WordPress Plugins - WPMU DEV http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog The WPMU DEV WordPress blog provides tutorials, tips, resources and reviews to help out any WP user Fri, 06 Mar 2015 01:05:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 WordPress Plugins - WPMU DEV http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/wordpress-page-plugins/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/wordpress-page-plugins/#comments Sun, 01 Mar 2015 13:00:33 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=137398 While WordPress provides a solid foundation for you to create pages for your site, there are many fantastic plugins to help you build on the functionality of what’s available.

Although WordPress began life in 2003, static pages weren’t added to the software until version 1.5 AKA Strayhorn, back in 2005. Since then the range of uses for WordPress has grown, and now it’s not uncommon to find websites that are powered by WordPress where static pages take center stage and the blog is a mere appendage, if present at all.

So if you’d like to improve the way WordPress lets you work with pages, such as enhancing the page manager, adding categories to pages, creating custom layouts, or upgrading the page display widget, read on for our list of WordPress page-related plugins for a range of options.

  • Advanced Page Manager

    Advanced Pages Manager

    Once your WordPress site starts accumulating more than a handful of pages, it can be quite difficult to manage and keep track of them.  Thankfully the popular and free Advanced Page Manager plugin is here to help.

    This page manager plugin overhauls the core WordPress page screen and gives you some new tools for creating and managing existing pages. You can now create pages without actually going to the Add New Page screen. This makes it much easier and quicker to create pages in bulk.

    When creating pages this way you can also set their template, relationships, and number in advance. This would be most useful when building out the pages for a website before you or your writers are ready to populate them with content.

    The page viewer also makes it very easy to see the relationships between pages. By using the collapsible tree view, it becomes easy to show and hide parent and child page relationships.

    Furthermore you can now drag and drop the pages around the manager to change their relationship or position. You also get some additional tools for filtering pages and performing bulk actions on them from the back end of your website.

    If your WordPress pages are stacking up and you’d like an easier interface for managing them, Advanced Page Manager could really help you out.

  • Page Management Dropdown

    Page Management Dropdown

    If the above plugin sounds like overkill for your project, but you’d still like an easier way to access your pages and view the relationships between then, then the free Page Management Dropdown plugin could be just what you are looking for.

    This simple but effective plugin displays the pages on your site under the top level Pages menu on the admin sidebar. Now you can jump straight to any of the individual pages on your site for editing, directly from the admin sidebar menu. This saves you the effort of sifting through the items listed on the page manager screen.

    While this plugin won’t change your life, it should save you some time without drastically transforming the WordPress admin interface.

  • Simple Page Ordering

    Simple Page Ordering

    Page ordering is one of the features of the aforementioned Advanced Page Manager (APM) plugin. However, if you’d like an easy way to change the order of your pages without all the other features of APM, then this plugin could be for you.

    After activating this free plugin on your site, you can now change the order of your pages simply by dragging and dropping them into place. Visually this plugin doesn’t make any changes to the admin interface of your site. However, when you move your mouse cursor over an item on the page manager screen, you can now drag and drop it into a new position.

    Altering the order of pages on the management screen changes their order in menus and widgets. This makes using Simple Page Ordering an easy way to ensure that your pages are in the correct order when they are listed on the front end of your website.

  • Post Tags and Categories for Pages

    Page Categories

    Categories and tags are an integral part of WordPress that makes it easier for your readers to find more of your related content. However, by default WordPress pages can’t make use of this feature.

    By activating the free Post Tags and Categories for Pages plugin you can now organize your pages in the same way as you can your posts. Your posts and pages will now share the same categories and tags. This is opposed to the plugin creating a new custom taxonomy specifically for pages.

    If this sounds like something you could make use of on your website, this plugin makes this feature very easy to implement.

  • Post Type Switcher

    Post Type Switcher

    This free plugin gives you the ability to change posts to pages, as well as a few other conversion options.

    If you’ve ever started writing what should be a page in the post editor, or had a change of heart after publishing a page that would’ve been better off as a post, then the Post Type Switcher plugin can save you a lot of effort.

    With this free plugin running on your website, you will now be able to change the post type of any piece of content you are working on. Making the switch is simply a case of using the drop down menu that the Post Type Switcher plugin adds to the Publish panel on the editor screen. It really is that easy.

    This plugin works at the individual page or post level, so if you need to bulk convert items then the Convert Post Types plugin is a better choice as it can convert many posts or pages at the same time.

  • Advanced Pages Widget

    Advanced Pages Widget

    WordPress comes with a pages widget that allows you to display a number of pages in the sidebar and other widgetized areas of your theme. However, the controls for the widget are fairly basic, and they only allow you to choose how the pages are sorted, and if any of them are to be excluded.

    By upgrading to the premium Advanced Pages Widget you can now have a lot more control over how this widget functions. Some of these advanced controls include setting the number of pages to display, whether to display page excerpts, displaying a thumbnail image or not, including pages only by specific authors, and a whole lot more.

    If you want more control over how lists of pages are displayed in your sidebar and other widgetized areas, then Advanced Pages Widget certainly gives you plenty of options.

Conclusion

Hopefully you’ve discovered some new plugins that can help you get more out of pages in WordPress. As WordPress has developed over the years, the line between posts and pages has blurred somewhat; but now, by installing a few free plugins, you can add many of the features of posts to pages, while also giving you a few extra ways to work with this post type.

How do you use pages in WordPress? What features would like to see added to WordPress to help you work with them more effectively? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

]]>
http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/wordpress-page-plugins/feed/ 0
WordPress Plugins - WPMU DEV http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/food-blogging-themes-plugins/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/food-blogging-themes-plugins/#comments Fri, 27 Feb 2015 13:00:00 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=137927 If you have a passion for cooking up delicious dishes and would love to share your creativity in the kitchen with the world, then starting a food blog could be the perfect outlet for your talents.

Thankfully, WordPress and its assorted array of purpose built themes and plugins makes it very easy to start your own food blog today. In this post we will be taking a look at a selection of the best WordPress themes to give your new blog the right look and feel, while also covering the most useful plugins that allow you to publish recipes on your blog and ensure your content is easy to find by those searching for inspiration.

Food blogging can be lots of fun and a great way to share your creations with other cooks and connect with like-minded foodies from around the world. A popular food blog can also become a great money maker if you get the ingredients right.

So if the idea of starting a food blog appeals – or you want to give your existing website an upgrade – read on for our recommended food-related themes and plugins to find out how to create an epic food blog with WordPress.

Best 5 WordPress Food Themes

These themes have all been purpose built to help you create a professional looking food blog with WordPress.

Some of the best features found in these themes include support for users on mobile devices, especially those following along on their iPads; custom built recipe templates; plenty of customization options; and of course highly attractive designs.

  • Yumblog

    Yumblog

    This is Yumblog 2.0 – the new and improved version of this popular food blog theme for WordPress. It’s a fully mobile-ready responsive theme that has been created especially for sharing your best recipes online.

    The template for publishing recipes has been custom built to allow the photos of your dishes to really stand out on the page. The template also gives you an opportunity to publish additional information about your dishes in an easy to read format. This includes an ingredients checklist, step by step cooking directions, and nutritional information. There is also a handy search tool for filtering the recipes according to certain criteria to make it easier for your readers to find what they are looking for.

    Yumblog has been created by the Up Themes team and they have included access to the premium Cooked plugin as part of the package. This means not only do you get a great looking theme for your website, but also the ability to add your own custom recipes as well as having the option to accept reader submissions.

    If you are new to WordPress, or at least setting up a new theme then the training videos owners of Yumblog get access to should help you get up and running in no time at all.

  • iCook

    iCook

    The homepage arrangement of the iCook theme should immediately grab the attention of your visitors, thanks to the large featured images from each recipe that are on display. Upon clicking through to an individual recipe, visitors are greeted with a high resolution, full width photograph, coupled with information about the dish and the nicely formatted step by step cooking instructions.

    Each individual recipe that you add to your blog can also features its own gallery. This allows you to add a selection of helpful photos of the dish as it progresses from start to finish.

    As well as the individual recipe galleries, iCook includes a site-wide gallery section which allows your visitors to quickly view an index of all of your published dishes, before diving into the individual recipes to get the full cooking details. The recipes in the gallery can be quickly filtered by your visitors according to the custom categories you’ve created.

    iCook is a great choice for anyone looking for a clean and stylish template for their food blog that will really let their photographs stand out on the page, while also being very easy to navigate.

  • Foodie Pro

    Foodie Pro

    Foodie Pro is a minimalist theme that will appeal to chefs and bloggers who want their culinary creations and food shots to take center stage on their website.

    While the overall design is clean and crisp, you do get access to a good amount of settings for customizing the colors and typography in use by your website. All the modifications take place through the WordPress theme customizer tool, making it very easy to personalize your website without the need to edit any code.

    Foodie Pro includes strategically placed ad spaces which will be of interest to anyone who is looking to monetize their website with adverts, or promote their own related products. There is also a custom built widget for displaying lists of your latest and greatest recipes, as well as an attractive template for publishing those recipes.

    This theme runs on the ever popular Genesis Framework and has been designed and developed by Shay Bocks, an experienced WordPress consultant.

  • Café Pro

    Cafe Pro

    Whether you are blogging about the food you create in your kitchen or the eateries you dine at, Café Pro is a great choice for your WordPress food blog.

    This food friendly theme is another creation that has been built for the Genesis Framework from StudioPress. This means that Café Pro leans more towards the minimalist approach to web design, rather than overwhelming you and your visitors with all the latest bells and whistles. The result of this is a fast loading website that is both easy to navigate and manage.

    However, Café Pro still gives you the ability to make use of a full screen layout, parallax scrolling, a landing page template, and a range of customization options. These features, along with the detailed set up instructions, makes it very easy to get your blog up and running in the way that you want it.

    With a design optimized for tablet and smartphone users, whether you are creating a website for a restaurant or starting your own food blog, Café Pro includes all the aspects you need to make your project a success.

  • Food Blog

    Food Blog

    Food Blog has been created by Nimbus Themes and it’s a great choice for anyone who wants a home for their high quality photographs of food and drink. Whether you are publishing your own recipes or blogging about the best dishes you’ve recently eaten, this theme makes a great home for your content.

    The aptly named Food Blog has been built to seamlessly integrate with the free Recipe Card plugin. This add-on makes it easy to add attractively formatted recipes to your website with very little effort. Each recipe post includes room for a large image, a description, and the ingredients list and cooking instructions.

    Recipes also include handy save and print buttons, as well as the ability for readers to leave a feedback rating. Your visitors can quickly find the dishes they are looking for by using the recipe index, or filtering your content using the custom categories.

    This theme has already been used to great effect on a number of food blogs, so if you are looking for inspiration for your website, be sure to check out the user showcase on the Food Blog website.

Best 5 WordPress Food Plugins

These are the best free and premium plugins for turning a regular WordPress website into a fully functioning food blog.

Some of the benefits of using these plugins is that they make it much easier and faster to add recipes to your website. Many of the plugins include custom forms which you simply fill in with the relevant details to add your recipes to your blog. Upon publishing your post, the recipe content is nicely formatted, giving your recipes a professional touch with very little effort.

