WordCamp San Francisco 2014

WordCamp San Francisco 2014 is in a few days, and I’m excited to joining the largest WordPress community event so far! The great folks at SiteGround are sending me to join the WordPress Core community summit and the contributor team meetups over the next few days and I’m thrilled to meet again the majority of the WordPress contributors from all around the world.

After last year’s WordCamp San Francisco I managed to get few of my patches in Core, and contributed more than 20 patches since. It’s been exciting and incredibly valuable experience.

Let me know if you’re attending WCSF this weekend and ping me at the venue if you see me. Also, over the next few days my “Making Money Online with WordPress” book is free for Kindle owners – a fair contribution to the WordPress users who are interested in joining our community and ecosystem.

 

The post WordCamp San Francisco 2014 appeared first on Mario Peshev on WordPress Development.

Initiatives Being Developed Alongside WordPress

Opportunity Featured Image
photo credit: {Guerrilla Futures | Jason Tester}cc

While it’s easy to focus on WordPress core development, there are a handful of satellite projects to keep an eye on. There is so much happening around the WordPress project, it’s tough to keep up. This post highlights some of the satellite projects and initiatives that are being developed concurrently with WordPress.

Feature Plugin: Improve Image Editing

Led by Siobhan McKeown, the Image Flow project is aimed at improving the image editing experience in WordPress. It’s a feature that will likely not be removed, so the team is doing what it can to improve it. In the most recent meeting, the group discussed various wireframes and will be making changes based on community feedback. The group meets every Friday and uses Google Hangout to conduct meetings.

Scalable Dropdowns

Created by Helen Hou-Sandi, the scalable dropdowns project is focused on addressing some long-standing issues with dropdowns in WordPress, specifically for users and pages. An initial meeting has taken place on IRC and as a result, several issues have been opened on Github for work and discussion. If you’re interested, review the issues on Github and contribute where you’re able to. Questions related to the project can be asked here.

Meta, Date, and Taxonomy Query Improvements

Boone Gorges is leading the way towards improving WP_Meta_Query, WP_Tax_Query, and WP_Date_Query. The improvements are slated for WordPress 4.1. According to a recent project update, most of the proposed changes Gorges listed in the initial post have been made.

Inline Documentation

Shortly after WordCamp San Francisco 2013, the inline docs team began working on providing inline documentation to every hook in WordPress. The team successfully completed documented every action and filter hook as part of the release of WordPress 3.9. In a recent meeting, the group discussed options for adopting a documentation standard for core JavaScript.

WordPress Training

The training initiative is a proposed curriculum that covers everything from explaining what a theme is, to creating and altering child themes. The group is working on various training modules that make up each class. In their most recent meeting, the group discussed the status of modules in progress, infrastructure for testing modules, and a team training sign up form. If you’re interested in contributing to this project, the team has meetings every Tuesday 18:00 UTC in the #wordpress-getinvolved IRC channel.

Opportunities to Contribute

I’ve only scratched the surface with the number of initiatives available to contribute to. Whether you have a special interest in accessibility, UI, mobile, support, themes, or translations, there’s a project that could use your help. The best way to stay informed of new and existing initiatives is visit Make.WordPress.org.

11 Must-Have WordPress Plugins Every Modern Blogger Needs for that Competitive Edge

With tens of thousands of plugins in the WordPress.org repository, and growing, selecting the right plugins to get the job done can be confusing, especially for new bloggers. At the same time I’ve realized that once you’re seasoned and have tried and tested dozens of plugins, you’ll tend to settle with a few that will almost always get the job done right without any issues.

best wordpress plugins

While there are thousands of great plugins available, there are only a few in my opinion that have and will continue to stand the test of time as web user experience design gets more complex and users demand richer experiences. These plugins will give you great control over how you create and promote your content as well as how effective you are at interacting and getting valuable signups and input from your audience – which is what will drive your blog’s success.

Here are some powerful plugins that are guaranteed to give you that edge you’re looking for and the longevity you need.

Sumome Plugins

Sumome is actually a combination of 10 plugins that work to help you achieve everything you need to on your blog. The developer covers email marketing, lead generation, conversion and user behavior tracking, social sharing, form building and even advanced analytics that delve deeper into user behavior. They’re offering a complete package of free plugins that accomplish tasks you would normally have to pay for at that quality.

My favorite plugins in the bunch are the List Builder, Heat Maps and Content Analytics.

Content Analytics: Their Content Analytics plugin goes a step further than simply tallying user visits and time spent on site but shows you how readers are interacting with your content by showing precisely where they stop reading, how many of them complete articles and reports to show your most engaged content. Very powerful for tweaking where you place your call to action buttons and other content.

screenshot-2

List Builder: List Builder is a super simple email signup pop-up plugin that integrates with popular email marketing services like MailChimp, GetResponse and Aweber. This is a functionality you’d have to pay for to get anything of quality. It’s simple, free, it works and helps you build your email lists quickly.

pop-up-screenshot

Heatmaps: Another premium functionality that is rarely found for free. The Heatmaps plugin allows you to study precisely where on your site readers are clicking and interacting so you’ll have the knowledge to improve your blog to get them clicking where you want them to.

heatmap wordpress plugin

Clef

Clef eliminates the need to use passwords to access your WordPress blog; it’s the future of security as a two-factor mobile authentication and strongly encrypted solution. Two-factor authentication is particularly more secure than average solutions since it prevents hackers from accessing your site via logging in since they’d need to have your physical mobile device to do so – an additional obstacle to hacking.

Install the plugin, install the mobile app, configure your settings and you’re ready to go. No need to use a password, simply scan the unique code presented on your login screen, use your phone’s camera to scan it, then you’re in. Check out the video below for the quick demo.

Visual Composer

Visual Composer is a premium drag and drop page builder that gives you control over the layout and design of your site without the need to be a professional web developer or designer. Build responsive pages and elements, gain control of columns, insert buttons, add complex and visually appealing animation, building practically any layout you can imagine through up to 45 features and elements.

visual composer drag and drop wordpress plugin

This plugin allows the average blogger to build elite, professional page layouts by leveraging a simple drag and drop system. With a plugin like this bloggers can get very creative with building a unique presence to truly stand out. Make your mark!

Mobile ShareBar

As you better streamline your mobile strategy, every plugin you use needs to be mobile-friendly and Mobile ShareBar is a beautiful social share option. The plugin even comes with a “Share on Whatsapp” share button for iOS; a unique feature on mobile for building reach.

screenshot-2

Simply put, the plugin is fast loading, easy to setup and works great for mobile.

Tablepress

We can’t always avoid using tables, sometimes it’s the best thing you can use to present your data in a visually appealing and easily consumed format and TablePress will help you to achieve this. The plugin offers numerous functions for controlling how data is presented such as sorting features, search, coloring and more complex stuff. You can include tables in posts, pages and even widgets. An excellent plugin for inserting tables.

tablepress plugin

WordPress Social Sharing Optimization

This is an important plugin for maintaining control over how content is shared from your site to social networks. The reason this is so important is that oftentimes when readers share your content, you’ll end up with missing or inappropriate images, descriptions, image sizes and messages that don’t quite sell your content the way you’d be pleased with. WordPress Social Sharing Optimization places the control in your hands and allows control over more modern media share types like Twitter image and product cards.

WPSSO is useful for improving social engagement and clickthrough rates.

VaultPress

VaultPress is a premium backup service from the developers of WordPress and for only $5 per month, they’ll backup your WordPress website on a daily basis. It has been revealed that other free traditional backup plugins have some serious vulnerabilities like exposing your database passwords. It’s time to start spending on services that stand the best chance of protecting your business assets. Features such as one-click backups and restores mean you can easily revert and recover when you need to.

