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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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. The list is 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
https://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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Put Back What’s Missing in WordPress 3.9 – Advanced Image Options and Text Color Picker

missing-3.9

WordPress 3.9 came out last month and while the post/page editing screen has generally been improved there’s a couple of small features that have been removed. Chances are a lot of folks won’t ever miss them, but some of you will and already are.

The two main things I get complaints about are the missing border and spacing options for images, and the lack of color options for text. 

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The Best Free Image Slider Plugin for WordPress

Best Free Image Slider Plugin for WordPress

Image sliders are one of the most requested features from my clients but try Google-ing for a good one and you’ll find more than you know what to do with. One blog post promised 125 of them!! Don’t wade through that crap. Here are my top choices.

Let me first clarify what I mean by image sliders. This is not a “featured content” slider – so they don’t automatically show your latest blog posts or anything dynamic like that. You manually choose what images you want to put in your slider. This is not for image galleries so there’s no light boxes. This is simply for showcasing images in a rotating display.

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How To Add Social Icons To Your WordPress Navigation Menu

WordPress Plugin - Menu Social Icons

I’m loving this new plugin I recently discovered called Menu Social Icons. In a simple and elegant fashion it allows you to easily add icons to the major social networks directly into your WordPress menus. There has always been a multitude of plugins to let you add social icons to your widget areas, but sometimes there’s just not a widget area where you need one to be. So now you have the option of adding icons wherever you have a WordPress navigation menu.

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Simple Banner Ad Management For Your WordPress Site

Ad Management Plugins for WordPress

Running advertising on your WordPress site can get pretty complicated and so can the plugins available. This particular post is aimed at those whose needs are on the lower end so I’m only looking at free plugins here. If you’re really serious about advertising and need robust features, chances are you’ll need a fully featured paid plugin such as OIO Publisher or Adsanity.

For my situation, the criteria is:

  • The chosen plugin must be easy enough for my client to manage themselves
  • It must have a widget for easily displaying ads, or at least have an easy short code that will work in a widget
  • It must be able to handle either uploading a banner image, or pasting in ad code from a 3rd party such as Google AdSense, BlogHer, etc.

I tried out a bunch of plugins and below are the only ones worth mentioning.  

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