Many of these recipe plugins add save and print buttons to your recipes to make life easier for your visitors. Now that Google has added a recipe finder to its search engine, you can also use these plugins to ensure your recipes are formatted correctly for inclusion in Google Recipe View.

If you want to make your recipes look better, while also increasing the chances of people finding them in Google, then installing one of these plugins is highly recommended.

  • Recipe Card

    Recipe Card

    Recipe Card is a free plugin that integrates nicely with the above Food Blog theme, although it should work well with any modern WordPress theme.

    After activating the plugin on your website you can choose a template for your recipes and then start creating new content. The plugin integrates with the WordPress post editor and allows you to insert your recipe information directly into your blog posts, before they are formatted and presented using your chosen template.

    This plugin gives your recipes a consistent and professional makeover, complete with save and print buttons for the convenience of your visitors. By using this plugin on your food blog, your recipes will now be ready for the Google Recipe View search engine, making it easier for more people to find your great dishes.

  • Yummly Rich Recipe

    Yummly Rich Recipes

    Yummly Rich Recipe is another free plugin designed to help you publish your recipes in style on your WordPress blog.

    As the name suggests, this plugin has been created by the Yummly recipe sharing website team and allows your visitors to save your recipes directly to their Yummly account. This not only makes it easy for them to find their way back to your food blog in the future, but also increases the chance of others finding your website.

    Once the plugin has been activated, you can customize how it works through the settings page. This allows you to configure how your recipes will look when published and printed out, as well as how to display your ingredients list. Through the settings page you can also decide what other information to include in the recipe template, helping you to ensure your dishes follow a similar format.

    When it comes to adding the recipes themselves, it’s just a case of pressing the Yummly button on the post editor and then entering the information in the relevant fields.  The plugin will also make your recipes SEO-friendly and help them rank more prominently in the Google Recipe View search engine in order to get more traffic to your blog.

  • WP Ultimate Recipe

    WP Ultimate Recipe

    WP Ultimate Recipe adds a new custom post type to your website that allows you to add detailed recipes to your food blog. These recipes are then published using a purpose built template provided by the plugin.

    The plugin also adds a range of custom taxonomies to your site to enable you to categorize and tag your recipes based on their cuisine and course. You can also add reusable ingredients to your site for quick insertion into your recipes.

    By taking the custom post type and custom taxonomies approach to adding the recipes to your site, you can ensure your recipe content is kept separate from your regular blog content. This not only makes it easier to manage your blog, but also easier for your visitors to find what they are looking for on your website.

    This plugin is available in a free version and a premium version, so if you want to give it a try you can access the basically functionality and see how you get on.

    If you are happy with the pre-built recipe template and layout, then the free version could be a good choice. However, if you do want to make the most of this plugin then you will need to upgrade to the premium or professional license.  Doing so gives you access to the template editor for customizing how your recipes look, adding the ability to accept user submissions, an options for importing recipes from other sites, and a lot of other useful features.

    The premium version of WP Ultimate Recipe might be relatively expensive, but if you are planning on starting your own fully functioning online recipe resource, rather than just a humble food blog, it could well be worth the investment.

  • Recipe Hero

    Recipe Hero

    Recipe Hero is another plugin that adds a custom post type to your WordPress website that is used specifically for storing and publishing recipes.

    The plugin has a nice set of options for those that like more control over how their website works and the recipes are nicely presented when they go live on your blog. You also get the option of adding responsive image galleries to your recipes to help your readers follow along. If your audience look high quality photos of food, then the gallery feature will help you ensure your blog appeals to them.

    While the core plugin is free, there are a number of premium extensions available for Recipe Hero. These add-ons allow you to add responsive videos to your recipes, make your content printer-friendly, and allow your readers upload their own recipes to your site using a front-end submission form.

    For a professional free option that can be upgraded with premium add-ons when your blog gets more popular, Recipe Hero gives you lots of room for expansion.

  • Cooked

    Cooked

    Cooked is a premium recipe theme that is included with the Yumblog theme mentioned earlier. However, you can use it on any food blog, regardless of the WordPress theme you’ve chosen.

    Cooked is now on version 2.0 and the developers have added some great new features to the existing set, as well as ironed out some kinds from the first version. By installing this plugin on your website you can now publish attractive looking recipes with ease, simply by entering the dish details into the form that Cooked adds to your website.

    The search functionality has been improved to make it easier for your visitors to find your best recipes. If you enable this feature, visitors can also submit their own creations to your blog through the attractive front end submission forms. Furthermore Cooked includes a drag and drop builder for creating your own custom recipes. When publishing your recipes, this plugin gives you 10 page template to choose from that will determine how they look.

    If you don’t mind investing in the price of this plugin, then Cooked gives you a lot more features to work with when building your food blog, as well as giving you access to premium support should you run into any problems along the way.

Conclusion

Starting your own food blog has never been easier and by using WordPress and one of these purpose built food themes and recipe plugins, you can make the whole process even easier.

If you’d rather focus on creating amazing dishes in the kitchen, rather than worrying about the technical aspects of your website, then these themes and plugins give you the ability to do so. Whether you are just starting out or want to upgrade your existing blog to make it more food-friendly, then you can’t go wrong with the above options.

Which theme did you like the best? What style of food are you planning to cover on your blog? Are there any features you’d like to add to your blog that haven’t been made available yet?  Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

]]>
http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/food-blogging-themes-plugins/feed/ 2
WordPress Plugins - WPMU DEV http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/plugins-optimize-ad-space/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/plugins-optimize-ad-space/#comments Mon, 16 Feb 2015 13:00:44 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=137063 Online advertising is a mainstay of the internet. It has helped most businesses and individuals earn money online and it’s safe to say internet marketing isn’t going anywhere.

Adding advertising to your WordPress site is simple enough to do and plugins can make the task even easier. But while there are many advertising plugins availably, they aren’t all created equal – even Google’s offical Adsense plugin has received mixed reviews.

The plugins listed below allow you to display ads on your site in the most effective places to optimize your space. You won’t even have to mess with code (though you’re most welcome to if you like).

  • Advanced Advertising System

    Advanced Advertising System plugin

    Advanced Advertising System is a great plugin if you would like to sell advertising space on your site. You can set prices for different spots, add uploaded images for banners, choose the timing for rotations, and schedule ads.

    Ad spaces are determined with a shortcode so you can place them where they look best in your theme. Advertisers, campaigns and ads are all entered manually so it’s easy enough to use our MarketPress plugin to sell spaces and set them up once payments have processed.

    Some of the settings are a little tricky to get right the first time, but overall it’s an easy plugin to install and use and there are a ton of options that can help you to set it up to your specific needs.

  • Advanced Ads

    Advanced Ads plugin

    Advanced Ads lets you easily place ads on your site and uses a page similar to the post editor to do so. You can also set up ad rotations, scheduling, set expiry dates, and you choose where ads are shown.

    Ads can be displayed on all or specific pages, posts and even tags. You can also choose which visitors see your ads.

    It’s easy to install and set up, but just remember that you need PHP 5.3 or higher for this plugin to work properly. It also integrates with Google Adsense.

  • Corner Ad

    Corner Ad plugin

    As the name suggests, this plugin displays an ad on either of the top corners of your site.

    It looks as though the page is being peeled away at the corner to reveal your ad. When the mouse hovers over it, the ad is expanded to the full size and reveals more information. It also flips backs into position when the mouse moves away.

    It’s a highly configurable plugin that helps grab a visitor’s attention without being over-the-top. Just keep in mind that this plugin requires Flash in order for it to display properly, so it might not work well in all browsers. Usually this isn’t a problem, but it depends on your audience.

  • Ad Plugg

    Ad Plugg plugin

    Ad Plugg is a unique plugin on this list because it includes analytics and other ad tracking features in order to make sure you’re getting the most out of each ad you publish.

    You can choose from several areas on your site where you want ads to appear and there are also options to schedule and rotate them. You do need to create an account on the Ad Plugg website, but it’s free.

    A free account includes up to 100,000 impressions a month and you don’t ever have to upgrade. But if you do need more, the pro plan is affordable and flexible.

  • WordPress Ad Widget

    WordPress Ad Widget

    If you don’t need many options and you would prefer an easy way to display ads in your sidebar without any coding at all, then WordPress Ad Widget is worth considering.

    It’s as easy to install as most other plugins and all it takes to set up is uploading an image and adding a link to the sidebar with this widget. I was able to set one up in less than two minutes and that included the installation process.

    It’s particularly worth mentioning because there is a separate widget included that allows you to add your own Javascript and HTML for added functionality.

  • Meks Easy Ads Widget

    Meks Easy Ads Widget

    This is another widget that’s super easy to install and use. I find it particularly helpful because it allows you to place ads side-by-side in your site’s sidebar in order to allow you to display more ads in the same amount of space compared to other plugins and widgets.

    It’s particularly helpful if you run a popular blog and you’d like to sell ad space in your sidebar using our MarketPress plugin to create some extra income for yourself. You can create an unlimited number of ads with this plugin so your extra income doesn’t have to be limited.

    It’s easy to install and among the basic options are ad rotation and custom sizing. Still, it’s not the most robust widget available so it may be a great one to use in combination with other plugins on this list.

  • WP Advertize It

    WP Advertise It plugin

    The WP Advertize It plugin not only works with Google Adsense, but also with Amazon Affiliate links and Commission Junction. All you need to do is paste the ad code into the settings page and select where you want the ad to appear.

    There are lots of locations to choose from including after a post or page’s title, after the first paragraph, in the middle of a post or page, in the sidebar, under the comments or in the footer – just to name a few.

    The settings page is quite long, but it’s not as complicated as it looks on first glance and it’s easy to set up.

  • Boggle Woggle Adsense

    Boggle Woggle Adsense plugin

    Despite its rather unique name, Boggle Woggle Adsense is actually a fairly useful plugin that allows you to display up to nine different page or post ads and three widget ads.

    You can select ads to appear at the very top of your site before any other content without any extra coding which is unlike the other plugins in this list. Ads can also be shown before, after or in between content on posts or pages.

    Even though its options are otherwise basic, it also lets you display text and links in addition to images making it a bit more flexible than most other plugins.

Conclusion

These plugins should help get you well on your way to displaying your ads most effectively and even help you make some extra income on the side.

If you’re using Google Adsense and you’re worried about click fraud, check out the well liked Click-Fraud Monitoring plugin to help solve that problem. It’s a free plugin that’s also updated regularly.

With these plugins, all that will be left for you to do is focus on creating great content. To that end, you may find our post The Secrets to Writing WordPress Posts That Convert particularly helpful.

Did I miss any of your favorite ad plugins? Have you had success with any of the ones listed here? Let me know in the comments below.

]]>
http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/plugins-optimize-ad-space/feed/ 2
WordPress Plugins - WPMU DEV http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/wordpress-category-plugins/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/wordpress-category-plugins/#comments Fri, 13 Feb 2015 13:00:00 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=136954 There’s no doubt categories are a useful feature of WordPress. By using the category taxonomy you can organize your content more efficiently on the backend of your site, while also making your posts easier to navigate on the front-end.

