WPMU DEV's Blog - Everything WordPressWordPress Plugins - WPMU.org http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog The WPMU DEV WordPress blog provides tutorials, tips, resources and reviews to help out any WP user Sat, 20 Sep 2014 15:30:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Best WordPress Optin Plugins to Grow Your Email Subscriber List http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/best-wordpress-optin-plugins/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/best-wordpress-optin-plugins/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 12:00:00 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=132216 It’s one thing to have great content on your website, or even have a fantastic newsletter, but there’s no point investing time in creating content if no one’s reading it.

One of best ways to get visitors returning to your site or reading your newsletter is with an optin form. Optin forms allows you to collect email addresses so you can alert users when you have new content or offers and get them to return to your site.

There are a bunch of different kinds of ways you can display optin forms on your site (sidebars, slide-ins, after post boxes, and squeeze pages) and you can even choose when these forms are displayed (after a specified amount of time or when they’ve scrolled to the bottom of your site).

You can also integrate many optin plugins with major email marketing services, such as MailChimp and Aweber.

Adding an optin form to your site is easy and will help you increase traffic to your site, convert new visitors and better engage with return ones.

The plugin list below is short because I’ve picked the best plugins for the job. I’ve specifically chosen free and premium plugins that include email marketing integration and some other features like form customization, A/B split testing and analytics.

OptinMonster (Premium)

optinmonster

WP Beginner’s Syed Balkhi teamed up with Thomas Griffin, the creator of the Soliloquy slider plugin, to create OptinMonster, one of the most popular plugins available for converting visitors into subscribers and customers.

The plugin allows you to promoted your newsletter using a range of different optin types, including lightbox, footer bar, slide-in, sidebar widget, after post widget and canvas pop-up.

The built-in design bolder lets you easily create beautiful optin forms, and if you don’t want a custom form you can use a pre-made template.

Other major features include exit intent so you can capture users before they leave your site, and A/B testing so you can trial different content, headlines and layouts to see what converts best.

The plugin also tracks the number of impressions, total conversion and the conversion rate, providing easy to read analytics.

A Basic license costs $49 per year and includes one site, but doesn’t come with exit intent, canvas or support. A Pro license will set you back $199 per year and includes the full suite of features, as well as support and updates for 12 months.

SumoMe - List Builder, Scroll Box and Smart Bar (Free)

sumome

The team behind AppSumo, a daily deal site for software, have made available a suite of free tools they used to build their email newsletters to over a million subscribers.

Their sister site, SumoMe, features eight apps. In this listing we’ll look at just three – List Builder, Scroll Box and Smart Bar.

List Builder allows you to create simple and elegant lightbox pop-ups that can be customized to automatically pop-up after a certain amount of time, or you can use “smart mode” to ask your visitors to subscribe as they’re about to leave your site.

Scroll Box adds an optin form to the bottom corner of your site and slides out as visitors reach the bottom of the page. The plugin is fully customizable, so you can set at what point on the page you want to ask your visitor’s for their email address, how often is is shown and where it is positioned on the page.

Lastly, Smart Bar places a bar at the top of the page where visitors can enter their email and sign up for your newsletter. It features three options for display: when a visitor scrolls up, scrolls with the page, or always stays at the top. It also comes with five custom themes, or you can customize how it looks with HTML.

All of these plugins feature easy integration with MailChimp, Aweber, Constant Contact and Campaign Monitor.

Hybrid Connect (Premium)

hybrid-connect

Talk about feature intense! Hybrid Connect comes with Facebook integration, shortcode support, video optin forms, analytics, A/B split testing, and that’s just some of what this popular plugin has to offer.

What most users love about this plugin – a quick Google search reveals this plugin has many fans – is that it is hugely customizable. If you don’t like any of the 30+ optin form templates, you can use the built-in form builder to create your own custom design.

Hybrid Connect support a range of optin form types, including pop-ups, sidebars, slide-ins, after post boxes, and squeeze pages.

It also supports many autoresponder services, include MailChimp, Aweber, Campaign Monitor, Infusionsoft, Constant Contact and Get Response.

Unfortunately, Hybrid Connect isn’t compatible with Multisite.

Hybrid Connect costs $49 for a single site and includes support A Professional license will set you back $147.

Optin Revolution: WordPress Popup (Free + Premium)

optin-revolution

Optin Revolution lets you display timely pop-ups to encourage visitors to subscribe to your site.

Easily add YouTube, Vimeo and Wistia videos to your pop-ups, choose when you want your pop-ups to display (including exit intent) and how many times that are shown.

You can also A/B split test pop-ups to maximize your subscriber rate. The plugin’s built-in analytics and conversion tracking help you monitor how well your campaigns are going.

This plugin also support a huge range of email marketing providers, including MailChimp, Aweber, Constant Contact, MailPoet, Infusionsoft and GetResponse.

Optin Revolution also comes as a pro plugin starting at $47 for a single license, up to $297 for a developer license with unlimited sites.

MailChimp for WordPress (Free + Premium)

mailchimp-for-wordpress

MailChimp for WordPress is a simple plugin that lets you create a customizable sign-up form you can display anywhere on your site using a shortcode. You can also add checkboxes to your sign-up form.

Easily integrate your MailChimp account with the plugin – all you need is your MailChimp API key.

This plugin comes with a bunch of details forms themes, or you can create your own.

There’s also a pro version which allows you to create multiple sign-up forms, a CSS styles builder and custom color themes, statistics, and WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads checkout integration. The pro version starts at $49 a year for one site.

Ninja Popups for WordPress (Premium)

Ninja Popups

Ninja Popups is a hugely customizable plugin that allows you to convert visitors to your site, offer a discount/coupon or leaving customers, or lock content until a visitors share your site.

Key features include A/B split testing, great themes layout, exit intent and analytics. Ninja Popups also supports many email marketing services, including MailChimp, Aweber, MailPoet, Constant Contact, Get Response and Infusionsoft.

It can also be integrated with the popular social networks, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+.

Ninja Popups is available for $20 at CodeCanyon.

Choosing an Optin Solution

This list features a select number of plugins that offers a range of features. All of them come with email marketing integration.

OptinMonster is a hugely popular option and offers a huge range of features, but if you’re after a professional option with more bite, Hybrid Connect is worth checking out. It includes more options for form customization as well as social media integration.

If you’re looking for a simple, free solution. SumoMe’s suite of plugins are a great option and take no time at all to install.

Do you us an optin plugin? Let us know in the comments below.

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Integrating Social Media With WordPress: The Ultimate Plugin Guide http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/integrating-social-media-with-wordpress-the-ultimate-plugin-guide/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/integrating-social-media-with-wordpress-the-ultimate-plugin-guide/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 12:00:49 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=131854 Social media transformed the way that people share information online. For website owners, services such as Twitter and Facebook present an opportunity for their articles to reach hundreds or even thousands of people instantly.

Behind search engine traffic, I have found social media traffic to be the second biggest source of visitors to my blog. However, in order to get this traffic, you need to build up your social media presence and make it easy for social media users to share your articles with their friends and followers.

In this article, I would like to look at six different ways to integrate social media into your website: sharing buttons, follow buttons, comments, post broadcasting, content locking, and tracking.

Social Media
Integrate social media into your website.

For each method, I have detailed what I consider to be three of the best solutions for WordPress users. With so many great social media plugins available online, many quality social media solutions have unfortunately been excluded from my list. I have, however, made a point of mentioning alternative solutions wherever possible.

Note: The majority of plugins listed can be downloaded free from WordPress.org. The cost of premium plugin solutions are detailed in the description area.

Social Media Sharing

Social media buttons increase the odds of visitors sharing your articles with others. I recommend choosing a solution that complements your current website design.

Be aware that many social media sharing plugins slow down your website due to retrieving information from external servers. Therefore, it is prudent to test the speed of your website before and after installing any plugin using a service such as GTmetrix. This will give you an indication of how much load a particular plugin adds.

Share This

share-this

There are a lot of advanced social media plugins available for WordPress that offer many sharing features and buttons. This includes solutions such as Shareaholic, Flare, and AddThis.

It is a tough call, however I believe that Share This has the best mix of features and usability. The service is used on a whopping 2.4 million websites and supports over 120 social media networks and services.

Three different button styles are available through the plugin. Also available is a floating bar, a share bar that is displayed at the top of your pages, and a minimal ShareThis button that hovers at the side of your pages. The ShareThis service provides analytical data on the number of shares your pages have too.

Floating Social

floating-social

The sharing bar you see floating at the left hand side of this page is powered by Floating Social. Retailing at only $19, Floating Social is a mobile friendly floating sharing bar that supports Twitter, Facebook, Google +, Reddit, StumbleUpon, and Del.icio.us. Thankfully, you are not restricted to using these services as additional social media services can be added through the settings area.

Each button highlights the number of shares for that page, with the bar scrolling down and remaining in a fixed position at all times. The custom text that is displayed can be changed through the settings area; though I am sure many users will stick with “Sharing is Caring”. The plugin also allows you to change background colors, border colors, and the width and height of the share bar.

The placement of the bar can be adjusted through the settings area. You can place it at either size of your page and define how far from the top of the page it is displayed vertically and how far from your content it is displayed horizontally. Custom CSS can also be defined and there is an option to only display the share bar on certain areas of your website.

I recommend checking the plugin out if you want your social media sharing buttons to be displayed at all times.

Social Sharing by Danny

social-sharing

If you are looking for a sharing solution that is less in your face, you may want to consider Social Sharing by Danny. This elegant sharing plugin supports Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

The plugin is super lightweight, adding only 600 bytes to your pages. 16×16 and 32×32 pixel icons can be displayed with each sharing link and a cool hover effect is displayed when a visitor hovers over a link. Sharing buttons can be inserted into your website automatically into posts, pages, and media. Alternatively, you can insert the buttons into your website using a shortcode or PHP function code.

When compared to other social media plugins, Social Sharing by Danny is quite light on features; however there is an option to append your Twitter username to all shares through Twitter.

