Cool WordPress Tips and Tricks
There's a lot to know and learn about WordPress. But you don't have to log thousands of hours sitting in your Fortress of Solitude in order to feel like a WordPress superhero.
WordPress is pretty smart. There are tons of built-in tools that make it easy to blog, manage websites, build apps, and leave your brain at home (or at least give it a break). Even complex admin tasks like user management can be done in a fraction of the time it would take to hand code. This article outlines some tricks you can try out.
Use as a Content Management System
Just about anyone who has heard about WordPress knows that it's good for blogging. It's also no secret that you can use it as a full-fledged Content Management System (CMS). Over the years it has shaped into the most dominant CMS on the market. You can do much more than run a website with WordPress. It can be used to manage operations for non-profits, online shops, design agencies, web development businesses, corporations, events, and restaurants, among other things.
- WordPress Lessons: here are lessons on how to use WordPress with everything from security and backups to styling and using functions.
Use Google Analytics
Analytics can help you gather valuable information to improve your website. There's a sea of data at your disposal you can use to measure and make improvements. If you aren't already using some sort of analytics software to measure your traffic, you should. Otherwise, you are seriously missing out.
Google Analytics is the most popular web analytics software, and arguably the best. It's an entire suite of tools to scope out the state of your website's traffic. Using Google Analytics is as easy as signing up for an account and connecting your website to that account.
- Getting Started with Google Analytics: get started here, the official guide. You can be up and running in just a few minutes.
- Google Analytics Dashboard for WP: this is a free plugin to connect Google Analytics to your WordPress dashboard.
Use a Child Theme
Many WordPress themes come with a child theme. Using a child theme makes it easy for you to make non-destructive changes to your website. This means you don't have to worry about custom CSS or PHP code being wiped out when you update your WordPress themes.
Create a child theme from scratch with this lesson on Child Themes.
- Advanced Child Themes: an advanced primer on child themes for developers.
- Child theme generator plugin: this plugin generates a child theme.
WordPress Custom Fields with the Advanced Custom Fields Plugin
What's the big deal with custom fields? Custom fields may not seem all that exciting, but to WordPress developers, custom fields are very important.
In WordPress, custom fields allow you to associate metadata with any post or page. By default, custom fields are stored in the wp_postmeta table in your database. It is useful to use custom fields when you want to allow users to add metadata to a specific post type. This allows the admin to create a user-friendly interface for authors to enter in metadata.
Custom fields can be used to do things like:
- Add ratings to a movie review
- Create an expiration for a post
- Enter information for a product, such as the price.
There are plenty of useful ways you can use custom fields to make life easier. WordPress has the ability to create custom fields built-in. You will see the custom fields panel in the post editor as long as the "Custom Fields" checkbox in the screen options panel is marked. Due to the complex nature of metadata, non-developers may find it difficult to pull and display metadata.
Fortunately, the Advanced Custom Fields Plugin (AFC) makes things easier. Non-developers can use it, and developers can use the heck out of it. This super useful plugin gives you a more leverage, potentially saving lots of time. It has an intuitive interface, presets, and the ability to add more extensions such as Font Awesome Icons.
- Getting Started With AFC: this tutorial shows you how to get started with the AFC plugin. The website is filled with tutorials and code examples. You can do many things just by copying and pasting the examples.
Customize the Comments Section
The comments section of your website can be a big asset. You can interact and learn from your audience. Sometimes the discussions in the comments are better than the actual content. In most cases, you'll want to make it as easy as possible to comment.
The WordPress core comes with a basic set comment options to handle most bloggers' needs. Navigate to the Settings Discussion Screen from the WordPress dashboard to manage the comment settings. This admin screen allows you to configure the comment features. Do things like:
- Disallow or allow comments
- Toggle trackbacks on or off
- Toggle off email notifications
- Block comments.
If your site gets a lot of traffic, it's feasible you'll get a lot of comments, too. Here are a few resources for better managing comments:
- Basics of Comment Moderation: there are some basic things you will want to do such as moderate comments from the dashboard or from the page.
- Discussion Settings: beginners as well as more advanced users can learn a lot here.