WP Smush.it

I found WP Smush.it a useful plugin for optimizing images and decreasing the bandwidth demand from your media – basically speeding up the load time for images. It optimizes images via a lossless process effective for stripping unnecessary JPEG metadata, converts GIFs to the better performing lightweight PNG formats and stripping unused colors from indexed images and therefore reducing image sizes. A great plugin for making your image heavy pages load much faster.

WordPress SEO by Yoast

SEO by Yoast is the best free SEO plugin available in my opinion. It doesn’t promise to automatically improve rankings with witchcraft-like claims as many other plugins do but allows you to gain full control over your on-page SEO strategy and that’s what you should be concerned with. It’s a plugin bundled with features to help you cover the bases you’ll definitely forget on your own like using correct meta descriptions, social sharing tags, XML Sitemap integration, link elements and page analysis to guide your SEO efforts.

It’s a standard SEO plugin for the WordPress industry and is used by even larger enterprise websites.

These plugins are perfect for getting the most out of your WordPress site and will go a long way in extending your blog’s functionality for the current modern audience and beyond.

How to Fix WordPress Website Not Updating Right Away

Recently one of our users asked us why their WordPress website was not updating right away. Basically any changes he made to widgets or new posts would not show up on the home page right away. In this article, we will show you how to fix WordPress website not updating right away.

WordPress Site Not Updating Right Away?

The most common symptom of this problem is new posts not appearing on the homepage of your WordPress site. While you can still view the single post by clicking on the view post link from the WordPress admin area, you are unable to see it on the main page.

Another common symptom of this issue is that changes made to WordPress widgets do not show up right away on the homepage.

If you are encountering this problem, then continue reading to learn how to fix this issue.

Why is my WordPress site not Updating?

Before we explain the solution, it’s important to understand what causes the problem first.

There are two common causes for this issue. The first one is your browser cache. Sometimes your browser (specially Google Chrome) will show you a cached copy of your website instead of showing the new one. To resolve this issue, you need to simply hit CTRL + F5 (or Cmd + R in Mac) buttons on your keyboard to reload the page.

The second and most likely cause of this issue is poorly configured WordPress caching plugin. To see if a caching plugin is causing this problem, you need to see if you’re using a caching plugin on your site.

Often beginners use setup W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache.

The first thing you can do is try to Empty All Caches using your cache plugin settings area.

You can do this easily by going to plugin settings page (in our demo, we’re showing W3 Total Cache). Then click Empty All Caches.

W3 Total Cache - Empty All Cache

This should work for most folks and now the changes should be visible on the homepage.

Next, you should look in your plugin settings to see if you can control what is cached by the Page Cache functionality. In W3 Total Cache menu under Page Cache, there is an option to unselect caching of front page.

W3 Total Cache - Front Page

If you unselect that, then the front page will not be cached.

Now if none of the above solutions worked for you, then you should deactivate any cache plugin installed on your WordPress site.

Deactivating W3 Total Cache plugin in WordPress

After deactivating the caching plugin, you need to visit your website to see if this resolved the issue. If it does, then this means you need to setup your cache plugin correctly.

We have simple step by step tutorials to setup W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache plugins on your WordPress site. They are both great plugins, but we like to use W3 Total Cache with MaxCDN on WPBeginner.

We hope this article helped you fix WordPress website not updating right away issue. You may also want to take a look at some of the most common WordPress errors and how to fix them.

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and Google+.

To leave a comment please visit How to Fix WordPress Website Not Updating Right Away on WPBeginner.

Changes should happen in Code, not in UI

If you are deploying your WordPress site, it generally doesn’t make much sense to have to go in and setup changes when you push the newest version live. When you push to production, production should have all your changes.

One more benefit of this method is that you never need to be signed in with a user who can change settings, change plugins, or change themes. Being signed in as a user with as few capabilities as possible is a one part of limiting your vulnerability in case of attack

This is what I use to stop the majority of activities from happening in the UI.

tl;dr; Don’t Update Options in the admin, update them in the code.

How to Limit the Number of Posts in WordPress RSS Feed

Recently one of our users asked if there was a way to limit the number of posts displayed in RSS feed of their WordPress site. RSS feeds provide your users an easier way to subscribe to your site. However, sometimes you may want to limit the number of posts user can view in RSS feed, so it encourages them to visit your site. In this article, we will show you how to limit the number of posts displayed in RSS feed of your WordPress site.

First thing you need to do is go to Settings » Reading page in your WordPress menu.

Next, you need to change the value next to ‘Syndication feeds show the most recent’ option. Simply enter the number of posts you want to be shown in RSS feed.

Changing number of posts displayed in WordPress RSS feed

Below this option you will also see the option to show either the full text or summary of your posts in RSS feeds. We recommend using summary because it reduces the feed size and increases your pageview. After that you need to click on the save changes button to store your settings.

That’s all, you have successfully limited the number of posts displayed in RSS feed of your site. You may also want to take a look at our guide on how to add post thumbnails in RSS feed, and how to add social buttons into your RSS feed. If you are using FeedBurner for RSS feeds on your site, then we would like you to checkout our article on FeedBurner alternatives.

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and Google+.

To leave a comment please visit How to Limit the Number of Posts in WordPress RSS Feed on WPBeginner.

WordPress Developers – Interview with Matt Medeiros

Yesterday we had another great interview for the Google+ WordPress Developers community (over 5200 devs participating), this time with Matt Medeiros:

Matt is one of the most active podcast masters in the WordPress community, focusing on the business aspects of our ecosystem, and is also involved in several interesting projects, including Conductor.

We chatted about the current state of the podcast field out there, and covered various aspects for the life of the WordPress themes, WP Mentor and the WordPress mentorship support program and much more.

Check it out.

The post WordPress Developers – Interview with Matt Medeiros appeared first on Mario Peshev on WordPress Development.

5 WordPress Plugins to Boost Social Media Activity

5 WordPress Plugins To Boost Social Media Activity

Image from Pixabay

WordPress is one of the most widely-used content management systems (CMS) for a good reason: it can be easily tweaked and customized to your liking. However, the flexibility of WordPress to accommodate different website types, from blogs to e-commerce, hinges on the WordPress plugins used to help achieve the site owner’s goals.

For webmasters who wish to increase site visitors, one way of doing this is to use WordPress plugins that allow easy sharing of site pages on social media.

Below are five of the best WordPress plugins that you should use to get more shares, as well as possibly boost your fans and followers.

SumoMe Sharing Options

SumoMe originally worked to increase your e-mail subscribers with its List Building apps. However, it has grown to include more apps to really help site owners gain more visitors to their pages.

The Image Sharer app lets visitors share pictures on the page using Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

The Share app is a floating bar on the left side of the screen to make it easier for visitors to share the post on social media. The default available are Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. To access other social media sites where you can share the post, click on the crown icon.

The Highlighter app lets visitors easily share quotes from the post. All they have to do is highlight the text and a pop-up menu will appear on the screen so they can share it using Facebook or Twitter.

Click To Tweet by Todaymade

Create tweetable content on your post so people can easily click and share it on Twitter. Make sure to observe the 140-character limit when writing messages to tweet using this plugin.

Evergreen Post Tweeter

Another plugin that boosts site traffic using Twitter, this lets you automatically post your website content on social media. This is ideal for webmasters who manage sites with lots of content that they want to share on social media. You can set up the types of posts and under which category, allowing you full customization of the automatic tweets that will be published on your Twitter account.

wpLike2Get

If you have e-books and white papers available for download on your site, then you ought to use this plugin. Once installed, instead of people downloading the resources off your site for free, they will have to share the page on your site using their social media first before the resources become available for download.

WP Sharely

This is similar to wpLike2Get, but instead of downloadable content, it works on the actual content on the page . If you want to entice readers to read your post, you can stop at the first few paragraphs and “gate” the rest of the content using this WordPress plugin. This will encourage them to share the post in order to read the entire article. Keep in mind that this is a paid plugin.

