WPMU DEV's Blog - Everything WordPressWordPress Plugins - WPMU.org http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog The WPMU DEV WordPress blog provides tutorials, tips, resources and reviews to help out any WP user Thu, 17 Apr 2014 00:18:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.2 10 WordPress Plugins for More Powerful and Flexible Scheduled Posts http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/wordpress-scheduled-posts-plugins/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/wordpress-scheduled-posts-plugins/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 15:30:00 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=128235 Some of us are more organized than others. Some have our future posts already written and scheduled out a month in advance.

While I can’t claim to be one of those, here at WPMU DEV, we do use the scheduled post option in WordPress quite a lot. In fact, it’s rare that any post here will be written and then published straight away.

I’d say that about 98-99% of the posts you see here have been scheduled to publish. And so we surely appreciate that function.

But that function, like most, can be improved upon. And so below we’ve found 10 plugins to help do just that – all doing different jobs, but all working to help make WordPress scheduled posts more powerful and flexible.

1. Schedule Content Actions

schedule-content-actions

Where WordPress lets you schedule posts for publication, this plugin lets you schedule all sorts of functions associated with posts.

You can schedule a post to become a sticky, and then you can schedule it to unstick.

You can schedule comments to be opened, and then you can schedule them to close.

You can schedule to unpublish a post, and then you can schedule what to do with it – delete it, trash it, set it draft.

And so if you’re looking to schedule more than the post itself, this plugin offers a number of nice options.

2. Bump the Schedule

bumped-posts-2

The Bump the Schedule plugin is very handy for anyone who sets up a lot of scheduled posts in advance.

Let’s say you have 30 posts scheduled out for the next month. But something big has just happened in your industry. You know you’re going to spend the next 2 days covering it exclusively, and so you want to push ALL of your scheduled posts forward by 2 days.

In order to do that, you’ll have to go and reschedule each of the 30 posts by hand (making sure not mess each one up as well).

With the Bump the Schedule plugin, you can do that with the click of a button. Just enter when you’d like to start the bump, and how many days you’d like to bump the schedule, and then simply click.

3. Post Expirator

post-expire

This plugin lets you schedule a post to expire. It gives you a range of choices for what happens to the post when it expires. You can set it to go to Draft, Private, Delete, or you can move it into a special category, which makes for easier review: Category Replace, Category Add, Category Remove.

It also comes with a shortcode that will let you show the expiration time.

4. Dashboard Scheduled Posts

dashboard-widget

This plugin automatically adds a widget to your backend dashboard that shows all your scheduled posts. Very convenient if you happen to schedule a lot of posts.

Clicking on the titles takes you to the edit screen for that post.

5. Auto Schedule Posts

auto-schedule

The Auto Schedule Posts plugin is perhaps especially good if you have a number of writers on your site. Or perhaps you accept lots of posts from the public.

It lets you set somewhat random times for scheduled posts that fall within the parameters that you define.

For example, say you have a site with 10 writers, all pumping out content non-stop. However, you don’t want those posts going out at certain times (in the middle of the night, on the weekend, or even after 5 p.m. perhaps). You also don’t want writers posting on top of each other, and you don’t want certain writers taking up all the good time slots.

This plugin can solve all those issues, and you don’t even have to hire a professional logician. You could, for example, post only between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, and you could both space those posts out and also randomize them so that no one writer gets preference over another.

This plugin catches posts before they are published on the front end; however, it might not play nicely with other plugins such as Twitter plugins that automatically tweet a post when it’s published. Make sure you test thoroughly for conflicts such as this.

6. Internal Linking for Scheduled Posts

internal-linking

When you create a link in the WordPress editor, at the bottom of the box that pops up, you get a list of possible posts to link to. This list, however, doesn’t include posts scheduled for the future.

This plugin takes care of that, listing future posts as well. If you do a lot of scheduled posts, then this should come in handy.

Obviously you will need to be careful not to link to a post that hasn’t published yet. But, for example, if it’s Monday, and you already have a post scheduled for Wednesday, and you’re currently writing a post for Friday, then you could create a link in the Friday post that goes to the Wednesday post – all without leaving your link creation box.

Normally you’d need to go digging through your posts to first find the scheduled post, and then do a little more digging to then find the URL. Then you’d need to traipse back to your editor to insert the link.

7. Schedules Posts Calendar

post-schedule-calendar

The Schedules Posts Calendar gives you a calendar with the current day’s date highlighted, and then down below it you have a list of all the scheduled posts.

While the layout is nice and helps you to see things clearly, it appears that there are no links (to the actual posts, for example), and it also seems that the future posts don’t appear on the calendar (only the current day is highlighted).

Still, this gives you a handy overview of your upcoming posts, along with a calendar for easy reference.

8. Show Off Upcoming Posts

upcoming-posts

The Show Off Upcoming Posts plugin lets you list scheduled posts in a widget on the sidebar. While many may not be crazy about that idea, this plugin points to the usefulness of doing such a thing by allowing you to encourage people to subscribe to your RSS feed or to sign up for your email newsletter.

And that seems like a pretty smart thing to do.

If you have enticing titles, but they aren’t yet published, you just may get some more followers with this little trick.

9. Drafts Scheduler

draft-scheduler

This plugin lets you schedule all your Drafts automatically (and only Drafts). You can schedule them sequentially or randomly at set intervals. You can also set it to post completely randomly within a certain time frame.

While this plugin might seem a little odd for most people’s needs, for those who might need it, well, here it is. With about 24,000 downloads in the WordPress directory, it seems more people than you might think fall into that category.

10. WP Missed Schedule

missed-post

And finally we come to the WP Missed Schedule plugin.

If you schedule a lot of posts, as we do here at DEV, then there’s a good chance you’ve run across the problem of your scheduled posts not publishing. When that happens, you will get a message that the post “Missed schedule.”

I know we’ve had this issue, and lots of others have too. This plugin purports to fix the problem.

But of course the problem isn’t easily replicated, and so you’ll just have to take the word of others who have used it. With over 100,000 downloads, 46 5-star ratings, and a 4.9/5 average, I think it’s safe to say that people are finding success with it.

Photo: Aztec/Mayan Calendar

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Creating Categories and Tags for Your WordPress Media http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/wordpress-media-categories-tags/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/wordpress-media-categories-tags/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 15:30:00 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=128234 The media system in WordPress has come a long way in the last few years. It’s seen many welcome improvements.

As usual, however, it could probably be a little better. And one obvious way would seem to be adding categories and/or tags to media.

This would allow for easier management and even a little creative curation.

With that in mind, we’re going to go over a few ways you can assign categories or tags to media (such as images), and also how that might help.

featured-messy-photos

Two Solutions

As people often like non-plugin solutions, we’ll offer one here. But we’ll also offer a plugin solution that is much more powerful out of the box.  It gives you a refreshing new twist on working with your media and doing things like building galleries from it.

Enhanced Media Library Plugin

This first solution comes in the form of a plugin called the Enhanced Media Library.

That link goes to a site where you’ll need to download the plugin to your computer first and then upload it to your site.

That plugin is an improved version of another media library plugin with the same name found on WordPress.org.

