All posts by Dusty

The Complete Guide to WordPress Editing: Part 4

Whether you’re completely new or have been blogging for a while now, you’re probably still not using everything available to you as a blogger on WordPress. It took me a few years of blogging and developing plugins before I really started getting it. I’m going to save you time and write up what I’ve learned here.

This complete series on writing and editing posts with WordPress will cover…

  1. Customizing Your Interface & Getting to Know Permalinks
  2. Mastering Text Formatting For Your Posts
  3. Leveraging Post Scheduling & Post States
  4. How to Make Private and Password Protected Posts
  5. How to Enable and Disable Comments & Understanding Trackbacks
  6. Finding and Using Theme-Specific Options

Let’s say you’re running a public blog — but suddenly there’s a post that you only want to share with certain people, or even just have it there for yourself. It looks like it’s time to explore the Private and Password Protected options of the WordPress editor.

VIP Members, only. What’s the secret?

This is extremely simple.

Have you ever noticed the tiny little “Visibility” section of your Publishing options? Yeah, neither did I. It’s one of those settings you don’t even realize is there until you’ve scoured all through the WordPress admin seeking the answer.

Thankfully, I’m here to tell you now: If you click “Edit”, a whole new world of options will be opened to you.

Simply select “Password Protected”, which will offer you a text field. Enter your password there, and save.

That’s it! Now, whenever a visitor sees this post, they need to enter the super secret password. This can be really useful if you want to share a private page through a newsletter or email to your top readers.

Don’t look at me, I haven’t dressed yet!

Let’s say you want to have a technically Published post, but only want your Administrators and Editors to see it.

Enter the Private Post.

In that same section from before — the Visibility one — you’ll also see an option for Private. Just pick that before you publish, and BAM. You’re ready for private action.

That’s it. With this power, you can set up example formatting and content for your other authors, or as a reminder to yourself of your standards and ideals. Use your imagination!

The Complete Guide to WordPress Editing: Part 3

Whether you’re completely new or have been blogging for a while now, you’re probably still not using everything available to you as a blogger on WordPress. It took me a few years of blogging and developing plugins before I really started getting it. I’m going to save you time and write up what I’ve learned here.

This complete series on writing and editing posts with WordPress will cover…

  1. Customizing Your Interface & Getting to Know Permalinks
  2. Mastering Text Formatting For Your Posts
  3. Leveraging Post Scheduling & Post States
  4. How to Make Private and Password Protected Posts
  5. How to Enable and Disable Comments & Understanding Trackbacks
  6. Finding and Using Theme-Specific Options

Did you know that you can sort your posts based on where you are in the process of editing them? It’s pretty neat, and it’s a feature I never understood until recently. Oh, and you can also post to the future.

Drafts, Reviews, Published, oh my!

When you’re writing a post in WordPress, you have a few options when you save. You can “Save Draft”, “Preview” and “Publish”.

But did you know that you can change the game entirely by saving your post as Pending Review?

There’s a subtle icon that allows you to change from Draft, to Pending Review.

So what?

Well this means that once you’ve saved an idea, jotted down your thoughts, and written up a draft… you can go through something we like to call Editing.

Once you’ve edited it, it’s almost ready for publishing — but maybe it’s not the right time to publish. Maybe you want to save it for yourself to reread in a day or two with fresh eyes. Maybe you’ve got a secondary editor who’s going to look at it.

So you save it as Pending Review.

This means that you can now access it under an entirely different menu than the default screen of your Posts page.

Since there’s not a lot of automatic Posts filtering in the WordPress admin, this can be incredibly useful.

You’ll need to hit 88mph for this one.

Let’s say you’re about to go on vacation for the week.

Your readers never need to know — simply write up your posts (maybe use that Pending Review status while you’re working) and use the power of publishing to the future to make your blog run automatically.

Just use the date tool by hitting “Edit” after Publish immediately in the Publish box, and the Publish button should switch to saying “Schedule”.

Schedule away, my friends.

Five Ways to Discern a Quality WordPress Theme

There are probably 100,000 WordPress themes out there for the choosing.  Take away 50% broken or outdated and  another 20% unfinished junk and you’re left with 40,000 usable WordPress themes.  Ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but the truth is there are way too many themes to choose from.