However, if you want to extend the WordPress category functionality and upgrade how they can be used, the mostly free plugins in this collection should be able to help you do so.

Whether you want to enable categories for pages, output a list of all the posts in a specific category, or create sticky posts within a category, you can do so with ease, plus a whole lot more, simply by installing one of the plugins below.

If you want more control over how this feature works and more options for how you can use it on your website, read on for our collection of the most useful WordPress category plugins available today.

  • Post Tags and Categories for Pages

    Post Tags and Categories for Pages

     

    As the name suggests, this free plugin allows you to apply tags and categories to pages in the same way that you can with pages.

    This gives you the option of organizing your WordPress pages better and making them easier to navigate by your readers. If you do use this plugin, you can also combine it with some of the other plugins in this collection in order to display pages from specific categories as you would with posts.

    Once the plugin is activated on your site, pages will now share the same categories and tags that posts have access to, allowing you to put both pages and posts into the same category.

    There are no settings for Post Tags and Categories for Pages so just plug and pay.

  • List Category Posts

    List Category Posts

     

    If you want to display a list of posts from a specific category, or multiple categories, then this plugin is for you.

    Simply inserting the appropriate shortcode into a WordPress post or page will display a list of posts which your readers can then click on to read.

    The List Category Posts shortcode allows you to specify which category to source the posts from, how many posts to include in the list, and what data from the post to feature in the list. This last option allows you to display the post title, the author name, a post excerpt, and even the actual post content itself.

    The plugin makes it relatively easy to customize the appearance of the list, thanks to its support for custom HTML and CSS. List Category Posts also includes a widget which can be used to display a custom list of posts in the sidebar and other widgetized areas of your WordPress theme.

    This free plugin is really well supported in terms of online documentation and activity on the WordPress.org forums, helping to make this a great option for anyone who needs to output a list of posts from one or more categories.

  • Recent Posts Widget Extended

    Recent Posts Widget Extended

     

    This free plugin allows you to display the most recent posts from one or more categories in the sidebar and other widgetized areas of your website.

    The Recent Posts Widget Extended can do a lot more than this, but for those looking for a way to display posts from specific categories in their sidebar, it’s a great choice.

    One of the reasons that makes this free plugin so great is that the Recent Posts Extended widget that it adds to your website gives you lots of control over how that list of posts is displayed. These settings cover displaying thumbnails, post excerpts, the publication date, and more. You can also add your own custom HTML and CSS directly to the widget to personalize it further.

    While the Category Post Widget plugin is a popular alternative, it can only display posts from one specific category at a time. Recent Posts Widget Extended on other hand is the better choice thanks to its ability to display posts from multiple categories (and tags) in one list, as well as its superior controls over how the list looks. This is in addition to its support for custom post types and custom taxonomies, as well as its compatibility with the Genesis Framework.

    While this plugin and its widget does a lot more than just displaying a list of categories in your sidebar, it’s still the best choice for doing just that.

  • Category Sticky Post

    Category Sticky Post

     

    WordPress gives you the opportunity to mark a post as sticky, so that it is always displayed at the top of the list of most recent posts.

    However, by installing the free Category Sticky Post plugin you can now make one post from an individual category sticky. The end result of this is that when the list of posts from that category is displayed, that sticky post will be right at the top. The plugin also gives you the option of adding some light formatting to the sticky post to make it stand out from the rest of the posts in that category.

    If you have important posts in a category you would like to make more prominent, this simple but effective plugin can really help you out.

  • Ultimate Category Excluder

    Ultimate Category Excluder

     

    Ultimate Category Excluder allows you to exclude certain categories from the homepage, category and other archive pages, feeds, and internal search results on your website.

    This means that if you’ve got your WordPress website configured to show the latest blog posts on the homepage, any posts in one of the categories excluded from the homepage won’t be displayed there.

    Perhaps you are posting content that won’t be of immediate value to your readers and therefore doesn’t deserve prominence on the homepage, or even your category archive listing pages. This could include advertorials, product reviews, or other content that you still want to make available, but not as easily accessible of some of your other types of posts.

    If you’ve got content and categories on your site that are less interesting than some of the other posts, Ultimate Category Excluder gives you a solution for managing their visibility.

  • Categories to Tags Converter

    Category to Tags

    Got your categories and tags in a muddle? Inherited a site that was doing it wrong? Fear not as the free Categories to Tags Converter plugin allows you convert these two types of taxonomies in either direction.

    After activating the plugin, the convertor can be accessed from the WordPress Tools menu. From there you can select individual categories to convert into tags and vice versa. When you make the conversion, the new category or tag will automatically be applied to the same posts as it was in its former state, saving you the job of manually applying it to the relevant posts.

    This simple plugin does the job and could save you a lot of time should you ever need to convert and categories or tags.

  • Category Featured Images

    Category Featured Image

    This plugin gives you a category-focused solution for dealing with posts that haven’t been assigned a featured image.

    As well as giving you the ability to set a featured image that is automatically applied to any post where the author has not done so themselves, it also allows you to set a default featured image at the category level.

    After activating the plugin, the Edit Category screen is upgraded to include a field for setting the category’s featured image by either uploading an image or selecting one from the media library. The only slight downside of this plugin is that you can’t assign a featured image when creating a new category – only when editing them.

    If you want to ensure that a post will always have a featured image when it goes live, even if the author hasn’t uploaded one, or you just want a automated way to apply the same featured image to all posts from a specific category, the free Category Featured Images gives you that ability.

  • Only One Category

    Only One Category

    If you want to ensure posts on your website don’t get assigned to more than one category, this plugin enforces that rule to ensure you don’t forget, and your co-authors don’t make this mistake.

    After activating the Only One Category plugin, the check boxes that are used to select multiple categories are replaced by radio buttons. This means you can only ever select one category for each post.

  • WordPress Default Category

    WordPress Default Category

    While you can set a global default category that is automatically assigned to a post when it’s created, this free plugin gives you the option of setting at least one default category for each individual user on your site.

    If you are working with a writer to produce posts on a certain topic, you can set the default category for that user to one that matches the type of content they are publishing. While the user can override the settings, this plugin at least reduces the chances of them forgetting to choose one from the available options.

  • Site Categories

    Site Categories

    Slightly different than the other plugins featured so far, this option from WPMU DEV gives you the ability to categorise the sites in your Multisite network, in a similar way to how posts are categorised.

    The site categories can then be published in a number of ways, making it easier for visitors to find the different sites in your network. The lists can be displayed in posts or pages, as well as in sidebars using the included widget.

    Site categories can have their own descriptions and custom icons, and they can also be nested just like regular WordPress post categories. When users create a new site on your network, you can give them the ability to choose which of the existing categories their site belongs to.

    If you are managing a Multisite network then this plugin’s ability to allow you to categorise your sites could be of real use to you.

Hopefully at least one of the plugins on this list will be able to improve the way you work with categories in WordPress.

If you have any questions about this topic, or know of any other useful WordPress category plugins, please share them in the comments below.

]]>
http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/wordpress-category-plugins/feed/ 2
WordPress Plugins - WPMU DEV http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/ultimate-guide-multisite/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/ultimate-guide-multisite/#comments Thu, 12 Feb 2015 12:00:00 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=137269 Here at WPMU DEV, we’re more than a bit keen on WordPress Multisite.

We’ve been developing plugins for it since the old days when it was WordPress MU, and we use it to power Edublogs, a huge network of blogs for educators and students.

Personally I also use Multisite a lot. I use it to host client websites, to create sites demonstrating techniques I outline in my books and tutorials, and to keep everything in one place.

In this guide to Multisite I’m going to show you everything you need to know to get started with Multisite and create your own network of blogs or sites.

I’ll cover:

  • What is Multisite and how is it different from regular WordPress?
  • Uses for Multisite (with some examples)
  • When not to use Multisite
  • How to activate Multisite on a new or existing WordPress installation
  • Creating blogs in your network
  • Managing your network, including installing themes and plugins, creating sites and setting up domain mapping
  • Plugins to make Multisite even better.

But first, let’s get some terminology straight. In this post I’m going to use the word network and site to refer to two different things:

  • Network refers to the entire Multisite network, i.e. your WordPress installation
  • Site refers to one of the blogs or sites created as part of the network.

So when I refer to your site, I don’t mean your whole network of sites, but just one of the sites on it. Each network will have a main site, which is created when you install WordPress and which will probably use the main domain for your WordPress installation: that’s still a site. I’ll explain this in more detail as we go along.

So now we’ve got that sorted, let’s take a look at Multisite!

What is Multisite?

The Codex defines WordPress Multisite as:

“A feature of WordPress 3.0 and later versions that allows multiple virtual sites to share a single WordPress installation.”

This means that by installing WordPress just once on your server, you can run as many sites as you want, and I really mean as many as you want. At the time of writing, WordPress.com hosts approximately 37 million sites, and our own Edublogs.org hosts nearly 3 million educational sites. You won’t be able to host millions of sites on a standard Multisite installation though – later in this post I’ll cover some plugins and techniques you can use to host large numbers of sites.

The great thing about Multisite is that the WordPress installation itself is almost exactly the same as a standard installation: it has the same folder structure, the same core files and the same code base. This means that installing a Multisite network isn’t much more complicated than installing a standard WordPress site, and updating Multisite is exactly the same as updating any WordPress site. All of your network’s themes and plugins are stored just once, no matter how many sites you use them on, meaning you’ll be using a lot less server space than if you used a separate WordPress installation for each site.

But there are some differences in three areas: in the admin screens and the way you use them, in the files in your WordPress installation, and in the database tables.

How the Multisite Admin Screens Are Different

When you activate Multisite, some extra screens will be added to your admin, for managing the network. You can see below the there’s a special dashboard for managing the network.

These are accessible only to the Super Admin who manages the network (that’s you) and will let you install themes and plugins and create and manage sites. I’ll take you through these in more detail later in this post.

The admin screens that each site admin can access are similar to a standard WordPress site, but a couple are missing: site admins can’t install themes or plugins but can only activate those that have been installed on the network.

But apart from that, the screens will be very familiar to anyone who has used WordPress.

How the Multisite Files Are Different

There are just two differences to the files and folders in a Multisite network: the wp-config.php file and the wp-uploads folder.

The wp-config.php file will have some extra lines added which activate Multisite and tell WordPress how it’s running. The wp-uploads folder will contain a subfolder for each site on the network, with the site’s numerical ID as its name. Files uploaded to each site are stored in that site’s folder, in the same structure as you would normally expect to see them in the wp-uploads folder in a standard WordPress installation.

But the good news is that WordPress manages the file structure for you, so you don’t need to worry about it!

How the Database is Different with Multisite

The final difference is one you really don’t have to worry about unless you’re into that sort of thing: the database tables. The database for a standard WordPress installation will have 11 database tables for storing your site’s content and settings. With a Multisite network, nine of these are duplicated for each site, meaning that if you’ve got a lot of sites, you’ll have a lot of tables. This keeps the content for each site separate.

Again this is something that goes on behind the scenes and which you should never need to worry about.

Uses for Multisite

Multisite has a lot of applications, but I like to think of them as coming under three categories:

  • A privately run network of sites or blogs for an individual or business
  • A network of client sites installed and administered by a developer or agency
  • A network which people can add their own sites to, either for free or by paying a subscription.

