We have 5 Copies of The Shock Bundle to Giveaway

The kind folks over at Themeshock have given us 5 copies of their “Shock Bundle” to give away to our readers. The Shock Bundle is a huge bundle that contains a lot of quality designs, this bundle includes all kind of resources with sources that any web designer would want for their next project, such as PSD and WordPress themes, multiple GUI elements, fantastic pixel perfect and realistic icons, handy photoshop actions, handwritten fonts, hundreds of logos, and many many others that can be seen at the product’s homepage. ThemeShock is a team behind some stunning projects like Jquery Slider Shock, one of the most flexible sliders on the web.

WP_theme_gen

resp

bokeh

pattern

vector

The rules of the giveaway are simple. just head over to Facebook and Like our page, and you will be in the draw. Then we will randomly select 5 lucky readers, who will get a license for the Shock Bundle valued at $39. You don’t have to be a new “like” to enter, all of the current fans of our page are already entered.

The competition will run for the month of May. Enter here.

Building a powerful social network with WordPress

WordPress is many things.  A blogging tool, a business tool, a constituent relationship manager (CRM), a community gathering place, even a social networking platform.  With the right plugins and powerful theme, WordPress can be given the tools to create a social networking platform that rivals the big boys.

Why build a social networking platform on WordPress?  There are lots of good answers to this question.  Not the least of which is the WordPress platform is one of the simplest, fastest and most secure platforms on which to build.  Additionally, WordPress comes to you lean and clean, without unnecessary add-ons.  (This is why I switched away from Joomla! years ago).  With WordPress, you can pick and choose the features you need, and leave the rest.  But I’m preaching to the choir here, aren’t I?

When building a social network on WordPress, you have several choices.

The all-in-one solution: BuddyPress

buddypress

BuddyPress is a ready made collection of plugins that were built to work together.  The BuddyPress core enables the individual plugins and thus, is required.  Every other option is up to you.  The latest version is 1.7, released April 8th, 2013.  Known as “Totonno”, BuddyPress 1.7 brings some cool new features to the old BuddyPress.  The full feature list is available on the official Codex, but here are some of my favorite new and old features:

  • BuddyPress can now work seamlessly with almost any WordPress theme.  Previously, a WordPress admin would have to find a BuddyPress compatible theme, that problem is no more.
  • Rich group administration makes it easier to manage subgroups within your WordPress social network.
  • Installation is now much easier.  Previous versions of BuddyPress required quite a few steps for the admin, now the whole thing is automatic.  Suh-weet.

The options

BuddyPress has the capability to offer the following features for a social networking site:

  • Rich user registration
  • Customizable user profiles
  • Messages between users
  • Connectability between users (think Facebook friend function)
  • Full integration with bbPress, the forum designed by the creators of WordPress
  • User blogs, each user can write their own blog
  • And lots more with plugins for BuddyPress

Themes

BuddyPress also comes with a small collection of theme designers that are striving to make WordPress themes specifically for BuddyPress sites.  I’ve found the free stuff to not be worth it, but the premium BuddyPress themes at ThemeForest are really nice.  With Totonno, you can also use any other WordPress theme you love.

The analysis

BuddyPress seems to be the oldest project that adds social networking functionality to WordPress.  Age doesn’t guarantee the top choice, but it does lend itself to a more comprehensive solution.  But there are others you should consider before making a choice.

The minimalist solution: WP Mingle

wpmingle

The options

Mingle is newer and smaller, but has real promise.  It offers many of the core features of BuddyPress, with a vibrant community as well.  Features include:

  • User profiles
  • Friending between users
  • Profile posting and commenting
  • Member directory
  • Email notifications

WPMingle is very simple with a smaller but vibrant community of developers building plugins to support it.  It seems to be mainly supported by the primary developer, Blair Williams.  Blair is the genious behind Pretty Link, a heavily used WordPress link redirect and cloaking plugin.

Plugins developed for WPMingle include integration with AWeber, a forum, donation button and friend request widget.

