WordPress Theme Design Trends for 2013

If you’ve been watching WordPress for years like I have, you will have noticed various design trends that come and go.  WordPress is old enough now that it has gone through a number of these cycles.  From minimalism to complexity, from sidebars to single column, here is an outline of the latest WordPress theme design trends for your perusal.

Minimalism

This style is coming back, strong.  Designers are figuring out how to do more with less and make things stylish without gimmicks.  This is very appreciated.

minimal design

Single Page

Single page designs were once popular because, well, the internet was boring and there was no reason for multiple pages.  Then we went through a phase when every site has millions of pages.  Now we are backing off to a more reasonable level.  A site that can put most content on a single scrollable page is a user-friendly site because page load speed is minimized.

Masonry Portfolio

Masonry is a jQuery library that has allowed designers to compile various block sizes automatically and dynamically.  This allows for some impressive portfolio and gallery layouts.  The most famous example is the new (WORST OPERATING SYSTEM EVER) Windows 8 desktop.

masonry design trend

Responsive Design

Responsive is the big kahuna.  A WordPress admin no longer has a need for a separate mobile theme.  Rather, new themes in 2013 have the ability to scale up and down seamlessly.

Retina Ready

Retina is the name of Apple’s latest screen resolution.  An ultra-sharp resolution is like a close up camera.  It makes pretty things beautiful and mediocre things ugly.  The retina displays has so many pixels crammed into each inch, the human eye can no longer distinguish between pixels.

retina design element

Image Sliders

Image sliders are back baby.  With the advent of new javascript libraries to handle transitions and effects, image sliders are flexing their muscles.  Big, bold images flying across the screen is a popular design element for 2013.

Shortcodes

Shortcodes are not new, but their widespread use in WordPress themes is relatively new in 2013.  Shortcodes make for good design continuity when they are developed by the theme designer.  When executed well, they keep the site fluid across pages, buttons, columns, etc.

shortcodes design

Unlimited Colors

Gone are the days of “skins” that pre-determine color schemes for your design.  New WordPress themes are including a color selection feature that chooses the primary and secondary colors that permeate the entire theme.  Good for most people, bad for the color blind.

Google Fonts

As mentioned below, people are focusing on typography more than ever.  The ability to integrate Google’s web-friendly font library has opened up a whole new world for designers.

google fonts in wordpress themes

Single Column

A good single column theme is a nice piece of art.  To incorporate usability into a theme of this layout is tricky.  But when done well, it makes for a  very cool design.

Custom Post Types

WordPress has offered custom post types since version 3.0.  But designers have just begun to really take this feature for a ride.  Post types let you determine how a particular theme displays content based on the type chosen by the author.  This lends itself to nice mixed-purpose blogs that may highlight a link, then a video, then an image, then some text.

custom post types

Integrated Plugins

New themes are starting to integrate premium plugins through partnerships with developers or custom plugins.  Sometimes these plugins are unavailable as a standalone purchase.  Sometimes they are readily available but are thrown in as a perk for the theme purchaser.

High Contrast

WordPress themes this year have definitely taken on more high contract color schemes.  Bright yellow on black is an example of a color combination we’re seeing more of.

high contrast web design

Infinite Scrolling

This is a technique made popular by Facebook and Pinterest.  Keep users on the page by not requiring a click to see more content.  Most designers utilize AJAX for this feature.

Block Designs

The blocky feel has definitely made a comeback.  This design trend uses blocks, squares, and sharp corners to define elements like menu items.  There was a time when this was a sign of an old, outdated design.  But now it’s progressive.  Huh.

blocky designs

Left Sidebar

For some reason the left sidebar has come back with a vengance.  It could be the natural inclination to look to the left for navigation. (as opposed to the top or right)

Big Typography

I’m not sure why, but I like the focus on typography in new WordPress themes.  Lately, the typography has gotten larger and more pronounced.  The text used to be what went in between design elements.  Now the text IS a design element.

typography wordpress

Image Reliant

There was a period of time when WordPress themes moved away from images incorporated into the design.  This was often because of the connection between page load speed and search engine rankings.  However with faster hardware and ubiquitous high speed internet, this has become less of an issue.  So designers are incorporating more image dependence into their themes.

Filtering Media

The filterable portfolio is a design element we started to see widely used in late 2012 and early 2013.  This is really a user interface feature as much as a design element.

filterable portfolio

Grid Based

Grid based design is not new but it’s deployment in most new, premium themes is.  Grid based designs lay out the content is easy to find, intuitive locations so users experience an easy to interpret design.

20 Time Saving WordPress Plugins

What’s most important to the WordPress admin?  Security, simplicity, quality.  These all make the list.  But time is perhaps the only true asset, something you can’t get back.  I have scoured the web looking for WordPress plugins that will save time.  And time is money folks.

This is not an all-inclusive list, so if you’ve come across a WordPress plugin that has saved you time, please add a comment below, or reach out to me on Google Plus.