We are recommending the plugin in the first link, however, because it really is an improvement.  The big difference is that this plugin lets you move images into categories in bulk – for example, choosing 20 travel photos and moving them into a “Travel” category and then choosing 30 food photos and moving them into a “Food” category.

With the other plugin, you would need to move each image one by one (and only after you’ve clicked into the edit screen).

This plugin lets you use your existing categories and/or tags, or you can easily create your own that will only be available for media.

How It Works

We’ll go over some of the basics of how the plugin works to give you an idea of its power.

There are a number of ways to assign your media to a category.

Assigning to Categories (or Tags) via the Uploader

Of course many people first upload their media via the post editor. And so when you do that, you’ll see a section on the right-hand side of the uploader/library for categories.

uploading

When you click into an image to edit it via the media library, you’ll see a similar set up with the categories (or tags) on the right hand side.


Via the Media Library List

If you have lots of images that aren’t assigned yet, or you’d like to put images into more than one category (or change their categories), then you can go to the Media Library. (Media > Library)

There you’ll see a list of all your images. But you’ll also see some new additional functionality since adding the plugin.

When you hover over an image, you’ll now see options to assign the image to the categories you have set up.

hover

If you select a number of images, you can then go to the drop-down at the top to the left of the Toggle Bulk button, choose your category, and then click Toggle Bulk.

bulk-move

This will move them into the category.

moved-images

Working with Media Categories

Working with media in the categories is just as easy as getting it into the categories.

Still in the Media Library, you may have noticed that there was a filter button that lets you see only the images in that category.

filter-by-cat

But let’s say you were looking for a photo while writing a post. If you click the media button on the post editor and go into the Media Library that way, you still have a way to filter your images.

filter-in-uploader

That makes it much easier to find the image you want. But it also makes it easier to do things like build a gallery of all your travel photos.

You’d simply need to do the following:

  • Click “Create Gallery”
  • Filter your images by category
  • Select the images you want
  • Click “Create a new gallery”
create-gallery


Code for Functions File

This second options is code for your functions file. While this isn’t as powerful as the plugin above, it may be a start for developers looking for something more stripped down.

If you place the following in your functions.php file, you will now see that attachments such as images can be assigned categories or tags. This is the same category and tag system already set up on your site.

As you’ll be changing your theme, you should probably consider creating a child theme if you haven’t already.

// add categories for attachments
function add_categories_for_attachments() {
    register_taxonomy_for_object_type( 'category', 'attachment' );
}
add_action( 'init' , 'add_categories_for_attachments' );

// add tags for attachments
function add_tags_for_attachments() {
    register_taxonomy_for_object_type( 'post_tag', 'attachment' );
}
add_action( 'init' , 'add_tags_for_attachments' );


Just Right for Heavy Duty Media Users

If you use and reuse a lot of media on your site, then categories for these attachments is a no-brainer. In fact, after you moved to media categories, you’d probably never be able to go back. It’d be like working with posts without categories or tags – possible, yes, but who would ever want to?

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How to Hide or Highlight the Screen Options Tab in WordPress http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/how-to-hide-or-highlight-the-screen-options-tab-in-wordpress/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/how-to-hide-or-highlight-the-screen-options-tab-in-wordpress/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 12:00:19 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=128170 The Screen Options tab at the top of pages in the WordPress admin section often goes unnoticed.

Sitting up in the corner of the page as it does, the Screen Options tab often goes unnoticed.
Sitting up in the corner of the page as it does, the Screen Options tab often goes unnoticed.

For some admins, that’s a good thing. For whatever reason, they don’t want users that have access to the backend playing around with it, and they hope it continues to go unnoticed.

For other admins, however, the very opposite is true. They actually WANT users to notice it. They feel it will help them do what they need to do more easily.

The Screen Options tab contains some important options.
The Screen Options tab contains some important options.

In this post, we have good news for both types of admins. We have a way to hide the Screen Options tab completely, and we also have a way to highlight it so that it might attract a little more attention.

Hiding the Screen Options Tab

There are two options for hiding the Screen Options tab.

Code Method

The first is more manual and wide-sweeping. If you place the following snippet of code into your functions.php file, the Screen Options tab will disappear across the whole backend for all users except the admin.

(As you’ll be changing your theme with this solution, you should probably consider either creating a child theme or making your own simple plugin to use.

 function remove_screen_options_tab() {
       return current_user_can( 'manage_options' );
  }
  add_filter('screen_options_show_screen', 'remove_screen_options_tab');


Plugin Method

And the there is the Screen Options and Help Show Customize plugin that will do this trick for you. But it also gives you more control at the same time.

This plugin lets you hide both the Screen Options tab and the Help tab on whichever pages you like, and also for whomever you like.

So, for example, you could hide the Screen Options tab only on the New Post screen for everyone under the level of Admin, but leave it visible on the Media screen – but only for Editors and above.

Your options are totally open for where (New Post, Media, etc.), what (Screen Options or Help tab), and who (Admin, Editor, Author, etc.).

screen-options-plugin

Highlighting the Screen Options and Help Tabs

The second plugin, called Seeing Red, does the opposite of the above and actually highlights the Screen Options and Help tabs in red.

While it’s not overly garish, it probably will help to catch a user’s attention – at least eventually.

seeing-red
And so there you are — now you have options concerning your options.
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How to Install Breadcrumbs in WordPress and Why You Should http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/wordpress-breadcrumbs-seo-ux/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/wordpress-breadcrumbs-seo-ux/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 15:30:00 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=127978 Did you know that there is a “Breadcrumb Team” at Google?

‘Tis true.

And by “breadcrumbs” here, of course I’m talking the links that appear at the top of web pages and map out the location of a page in a hierarchy,  like WordPress > Plugins > Photo Gallery Plugins.

Anyway, back to this “Breadcrumb Team.”

Near the beginning this video (around :25) by Matt Cutts, who is head of Google’s webspam/search quality team, he gets a question about breadcrumbs, says he wasn’t sure of the answer, and so he asked “the Breadcrumb Team or folks who work on breadcrumbs.”

Now, I seriously doubt that “the folks who work on breadcrumbs” do nothing else at Google. But I labor to make this point in order to show the importance of breadcrumbs.

If there are people at Google dedicated to them, then they must be fairly important.

Breadcrumbs in Search Results

Google having people dedicated to breadcrumbs isn’t the only reason we know they’re important. In fact, it’s not even the most convincing one.

We know breadcrumbs are important in Google because they actually show them in their search results. If you’re lucky, that is. Or maybe I should say: If you’re good.

Take a look at a screenshot where the results for wordpress.org show breadcrumbs instead of a single URL.

breadcrumbs-wordpress

Merely implementing breadcrumbs on your site, however, doesn’t automatically guarantee that you will start seeing them in your search results. You need to have a site that Google trusts and believes is something of an authority.

That said, it’s not hard to see that Google thinks they’re a good thing. And so implementing them might be a good idea if you’re looking for one more little push toward gaining more authority and upping your SEO score.

Good for User Experience

Breadcrumbs can help search engine spiders crawl your site and understand its architecture. So there’s a technical reason for breadcrumbs.

But at least as important is that breadcrumbs can help with user experience. They can help users not only know where they are, but they can help them get easy access to other pages they might need.

