Although WordPress is an amazing content management system, learning to navigate the platform can be daunting for those who are not developers. The site is intuitive, but there are so many options it can be overwhelming. After designing a number of WordPress sites for clients, I have found that users run into the same set of problems. This video, documentary rather, is an overview of WordPress and covers the main features of this content management system.
WordPress Video Tutorial
A few things before you watch this video:
- It’s long, really long… Sorry about that. Think of it as a free mini course. You’re welcome.
- I have a strong bias towards the Genesis Framework, and so do a lot of other developers
- Plugins are the power behind WordPress, check out my list below
- Don’t mess with the CSS or Functions.php files unless you know what you are doing
- Want to learn to code yourself? I learned from Lynda.com.
Best WordPress Plugins
As mentioned in my video, the power behind WordPress are the plugins. You basically are pooling the coding skills of an army of nerds, allowing you to essentially build websites cooperatively. Everyone loves a good sharer. I have found that I keep using the same plugins over and over again, and thought I would share…
Conditional Widgets: This plugin is amazing; it allows you to tell which pages you want your other plugins to be added or excluded from. I use this primarily for keeping my “about me” widget from being in the sidebar of the about page, because that would be silly.
Delightful Downloads: Want people to be able to download files from your site, like a set of shed plans perhaps? This is the plugin for you. It’s free (notice a pattern?) and easy to use. Do make sure you put something in the “text” area so your download button gets named.
Frizzly: This free plugin allows you to put fancy rollover share icons on your images. They are easy to customize if you know how to use Photoshop (better yet, Illustrator). No code knowledge required. Below you can see my frizzly customization. Formatting tip: I created an 80 x 80 pixel photoshop file, put each icon in it’s own layer, then saved each layer as it’s own png file.
Image Widget: I use this simple widget to put images in the sidebar, such as my featured art. This can also be useful for ads. In case you’re curious, I actually use a text widget and write code for my ad space, since that gives me full design control.
Related posts: Ever wonder how people display related posts in the bottom of their articles? Probably with this widget… It’s incredibly easy to use, and I especially like that you can edit the related posts that are suggested.
Simple Social Icons: You type in the url’s for your social media, tell the icons what colors to be, and voila! Simple. For those wondering how websites have their own specially made icons, that’s programmed by creating a menu and a lot of CSS. Translation, that upgrade will cost you if you are having a site designed.
WP Most Popular: This is an easy way to display your most popular posts in your sidebar. I also find this option in the sidebar helpful for me, since I see what others are interested in. I did notice that the plugin hasn’t been updated in a while, so that could be a problem in the future.
Yoast: This is the probably most important plugin you can load. I’m assuming you are making a website or blog so people can actually find it; this plugin will help you boost your SEO rankings and therefore accomplish that goal. I’m a little surprised that it’s free … Perhaps they’re making a lot of money on upgrades?
MailPoet: I talked about this plugin extensively in the video tutorial. I personally use it for my own subscriptions, and I like that you can manage your subscribers and newsletters from within the WordPress dashboard. This plugin is automatically programmed to work with the eNews widgets within the Genesis Framework if that is what you’re using. If you get a lot of subscribers, you will need to upgrade to a service like MailChimp.
Some tips with MailPoet: Make sure the e-mail that you set up with your subscription form is linked to your hosting provider. Meaning, use “Joe@websitename.com” instead of “email@example.com”. You need to make sure the sender e-mail is set up like this for your newsletters as well.
Another thing to make sure you customize is the “unsubscribe” message. The default message is “great, you’ll never hear from us again”. Classy… Just click on the “edit” box in the settings, shown below, and edit the message. It will look like you are editing a page of your site, and don’t be thrown off that the title of the page says “subscribe”; this is the text for the unsubscribe page. Just change the line in the text area that says [wysija-page].
This is what my edited message looks like when I hit “preview”:
A note about paid plugins: If you purchase a plugin then you need to upload the file from your computer, not search for it in the plugin area. You also need to upload a zipped version of the plugin for this to work. To zip a plugin that you downloaded, simply right click on it (command click for Mac) and then choose “compress”.
I primarily created the video tutorial to serve as a manual for my clients, but I also hope that it helped others. If you did find it useful, please share or like the video on YouTube.
If you have some favorite plugins of your own to share, post them in the comments below!