Did we miss out on any other WordPress plugins that help site owners increase their social media activity? Let us know by commenting below!

More about WordPress plugins:

10 Free WordPress Plugins Every Blog Needs and 5 Bonus Plugins

WordPress Launches Plugin Compatibility Beta

Passing variables when loading templates in WordPress

One caveat faced by developers using get_template_part is the inability of passing variables to the loaded templates. There is, however an alternative using locate_template.

Overview

In this example we’re going to display three Easy Digital Download entries. I’ve been using EDD for a while now and while it has a lot of features it’s still surprisingly lightweight. We’ll be fetching the entries and saving them in the variable $qledds. We will then load the template passing the variable. Actually, to pass the variable is to say too much. We’ll be simply loading the template in a way the $qledds variable has the proper scope to be used in the template loaded.

Caller code

This code can be for example in a function. You can then plug that function to an area of your theme using an action hook or simply call the function as a template tag. In my themes, such as the responsive media theme Brio, I use hooks so users can later add or remove content. This is all we need for the code:

<?php
$qledds = get_posts( array(
       'post_type' => 'download',
       'posts_per_page' => 3,
    )
);
if ( $qledds ) {
    // See if the template exists and save its location
    $part = locate_template( 'parts/download-home.php' );
    // if the template location was returned, load it
    if ( '' != $part ) {
       require $part;
    }
}

Template code

Now we need the template file. If you notice the call above, the locate_template expects to find the file “download-home.php” in the directory “parts” inside the theme folder.

<?php
/**
 * Created by themesrobot
 * This template uses $edd_download, a Easy Digital Downloads entry passed as variable.
 *
 * @since 1.0.0
 */

global $post;
?>

<?php foreach ( $qledds as $post ) : setup_postdata( $post ); ?>

   <article class="home-product">

      <?php if ( has_post_thumbnail() ) : ?>
         <?php the_post_thumbnail( 'medium' ); ?>
      <?php endif; ?>

      <a class="product-link" href="<?php the_permalink(); ?>" title="<?php the_title_attribute(); ?>">
         <?php the_title(); ?>
      </a>

   </article>

<?php endforeach; wp_reset_postdata(); ?>

We must always remember to call wp_reset_postdata() after a foreach loop if we called setup_postdata().

Closing Words

So after all this, why is this useful? because users can create a template in a child theme and easily override the original template. It’s all about making life easier for your users. Sure, this can also be achieved through filters or creating pluggable functions but some users might consider editing a template focused on one task a cleaner approach than dealing with a file with a lot of functions for several different and unrelated tasks.

The one article every WordCamp organizer should read

Too many conferences focus on the mechanics and skimp on the up-front editorial strategizing, shaping, and planning. It is not enough to simply hire people because they are respected in the industry, or because they are in demand, or because their name sells tickets, or because they are available.

via On Design Conferences | Jeffrey Zeldman Presents The Daily Report: Web Design News & Insights Since 1995.

I think too often as WordCamp organizers we forget that we are curating an experience and as such we need to think about what we want the attendees to walk away with.  We need to strategize, shape, and plan.  Planning doesn’t mean figuring out where to setup registration tables (though that does matter), it means planning what people will be talking about when they walk away from the event.  If they aren’t talking about something they learned, or some new way to think, the event wasn’t a success.  Go read the rest of Zeldman’s article so you can understand that “A trained ape can invite the same speakers who speak everywhere else.” and why you can do better.

Matt Mullenweg on Ensuring the Future of WordPress

Photo by Vladimir Kaladan Petkov
Photo by Vladimir Kaladan Petkov

Matt Mullenweg made waves this past weekend during his Q&A session at WordCamp Europe when he strongly advocated the importance of companies contributing back to WordPress. He offered a rule of thumb for companies that benefit from the software and want to invest in the future of WordPress:

I think a good rule of thumb that will scale with the community as it continues to grow is that organizations that want to grow the WordPress pie (and not just their piece of it) should dedicate 5% of their people to working on something to do with core — be it development, documentation, security, support forums, theme reviews, training, testing, translation or whatever it might be that helps move WordPress mission forward.

He cites the tragedy of the commons as an example fate that he hopes WordPress can avoid.

The 5% statement was instantly controversial, sparking a number of heated discussions on blogs, news sites, and Twitter. Some took exception to the wording of his suggestion, as the use of “should” implies a moral obligation, complicated further by the fact that the statement originates from a person in a position of power, who many perceive as the person most likely to benefit from increased contributions.

Granted, Mullenweg is at the helm of what is undeniably the most successful WordPress-based company in operation. Automattic is one of many companies that are entirely reliant on this software for their continued existence. Though all may not benefit equally from contribution, it does not negate the fact that the WordPress project is 100% dependent on contribution and would not exist without it. If we want to see it grow, there must be continued contribution, and in the end it doesn’t matter if that motivation is practical or ideological.

Open source businesses are free to act on Mullenweg’s suggestion of 5% contribution or to throw it out entirely. The issue cuts close to home. It’s a personal question of philosophy as much as it is a business consideration.

For Mullenweg, the suggestion of a 5% contribution originates out of a desire to ensure the future of WordPress. The project started out much like your average garage band. Mullenweg wanted a place to blog and post photos, so with the help of a handful of contributors, WordPress was born. Since the very early days, he has been unwavering when it comes to protecting user freedoms with the GPL and established the project’s mission to democratize publishing through open source software.

Before you decide to contribute, it’s a good idea to consider the future of WordPress. Where does Matt see the project going? Do you want to be a part of taking it there? I had the opportunity to speak with him at WordCamp Europe to press further into his vision of WordPress for the next decade.

Mobile

You’ve probably heard it before: mobile is a big part of the future of WordPress. Mullenweg emphasizes this in nearly every recent interview I’ve read and Automattic is aggressively hiring mobile developers. For many internet users, their mobile device is the only way they access the web. This is particularly true for users in countries like China and India. If WordPress is to gain penetration in these geographical regions, it must provide a solid mobile experience.

This puts the WordPress mobile apps in a singular place of influence, which results in a bit of controversy at the moment. Currently, the apps are packed full of WordPress.com features that provide functionality beyond the core publishing experience. Many self-hosted WordPress users find the Reader in particular to be irrelevant.

Mullenweg explained Automattic’s approach to the mobile apps:

The goal with the mobile apps is first and foremost to get as many mobile app users as possible, because I think that ensures WordPress development for years to come. They are open source projects and people can contribute code to make them do a lot of different things. The team is focused on developing the things that will be most compelling to people on the mobile side. That’s notifications, stats, and the reader.

Since the apps are open source, developers can fork them and remove unwanted features if they want to. However, this seems a bit counterintuitive for self-hosted WordPress users who don’t use WordPress.com features. The recent video ad produced by Automattic does not put the spotlight on the Reader but rather features the mobile apps in use for publishing media. Won’t people be using the publishing features more often than the Reader? Mullenweg doesn’t think so.

By definition, people read more than they write. You read far more than you write. The average blogger doesn’t post every day. They read blogs every day. In fact, they read WordPress blogs every day, over a billion per month. By connecting more of those to the active users with this thing we call WordPress, I think it opens the door for more publishing in the future, which is really exciting.

The apps are technically open source. If there’s a strong contingency of developers who don’t agree with the preeminence of WordPress.com’s Reader in the app, they can work to change that through contribution. The reality is that mobile developers are few and far between. At the moment, Automattic drives nearly 100% of the contribution on the apps and its agenda is unrivaled. These apps wouldn’t exist without the company’s contributions.

I asked Mullenweg if other contributing commercial entities are free to push their own features through the official mobile apps. “Yeah they could,” he said, but followed it up with more insight on what he believes to be Automattic’s roll in the mobile apps:

I think that in many ways, Automattic is a shepherd. When you type in WordPress into a search engine, we’re the thing that pops up first. We’re the gateway drug, the thing that brings in the billions of people who don’t use WordPress yet. That’s our responsibility.