After all, Google puts breadcrumbs in their own search results. They don’t do this to make it easier for search bots to crawl search pages. They do this because they believe it improves user experience.

And, of course, Google even use them on their own info pages. Take a look at the screenshot below on a page for, well, breadcrumbs.

google-breadcrumbs

How to Implement Breadcrumbs

OK, if you’re convinced, then you’ll probably want to know how to implement them on your own site.

You can either go the plugin route or the more manual route.

Some SEO plugins may contain a breadcrumbs component. But there are stand-alone breadcrumb plugins too. The most popular is Breadcrumb NavXT.

With about 1.3 million downloads and  4 ½ stars on the WordPress.org directory, it has a pretty good track record.

It gives you lots of options in the settings (many more than you probably thought possible for breadcrumbs), and it’s easy to set up.

Inserting Breadcrumb Code

You will need to insert a bit of code into your theme where you want the breadcrumbs to appear. For most people, that’s going to be at the top of the content. And the easiest way to do that is to insert the code into your header.php file near the bottom.

Here’s what my test looks like.

breadcrumbs-at-top

Breadcrumbs without a Plugin

For those who don’t like plugins, it’s possible to get breadcrumbs without a plugin. I found at least one solution on Cazue.com.

You should also double check the backend of your theme to see if breadcrumbs are already built in. Sometimes they are.

What About WPMU DEV Breadcrumbs?

Before someone else mentions it, allow me to. You may notice that we have no breadcrumbs on this site. (At least at the time of writing.)

Before looking into it deeper, I hadn’t thought a lot about breadcrumbs. I knew they existed, of course, and I was tangentially aware of some possible SEO value, but I hadn’t given them a lot of thought.

Now that I have given them some more thought, I think I’ll be lobbying for inclusion here. So maybe we will get them, or maybe we won’t.

But that brings up another important point. If you feel that breadcrumbs somehow detract from the user’s experience on your site, then you may want to go ahead and skip them.

Breadcrumbs are meant to make the user’s experience better. If they aren’t doing that for one reason or another, and going without them would be better, then by all means, go for “better.”

As always, better is better.

Photo: a crumb of comfort

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30+ Top Quality Free, Minimalist and Stunning WordPress Themes http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/30-top-quality-free-minimalist-and-stunning-wordpress-themes/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/30-top-quality-free-minimalist-and-stunning-wordpress-themes/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 12:00:00 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=127980 Complexity in design isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Sliders, banners and other web elements can be distracting when all you want is for your readers to focus on your words.

Clean, minimalist themes allow your content to shine without unnecessary clutter or bloat.

The collection of themes below includes mostly themes put out for free by generous developers on their blogs, as well as free premium themes by larger agencies.

Don’t forget to give kudos to the developers/designers if you do decide download and use any of these themes!

What’s your favorite minimalist theme? Tell us in the comments below.

Casper

casper

Casper is a simple, minimalist theme inspired by the Ghost blogging platform.

It features a large fullscreen header and takes advantage of features exclusive to Ghost, such as markdown and the ability to quickly paste links to display images.

Tonal

tonal

Tonal offers a greyscale design that changes based on your background color.

This theme features large images, full-width videos and makes the most of post formats.

Dazzling

dazzling

Dazzling is a colorful, flat and responsive theme ideal for businesses.

It is highly customizable for a free theme, with unlimited color variations, several widget areas, and a flexible featured slider.

Untitled

untitled

Untitled has been designed by the theme team at Automattic.

It comes with full-bleed featured posts, featured images, a fixed header and subtle CSS3 transitions. This theme also supports a right sidebar.

Papaver

papaver

Papaver is a stripped back, minimalist theme that puts the focus on your words.

This theme offers one, two or three column variations.

Touchfolio

touchfolio

Touchfolio is a responsive, sparse design featuring large images.

It has a skinning system based on LESS CSS (similar to variables in Twitter Bootstrap) and controls Photoshop file included.

It also comes with two types of portfolio – a gallery with list in menu and masonry gallery.

Wootique

wootique

Wootique is a free WooThemes design that makes full use of all WooCommerce features. Every WooCommerce widget has been styled to match the design of this theme.

It also comes with a featured slider, custom header and widgets and is highly customizable in the backend.

Frank

frank

Frank provides a light, responsive and unobtrusive reading experience.

This theme’s main focus is speed. The parent theme’s default home page makes just nine database queries and consists of two requests. This theme has no Javascript frameworks and no unnecessary images, just a simple no-frills fast blog.

It is built on HTML5 and CSS3 and features several different homepage layouts.

Focused

focussed

Focused is a responsive, clean theme designed for personal blogs.

It features a left sidebar and takes advantage of post formats.

White Paper

white-paper

White Paper features a light, easy-to-use and laconic design that is ideal for personal blogging.

This theme publishes images large, really large.

Spacious

Spacious

Spacious is a multi-purpose responsive theme perfect for business.

It comes with a slider four layouts, six templates, five custom widgets, 13 widget areas, boxed and wide layout, and light and dark skins.

Best of all, it features free support – something rare for free themes.

Pitch

Pitch

Pitch is a non-nonsense business theme that does the basics well. It’s easy to add content with built-in custom post types so you can add slides, clients, projects and features.

This theme also comes with a minimal options panel.

Expositio

Expositio

Expositio is a responsive portfolio theme designed with a big, clean layout for photographers and designers.

It features horizontal scrolling and is super easy-to-use.

Mystile

mystile

Mystile is a lightweight and responsive WooCommerce theme designed as a canvas you can use as is or as a basis for your own design to match your products.

This theme comes with a bevy of options and alternate color schemes. It also features a custom homepage and custom shortcode.

The Night Watch

the-night-watch

The Night Watch is a simple, elegant and responsive theme ideal for personal blogs.

It features a large head image and a single column design.

mnmlist

mnmlist

mnmlist is about as minimalistic as you’re going to get. This theme has been stripped bare to the absolute basics and is free from any distractions from the content.

It features a clean, uncluttered design with a minimalist footer and nothing else – no header, sidebar or comments.

Less

less

Less is a fast, minimalist single column design with large text and full-width images. It pulls in the site’s admin Gravatar picture in the header.

It doesn’t come with widgets, though it is responsive and has one custom menu in the header.

According to the developer, this theme is “great for LoLcats.”

DW Minion

dw-minion

This simple and clean theme is ideal for blogging. It features a responsive design and has been optimized for social sharing.

DW Minion supports post formats.

Socute

socute

Socute is the free version of a premium eCommerce theme designed by YITHEMES.

It is highly customizable and features a responsive design and various layout options.

Best

best

Best is a functional, simple theme with a responsive design, page templates and multiple menus.

This theme’s built-in layout options allow you to build a simple blog or a fully-fledged business site. It also comes with theming options and shortcode.

Sinapp

sinapp

Sinapp is an ideal theme for promoting a mobile app.

It features white-labeled theme administration, a shortcode generator, color skins, MailChimp integration and even free support.

Fruitful

fruitful

Fruitful is a clean theme, featuring both responsive and fixed layouts.

It comes with a custom options panel, and key features include dummy content, easy social media sharing, custom heading, menu styling, and a JQuery slider.

