Tip of the Week

help-for-wordpressBecause WordPress is open source software (meaning it is distributed free and available to anyone to tinker with), there are seemingly thousands of places on the Internet where you can find help.  I tend to confine my help searches to WordPress.org.

WordPress.org is the developer and maintainer of WordPress so you are getting information from, as they say, the horse’s mouth. Here are some links to help you when trouble arises or when you simply want to learn more about WordPress:

WordPress Forums – Questions asked and answered

WordPress Lessons – Step-by-step instructions for all the basics

WordPress TV – A series of videos by developers and users on topics ranging from The Beginner’s Guide to WordPress to Understanding the WordPress Dashboard to Saving Drafts

wordpress-pluginWordPress plugins add functionality to your WordPress site. You decide which ones to activate. Some plugins run quietly in the background so it’s a good idea to check in occasionally to make sure your plugins are active.

The most critical plugin that every site should activate is Akismet. This plugin eliminates 95% of all spam. There aren’t any special settings for Akismet; but you should check to see that it is active and that it is running correctly.

Here’s how:

1. Login to your site and navigate to the Dashboard.
2. Mouse over Plugins and select Installed Plugins.
3. Akismet should be the first one on the list. If it says “Deactivate” under the title, the plugin is active. If it says “Activate” click on Activate.
4. If it is active, click on the Update Options button to ensure your API key is valid.
5. If you have not activated Akismet, you’ll need an API key. Email Tim Goss and I’ll send you the key. Or follow this link to receive an API Key from Askimet.

tipsHere’s a short list of some WordPress tips that you might have overlooked:

1. When entering content for a post or page, hitting ENTER creates a double space. Hold the SHIFT KEY down and hit ENTER and you get a single space.

2. Whenever possible, use an action verb in your post headline. “Students Ace this Week’s Spelling Test” is much better than “Spelling Test Results”.

3. If you are using Subscribe2 to email your users when you create a new post, try using the Excerpt Box. What you type in this box (just below your post window) will be what appears in your email. Use the expert to tease the user into clicking on the link in the email. An excerpt might read, “Students are celebrating ‘Space Exploration Week’ and we’ve invited former astronaut  . . . Click to Read More.” You can also use the Read More Tag at the exact same point in your post so readers have to continue on to the full story.

4. Add a page called “Contact Me” or “Contact Us” so user have a quick and easy way to communicate with you. Don’t simply depend on the Comment Box on the page or post.

5. Use clip art or a photo on every post. Users will likely read the headline first then look at the graphic before reading you post. Having a snappy graphic that illustrates your message will encourage them to stay on the page.

6. Sometimes you don’t want a comment box at bottom of a post or page. To eliminate it on that particular post, simply uncheck the “Allow Comments” box below the edit window.

7. Change the Edit Window’s size to meet your needs. Grab the bottom right-hand corner and drag down to enlarge it. You can also use the “Distraction Free Writing Mode” by clicking on that button in the tool bar.
distraction

What you’ll see is a clean editing window without all the WordPress paraphernalia. Move your mouse to the top of the screen for options to save and exit this window.

Here’s a tip on how to determine the size of an image you want to place in your post or page. There are actually two sizes to consider: 1) The size as it appears on the screen; and 2) the size of the original file you upload. Here’s how to decide.

If you are adding an image that is meant to make your post look more interesting (a logo or clip art, for example) and you don’t want or need visitors to click on  the image to see a larger version, then make the image size that you upload the same size as it will on the page.

If, on the other hand, you have an image that viewers will want to see blown up, then upload a larger image than the size on the page and select a smaller size when you insert the image into the post or page. Here’s an example:

buildingsmallbuildinglarge

These images look pretty much the same. The image on the left is 88KB which is small in terms of how much space it takes up on your site. The image on the right is 980KB over 10 times larger. The first image’s size on the page and the actual size are the same: 300 x 225 pixels. The image on the right is 300 x 225 pixels on the page, but the real size as I uploaded it is 1200 x 900 pixels.

So back to deciding which one to use. If you click on the image on the left, you’ll see the image pop up, but it isn’t any bigger than what you already see on the page. If you click on the right image, you’ll see the original 1200 x 900 pixel version.

So if I don’t need users to see the enlarged version, I should use the one on the left. And, just before I insert it onto the page, I can delete the link to the original image. Doing that means nothing happens when the image is clicked on.

If I want to have viewers see an enlarged version (imagine a picture of your classroom and parents wanting to see if little Suzie in the back row is busy doing her math), I’ll use the picture on the right.

If you don’t have software that lets you resize an image before uploading, you can use a program right on your computer. Find out how by reading Tip of the Week Resizing Photos.

That’s 414 words.

If your post has a lot of content, both words and images, it will run down the page a ways. On the post page, where the post resides by itself, it really doesn’t make much different how long the post is unless your readers have a short attention span.

However, on your WordPress front page you are better off truncating the post with a Read More > link so that the reader can skim the content of the post without losing site of the previous post(s) just below it. Having several posts visible on your front page makes it less overwhelming to your visitor and shows a sense of how much content you have on your site.

Here’s how:
Continue reading

By default WordPress is set up to highlight your posts as they cascade down the page from newest to oldest. Sometimes you want to have static content on the front page that addresses who you are or what your site is all about.

One way to make your WordPress site look more like a Web site and less like a blog is to make your front page a static page. The big drawback of doing that, however, is, well, its static nature. It appears that nothing much changes. And the beauty of WordPress is the dynamic nature of its blog function.