He believes that, as more users easily gain access through WordPress.com, it will mean a greater number of those who transition to self-hosted sites, as people graduate from the service. “We’ll even help them move on,” he said. Obviously, you cannot simply download PHP files to your phone and get started.

“We want you to be able to start a blog and engage with the world of blogging 100% from the mobile device,” he said. “That requires WordPress.com and Jetpack features. Will it forever? Maybe not, but, as an idealist in a practical world, while that is not what I’d choose as a perfect solution – I’d love for you to be able to run WordPress on your phone and the world could access it, but that’s not reality today.”

So why doesn’t Automattic simply rename the apps to reflect the fact that the it heavily features WordPress.com? “We could rename it to WordPress.com App, but then there would be no WordPress app.” Automattic only has 15 mobile engineers at present and there aren’t many on the outside lining up to contribute to the open source apps. For Mullenweg, the ease of starting a free blog via the app is something that will help to ensure the future of WordPress:

It’s difficult to build an open source thing on a closed source platform. I see it as a gateway drug and it gives people more options down the road. If we don’t do anything on mobile, five years from now, when everyone is only using mobile devices, they will all have Squarespace’s or Weebly’s. WordPress is still around but it just doesn’t matter. This allows us to matter five years from now.

Mullenweg sees the apps as an easy onramp to the WordPress software in general, but recognizes that the method isn’t the most ideal situation for everyone. “The direction we’re moving is to make them more modular, so people can fork the apps more easily in the future,” he said. “If you talk to anyone on the mobile team, you will find a passion for open source.” This means that there’s the potential for the focus of the app’s development to change in the future.

Internationalization and Global Adoption

Croatian, Serbian and Slovenian WP communities with @photomatt @nacin at #WCEU - photo credit: Konstantin Tatar
Croatian, Serbian and Slovenian WP communities with @photomatt @nacin at #WCEU – photo credit: Konstantin Tatar

WordCamp Europe is unique in that it brings together many WordPress users whose primary language is not English. Mullenweg could not hide his excitement about the recent and upcoming changes related to internationalization. “If WordPress is representative of the world, then English should be a minority of the interactions, contributions and even plugins,” he said, and remarked further on how we’re still in the old mindset of taking English plugins and themes and then translating them into another language.

Personally, I am far and away most excited about the internationalization improvements, because the fact that WordPress has that many users at all in these other languages where there’s not very much documentation, no plugins, very few themes, it’s kind of amazing. Basically we have lots of usage in other countries but it’s primarily built by English-speaking people. So when that starts to change to where you can, for example, login to your dashboard in Spanish, installation, plugins and themes in Spanish, I think it could substantially change WordPress’ adoption rate.

He believes that internationalization improvements will be key to improving WordPress’ global adoption and may perhaps be more of an influential factor than the software’s incremental improvement on features:

Honestly, incremental features in WordPress probably aren’t going to change its adoption rate (the number of people starting a WP blog every day). At this point, that’s primarily driven by our reputation and existing users. What will substantively change that is if WordPress opens up to vastly more audiences than it was before, be that platforms, languages, or cost. At the moment WordPress.com is free but it’s not fully available to all languages.

WordPress already receives many contributions from contributors who do not speak English as their first language. Mullenweg believes it may be quite a ways down the road from now before WordPress core development requires translators to effectively incorporate contributions from what may someday be a larger contingency of non-English speaking lead developers.

“Maybe there’s a full-time translator working with Nacin,” he commented, imagining how internationalization could change the project in the future. With WordPress fully opened up to more languages, the software has the potential to improve at an exponentially faster rate than it does now. It’s an exciting prospect to consider.

The Value of Experimentation

In his quest to ensure the future of WordPress, Mullenweg often looks outside of the project for inspiration. He’s devoted a team at Automattic to experimenting with non-WordPress technologies. This was the team that created the Selfies app, released earlier this year.

selfies

The app wasn’t built on WordPress and didn’t appear to be as polished as other Automattic products. I asked Mullenweg why they chose to release the app in its unpolished state. He highlighted the importance of experimentation:

One thing that’s difficult in a company, as it grows, is to not just work on the thing that’s most successful. WordPress, WordPress.com, Jetpack, these are ridiculously successful by any measure. It would be very easy for all 272 people at Automattic to only work on that. One of the things we did this year is create a team that is almost like our version of Google X, except we’re not going to space. As a smaller company our ambitions are a little more modest, but we do want that sense of experimentation, and that it’s ok to release something that’s not 100% polished.

This further clarifies the release of the Selfies app, which the team presented as an accident wherein the planned Gravatar App morphed into Selfies. “There’s no one working on a Gravatar app right now,” Mullenweg said, confirming that the idea was considered and then scrapped. What they learned in the process was more valuable than delivering on the original idea.

Usage is oxygen for ideas, right? The things that we know and learn by releasing stuff, we never could have learned otherwise, so look for more of that. That team has lots of things planned – their charter is specifically not to do things that integrate with WordPress. I’d love for it to be a much larger team, actually.

This spirit of experimentation is what sets Automattic apart from many other companies that simply focus on their successful products. Perhaps it will someday translate into technology that can work alongside WordPress, especially when the software adopts more modern APIs.

The Mission

In recent press, Automattic has received considerable attention due to the fact that the company doesn’t work from one centralized office. The idea is brand new to those who have only experienced more traditional workplaces. I asked Mullenweg what he believes is truly unique about his company. He cited a few things, such as the hiring process, the reliability of WordPress.com’s technical architecture, the dedication to experimentation. But in the end, for him, everything loops back around to the mission of democratizing publishing.

I don’t think there’s anything that doesn’t exist in any other company. Obviously we’re really deeply involved with WordPress. So is 10up and many other WP consultancies. We do a ton of open source but so does Canonical, Acquia, Redhat, and everyone else. I think it’s just the combination of all of these things, the truly distributed nature, and the mission, which isn’t just about bottom lines. It has an altruistic aspect as well.

Mullenweg’s Five for the Future post compelling open source companies to strive to contribute 5% back to the core software is a hotly debated topic in the WordPress ecosystem right now. Those who do not share the same practical convictions or altruistic ideals feel that the idea comes with an implication of people “working for free.” The folks at Automattic are hoping to lead the way in proving that commercial success can go hand-in-hand with an altruistic mission. For Mullenweg, it’s part of a larger vision and an unwavering commitment to ensure the future of WordPress for all.

Brio – Media & E-Commerce Responsive WordPress Theme

00-item-details-preview

Brio is a responsive theme with a flexible flat minimal design that works as a personal blog and allows you to setup an online store thanks to its integration with WooCommerce plugin.

Overview

Brio is a theme built following WordPress standards and best practices. It offers a great showcase of your media content such as images, videos, audios and galleries. It also allows to customize your posts differently one from the other and supports creating of an online shop.

Index & Archives

Brio implements post formats to display and showcase your content in a distictively way:

  • Gallery – showcase the images in a responsive gallery lightbox.
  • Image – show an enlarged view of the image using a responsive lightbox.
  • Audio – play an uploaded mp3 file with the responsive player or insert an embed code for a site like SoundCloud.
  • Video – insert the video URL or the embed code from sites like YouTube or Vimeo.

Custom Post Types

There are also other custom post types that allow easy content creation and display:

  • Slider – display images, posts and videos.
  • Testimonials – show the love your customers left.
  • Highlights – highlight your services or special products, or whatever you consider important.
  • Forms – quickly create forms like a contact form so your visitors connect with you.
  • Banners – create banners adding an ad code or uploading and image and setting a link.