Mono

mono

Moni is a clean, elegant theme that perfect for a range of different sites.

This theme uses custom post types and has various widget areas. In the backend there are drag and drop menus for easy setup and maximum flexibility.

Fejoia

feijoa

Fejoia is an ultra minimalist theme with a two-tone design.

This theme is ideal for bloggers with its focus on words rather than images.

Hellish Simplicity

hellish-simplicity

Hellish Simplicity is a simple, clean, and responsive design.

Developer Ryan Hellyer originally developed this theme for his blog, but has made it available as a free download since 2008. It has undergone many iterations since then, but has mostly stayed true to its original design.

Padhang

padhang

Padhang is a Medium-esque minimalist theme focusing on content.

This theme features a responsive layout and two widget areas in the footer. It’s easily customizable using the theme customizer that comes with WordPress.

Padhang means “bright” in Javanesse.

Tiny

tiny

Tiny is another ultra minimalistic theme that puts the focus on clean typography.

It is fast, SEO-friendly and features 11 different styles ideal for bloggers.

Madison

madison

Clean and retro, Madison has been designed for personal portfolios.

Some of this theme’s features include a responsive design, a Nivo slider on the homepage, a work page with detailed information, Superfish dropdown menu, social links with icons and LESS files included.

Doke Doke

doke-doke

Doke Doke is a cute and clean parallax theme ideal for creative agencies and freelancers.

It features a filterable portfolio.

Min

min

Min is a super minimalist and responsive theme with no bells and whistles. It has two widgetized footer areas to handle navigation or anything else you want to put there.

Landscape

landscape

Landscape is a clean, minimalist responsive theme ideal for photographers and bloggers.

The focus is squarely on words with this theme, though it’s easy to change that focus with some beautiful images.

Lexiity

lexiity

Lexiity is a responsive under construction/coming soon/landing template featuring a count down timer.

This theme’s features include white labelled theme administration, shortcode generator, color skins, MailChimp integration. It also comes with support.

Balloons

balloons

Balloons is a responsive parallax theme with a whimsical design. The colors are customizable and this theme integrates well with the WP-Pagenavi plugin.

The front-end language can be easily switched between English and German.

Pinzolo

pinzolo

Pinzolo is a beautiful, clean theme with customization options in the WordPress theme customizer.

This theme features a custom header image and featured image header on posts and pages, custom background and color, fixed menu, Ajax loading for blog posts.

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25+ Must-Have WordPress Plugins for 2014 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/25-must-have-wordpress-plugins-for-2014/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/25-must-have-wordpress-plugins-for-2014/#comments Wed, 02 Apr 2014 15:30:00 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=127595 Every WordPress developer has a toolkit of plugins they can’t live without that usually includes solutions for caching, security and adding other improvements that build on WordPress core.

That’s the great thing about WordPress – in the WordPress Plugin Repository alone there are more than 30,000 plugins that build on core, allowing you to bend the software to your will.

But with so many free and premium plugins available, how do you sort the good from the bad?

Below is a collection of essential plugins, all chosen based on their usefulness, quality and popularity.

Is your favourite plugin on the list? What other plugins would you recommend? Tell us in the comments below.

W3 Total Cache

w3-total-cache

W3 Total Cache is one of the most popular caching plugins for WordPress. Caching is the best way to easily improve your users experience without having to make change to your site’s content.

A well-regarded alternative is WP Super Cache, which is often thought of as an easier version of W3 Total Cache.

Jetpack

jetpack

Jetpack supercharges your site with a collection of powerful features, such as site stats, email subscriptions, forms, social networking and more.

The latest version of Jetpack introduced support for Multisite. In the past, super admins had to manage the connections on an individual site basis, even though Jetpack could be activated network-wide. Now you can administer all your connections from your super admin accounts.

Akismet

akismet

Akismet is the grand daddy of spam plugins. This plugin checks your site’s comments against the Akismet web service to see if they look like spam or not and then lets you review the spam it catches in the “Comments” section of the WordPress admin area.

Akismet checks your comments against the Akismet web service to see if they look like spam or not and lets you review the spam it catches under your blog’s “Comments” admin screen.

Google Analytics +

google-analytics

Google Analytics + lets you track and view Google Analytics statistics for your single or Multisite installation.

This plugin puts all the important statistics right in front of you with beautiful charts and graphs in your WordPress dashboard.

Google XML Sitemaps

google-xml-sitemaps

This plugin does a single job well: it generates an XML sitemap for your sites, which helps search engines to better index your site.

Sitemaps make it easier for search engine crawlers to see the complete structure of your sites and retrieve it more efficiently. Google XML Sitemaps supports all kinds of WordPress generated pages and custom URLs, and also notifies search engines each time you post new content.

iThemes Security (formerly Better WP Security)

ithemes-security

Better WP Security has changed its name. This plugin provides more than 30 ways to securit and protect your site.

Features include:

- Obscurity: Changes the URLs for WordPress dashboard areas including login and admin
- Protect: Scans your site to instantly report where vulnerabilities exist and fixes them in seconds
- Detect: Detects bots and other attempts to search for vulnerabilities
- Recover: Makes regular backups of your WordPress database

Sucuri Security is another popular security plugin if you’re looking for an alternative to iTheme Security.

Contact Form 7

contact-form-7

Easily the most popular free forms plugin out there, Contact Form 7 has racked up more than 16 millions downloads in the WordPress Plugin Repository.

This plugin can manage multiple contact forms, plus you can customize the form and any email content with simple markup. It also include support for AJAX-powered submission, CAPTCHA and Akismet spam filtering.

If you want to step things up a notch, Gravity Forms is a popular premium forms plugin.

Snapshot

snapshot

Snapshot is like Apple’s Time Machine, but for your WordPress site. This easy-to-use plugin is Multisite compatible and allows you to back backup snapshots of anything you want (settings, content, files etc) so you can quickly restore your content at any time.
This plugin’s features include the ability to save your snapshots to Dropbox and Amazon S3.

Some popular alternatives include or BackWPup and BackupBuddy.

Limit Login Attempts

limit-login-attempts

This is another great plugin that even one-click installer Softaculous allows you to install along with WordPress.

By default, WordPress allows unlimited login attempts either through the login page or by sending special cookies. Limit Login Attempts limits the rate of login attempts on your site, helping prevent brute-force hacking on your site.

Ultimate Branding

ultimate-branding

White label your site with Ultimate Branding. This fantastic plugin lets your re-brand the entire WordPress admin area, from the admin to the dashboard and the login page.

You can quickly and easily replace the WordPress logo with your own company logo, change favicons, add your own help content and remove all mentions of WordPress for your clients.

Appointments +

appointments-plus

Appointments + is the most powerful, flexible and feature-rich plugin out there that lets you to accept, set and manage your bookings on your site.

It’s a cinch to set up. We’ve got some cool aesthetic updates planned for this plugin later in the year so keep an eye out!

MarketPress eCommerce

marketpress-ecommerce

MarketPress sets the standard for WordPress eCommerce solutions, providing an elegant shopping experience that supports all major payment gateways and allows you to easily manage distribution and shopping costs with custom shipping options.

