How To Go Beyond WordPress Basics

From WordPress Beginner to Intermediate, Going Beyond the Basics

From WordPress Beginner → Intermediate

What’s  the difference between a WordPress beginner, and an intermediate WordPress user?

If you’ve mastered the dashboard, are great at working with themes and plugins, what’s next? How do you progress to the next step, without necessarily become a code-slinging developer?

Definitions are obviously arbitrary, but for me, an intermediate WordPress user is someone who has mastered the dashboard, can find their way around any theme pretty quickly, and who isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty behind the scenes. That might not be creating custom themes or plugins from scratch, but it likely involves customizing sites with copy/paste code snippets, tweaking CSS, migrating sites, using FTP, and generally understanding the ‘behind the scenes’ of a WordPress site. They are also familiar with WordPress best practices, such as safe ways to modify themes etc. This isn’t someone who is going to hack your site to pieces, but someone who understands the right way to do things, keeping a site future-proofed, update-able and easy for the owner to manage.

This is the kind of stuff that makes some folks shudder with horror, but in reality if you can grasp some of this stuff, it’ll give you so much more confidence. If you’re working with clients, I’d consider it not only a requirement, but your responsibility as a WordPress consultant.

So how do you get to the Intermediate stage, where to start?

If you are like a lot of users, you might be forced into it when something goes wrong on your site. Most of the cool stuff I’ve learned in WordPress, I’ve generally learned by things breaking ? It’s initiation by fire, but it forces you out of your comfort zone. And, let’s face it, there’s very little you can learn in life by staying exactly how and where you are.

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Maintaining Your WordPress Site

WordPress Maintenance Checklist

Launching your WordPress site is just the beginning of its life on the web. You’ve conceived and birthed your baby… but now you’re in charge of feeding and protecting it.

Owning a website is a responsibility.

There’s a lot to consider, more than most people realize when they are just starting out. Neglecting your site means it could get hacked, suffer from broken links, or an unplanned update breaking your contact form. Any of which could result in lost search engine rankings, decreased traffic and/or lost leads.

Here are some of the main tasks you’ll have to do on a regular basis to keep your site in excellent health.

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How To Set Up a Free Download with Email Capture in your WooCommerce Shop

Free Downloads in WooCommerce

I’ve had some clients in the past who wanted to set up a free download in their WooCommerce store, as an email list building strategy.

In reality it can be a little cumbersome to do a free download in exchange for an email address within a store context because it takes several more clicks on the part of the user, than it would for a typical opt-in form. The steps I provide here will significantly streamline the process. I wouldn’t recommend it as your only opt-in process, but if you really want/need to use your WooCommerce store for this, the method below will certainly ease the pain points.

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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 Most Flexible Featured Posts Widget You’ll Need

Flexible Posts Widget WordPress Plugin

Recently I had a client that needed to display a grid of images in a sidebar widget, each one of which would link to a different page. Previously they had hard coded all the images and links as HTML in a text widget but this was understandably a pain for the client to maintain and update.

I previously used Special Recent Posts as my go-to plugin for this type of thing (although I’m not sure it could handle Pages) but the free version is no longer being updated so I needed a new solution. Fortunately I found the Flexible Posts Widget plugin – the best featured posts widget I think you’ll ever need.

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Do You Need A Child Theme?

Do You Need A Child Theme

Creating a child theme is generally the best practice  for modifying or customizing an existing theme. However in a couple of cases there may be another, easier way, especially for beginners and non-coders.

Why Use A Child Theme?

If you need to modify your WordPress theme by editing any of the code, a child theme provides a way for you to do this safely. By “safely” I mean that it enables you to keep all your modifications separate so that you can continue to update the main, or parent theme in the future.

Let’s break that down a little further.

A theme is a set of files that lives on your server. In the screenshot below, I’m using an FTP program to look at my server but you would see the same thing if you used the File Manager from inside your web hosting cpanel. Once you navigate to the
wp-content folder you will then see the themes folder. Within that you’ll see a folder for each theme you have installed. In the screenshot below you can see some of the files and folders that comprise the Twenty Thirteen theme:

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