Layout & Customization

Brio introduces customization capabilities to customize the post display shown in archive and index views and also the single view. For pages, there are different layouts that can be achieved:

  • Templates
    • Archives Template
    • Business Template, useful as an alternative home page
  • Layouts
    • Full Width
    • Sidebar Left
    • Sidebar Right
    • Full Width, No Title

Home

Brio empowers you to create a great home page, with a header slider, special widget areas, and the ability to show the latest blog posts, if you’re creating a rather more personal site, or to use a page, allowing to change its appearance to give the site a corporate business appearance.

WooCommerce Integration

Brio is integrated with WooCommerce for you to create an e-commerce shop and includes custom widgets such as the product slider, that you can place for example in the home page to highlight your products, or the customized collapsible cart, which can be added to the header widget area and sits there allowing for quick access and additions to cart.

Download Brio

Download Brio now and start showcasing your media content

10 Most Wanted Category Hacks and Plugins for WordPress

Categories provide an easy way to sort your WordPress content. However, there is so much more that you can do with categories to make your site more user and search engine friendly. In this article, we will show you some of the most wanted category hacks and plugins for WordPress.

1. Category RSS Feeds

Did you know that each category on your WordPress site has its own RSS feed? Just add feed at the end of your category URL like this:

http://www.wpbeginner.com/category/news/feed/

That’s all, you can add this link on category templates. Don’t worry we will show you how to create category templates later in this article.

Another great benefit of category feeds is that you can allow your users to subscribe to categories. This gives your users a chance to only subscribe topics that interest them.

2. Category list with RSS Feed Links

The default categories widget in WordPress does not allow you to display an RSS feed link next to category names. If you would like to display feed links next to category names, then add this code in your theme’s functions.php file or a site-specific WordPress plugin.

function wpb_categories_with_feed() { 
$string .= '<ul>';
$string .= wp_list_categories('orderby=name&feed=RSS'); 
$string .= '</ul>'; 
return $string; 
}
// add shortcode
add_shortcode('categories-feed', 'wpb_categories_with_feed'); 
// Add filter to execute shortcodes in text widgets
add_filter('widget_text', 'do_shortcode'); 

You need to add [categories-feed] shortcode inside a text widget to list categories with feed links next to them.

3. Adding Category Icons in WordPress

Images make the web more interesting. You can use images to make your category pages stand-out. To associate images with your categories you need to install and activate the Taxonomy Images plugin. Upon activation you need to visit Settings » Taxonomy Images to enable images for categories.

Enabling images for categories in WordPress

To associate images with categories simply visit Post » Categories and click on the thumbnail icon to upload category images.

Adding category icons

See our guide on how to add taxonomy images in WordPress for more details.

4. Enable Categories for Pages

By default categories are only available for posts in WordPress. However, you can associate them to any post type including pages. Simply install and activate Post Tags and Categories for Pages plugin. It works out of box and there are no settings for you to configure. Simply click on pages and you will see categories and tags under the pages menu. Take a look at our tutorial on how to add categories and tags for WordPress pages for more information.

Categories for pages in WordPress

5. Enable Sticky Posts for Category Archives

In WordPress you can make posts sticky to feature them on your home page. To add sticky posts for your category pages, simply install and activate Category Sticky Posts plugin. Upon activation, the plugin adds a category sticky metabox on the post edit screen. See our tutorial on how to add sticky posts for WordPress categories for detailed instructions.

Category sticky metabox on post edit screen in WordPress

6. Creating Category Templates in WordPress

WordPress comes with a powerful theme engine. By default it looks for templates with specific names in your theme to display certain pages. For example, the category.php template in a theme is used to display all category pages.

Similarly, you can create templates for specific categories by naming the template with category name. For example, to create a template for movies category, you will name the template file category-movie.php.

Use your theme’s category.php file as the starting point for your single category template and then make the changes you need. For more detailed instructions take a look at our tutorial on how to create category templates in WordPress.

7. Exclude Specific Categories from RSS Feed

By default all your posts appear in your site’s RSS feed. If you would like to hide certain categories from site’s main RSS feed, then simply install and activate the Ultimate Category Excluder plugin. Upon activation, simply visit Settings » Category Exclusion to select categories you want to hide from your RSS feeds.

Exclude specific categories from RSS feed in WordPress

8. Show Recent Posts from Specific Categories

The main use of categories is to help you sort your content and help your users find content easily. If a user finds a post in a specific category interesting, then they are likely to read similar posts in the same category. To display recent posts from a category use this code in your theme where you want recent posts from a category to appear.

$query = new WP_Query( 'category_name=news' );

if ( $the_query->have_posts() ) {
	echo '<ul>';
	while ( $the_query->have_posts() ) {
		$the_query->the_post();
		echo '<li>' . get_the_title() . '</li>';
	}
	echo '</ul>';
} else {
	// no posts found
}
/* Restore original Post Data */
wp_reset_postdata();

Replace the value of category_name with the name of category you want to use.

9. Assign Author to Specific Categories

When managing a multi-author WordPress site you may want to assign authors to only post into specific categories assigned to them. Simply install and activate the Restrict Author Posting plugin. Upon activation, go to Users and edit the user you want to assign a category. On the user edit screen you will see a Restrict author post to a category section, where you can select the category assigned to that particular user.

Restrict author to a category

10. Show Excerpts on Category Pages

We recommend our users to display excerpts on archive and category pages. Displaying excerpts only cuts down your page load time which is good for SEO. Apart from that it also protects you from duplicate content issue on your site. To replace full content with excerpts on category pages, simply add this code to your theme’s functions.php file or a site specific plugin.


function my_excerpts($content = false) {
if(is_category()) :
	global $post;
	$content = $post->post_excerpt;
// If the post has explicitly set excerpt use that
	if($content) :
		$content = apply_filters('the_excerpt', $content);
// If no excerpt is set
	else :
		$content = $post->post_content;
		$excerpt_length = 55;
		$words = explode(' ', $content, $excerpt_length + 1);
		if(count($words) > $excerpt_length) :
			array_pop($words);
			array_push($words, '...');
			$content = implode(' ', $words);
		endif;
		$content = '<p>' . $content . '</p>';
	endif;
endif;
return $content;
}
add_filter('the_content', 'my_excerpts');

You can also replace content with excerpt by editing your theme’s category.php file and replacing the_content with the_excerpt. For more instructions see this tutorial on how to display post excerpts in WordPress themes.

We hope this article helped you learn some new category hacks and plugins for WordPress. For more best practice tips, see our guide on Categories vs. Tags (Best Practices).

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and Google+.

To leave a comment please visit 10 Most Wanted Category Hacks and Plugins for WordPress on WPBeginner.

Research on the WordPress, Web Development, and Web Design Job Market

In 2012 and 2013, I did extensive research for the grant program to develop and rewrite the Web Developer degree program at Clark College. This research included an analysis of current and future job opportunities for students graduating with that degree with a solid understanding of WordPress. Now that the program has completed its first […]

Meet John Blackbourn, WordPress 4.1 Release Lead

John Blackbourn speaking at WordCamp London 2013 - WordPress.tv
John Blackbourn speaking at WordCamp London 2013 – WordPress.tv

Nine years ago, John Blackbourn was stacking shelves at a supermarket 40 hours per week and returning home to do another 20 hours of freelance work on the side. His journey with WordPress started much like many others, when his first patch was accepted seven years ago. This past weekend at WordCamp Europe, Blackbourn was named WordPress 4.1 release lead.

“I’m sure my first contribution was because I found a bug that annoyed me, so I thought I’ll patch that up and get it in there,” he said. Submitting bug reports led him to learn about Subversion, patching files, and the trac ticket manager. “That’s actually a great way for people to get into version control – when someone turns around and says ‘Write a patch for it,’ and you have to go off and figure out how to do it.”

It started off as a hobby, Blackbourn said, “building my own websites and playing around a bit.” After awhile his freelance work started to take off. “Then I was lucky enough to be able to drop my hours down to part time while I ramped up my freelance work,” he said. A couple years later, he got a job at Code For The People, a WordPress development agency and WordPress.com VIP partner.