I have my own network of personal sites on my blog. I use this to create sites to demonstrate techniques I write about in my books and tutorials, and to try out new ideas. You might want to create a network to host your own personal sites if you have more than one, and with domain mapping plugins you can even use a different domain name for each site.

Businesses also use Multisite to host multiple sites which they administer and manage themselves: an example is BBC America, which uses Multisite to host its network of blogs.

bbcamerica

I also manage a network of client sites for my agency, Compass Design. I moved all of my client sites to Multisite a year or so ago after years of keeping them all separate. It means that when I need to update WordPress (or a theme or plugin) I only have to do it once, and I have one place from which to manage all of my client sites. I use domain mapping so each client can have their own domain, and give them admin access for their own sites if they need it (which not all do). The benefit of this is that it means your site admins have more capabilities than an editor would on a standard site but can’t install themes and plugins which might break their site or your network.

There are also plenty of examples of Multisite networks which let people create their own site. The biggest, WordPress.com, hosts millions of sites and is free to use, with premium themes and plugins available at a cost.

wordpressdotcom

Our own Edublogs enables schools and educators to create a blog, and powers million of sites using one Multisite Network. Users create a blog for free, with the option to move to a Pro account with extra features.

edublogs

When Not to Use Multisite

Although Multisite is great (yes it is!) and has plenty of uses, it’s not always going to be the tool that you need. Here are some examples of when you don’t need Multisite:

  • You want to create a single site or blog and don’t plan to create any more in future.
  • You’re creating sites for multiple clients but each will be hosted separately, maybe with clients having their own hosting providers.
  • Each site you’re creating will need its own separate database (maybe for security reasons).
  • Each site will need its own IP address.
  • Site administrators will need to install their own themes or plugins.
  • You’ll need to move your sites to another server (that this can be done but is more involved than  for a standard site, and can be avoided completely if all you need is separate domains).
  • Your hosting doesn’t provide the necessary server requirements.
  • You don’t have access to the files on your server for editing.

If one of the above applies to you, I would recommend sticking with a single site WordPress installation. If you do need a network but your hosting setup prevents you from doing so, I’d recommend switching providers!

Activating Multisite

Now that you know what Multisite is and how it can benefit you, it’s time to learn how to activate it. How you do this will depend on whether your site is a brand new one or an established one. It will also depend on whether you want to use subdomains or subdirectories for your network’s sites:

  • Using subdomains means that each site will have a url like http://site1.yournetwork.com. If you’re planning to let people create their own site, you’ll need to have wild card subdomains activated for your hosting.
  • Using subdirectories means that each site will have a url like http://yournetwork.com/site1. You can’t choose this option on an established site that you’re converting to a network as it may cause clashes with urls already created in your site.

Let’s start by activating Multisite in a brand new installation.

Activating Multisite on a Fresh WordPress Installation

Activating Multisite when you install WordPress involves a few extra steps. Firstly, you need to install WordPress and allowing a network.

  1. Install WordPress in the normal way. Download WordPress and use the ‘famous 5 minute install’ to install it on your server or local machine.
  2. Open your wp-config.php file which you’ll find in the folder where you installed WordPress. Find the line that reads:

  1.  Immediately above that line, create a new line that reads as follows:

  1.  Now save your wp-config.php file.

The next step is to visit the WordPress admin screens and install Multisite.

  1. In the WordPress admin, go to Tools >Network Setup. You’ll be prompted to choose subdomains or subdirectories for your installation: choose the one that works for your network.
  2. Edit the title of your network and email address of the network administrator when prompted, or leave them as they are.
  3. Click the Install button.

The final step is to copy some code provided by WordPress into your wp-config.php and .htaccess files.

  1. You will be taken to the Network Install screen:
installing-wordpress-multisite-network-install
  1. Open each of your wp-config.php and .htaccess files and edit them in line with the text provided on the screen. If you can’t find .htaccess on your server, it may because hidden files aren’t visible: change the settings in your code editor if you’re using one to access your files.
  2. Save both files.

WordPress Multisite will now be installed. You’ll need to log in again, and when you do so you’ll see the dashboard:

installing-wordpress-multisite-network-complete

Now you can start adding sites, plugins, themes and more.

Activating Multisite on an Established WordPress Installation

If you’re converting your existing site to a Multisite network, you follow the same steps as above with one exception: you won’t be given the option to select subdomains or subdirectories. If your site has been in existence for more than a month, you’ll be forced to use subdomains.

Managing Your Network

Now your network is in place and running just one site, which is the man site for the network. This site is no different from the other sites which will be added to your network: it has the same admin screens and the same permissions.

Managing your network will consist of:

  • Creating and managing sites
  • Installing and activating themes
  • Installing and deactivating plugins
  • Installing updates

Let’s start by creating a site.

Creating a Site

You can create sites manually or you can install a plugin that lets users create their own. I’ll cover how you do this with a plugin later, but first, here’s how to create a site manually.

  1.  Go to the network admin screens by clicking on My Sites > Network Admin in the admin menu.
  2. Go to Sites > Add New.
  3. Type in the site address (i.e. the subdomain or subdirectory), the site title and the email address of the site administrator, as shown in the screenshot:
multisite-add-new-site

The new site will be created. If you’ve used your own email address for the site admin, you’ll be able to see it when you hover over the My Sites link in the admin menu. If you’re not the administrator, you can still see it from your network admin screens. Click Sites > All Sites to view all of your sites. Below you can see just a selection of the sites in the network I’ve set up on my own domain:

multisite-network-sites

You can also create a new site from the front end of your main site, using a plugin. I’ll look at some plugins for Multisite shortly.

Installing and Activating Themes

Only the super administrator of a network can install themes and make them available for sites to use. You can do this in one of two ways: you can allow them for individual sites or you can network activate them. A theme can only be activated on a site if it’s been network enabled or enabled for that site.

Here’s how you install a theme and network enable it:

  1. In the Network admin screens, go to Themes > Add New and install the theme in the same way as you would for a standard WordPress site.
  2. On the ‘Installing Theme’ screen that appears, click the Network Enable link.

Alternatively, to network enable a theme you’ve already installed, click on Themes to go to the Themes screen, then click the Network Enable link below a theme.

You can also enable a theme just for one site. This can be useful if your network runs lots of sites each of which will need a different theme, for example if you’re hosting client sites. Enabling themes by site means that other themes won’t be available to sites which don’t have them enabled, so there’s no risk of site admins accidentally activating the wrong theme.

To do this, follow these steps:

  1. In the Network admin, click on Sites to view all of your sites.
  2. Hover over the name of the site you want to enable the theme for and click the Edit link that appears.
  3. Click the Themes tab to view the themes settings screen for the site:
multisite-enable-theme-for-site
  1. Under the theme you want to enable, click the Enable link.

Now when you go to the site administration screens for that site and click on Appearance > Themes, you’ll see the theme you’ve enabled included in the available themes for activation:

multisite-site-themes-screen

Installing and Activating Plugins

Plugins also have to be installed by the network administrator, but they work slightly differently with regard to the sites on the network. You can’t enable a plugin for an individual site: instead you can network activate it, so it runs on every site on the network, or you can just install it, so that individual sites can choose to activate it.

Network activating plugins is useful if you’ve written or downloaded a plugin to provide features which you want all of your sites to have, for example on my network of client sites I’ve installed the Snapshot plugin to ensure that all of the sites are backed up regularly. Here’s how to install and network activate a plugin:

  1. In the network admin screens, got to Plugins > Add New and install the plugin as you would in a normal WordPress site.
  2. In the Installing Plugin screen, click the Network Activate link.

That’s it! The plugin will now run on all the sites in your network and site admins won’t be able to disable it.

But what if you want to just activate the plugin on one site? That’s done by installing the plugin as a network admin and then activating the plugin if you have site admin privileges for the site.

  1. In the network admin screens, got to Plugins > Add New and install the plugin as you would in a normal WordPress site.
  2. In the Installing Plugin screen, click the Return to Plugin Installer link.
  3. Visit the site admin screens for the site you want to activate the plugin for and click the Plugins link in the admin menu.
  4. Under the plugin you want to activate, click the Activate link as you would in a normal WordPress site.

You’ll notice that in the Plugins screen for a site admin, there’s only the option to activate or deactivate plugins, not to delete or update them:

multisite-plugins-site-admin

Managing Sites

There are other screens you can use to manage the sites on your network, accessible via the Sites screen in the network admin. These are:

  • Info
  • Users
  • Themes
  • Settings

The Info screen contains basic information on the site. This is where you would change the domain for the site if needed, or update its status.

The Users screen lists all of the users for this site, who will also be users on your network. You can use this screen to remove users from a site or to add a user to a site if they’ve already been added to your network (more of which shortly). You can also change user roles from here. Site admins can also add users from the Users section of their own admin as you would for a normal WordPress site: they can add users not already registered on the network as well.

The Settings screen gives you access to all of the settings for the site, some of which site admins have access to via the Settings section of their admin menu. This includes everything in the site’s options table in the database, including the site title, description, theme and more. I would advise against changing any settings you’re not familiar with.

Managing Your Network: Updates, Users and Settings

As well as managing the individual sites in your network, you’ll need to manage the network itself. This will include:

  • Updating WordPress
  • Updating themes and plugins
  • Managing users
  • Customizing the settings.

Let’s take a look at each of these in turn.

Updates

Updating themes, plugins and WordPress itself via the network admin screens is straightforward: you’ll see a notification if any of your code needs updating and you simply update it in the same way as you would for a normal site. Updating WordPress is a two step process: you need to install the update and then update the network of sites. This is just a case of clicking a couple of extra links which WordPress will guide you through.

Users

The Users screen works in the same way as for a standard WordPress site: it will list all of the users on your network and let you edit and delete them. This will include users that site admins have added to your site as well as users who’ve signed up for a site.

The one main difference is that the Users screen tells you which sites a user has access to. If you want to add a user to a site, you do so via the Users tab in the site settings.

multisite-network-admin-users

Settings

You use the Network Settings screen to customise the way your network is used:

multisite-network-settings

Settings you can customise are:

  • The title of your network
  • The network admin’s email address
  • Registration settings: whether users can register accounts and/or sites, whether site admins can add new users, and email domains and site names which are banned.
  • New site settings: the content of the welcome email for site admins and users and the first page, post and comment created on new sites.
  • Upload settings: file types permitted and maximum file size
  • Language settings: the default language
  • Menu settings: enable or disable the plugins menu item for site admins. If you disable this they won’t be able to activate or deactivate plugins.

Managing and Maintaining a Huge Network of Sites

The examples I gave above of huge, successful Multisite networks will store vast amounts of data and receive millions of visits across their network every day. Clearly this isn’t something your site can handle if it’s installed on a shared server with a cheap hosting plan, so as your network grows you’ll need to make changes to the way you manage your data and serve up content to accommodate the extra data and traffic.

To learn more about how this is done, see our post about how we scaled Edublogs to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of blogs (at the time of the post) and millions of users.