Pretty Links

pretty link wp admin

An indispensable tool for the WordPress admin.  The easiest and fastest link cloaking plugin I have used thus far.  The free version is very functional, allowing for different types of redirects (301, 302, etc.) as well as basic cloaking.  Stop those affiliate commissions from being stolen and cloak those links!  You can also bulk-add cloaked links with the pro version and generate some handy reports.

ManageWP Worker

manage multiple wordpress sites

Manage all of your WordPress sites from one dashboard! Forget about logging into each site individually, this plugin centralized administrative control.  Very handy for those of us that run more than one site.  It is totally secure (according to the developer) and allows for one-click plugin updates among many other handy features.

Theme Test Drive

This plugin lets you work out the kinks on a new theme while showing your existing published theme to viewers.  This cuts out gobs of time spent customizing a new theme on a local WordPress install or a clone of your site.  You no longer have to export your theme from the local install and hope it works fluidly on your live site.  With some exceptions to functionality, this plugin lets you test your new/potential theme where only you, the admin, can see it.

Plugin Central

time saving plugin central

This plugin lets you streamline the installation of other plugins.  But here is the real time saver.  You can use Plugin Central to bulk transfer plugins from one site to another.  This is a huge time saver for anyone who is moving to a clean installation of WordPress, or who likes to use a default grouping of plugins on all sites.  Very nice.

Ultimate Google Web Fonts

time saving plugin

Stop hand coding CSS or importing Google Font functions into WordPress.  This plugin ($14 at Code Canyon) does it all for you.  Play with lots of different fonts to get just the right look on your site.

OSE Firewall

ose firewall save time with wordpress

Protect your site with one plugin against hacking, viruses and spam.  The built in scanner consistently checks your WordPress site for malicious code so you don’t have to be (as) diligent.

Developer Mode

developer mode plugin

Completely customize how different user levels see and interact with the WordPress admin.  Save time by restricting what your clients can see and change in the WordPress admin.  This cuts down training time, repair time (when they break something) and generally streamlines your clients’ admin experience.

Simple Optimizer

Stop downloading different optimizing plugins and tools, this one does it all for you.  It optimizes the database among many, many other things.  Here’s a brief video on what it can do:

Admin Bar Removal (aka annoying top bar thing slayer)

I always go in and remove this admin bar, it’s worth doing permanently.  The admin car causes multiple problems for the speedy WordPress admin, throwing off layouts and themes and just visually getting in the way of good site testing.

Post Snippets

wp time savers

Use Post Snippets to keep a personal library of assorted code so you’re not looking it up every time you need it.  Perfect for a theme’s shortcodes or javascript, HTML or PHP.

Plagiarism

fast plagiarism check

Plagiarism automatically scours the web for copied content.  This is particularly helpful for any WP admin that accepts guest posts.  You want to make sure work is original, but don’t have time to check everything manually.  This plugin automates the process.

Infinite WP

wp admin time saving plugins

Another way to manage multiple WordPress installs.  This one is completely free, just install this plugin on all sites you want to manage and you will have access to them through the accompanying plugin, Infinite WP Admin.

Infinite WP Admin

You’ll need this plugin to manage Infinite WP.

Global Content Blocks

global content blocks shortcodes

Similar to Post Snippets, this plugin lets you create your own shortcodes.  This is particularly helpful and time saving if you regularly use the same code over and over.  Kind of takes some of the appeal away from fancy themes with built-in shortcodes.

Content Progress

content progress plugin

Insert workflow management into the post writing process.  Very helpful for multi-author blogs.  Label your posts as in-progress, ready for review, etc.  Will be a time save for anyone who frequently uses guest authors or those that manage other writers.

WP Butler

wp butler

This plugin creates a text field in the WP dashboard that allows admins to jump to commonly used admin actions.  Handy even for people that know their way around the WordPress dashboard rather than waiting for the (sometimes slow) menus.

Adminimize

wp dashboard

I like this one because I like a clean dashboard.  Adminimize allows the WordPress administrator to select what displays on the dashboard.  Of course this can be done manually by modifying the WP core which isn’t recommended.  Instead, use adminimize to pick and choose what you see.

Tidy Up

Tidy Up does exactly what it says, goes through your posts and pages and looks for sluggish or improper coding.  You can then choose (a nice feature) to update the database with the tidied code.  Be warned, this plugin is not actively maintained but appears to still function.

Advanced Excerpt

excerpt

Advanced Excerpt lets you customize the length and behavior of the standard WordPress excerpt function rather than hand-coding the changes.  I use this plugin surprisingly often.  Image credit.

Simple Backup

simple backup plugin

Simple backup takes the process out of “backup process”.  You can regularly download backups of your WordPress site, and optionally run some database optimizations.  This is the kind of plugin you wish you had when it’s too late, but you never think of until it’s too late.