Code for the People is made up of a flock of regular contributors to WordPress core, with founders who are passionately committed to giving back to open source software. When Blackbourn was put forward to lead the 4.1 release, his agency was behind him 110%.

“I had previously talked to Andrew Nacin about leading 3.9 and 4.0 and he’d already spoken to my bosses at Code For The People. They said, ‘Yeah go for it – we’ll give you time off work, adequate resources, and time to lead it.'”

Simon Wheatley, one of the founders of CFTP, spoke at WordCamp Europe about running an open source business, during which his co-founder, Simon Dickson, commented on donating Blackbourn’s time to core. “CFTP is a small team. Contributing John Blackbourn to WP Core won’t make our lives easy. But it’s important to us. We’ll find a way,” he said.

What’s on the horizon for WordPress 4.1?

This will be the first time that Blackbourn has led a release, although he has been a core committer for both 3.9 and 4.0. WordPress 4.1 will be a short release cycle, with less than three months, due around December 12th. He shared a few ideas with us about where he thinks 4.1 will be heading.

We’re going to try to reign in expectations for the release so we’re going to get a few nice things to do with session management and password security, etc. If we keep the potential features reigned in a bit, then hopefully we won’t be needing to take weeks off work. I expect to be doing a couple days a week that I would normally be working.

Blackbourn hopes to further extend the improvements to sessions that were made in the previous release. “The new thing in WP 4.0 is the sessions – when you log in, you actually get assigned a session now, so you can forcibly log one of your sessions out,” he explained. “So if I’m logged in on my laptop and my phone I can kick myself out of one or the other.” This now exists in WordPress on an API level and Blackbourn is hopeful that 4.1 will add a UI for it.

He has extensive experience working with multisite on a daily basis at CFTP. “We haven’t got many clients who don’t use multisite these days,” he said. When asked if there are any multisite improvements planned for 4.1, he said that there may not be much time to make significant strides on the roadmap. However, he’s optimistic about including improvements related to multisite password resets.

Since it’s his first time to lead a release, Blackbourn plans to meet with several past release leads in attendance at WordCamp Europe in order to get an overview of how it’s done. He’s one of the most humble, talented people I had the privilege of meeting at the event. Query Monitor, his comprehensive WordPress debugging plugin, is truly a work of art, and many developers can no longer live without it. Blackbourn is a benefit to the project and an excellent example of a WordPress professional who has become a high-end expert by sharpening his skills through contribution to core.

My WordPress plugins will be TimThumb free

photos-in-hand

Contextual Related Posts, Top 10 and Where did they go from here have come inbuilt with TimThumb to resize images for a long time now. However, TimThumb has had a fair share of exploits that have affected a lot of websites and although I’ve maintained the latest version of TimThumb consistently within the plugins, it required me to be on the lookout constantly for updates to TimThumb.

Ben has supported the development of TimThumb over the years, but announced that he has stopped supporting or maintaining it. This means that eventually, I’m going to drop TimThumb from my WordPress plugins.

Contextual Related Posts v2.0 comes inbuilt with complete support for WordPress thumbnails  In the next version, you’ll be able to select the inbuilt created thumbnail sizes, instead of creating a new one. This means even better support for your thumbnails, especially if you’re carving your own ones! v2.1 will remove TimThumb completely and the plugin will no longer bundle it.

I’m currently working on new versions of Top 10 and Where did they go from here and these will come with the WordPress thumbnails support out of the box as well as the option to select existing thumbnail sizes.

If you’d still like to use TimThumb, you’ll need to host this on your own and use a simple function to filter the post image. This is, in fact, how my plugins currently use TimThumb to resize the images. But, as Ben says, this will be at your own risk.

I know that this is definitely a big change. I’ve always liked how TimThumb could seamlessly resize images on the fly, but with lack of support and maintenance, it’s time to stop using it.


My WordPress plugins will be TimThumb free was first posted on September 27, 2014 at 2:56 pm.
© 2003-2014 "Ajay - On the Road called Life". All rights reserved.

What Does WordPress, iThemes, Goodwill, Home Depot, and Target Have in Common? Your Identity and Security.

We received a new credit card in the mail today to replace our old one AGAIN. An “unsuccessful attempt” to access our secure security data happened and this is a precaution the bank is taking to protect us. I have no other information so I’m left wondering. Yesterday I received an email supposedly from Home […]

Google’s Search in Sitelinks and WordPress SEO

Recently, Google introduced the new “search in sitelinks” box for a lot more sites. In the past this used to be restricted to YouTube and a few other sites. If your site is eligible, you’ll see it by Googling your brand, or receiving an email like this from Google Webmaster Tools:

Sitelinks with searchbox email from Google Webmaster Tools

So let’s run through steps 1 to 3:

1 Verify you have a functioning search engine

For 99.5% of WordPress sites, this one is very easy: you type example.com/?s=query (replacing example.com with your site’s URL) and you should be seeing search results. If not; you’ve either made a conscious decision to move your search engine elsewhere or you need to fix your theme.

If you see search results but you don’t like them, read my post on how to make WordPress search suck a little bit less.

2 Add the necessary markup

Another very easy step, assuming that A, you found your search engine under step 1 and it’s the default WordPress one and B, you’re using our free or premium WordPress SEO plugin. Update to the latest version of our plugin and you’ve got the code right on your site.

If your search engine is not the default, you’ll need to change the URL using the built-in filter. If you don’t have a search engine, get one.

3 Set up a preferred canonical URL for your homepage

Step 3, and yet again, this one’s easy. If you’ve got WordPress SEO installed, this’ll have already been done for you. If you don’t have it installed, you’ll realize after reading this that now is as good a time as any to get it done.

If all is done and your site is eligible, you should be seeing something like this in the search results:

emerce search in sitelinks

Conclusion: we’ve got your back

As I said in my post about Google moving back to 10 blue links:

When we were discussing these changes with some SEO friends, one of them said “it’s awesome, it’s a chance to be the first movers on another new thing”. That’s one thing you can be sure of: we’ll be there helping you make the most of it!

That’s what we’re doing. Thanks for using our WordPress SEO plugin!

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

Version 1.3.6 of Storage for Contact Form 7 Plugin

I have updated the Storage for Contact Form 7 plugin to keep the uploaded form files even when they are not sent in e-mail. It was a request from a user who wanted to avoid sending large files in e-mail and still have a reliable way of accessing them from the WordPress dashboard.

How Public Perception of WordPress Influences Developer Contracts

photo credit: Tax Credits - cc
photo credit: Tax Creditscc

If the WordPress community is your only barometer of knowing how an open source community works together, then you might want to explore outside a bit further to gain a broader outlook on other cultures. Some of the differences are worth examining.

A few days ago I noticed an interesting observation regarding the relationship between plugin development and project offers in CakePHP vs. WordPress.

Mario Peshev is a WordPress contributor who owns DevriX, a high-end agency specializing in SaaS development and platform architecture. He is also a co-organizer of WordCamp Sofia and WordCamp Europe 2014.

It seems curious that Peshev would regularly receive more offers for CakePHP work, originating from older code he’d written, versus requests for WordPress, which powers more than 23% of the web. In his experience, it’s not just related to CakePHP but many other technologies as well.

“It’s not only CakePHP really. CakePHP, CodeIgniter, Java, Django, Drupal, Android even – all sorts of small extensions, plugins or apps I’ve built and released publicly get larger attention than my WordPress contributions,” Peshev told the Tavern.

“Not only do I get 2-3x more projects with any other platform (even though I haven’t contributed there for 3+ years), but the proposed rates and budgets are few times higher.”

His experience seems to suggest that there’s a disconnect somewhere in how potential customers value the skills of WordPress developers.