So what should one do? A really nice compromise is to use a sticky post. A stick post is a post that never leaves the top of your site. The Bethel WordPress site you are visiting has a sticky post (“Ask for Help”) at the top of the front page.

You might have contact information, a quick description of your mission or a link to something important, at least for now, that you don’t want disappearing out of site as you add more posts.

sticky1 sticky2

Here’s how easy it is to create a stick post:

1. Login to your site and navigate to the Dashboard.
2. Create a new post or you can open an old post and make it a sticky post.
3. Give the post a title and add content.
4. In the Publish box at the upper-right, click on Edit next to Visibility.
5. Under Public, check the box next to “Stick this post to the front page” and click Okay.

When you publish the post, it will stay at the top of the page until you change its visibility. You can have multiple sticky posts, but too many of them defeats the purpose of having dynamic content visible on your front page.

 

Who’s posting on your WordPress site? Each post can have an author listed below the post title. Often times it will appear as “admin” or just your last name or your first initial and your last name. If your login id is psmith, that’s what often shows up as the author of a post.

To make it a bit more obvious who is writing the posts, you can  change the author to your first and last name by following these simple steps:

1. Log into your site’s Dashboard.

2. Under Users on the left, click on Your Profile.

3. If there are blanks for your first and last name, fill them in.

4. Under “Display name publicly as” you can select first, last, first and last or last and first.

Just remember that Ernest Hemingway and Emily Dickinson are already take and you are better off using your real name.

forumA forum is an online resource for the open exchange of ideas; but it isn’t an intuitive part of WordPress. Yes, users can leave comments on your WordPress pages or posts. You can also give users access to your site so they can add posts themselves; but this involves some training and has some real limitations.

So along comes the WordPress plugin bbPress that sets up a forum on your site where, without any training, a registered user can create a topic and other registered users can add comments. A real online discussion can ensue. All the while you, as the site administrator, have overall control of the process.

bbPress would be a great match for classroom Web sites bringing students and/or parents together around homework, projects or events. Or image subgroups like ELD teachers or elementary math teachers or school secretaries, groups that are difficult to bring together face-to-face, having a real place to talk.

Setting up a forum is pretty straight forward. You’ll see Forum on your Bethel Blogs Dashboard (Forums for Bethel District Web sites are coming soon). Put your mouse over Forums and select New Forum. Give the forum a name and in the edit window enter a description for what you’d like discussed. Click on Publish. Now copy the address for the forum from above the edit window or view the forum and then copy the address. Finally create a link on you site using the forum address.

Anyone can view the content of the forum, but only registered users can create topics and make comments. You can make a forum private, but that’s a subject for another Tip of the Week post.

We’re setting up a bbPress forum on the new Smart Board site for the 16 Bethel teachers with the donated interactive whiteboards. Stop by the site and see how we’re doing and get a first hand look at how it all works.

subscribe2Many Bethel WordPress sites use the WordPress plugin Post Notification to email registered users with the latest post. Post Notification, however, has been showing its age causing some problems with our mail server. Post Notification’s author has stopped updating and supporting the plugin so it is time to move to Subscribe2.

Subscribe2 is similar to Post Notification but has some slick features not available in the older plugin. Subscribe2 sends the email with your email address. This  means you’ll get an email from the mail server for any bad address. You can then remove the clunker from your list. You can also make some modifications to the format of your email.

On February 16 we will remove Post Notification from the Bethel WordPress sites. If you would like to continue emailing your fans, you have two choices:

Follow the steps below or let me know and I’ll be happy to make the change for you.

How to set up Subscribe2:

1. First you’ll need to export the email addresses out of Post Notification. Go to your Dashboard and click on Settings and then Post Notification.
2. Click on Export Addresses and then drag through your list and copy (CTRL + C) the list into memory. It is probably a good idea to paste the list into a WordPad or Google Doc to save it.
3. Now we’re ready to activate Subscribe2. Go to Plugins and Installed Plugins and click On Activate under Subscribe2.
4. Once Subscribe2 is activated, you’ll see it at the bottom left on your Dashboard. Put your mouse over Subscribe2 and select Subscribers. Here’s where you will paste (CTRL + V) the list of users you copied from Post Notification. Be sure to click on Subscribe at the bottom to save the list.

You could stop here, but let’s look at a few more things to set up:

5. Like with Post  Notification, it is a good idea not to set the email to be sent automatically when you publish. Here’s how to ensure you will need to manually set the post to be emailed. Go to Settings under Subscribe2 in your Dashboard. Click on the Appearance tab and then ensure that the box is checked before “Disable email notifications is checked by default on authoring pages?” and then save your changes by clicking on Submit.
6. The other box to check on the Appearance tab is “Enable Subscribe widget?”. This will put a box on your site’s front page allowing users to subscribe/unsubscribe. Be sure to click on Submit to save.
7. You can modify the format of the email that is sent my clicking on the Template tab and modifying any of the text that is not in brackets. Be sure to save it.
8. Finally, when you are ready to publish your post, be sure to uncheck the “Disable email notifications is checked by default on authoring pages?” box below the post you are writing. Then click Publish. You’ll automatically receive one or more emails.

One more nice feature I just thought of: Under Subscribe on your Dashboard is “Send Email”. This will allow you to send an email to your entire list of users. Type in the message and send. This isn’t a post, just an easy way to email users that perhaps isn’t important to the casual reader of your site.

Let me know if you need assistance and I’ll be happy to either give you some advice or make the entire change over for you. Remember 2/16/2013 is the end for Post Notification.

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