August 14, 2021Comments are off for this post.

The importance of regular WordPress maintenance

WordPress websites are relatively easy to set up, but can pose problems if they are neglected or don't get regular updates. A website that's too slow, is peppered with broken links, or doesn't load properly could cost you time and money. There's also the risk of downtime and lost customer revenue. Sound familiar? Then consider getting regular WordPress maintenance: It can be your best bet to make sure your site is up-to-date and running smoothly.

WordPress is always changing

I know what you're thinking: why would I want someone updating my site when I already know how to do it? There will inevitably be security issues as new versions of WordPress core, plugins, and themes are released (daily!), plus they all must interact with one another on your particular site. Updates can negatively affect your site's functionality, and you need to be able to roll back to previous versions to counteract this.

Too, you want to ensure that the design aesthetic and functionality of your site are right, no matter what. To do all of this properly you need someone who knows WordPress inside and out—not just the basics. Your website is a reflection of who you are as an individual or company—it needs constant upkeep!

wordpress maintenance fail

Hackers are ever-present

Hackers are everywhere, and they're persistent, and WordPress is a perfect target because it's such a popular platform. To ensure your website is safe, you need maintenance on a regular basis.

Or if the unthinkable has happened and you've been hacked, how do you fix it? This is where many find themselves paying exorbitant rates just to fix their sites, and you should have follow-up on how to keep this from happening again. I've noticed many hosts and developers don't share this information, but rather ask you to sign up for a pricey security package that may not offer much.

Your site needs to be backed up—offsite, daily

Backups are ideals when something goes wrong, so we can revert back to a working version. I set up an automated backup, hosted off-site and made daily. I host off site, which means it's on a different server than the website, so that there is no chance of the backup also being compromised. Utilizing backups is much easier than trying to fix your WordPress site if something goes wrong, but you'd be surprised by how many large entities don't even have a simple backup!

You want to work with a WordPress expert

You want to work with someone who is an expert in WordPress—we spend day-in and day-out in WordPress, and are well-versed in fixing errors, optimizing and securing the site. I'm always reading insider blogs and attending WordPress conferences to keep up to date on all the latest news, trends and changes, so website maintenance is second nature to me.

Consider also that you need a fresh eye who can suggest ways to improve user flow, or a better plugin, or search engine optimizations you can make. A WordPress professional can usually offer many, if not all, of these suggestions, so that your site doesn't stagnate. It's far cheaper to improve your current site than to do a redesign, so your can have a longer shelf life.

You can work on other things

It's an age-old business adage: You need to focus on the things that you are good at. If your site is running smoothly, you can focus on building relationships or improving your product. And as an always-on part of your brand, it's important to keep your website working well so you don't have to think about it.

I've often told my clients that websites are living, breathing things. Neglect them and you will quickly see them fall into disrepair. Working with a WordPress professional who spends their days working in the platform will give your site an edge, and it'll also be healthy and looking great. Check out my relaunched Chicago Web Support as an option!

July 29, 2021Comments are off for this post.

BuddyPress for building your social network

Updated July 2021.

Back in 2013 I talked about a client's success in moving a Ning community to WordPress and, inevitably, BuddyPress. It seems like BuddyPress never had its moment of glory with all social media platforms sprouting up left and right, but then again, it's still relevant for WordPress-powered websites.

BuddyPress is a great option for those who want to build a social network themselves. It's powerful, flexible and free software that makes creating a private social network easy.

It is just a plugin, but BuddyPress creates so many new features for your website, it's actually quite a bit more. I like to think of BuddyPress almost as a social networking application, in a plugin. Its features almost make it a Facebook clone. But it's not Facebook.

Buddypress features

A quick rundown of its features:

  • User groups
  • Friending, profiles
  • Discussion profiles
  • Private messaging
  • Blog tracking [for multisite networks]
  • Status updates
  • Activity streams [which are an aggregate of the above]
  • The wire [feedback wall, separate from the activity streams]

Keep in mind, BuddyPress is not the same thing as multisite. Multisite WP is for multiple blog sites in a single WordPress installation, and BuddyPress can be multisite or just one blog.

Forums v. groups

The confusion I found when starting a BP site is the difference between forums and groups. Groups can have forums and blogs, but forums can stand alone. And, groups can be made private — i.e, for membership or board members who need a private area.

Customizing BuddyPress also poses some new issues:

  • You can use any WP theme out of the box. But it's worth customizing member, login and registration pages so that they fit your design.
  • Most regular WP plugins work with BP, but as always, you need to check for compatibility.

Extending functionality with BuddyPress-specific plugins

There are specific BuddyPress plugins, adding functionality for users and admins alike. Here are some favorites:

BuddyPress spam beware

BP is a huge target for spammers, but there are some ways to combat, or at least cut it down:

  • It's almost required to use Bad Behavior and/or WPMU's Anti-Splog (quite effective but pricey) to shut down spammers
  • Remove the Buddypress & WP credit lines
  • Rename your registration slug to block “insite:register” searches

What's next for BuddyPress?

BuddyPress 9.0 was just released, with widget blocks!

BuddyPress resources

Some of my go-to resources on BP:

June 13, 2021Comments are off for this post.

Protect your content copyright with WordPress

Updated June 2021.

Protecting one's images and text online is an important topic, and one I tackled at my Chicago Creative Expo WordPress talk.

Read more

May 7, 2021Comments are off for this post.

How to pick a WordPress theme

Updated May 2021.