Themes

Blair recommends Thesis Theme, because WPMingle has not been tested or developed to work with everything.  A serious drawback, but the theme shouldn’t be your only parameter when choosing a WordPress social networking option.

The Analysis

WP Mingle would be better if you just need the features listed above.  If you are looking to build a truly powerful social network, consider going with BuddyPress.  With any larger, more comprehensive plugin, you may loose some flexibility with customizations.

What did I miss?  Please comment below to make this article even better!

Top ways to promote your WordPress site

Someone once said about blogging: “never before have so many people said so much to so few”.  I find this quote hilarious because it really does capture a lot of blogs quite well.  What makes the internet so powerful is always what makes it so bloated.  The ability to broadcast information instantly and efficiently to as many people as may find the information valuable.  But information that nobody sees is useless.  That’s why a WordPress blogger needs to do more than write, they need to promote.

We all have dreams of content we write going viral, and our blogs gaining instant credibility, being read by millions every day.  But that happens to a tiny fraction of us.  The rest need to work tirelessly to write quality content and distribute it as widely as possible.  Here are some solid, white-hat methods for distributing content and promoting your WordPress site.

1.Write quality content!

I had to insert this one even though it is not a direct “promotional tool”.  I also listed this as the top method for promoting your WordPress site because I believe strongly that writing quality, unique and useful content is the most important step in creating a popular website.  If people find your content useful, they will share it among their network and promote it for you.

2. Guest blogging

This is one of the oldest tricks in the playbook, but it work.  Offer to create quality, unique content for similar websites.  Don’t fill the content with links back to your site, rather just one link in your author byline.  This method goes along with numbers 5 and 7, relating to building relationships with other WordPress sites.

By writing unique content for other websites, you are doing them a favor and building a long term connection that will benefit you over time.  They may offer to return the favor.  In the least, you will garner new readers from their traffic.

3. Promotions and Giveaways

I’ve done this a few times here on Pingable and other WordPress sites I run.  It is easy to set up a promotion and it generally works at building traffic and readers.  One method is to identify a resource you already have, such as a product or service, and give it away to a lucky visitor.  Another method is to partner with a member of the WordPress community, such as a theme producer, and give away someone else’s product.  They benefit with free publicity and the “winner” benefits by getting something for free.  It’s a win-win-win.

I have even done this with physical products on a non-WordPress site I run.  I worked out a deal with a manufacturer of tech accessories to give one of their products to a lucky reader.  People were entered into a drawing by liking my site on Facebook or following on Twitter.  I earned a lot of followers that month!

4. Submit content to social sharing sites

Some websites have sprung up in the last few years that are essentially clones of Digg, or vertical market within that focuses on a specific area such as WordPress.  These sites let you submit links to articles that visitors then vote up (or down) based on usefulness and appeal.  These sites can be useless or incredibly helpful.  Again, your content needs to be good or else your efforts on these websites will be for nothing.  Some examples of social sharing sites include:

5. Build relationships

Why on earth do you need to build a relationship with other (competing) websites?  Because even on the internet, relationships are everything.  Working together, two WordPress admins can boost traffic to both of their sites.  The first example of this is guest posting described above.  But two collaborating admins can also share links, swap ads, trade content, liven the comment discussions and offer tips and feedback.

I have been consistently surprised at the positive response I’ve received when blindly reaching out to webmasters who’s sites I liked.  People are often friendly and approachable, willing to talk about collaborations most of the time.  What types of collaborations?  How about joining forces?  One of the best ways to guarantee success is to combine your assets and time.

6. Offer a unique resource

This one is big.  I once ran a very small WordPress powered site (that I’ve since sold).  I made a couple hundred dollars writing some quality posts for a very popular site.  I took that money, and paid someone to develop a custom theme that I then gave away on my blog.  Not only did this garner new loyal readers, it raised the value of my site so that when the time came to sell, it was worth the normal price plus the value of the custom theme that came with it.

What’s also helpful about this strategy is the fact that people really have to link back to you, giving you credit.  You then become the resource everyone is talking about, instead of being one of the everyone talking about someone else’s resource.  Of course, people will steal the resource and not give you credit.  But those people far outweigh the honest ones.