Social Media Following

The more people that follow you on social media, the more you can influence others and push traffic towards your website. That is why it is important that you promote your social media accounts.

One of the best ways to grow your social media following is to link to your social media profiles in the sidebar of your blog or at the top of your website.

Social Icons Widget

social-icons-widget

Social Icons Widget is a stylish widget plugin that supports 31 different social media services and networks. 16×16, 32×32, and 64×64 pixel icons, can be displayed with text. You can also use custom icons or remove icons altogether. Titles and labels can also be displayed.

It’s a simple plugin, but it looks beautiful and should integrate with any website design.

Helios Solutions Social Media Buttons

helios-solutions-social-media-buttons

Helios Solutions Social Media Buttons
displays links to your social media profiles on a discrete floating bar at the left or right hand side of your pages. Ten social media services are supported by the plugin and there are fields for promoting your website URL and email address too.

Through the settings area, you can adjust the distance from the top of the page. You can also change the hover effect for links and disable the plugin for mobile devices.

Another floating social media follow plugin to consider is Floating Social Media Icon. It comes with over 20 different styles of icons and features multiple icon sizes.

Social Media Widget

social-media-widget

Where Social Media Widget really excels as a plugin is its support for dozens of social media services. It features five different icon packs and allows you to insert icons at a size of 16×16, 24×24, 32×32, or 64×64 pixels. There are also four types of animations for icons.

The nofollow attribute can be assigned to links and you can set profile links to open up in new tabs. You can also specify the alignment of your buttons.

For such a simple plugin, Social Media Widget offers a lot of useful customization options.

Social Media Comments

The standard WordPress comment form asks for a visitor’s name, email address, and website. Every time someone leaves a comment on your website, they need to enter this information.

Internet users who use social media services actively tend to stay logged in to them at all times. Therefore, by allowing your visitors to log in through their preferred social media service, you can make the process of publishing a comment quicker and easier. This can encourage more comments.

Unfortunately, certain commenting plugins such as Comments Evolved and Intense Debate are no longer actively updated and supported. Thankfully, many great solutions are still available.

Livefyre or Disqus

disqus

Livefyre and Disqus remain the most popular external commenting solutions online. It is hard to separate these services as they both offer many great features and are both used by many high traffic websites.

These services allow visitors to sign in using a range of social media services. They are both mobile friendly and offer many community features such as threaded discussions, likes, sorting by new, old, and top comments, and more. In addition to social media services, Livefyre and Disqus also offer website owners many useful moderation tools to help you tackle spam.

Comments are synced between their database and yours to ensure that your website always has an up to date version of comments. This means that no comments will ever be lost, despite being published on an external service. This is in contrast to comments published on a social media service such as Facebook or Google+. As yet, there is no way to sync comments from those services back to a WordPress database.

Jetpack Comments

jetpack

The Jetpack plugin is packed full of useful modules. One of the best modules on offer is Jetpack Comments. It replaces your default WordPress comment form with an enhanced form that has social media support.

In addition to supporting the existing name, email, and website fields, the new enhanced form allows visitors to login and publish comments by signing into their WordPress.com, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ accounts.

Jetpack Comments also allows commenters to be notified of new comments to your posts. There is an option for visitors to get email updates of your blog posts too. All in all, Jetpack Comments is a great solution that is both practical and fast loading.

Social Comments

social-comments

Social Comments is easily the most versatile comment solution in my list. In addition to the standard WordPress comment form, the plugin allows visitors to publish comments using Disqus, Google+, or Facebook (Note that separate solutions for Google+ and Facebook are also available in the WordPress plugin directory).

The plugin allows you to display all comments on one page or split them up into different tabs. The number of comments published with each comment method can also be displayed. Fourteen different styles of social media icons are also available for the headings of each comment section.

The beauty of Social Comments is that it offers so many different comment methods to visitors. This allows them to publish comments using their favorite method. The only downside to this is that instead of having a single discussion, the comment area is effectively divided into four different parts. Sadly, that is the price you need to pay for offering visitors multiple comment methods.

Social Media Post Broadcasting

When you publish new articles on your blog, you want to inform all of your social media followers. If you only publish articles a few times per month, it may be in your interests to publish updates to your social media accounts manually. This allows you to customize each message for each social media service. For example, you could make your announcement post on Facebook much longer than on Twitter.

If you publish articles every day, it is not always practical to update multiple social media accounts manually as there are many great external services that can do this by checking your RSS feed regularly. Good examples of this include HootSuite, Dlvr.it, and If This Then That.

They are all reliable services, however in this list I wanted to solutions that were designed with WordPress in mind :)

Jetpack Publicize

jetpack

I am currently using the Jetpack Publicize module to automatically send updates of my new blog posts to my followers on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. The module can also be used to send updates to Tumblr and Path.

The module integrates directly into your post editor. Any social media service you connect to in the settings area will be automatically selected to be updated after a blog post is published. If you wish, you can stop an article from being publicized on a particular social media service.

The message that is sent to your followers can be customized too. Unfortunately, you cannot customize this message for each social media service. Therefore, the same message will be posted on all of your social media networks. This is a limitation that is inherent in most social media broadcasting solutions.

NextScripts: Social Networks Auto-Poster

nextscripts

If you are looking to send post notifications to a large number of social media services and platforms, you should consider using NextScripts: Social Networks Auto-Poster. It currently supports a whopping 27 services and they are planning on adding more.

The plugin allows you to send an update to social media services as soon as an article is published. Alternatively, you can reduce posting speed to a defined number of days, hours, and minutes (which is useful for blogs with high posting frequencies). It also allows you to specify which user groups can make broadcasts to social media services and which user groups can edit the message.

Categories can also be excluded from broadcasts and there are a number of URL shorteners available too. NextScripts: Social Networks Auto-Poster is not as user friendly as other broadcasting solutions; however it one of the most versatile.

Social

social

Developed by WordPress veteran Alex King and the email marketing service MailChimp, Social is a feature packed social media WordPress plugin that can broadcast your blog posts to Facebook and Twitter.

It is one of the few broadcast solutions that also supports broadcasts of pages, though functionality is limited to only two social media services. The plugin has not been updated since December 2013, though a colleague of mine continues to use the plugin every day to broadcast posts from his WordPress website (and it seemed to work fine during my test too).

Social is also a social media comment solution. It can pull in retweets, replies, likes, and comments, from Facebook and Twitter. These will then be published in your comment area as comments. Visitors can even respond to messages that have been pulled from Facebook and Twitter.

Content Locking

Content lockers allow you to hide premium content to visitors. In order to see the content, visitors have to share your page on a social media service such as Facebook or Twitter.

It is a great way of increasing traffic to long tutorials and to downloadable files such as eBooks. Be sure to use it sparingly as if you lock every page on your website, you will drive away visitors.

Pay with a Like

pay-with-a-like

Our content locker, Pay with a Like, allows visitors to pay for content with a share on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn.

By using the integrated pay with a like button, you can lock part of a page or all of a page. The amount of content that is displayed in an excerpt when the content is locked can also be specified.

Pay with a Like has some great features, such as the ability to automatically unlock content to those who have already liked your Facebook page. The plugin also has a statistics area that displays graphs about the number of shares. The most liked pages are also highlighted.

wpLike2Get

wplike2get

wpLike2Get is a content locker that supports Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. All you have to do is protect the content you want to lock using a shortcode. Uploaded files, such as zip files and songs, can be locked directly through the WordPress uploader.

The plugin also offers support for Google Analytics to help you track what pages are being unlocked and shared.

OnePress Social Locker

onepress-social-locker

OnePress Social Locker is a stylish content locking solution that allows visitors to unlock content with a tweet, like, or +1.

Anything placed inside a social locker shortcode will be hidden from visitors. Anti-cheating functionality can be enabled in the settings area and you can choose to make content visible after a defined number of seconds. The plugin also shows you the number of shares on your website between a specified date range.

A pro version of the plugin is available for $24. It comes with three extra themes, seven additional social buttons, and another eight advanced options.

Social Media Tracking

Tracking the performance of your articles on social media helps you to see what pages are being shared the most. This information can help you plan out future blog posts and pages.

One plugin that just missed my top three list of social media tracking plugins is Social Stats Panel. You may want to check that out too as it produces some interesting graphs about your social media shares.

Social Metrics

social-metrics

Social Metrics is a WordPress plugin that allows you to track the social media performance of both posts and pages., This is a big selling point as other solutions do not allow you to see posts and pages separately. Six major social media services are supported.

I love the fact that statistics can be filtered by category and by date. It really helps you analyze data and see how articles are performing on social media.

The plugin has not been updated since the start of 2013, however it still functions correctly. The only real indication of it not being actively updated is its support for the Digg network.

A pro version of the plugin is available from $27. It supports additional social media services and the ability to export data in Excel format. It also offers more filtering options.

Social Metrics Tracker

social-metrics-tracker

Social Metrics Tracker highlights what blog posts have been shared the most on your website. You can filter posts by time: 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, and anytime.

The plugin supports Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, and Google+. The total number of shares is highlighted and marked as a “Social Score”. The total number of comments is also displayed. I think this is a nice addition as it helps you easily see which posts have been generating the most discussions.

Easy Social Metrics Pro

easy-social-metrics

One of the latest social media tracking solutions to be released is Easy Social Metrics Pro. Retailing at $28, the plugin tracks 12 major social media networks: Facebook, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Reddit, ManageWP.org, Buffer, Xing, Vkontakte, and Odnoklassniki. Each network can be enabled and disabled through the plugin configuration page (note that by default, Xing, Vkontakte, and Odnoklassniki, are disabled).

It features a beautiful dashboard that shows graphs of shares over a specified period of time. There are also three separate reports: detailed period report, content report, and detailed content report. I found these reports to be very useful as they highlight the articles with the most shares in each network.

The plugin supports all post types on your website, whether it be posts, pages, downloads, or portfolio. Reports can be filtered by both time and by post type. This is useful for analyzing each area of your website in more detail.