Why spend thousands of dollars on cowboy-coded extensions and add-ons? There’s no need to purchase extra add-ons or special licenses when MarketPress brings together the power of dozens of different plugins in one solid standalone product.

WooCommerce is by far the most popular eCommerce plugin available, though MarketPress has some really exciting major updates planned for this year, so stay tuned.

Membership

membership

Membership allows you to easily create your very own membership site, like GigaOm, Mixergy, PSD Tuts, or even The New York Times.

This easy to set up plugin lets you grant limited access to visitors and reserve premium content for paying users.

Membership has just undergone a major update, with huge changes planned this year that will make it even easier to use.

Pro Sites

pro-sites

Pro Sites give you the power to create your own profitable blog or site hosting network, like WordPress.com

You can offer your users the chance to upgrade their sites for a fee and access features like premium themes, plugins, extra storage, domain mapping or simply removing advertising.

This is a powerful plugin and definitely worth checking out.

Yet Another Related Posts Plugin

yet-another-related-post-plugin

YARPP displays pages, posts and custom post types related to the current post, introducing your readers to other relevant content on your site.

Exposing visitors to related posts is a great way to encourage your visitors to stick around and engage with our site.

WP Smush.it

smush-it

Smush.it optimizes images files to help improve site speed. This plugin strips meta data from JPEGs, optimises JPEG compression and strips un-used colours from indexed images.

WPMU DEV took over maintenance of this plugin in 2012 after it sat idle for a while in the WordPress Plugin Repository.

BJ Lazy Load

bj-lazy-load

BJ Lazy Load lets you lazy load selected images, including post images and thumbnails, Gravatar images and iFrames, and replace content with a placeholder.

There are some simple settings that allow you to customize how the plugin works, such as choosing a placeholder and skipping images with classes.

This plugin caters to size optimized images, automatically serves scaled down images in responsive designs, and automatically serving hiDPI images for hiDPI screens (like Apple’s retina display).

WordPress Beta Tester

wordpress-beta-tester

Every serious WordPress user/developer should have WordPress Beta Tester. This plugin automatically updates your install to the latest stable release or bleeding edge nightly so you can test the latest/upcoming version of WordPress.

Note: This plugin should not be used on a live site.

Duplicator

wordpress-duplicator

This popular free plugin allows you to duplicate, clone, backup, move and transfer an entire site from one place to another.

Duplicator is made by developers for developers. It’s a great tool for pulling a production site down onto a local machine for testing, as well as the reverse – developing locally and pushing a site to a production server.

Duplicator has racked up more than 480,000 downloads and has received an average rating of 4.9 stars on the WordPress Plugin Repository. Duplicator gets a thumbs up from me, too. This is a great plugin.

Infinite SEO

infinite-seo

Infinite SEO is our powerful WordPress SEO plugin. It allow you to easily boost your site’s ranking through comprehensive and powerful site maps, and title and meta data optimisation, as well as automatic site-wide linking and complete Moz integration.

Floating Social

floating-social

Floating Social follows users as they scroll through your site, allowing them to easily share your content on social media no matter where they are on the page.

We use Floating Social on the WPMU DEV Blog on all our posts to encourage readers to share our content.

WordPress Reset

wordpress-reset

Resetting your WordPress site can be useful if you are testing out a bunch of plugins and themes and want to reset your test environment to clear out the options table along with everything else.

WordPress Reset resets your WordPress database back to its defaults, deleting all customizations and content.

Relevanssi

Relevanssi

Relevanssi replaces the default search on your site with a partial-match search that sorts through results by relevance. It also indexes comments and shortcode content.

This plugin features search results sorted by relevance and not by date, and the ability to match partial words if complete words don’t match.

This is the free version of Relevanssi. Relevanssi Premium has added features.

Theme Check

theme-check

Test your themes to make their they conform with the latest WordPress theme review standards.

Theme Check allows you to run all the same automated testing tools on your theme that WordPress.org uses to review theme submissions.

Broken Link Checker

broken-link-checker

This plugin’s name is self-explanatory. Check your posts, pages and comments for broken links and receive notifications by email or on your dashboard.

You can also choose to prevents search engines from following broken links.

Disable Comments

disable-comments

Disable Comments allows you to disable comments on any post type (posts, pages attachments etc) across your network so your users can’t override the settings for individual posts.

This plugin is great if you run a Multisite network with sites that don’t require comments.

Regenerate Thumbnails

regenerate-thumbnails

Regenerate Thumbnails allows you to quickly and easily regenerate the thumbnails for all of your image attachments. This is especially helpful if you’ve changed your WordPress theme and you need different-sized thumbnails or featured images.

A great alternative is AJAX Thumbnail Rebuild, which is great for sites with lots of images as it allows you to rebuild images in multi-steps rather then in one shot, placing less stress on your server.

Image credit: Flickr.

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The Best 7 Free WordPress Audio Player Plugins http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/free-wordpress-audio-player-plugins/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/free-wordpress-audio-player-plugins/#comments Wed, 02 Apr 2014 12:00:12 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=127741 Maybe you’re a musician looking to sell your music. Or maybe you’re a podcaster looking to engage your audience in interesting topics. Or maybe you’re a modern day storyteller turning to cutting edge audio techniques to tell your stories.

Whatever your relationship with audio, you’re going to need an audio player to broadcast your work to the world.

Below we look at 7 free WordPress audio players and see what they have to offer.

Don’t forget to check out the ratings at the end.

1. WordPress Built In Player

built-in-player

First, of course, we should mention that there is now a built in audio player in WordPress. You can either just put the URL of an audio file on a line by itself, or you can insert audio as you would an image from your media library, and the WordPress system will place the appropriate shortcodes into your site.

By default, the player stretches all the way across your content area, and it has a volume control on it.

But you can do a few other things as well, such as set it to autoplay or set it to loop.

You can see more on the WordPress page dedicated to the audio shortcodes – linked above in the Info & Download button.

2. Compact WP Audio Player

compact-wp-audio-player

The Compact WP Audio Player is called “compact” for a reason, and it sure it that.

When you place the shortcodes into your post, all that appears is a little play button (which turns to a pause button once playing).

There are a few parameters you can apply, such as looping and autoplaying. And while you can set the volume in the shortcode, there’s no volume control on the player.

This type of player does have its advantages. You can easily do what I’ve done in the image above and write a title out beside the button. You could also easily make a list of different audios one after another with a title (or whatever other text, of course).

3. HTML5 jQuery Audio Player

html5-jquery-audio-player

This player has a number of nice options, including letting you make a list of tracks and also offering them for sale. So it seems this would be something especially good for musicians.

You can also display an image in the player (such as cover art), and you can also add ratings (and by that I mean you the author of the post adds ratings, not the public).

However, it seems that you must add both an mp3 version of your audio and an ogg version. If you are a serious musician trying to sell you music, for example, then this extra step may be worth it. If you are someone who just wants to easily pop an mp3 into a player, then it’s probably not going to be for you.

There is no volume control on the player. It’s also not responsive.

4. Audio Player

audio-player

The Audio Player plugin has a number of available options that make this a very nice player.

In the settings, you can customize the player in a number of different ways, changing the color of every aspect of the player. You wouldn’t think that such a small player had so many different parts to it till you start customizing. One of the most convenient settings is the size. While it’s always going to be narrow (i.e. short in height), you can control the width of it.