Plugins That Make Multisite Even Better

Multisite is great as it is, but if you want to get more for it you’ll probably need to install one or more plugins. A plugin will help you do things like allow site registration from the front end, map domains to the sites in your network, and monetise your network.

Here are some of the plugins that are the most invaluable, including some of our best Multisite plugins and some free ones that you can download from the WordPress plugin repository:

  • Domain Mapping

    domain-mapping-wpmudev

    Our Domain Mapping plugin lets you give each site in your network its own domain name. It also lets you buy and sell domains to your site admins, which can help you monetize your network.

  • Snapshot

    snapshot-wpmudev

    Backing up your network is essential: your site admins won’t thank you if you lose their data! In a recent post I rated Snapshot as the best backup plugin for WordPress, and for Multisite it wins hands-down. It lets you take regular backups of your entire network and restore them quickly and easily. Some other premium backup plugins don’t support Multisite, but this one does.

  • Pro Sites

    pro-sites-wpmudev

    Pro Sites lets you convert your network into a profitable business by offering paid upgrades, advertising and more. It provides you with a front end interface people can use to create a site on your network, and lets you limit features for free sites, to encourage your users to upgrade.

  • Support System

    support-system-wpmudev

    If you want to make it easy for your site admins or users to raise support tickets or see the answers to frequently asked questions, the Support System plugin will help. With it you can add a page in your main site’s front end and in the admin screens where users can raise support tickets and ask questions, and you can manage and respond to those tickets.

  • WordPress MU Domain Mapping

    This free plugin lets you map alternative domains to the sites in your network. Unlike our Domain Mapping plugin it doesn’t let you sell domains to make money from your network, but it’s a free alternative.

  • User Switching

    user-switching

    The User Switching plugin does exactly what it promises: it lets you as network admin switch user accounts so you can see what your users are experiencing when they’re logged in. It can be helpful for troubleshooting or making edits to sites if your users break something!

This is just a few of my favourite plugins for Multisite: more detailed information about our essential Multisite plugins are in this post on the plugins you need to get Multisite up and running.

Conclusion

I hope I’ve convinced you that WordPress Multisite makes WordPress even more powerful. It lets you create more than one site with just the one WordPress installation, helping you to keep all of your own sites in one place or let others create their own sites which you can make money from.

Activating Multisite just takes a few extra steps once you’ve installed WordPress, and managing your network and creating sites in it isn’t complicated. As you’ve seen, the screens do look slightly different but won’t be unfamiliar for anyone with experience of managing a standard WordPress site.

How do you use WordPress Multisite? Have you recently switched from using single site to Multisite? Which plugins make Multisite even better for you? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

]]> http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/ultimate-guide-multisite/feed/ 40 WordPress Plugins - WPMU DEV http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/plugin-welcome-screen/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/plugin-welcome-screen/#comments Wed, 04 Feb 2015 13:00:31 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=136843 If you’ve ever updated WordPress a major version, or you’ve used a popular plugin like BuddyPress, chances are you’ve seen a plugin welcome screen.

The purpose of this screen is to get you oriented within the plugin, notify you of changes between versions and to point you to useful and relevant links.

Creating a welcome screen is easier than you may think and provides a great platform to introduce a better user experience to your product.

In this article I’ll show you how to put a welcome screen in place for your plugin. Let’s dig in!

Welcome Screen Examples

I thought it would be a good idea to show you what we’ll be doing first. Take a look at the screenshots below for welcome screens from the most recent versions of popular plugins and WordPress.

WordPress welcome screen
The WordPress welcome screen after updating to 4.1
bbPress welcome screen
The bbPress welcome screen
The BuddyPress welcome screen
The BuddyPress welcome screen

Creating Your Own Welcome Page

Most welcome screens are shown when the user clicks the activate link after installing a plugin. Since there is no mechanism to modify where that link takes the user we’ll need to resort to some cleverness. Here’s the action plan for our code:

  1. Create a dashboard page
  2. Fill it with content
  3. Upon activation we’ll add an option to the database
  4. On each admin page load we check if this option exists
  5. If it does we’ll redirect the user to a custom page
  6. Remove the dashboard page menu entry (optional)

I think seeing the full code for this will be more helpful. I’ll go through all the bits and pieces after the code block below:

The dashboard page is created on lines 26-36. The last parameter defines the function used to display the content: welcome_screen_content. Within this function I added some HTML. If you plan on adding a whole lot of stuff in here it may be best to include a separate file.

On lines 1-4 I defined an activation hook. This runs only when a plugin is activated. It adds a transient to the database, which indicates that we should redirect to the welcome page. Why a transient? We could well have used a simple option using the add_option() function but we want to make sure that everything is air-tight. Transients have a timeout value, I have used 30 seconds. After this time the transient is deleted – it cleans up after itself.

On lines 6-24 we add a function to admin_init. This checks if the transient we set exists. If it does exist (and we’re not activating in bulk or from the network admin) the transient is deleted (to make sure the welcome screen is only shown once) and the user is redirected.

Finally, on lines 50-54 we remove the menu page entry from view. What this means is that even if the welcome screen is removed, the user will not see a menu entry for it under the dashboard. This is usually done since the welcome screen is not important in day-to-day usage it can safely be removed to declutter the interface.

And here’s what the welcome screen looks like:

Welcome screen.
A basic welcome screen using the code above.

Of course, you’ll need to add your own text and styling if you want your welcome screen to look anything like what the developers of WordPress or BuddyPress put together for their products.

Wrapping Up

That’s all you need to know for creating a customized welcome screen. I’ve packaged the code above into an actual plugin which you can download here. Take a look at the source code for the same code as you see in this article.

Once done you should make your welcome screen appealing to users by enqueueing scripts and styles. Make sure to add relevant and useful information that orients your viewers, and don’t add flashy sliders and other eye-candy just because you can.

Do you know of a plugin with an especially cool welcome screen? Did you manage to use this tutorial in your own product? Let us know in the comments below.

]]>
http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/plugin-welcome-screen/feed/ 8
WordPress Plugins - WPMU DEV http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/multisite-plugins-ux/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/multisite-plugins-ux/#comments Wed, 28 Jan 2015 13:00:34 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=136483 Running a Multisite network is easy enough, but with big websites like WordPress and (our sister site) Edublogs setting the bar, basic functionality isn’t enough for the average user.

Luckily, you’ve come to the right place. This list of plugins – all by WPMU DEV – will help boost your site’s ease of use and overall user experience.

You may not need every single one of these premium plugins for your specific network, but you’ll likely find at least a handful will improve the quality of your site.

  • Custom Google Search

    Custom Google Search plugin

    The WordPress default search box is functional, but it leaves a lot to be desired. How many times have you used it and gave up in frustration over the inaccurate results?

    The Custom Google Search plugin uses Google to enhance your search box capabilities, giving it a huge boost.

    It also doesn’t show results on a separate page that looks nothing like your theme, which is what happens if you use Google’s own search app. This plugin integrates completely into your site either showing results using your theme’s page template or through a sidebar widget.

    You can also choose to allow searches across many sites in your network. If you want to provide functionality on your network for users to search for content, this is a plugin worth considering.

  • Integrated Video Tutorials

    Integrated Video Tutorials plugin

    WordPress is an amazing tool, but there is a bit of a learning curve for new users. If you’re designing sites for beginner clients, offering signups and even site creation, this plugin allows you to integrate white label instructional videos into your Multisite install.

    Your users will be able to have access to professional videos that will teach them how to do everything from publishing their first post and running updates, to replacing images and learning about post formatting.

    The videos are already hosted, fully maintained, and updated with every new version of WordPress so you don’t have to worry about a thing. You can also integrate them into the backend or front-end.

    Your users and clients will be happy that they have an easy way to learn how to use WordPress and you’ll be happy they have a good resource (other than you!) to turn to with questions. It’s a win-win situation.

  • Theme Switcher

    Theme Switcher plugin

    Theme Switcher allows you and your users to easily switch between network-activated themes from the WordPress toolbar or anywhere else you can put a shortcode on the front-end of your site.

    It also comes with a widget that allows you to customize the options and display. In just two quick clicks the theme is switched. You don’t have to worry about waiting for multiple pages to load either, making this task even quicker.

  • Comments Control

    Comments Control plugin

    When users are interacting with your site, engaging with your content and having a great conversation through commenting on a post, it can be irritating to suddenly have an almost blank screen show up informing the user that they cannot comment anymore.

    Thanks to spam users, WordPress has a built-in mechanism that prevents people posting too many comments too quickly. For genuine users, this is reason enough to disengage and leave your site.

    This plugin helps prevent that by allowing you to whitelist users known to your site so the, “You are posting comments too quickly. Slow down.” message isn’t shown to them. You can also block spam IP addresses in a blacklist as well.

    While this plugin isn’t a complete spam solution in and of itself, it does a great job helping with preventing spam and can be used in tandem with other methods.

    If you’re really serious about engaging your users in conversation, you’ll want to take a look at the next plugin on this list…

  • Comments +

    Comments Plus Plugin

    Comments + helps your users engage on your site by allowing them to not only comment through your site’s membership or their WordPress.com account, but also using their Facebook, Twitter or Google+ credentials.

    For users who come across your site and don’t have a membership, this allows them to get involved in a comment discussion without having to sign up.

    Comments + also helps reduce spam comments since users have to log in to their chosen social media account, and cannot simply type their name to post a comment. In turn, this will help boost the credibility of your site since other visitors will see real people posting comments rather than a faceless responses (that often don’t make sense, in the case of spam).

  • Remove Email Verification

    Remove Email Verification plugin

    This plugin removes the email that newly registered users receive to verify their email and find their assigned password, which speeds up the sign in process.

    It also minimizes the chances of new users being unable to complete the process if the email gets thrown into their junk mail folder or is blocked completely. It happens more often than you may think as popular email providers use strict default spam settings.

    If you’re worried about spam signups, which happen frequently even with verification emails, we’ve got a plugin for that, too: Anti-Splog.

  • Multisite Theme Manager

    Multisite Theme Manager plugin

    The Multisite Theme Manager allows you to customize what users see when they visit the Theme page in the backend.

    You can change the title, feature image, description and even organize all your themes into custom categories. This will help your users navigate the available themes more efficiently to find their perfect theme.

    You can also export your settings to other Multisite networks that you manage for a unified user experience.

  • Pretty Plugins

    Pretty Plugins plugin

    Much like the Multisite Theme Manager, Pretty Plugins allows you to customize the plugins page that your users see. The best feature may very well be the fact that you can assign a feature image to each plugin because images are more welcoming then a lackluster list.

    The name and description are customizable and you can also organize themes into categories to make them easier to find.

    This plugin pairs really well with the Pro Sites plugin and the two fully integrate with each other. With Pro Sites you can offer paid subscriptions for users and choose which levels have access to certain or all plugins.

  • Admin Panel Tips

    Admin Panel Tips plugin

    Admin Panel Tips allows you to create tips and other messages in HTML to display randomly to your users in the backend, proving a personal and helpful experience for your users.

    You can offer them help on how to get started, special reminders, links to other helpful resources, a friendly greeting or anything else you wish to share. You can even re-use tips later on in the future.