- Comment Moderation: more resources on comments in WordPress.
- How to Highlight the Author's Comments: highlighting author or admin comments can be a helpful for your readers. This simple tutorial shows you how to style admin or author comments so they stand out.
- Facebook for Developers Plugin: allow users to comment from their social media accounts.
- Facebook Comments for WordPress: if the Facebook for Developers plugin is too complicated for you to set up, this is an easier solution.
Style the Comments Form
There are some smart ways you can enhance the comment form.
- How to Style Your Comment Form: this tutorial is a hands-on walk-through on how to manually code styles for the comment form.
Millions of WordPress websites make money from displaying advertisements. Plugins make it easy to control the display of your ads. With the plugins below, creating an ad is as easy as creating a post. You can use them to schedule ads, create filters, rotate ads and more.
- Advanced Ads: you can manage and optimize ads just as easily as you would a new post.
- AdRotate: another easy-to-use plugin that lets you setup banner advertising automatically.
- WP Pro Advertising System: this premium plugin is dubbed an all-in-one solution because it lets you display any kind of advertising you want with ease.
- Adsanity: yet another premium plugin option that offers an easy-to-setup advertising solution that comes with ad widgets, ad expiration dates, stats, and more.
Create a Widget
Traditionally widgets were displayed in the sidebar, but widgets can be added to a section of a WordPress website, too. Typical widgets include items such as Twitter feeds, Google Maps, search bars, and recent posts. A widget can be anything, really.
How can you add a widget in WordPress? From your dashboard, navigate to Appearance > Widgets, to see what widgets your theme provides.
But you may want a specific widget that your theme doesn't have. In these cases, you can often find a plugin to help:
- Google Maps Widget: once installed, this plugin lets you insert a Google Maps widget in any widgetized section of your site.
- YouTube Widget Responsive: this plugin makes it easy to embed responsive YouTube videos in a widget in the sidebar and other sections of your site.
Custom Page Templates
One of the advantages of using a CMS like WordPress is that you can create reusable templates. For example, say you were working on a website for a local music venue. Perhaps you want to create a template to use for blog posts on upcoming events. You could easily create a new post template for events and add it to the theme directory.
The easiest way to do this would be to copy the current single.php file, then modify it, save it under a unique name such as single-events.php. For more information see the WordPress Developer Handbook's section on page template files.
Many of the things that will help you succeed are a matter of maintenance. Below are some tips that can help you take care of the less glamorous tasks involved in maintaining a WordPress site.
WordPress has had the luxury of a robust community. Constant feedback allows the WordPress team to add the most wanted features without all the guesswork. There are plenty of cool editing features that you should definitely add to your bag of tricks.
- Post From Email: why load up the dashboard when you can post directly from an email? Pretty awesome.
- Broken Link Checker: this is a free plugin that detects and notifies you of any broken links on your website.
- Coming Soon Plugin: this plugin is by far the easiest way to add a coming soon or under construction page. A few clicks are all it takes to temporarily switch your front page to a placeholder.
- HTML to WordPress: this tutorial shows you how to make an HTML template into a WordPress website. There are lots of free HTML templates on the web. You can get them at places like free-css.com. With a little bit of patience and finesse, you can convert any HTML template into a WordPress website.
Backing Up WordPress
Having a good backup is like money in the bank. While it requires some advanced knowledge to automate your own backup — there is always an easier way with WordPress.
Use a Backup Service
Use a Free Backup Plugin
You can use one of the following plugins to backup your site. The free versions do not offer restoration services, those are usually paid. So beware. If you don't know 100% what you are doing you may lose all of your files.
- BackUpWordPress: this plugin lets you setup straightforward automated backups of your WordPress site, including your site's database and files.
- BackWPup: with this plugin, you can schedule total backups automatically and choose where said backups will be stored.
- Dropbox Backup and Restore: create a full backup including your WordPress site's database and files to Dropbox. This plugin also allows you to restore, duplicate, clone, or migrate your site.