This plugin seems especially good for podcasters, and in fact, it has a special area on the settings for podcasting. In this section you can apply audio files to go both before and after all the audios on your site. This is perfect for promotions – either your own or others. If you had to go in and edit each podcast in order to put in a new promotion, quite simply you wouldn’t do it. With the pre-append and post-append options, however, it’s as easy as pasting in a new URL.

This player has a lot going for it; however, because it runs on flash, it won’t play in some devices.

5. HTML5 MP3 Player with Playlist

html5-mp3-player-with-playlist

This plugin lets you create a list, change the appearance, add images, and even allow downloading.

In addition, you can also add links to your social media profiles. It allows autoplaying and title scrolling.

It is not responsive.

6. Audio Tube

audio-tube

The Audio Tube player lets you play the audio from a YouTube video but hide the video part.

There may be a number of reasons why you’d choose to do that; however, it seems that the player doesn’t hide the video all that well. There appears to be a very very thin sliver of the video visible.

As the video plays, you can see the flickers of the video in that space. This, of course, seems to defeat the purpose of the player – which is to hide the video.

I suppose if you were only embedding your own videos, then you could make them to have a solid color at the bottom of the video that didn’t move. This would eliminate the flickering sense that something else is going on that you can’t see.

It comes with a few different sizes and two basic color settings. It’s also responsive.

7. CP Media Audio & Video Player

cp-media-player

The CP Media Player lets you play both audios and videos. It lets you create lists, and it also lets you hook into PayPal so that you can sell audios through the player.

While you can change the size of the player to some degree, in the free version you are limited to one style and only one player.

The player is not responsive.

Comparison of Features

Below we compare some of the more basic features. It was little surprising that a number were not responsive. Some of the others were so small that it didn’t matter if they were responsive or not.

PlayerVolumeAudio ListResponsiveCustomize LookComments
Built InyesnoyesnoBuilt in, so super easy. Should always work.
CompactnonoyesnoVery small. No volume control.
HTML5 jQuerynoyesnoyesLets you sell audios. 2 files needed. Not responsive.
Audio PlayeryesnoyesyesGood for podcasters, but no flash.
HTML5 Mp3yesyesnoyesGood for lists and downloads.
Audio TubeyesnoyesyesIf playing your own videos, you can eliminate its major flaw.
CP Media PlayeryesyesnonoLets you sell audios. Not responsive. Limited players.

Overview

  • WordPress Built In Player: 3.5/5
  • Compact WP Audio Player: 2.5/5
  • HTML5 jQuery Audio Player: 3/5
  • Audio Player: 3/5
  • HTML5 MP3 Player with Playlist: 3/5
  • Audio Tube: 2.5/5
  • CP Media Audio & Video Player: 2.5/5

It’s not really easy to say who “wins” here. For a while, it seemed that the Audio Player would be the hands-down winner; however, when I discovered it needed flash and so wouldn’t be available on many devices, that took it right out of the win column.

Some of the other players that would be good were also not responsive, and so while they would play on a mobile device, for example, they threw everything off and were awkward to deal with.

If you need a list, then it looks like you won’t be able to get a responsive solution out of these choices.

If you don’t need a list, then the built in player from WordPress or the Compact player may be your answer.

Photo: the phonograph

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How To Learn WordPress in a Week (For Free!) http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/learn-wordpress-in-a-week/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/learn-wordpress-in-a-week/#comments Tue, 01 Apr 2014 15:30:00 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=127594 Thanks to the low barrier to using and working with WordPress, anyone with an idea and time to spare can develop a product or service on top of WordPress and start a business. In fact, many of our members are already doing that.

Whether you’re working full-time and juggling family, social and volunteer commitments, mastering WordPress is within your reach – and there are so many resources available for free that if you do have time you have absolutely no excuse!

If you’re willing to put in the time you do have free, it’s easy and quicker to master WordPress than you may imagine.

This post offers a step-by-step guide for intermediate users who want to become competent with WordPress over seven days.

Abacus
Seven days of WordPress learning!

First Thing’s First

This guide makes a few assumptions:

  • You have used WordPress and have the software installed (obviously!).
  • You have at least two-three hours per day to learn WordPress.
  • You are familiar with HTML, CSS and some PHP.

So let’s get stuck in…

Monday

WordPress Codex

WordPress Codex, WordPress TV and Make WordPress Core

If you think the Codex is only for beginners, think again. The Codex is, essentially, the WordPress bible and contains pretty much everything you need to know about WordPress.

Every time I head to the Codex to quickly look something up, I always end up finding more than I had anticipated and learn something new. Every time.

Yes, many of the articles are dry and encyclopaedic, but there is information on everything from working with themes and writing plugins to contributing to core development.

If you’re a visual learner, WordPress TV contains hours and hours of presentation recorded at WordCamps around the world.

It’s easy to search for videos on any topic and learn from well-known developers such as Andrew Nacin (core developer) and Mark Jaquith (also a core developer).

If you’re interested in where WordPress is headed and want to contribute to core, it’s a good idea to bookmark Make WordPress Core. This is the official blog of the core development team for WordPress.

The site features regular updates on new features for upcoming version of WordPress. If you want to stay on top of what’s happening in WordPress, this is the place to be.

Tuesday

Themes

Getting the Most Out of Themes

Understanding how themes work is crucial to learning WordPress. Choosing a theme for your site is usually the first customization you will make to your site, so it’s important to know what you’re doing.

The first port of call is the Theme Development section in the Codex. This section offers a solid grounding in how themes are built. Even if you think you know a lot about themes, it’s still worth reading.

Check out the Child Themes section of the Codex before reading A Guide To The Options For WordPress Theme Development, a great read by Smashing Magazine that looks at different approaches to development, such as building a theme from scratch or hacking an existing theme.

Next up, theme frameworks. The WordPress Theme Frameworks Starter Guide at WPTuts+ is a great introduction to frameworks if you’re just getting started. WPTuts+ has also published a thorough guide to Developing Your First WordPress Theme.

Wednesday

WPMU DEV Plugins

Getting the Most Out of Plugins

What is WordPress without plugins? Am I right?

Developing plugins is easier than you may think and offers up a world of possibilities when you can tweak WordPress to suit your needs.

The first post of call is Writing a Plugin in the Codex. Smashing Magazine’s WordPress Essentials: How To Create A WordPress Plugin, is a great introduction to plugin development.

Our own post How to Write a WordPress Plugin: 12 Essential Guides and Resources offers a great list of plugin resources.

Thursday

Web Hosting

Hosting and Backup Solutions

Choosing a good web host is important if you want your site to run smoothly with no downtime. And with hundreds of thousands of web hosts out there, choosing just one is no easy task.

In Web Hosting Review: So Just Who is the Best? we’ve reviewed five of the most popular hosting options available.

Managed WordPress hosting is becoming more and more popular as new competitors enter the space. WP Kube offers an up-to-date guide to hosting in 9 Best Options for Managed WordPress Hosting.

Some hosts also provide back up solutions, but if you want to manage it yourself, Snapshot by WPMU DEV is a great solution for scheduling backups to Dropbox or Amazon S3.