7. Comment and interact with colleagues

This one is a great way to promote your site.  Let me be clear: this is not about plastering the internet with links to your blog.  This is about generating good, honest discussion.  Many websites allow you to insert a link with your username which is good.  But if you engage in healthy discussion about a topic related to your site, many people could see it and convert to readers.  Again, don’t spam, don’t simply comment for the sake of commenting.  Engaging in a friendly discussion and visitors will follow.

What did I miss?

There are thousands of ways to promote your WordPress site out there, which ones are your favorite?  Leave them in the comments below and I could add them to this post.

 

15 Spring WordPress Themes

Spring is in the air, and so are some amazing new WordPress themes.  Although it’s not advisable to switch your WordPress theme with the seasons, it is nice to modify it to reflect the changing weather.  A fresh theme, even if just some minor touches, makes visitors feel like your content is fresh.   Here is a collection of Spring WordPress themes to inspire your next design.  Or, if you’re looking for a theme for a spring launch, consider one of these themes.

Mon Amour (free)

A simple, flowery theme with an image slider and right sidebar.  Mon Amour would make a great spring theme for your WordPress site.

mon amour spring theme

Enis (free)

A very professional looking blog theme with nice social media integration, Enis is a good choice for a fresh new Spring WordPress theme.  Shortcodes and some nice custom page options make a complete package.

enis spring wordpress theme

RetroPress (free)

A professional looking spring log theme with a nice teared paper design.  More stitching and some nice depth-creating background color combinations create a multi-dimensional theme.

retropress spring wordpress

Simple n’ Bright (free)

A single-column theme with beautiful nature-themes backgrounds, Simple n’ Bright is a great Spring WordPress theme.  It’s totally free, and comes with a smooth image slider.

spring wordpress theme

WordGrass (free)

A slick theme with nice background texturing and blurry filter.  Infinite scrolling make this Spring WordPress theme a great option for simple blogs.

wordgrass spring wp theme

Originative (free)

A classic blog theme with a nice watercolor style design and a popular design element for Spring 2013 that looks like stitching.  A powerful image slider and media widgets round out this very nice free theme.

originative free spring wordpress theme

Lucid

A premium theme by the guys over at Elegant Themes.  One of my favorite theme design shops, Elegant Themes (and Lucid theme) come with a powerful control panel and a minimalist, light, airy feel.

lucid

Xenon (free)

A grassy theme for Spring, Xenon is a nice gallery style theme that showcases media with nice user interface.  Perfect for anyone looking to highlight their works.

xenon spring theme

Samarcanda (free)

A premium-quality but free WordPress theme for spring, Samarcanda is a horizontally scrolling showcase and gallery theme.  Very fit for a spring collection.

spring wordpress

Nature

Nature is a theme designed for environmental campaigns but the overall design can easily be adapted for a spring update.  Lots of features in this premium theme are worth checking out.

nature theme

Origin Theme

Another Elegant Theme, Origin uses pastel colors (largely dependent on your post images) to create a smooth feeling design.  Nothing says spring like bright but calm colors.

origin

Pulchellus

A seasonal theme, Pulchellus comes with four seasons worth of design templates.  For those who really want to change their theme with the seasons but don’t want to customize it themselves, Pulchellus is a great option.  That being said, this theme doesn’t directly reference Spring or any season, so it could be used for any purpose.

pulchellus

Full Frame

Full Frame is actually a showcase theme that comes with some beautiful Spring imagery.  It can be used to display some gorgeous outside images, or just brighten up the overall look of your site.

full frame

Watercolor

A beautiful, calm theme with some pastel colors make this a great Spring WordPress theme.  Nivo slider, cufon font replacement and a few other nifty features make this a good theme for just about anything.

watercolor

Child Care

Don’t let the name throw you off, Child Care is a great theme for any purpose – especially a Springtime focus.  The designers have incorporated some natural elements like trees and grass which remind me of Spring.

spring wordpress theme