Among every theme that is built for current versions of WordPress, there is bound to be a design you like and that meets your needs.  This article will help you develop your ability to identify quality themes from the rest.  Separate the wheat from the chaff.  The cream from the milk if you will.

It begins with a careful eye, and ends with reliance on your gut instinct.

1. Look for the obvious rating

This only really works for marketplaces where the user base moderates quality.  Obviously a premium theme provider won’t rate any of their own themes poorly.

2. Read the Discussion and Feedback

Almost every theme designer has a feedback mechanism or a discussion forum.  Some providers make these forums viewable for only purchasers.  Read these forums carefully and see what the common issues are.  More importantly, how fast are the theme developers in responding and resolving issues?

3. Check Compatibility

Well developed WordPress themes are compatible across all modern browsers, operating systems and across commonly used WordPress versions.  A quality theme should be backward-compatible to version 3.1 and fully compatible with the latest version of WordPress which is currently 3.4.  Cross compatibility should be seamless (ie: no hacks or core modifications required).

4. Check for Comprehensive Documentation and Instructions

Every theme claims to be “well documented“, but what does that really mean?  Just including two pages of instructions does not cut it.  Look for a long, detailed PDF of instructions.  Check every feature you are interested in against the documentation.  If anything is missing, confront the developer.  Documentation should be detailed enough that you can easily set up a theme, but not so detailed that it takes forever to read.  It should be well organized with a linked table of contents as well.

Good documentation should also be written well and grammatically correct.  Not everything needs to  be written in English, but for documentation that is, it should be correct English.  Theme documentation built into the theme itself can be very helpful.

5. Look for Frequent (but not too frequent) Updates

Frequent theme updates mean the developer is committed to ongoing support and quality.  But daily updates mean they are quick to make changes without being thoughtful.  You can check for update frequency through the WordPress SVN or developer download page.

Ready to find a quality theme?  Check out two of our favorites: ElegantThemes and ThemeForest.

The Complete Guide to WordPress Editing: Part 2

Whether you’re completely new or have been blogging for a while now, you’re probably still not using everything available to you as a blogger on WordPress. It took me a few years of blogging and developing plugins before I really started getting it. I’m going to save you time and write up what I’ve learned here.

This complete series on writing and editing posts with WordPress will cover…

  1. Customizing Your Interface & Getting to Know Permalinks
  2. Mastering Text Formatting For Your Posts
  3. Leveraging Post Scheduling & Post States
  4. How to Make Private and Password Protected Posts
  5. How to Enable and Disable Comments & Understanding Trackbacks
  6. Finding and Using Theme-Specific Options

Today you’re going to learn about how to master basic text formatting for your posts (as well as some best practices). Today we’ll handle the options you should know about, but may have felt too stupid to ask.

How bold of you to lean my direction…

Making effective use of bold and italics is important. Since you know what Bold and Italics are, I’ll give you a couple of guidelines for when to use them:

  • Bold: Call out an important phrase, and create visual difference for better skimming.
  • Italics: Use for emphasis — particularly when you’re comparing two things to each other.

Allow me to list your options…

People love and share lists.

Make sure you learn to use actually formatted lists. This makes it easier for users to:

  • Scan your content.
  • Digest your content.
  • Share your content.

By using consistent formatting, your readers will be able to quickly glean the information they want while they scan, and quickly determine whether it’s worth sharing with their friends.

There are two types of lists, both available in your text editor: Ordered and Unordered.

Ordered, as you may suspect, is a numbered list.

Unordered will show bullet points.

Use appropriately.

Write that down, that was brilliant…

Ever wanted to quote a website or person in your blog post?

There’s a nifty feature called the Blockquote in your editor. It’s right next to the list icons.

This is an example of a blockquote.

Each theme will handle the blockquote a bit differently. If you’re using a free or cheap theme, you may discover that your blockquote doesn’t look any different at all — but if your theme is quality, it should stand out from the rest of your text.