Our post 5 Backup Solutions for WordPress Multisite Networks provides some great alternatives Multisite alternatives (though Snapshot is also Multisite compatible). We also recently published Creating A Disaster Recovery Plan For Your WordPress Site, a fantastic guide to preparing for the worst.

Friday

SEO

SEO and Optimization

Moz offers a comprehensive Beginners Guide to SEO that walks you through everything you need to know about SEO, including search engine marketing, keyword search and measuring and tracking success.

If you want to make the most of SEO, it’s a good idea to optimize your site. The Codex offers a basic guide to optimization, while our recent post 5 Quick Ways to Speed Up Your WordPress Site provides some basic fixes. WPTuts+ takes this a step further in 10 Quick Tips: Optimizing & Speeding Up Your WordPress Site.

Saturday

Super heroes

Customization

After a busy five days getting your head around WordPress, today we’re going to delve into customizations.

PressCoders offer a great step-by-step guide, How to Customize a WordPress Theme: A Comprehensive Guide.

We post articles on customizations every week here at WPMU DEV Blog so browse through some of our latest posts. Some of our most popular customization posts include Check out How To Make Twenty Fourteen (Or Any Other WP Theme!) Super and How To Create A Totally Custom WordPress Login Page.

Sunday

ManageWP.org

WordPress News

After all your hard work this week, why not kick back with a tasty beverage and read the news?

The WordPress Community has a thriving network of news sites, such as ManageWP.org, WP Tavern, Post Status, wpMail.me and Torque.

These sites offer a window into the products and services built on top of WordPress and the people behind them. Regularly checking these news sites will help you keep on top of how WordPress is evolving.

Just because it’s Sunday doesn’t mean your week of learning about WordPress is over (though well done for getting through the week!). Check out 35+ Resources to Become a Kick Ass WordPress Developer and for ideas for where to go to get the most out of WordPress.

Image credits: PicJumbo

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12 Instagram Plugins For WordPress Worth Installing http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/12-instagram-plugins-for-wordpress-worth-installing/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/12-instagram-plugins-for-wordpress-worth-installing/#comments Tue, 01 Apr 2014 12:00:00 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=127444 There are a myriad of WordPress plugins that bring Instagram functionality to your WordPress site and some are definitely better than others.

Finding the right plugin to display a widget of your latest Instagram photos in your sidebar, a full-blown Instagram-powered gallery in a post or page, provide Instagram badges or counters, or even import your Instagram photos as WordPress posts can be a long and onerous task.

I’ve sorted the good from the not-so-good: here’s 12 Instagram plugins for WordPress that are worth installing.

WordPress logo plus Instagram logo
There are a myriad of Instagram plugins for WordPress, so choose carefully!

To put this list together, I installed and tested over 25 different Instagram plugins. Here’s my top picks:

All the plugins came out of the WordPress plugin repository and so are free but even so, I still discarded more than half of them. Sometimes even free plugins cost too much to be worth installing.

I think that any plugin should be designed to be simple and intuitive to use and where a user might need extra help it should be provided in the settings screens.

With so much choice, there’s simply no need to struggle with a plugin’s bad or non-existent documentation – having to go back to the plugin repository to find out how a plugin works is as annoying as it is unacceptable – and certainly no need to provide your Instagram username and password, which one plugin required.

The Alpine PhotoTile plugin and particularly the DsnWrks Instagram Importer both excelled in making their highly configurable functionality easy to understand and set up and of all the plugins DsnWrks’ was by far the easiest to connect with Instagram itself.

Choose A Plugin That Is Fit For Purpose

Whilst you should always choose a plugin that does just want you want, with Instagram it is especially important. For example, if you just want to show your latest photos in a sidebar widget, then get a plugin that does just that, otherwise you might find that you need start setting up clients in Instagram and it all starts to get complicated.

If you do go with a plugin that uses the Instagram API (and outside of the widget plugins, most do), keep in mind Instagram’s API Terms of Use, particularly the limit on the number of photos that can be displayed on a page and even more importantly respecting the rights on photos that you might pull from accounts other than your own.

Okay, to the plugins.

Plugins For Displaying Instagram Photos In Widgets

These plugins all provide widgets that will show your latest Instagram photos in a sidebar widget.

Instagram Slider Widget

instagram-slider-widget

A slider widget that does exactly what it says on the tin.

Responsive widget that will display the latest instagram posts (up to 20) in either a slider or grid layout. There is no need to set up API access, the widget simply requires an Instagram user name.

Widget also allows you to set the interval (in hours) for checking for new posts.

Thumbnails are stored locally, so after initial load display is instant.

Very simple to install and configure.

WP Instagram Widget

wp-instagram-widget

A widget that displays a barebones listing of the latest photos for an Instagram user.

No API configuration is necessary, just specify the Instagram username and the number of posts to display.

A good choice if you just want a plugin to handle the mechanics of displaying the photos and you are happy to style the output (which does lend itself to both grids and sliders).

WP Instagram Images Widget

wp-instagram-images-widget

Very similar in both name and functionality to WP Instagram Widget, this plugin provides both a widget and a shortcode.

The configuration options are fairly light: thumbnail size, number of images (max of 5), open the image in a new tab and show the image description.

You only need specify an Instagram Username, no API configuration required.

Like it’s virtual namesake, a good choice if you are happy to style.

Plugins That Display Instagram Photos In Galleries

These plugins are for displaying photos in posts and pages. Virtually all come with sidebar widgets as well.

Yakandanda Instagram

yakadanda

This plugin provides a widget and a shortcode for displaying your photos and videos from Instagram.

The shortcode provides a scrolling gallery of images (recent, feed, liked or tag) for either your own account or another username.

As it uses the API you can include up to 380 images in the gallery.

Relatively straight-forward to set up, which is handy as it’s light-on with documentation, this plugin is one to check out if you want a scrolling gallery.

** Requires Instagram client set-up

Enjoy Instagram

easy-instagram

This plugin provides both a widget and shortcode that both allow Instagram photos to be displayed in either a carousel or a grid.

Each can be figured for the number of images (the free version of the plugin is limited to 20 images), the account and, for the grid, the rows and columns.

There is no local storing / caching of the images, so page displayed can be delayed for quite some time as the images are fetched.

Plugin does add a button to the WP Visual Editor for the easy adding of the shortcodes.

** Requires client application set-up.

Simple Instagram

simple-instagram

Another plugin that provides both widgets and a shortcode.

Both provide the same style of output – basically a grid – for the latest posts (any user) or popular posts from across the whole of Instagram.

There is also a profile widget and shortcode that provides basic information about an account.

Initial set-up more convoluted than the other plugins tested.

** Requires client application to be set-up.

Alpine PhotoTile For Instagram

alpine-photo-tile

This is the most comprehensive plugin of those tested, offering highly configurable widgets and shortcodes.

Both widgets and shortcodes provide 5 different layouts along with settings to control the look and feel of the galleries, from borders to drop shadows.

Where this plugin shines is in its usability, providing a shortcode builder with preview. It also comes with full instructions on how to set up the Instagram API.

A full-featured plugin with a considerable and welcome focus on making setting-up as painless as possible.

