WordPress 3.8 is Here!

ectoplasmAll Bethel School District WordPress sites have been upgraded to version 3.8. Although there aren’t a lot of dramatic changes with 3.8, the Dashboard has had a real makeover. You’ll find the Dashboard has a much more intuitive look and feel with new color schemes, better fonts and a more dramatic contrast.

You can even customize the color of your Dashboard. You have a choice of nine different color schemes. You can select a new scheme by logging in and clicking on “Your Profile” under “Users” at the far left of the Dashboard. Give Ectoplasm a try or maybe you’d favor Ocean or Sunrise.

WordPress 3.8 gives users a better experience with tablets and phones. No matter how your users are viewing your site, WordPress will format to match screen size and resolution.

The new WordPress default theme, 2014, is the most elegant yet. It provides a magazine-like experience for users and is very customizable.

Widgets have also gotten a new look with a compact layout and easier ways to edit. You can now just tap a Widget to add it to a sidebar, header or footer.

Have questions about version 3.8 or anything WordPress, just post a comment below.


Tip of the Week: Keeping it In-House

openinnewwindowKeeping visitors on your site can be a challenge especially if you have links leading them to other sites. Clicking on a link to CNN, for example, means a series of back arrow clicks to return to your site. It is like dropping bread crumbs but having hungry birds gobble them up if users have gone more than a few clicks away from your site. And without an easy, intuitive way back, users aren’t likely to return.

One way to give users easy access back to your site is to have your WordPress site open a link in a new window or tab on the user’s browser. Doing this will retain the tab to your site and give your users a single click on the tab as a way to return to the great content you’ve created.

To force a link to open in a new tab or window, create a new link and check the box “Open link in a new window/tab” and then click Add Link. Simple!

Keep in mind the democratic nature of the Internet allows users to set their browsers to override opening a new tab or window.


Post When the Creative Juices Strike

wordpressclockWhen you try to post on a regular schedule, you are helping your users anticipate your email announcing new content on your site. But it isn’t easy to maintain a schedule because 1) you’re up to your eyeballs in other things to do; and 2) being creative on demand isn’t easy. Here’s a suggestion that might help.

Create a post, or several posts, when the creative juices are flowing. If you know that in October you’re taking your students to the Harrisburg Potato Festival, write the post in July when you’ve got more time. You can then set the post to auto-publish on the date and time of your choice. Here’s how:

1. Login to your WordPress site and select Posts and Add New.

2. Create the post the way your normally do and, if you use Subscribe2, uncheck the “Check here to disable sending of an email notification for this post/page” box below the post.

3. Instead of clicking on the Publish button, click Edit next to “Publish immediately” just above the Publish button.

4. Select a month, date, year, hour and minute for your post be be published.

When the bewitching hour arrives, WordPress will publish your post.

You’re in Good Company with WordPress

It probably doesn’t surprise you that WordPress can meet the needs of someone creating her very first Web page. But you might be surprised to see which large organizations are taking advantage of WordPress. Click on any of the links to see how WordPress is being used by corporations, celebrities and large non-profits:

General MotorsUPSEBay
Best BuyThe Wall Street JournalXerox
Usain BoltNRCCWDTCarleton University.

Follow this link to see even more: WordPress Show Case

Get your WP site mobile with one click!

I’ve posted this suggestion before, but it looks like few people took advantage of it. wpmobile3So let’s try it again.

With so many people using mobile devices these days, why not make your WordPress site mobile accessible with one easy click. Instead of having to read your post through a Web browser, smart phone users will automatically see your site in the format you see on the right. And if they would prefer to see the browser version, they can turn off the mobile version.

Here are the instructions for activating the WP Touch plugin. I’ll wait until you’re done. . . (Whistling).

1. Go to your Dashboard and click on Plugins.

2. Scroll to the bottom of the list and activate WP Touch.

You’re back! Wasn’t that easy? Try it out on your smart phone or email your grandmother in Harrisburg and have her take a gander on her iPhone.


Solve Problems and Learn Something New

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

Stop in for a plugin checkup

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.

Scarf up these tips to make your WP life easier

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.

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.

A Picture is Worth 414 Words

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:


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.

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