  •  Languages for WordPress

    Languages for WordPress plugin

    This isn’t a traditional plugin, but it allows you to install 75 languages to your Multisite network to help your international visitors use your site. You can choose a default language, but allow your users to choose which language they would like to use for their own site in your network.

    Full instructions are included so you don’t have to feel out of the loop when setting this up for yourself. It also integrates well with the Select Languages at Signup plugin.

  • Select Language at Signup

    Select Language at Signup plugin

    This plugin allows users to be able to choose their preferred language when they register for your site. It shows up as a drop down list to keep things organized and works in tandem with Languages for WordPress.

    When both are installed your users will be able to choose from 75 different languages.

  • Clean Up the Dashboard

    Clean Up the Dashboard plugin

    Clean Up the Dashboard removes excess widgets from the dashboard in the backend of WordPress. It automatically removes the news and blog feed to clear up clutter, making it easier for inexperienced users to navigate through WordPress.

    It’s easy to install and doesn’t provide any settings. Just install and you’re ready to go.

  • Remember Me Checked

    Remember Me Checked plugin

    I love this plugin because it keeps the “Remember Me” check box automatically selected on the login page allowing users to be logged in for longer without having to log back in; this helps people like me who often forget their password and get frustrated when having to login regularly.

    Using this plugin will help make using your site a bit more easier and convenient, while also reducing the need for users to frequently make use of the lost password request form.

  • Set Password

    Set Password plugin

    Speaking of forgetfulness, the Set Password plugin allows users to choose their password when they sign up for your site rather than have a hard-to-remember password chosen for them automatically.

    This will help speed up the sign up process and further reduce the number of lost password requests you receive. It will also save your more inexperienced WordPress users from having to hunt down their profile to change their password to something more memorable.

  • Support System

    Support System plugin

    Support System allows you to create a fully-fledged ticket system, which completely integrates with the front-end or backend of your site.

    Your users will be able to ask for assistance with ease or access the built in FAQ capabilities to make sure their question doesn’t have a solution before they submit a ticket. You can even add the Integrated Video Tutorials plugin to provide further assistance to your users.

    You can also assign the most experienced staff member to each custom ticket category to help speed up the process and get answers to your users quicker.

  • Admin Help Content

    Admin Help Content plugin

    WordPress has default drop down help content underneath the tool bar in the backend which contains information and links located in the WordPress Codex. This plugin allows you to tailor this help content to suit your Multisite network.

    You can also use HTML to add videos, images or links to your network’s ticketed support to simply add another level of ease to your site’s usability.

  • New Blog Templates

    New Blog Templates plugin

    This plugin allows you to copy the content of a site in your network and use it as a template for new users to choose from when they sign up.

    You can use this plugin to populate themes with custom demo content to make it easier for more inexperienced users to create their own sites. You can even go in the opposite direction and create content that is not editable by your users and automatically chosen for them at signup to create your own custom user profile page or company portal.

    It’s simple to install, use and also has many settings to meet your specific needs.

  • Easy Blogging

    Easy Blogging plugin

    Easy Blogging lets you to customize the backend for your users, and in particular new users, giving you the chance to simplify your user experience and even add instructions to help them guide them through the process of great new posts and pages.

    Your users will be able to easily toggle between the default and simplified styles and access tooltips to ease their transition. This plugin also integrates with Pro Sites so you can offer paid subscriptions to your network for both novice and seasoned users.

Have you used any of the plugins featured above? Do you have any favorites? Feel free to share any other great Multisite plugins you’ve come across in the comments below.

]]>
http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/multisite-plugins-ux/feed/ 0
WordPress Plugins - WPMU DEV http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/envira-gallery-review/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/envira-gallery-review/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 13:00:56 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=136282 Envira Gallery is a responsive image gallery plugin for WordPress that aims to distinguish itself from the competition by offering a simpler gallery creation process, while still allowing you to present your photos in style.

NextGEN Gallery is the most popular image gallery plugin for WordPress, with the free version achieving over 11 million downloads to date. However, the huge feature list and selection of settings and options for creating galleries has drawn criticism from those looking for a stylish, but quick and easy way to get their photos online.

Envira Gallery by Thomas Griffin, aims to strike a balance between simplicity and high quality design. Thomas has also created the Soliloquy slider plugin and the popular lead-generation OptinMonster plugin, which we looked at here.

To find out whether the goal of delivering a user friendly image gallery plugin for WordPress has been achieved, this review will take a closer look at the features of Envira Gallery and see just how easy it is to use, as well as helping you to determine whether or not it represents good value for money.

WPMU DEV Rating

4.1/5

The Good

  • Easy to use intuitive interface
  • Attractive image galleries using the default settings
  • Fully responsive gallery layouts
  • Good selection of options for presenting the galleries and lightboxes
  • Custom CSS support for additional styling options
  • Can be up and running very quickly

The Bad

  • Top tier licenses relatively expensive
  • No global gallery settings
  • Not as feature rich as some other options

Envira Gallery plugin

  • Learning curve / ease of use: 4.5/5
  • Features: 4/5
  • Flexibility: 4/5
  • Out-of-the-box: 4.5/5
  • Value for money: 3.5/5
  • Overall: 4.1/5

The Bottom Line

You might end up paying over the odds to get access to all the features you want. However, the intuitive user interface and ease of use make this the best choice for anyone looking for the quickest and easiest way to create attractive images galleries in WordPress that will look great on any device.

Envira Gallery

Cost

Envira Gallery is available on four licenses, plus a free lite version, which is available from the WordPress Plugin Repository.

The four pricing plans are as follows, and the main differences are the number of add-on features you get access to:

  • Bronze: $19
  • Silver: $49
  • Gold: $99
  • Platinum: $249

Other differences between the plans include the number of sites the plugin can be used on, and developer options for incorporating the gallery into a theme for re-sale.

Apart from the Platinum license, which gives you lifetime access, the other licenses must be renewed annually (at a discounted rate) in order to retain access to support and updates. The plugin will continue to function without a renewal and work unsupported.

What You Get

Depending on the license you choose, you will get access to a selection of files to download from your Envira Gallery account area. With access to the Envira Gold license, there were 13 files to download, covering the core plugin and the complete library of optional add-ons.

Thankfully, the add-ons that your license gives you access to can be installed with just a few clicks directly from the plugin dashboard. This is great as it saves you the time and effort of uploading them individually to your website.

Envira Add-ons
Installing the optional Envira add-ons

There is of course online documentation available, covering everything from getting started to more advanced topics such as pre-packaging Envira Gallery with a theme.

Many of the online articles are accompanied by walkthrough videos or code snippets to help you get the most from the support materials.

How it Works

After uploading the core plugin and activating any of the add-ons you want to make use of (and that you have access to), you can start creating image galleries for use in your posts, pages, and elsewhere on your site.

Envira Galleries
Manage the existing Envira Galleries

The plugin adds a new top level menu item to the sidebar of your WordPress site’s admin dashboard and it’s from there you can manage any existing galleries as well as create new ones.

When it comes to creating your first gallery, the process is thankfully very straightforward. Simply click on the Add New button, give the gallery a name, and then drag and drop the photos into place.

As the backend makes use of the native WordPress user interface, anyone who is familiar with adding images to posts in WordPress should have no problem creating their first gallery with Envira.

Add New Envira Gallery
The interface for adding a new Envira Gallery

You can also just as easily insert any images that have already been uploaded to your site into the gallery. Doing so is simply a case of clicking on the insert from other sources button, then selecting those images from your site’s media library.

At any point you can switch to the “Config” tab to customize the appearance of the gallery, determining how it will look when it’s displayed on your website. These settings allow you to choose how many columns to use to display the images (up to six columns), which theme to use to style the gallery if you have installed this premium add-on, set the space between the columns, decide whether to crop the images in the gallery or not, as well as a few other options.

Envira Gallery Settings
Display settings for the gallery

The gallery settings are all configured at the individual gallery level. However, it would be nice if you could enter your preferred settings once in a central location, and then have them applied to all new galleries you create by default.

When it comes to enabling crop for images in your gallery setting, you can set the crop dimensions to be applied to the thumbnails. While the images are cropped from the edges, there isn’t a way to change this through the settings. This isn’t ideal as it could result in your thumbnails showing a section of your image with no interesting or recognizable details from the full photo.

However, if you don’t mind editing your theme’s functions.php file, you can change the image crop position that is used by all images.

Premium users get access to a selection of settings to personalize the appearance of the lightbox display. This includes enabling or disabling the controls, including keyboard and mouse wheel navigation, maintain the aspect ratio of the images by resizing the lightbox window, and applying transition effects.

Furthermore, if you are a bronze or greater license holder, you can enable the gallery slideshow for the lightbox window using the free slideshow add-on. The settings for the slideshow include enabling auto play and defining the slideshow transition speed.

Envira Slideshow Settings
Settings for using the slideshow add-on

Finally, through the “Misc” tab on the individual gallery settings you can edit the gallery title, add custom gallery CSS classes, and a few other options. You can also export or import the individual galleries for use elsewhere on your site or another website with the plugin installed.

Throughout the creation process you can preview your gallery as you would a regular WordPress post in order to see what results your chosen settings are producing. Once you are happy with the gallery it can be published, making it ready for use.

Envira Gallery Shortcode
Inserting a gallery using a shortcode

Adding the galleries to your posts, pages, and widgets is as easy as inserting the corresponding shortcode into place. The plugin also adds a button to the WordPress post editor to help you easily insert galleries and albums if enabled, into your content. The function code for inserting galleries in the theme files is also readily available.

Envira 3 Column Layout Base Theme
3 column gallery layout using the free Base theme

The above example uses the provided Base theme to style the gallery, and it’s the only theme included with the core version of the plugin. Other themes are available to silver and greater license holders as a basic add-on.

Envira Captioned Theme
Example of the premium captioned theme

As the galleries are all fully responsive by default, they will adjust to fill the full width of the area they’ve been inserted into.  Using a one column layout will result in full width thumbnail being displayed automatically, while multi-column layouts will adjust the thumbnail size accordingly.

As the galleries are fully responsive, they will be displayed just as well on smartphones as they are on the latest high definition large screen monitors.

Envira Lightbox Base Theme
Lightbox display using the default Base theme

Clicking on any of the images opens them up in a lightbox window. This allows the viewer to scroll through the contents of the gallery, using either the onscreen controls or optionally, their keyboard and mouse.

Features

The lite version of the plugin gives you the ability to create a limited number of galleries and then insert them into your posts, pages, and elsewhere on your site. You can still choose the number of columns to use for organizing the image thumbnails, and the thumbnail images are still opened in a lightbox window, however that is about all you can do.

Bronze license holders can create unlimited galleries, however they don’t get access to any of the basic or advanced add-ons which really make the Envira Gallery what it is. Bronze license holders can make use of the free add-ons.

Upgrading to the silver license gives you access to the basic add-ons, while gold and platinum license holders get access to all add-ons, including the advanced options.

The full list of add-ons can be viewed here and they are divided into free, basic, and advanced options.

Some of the highlights of Envira that are delivered via the add-ons include the additional themes for styling the thumbnail gallery and lightbox window; the ability to create albums of galleries for better image organization, complete with cover images and much more; an add-on for displaying your images as large as possible in the lightbox window; and an add-on for allowing users to switch to full screen mode when viewing the lightbox gallery.