Final Thoughts

Social media altered the landscape of the internet. It changed the way people get updates from their favorite websites and it changed how people share content with their friends. In order to tap into this social media traffic, you need to integrate social media directly into your website. That is why social media WordPress plugins are so important to bloggers and website owners.

I hope you have found this list of social media plugins useful. As I noted at the start of this article, by listing only three WordPress plugins for each function, I have inevitably left out a lot of great plugins. Therefore, I encourage you to post a comment below and share the social media plugins you use on your WordPress website.

Image credit: Jason A. Howie via photopin cc.

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Tweet Archived WordPress Posts and Boost Traffic to Your Site http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/tweet-archived-wordpress-posts-and-boost-traffic-to-your-site/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/tweet-archived-wordpress-posts-and-boost-traffic-to-your-site/#comments Sat, 13 Sep 2014 15:30:39 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=132048 We have published a helluva lot of posts on the WPMU DEV, more than 4000 in fact. With a daily post schedule, we are constantly coming up with new articles to write about to help you, our dear readers, make the most of WordPress.

The only problem is, it can become somewhat disheartening when I’ve spent hours carefully crafting a post, it’s published, and then it’s quickly lost amongst the deluge of WordPress blogs articles pumped out in the internet each day never to be commented on again.

So how do you get around his? How can you bring back posts from your archive graveyard so they can again enjoy their 15 minutes of fame?

In today’s Weekend WordPress Project, we’ll look at scheduling and tweeting archived posts – and how it can dramatically boost traffic to your site from social media platforms like Twitter.

Evergreen Post Tweeter
Revive your old posts with the Evergreen Post Tweeter.

Tweeting Archived WordPress Posts

A few months ago I decided to experiment with our tweeting schedule on the WPMU DEV Twitter account. Previously, we were tweeting once a day and it was usually an automatic tweet whenever a post was published. Our support team was also replying to people who tweeted us, but we weren’t posting many of our articles from the blog.

Basically, we were neglecting our Twitter account.

So I upped the ante. I started tweeting some of our older posts from the past year at three hours intervals. I also tweeted our most recent posts more frequently and included links from The WhiP.

It made a massive difference. Traffic to our site from Twitter jumped by 30 per cent. Moreover, our posts were getting a second chance at exposure and comments to our blog increase.

The only problem was manually scheduling tweets was time consuming and, let’s face it, boring. It was time to find a solution.

The Evergreen Post Tweeter

After some searching and testing, I came across the Evergreen Post Tweeter plugin.

The plugin, created by former WPMU DEV writer Tom Ewer, lets you schedule and automatically tweet out links to old posts on your site.

The concept behind the plugin is simple: periodically tweet our old posts from your site that is “evergreen” content, i.e. posts that are an relevant today as they were when they were first published.

In Tom’s case, the plugin helped increase Twitter referrals to his site by about 250 per cent.

Increased Twitter traffic
Tweet “evergreen” content from your site and boost traffic to your site from social media.

The plugin is easy to install. Just activate it and go to your settings (Settings > Evergreen Post Tweeter). You’ll then need to sign into Twitter so the plugin can access your account.

The settings are fairly straightforward. You can choose the minimum and maximum age of posts you want to tweet, any categories/tags you want to specify and whether you want to shorten URLs.

Evergreen Post Tweeter
Evergreen Post Tweeter settings.

Once you save the settings, the plugin will then tweet your posts randomly. So if you want to tweet your old posts from the past year, but not from the past week, and only on weekdays at 8am, you can do just that.

As the analytics screenshot included above shows, tweeting older posts can have a beneficial impact on your traffic.

The plugin includes various settings that allow you to:

  • Schedule by day and time
  • Tweet out posts and/or page
  • Filter posts to be tweeted by category and/or tag
  • Choose from a selection of URL shorteners
  • Add extra text to tweets

What I like about this plugin is the ability to schedule tweets to go out at specific times on certain days. There are similar plugins that only let you tweet at intervals, so you can’t pick times.

How often do you tweet content from your site? Tell us in the comments below.

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Stop WordPress Comment Spam With These Pro Tips http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/stop-wordpress-comment-spam/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/stop-wordpress-comment-spam/#comments Thu, 11 Sep 2014 05:00:10 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=131833 Comment spam and registration spam remain a large problem for WordPress users. It is not uncommon for some WordPress websites to receive hundreds or even thousands of comments every week.

This level of spam can damage your reputation with readers and commentators if you fail to tackle it. It is therefore important to face spammers head on and thwart their attempts at spamming your website.

Thankfully, tackling spammers does not need to be a time consuming endeavor. If you configure your WordPress website correctly, and install a good anti-spam plugin, you can eliminate the vast majority of spam from your website.

Let us take a closer look at how you can tackle WordPress spam.

Note: All of the WordPress plugins in this article are free to download (unless otherwise stated).

Configure Your WordPress Discussion Settings

Before you install any anti-spam plugin, you should configure your discussion settings correctly. These are located in the Settings section of your admin area (i.e. http://www.yourwebsite.com/wp-admin/options-discussion.php).

A fullproof way of stopping comment spam is to manually approve every comment. I am not a big fan of this myself as it time consuming and the discussion is held up until you manually approve each comment.

A more practical solution is to manually approve the first comment of a person. This works well as it allows you to review each commenter and once they are approved, their comments will be published automatically. It is an effective solution as spammers rarely take the time to write a good comment; therefore their attempt at publishing a link in your comment area can be stopped easily.

You can also place any comments with links directly into the moderation queue. Comments can also be marked as spam automatically if they contain any banned words you specify in your blacklist.

WordPress Discussion Settings
Be sure to review your discussion settings.

In an attempt to tackle comment spam, I have tested restricting comments to registered users. It was not a great solution. Although it did help reduce comment spam significantly, it also greatly reduced the number of comments submitted by readers as people do not want to go through the hassle of creating an account in order to publish a comment.

Additionally, in order to allow people to sign up for an account, I had to enable member registration. This allowed thousands of spammers to create fake user accounts on my website.

Although captcha forms and other anti-spam tools can reduce registration spam, I strongly believe that unless you need to enable public registration (e.g. for a discussion forum or membership website), you should disable member registration in the general settings page (i.e. http://www.yourwebsite.com/wp-admin/options-general.php). You can continue to create accounts manually for contributors, authors, and editors.

WordPress General Settings
Disabling member registration will help stop registration spam.

I recommend adjusting your discussion settings to suit your own preference to fighting spam. If you want to ensure that no spam ever gets through, you can manually approve every comment. Those of you who receive a lot of comments might find this configuration too time consuming, so you might want to make your commenting policy less strict. This might mean the odd spam comment gets through; however, it removes the need for you to check every single comment that is published on your website.

Configuring your WordPress discussion settings correctly is the first step towards tackling spam; however there are a number of great anti-spam WordPress plugins available that help you make things even more difficult for budding spammers. Let’s take a closer look at some of the best solutions.

Akismet

akismet

Akismet is such an essential plugin that Automattic includes it with every copy of WordPress. After acquiring a key from the Akismet website, the plugin will stop protecting your website from spam comments.

Akismet checks every comment that is submitted to your website against their spam database. If a comment looks like spam, it will be placed in your spam folder. The plugin does not always get it right, however, if legitimate comments are placed in your spam folder (i.e. a false positive), you can mark them as “Not Spam”. Likewise, you can mark spam comments that slipped through as “Spam”. Over time, this process helps improve Akismet’s strike rate.
The number of approved comments for each commenter can be displayed next to their name to help you moderate comments more effectively. Obvious spam can be deleted automatically, however I always like to play it safe and send all spam comments to the spam folder so that I un-spam any false positives.

In the Akismet settings page, you will see details of how effective the plugin has been at catching spam comments. On most of my websites, Akismet has an accuracy rating over 99.5%. This high rate of success is why millions of website owners rely on Akismet to prevent spam. For me, one of the best things about the plugin is the fact that it plays so nice with other anti-spam plugins.

WP-SpamShield Anti-Spam

wp-spamshield-anti-spam

WP-SpamShield Anti-Spam is an easy to use anti-spam WordPress plugin that tackles comment spam & registration spam. It aims to eliminate all automated spam from your website. There is no need to add a Captcha form to your comment form as the plugin operates in the background.

The plugin features advanced comment logging and comment blacklisting features. This helps you block persistent spammers better. You can also stop anyone from publishing comments on your blog if they are using a proxy.
WP-SpamShield Anti-Spam is a useful anti-spam plugin that works in the background to block spam. It is so discrete, you will forget it is even activated.

Antispam Bee

antispam-bee

Antispam Bee is a large collection of anti-spam filters and tools. The filters allow you to make your comment approval process more difficult. For example, you can automatically mark any comments with BB code as spam. Comments can be filtered further with tools such as blocking comments from specific countries and restricting comments to a particular language.

The plugin also allows you to clean your database of spam after a specified number of days. Statistics about spam blocking can also be displayed on your dashboard.

Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin

growmap-anti-spambot-plugin

Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin aims to stop spambots by adding a checkbox to your comment form that asks commenters: “Confirm you are NOT a spammer”. The developers of the plugin claim that this will stop 99% of all automated bots. They also believe this solution is more user-friendly than a Captcha form. It is hard to disagree with that viewpoint.

An alert is displayed if a visitor does not enable the confirmation checkbox. The alert message that is displayed to visitors who do not check the box can be customized through the setting area. The message that is displayed to possible spammers can be changed too.

A number of additional spam detection tools are available such as stopping a user from submitting another comment if they already have a specified number of comments in the moderation queue. You can also define the maximum number of URLs allowed in comments and the maximum number of words allowed in the name field (because spammers frequently use their website title as their name).

Anti-spam by CleanTalk (no CAPTCHA)

anti-spam-cleantalk

As the name suggestions, Anti-spam by CleanTalk (no CAPTCHA) does not rely on commenters checking any boxes or completing any captcha forms in order to prove they are human.