I can’t justify your right alignment…

The same way you were probably already familiar with bold and italics, you’re probably already familiar with text alignments.

For long blocks of text, it is best practice to leave the formatting to the default left-aligned (like this post is written in).

 However, sometimes things call for centered text.

In extreme cases, you may even find yourself in need of right-aligned text.

Please be cautious about going overboard with special alignments, as if you vary things too much, your readers will stop trying at all.

Can you link these words for me?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked to add a link to a WordPress post because it felt too overwhelming.

No more! I am now going to send all my friends to this post.

Write out your anchor text.

What’s that? Anchor text is comprised of the words that are hyperlinked to another web page.

Once you are satisfied with the text you want to be linked, you can select them with your cursor and click the link icon. Once you’ve filled out the link you want, and click “OK” and you’ll have linked text.

The Complete Guide to WordPress Editing: Part 1

Whether you’re completely new or have been blogging for a while now, you’re probably still not using everything available to you as a blogger on WordPress. It took me a few years of blogging and developing plugins before I really started getting it. I’m going to save you time and write up what I’ve learned here.

This complete series on writing and editing posts with WordPress will cover…

  1. Customizing Your Interface & Getting to Know Permalinks
  2. Mastering Text Formatting For Your Posts
  3. Leveraging Post Scheduling & Post States
  4. How to Make Private and Password Protected Posts
  5. How to Enable and Disable Comments & Understanding Trackbacks
  6. Finding and Using Theme-Specific Options

First, you’re going to learn about the hidden options you never knew existed. Later in this post, we’ll review how to create custom permalinks (and why you want to).

Customizing Your View: Show & Hide Sections

The Problem: Not Knowing Your Options

Have you ever been working your way through a WordPress tutorial and thought you were missing a field in your WordPress installation? There’s a good chance that you never knew you could show and hide different parts of the interface. Every blogger makes constant use of certain features in WordPress, but who wants to get weighed down by constantly staring at the features they hardly ever use? The question is: How can you make sure you see what you want, and hide what you don’twant?

The Solution: Finding Your Options

It’s pretty simple. If you look up in the right hand corner of your browser, you’ll see two tabs: Screen Options, and Help. If you click on the the gray box that says Screen Options, a whole new world will be opened to you. Quick Guide:Everything you see with a ticked box next to it will display. You can toggle all of the checkboxes to enable and disable each section as you see fit. The problem is, some of these options may sound strange and new. Don’t fret, because we’re going to delve into all of your options through this series.

Writing Your Title & Customizing Your Slug

The Problem: Ugly Links That No One Remembers

You may or may not know that writing a killer headline might make or break your post — but that’s for you to learn about on copywriting and marketing blogs. Once you’ve crafted the perfect post title, you’ll write it in the clearly marked box “Enter title here”. If you are using custom permalinks (you probably are), WordPress will do its best to create a nice URL for you based on your title.

What’s that? The word permalink stands for “permanent link”

For example, a post titled “The Amazing Spider-man Isn’t So Amazing” will default to a slug such as: the-amazing-spider-man-isnt-so-amazing

What’s that? A slug is the unique URL friendly set of letters that follows the base of your website’s domain.

Depending on your domain and settings, the final permalink might then be: http://example.com/archives/the-amazing-spider-man-isnt-so-amazingShorter URLs are very popular lately for a myriad of great reasons, so you’ll want to shorten it.

What’s that? URL friendly means no uppercase letters, special characters or spaces. It is acceptable to substitute a dash instead of spaces for human readability.

The Solution: Easily Creating Short, Memorable Links

Underneath your title, you’ll see a label that says “Permalink”, with the base of your URL such as: http://example.com/archives/ …followed by the new slug of your post. In order to customize that slug, you’ll click on it. Doing so will open an editing box, like magic! It’s here you can insert your custom slug. In this example, you might choose: spiderman-not-amazing …so that your final URL is short, easy to read and remember. Such as: http://example.com/archives/spiderman-not-amazing You can use this feature to include keywords in your URL, sum up the post in fewer words, and make the link easier to remember for your potential readers.