** Requires client application to be set-up.

Other Useful Plugins For Integrating Instagram With WordPress

These plugins are useful for displaying badges, follower counts and for importing Instagram photos into your WordPress blog as their own post.

Instagram Followers Shortcode

instagram-followers-shortcode

Produces output that is very similar in look and feel to the traditional Facebook fans widget.

Specify the instagram id and the number of followers to showcase.

Instagram Badges

instagram-badges

Tagline possibly overdoes it as this simple plugin that provides a widget for adding an instagram follow badge.

Specify a title, the username and the badge size and you’re done.

Social Count Plus

social-count-plus

This plugin allows you to output a list of icons and followers for Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, Steam and SoundCloud.

Just enter your account details for the social media accounts you want to list.

Also provides a shortcode to allow the output of the number of followers for a specific social media account.

DsgnWrks Instagram Importer

dsgnwrks-instagram-importer

This plugin allows you to import your Instagram photos as posts (or an existing custom post type) into your WordPress blog.

Set-up is extremely user-friendly and allows considerable control over how the photos are imported.

Definitely one to look at if you want to share your Instragram photos through a blog.

Simple Instagram Embedd

simple-instagram-embed

This is a simple but highly effective plugin.

Paste the Instagram URL for a photo or a video and this plugin replaces the URL with an embedded view of the object.

Possibly the easiest way to get an Instagram photo or video into a WordPress post.

A Photo Finish

There are some great plugins in the above lists that cover just about every scenario for integrating WordPress and Instagram that prove that even free plugins can have excellent interfaces and help that can make implementing complex functionality very simple.

Do you have a favorite Instagram plugin?

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Put Your WordPress Related Posts on Steroids & Boost User Engagement http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/wordpress-related-posts-by-tags/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/wordpress-related-posts-by-tags/#comments Mon, 31 Mar 2014 12:00:07 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=127739 Greater user engagement should be at least one of the goals you have for your site. Not only will more engagement help you with SEO, but more importantly, it will build a stronger relationship with your visitors.

If visitors are checking out more of your content, it’s a sign that they’re interested.

Of course you need interesting and relevant content. And many sites have that. But one thing they often lack is a successful strategy to help users find more content that will be of interest to them.

There are a number of typical ways to group related content together in WordPress. Of course there are categories, and there are tags, and there are even related post plugins.

But below we’re going to talk about a strategy that that’s a little different from all of those. We’re going to talk about getting “Related Posts on Steroids.”

featured-bodybuilder

How Related Posts Should Work

Let’s say you have a food blog. And on that blog, you have a growing number of posts about lemon chicken.

If someone came to your site because they found one of your posts about lemon chicken, then there’s a chance they might want to see more posts about lemon chicken.

And so what you do is you build a list of links with your lemon chicken posts in them, and you display that list of links at the bottom of your lemon chicken posts with a shortcode.

Maybe you go a little lemon chicken crazy. Who hasn’t?
Maybe you go a little lemon chicken crazy. Who hasn’t?

But here’s the thing – let’s say you have three posts about lemon chicken. Each of those has the lemon chicken shortcode at the bottom of the post, and so each links to all the others.

After some time, you write a fourth post about lemon chicken and you put the lemon chicken shortcode at the bottom of that post too.

Automatically, all of your other lemon chicken posts are updated with the fourth link.

Pretty simple, but also pretty convenient for your visitors. If they’ve got lemon chicken fever, then you’ve just become their dealer.

The Problem with Related Posts Plugins

Unfortunately, most related posts plugins don’t work in the way described above. (If you know of one that does, please let us know in the comments.)

It’s not always easy to know what related posts plugins are thinking.
It’s not always easy to know what related posts plugins are thinking.

Most related posts plugins employ some type of algorithm that searches through your content and tries to pick out what’s related. Sometimes they do an OK job, but more often than not, it’s not really ideal.

Some related posts plugins have gone the direction of allowing manual control – i.e. you choose which posts to include.

That’s a big step in the right direction, but it’s still not completely there yet. And the reason is that there’s no way to automatically update all the posts across your of “lemon chicken group” when a new post is written.

If you wrote one post on lemon chicken, and then wrote another, you could manually insert Post #1 in the related links of Post #2.

But once you choose the related posts on Post # 2, for example, then that’s usually it. Not many will also go to Post #1 and update its related posts links to include Post # 2.

And on top of that, what happens when you write Lemon Chicken Post # 3, # 4, and # 5?

Mighty Tags

The great thing about WordPress is that this related posts problem is already mostly solved in the form of tags.

The strength of tags shouldn’t be underestimated.
The strength of tags shouldn’t be underestimated.

Categories, of course, are too large. A decent sized site will have tens if not hundreds of posts in a category.

But you can make tag groups as small and as tightly focused as you like. You can put your 3/4/5 posts on lemon chicken into a “lemon-chicken” tag group.  And updating that group is as easy as typing “lemon-chicken” into a new post.

The problem with tags, of course, is that we normally just see one link at the top or the bottom of a post. And then that link takes us to an archive page.

Wouldn’t it be better if you could pull in info (like the title and URL) from the posts in that tag group? Wouldn’t it be better if you could create a list of related links from a tag?

Well, you can.

Post Shortcode Plugins

Perhaps the easiest way to build these lists of better related posts is to get a “display posts” plugin.

There are a number of free ones in the WordPress directory. Many seem to reference the Display Posts Shortcode plugin, and so that may be a good one to start with.

At its simplest, you can just insert a shortcode with the name of your tag in it like so.

shortcode

And this will give you a simple list of links.

related-links

But you can pull in much more with this plugin, such as including an excerpt and a thumbnail.

images

There are some examples of common shortcodes to use here as well as a little CSS to put into your theme to get your excerpts and images looking right, as in the screenshot above.

Thinking About Your Related Posts

While the solution above is dead simple, it does take slightly more thought than simply installing a related posts plugin and allowing it to choose for you.

And this is something you shouldn’t really leave up an algorithm — not if you’re serious about serving your visitors as best you can.

Some things take a little thought.
Some things take a little thought.

While you may be able to get a related posts plugin that will get posts by related tags, this strategy is a little different in a few ways. First, you are manually deciding which tag to use (you may have more than one), but more importantly, the tag group you choose is one that you’ve also carefully constructed to be a “related posts” group.

So, for example, in a post on Greek Lemon Chicken, you may have tags for “greek,” “lemon,” “chicken,” and “lemon-chicken.”

While the tag “lemon-chicken” might make sense for anyone, you know that for your particular site and your particular audience, that this will be your “related posts” group. You created it with that purpose in mind.

You know your visitors, and you know that lemon chicken is something that will get their motors running and their mouths watering.

Showing them more “greek” posts or more “chicken” posts will not be as effective in this case as showing them more “lemon chicken” posts. And you know this simply because you know this. It’s something they’ve taught you over time. It’s something you’ve had to learn.

It takes more thought, yes. But it’s more effort that’s worth it in the end. It’s hand-crafted. It’s personal. It’s intuitive.

That’s related posts on steroids — paradoxically, less brawn and more brain.

Photos: lemon garlic chicken, homework with a chicken, sour!, the chicken & the egg dilemma, istolethetv

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