The plugin integrates with many popular WordPress plugins such as bbPress, BuddyPress, and Contact Form 7. It can be used to stop comment spam, registration spam, trackback spam, and spam emails coming through your contact form. Anti-spam settings for specific types of spam can be disabled through the settings area if necessary.

Anti-spam

anti-spam

Anti-spam is another spam protection WordPress plugin that does not rely on your commenters completing Captcha images. The plugin does not have any settings area; which is quite unique for a plugin of this type.

It works by setting up an invisible input trap for bots. Two hidden fields are added to your comment form. The first field is a date field and will be automatically completed by Javascript. The second field should be empty. Spam bots get tricked by entering the wrong information for these fields. Simple, but effective.

Please note that the plugin does not work with Jetpack comments since that comment solution uses an iframe. A pro version of Anti-spam is available for $14 that has a small settings page with a few additional options.

AVH First Defence Against Spam

avh-first-defense-against-spam

AVH First Defence Against Spam is a feature rich anti-spam plugin that checks the IP of a commenter against the spam databases at Stop Forum Spam, Project Honey Pot, and The Spamhaus. Blocking spammers before they attempt to send a comment can reduce bandwidth and reduce the load on your CPU.

The plugin can also store IP information about hackers in your database. This can make your database grow quickly in size if you receive a lot of spam submissions; which is why the feature is disabled by default. Blacklists and whitelists are also available to help you control who can and cannot publish comments.

Other Anti-Spam Solutions

Due to the severity of the spam problem that WordPress website owners face, there are many anti-spam plugins available online. Below is a small list of other anti-spam plugins that you may want to consider using on your website.

Two other useful plugins worth checking out are WPCommentCleaner and WPDBTotalCleaner. By installing one of these plugins, you can quickly delete spam comments and unapproved comments from your database. This can greatly reduce the size of your WordPress database if it has a lot of spam comments. Therefore, your website will be more efficient and run a little quicker.

WPCommentCleaner
WPCommentCleaner allows you to delete spam comments quickly and efficiently.

Final Thoughts

I follow the same steps with every WordPress website I own. The first thing I do is configure my discussion settings correctly so that comments with links are sent to the moderation queue and ensure that the first comment from each person is moderated. This makes it almost impossible for spam comments to slip through.

The next step I take is to activate Akismet. On some of my websites, it is the only anti-spam plugin I have activated. If, however, I see an increase in spam comments getting through, I install another anti-spam plugin. Apart from Akismet, I do not have any preferred anti-spam plugin that I use every time and have used a variety of anti-spam plugins over the years on different websites. However, I do usually install one of the plugins listed in this article.

Frequently, dealing with spammers is a case of trial and error. If one solution does not work, try another. If that does not work, try something else. I realise that many readers want to know what is the best anti-spam solution available, however I do not think the fighting spam is always black or white. I have found some plugins to work well on one website, but not on another.

It is also important to realise that the best solution for each website is different. It can depend on the level of spam comments the website receives and the level of legitimate comments it receives.

For example, I have an old content website that gets very little traffic. For that particular website, I have installed three anti-spam plugins that collectively eliminate 99.99% of spam. It is very rare that any spam comment gets through. This high level of protection means that there is a higher risk of real comments from humans being marked as spam. It is a small price to pay as the website does not receive a lot of traffic and I place a higher priority on blocking spam comments than the odd legitimate comment not being published.

The situation is different on my own blog. I have written long, detailed comments on blogs I read and have had them marked as spam and deleted because the blog owner’s handling of comments was too severe. I therefore understand the frustration that a blog reader will experience after spending 20 minutes writing a great comment and not seeing it published.

With an active blog, it is vital that real comments are published and spam comments are not. It is therefore worthwhile spending a little time moderating your comments so that real comments are not accidentally marked as spam and deleted.

Review your own situation and choose an anti-spam solution accordingly. Remember that many anti-spam solutions are effective at tackling large volumes of automated spam, while others put in measures to discourage spam by humans.

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Best WordPress Portfolio Plugins for Impressing Potential Clients http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/best-wordpress-portfolio-plugins-for-impressing-potential-clients/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/best-wordpress-portfolio-plugins-for-impressing-potential-clients/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 12:00:00 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=131877 Portfolios are a great way to showcase your hard work and (hopefully!) impress future clients who many come across your site.

While there are many themes designed specifically for displaying portfolios, in most cases it makes sense to use a plugin rather than change your site’s design.

The collection of portfolio plugins below (in order of popularity) includes free and premium options. Some of the plugins offer very basic portfolio features such as the ability to display images, while other are more comprehensive and include filterable grids and project pages.

Easy Media Gallery (Free/Premium)

easy-media-gallery

With more than 270,000 downloads, Easy Media Gallery is the most popular plugin available for displaying portfolios and other types of galleries.

This plugins supports various media, allowing you to display grid galleries, photo albums, portfolios, image galleries, image sliders, Google Maps and Google Street Vide, YouTube video, Vimeo video, MP4 video, audio and URLs.

It’s also a highly customizable plugin, allowing you adjust colors, positions, grid, media sizes, hover effects and more using an extensive options panel.

The premium version of this plugin comes with more features, such as the ability to create with an unlimited number of media, color picker, more light boxes, and support.

Portfolio (Free)

portfolio

Portfolio is a simple and functional plugin that lets you create a page on your site for displaying portfolio items. You can add details to each item, such as screenshots, a description, URL, technologies used, and date of completion.

While the backend options allow you to customize the basic look of your portfolio and even add a profile page, the front-end display is lacking and looks out-of-date. Hopefully in future versions there will be more options for customizing how the portfolio looks.

WordPress Portfolio Plugin (WP Portfolio) (Free)

wordpress-portfolio-plugin

This plugin is aimed at web developers/designers who want to show off their portfolio of website creations.

WordPress Portfolio Plugin allows you to display your portfolio on a single page on your site with automatically generated thumbnails. Inserting a portfolio into a page is as easy as pasting a shortcode.

If you want to display screenshots of your websites dynamically, you’ll need to create an account with Shrink the Web. However, if you create screenshots yourself there’s no need for an account.

The portfolio looks pretty bland on the front-end, but it’s possible to customize the look and feel with HTML/CSS.

WordPress Picture / Portfolio / Media Gallery (Free/Premium)

wordpress-picture-portfolio-media-gallery

This powerful plugin will transform a boring WordPress site into a feature-rich media gallery showcasing your latest projects, client logos, photography and videos.

Easily group your portfolio items using built-in jQuery filterable tabs. PrettyPhoto is also built-in for picture, video and PDF previews. Another nice feature is the plugin’s responsive design, which means your portfolio will look great on any device.

Four premium add-ons are available if you want to spend the cash: a premium skin, isotope filtering, PrettyPhoto extension, and Swipebox gallery library for mobile devices.

Awesome Filterable Portfolio (Free)

awesome-filterable-portfolio

If you’re after simple and customizable filterable portfolio, this is the plugin you need.

Awesome Filterable Portfolio is ideal for designers, artists, photographers and other creative types who want to showcase images and examples of their work. This plugin features smooth animations and image hover effects.

Some other nice features include the ability to order portfolio categories and items, and configure animation properties.

OTW Portfolio Light (Free)

otw-portfolio-light

This simple and easy to configure plugin lets you create a great looking portfolio on your site minus the bloat.

You can create portfolio items and categorize them. The portfolio is also responsive so it looks great on all devices, big and small.

This plugin comes with a three column template for displaying a page or portfolio category. It offers options for filtering or paginating your portfolio items.

Projects by WooThemes (Free)

projects-by-woothemes

Projects is a relatively new plugin compared to the others on this list (it was released in February). It offers a simple solution for showcasing your client work.

Easily add your recent projects and display them on a specified page using a built-in template system, or with a shortcode, widget or template tag. You can also include various images on project pages, as well as detailed information such as categories, client details and projects URLs.

Project can be integrated with WooThemes’ testimonials plugin so you can associate a testimonial with a project and display it on a single project page.

Aeolus - Creative Portfolio (Free)

aeolus

Aeolus promises to display your work in a “clean, fancy way” and it delivers.

It’s easy to add items to your portfolio. The plugin uses custom post types to store images and videos. You can also use large images and video as feature images.

Other features include responsive design, an extensive admin panel with a drag and drop interface, as well as a well-designed modern look and feel.

Aeolus is a great option if you want to display portfolio images and don’t need project pages.

Easy Portfolio (Free)

easy-portfolio

This aptly named plugin allows you to showcase your projects in a grid-style portfolio layout and click through to individual projects so you can view more details.

Easily add new projects, create categories, and add details to projects, including descriptions, URLs and images.

This plugin uses shortcodes for displaying portfolios and associated projects.

Waving Portfolio (Free)

waving-portfolio

Waving Portfolio provides an elegant way to showcase your work with its filterable grid portfolio layout and modal pop-ups.

Adding a new project to your portfolio is as easy as creating a new post. You can also create portfolio categories and tags. When you click on a portfolio item on the front-end, projects are displayed in a modal, adding a clean and professional touch.

Other features include the ability to customize the dimensions of portfolio items, shortcodes so you can insert your portfolio anywhere on your site, and light and dark skins.

Portfolio Mgmt. (Free)

portfolio-mgmt

You will need to be prepared to roll up your sleeves and do a bit of work if you want to use Portfolio Mgmt.

From the outset, this plugin looks fairly simple to use, and it is if you don’t mind how the portfolio looks like on the front-end. This plugins requires four optional template files (custom post types) for displaying portfolio content, otherwise the next ability default template in the WordPress template hierarchy is used.

If you’re happy to edit files and add your own CSS, this plugin could be for you. However, if you’re after a simple solution you may want to look elsewhere.

Media Grid (Premium)

media-grid

With more than 6000 sales, Media Grid is the most popular portfolio plugin available at CodeCanyon. It’s a comprehensive plugins with a stack of features, including the ability to created an unlimited number of responsive portfolios, unlimited colors and layouts, visual grid builder with mobile mode, unlimited item options with retina icons and full media support (images, audio, video).