We're already lucky to have 39.5% of the world's websites powered by WordPress. And WordPress themes are big business, with many developers and companies launching new themes every day. But what do you look for? Here's a checklist so you can pick a theme that addresses your technical and design needs.

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January 20, 2019Comments are off for this post.

Why use WordPress?

WordPress stickers & badges

WordPress stickers & badges (Photo credit: thatcanadiangirl)

Updated June 2021.

It seems ubiquitous that so many websites are on WordPress — 40% of the web, by last count. WordPress powers the UPS site, CNN, the NFL site, the Dow Jones site, and many, many more.

Read more

August 1, 2014Comments are off for this post.

WordPress.TV: Creating A Site Structure for the Future

If you've not had a chance to learn about site structure or information architecture for your website, you've got no excuse now! My 2014 Chicago WordCamp talk on it, A House with No Walls: Creating A Site Structure for the Future is now live on Wordcamp.TV.

Read more

August 28, 2012Comments are off for this post.

When Tweet Old Posts won’t tweet… or goes haywire

I adore Tweet Old Posts for WordPress and share it with all of my clients who publish blog content. Lately, however, I’ve found that some accounts aren’t tweeting out posts, or it’s tweeting out a dozen at once. Not exactly what I want, eh?

Found a couple fixes via the support forums:

  • First, I try their suggestions:
    • If current URL is not showing your current page URL, copy paste the current page URL in Current URL field and press update settings button to update the settings. Then retry to authorize.
      If current URL is showing your current page URL, press update settings button to update the settings. Then retry to authorize.
  • If not, see if your Twitter profile is authorized within the plugin itself. If not, try it and Update Settings. If this doesn’t work, deactivate Google Analytics for WordPress as it seems to be blocking it. Then, reauthorize your Twitter profile in Tweet Old Posts.

Sometimes it’s hard to even notice if your account isn’t posting correctly till you go through your feed, but this is a great plugin and worth the recon.

Update: I’ve also found that downgrading to 3.3.3 works, until the dev works it out. First deactivate and delete the plugin, then grab the 3.3.3. version and upload it.

July 11, 2012Comments are off for this post.

Case study: Migrating from Ning to WordPress & BuddyPress

Definitely watch this space: One of my favorite clients, Chicago acupuncturist Mitch Harris, already runs a WordPress site and knows its ins and outs. But, he also had a Ning site with 300+ members for a growing Eastern nutrition and recipe site, Food From East, fed by his Pacific College students. As Ning kept increasing their hosting rates for an undoubtedly useful set of tools, it also became unwieldy and didn’t really fit Mitch’s needs. Too, he wanted to make it more of a resource on Eastern nutrition, for both practitioners and the public alike.

The Ning migration

Enter WordPress, BuddyPress and the awesome WPMU Ning to BuddyPress Importer plugin. BuddyPress, for the uninitiated, is all about making your WordPress site social. It can make it a sort of Facebook “lite,” and is ideal for education, your private or public niche membership site, or really, anything you might have thrown on Ning before.

Image representing BuddyPress as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

Now, this won’t solve all your problems: The taxonomies between Ning and WordPress are different, and everyone posts things in different areas depending on how they originally set up Ning. Though the migration was pretty painless, we are still cleaning up comments and posts that ended up in the wrong places, and are tagging and categorizing everything [which is no small task on some sites]. But, it also gave me a chance to create a better user experience: With just a “quick edit” of categories & tags, and with better labels for the user—there now are sections for disorders, symptoms, ingredients, and practictioner-speak. It’s a much better experience. With plugins like Mass Categorization, we can even create these en masse.

BuddyPress aftermath

This migration really gives you a chance to review where data is, where it will be imported, and how you want it displayed. Comments, for example, cannot have categories or tags, but if they’re correctly placed under a relevant post with the right tags and categories, they’re still findable.

I’ve written quick WordPress guides for members moving over to this new site, focusing on images, as Zemanta and PhotoDropper are instrumental and not obvious to new users. As easy as WordPress is, plugins are not always intuitive.

Now we haven’t set up forums or groups, as he doesn’t need them yet, but this again is a quick import over from Ning, and preserving your members’ conversations is incredibly important for a growing membership site, especially in terms of SEO. The best thing, IMHO, is every user and his or her avatar moved over to the new site with all of their information, and Mitch can send everyone a personalized email telling them where to find their new member site, and log in using their old login and password, or get new credentials. The connections between their posts and comments stay correct. This is what migration should be. And, as each user can create a full-fledged profile, instant message each other and generally have a much better experience, and it’s a clear winner over Ning, especially without the monthly fees.

Support & what they don't tell you

Boone Gorges of Teleogistic has been incredibly helpful in answering questions and an ongoing discussion with other users of this plugin—after all, no migration is perfect, so be prepared for flukes and figuring out data workarounds. But the data is intact, which is more than half the battle.

On the downside for BuddyPress: It’s incredibly popular among spammers. They’ll create accounts, post spam and generally create headaches. I’ve vacillated between Bad Behavior and WangGuard (July 2017 note: WangGuard is now discontinued, but check out WPMU's Anti-Splog. It's pricey but works.) for blocking spammers, and I’ve a few more tips in my BuddyPress presentation from May.

Overall, it’s a win: Improved user experience and less expensive & better WordPress admin. Features can be turned on and off at will, and you can encourage better engagement with a suite of tools. Now, where’s that next BuddyPress project?

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