Moving an Entire WordPress Site
It's common for performance focused WordPress developers to implement caching. This concerns perceived page load time. Some WordPress installations can have quite a large backend. Besides that, squeezing every bit of performance out you can is ideal. Below are some ways you can do this:
By using a combination of browser caching and server caching, you can significantly increase performance. Try the following caching plugins to speed up your site.
- WP Fastest Cache: a simple, straightforward caching system with minimal setup.
- WP Super Cache: another plugin that's easy to set up but does offer more features. Promises "very fast" caching.
- W3 Total Cache: a more robust caching plugin that is optimized for performance and SEO.
The subject of web caching can be quite complex. Take a look at Use Server Cache Control to Improve Performance for more of an introduction.
There are some simple media optimization guidelines that you can follow to ensure that you are using your resources efficiently.
Images can take up a lot of space, especially if you have hundreds of high quality images. There are some helpful plugins that can help reduce your file sizes:
- Imagify Image Optimizer: this compression tool is great and easy to use. This version of the plugin will help optimize all the thumbnails of your images.
- WP Smush: one of the most well-known image optimizer plugins. Does the same thing as Imagify.
Minification removes all unnecessary characters from your code to speed things up.
- Autoptimize: this is a simple minification plugin to help clean up your code.
Content Delivery Networks
If you aren't happy with your site's performance after caching and image optimization. A content delivery network (CDN), also known as a content distribution network uses a cluster of servers to transfer data more efficiently. There are a number of free and paid CDN services you can use to speed up your site. For example, you can host your image files on a CDN for free with Jetpack and activate photon. A few popular CDNs include:
- Amazon Cloudfront: a CDN that speeds up the delivery of sites, videos, and APIs. Integrates with Amazon Web Services.
- KeyCDN: a popular CDN that is easy to setup, fast, and is HTTP/2 ready.
- Cloudflare: a global CDN network that's easy to setup and more cost effective than some of its competitors.
Style the Backend
There are lots of simple ways to customize WordPress. Here are a few methods you can use to customize the backend or admin sections:
- Create an Admin Theme: customizing the admin screen is as easy as making any front-end changes in WordPress. There are plugins to help you accomplish this as well. For instance, you could try the Add Admin CSS plugin.
- Customizing the Login Form: just like customizing anything else in WordPress, this article from the codex details examples of how you can change the logo using PHP, HTML, and CSS.
- Custom Login Plugin: if you don't want to touch the code, this plugin can help you customize the admin login page without doing so.
Create a Multisite Network
One of the best examples of a WordPress multisite installation is WordPress.com. It has millions of subdomains (eg, slicksubdomain.wordpress.com). Want to create multisite network of your own? The Before You Create a Network article is a good place to start.
Create a Social Hub
There are an alarming number of popular social networks. The more social networks you leverage, the more opportunities you will get. Free plugins like Juicer and Flow-Flow Social Stream allow you to display feeds from multiple social media profiles on your website. You use these feeds to create engaging content for your visitors.
Build Web Pages Without Coding
There is definitely a market for drag and drop page builders. They are good for non-coders, prototyping, and speeding up the design process. Another thing some web designers like is that visual page builders allow them to create at the speed of inspiration. This does come at a price, so make sure you have the bandwidth to spare if you are using a drag and drop page builder on a live site. There are many free and paid page builders. Try out the free Page Builder by SiteOrigin plugin to get your feet wet.
Ready to Make Something Cool with WordPress?
WordPress is enormous and there are lots of tricks you can pull off with it. The real trick is to get everything to work as you expect it to. There are tons of ways to manage data and extend functionality. There are so many resources available that anyone with the desire to learn can find answers. So, if you want to get familiar with WordPress, it's up to you to put in the elbow grease. Who knows? Maybe you'll make the next cool thing!
Further Reading and Resources
We have more guides, tutorials, and infographics related to WordPress:
- You Get What You Pay For: WordPress hosting is free, but there are reasons why you might want to pay for it.
- How to Backup Your WordPress Blog: learn how to keep your website safe for those times when things go wrong.
- How Big is the WordPress Economy? The WordPress economy is a lot larger and more varied than you probably realize.
How to Speed Up WordPress
Check out our infographic, How to Speed Up WordPress. Learn about databases, content delivery networks, and more.