This plugin makes the most of masonry grid, allowing you to create filterable portfolios. You can even created your own layouts and adapt them to any size.

Another nice feature is this plugin has an adaptive design so portfolios look great on big screens down to sidebars.

Go (Premium)

go-portfolio

This is hands down the most impressive portfolio plugin in this list, just check out the developer’s demo page.

Go allows you to build beautiful, modern and responsive portfolios. It includes four default portfolio styles (Flex, Door, Vario and Delux) and includes a comprehensive (huge!) options panel so you can customize your portfolio to match your site’s design.

Create unlimited portfolios and unlimited custom post types using all kinds of media (images, video and audio). There’s also a built-in template and style editor so you can customize the layout of your portfolios.

The CodeCanyon pages includes some great examples of how websites have used the plugin to showcase their work.

ZoomFolio

zoomfolio

ZoomFolio offers three responsive portfolio designs and unlimited customizations. This plugin uses a shortcode generator for displaying portfolios.

It’s easy to set up a new portfolio, just enter the shortcode generator from any port or page, click “Install Sample Data”, and then choose this example suits your site. Portfolio items are displayed on the front-end using light boxes.

While the portfolio templates are eye-catching, there aren’t as many options as other premium portfolio plugins. Still, this plugin is a solid option if you want to display media rather than project pages.

Choosing a Portfolio Plugin

Finding the right portfolio plugin for your site depends entirely on what you need and how willing you are to customize.

If you’re after something easy to use that requires little effort, Easy Media Gallery is a solid choice. It’s highly configurable so you can adjust your portfolio to suite your site. And if your site outgrows what the plugin offers, you can always upgrade to the pro version.

If you’re looking for a portfolio plugin with more heft, check out Go. This is my favorite plugin in this list. The developer’s site offers an impressive collection of demos of how the plugin can be customized. The built-in template and style editor also makes it easy to change the layout of your portfolios.

Do you have a portfolio? Do you use a theme or a plugin? Let us know in the comments below.

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Stunning Free and Premium WordPress Slider Plugins http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/stunning-free-and-premium-wordpress-slider-plugins/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/stunning-free-and-premium-wordpress-slider-plugins/#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 12:00:00 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=131548 Sliders are the way to go if your site is image-heavy, or you just want to get your content front and center when visitors land on your website.

However, sliders tend to get a bad rap. And no wonder why – there are too many sites with simple sliders that display a new image every five seconds. Boring.

These sites fail to take advantage of the multitude of features and functionality sliders – even free ones – now offer. From layers and animations to parallax and full-width video, sliders, and especially homepage sliders, provide an engaging and eye-catching way to welcome visitors to your site.

The collection below features both popular free and premium options with excellent user ratings.

(If you’re still not convinced, the top 10 most popular themes on Themeforest all come with homepage sliders.)

What is your favorite plugin? Is there a plugin missing from the collection below? Let us know in the comments.

Meta Slider (Free + Premium)

meta-slider

Meta Slider is far and away the most popular slider available in the WordPress Plugin Repository, with more than 1 million downloads. When I last downloaded Meta Slider in February, there were 467,000 downloads. That’s a 100 jump in downloads in just six months.

This easy-to-use plugins comes with jQuery sliders – Nivo Slider (responsive, 16 transition effects, four themes), Coin Slider (four transition effects), Flex Slider 2 (responsive, two transition effects, carousel mode), Responsive Slides (responsive, fade effect only).

Creating a new slider is simple and the user interface is intuitive. Simple select which slider style you want to use and the plugin will provide a shortcode you can insert anywhere in your site. You can drag and drop to re-order slides.

There’s a premium version of Meta Slider available, Meta Slider Pro, which allows layer sliders, YouTube and Vimeo sliders and a live theme editor, as well as updates and support. A single license will set you back $19 and unlimited licenses costs $99.

WOW Slider (Free)

wow-slider

Unlike other sliders, Wow Slider is unusual in that you need to download a separate program, WOWSlider Wizard to create a slideshow. Still, it hasn’t stopped more than 300,000 people download this popular plugin.

Using the wizard is fairly straightforward. Once you’ve put together your slideshow, you can then upload it to the plugin. You can then copy and paste a shortcode to insert your slider anywhere on your site.

Other features include responsive design, fully-accessible as a pure CSS slider if Javascript is turned off, and touch swipe support.

Smooth Slider (Free)

smooth-slider

Smooth Slider lets you display both images and content in a slideshow, with a customizable background and slider intervals.

Features include a responsive design and transition effects, including fade. It also support custom slider, category slider and recent posts slider. Template tags, shortcode and a widget are included.

Setting up a new slider is fairly straightforward, though all the different options can be a bit overwhelmingly. Still, the user interface has a simple design and once you get your head around all the different features it’s easy to create several sliders.

Easing Slider “Lite” (Free + Premium)

easing-slider-lite

Easing Slider “Lite” is the second most popular free slider plugin in the WordPress Plugin Repository with more than 400,000 downloads.

This plugin allows you to set the dimensions and duration of your slider and includes the option to make your slideshow responsive. There are two transition effects: fade and slide. Like many other sliders, you will need to use shortcode to add your slider to a post or page.

It’s an extremely lightweight plugin at just 16KB.

You can only create one slider with this plugin. If you want more you’ll need to upgrade to Easing Slider Pro. Licenses start at €19.99 for one activation.

Soliloquy (Free + Premium)

soliloquy

Soliloquy is marketed as “The best responsive WordPress slider plugin. Period.” It’s a big call, but one that’s not far off the mark.

It’s simple to set up, you don’t need to download any software to create sliders, and you don’t need to mess around with setting. It just works.

Easily add images to your sliders, select slider size, speed and hit “publish.” Then copy the resulting shortcode onto any page or post where you want to display your slider.

There’s a premium version of this plugin available, which allows you to create HTML/video slides, complete embedded video support for YouTube and Vimeo, widgets, and access to add-ons (such as full lightbox and image filters). Pricing starts at $19 for a single license.

Slider Revolution (Premium)

slider-revolution

Slider Revolution is the most popular slider plugin available on CodeCanyon with more than 33,000 downloads.

And it’s popular for good reason. This responsive slider plugin features a huge variety of customizable transitions, including zoom and parallax, fancy 3D, fade and simple slide. It includes the ability to drag and drop captions onto sliders with an animation builder, so you can position text exactly where you want.

A new feature is the ability to pull slider content from posts and custom posts. You can create templates that determine how the title, date and other details of a post is being displayed in the form of captions using a flexible wildcard system. There are also pre-made post templates.

ThemePunch, the guys behind this plugin, have been clever with the marketing for Slider Revolution, which is included with many themes on Themeforest.

RoyalSlider (Premium)

royal-slider

At first glance, Royal Slider seems like any other slider plugin, but when you dig a little deeper past it’s fairly bland marketing, there’s more than meets the eye.

For a start, some fairly prominent brands , such as Honda and Ralph Lauren, use the plugin on their sites. It’s also reached more than 20,000 sales on CodeCanyon, with an average rating of 4.64.

So why is this responsive image gallery and HTML content slider plugin so popular? It features a mobile-friendly design and supports touch swipe navigation. You can dynamically populate data from Flickr, Instagram or featured posts or any post type, even WooCommerce products.

Other features include video embedding, lazy loading, move or fade transitions, smart auto play, and four editable skins.

While this slider plugin doesn’t include dozens of fancy transitions, there is a focus on performance, accessibility and stability. And for $22, you get bang for your buck.

Nivo Slider (Premium)

nivo-slider

The team behind Nivo Slider sure know how to write compelling marketing copy:

“The Nivo Slider is world renowned as the most beautiful and easy to use image slider on the market. There is literally no better way to make your website look totally stunning.”

Wow. Some big claims there. But does it live up to expectations? Yes and no.

Nivo Slider is easy to use and setting up sliders is a straightforward and painless process. There are multiple slider types and you can choose between creating manual sliders, category and sticky sliders, and gallery sliders. There’s also image cropping so you don’t need to worry about your images being too big or too small because they will all display the same size in the slider.

Built-in themes are included, or you can choose to add your off styling with CSS.

Overall, this slider plugin offers some great standard features, but doesn’t stack up to bigger players like Slider Revolution.

SlideDeck (Free + Premium)

slidedeck

SlideDeck 2 lets you create responsive and easily customizable sliders. Rather than templates, SlideDeck 2 has “lenses,” which are preset styles you can use to make your content look great.

The free version allows you to pull content from your posts, YouTube, Flickr and Pinterest. The premium version gives you 10 more content sources, including Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and Vimeo.

Slides can be easily customized to suit your site’s theme, including navigation options, custom fonts, transitions and effects, and interactions. For more, you can add your own CSS.

Slider PRO (Premium)

slider-pro

Slider Pro is a feature-packed plugin, to say the least. This responsive plugin offers 150+ options, 100+ possible transition effects, and 15+ skins. It also includes the ability to add animated layers and static layers, and dynamic content.

You can load content into slides from Flickr, YouTube, and Vimeo. Other features include lazy loading, touch swipe, keyboard navigation, and Multisite support.

A nice feature of the plugin is the ability to preview a slider before publishing it.

LayerSlider (Premium)

layerslider-5

The LayerSlider website features the most impressive and stunning looking slider of any of the plugins in this collection.

This responsive plugin offers a huge feature list, including 200+ transitions (are 200+ transitions even possible?!), 13 skins, and three navigation types.

LayerSlider also boasts super smooth hardware accelerated CSS3 transitions with jQuery fallback, lazy loading, unlimited layers with image, video, audio, text or custom HTML content, powerful API for further customization, and the ability to add multiple sliders to the same page.

This plugin is also Multisite compatible. The website features some great demos for inspiration.

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Will Jetpack Supercharge Or Superbloat Your WordPress Site? http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/will-jetpack-supercharge-or-superbloat-your-wordpress-site/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/will-jetpack-supercharge-or-superbloat-your-wordpress-site/#comments Mon, 25 Aug 2014 15:30:00 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=131463 Jetpack, Automattic’s meta plugin adds more than 30 features to your WordPress site but has a bigger footprint than the WordPress core.