Client Perception of WordPress

WordPress is heralded the world over as being the most user friendly publishing software on the web. Unfortunately, this can also contribute to unrealistic client expectations when it comes to custom development.

“The majority of the WordPress users that get in touch with us are: bloggers, small company owners, marketing consultants, sales agents, small and medium-sized businesses,” Peshev said. “They are not technical people and don’t have realistic (according to the market standards) expectations for the type of work they ask for.”

He outlined a typical scenario that plagues many development agencies. Because users can piece most of their sites together without help, they figure rest should be easy:

A common scenario is: “We’ve built our WordPress website ourselves with a premium theme and a few plugins, so we just need those tiny changes applied here and there.” Their infrastructure is not ready for the types of changes they need, and the fact that 90%+ of their requirements cost $100 or so (for a premium theme + a plugin) doesn’t justify paying ten times more for the other 10% if that would be 10-20 hours of high-end development. The math just doesn’t add up for them.

These misconceptions play out in various ways, including users feeling entitled when it comes to free plugin and theme features, core updates, and other improvements that seem to arrive magically from the sky. Very few plugin and theme developers can report anything more than meager donations when it comes to contributing free extensions.

For Peshev, creating open source extensions for platforms outside the WordPress ecosystem has been far more rewarding in terms of referrals for work. He detailed a recent request for he recieved in a post titled The $15 WordPress Gig:

“Hello, I’m looking for someone who could customize a WordPress plugin we bought. It’s a car reservation system, we need to change the pricing model and add a few extra SQL tables that would operate with the plugin.”

After requesting a project description and budget, Peshev received the following reply:

“Thanks, the plugin costs $25 so I estimate the change would probably cost around $15.”

While that response may seem shocking to a developer, it makes perfect sense to someone who only has the price tag of the original product as a gauge for judging the value of work related to it.

Reshaping Client Expectations

The WordPress community has a unique challenge when it comes to communicating the costs of custom development, given that thousands of free and/or dirt cheap themes and plugins are available. How can a seemingly simple modification be 10x the price of the original plugin?

Some of these issues stem from the way most development agencies attract customers. “WordPress is more design and marketing oriented than other communities. Portfolios reveal beautiful and stylish websites and agencies focus on frontend work,” Peshev said.

“Building CRMs, eRPs, eCommerce platforms or other backend-oriented platforms and services is still not a common thing in the WordPress ecosystem, even if it’s completely possible and some of us build these sorts of projects for larger clients.”

Peshev believes that since most clients lack technical knowledge, they judge agencies and developers by what they can see. “Clients don’t browse WordPress.org or GitHub portfolios, they are just looking for beautiful designs. Code quality doesn’t matter unless you deal with eCommerce, and scalability and security are overlooked until it’s too late.”

If you sell WordPress development services, you will undoubtedly have to become skilled at reshaping client expectations. When it comes to custom development, experienced developers often recommend giving the potential customer a more familiar frame of reference:

There are many different pre-internet era professions that clients can better understand:

What is difficult for customers to grasp, is that development expertise is most similar to the work of a traditional engineer in that it requires applying years of knowledge and experience to devise a technical solution that will hold up in the long run.

A client may see his request as a “simple tweak to a plugin or theme” but is unaware of the many obstacles that can make it complicated. Peshev details a few examples in his recent piece on The Slippery Slope of WordPress Customizations:

  • The theme is not written according to the WordPress guidelines
  • The plugins are not compatible
  • There have been various manual changes in those plugins
  • The hosting provider has some limitations
  • There are PHP/MySQL version issues
  • The site uses some 3rd party API/service/database that needs special attention
  • The fixes could cause a regression in another area of the site
  • A simple functionality has been built with a complex plugin and the change needs to be applied there, which requires hacking the plugin itself

For many small to mid-sized development agencies, the majority of incoming requests are directly related to customization work. Developers have to be prepared to educate clients on the realities of building quality WordPress solutions. While client perceptions are a major factor in the size of contracts developers are able to win, Peshev believes that the WordPress community has deeper cultural issues to resolve before the public will change its mind on the value of WordPress development.

Changing Public Perception by Building a Culture of Contributing

Because the open source WordPress project is primarily a volunteer-driven effort, a culture of contribution is vital to its continued ability to innovate. It’s also vital for extension developers if they want to work together to build more elegant solutions. According to Peshev, very few companies and agencies see the value of contributing to the project.

While traveling around Europe I’ve met developers and devops at WordCamps from companies with 400+ employees, where the WordPress department is only 5-10 people strong. Those projects are large online magazines, or platforms for digital and high-tech companies that heavily rely on the WordPress platform, and they rarely invest in WordPress advocates or full-time contributors.

Apart from a small number of corporately-funded contributors, the rest are individuals who donate time in the evening after the kids go to bed, over the weekend, or in between their freelance/agency duties.

Yet, many contributions go unrecognized and are often wrongly attributed entirely to Automattic by every major tech news outlet. These are honest mistakes, but, when uncorrected, they contribute to the public perception that the project is the work of a handful of people who work for an elite agency, marginalizing the efforts of hundreds of unpaid volunteers.

“‘WordPress themes’ is the most popular subject in Google searches if you check with the Keyword planner,” Peshev notes. “Yet until a week ago there were no paid contributors to the WordPress Theme Review Team. Lots of people haven’t been noticed at all there, despite the facts that millions of websites run the themes they have reviewed and polished in order to reach to the point that they actually work.”

He contends that when contributions are undervalued or unrecognized, WordPress developers have little motivation to work together. This applies to product development as well, which spills over into custom development work.

“Have you noticed how many Lightbox, Gallery or Slider plugins we have out there? Contributors don’t help each other and products stay small and simple,” Peshev siad. “I have 25+ plugins on GitHub and I’ve only ever gotten three or four pull requests for any changes, and keep seeing similar plugins popping up every few weeks.

Our culture outside of the core isn’t contributing, but building everything from scratch or using ‘builder’ plugins, which is somewhat justified by the low budgets that prevent us from any research activities which could slow us down (and burn our profits).”

As a result, many developers opt to go it alone, building custom solutions as quickly as possible on small budgets. Unfortunately, this practice restricts the growth of development agencies.

“I see a huge gap between the types of WordPress development/design requests,” Peshev said.

“The types of WordPress experts that I see out there are either freelancers and small studios with up to 3-4 people, or agencies like Human Made, 10up, WebDevStudios (and Automattic, of course). On one hand, there are the small $500 customization gigs or $3K eCommerce projects. On the other end we have the WordPress.com VIP type of clients and requests that are at least 50 times more expensive than the others.”

WordPress clients who cannot afford VIP level service turn to smaller companies like Peshev’s to accommodate their budgets. However, Peshev is frequently approached by clients looking for high-end consultants for other platforms, based on past open source contributions. Unfortunately, when it comes to WordPress work, contributions have done little for bringing in larger projects.

“I find it challenging to grow from a consultant to a larger and sustainable agency solely with WordPress – and I see numerous small agencies getting stuck at 4-5 people tops,” he said.

Promoting Collaboration and Contribution

For many dedicated WordPress contributors like Peshev, open source contributions have not led to more work or better contracts, despite the fact that these types contributions should verify these developers as high-end experts. A little bit of skill and free time are all that are required to contribute to open source software, but time comes at a cost when you’re struggling to pay the bills.

Peshev’s observations raise some important questions that are worth considering. In an ecosystem where developers are often in competition with each other to create the same simple extensions for fast cash, it doesn’t pay to collaborate on more elegant solutions. This contributes to a market flooded with cheap solutions and customers who don’t value the skills required for WordPress development.

Highly skilled developers, who might otherwise be driven away to other more lucrative platforms, often choose to stick with WordPress because of its unique community. If we can find a way to change the culture to value and reward contributors, they will be better positioned to make a living with WordPress. This allows them to create more stable, secure solutions that raise the quality expectations of users across the web.

