2 Ways To Safely Customize Your WordPress Site Without A Child Theme

2 Ways to Customize WordPress

This year (2016) I gave a talk at WordCamp San Diego as part of the Beginners’ Bootcamp, entitled “Customizing Without Hacking”. It was an introduction to best practices for customizing WordPress without doing anything that will break your site or make it a nightmare to maintain.

Learning from the beginning how to customize the right way will make your future-self’s life much easier:

  • Your changes will be future-proofed to keep each layer of your site update-able: WordPress core, themes, plugins.
  • Using WordPress best practices means that if you are building the site for someone else to maintain, or if you will have someone else helping you in the future, they won’t have be Sherlock Holmes to figure out how the site works.
  • You’ll have confidence and peace of mind when experimenting with your site, knowing that you’re not going to break something beyond your own ability to repair.
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The 3 Most Customizable, Free WordPress Themes

3 Free, Customizable WordPress themes

INTENDED AUDIENCE: Beginners, Non-developers

I must start with a caveat – I don’t believe any one theme should be all things to all users. A few years ago, a theme used to simply be a pre-made design that you could apply to your site – an overall look and feel, not a “website in a box”. You used a theme because you didn’t have the design and/or coding skill to create your own. But, nowadays users want to be able to control every aspect of their site’s look and feel – basically design their site themselves, without doing any code. If you are not an actual designer, then there are many downfalls to this approach. But that is not the point of this post.

Needless to say, people like free themes and they also like flexibility. So here are three themes that fit the bill. I’m not saying they will do anything and everything you want, but for free, they are pretty extensive. I’ve tried to point out the features that are useful and/or unique, but that doesn’t mean I’ve included every possibility. But these themes are free, so you can try them for yourself at no risk!

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Holiday Discounts on WordPress Learning, Themes, Hosting & Plugins

WordPress deals - Themes, Plugins, Hosting

It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in the US which means retail craziness. Some of your favorite WordPress theme, plugin and hosting providers are getting in on the action and providing deep discounts that only come around once per year. Most of these will expire at the end of Monday or Tuesday so act right away!

 

WordPress Learning Resources

Learn WordPress - Lynda.com

Lynda.com – Get a free 10 day trial

Lynda.com has some great WordPress video courses from great teachers like Morten Rand-Hendriksen and Carrie Dils, and they are currently offering a free 10 day trial. No coupon code needed, just click through the link:
http://webtrainingwheels.com/recommends/lyndacom/ (aff. link)

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A Few of My Favorite WordPress Plugins

Recommended WordPress Plugins

I gave a small talk on plugins at WordCamp LA recently and was inspired to start compiling a list of my most commonly recommended ones. I’ve also started collecting them as Favorites at my WordPress.org profile but there’s no way to organize them there according to topic or purpose. So I’ve started compiling them into a PDF download available here which I plan to update over time. It’s by no means exhaustive so if you have any requests for recommended plugins of a certain kind, leave a comment and I’ll see about incorporating them into a future edition.

Get the PDF Download

Here’s what’s on there as of now:

CONTACT FORMS

Formidable (free and premium)
http://wordpress.org/plugins/formidable/
Formidable has both a free and paid version. The free version is one of the better free form builders available. For me, the workflow and interface is easier to work with than other free plugins such as Ninja Forms or Contact Form 7.

Gravity Forms
http://webtrainingwheels.com/recommends/gravity-forms/ (aff. link)
Gravity Form is strictly a premium plugin – there is no free version. I have invested in the Developer license and use it on most sites because it’s so powerful. This is more than just a contact form plugin – it gives you advanced data collection and processing capabilities. There are add-ons to integrate with other services such as PayPal, MailChimp and many others. Developers will find it very customizable via the many hooks and filters provided.

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Why Am I Getting Notifications of New User Registrations On My Site?

New User Registrations on WordPress Sites

A common question I get from new WordPress users (twice in the past week as a matter of fact), typically arriving in a panic-stricken email, is “Why am I getting notices of new user registrations on my site?” The follow-up questions are along the lines of “Have I been hacked??” “Is this spam?” “How do I make the madness stop?”

The answer is thankfully simple. There’s one little setting in your WordPress dashboard which is needlessly (at least in most cases) allowing people to register for your site. Unless you’ve deliberately customized it, the registration screen is at the same url on most WordPress sites:

http://www.yourdomain.com/wp-login.php?action=register

So it’s easy for spambots to find that page in an automated fashion. And those spambots love a good form to fill in whether that’s a comment form, a contact form or a registration form!

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