Built by Automattic, stress-tested on WordPress.com, almost 12 million downloads, installing it on your self-hosted WordPress site would seem to be a no-brainer.

But is Jetpack the solution to all your problems? Just how many of Jetpack’s modules will you actually use? Will your site be supercharged or just superbloated?

Composite image of WordPress logo and jetpack
Jetpack, a disparate collection of features and services

The idea of the meta plugin, a single plugin that contains a host of features maintained by a single entity is initially very appealing. Especially when that entity is the work of WordPress.com owners, Automattic. Not only can you be entirely comfortable that these guys know a thing or two about WordPress but many if not all of the Jetpack features have already been given a thorough workout on WordPress.com.

It’s an attractive proposition: features written by the WordPress development team and stress-tested in a peerless WordPress environment

But it’s not that straight forward.

Identity Crisis

Even Jetpack itself doesn’t seem to be entirely sure what it brings to a self-hosted WordPress site. The official Jetpack site reckons that it’s “a suite of the most powerful WordPress.com features” whilst the Jetpack entry on the WordPress.org plugin repository claims it’s “the awesome cloud power of WordPress.com”.

These might seem the same but they are not. The latter, the “awesome cloud power” makes a lot of sense as it (correctly) suggests the leveraging of WordPress.com to bring features to your self-hosted site that would otherwise be hard to impossible to implement. The reality is that Jetpack is a mix of the two: a collection of features driven by WordPress.com services and those are completely self-sufficient.

It’s Big. Really Big.

At 7MB zipped (22MB expanded on disk), Jetpack is actually 15% bigger than the WordPress core. That’s big, although the language files do represent a massive chunk of Jetpack’s size. Adding that much extra code, no matter how well written or tested, is always going to increase the risk of introducing a bug or conflict with an existing plugin.

It’s also a little surprising as you might imagine that a plugin that is leveraging “awesome cloud power” would be leaner. In fact, given Jetpack’s size, it’s surprising that it doesn’t solve its identity crisis and focus on the cloud and the 18 modules that require a connection to a WordPress.com account.

And perhaps add the obvious missing service, Akismet.

Too Many Obscure Modules

There are some very strong modules in Jetpack (more on that later) there’s also quite a few modules that can only have a fairly niche audiences.

Beautiful Math might be great for inserting mathematical formulas into posts but how many WordPress site owners are “maths geeks” and really have this need? Similarly, how many owners actually use Markdown to write posts, want to post to their site by email, need spelling and grammar checking above that provided by their browser, want to shorten links using wp.me rather than bit.ly or want to expose the JSON API (slated to be included in 4.1 core anyway)?

What’s even more perplexing is that practically none of these modules is providing functionality that is not available in alternative plugins, and this is especially the case for the Custom Post Types and Extra Sidebar Widgets modules which must have plans for expansion.

Some Modules You’ll Want To Avoid Altogether

Beyond the obscure, there are several modules (Enhanced Distribution, Jetpack Comments, Jetpack Single Sign-on, Likes) that just don’t stack up or seem to be of very little value.

I’m not a fan of alternative comment systems: the built-in commenting system seems more than adequate (perhaps enhanced with social sign-in) so why replace it with a system that relies on a 3rd-party and yet that’s what Jetpack Comments wants to do. There also seems to be limited benefit in allowing visitors to sign into your site using WordPress.com credentials and using a WordPress.com-specific liking system, when the real currency is a Facebook like, would appear to be a waste of time.

Auto-activating Is Just Plain Bad UX

When you install Jetpack and connect it to your WordPress.com account, you’ll find that over 20 modules are automatically activated, including Site Stats:

ModuleAutomatically Activated?Requires WordPress.com Connection?
After The DeadlineYesYes
CarouselNoNo
CommentsNoYes
Contact FormYesNo
Custom Content TypesYesNo
Custom CSSYesNo
Enhanced DistributionPublicYes
Google+ AuthorshipYesYes
Gravatar HovercardsYesNo
Holiday SnowYesNo
Infinite ScrollNoNo
JSON APIPublic Yes
Latex (Math)YesNo
LikesNoYes
MarkdownNoNo
MobileNoNo
MonitorNoYes
NotificationsYesYes
OmnisearchYesNo
Photon NoYes
Post By EmailYesYes
PublicizeYesYes
Related PostsNoYes
ShortcodesYesNo
SharedaddyYesNo
ShortlinksYesYes
Single Sign-onNoYes
StatsYesYes
SubscriptionsYesYes
Tiled GalleryNoNo
VaultPressYesYes
Verification ToolsYesNo
VideoPressNoYes
Widget VisibilityYesNo
WidgetsYesNo
A list of Jetpack (ver 3.1.1) modules whether they are automatically activated and require a connection to WordPress.com.

That it is highly unlikely that any WordPress user will find an immediate use for all those activated modules and therefore will want to deactivate most of them is not the issue.

The issue is that it not Automattic’s (or any plugin developer) decision as to which modules should be activated: it is the site owner’s. At the very least this is highly presumptuous and, of course, means that WordPress.com is collecting stats about a site without appearing to first get explicit permission.

Simple Approach Is Double-Edged Sword

Jetpack’s simple approach to implementing functionality is both an advantage and a disadvantage.

Despite the size of the plugin, and likely due to heritage, the modules rarely go overboard with features and functionality. They stick to implementing simple solutions in rock-solid code. This is a real positive as the modules are often quick and easy to get the hang of and in many cases provide good results that have little or no configuration.

But that simple approach is also a disadvantage as you may quickly outgrow the Jetpack provided functionality and need to go with a more full-featured competitor.

Not All Doom And Gloom

Despite the negatives, there are services and features that should keep Jetpack in the frame for any WordPress site owner.

In fact, it’s when Jetpack is leveraging the “awesome WordPress.com cloud power” to access high-end features and functionality that it really excels:

Related Posts – Jetpack pushes this database-intensive activity to the WordPress.com servers (they effectively index a WordPress site to generate suggestions). Based on WP Engine’s stance on related post plugins, this is clearly a big deal.

Monitor – This service, a subject of a recent Weekend WordPress Project, is almost justification alone for installing Jetpack. Once set up, site owners are notified by email every time their site fails to respond along with details of total downtime.

WordPress.com Stats – Google Analytics may be the tool for in-depth analysis of  traffic but for a quick overview of what’s happening with a site, WordPress.com Stats provides an ideal summary directly in the WordPress dashboard.

Subscriptions – Allowing visitors to subscribe to updates to your site (including comments) is a standard relationship building technique and this module takes the emailing load off a self-hosted site.

VideoPress – If you produce a lot of video content for your blog then VideoPress is worth a look. A paid service costing $60 per year, VideoPress will handle the conversion and streaming of SD and HD video to a WordPress site. Videos have no length restriction but are limited to 1GB in size and have no pre or post roll ads. VideoPress uses the related WordPress.com site for storage so you may well have to factor in the additional cost of upgrading from the default 3GB.

VaultPress – Another paid service but the pick of Jetpack’s offerings. The Basic Plan ($165 per year) provides real-time backups and automatic restores which is represents a cheap insurance policy against disaster. Again, if we look to WP Engine for guidance, not only is VaultPress is the only backup plugin / service they allow, they recommend it.

It’s interesting to note that both VaultPress and VideoPress have specific plugins in the WordPress Plugin Repository and VaultPress at least is being actively maintained. A puzzle, perhaps, as to why Jetpack is not the sole interface provider for these 2 services.

Is Jetpack Worth Installing?

Is this even a question worth asking for a plugin that has had 11.7 million downloads? It’s actually a valid question for any plugin, not just Jetpack, but given Jetpack’s size, it is particularly pertinent.

Viewed individually, many of Jetpack’s standalone modules face stiff competition from more feature-rich competitors and perhaps only survive because they are part of the collection. But I would ignore the standalones and concentrate on the services because that’s where Jetpack’s value is (and where it should be concentrating).

Monitor is a service that every site owner should be utilizing. If one (or preferably more) of Stats, VaultPress, VideoPress, Related Posts, Subscriptions or Publicize can be added to the mix then installing Jetpack, despite the fact it will bloat your site, is a definite yes. Any other modules are then a bonus.

If not, then you’re better off finding an individual best-of-breed plugin to meet your need.

Do you have Jetpack installed on your site? Which modules do you actively use?

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The Best WordPress Caching Plugins and Why Testing Them is So Important http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/best-wordpress-caching-plugins/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/best-wordpress-caching-plugins/#comments Thu, 21 Aug 2014 12:00:23 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=131388 Reducing the page loading time of your website pages improves your visitor’s user experience and reduces the chance of them hitting the back button on their browser. Search engines such as Google have also confirmed the speed of a website is a contributing factor in how they rank it in their search results, therefore it pays to have a fast loading website.

There are a number of ways in which you can improve the speed of a WordPress website, however a caching plugin will make the biggest difference. Caching is the process of creating a static HTML page of every page on your website. This means that visitors don’t need to retrieve data from your database, or execute PHP code, in order to display your page.

As a result of this, the number of your requests from your server greatly decreases. This also lowers CPU load and reduces the risk of bottlenecking.

Caching plugins boast many other features that can improve your page speed. These include CSS, HTML, and Javascript file minification, deferring the loading of Javascript to the end of pages, and GZIP compression. Some caching plugins also offer support for content delivery networks (CDNs) so that you can reduce server response times.

There are a lot of caching solutions available to WordPress users. In this article, I would like to show you what I consider to be six of the best.

WP Super Cache

wp-super-cache

With more than 6 million downloads, WP Super Cache is by far the most popular caching solution available to WordPress users.

This plugin offers three different options for speeding up your website: you can choose to use mod_rewrite to deliver static pages, serve static pages using PHP, or use a legacy caching mode that caches pages for logged in users.