There is also a free NextGEN importer add-on for making the transition from that plugin to Envira Gallery as painless as possible.

It’s definitely worth taking a look at the add-ons to see which ones you are likely to want to use in your project. This allows you to workout which license you would need to purchase in order to gain access to those features.

It’s worth pointing out that you can easily upgrade at any time by paying the difference in price in order to get access to those premium add-ons as your needs grow.

Building a Test Image Gallery: Results

Building an image gallery with the Envira plugin was straightforward. With just few simple steps the final result was a very attractive responsive thumbnail image gallery. When those thumbnails images were clicked, a larger version of the image was displayed in an equally attractive lightbox window.

The user interface is very easy to get to grips with and thanks to the use of the native WordPress UI, it really did feel like a part of the core software as opposed to a third party plugin.

Using the default gallery settings produces good results, making this a great choice for anyone who just wants to get the job done without sacrificing on presentation and basic functionality. For users with access to some of the add-ons and a willingness to explore the settings, you should be able to get the end results you need without any trouble.

However, I did get the feeling that some power users might bemoan the lack of features compared to some of the other premium image gallery plugins out there. But for everyone else, the user experience of Envira and the end results more than deliver on its goals.

Ratings

Ease of Use / Learning Curve

This plugin feels like a part of WordPress and anyone familiar with the drag and drop interface and inserting elements into posts and pages using shortcodes or buttons on the editor won’t have any problems using Envira Gallery.

Features

This plugin has enough features to enable you to build attractive image galleries in WordPress. To summarise, the features on offer include:

  • Fully responsive mobile friendly galleries
  • Lightbox window image viewer
  • Multiple column layout options
  • Drag and drop interface for uploading and organizing images
  • A widget for displaying galleries in widgetized areas
  • Native WordPress UI
  • Multisite compatible
  • Import/export galleries
  • Pinterest pin button (basic add-on)
  • Display galleries in albums (advanced add-on)
  • Create lightbox slideshows (free add-on)
  • Add custom CSS (free add-on)

If you need more advanced features, such as greater control over how your images are cropped, the ability to insert a slideshow into a post, paginate large galleries, individual image commenting, or add watermarks to your images, then you will need to go elsewhere. However, for most users this plugin should more than suffice.

Flexibility

Envira Gallery should be able to cover a wide range of users’ needs. While professional and keen amateur photographers might notice the lack of advanced features, such as easier to access cropping controls, and the ability to back up images used in the galleries, the add-ons should provide enough functionality for most users

The free CSS add-on gives you the ability to customize the appearance of the galleries, helping to make this a very flexible plugin.

Out-of-the-Box

It couldn’t be easier to get started with Envira and get your first gallery online. You won’t need to refer to the documentation, and a little bit of experimentation will reveal the differences between the selection of settings and options on offer.

Choosing which add-ons you want or need to install may take some time. In some ways it would be preferable if the add-ons were automatically incorporated into the plugin in line with your license level. However, both approaches have their pros and cons.

Value for Money

If you value ease of use and simplicity and don’t mind paying for it, then you are probably in the target market for this plugin and its pricing structure.

However, if bang for your buck is your highest priority then you won’t consider Envira the best value for money premium plugin for adding advanced image galleries to your WordPress site.

While the free version does let you add image galleries to your website, and the entry level premium bronze option gives you slightly more features for $19, to really get the most out of Envira you will need either the silver or gold licenses, costing $49 and $99 respectively.

However, you can upgrade your license at any point and just pay the difference in order to get access to the more advanced features as you or your clients need them.

If time is money then the ease and speed with which you can now create attractive image galleries helps to justify the cost of this plugin and its add-ons.

Final Thoughts

If you need a large number of features and functionality for managing your website’s images and displaying them in galleries on your WordPress website, then the pro version of the popular NextGEN Gallery plugin may well be a better option.

However, if you have less demanding requirements and would prefer a more intuitive user interface and straightforward process for creating your galleries – not to mention more attractive galleries when using the default settings – then Envira is the better choice.

The feature list of this WordPress image gallery plugin should be enough for most users, with the only sticking point being the relatively high price of $99 that is required to unlock the full power of this plugin. However, if you don’t need any of the advanced add-ons then the cost would obviously be lower.

Pricing aside, this is a very easy to use plugin that contains a lot of great features that most importantly of all, outputs attractively presented image galleries in just a few simple steps.

Have you used Envira Gallery? Let us know what you think about it in the comments below.

]]>
http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/envira-gallery-review/feed/ 3
WordPress Plugins - WPMU DEV http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/communicate-with-users/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/communicate-with-users/#comments Thu, 22 Jan 2015 12:00:51 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=134228 A website is a communications tool. You create one to communicate with visitors, and to give them somewhere they can communicate with you.

Whether your site is for blogging, marketing, selling, fundraising or passing on information, one of your key concerns will be making sure you can communicate with your visitors to let them know what you’re doing and what’s new on your site.

But you can’t simply rely on people to keep coming back to your site. What if they visited your site yesterday, had a thorough look around, but you make a major update today? They don’t know that so they may not come back? You could lose a potential customer, subscriber or fan.

In this post I’ll look at some of the plugins you can use to reach out to your audience and communicate more effectively with your visitors.

These include plugins to help with:

  • RSS feeds,
  • Mailing lists and newsletters (using third party services or direct from your site), and
  • Social media.

Which ones you use will depend on your needs and those of your users, but there should be at least one here which will help you to communicate with your audience.

But First – a Warning!

Before you start to communicate directly with your audience, a note of caution: don’t be spammy. There are plugins which will let you send a newsletter to your subscribers every single day, and you can use social media to push out links to your site hourly, but it’s not a good idea.

Wikipedia defines spamming as:

“The use of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited messages (spam), especially advertising.”

So even if your users give you their contact details, that doesn’t mean you have permission to use them in any way you want. You should use all of the plugins below with caution, and be careful to ask for people’s consent for the specific form of communication you intend using their data for.

Keep your users happy and they’ll be far more loyal. Annoy them with spam and they’ll pass on their negativity to others, damaging your reputation.

So, let’s take a look at some plugins. First, RSS feeds.

RSS Feeds

The most basic way to push data from your site is with RSS, which stands for Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication.

By default, WordPress will generate RSS feeds from your content, which you can find by visiting one of four URLs:

  • http://example.com/?feed=rss
  • http://example.com/?feed=rss2
  • http://example.com/?feed=rdf
  • http://example.com/?feed=atom

Alternatively if your site uses pretty permalinks, you’ll find your feed at some more user-friendly URLs:

  • http://example.com/feed/
  • http://example.com/feed/rss/
  • http://example.com/feed/rss2/
  • http://example.com/feed/rdf/
  • http://example.com/feed/atom/

These links won’t be apparent to the majority of your users, so you need to add an easy way for people to subscribe to your RSS feed. That’s where these plugins come in.

  • Subscribe Me

    subscribe-me

    The free Subscribe Me plugin makes it easier for your visitors to use some of the most popular feed reading applications or services to subscribe to your feed, by adding a popup that lets them choose which service they want to use.

    Simply install the plugin and add its widget to a widget area, and it’s good to go. It doesn’t let you specify which feed reading services to include and isn’t customizable but does the job.

  • Category Specific RSS

    category-specific-rss

    If you’re running a large blog with multiple categories, especially if those categories cover quite different content with separate target audiences, the Category Specific RSS plugin will make feeds more user-friendly for your subscribers.

    It provides you with a widget which displays a list of the RSS feeds for each category in your site.

    By default it lists all of the existing categories but if you’re working with custom post types or taxonomies, you can add extra feeds to the widget using its Settings screen. You’ll need to work out the url for each feed to do this, but instructions are provided by the plugin.

  • Featured Images in RSS Feeds

    feature-images-rss
    RSS Featured Images Output
    What it looks like if your RSS reader.

    The Featured Images in RSS Feeds plugin won’t make it any easier for users to subscribe to your feed, but it will make the feed more appealing and so increase the chances of them clicking through to your site and reduce the chances of them unsubscribing.

    The plugin does what you expect: it adds the featured image to the feed for each post. Unfortunately if a post doesn’t have a featured image it adds an empty box where the image would be, so if you do install it, you’ll have to make sure you add a featured image to every post.

Mailing List Services

You can set up your own mailing list in WordPress, which I’ll come to shortly, but the easiest way to handle mailing lists is by using a third party provider. For most of these you’ll find there’s at least one plugin to add a signup form to your site.

  • MailChimp

    mailchimp-list-subscribe

    If you’re using MailChimp for your newsletters, the MailChimp List Subscribe Form plugin may have a horrible name, but it does what you need – it gives you a widget with a signup form in which users can enter their details and sign up to your mailing list.

    You install it, and then log in to your MailChimp account from the settings screen:

    mailchimp-setup

    You can then choose which of your mailing lists you’ll let users sign up for, and add a widget to your site.

    The fields in the widget form will depend on the fields you’ve added to your newsletter signup in MailChimp, but you can use the settings screen to remove fields if you don’t need them here, as well as to customize the text and the CSS.

  • Campaign Monitor

    campaign-monitor

    campaign-monitor-widgetCampaign Monitor is another big player in the world of mailing lists and newsletters, and it has its share of plugins too. The Campaign Monitor Ajax Forms plugin uses Ajax to power a signup form in a widget which you add to your site.

    Instead of signing in to your Campaign Monitor account, you add your account and list API keys to the widget settings, and unfortunately there isn’t a lot of customization. But again it does the job.
  • AWeber

    aweber

    If you’re using AWeber to power your newsletters, the AWeber Web Form plugin will let you link your WordPress site to your account. First you’ll need to add your authentication code from your AWeber account to the plugin’s settings screen:

    aweber-setup

    You then have access to a widget to allow people to sign up:

    aweber-widget

    It also gives you the option to let people sign up to your newsletter as they subscribe to your site or leave a comment, which means you can grab people’s attention at just the point when they may be most likely to sign up.

  • Gravity Forms

    gravity-forms

    The premium Gravity Forms plugin has extensions for the major newsletter services which you can use to create a custom form with newsletter signup fields.

    This has the benefit of extra flexibility compared with the widgets above as you can add fields to your form using Gravity Forms, and also integrate other features such as subscription and payment at the same time. If you’ve got a developer license for Gravity Forms you can access add-ons for MailChimp, Campaign Monitor and AWeber.

  • WooCommerce

    newsletter-subscription

    If your site runs a store using WooCommerce, you can use the premium WooCommerce Newsletter Subscription add-on to add your customers to a mailing list and send them newsletters based on your blog posts or with information about new or promoted products. This can be a powerful way to keep customers coming back to your store.

    The plugin links to your MailChimp or Campaign Monitor account and can add new customers to your mailing list. To avoid being spammy you should set the default so that new customers aren’t auto-subscribed, and provide a checkbox for people to tick if they want to sign up for your newsletter at the checkout:

    woocommerce-newsletter-signup

    Again this gives you an opportunity to encourage people to sign up for mailings at a point where they’re feeling positive about your site.