WordPress Theme Generators for 2012

Lubith WordPress Theme Generator (free & pro versions)

Lubith is pretty new to the theme generator frontier.  They have a nice looking interface (you need a free account to even play with it).  It is easy to drag/drop what you want in your theme.  This is pretty different compared to most theme generators that give you finite options for layout, background, etc. and you must choose among them.

It would be nice to see Lubith in action without signing up for an account.  If it’s that good, why not let the product speak for itself?

WordPress Theme Generator (free)

This one has been around a while, I call it “yo-shap” because that’s how I read the TLD it sits on.  I’m not sure if that’s the creators name or what, but it’s one of the original theme generators out there.  It is clean and quick, but doesn’t come with any flashy options.  Maybe that’s what you’re looking for.  It supports up to WordPress 3.1 as of the writing of this post.  If you just want a basic layout generator, this is the one for you.

 WP Theme Generator

A more all-inclusive WordPress theme generator, this one has countless options.  Again, you’re stuck with the options that are available, but it would be difficult to find one that did not work for your purposes.  My challenge with this type of generator is that the themes are not truly unique.  But I’ve yet to see a WordPress theme generator that will come up with something truly unique.

Artisteer

You’ll quickly gather from our previous review of Artisteer that it is all for show.  The interface is the best one available, it works as any other Microsoft Office program might, which is very nice… at first.  Then you realize Artisteer is just another pre-packaged WordPress theme generator with limited options.  If you want to churn out cheap themes quickly, this is the tool to use.  However each file is filled with Artisteer references so you can’t pass themes off as your own.

ThemesPress

A very cool tool that I have admittedly not tried myself is ThemesPress. Unlike the others listed here, ThemesPress lets you turn HTML into a WordPress theme.  Why would this be helpful?  For several reasons: paying for a custom HTML design is cheaper than a full blown WordPress design.  Also, sometimes you’re given an HTML design by a client that you must convert.  It costs $10, but could be well worth the investment.

 

Beautiful Free and Premium Responsive WordPress Themes

A new word is being used to describe some WordPress themes, “responsive WordPress themes”. This descriptor is used when a theme can fit any screen size without needing multiple versions of the design. For example, a theme that adjusts when the screen size changes without reloading or redirecting to a “mobile” version.

There is a simple test for whether or not a theme is responsive. Visit the theme, make sure the browser window is not maximized, and drag the corner of the window in and out, changing the size of the viewable window. If the theme gracefully adjusts without losing perspective, key features or dimensions, the theme is responsive. Think of it like the theme is responding to the window size.

Of course, there is some pretty tricky coding that goes into creating a truly responsive theme.  If you already know how to create a WordPress theme (not using Artisteer) and you have a basic knowledge of CSS, you can check out this tutorial on creating a responsive WordPress theme.

If you are a WordPress administrator that wants to use an ipod/ipad/iphone/tablet friendly design, check out any of these amazing responsive WordPress themes:

Alyeska | Download | Demo

Core Minimalist | Download | Demo

GoodLayers | Download | Demo

Reaction | Download | Demo

Shapeshifter 2 | Download | Demo

This is the second version of a popular theme we reviewed here.

Balita | Download | Demo

Angular | Download | Demo

Bones| Download | Demo

Flexible | Download | Demo

Mixfolio | Download | Demo

Chameleon | Download | Demo

Resource: How to Display Ads to Search Visitors

Micro-targeting visitors is an incredibly powerful SEO tool.  Think about this.  You search for a particular keyword, visit a particular website from the results, and don’t quite find what you’re looking for.  If there is an embedded advertisement in the website with the exact keywords you searched for, you are much more likely to click that ad than if it were an ad reflecting the content on that page.

Micro-targeting can be done easily within WordPress.  There are a number of free plugins that allow you to specifically target search visitors and users of a particular social media service.  Here are just a few ways to micro-target your advertisements using WordPress plugins.

1. Plugin: Ad Injection | Download (free)

Ad Injection is a plugin that inserts adsense, or other advertising code into your WordPress site anywhere.  It also works with Amazon Affiliates and Clickbank.  You can set ad placements within the plugin or use template tags to insert them anywhere your heart desires.  The plugin allows you to randomly insert ads between paragraphs, and limit which posts have ads by post age, length or a number of other parameters.