Don’t worry if this sounds complicated – WP Super Cache is one of the simplest WordPress caching plugins to use.

The settings area is divided into seven sections: easy, advanced, CDN, contents, preload, plugins, and debug.

I have used WP Super Cache on one of my websites in the past with the default settings, however the plugin does offer advanced settings such as page compression, dynamic caching, and a scheduler that allows cached pages to be deleted and re-cached at certain intervals.

The plugin offers support for content delivery networks and has an option to load certain plugins before others so they load quicker. Pages are normally cached once a visitor lands on a page, however WP Super Cache allows you to preload all content on your website beforehand so that visitors are always served static pages.

W3 Total Cache

w3-total-cache

W3 Total Cache is a highly configurable WordPress caching plugin that is recommended by many respected hosting companies. It supports content delivery networks, GZIP compression, and minification.

This plugin’s settings area is split into a whopping 16 pages, which are then further divided into several sections (though a few of these pages are information pages). The number of configuration options available can be a little daunting, however the plugin should work out of the box. All you have to do is go to the General page and switch the option “Toggle all caching types” to “on”.

W3 Total Cache has a dedicated settings page for each type of caching. This includes minification, page caching, database caching, object caching, and browser caching. The default life of cached objects can be changed in the settings area. You can also adopt different rules for user agents. For example, you could apply one set of rules to Android devices. Four premium extensions are also available for the plugin that further extend its functionality.

While W3 Total Cache should work correctly out of the box, you may need to ask your hosting company for help in order to configure the plugin correctly. All good hosting companies should be familiar with the plugin, therefore they should have a lot of experience in using the plugin. Once you have configured the plugin to your liking, you can export the settings to another website you own using the plugin’s built-in import and export tool.

WP Rocket

wp-rocket

WP Rocket is a new caching plugin released earlier this year. It is also the only caching solution in this article that can’t be downloaded free of charge.

The plugin offers page caching, cache preloading, GZIP compression, and lazy image loading that ensures images are only downloaded by a visitor once the image is visible. HTML, JavaScript, and CSS minification are also supported.

Like WP Super Cache, WP Rocket divides its settings area into seven sections. The plugin will function correctly after activation, therefore you don’t need to spend a lot of time configuring it. You can, however, choose what features are enabled and disabled.

WP Rocket is one of the most user-friendly caching solutions available as there are no advanced settings to be concerned about. There is an Advanced Options tab, however this is only used for excluding pages and files from caching and minification.

The plugin also has support for CDNs and your plugin settings can be exported to another website you own using the plugin’s import and export tool.

A license for WP Rocket is available for $39 for one website and comes with one year of support and updates. A license for three websites costs $99 and is $199 for an unlimited number of websites. All licenses come with a 30 day money back guarantee.

Hyper Cache

hyper-cache

Hyper Cache is a basic caching plugin that was specifically developed for websites that do not have a lot of available resources (e.g. those on shared hosting). It only has one settings area; which is divided into three separate pages.

The General tab allows you to define the period that pages are cached and whether you want to enable page compression. The Bypasses tab allows you to specify pages to be excluded from caching. Cookies, user agents, and comment authors, can also be bypassed.

The last tab relates to mobile settings. The plugin allows you to bypass caching for mobile devices or use a separate cache. You can also change the theme that is displayed to mobile visitors.

Hyper Cache also supports 404 error page caching and works with plugins that add custom post types, such as bbPress.

If you have tried another caching plugin and have been concerned about the load that it put on your server’s CPU, you may want to take a closer look at Hyper Cache.

WP Fastest Cache

wp-fastest-cache

WP Fastest Cache promotes itself as being “the simplest and fastest WP Cache system”. The plugin uses mod rewrite in order to create static files on your website. It also offers minification, GZIP compression, browser caching, and an option for combining Javascript and CSS files together to reduce requests from your server.

The plugin lives up to its reputation of being simple. It only has one small settings page with three tabs. The first tab displays settings, the second tab allows you to delete cache and delete minified files, and the third tab allows you to define the rate at which cached files are deleted.

The settings tab lists all of the plugin’s features. All you have to do is click the checkbox for each feature so that it is enabled.

Due to this simplicity, WP Fastest Cache has become popular with many WordPress users.

Quick Cache

quick-cache

Quick Cache is a feature-rich caching plugin that supports caching of RSS feeds, 404 error pages, and get requests. It also supports browser caching and GZIP compression.

This plugin helps beginners by displaying a long and detailed explanation about what each feature can and can’t do. This is a great addition to the plugin as most caching solutions assume that you know what each feature will do.

A pro version of Quick Cache is available for only $15. It adds another 9 settings options to the existing 9. This includes additional options for logged in users, exclusion patterns, and a “Clear Cache” button in the admin bar. Import and export functionality is also added.

What is the Fastest Caching WordPress Plugin?

With all WordPress plugin lists, readers want to know which is the best plugin. Or in the case of caching plugins, which plugins will improve their website speed the most. It is a difficult question to answer as there are so many factors to consider.

The page loading time produced by a caching plugin can be influenced by:

  • The type of hosting used (sharing, VPS, dedicated etc)
  • Whether the server has been configured correctly
  • Whether the cache plugin has been configured correctly
  • The number of images displayed on the page
  • The type of content displayed on the page (e.g. tables, videos, text etc.)
  • The number of CSS and Javascript files used by the theme and by plugins

These factors are why there are so many conflicting reports online about which WordPress caching plugin is the best. I could test all caching plugins and rank them one through six. Someone else could do the same on their website and rank the plugins in a completely different order.

This is perhaps why Kyle Robinson Young from Tutorial 9 found that Hyper Cache was the best caching plugin, while Kim Tetzlaff from Dashboard Junkie found that W3 Total Cache was the quickest.

Bhagwad Park from WebHostingHero found that W3 Total Cache was quicker than WP Super Cache if minification was enabled, but WP Super Cache was marginally quicker if it was not. More recently, WPSeer found that WP Rocket was quicker than WP Super Cache.

As you can see, different WordPress users are producing different results. In general, WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache seem to be the quickest in these tests, though the results are far from conclusive.

Therefore, the most accurate way of seeing which caching plugin will speed up your website the most is to test them yourself and compare the results.

GTmetrix Report
Testing the speed of your website using a benchmarking service such as GTmetrix is essential for knowing how a caching plugin has improved your page loading times.

The best way to test the performance of a WordPress caching plugin is to test your website performance using a speed benchmarking service such as GTmetrix (my favorite), Google PageSpeed Insights, Pingdom Website Speed Test, WebPageTest, or YSlow.

First, test your website with no caching plugin activated and then test your website with your chosen caching plugin configured. In order to get an accurate result, test your website two or three times and then take an average score. This is necessary as benchmarking services tend to produce a slightly different result every time you test the speed of a URL.

You should also remember to clear the cache after activating or deactivating any other plugins during this period. This ensures that all active plugins are displayed in your cached files.

To give you a better understanding of how much a caching plugin has improved the speed of your website, you should test the following pages:

  • Your home page or blog index
  • A long blog post with many images
  • A short blog post with few images
  • A page (e.g. about page or contact page)

It may seem overkill to test four different URLs before and after activating a caching plugin, but it is the most accurate way of testing performance as caching plugins handle different types of pages in different ways.

You should also be aware that different speed benchmarking services will give different results. For example, GTmetrix might say that a page loads in 0.9 seconds whereas Google PageSpeed Insights might say it takes 1.1 seconds. To remove this issue from the equation, be sure to use the same service to test your pages before and after activating your caching plugin. Otherwise, your figures may be skewed.

Overview

If you are not already using a caching plugin on your website, I recommend installing one of the above plugins listed in this article. Doing this will cache your content and deliver faster loading pages to your visitors.

Those of you who already have a caching plugin activated on your website will be familiar with a few of the plugins shared in this article, however you may want to consider testing another to see if it performs better.

I have tested all plugins listed in this article, however I have only used W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache, and WP Rocket, on live websites. The quickest solution that I found for my own blog was W3 Total Cache, however I used the plugin in conjunction with four or five other optimization plugins in order to achieve that speed. On its own, I did not find W3 Total Cache to be any quicker than other solutions.

I currently use WP Rocket without any other optimization plugins installed and have been very happy with its performance. I also love how easy the plugin is to use.

If you are looking to further improve the speed of your website, you may want to consider using a CDN such as MaxCDN or Amazon CloudFront. For reference, WP Super Cache, W3 Total Cache, and WP Rocket, all support content delivery networks. Hyper Cache, WP Fastest Cache, and Quick Cache, do not.

Do you use a caching plugin? If so, which caching plugin have you had the most success with? Let us know in the comments below.

Image credit: Dan DeChiaro

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8 Effective Plugins for Optimizing Your WordPress Site for Mobile http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/plugins-optimizing-wordpress-site-mobile/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/plugins-optimizing-wordpress-site-mobile/#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2014 12:00:00 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=131327 More and more people are using mobile devices to access the Internet. In fact, research shows two-thirds of cell phone owners use their phone to go online. On top of that, one third of these users (34 per cent) mostly use their phone to access the internet, as opposed to other devices like desktop and laptop computers.

If your site isn’t optimized for mobile, you’re losing a whole chunk of users on the go who will quickly look elsewhere if your site does’t load on their device.

In order to reach this audience, you need to ensure your site looks and works great on mobile devices. Fortunately, there are many great free and premium plugins that are designed to do this for you.

In this post, I’ll look at the top mobile optimization plugins available for WordPress and offer some recommendations.

WPtouch

wptouch

WPtouch replaces your site with a mobile-only theme and displays your content and not much else. The result is user-friendly, fast and easy to read.

This free version of the plugin offers some great basic customizations, such as language detection, custom code, branding colors, typography, social media in the footer and other styling options.

The great thing about WPtouch is how easy it is to set up – just activate the plugin and your site will be automatically optimized for mobile before you even have to look at the plugin’s settings. The plugin also allows visitors to your site to switch between the mobile-only site and your regular theme.