The slippery slope of WordPress customizations

There are two things I highly admire in the WordPress ecosystem: being able to precisely budget small projects (where the tiniest error could ruin the entire profit, if not more) and do freelance customization work.

We own a small brand under the DevriX hat called Premium WordPress Support, which started as a support engine for maintenance and retainers work. Currently we’re testing different approaches related to marketing and SEO, advertisement campaigns and more, and the majority of incoming requests are related to customization work – WordPress websites, themes or plugins.

The $500 client

I was truly impressed by WP Site Care after they posted Why We Love the “$500 Client”. Given the technical ignorance of the majority of clients who come from non-technical industries, I’ve found it challenging to compete in this field. Why?

There are several work phases:

  1. Approach
  2. Negotiation
  3. Research
  4. Discussing requirements and details
  5. Offer
  6. Implementation
  7. Few iterations
  8. Testing
  9. Delivery

The first 5 phases are not billable as you need to understand the specifics, send the offer and see if the client is ready to commit. Then, there are several tricky phases with either dodgy requirements, or a high risk of scope creep and more (especially if you don’t spend 10 hours writing the most detailed specification that would cover the entire budget).

WordPress Customizations

Even then, building a $500 website from scratch is doable – if you have a package that includes specific features, a list of premium themes and several fixed hours of work. Then the amount of time during the negotiation phase is limited to zero, and the package is sent as an offer.

What happens with WordPress Customization requests? You get an email that says: “We have that site that’s almost ready, with a few plugins and we need the following 3 changes: X, Y, Z”.

I already blogged about the $15 gig, and the type of RFPs I get way too often from several networks. But even if we ignore that particular case, another bunch of requests comes from clients who have build 90% of their website already with several plugins and expects a few tiny bits to be done before the end. And they see it as a hot fix “no matter what”, preferably ASAP though.

If you need to “quickly” adjust a plugin and adapt a few CSS fixes on the given website, what sort of issues could you encounter?

  • The theme is not written according to the WordPress guidelines
  • The plugins are not compatible
  • There have been various manual changes in those plugins
  • The hosting provider has some limitations
  • There are PHP/MySQL version issues
  • The site uses some 3rd party API/service/database that needs special attention
  • The fixes could cause a regression in another area of the site
  • A simple functionality has been built with a complex plugin and the change needs to be applied there, which requires hacking the plugin itself

Most of those issues are actually being noticed during the research phase, after the work has been started. The other way around is to ask for an hour of two of research before sending the offer, or spending some time discussing the specifics upfront (even if the client may not be aware of all of those).

Calculations

Last year I was getting roughly 8 meeting requests a week for random projects. Some of those didn’t even specify what sort of work is involved.

If I had to commute for 2 hours, spend an hour in a meeting, prep a proposal and get it rejected, that means at least 40 hours a week of non-guaranteed work. And if I want to get my time billed upfront, most of the clients reply with: “Are you crazy, we haven’t even started yet!”.

There are not too many business consultants in WordPress willing to estimate the costs of a project, mostly due to the small budgets of the clients – many can’t afford the changes, how about business consulting upfront? :)

Possible Options

Most of the time I avoid WordPress customization requests since my personal track record has been disappointing. There are several other options that I suggest to some of my clients though:

  • Consult with a technical expert regarding the budget or building a decent specification for the changes needed (or pay for consulting before the work has started)
  • Increase the budget and prepare for higher costs (sometimes it’s easier and cheaper to start from scratch if the architecture isn’t stable or scalable)
  • Rebuild that from scratch (sometimes)
  • Pay for 2-3 hours of research before sending the offer
  • Pay hourly with some very rough estimate where it’s possible that any unexpected changes would be billed extra
  • Subscribe for the retainer plan for a few months while we could sort everything out without too much pressure
  • Contact a risky agency that loves gambling and is willing to bill a fixed fee “no matter what”

I have had clients from other areas investing in customization work that includes a research phase, getting acquainted with the code base, building everything as needed. The most important advise for clients though is that starting small doesn’t mean that changes would be almost free later on.

If you build a small house you can’t expect to convert it to a castle for a few bucks based on the initial base. Changes may take time – a lot of time on larger projects.

Do you use a different approach with clients asking for customization gigs?

The post The slippery slope of WordPress customizations appeared first on Mario Peshev on WordPress Development.

The temptation of the green bullet in WP SEO!

This post starts with a confession: up until recently, I always asked my husband to do the page analyses of my blog posts. I have known about SEO for many years now, as Joost never stops talking about it. I just never used the plugin to check my own writings myself, I simply asked him to do that. Being married to Joost de Valk just has it benefits and this was one of them. But, as I started to read more and more about SEO and my interest in blogging increased, I decided to do some search engine optimization on my own.

The first time I used the plugin I was amazed by the ease of use and by the many features it contains. It made me fall in love with Joost all over again. I genuinely believe that the page analysis features in WP SEO can help you make your text SEO proof in a very, very easy way. The checks the plugin does are really amazing! But I also discovered a caveat: you should be aware of the temptation of the green bullet!

I want a green bullet in WP SEO by Yoast

Page Analysis and the green bullet in WP SEO by Yoast

The gamification of the page analysis within our WordPress SEO plugin helps you to upgrade the SEO-friendliness of your post. And it’s great fun! It can be a game to get as many green bullets as possible! However, the gamification also increases the likelihood that you cheat your own search engine optimization process in order to get that green bullet in WP SEO. And you should NOT do that!

Example of misuse of the Page Analysis Tool

In one of my first attempts to use the page analysis tool, I found myself cheating the tool in order to receive a green bullet: next to writing blogs for Yoast.com, I also blog for a new mom blog. One of my posts is about my favorite brands of newborn clothes. Of course, being the wife of Joost de Valk, I had done some extensive keyword research in advance. And I wanted this post to rank for baby clothes.

While starting my optimization with entering my focus keyword – baby clothes, I discovered that my blog did not contain the word baby clothes once. Not in the body of the text, not in the title, not in one of the headings. I simply had written about newborn clothes, instead of baby clothes. So, my bullet did not get green. And I felt agitated: I am Mrs Yoast and my bullet was orange. So, this is what I did: I changed my focus keyword from baby clothes to newborn clothes. And.. my bullet turned green instantly. It didn’t feel good, however… My keyword research had been an in depth and solid one. I had chosen, rather consciously, to attempt to rank for baby clothes.

Never change your focus keyword to receive a green bullet!

Changing your focus keyword in order to receive a green bullet is just plain nonsense. According to my keyword research, baby clothes is what people search for in Google. My post, however, was not optimized for baby clothes at all. Changing my focus keyword will not change the search behavior of people. A green bullet does not lead to findability if the terms you optimize for are not the terms people use to search in the search engines.

Fortunately, I came to my senses before my husband detected my cheating. It did make me wonder: if I am that susceptible to cheating the page analysis tool in order to get a green bullet in WP SEO, wouldn’t other people suffer from the same?

How to use the page analysis tool correctly

Your keyword research is always essential and should be leading. You should really analyze in depth on what terms you want people to find you. Your articles should be a reflection of these keywords. Changing your keywords according to the content of your articles, will lead to an ad hoc SEO strategy. You don’t want that! A strategy should never be ad hoc.

Without altering the core of the content of your blog or making too many concessions to readability and structure of your text, you can finetune your blog using the page analysis tool of the WP SEO plugin. Your SEO strategy should never be more important than the actual content and structure of your blog (read my post from last week), but minor changes in text and headings are perfectly acceptable!

I eventually made some alterations in my blog in order to fit it more nicely in my search engine strategy. I decided to change newborn clothes into baby clothes a few times and made some alterations in headings and titles. I did not change the core of my blog.

My bullet turned green and my husband was very proud…

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!