The most important feature is the ability to restrict ads by referrer.  This allows you to require search engine referrals show particular ad sets.  For example, I might set the plugin to display adsense ads when Google.com is the referrer.

2. Plugin: WP Greetbox | Download (free)

I have been using WP Greetbox for a long time to display welcome messages or prompt users to follow my blog.  It inserts a small content box below the post title.  What’s great about this plugin is that you can customize it to display different messages based on the referrer.  For example, I might say “welcome facebook user, please like our facebook page by clicking here”.  This gives the illusion of a slightly personalized message which is hard to come by on a website.

For our purposes, you can identify a specific message for those come from Google.  The plugin uses the example of having Googlers follow your RSS feed.  But with the advent of Google+, you can have users add you to their circles.  Targeting for search engine traffic is just one way to micro-target.  The sky is the limit.

This is also one of the best looking free plugins I have ever used on my site.  It includes the option to close the box, adjust the placement, round the corners and even add a dropshadow.

3. Popup Social Media Follows | Download

If you want to boost your social media presence, this plugin will let you target search engine traffic by popping up right after the page is loaded.  Although sometimes annoying, these tools can be an effective method of generating social media traffic.  This plugin lets you push Facebook, Google+ and Twitter buttons at users with a stylish overlay.  You can allow users the option of closing the window, or make it time-delayed.  If your traffic supports this kind of conversion tool, and if your content is good enough to push through it, this could be a really handy plugin.

 

 

How to customize your WordPress 404 page

I previous discussed how to customize your WordPress 404 page in a previous post, but I was brief.  This tutorial is intended to be a more comprehensive guide for this important customization step.  Customizing your 404 page tells your readers you went the extra mile to ensure they have a quality experience with your site.  Additionally, from an SEO perspective, users who need to take extra steps or “dig” to find your content are less likely to follow through.  They are also less likely to trust your site in search results in the future.

WordPress makes customization easy with logical theme files and template tags.  Here is how to leverage those features to customize your 404 page.  For those who don’t know, and I can’t imagine anyone reading Pingable that doesn’t, 404 pages are a catch-all page for any time a user stumbles upon content that does not exist.  Perhaps the URL has been changed, perhaps you’ve deleted the content, perhaps someone has incorrectly linked to a post.  The 404 page will be found by readers in these situations.

Step 1: Prevention

As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  The best way to improve the 404 error page experience is to prevent it entirely.  Here are some steps to prevent most 404 errors.

  1. Use Google Webmaster tools to track dead links and 404 messages.  Google’s huge brain knows how to tell when it has found a 404 page, and if Webmaster Tools has been set up for the domain, it will notify the owner via some nifty charts.  Find out who is linking to these incorrect URL’s and kindly ask them to update their link.  If the error is from inside your site, go through each one and correct the links.
  2. Check and re-check your internal links.  There is no reason you should be the source of errors.
  3. Use a search engine approved site map.  There are several good free plugins that automatically generate sitemaps for you.  This allows search engines to track your content quickly and efficiently.
  4. Internally link through the WYSIWYG hyperlink generator.  This uses post ID’s to create internal links so if the slug is changed, the link is not broken.
  5. Use a consistent url structure.  This is selected through the WordPress settings.  Whatever you choose, don’t change it once your site goes live.
  6. If you must move a post, consider deleting the content and replacing it with a link or 303 redirect to the new location.