The pro version of WPtouch starts at $49 for a single site, which includes feature and security updates, cloud themes and support. There are also agency and enterprise packages ($199 and $349, respectively) with even more features, making this an ideal solution for developers creating client sites.

This is an incredibly popular plugin with almost six million downloads.

iThemes Mobile

ithemes-mobile

iThemes’ Mobile premium plugin is a powerful yet simple plugin that allows you to transform any website into a mobile device-friendly site.

Mobile is ideal for a quick “drop and go” setup, rather than extensive customizations. The plugin includes mobile-ready themes and lets you change basic style and color schemes for your mobile theme. It displays the content from your posts and pages.

Features include a mobile theme style manager, a built-in custom header uploader, four mobile starter themes and the ability to create your own, the option to assign different themes for different devices.

The neat thing about this plugin is that it doesn’t just support smart phones, it supports a wide range of devices including handheld game consoles.

The pro version of Mobile starts at $45 for 2 websites, which is suited to single website owners and bloggers. A developer package for $150 is aimed at those creating multiple business sites and allows for unlimited licenses.

Duda Mobile Website Builder

duda-mobile

Duda Mobile creates a mobile-friendly version of your website that you build using Duda’s mobile website builder.

After activating this free plugin, a setup wizard takes you to the Duda website where you can use a drag and drop editor to customize your site’s navigation and layout styles. You can also add features such as click-to-call, maps and contact forms. Unlike some other mobile optimization plugins, this one keeps the look and feel of your original site’s theme.

This is an easy to use plugin and offers basic functionality for mobile optimisation, but its features are no match for the premium plugin options available.

It’s important to point out that Duda displays banner advertisements on sites that use the free version of the plugin. Free users must also use a default URL provided by Duda (that will look something like mobile.dudamobile.com/site/mysitename) and can’t use a custom domain.

Any Mobile Theme Switcher

any-mobile-theme-switcher

Any Mobile Theme Switcher is a very basic plugin that detects the device a person is using to access your site and displays your selected theme. With this theme it’s possible to use one theme for iPhone users, a different theme for Android users and another still for those using Windows Mobile.

There are a small handful of options that allow you to set how long the mobile theme is displayed for and whether to show the mobile-version of the site to desktop users.

HandHeld Mobile Plugin

handheld-mobile

Elegant Themes’ HandHeld plugin works alongside your regular theme, serving as an alternate layout that is only displayed to your mobile visitors.

This alternate design displays your pages and posts in fast and easy to read way that is also user-friendly.

Features include a gallery section, blog layout, AJAX loading, threaded comments and styling options.

You’ll need to sign up for an Elegant Themes membership for $89 to access this plugin.

Mobile Smart

mobile-smart

Mobile Smart lets you choose a design to display from your existing themes whenever a mobile user access your site. Further options allow you to display a footer link allowing users to manually access your site’s mobile-friendly version.

This is helpful if you don’t like the responsive version of your site and want to display a different and more specific one to your mobile device users. It also means you will have to create your own mobile-version of your site since this plugin doesn’t offer any kind of site customizations.

It’s a pretty basic and lightweight plugin. The pro version ($15) supports domain switching (i.e. redirect users to m.yoursite.com), mobile-specific pages, and mobile menus.

WP Mobile Edition

wp-mobile-edition

WP Mobile Edition automatically detects whether visitors to your site is using a mobile device or not and switches between your primary theme (for desktop users) or loads a mobile-specific theme. It also allows users to switch between mobile view and your site’s regular theme and remembers their choice.

Other features include the ability to insert mobile AdSense, social links, the option to display your latest posts or a mobile landing page, and shortcodes.

Currently, there is only one mobile theme provided and it’s not clear when five more than are hinted at in the plugin will become available.

WP Mobile Detector Mobile Plugin

wp-mobile-detector-mobile-plugin

The WP Mobile Detector Mobile Plugin automatically detects whether your visitors are using a mobile device and displays a compatible mobile theme.

There are nine mobile themes provided and you can also enable any of your existing themes to display to mobile users.

When setting up this plugin, you will need to set up permissions to allow it to work properly. This plugin also hasn’t been designed with UX in mind. The mobile themes interface is confusing with text that runs on and the ads for the pro version are obtrusive.

Yes, there’s also a pro version available for $50. It offers a theme editor, mobile ads, the ability to detect different devices, and advanced statistics.

Why this plugin has “mobile” twice in its name I do no know.

Summing Up

Mobile optimization plugins offer a straight forward way to display mobile-friendly content to users who access your site on devices other than desktop and laptop computers.

While responsive themes can make your content look great on smaller devices and often suffice for those who want to cater to mobile users, these themes don’t always load quickly. Mobile optimization plugins – as the name implies – optimises your site for mobile, ensuring your content is displayed in a robust and easy to read fashion.

If you’re looking for a simple solution for displaying a mobile-friendly site to visitors to your blog or single website, the free version of WPtouch available in the WordPress Plugin Repository is a great option. If you want to simply display a different theme to mobile users, Any Mobile Theme Switcher allows you to display a pared-back version of your site.

WPtouch is also a fantastic option for developers creating larger sites. I would also recommend iThemes’ Mobile plugin as another alternative. Both plugins offers extensive features and support.

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Top 8 Best Ways to Set Up a Testing Environment for WordPress http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/testing-environment-wordpress/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/testing-environment-wordpress/#comments Fri, 15 Aug 2014 12:00:00 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=131319 Testing environments provide an easy and relatively inexpensive way to test themes, plugins and even new releases of WordPress without breaking your live site.

Many site admins take advantage of these environments where they can do thorough testing before committing changes to a site. If you’ve ever activated a new plugin or upgraded to a new version of WordPress only to find errors on your site, you will know the importance of testing first.

There are many ways you can set up a test environment, but the easiest by far are localhost environments or cloning your site on your existing web hosting account.

In this post I’ve put together a collection of some of the best testing environments available for WordPress, including options for both Windows and OS X. Most of the options are for setting up a localhost, but there are also options for duplicating a live site.

P.S. WPMU DEV will soon be announcing a plugin that will join the list below. Stay tuned.

MAMP

mamp

MAMP (which stands for Macintosh, Apache, MySQL and PHP) lets you set up a localhost environment on OS X. Version 3 of the software has been released and there’s also a beta version available for Windows.

We recently published a great guide to setting up MAMP on the blog, which walks you through installing the program, basic MAMP configuration, creating a MySQL database, and installing WordPress. The post includes optional steps for setting up Multisite.

MAMP is free, but there’s also a premium version available multi-PHP, the ability to set up any number of virtual servers, and the option to install WordPress automatically.

XAMPP

xampp

XAMPP is a popular, free and open source localhost PHP development environment available for Windows, OS X and Linux.

We also recently published a tutorial on setting up XAMPP, which guides you through set up, using the XAMPP control panel, setting up a MySQL database, installing WordPress and setting up Multisite.

The Apache Friends website includes a fantastic forum for users who run into trouble and need some help. I ran into a few problems with setting up the software (mostly firewall issues) and was able to quickly search the forums for a solution.

DesktopServer

desktop-server

Desktop Server is so easy to set up it can take as little as 5 minutes to get WordPress up and running on your local machine. After setting many localhost environments, this software has become part of my regular workflow when testing WordPress plugins and themes.

I wrote a guide on how to use Desktop Server recently, which walks you through set up and installing the latest version of WordPress.

Unfortunately, you’ll need to upgrade to the premium version of the software in order to set up Multisite. The limited version of Desktop Server allows you just three WordPress installs.

WampServer

WampServer

WampServer is a popular Windows web development environment that allows you to create web applications with Apache2, PHP and MyDQL.

This is another localhost environment I’ve written about on the blog, with a guide on how to set up the software, create a MySQL database, install WordPress and (optionally) set up Multisite.

Duplicator

duplicator

The free and popular Duplicator plugin lets you clone a WordPress site for use in another location. This is especially help if you want to create an exact copy of your site to use as a testing environment on your local machine or on your hosting account.

Creating an exact duplicate of your site will allow you to test plugins, themes and even upgrades to WordPress before making changes to your live site.

Unfortunately, this plugin doesn’t support Multisite.

Instant WordPress

instant-wordpress

Instant WordPress is a complete standalone, portable WordPress development environment that turns any Windows machine into a development server. It’s so portable it will even run from a USB key.

The free software comes with its own built in Apache web server, PHP and MySQL installations that are started and stopped automatically.

Bitnami WordPres Stack

bitnami-wordpress

Bitnami offers a free WordPress stack that is self-contained and will have you up and running with WordPress in minutes. The WordPress stack is available for OS X, Linux, WordPress virtual machines and in the cloud.

The great thing about Bitnami is that the service tracks every release of WordPress and the stack is updated shortly after new releases, including security releases.

After installing Bitnami WordPress Stack, I was surprised I was able to login to my new WordPress site so quickly and wondered if I had missed any steps. It really is easy to use this software to quickly set up a test environment.

Sandbox

sandbox

The Sandbox plugin creates an exact copy of your WordPress site on your existing hosting account, providing A test environment completely independent of your site that’s hidden from visitors and search engines.

This free plugin is best for small sites as it can take a while to replicate a site. I tested the plugin in a Multisite installation and it worked fine, though it’s confusing to know when you’re using the sandbox version of your site, despite the notice at the top of the page.

Summing Up

Setting up a test environment will save you time, money and potential headaches when a plugin breaks a live site.

Duplicator is by far the most popular cloning plugin and I would recommend it for duplicating a live site on an existing web hosting account.

DesktopServer is a fantastic solution if you want to set up a local server environment on OS X or Windows. It is simple and straightforward to set up and you don’t have to worry about setting up WordPress separately as it’s part of the installation process. I regularly use DesktopServer on my Mac machine for testing plugins, themes and new versions of WordPress.

I was surprised at how easy Bitnami was to set up. While I haven’t tested it extensively, I’ll definitely be making more use of this software in future.

How have you set up your testing environment? Let us know in the comments below.

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