Site-based Mailing Lists

If you want to create a mailing list that’s directly linked to your WordPress site and doesn’t use a third party service, then there are plugins to help you do this.

This gives you more flexibility: You can send out an email every time you publish a new post or add a new product to your store, or you can send out weekly or monthly digests.

However, there are caveats: If you’re sending out a large volume of emails, you might get blacklisted by your hosting provider as a potential spammer, and you’ll need to ensure that the data on your site is robust, as well as ensuring spammers can’t join your mailing list and swell the volume being sent out.

There is a school of thought that says you should never send mailings directly from your WordPress site, but if you’re confident, these plugins can help you.

  • MailPoet

    mailpoet

    The freemium MailPoet plugin aims to make sending mailings directly from your site easy. It includes a selection of themes you can use to style your newsletters and a visual editor you can use to drag and drop content, placeholders and other elements such as social shares into them. You can automate regular mailings with your latest posts or send a newsletter every time you publish a new post, as well as setting up newsletters manually. You can create lists from your website subscribers for specific mailings, as well as creating forms to sign up to specific lists, which you then add to a widget.

    MailPoet has a large range of options and customizations with the free version, which is why it’s taken off very quickly and is now the most popular free in-site newsletter plugin.
  • e-Newsletter

    e-newsletter

    Our e-Newsletter plugin gives you a user-friendly interface for creating individual newsletters. You’ll have to install it and configure settings for your mail server first, so need to know a little bit about your email setup. You can also specify whether to stick with the default of using CRON to schedule emails or use PHP instead:

    e-newsletter-settings

    Once you’ve got it set up, you’ll find that it uses themes for the newsletters you send out, which you can customize and add content to using the theme customizer.

    e-newsletter-theme-customizer

    You have to create your newsletters manually – you can’t auto-schedule them to send out the content of your posts. But because the content fields in the customizer use the same editing pane that you use for posts, you can easily add links to your latest blog posts, with images and static text, too.

    The plugin also provides you with a signup widget, with the option to allow users to choose one or more mailing groups they’ll be added to. The plugin also lets you view statistics for your campaigns in the WordPress admin.

  • Subscribe2

    subscribe2

    The freemium Subscribe2 plugin lets you create mailing lists from the list of subscribers to your site.

    People can subscribe to mailings relating to each category on your site, and you can schedule regular automated mailings, send out a mailing with each new post, or create manual mailings. The styling options are limited with the free version however, and all you can customize is the content of your mailings and whether they are sent as HTML or text.

    The screenshot below shows you the options for editing the text of your mailings:

    subscribe2-settings

    Historically, this has been a popular free plugin, but it’s seen a drastic fall in the number of downloads in the last year, most likely because its features haven’t been developed much recently and it’s been overtaken by other free and premium plugins.

  • Subscribe by Email

    subscribe-by-email

    Our Subscribe by Email plugin lets you register on your site to receive email updates when you post content. It gives you flexibility with the frequency of your emails, letting you send a new email every time you post or via a daily or weekly digest, and also lets you make some basic customisations to the design and content of your emails.

    subscribe-by-email-settings

    This plugin also lets you send out an email when a new post of a custom post type is added, which would be useful for an events website or a store:

    subscribe-by-email-custom-post-types

Social Media Plugins

Another effective way to tell users and followers about updated content on your site is by using social media.

Obviously, you can use the various social media sites to manually post links to your content, but here I’ll look at some of the plugins which can help you automate this process, pushing out status updates or tweets for you when you publish new posts or pages.

  • WP to Twitter

    wp-to-twitter

    The freemium WP to Twitter plugin lets you send out tweets every time you publish new content.

    You’ll need to create an app using the twitter API and then add your API keys to the plugin’s setting screen, which will allow the plugin to link to your twitter account. Once you’ve done that you can configure default settings for different post types and override these in individual posts when you need to, or specify that a tweet shouldn’t be sent for a given post.

    When you’re adding a new post, you’ll see a metabox on the bottom right of the editing screen where you specify whether you want to send the default tweet for that post type or change the content of your tweet.

    And if you want to display your tweets on your site too, you have a widget you can use to do this.

  • Add Link to Facebook

    add-link-to-facebook

    If you want to automatically post updates to your Facebook account or page when you add new content to you site, then the free Add Link to Facebook plugin will help you.

    facebook-add-link-publish

    Again you’ll need to create an app using the Facebook developer API, and add its app ID and secret key to the plugin’s settings page. The app then adds some checkboxes to the publishing metabox on the post and page editing screen, which you’ll need to tick if you don’t want your post to be added to Facebook in a status update.

    If you want to display your Facebook updates on the front end of your site as well, the plugin also gives you a widget you can use to do this.

  • ShareThis

    sharethis

    As well as posting your content to your own social media profiles, you may also want to let users share your posts on their own Facebook or twitter account. The ShareThis plugin integrates with a range of popular social media sites including twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest.

    The plugin gives you configuration options where you choose which services you want to link to and what style of button you want. It then automatically adds the buttons in the position on each post that you specify:

    share-this-widget
    Easily add social share buttons to your site.

    It also gives you statistics for the number of shares of your content, helping you to focus your content strategy on the types of post that are most likely to be shared.

  • Ultimate Facebook

    ultimate-facebook

    WPMU DEV’s Ultimate Facebook plugin aims to give you everything you could need to link your site to Facebook. It lets you display the feed from your Facebook Page on your site, provides a Like button to encourage people to engage with you on Facebook, and also lets you post new content from your site to your Facebook Page.

    To use the plugin, you’ll need to create a Facebook application and input your App ID and Secret keys in the plugin’s settings page:

    ultimate-facebook-settings

    It then gives you a range of options including shortcodes you can use to insert content or buttons from Facebook and the ability to let your users log in using their Facebook account.

    But the most useful aspect of this plugin when it comes to communicating with your users is the “Autopost to Facebook” feature, which lets you automatically post new content (posts and other content types) to Facebook and choose which images will accompany that content.

Summary

Your website is just the first step in communicating with the wider public. If you’re going to reach as wide an audience as possible, you need to push your content out beyond your WordPress site using RSS feeds, newsletters or social media.

There is a wide range of plugins out there which will help you do this, and the examples I’ve listed above represent a selection which cover the most frequently needed functionality. Hopefully with one or more of these you’ll be able to drive more traffic to your site and encourage your visitors to keep on coming back.

What methods do you use to communicate with your site’s users? Let us know in the comments below.

]]>
http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/communicate-with-users/feed/ 0
WordPress Plugins - WPMU DEV http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/basic-plugins-wordpress-business/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/basic-plugins-wordpress-business/#comments Sat, 17 Jan 2015 13:00:14 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=136266 The great thing about WordPress is the low barrier to entry, meaning anyone can create their own website. This is especially convenient for small business owners who, years ago, had to ask a web savvy friend to code a site in HTML, or shell out cash if they didn’t know someone who could give them mates rates.

For businesses keen to reach out to and engage customers, there are a few basic plugins we offer that can help you move beyond the constraints of a basic web page.

In today’s Weekend WordPress Project, we’re going to look at three basic plugins – all available at WPMU DEV – that can help grow any business, whether you’re selling a product or service.

  • eNewsletter

    e-newsletter

    Email marketing and e-newsletters are a crucial form of communication between your business and past and prospective customers.

    If visitors to your site have signed up to your newsletter, they genuinely want to hear from you and are interested in your business and what you have to offer.

    You don’t even need a huge list of thousands of people in order to see your sales increase. All you need is a small group of people who hang on your every word – this is far more powerful to your business than 10,000 people who don’t really care. This small group is more likely to share your message with everyone they know because they are excited by what you do.

    But why does it have to be done through email?

    According to Litmus, 91% of consumers check their inbox daily, making email the leading channel for communication. The same survey found that 66% of consumers have made a purchase as a result of an email they received.

    Email also puts you in control of your subscriber list. With e-Newsletter, you can easily manage your email list and build a loyal fan base, collect new contacts and send customized emails using templates.

    e-Newsletter is built into the WordPress admin, so you don’t have to leave your site to get in touch with your subscribers. You can include images and video in your emails and then test and preview your messages before you hit “Send.”

    You don’t have to send emails out everyday and they don’t have to be huge. They just have to be consistent.

    This is where the eNewsletter plugin becomes especially useful. It comes with reporting tools to help you determine how many of your subscribers are actually opening and reading your emails. You can conclude which topics worked and which ones didn’t work as well.

    You can begin to tailor your emails to your subscribers’ interests more and more.

    For a simple plugin, it’s an incredibly powerful tool that will help you keep your subscribers up-to-date with your latest news – and keep followers coming back to your site.

  • PopUp Pro

    popup-pro

    In order for anyone to be genuinely interested in joining your mailing list, you need to have a really good reason for them to join – no, the promise of great newsletters is not enough.

    You need to offer something of incredible value to them for free. This doesn’t mean a product or service that will cost you tons of money to give away. It can be something simple like a video series or an eBook.

    In a video series or eBook you can provide information that people will find genuinely useful, like your best tips or tools for success in whatever it is that you do.

    Where many people go wrong here is that they offer information that can be found all over the internet or they quickly try to turn their offer it into a sales pitch. What you’re aiming for here is golden nuggets that are great on their own, but when paired with your business’ products or services, they offer an even bigger, heavier punch.

    Rather than offer freebies and other special offers via email, pop-ups provide a quick and easy way to grab the attention of people who visit your site, and potentially convert casual visitors into paying customers.

    PopUp Pro allows you to create eye-popping ads that appear on-screen exactly when you want them to – the moment someone lands on your site, when they scroll to the bottom of a page, or even when they’re about to leave your site.

    You can create beautiful pop-ups that contain concise information coupled with striking images. All your visitors have to do is enter their email address to receive your special offer. In turn, you’ve captured their information, allowing you to get in touch with that customer the next time you promote your business via email.

  • Comments+

    Comments+ plugin

    Once you have your list growing, you need to give your subscribers a good reason to keep coming back to your site, and to continue liking what you do and what you have to offer.

    Ensuring your site is a friendly and welcoming place to return to is key.

    Encouraging commenting on your site, such as we do on this blog, is a great way to leverage the users who have joined your subscriber list and build a community around your content. Comments also allow you to interact with people who like your product or service and encourage discussion on your site.

    Comments+ lets your readers comment on your posts using their Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or WordPress.com accounts.

    Customize the style of your comments box to match your theme and have conversations with followers in real-time.

    Visitors will be able to see your name and picture next to your comments, giving the experience a more personal touch.

Summing Up

Connecting with your website’s visitors through email newsletters, pop-ups and comments are sure-fire ways to engage and, hopefully, convert people into paying customers.

eNewletter, Pop Up Pro and Comments+ are three simple plugins, but each offers functionality beyond what the basic WordPress software provides.

There are many plugins out there that can help you with these tasks, but I’m sharing these ones because I have had personal success with them and was able to quickly generate income with them.

If you’re interested in added greater functionality to your site to further grow your business, you may want to check out some of our other plugins, like Appointments+ and Restricted Content.

What are other tools, methods or plugins that have helped you grow your business? Feel free to share them in the comments below.

]]>
http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/basic-plugins-wordpress-business/feed/ 2