 Customizing the WordPress 404 Page

  1. Find the 404 template file. In most WordPress themes, there is a file called 404.php.  This is the 404 error page.  Also in most themes, it will not be customized much.  Only super premium themes come with a custom styled 404 page.  If there is not a 404.php file, you can create one and place it in the theme directory.  WordPress will look for this file automatically and use it in the event of a 404 file not found error.
  2. Edit the file. The file can be edited with the built-in theme editor.  In the WordPress dashboard, go to Appearance > Editor.  Choose your theme and choose the 404.php file to edit.
  3. Choose your message. Make this message a little quirky, a little different, but be clear and concise.  Give users a next step like a search link or a link to the main page.  Apologize and tell them you will be checking into this error.  A little personality goes a long way.
  4. Give them more information. Even better than asking them to search is displaying information automatically.  This plugin will display search results similar to the document title they attempted to access.
  5. Go the extra mile.Make the design something memorable, and funny.  Humor is tied to memory anchors.  If a site makes you laugh, you are more likely to remember it in the future.  If you aren’t a designer, consider using a pre-designed 404 error page.  Here are some very inexpensive options.
  6. Need more? The following premium themes come with custom 404 pages.  If you’re feeling the need for a professional and cohesive design, this is the way to go.

Additional Resources

Premium Theme Provider Roundup

I have wanted to do this post for a long time.  There are lots of premium WordPress theme designers and I love browsing the good ones.  But has anyone put together a comprehensive list of them all?  I have seen some short lists, but nothing that covers everyone.  This is the beginning of what I hope will be an all-inclusive list of premium WordPress theme designers.  I need your help to find other providers though.  If you have a favorite, leave it as a comment below.  If they’re good, I will move them up to the main section of this post.

ThemeForest

The first place I go to look for a new theme, hence it’s place in this list.  There are so many designers selling on the ThemeForest marketplace, you get a really eclectic selection of premium themes.  Some are junk, but most are vetted by their editors and therefore are of very high quality.  Support for these themes is up to the individual developers so read reviews and comments before buying.

Organic Themes

A relatively new (?) player to the premium theme game, Organic Themes has done a great job developing a core of high quality themes.  They are fresh (as their tagline suggests) and professional themes for multiple purposes.

ElegantThemes

I have been a member for years.  So long ago, I have a much less expensive grandfathered price.  These themes are not updated as frequently as others, but are very high quality and have lots of built-in features.  And for some reason, they have a different “feel” than other themes.  I can spot an Elegant Theme a mile away, even if I’ve never seen it before.

GraphPaperPress

Besides have a very clever logo, they produce some very nice minimalist themes.  GPP knows how to do WordPress themes right.  These themes are great for media folks like photographers and videographers because the themes are light and fast.

WooThemes

A good old standby, WooThemes has been around a long time.  Just check out how many themes they produce!  You’ll see a new one each month consistently.  They have also gone into the framework business, producing their own ecommerce framework.

YooTheme

These are by far the most tricked-out themes I have ever seen.  When new technologies emerge for theme designers, they tend to show up in YooTheme stuff first.  Just browse their themes, there are features incorporated that the other players haven’t even begun to use yet.

RocketTheme

I am a recovering Joomla! user.  Back in my J! days, I used Rockettheme consistently.  They produce really high quality themes for Drupal and Joomla!  A couple years back, they wised up and started created stuff for WordPress.  The rest, is history.

Premise (by CopyBlogger)

A themeshop with a very specific purpose: to create a versatile landing page theme.  They achieved this goal.  Is it an ethical way to clutter up the interweb?  Not so much.  But lots of people are making lots of money with themes like this.

WPShower

WPShower, although an odd name, produces some of the nicest minimalist themes I have seen in a long time.  And they do so consistently and dependably.  Nice, clean style.

StudioPress

The copyblogger theme shop, StudioPress makes some pretty good stuff.  Some good real estate themes and other specific function themes come out of here.  No designs are “knock-your-socks-off” good.  But many are worth the price.

DIY Themes

They’re famous for one theme which is arguably a million themes in one.  The Thesis Framework was designed by DIY themes. Lots of people swear by this theme with allegedly amazing SEO.  Personally I think they reached fame and fortune with an aggressive affiliate program.

Templatic

Templatic specializes in specialty themes.  Each one is designed with a specific purpose.  This is great for real estate professionals, wiki admins and shop owners.

Press 75

Simple, functional themes with nice styling.  Press75 designs great themes for professional media moguls -er- producers.  Photographers and artists rejoice!

WPZoom

Minimal themes with lifetime support.  WPZoom has some really nice stuff.

Who did we miss?  Either leave a comment or drop us a line with your favorite premium WordPress theme developer.