Update your Blogs to WordPress 3.3

WordPress 3.3 is a major update and is a great refresh of how the dashboard functions. Beauty is in the details as they say and I love how this update has made the back end more functional and streamlined.

There were a lot of little navigation issues that have been bugging me ever since 3.0 was released. Like how there wasn’t a one click place for new posts or the way the left side bard has always functioned. All that has been improved in the admin bar and sidebar drop “right” menu.

Here is a quick video from WordPress on the update.

Enjoy.

Brushing Up on WP Security and Tweens

Recently I’ve been brushing up on WordPress security and tweens online. Two unrelated topics except for me it part on my responsibility to be familiar with both topics.

WordPress Security

It all started on Monday when I saw this tweet from @FunkyDung.

Take 5 Minutes to Make WordPress 10 Times More Secure http://t.co/baRqd4J
@FunkyDung
Eric Williams

These tips are great and I suggest you make sure you follow them to keep your site secure. I was doing about half the list so I’m glad I saw the tweet. As I was going through the process of tigheting up the ship I keep looking for other WP security tips and I found the “ultimate guide” on WordPress security. I don’t know that this is 110% the greatest guide but it was the best resource I found.

If you can’t be bothered to read the post here is a video explaining the 10 tips.

10 Tips To Make WordPress Hack-Proof from guvnrDOTcom on Vimeo.

Tweens

It is interesting for me to be reading about the concerns about kids online. Seeing the views of parents and child professionals there is a lot of information out there. Ultimately my goal is to start contributing regularly to Tween Trends were we know a lot about the tween age group.

At PodCamp I will be doing a session with Rebecca regarding tweens online and the ethics/legality of interacting with them. This is an interesting topic especially as we venture into the mobile world where apps are collecting data from users and kids are using their parents devices.

WordPress Plugin Roundup

Over the past few weeks I’ve had a few people ask me about the plugins I’m using on various WordPress sites. I thought it would be a good idea to write a summary of some of my favorites and some that do a lot of work. You can find these plugins under extend on WordPress.org.

Jetpack

Jetpack is best described as a bundle of plugins used on WordPress.com. released about six months ago Jetpack brought together all the individual plugins released by Automatic including WP Stats, Twitter, Shortlinks, etc. Currently there are 8 features in Jetpack.

One that I’m using for the first time on the PodCamp Pittsburgh site is Sharedaddy. A basic share button tool that adds your social media share buttons to posts and pages. The Stats feature is how I have been primarily using Jetpack, because it is a nice complement to Google Analytics.

One last note, Jetpack has its own website.

Blackbird Pie

The next two are Twitter related and help make integrating Twitter into posts just that much easier. Blackbird Pie is cool because it easily lets you embed tweets without a lot of copy paste or screen cap upload. Once activated the plugin puts an icon of a blackbird in your editor toolbar. Simply find a tweet you like and copy the tweet id or url, click the blackbird and voilà.

Twitter Links Plus+

Next is a very simple plugin that does all the work for you. Simply put an [at] sign in front of any Twitter username and Twitter Links Plus+ will automatically make that text an active link to that user’s twitter page.

Lets say I wanted you to all follow @TableforOne because he’s my roommate and sometimes writes “punny” restaurant reviews. Or that you should follow the @PCPGH twitter account so you are always up-to-date on this great event.

Fast Secure Contact Form

Hands down the best contact form plugin I’ve used, because of its ability to add custom fields to the form. From extra phone number fields, to radio or check boxes this plugin can do it all. You can add prefilled information as examples or instructions, add extra html before or after a field, make a field required or not, rename everything, and insert them into any post or page with a simple short code. The plugin checks with Akismit to keep spammers out of your form and if that isn’t enough you can easily add a CAPTCHA. Additional features includes silent remote sending, data export, styling (css), tool tips, custom error messages, and backup.

I would say this plugin is for intermediate to advanced users simply by the fact it has so much going on. However, if you need a simple form with CAPTCHA enabled don’t be intimidated, because this plugin is awesome. If you want to see an example of the plugin in action visit the PodCamp Pittsburgh site and look at the Session Submission or the Volunteer Signup pages.

Edit Flow

Finally, a plugin I haven’t used but looks interesting. I don’t have much to say about Edit Flow other than it’s meant for sites that want to work like newspapers and magazines with editors and multiple contributors. A short list of features include custom statuses, editorial comments, email notifications and user groups. I don’t have a project that would take advantage of this type of feature but it looks solid. Edit Flow also has its own website.

Well that is the roundup. Of course I’m using many more plugins but we’ll save some for another post.

WordPress 3.2 Brings A Backend Refresh

Codenamed “Gershwin” this update is a major release and it feels like one with the dashboard redesign. As I type this post (the first in the new editor) I’ve got to say there are major and subtle changes that really make composing a better experience. To see the big picture updates watch the video from WordPress below.

In the Details

My illustrator friend Jake Thomas always reminds me that great work is in the details. Keeping an eye on the subtle design adjustments to the dashboard mark this as a great release. The adjustments to the size of text in the dashboard makes reading easier.

See how the title of the post is the largest element. The title and current page you are working on are clear and easy to read at a glance. The name of your blog isn’t information that you need to see big and bold. See what it used to look like, taking up more space and not directing your eye what to read first.

Another little feature I like is the change in typeface when you switch between visual and html editors. Making it clear what mode you are in.

The Workspace

Next lets take a quick look at the side bar. This change makes viewing the screen easier and helps you to focus on writing content. Look at the example, the gray palate is more subtle than the more contrasty 3.0 design. Each box in the previous version is calling for your attention. The revision is smother, has fewer colors, and improved typographic implementation.

So what do I mean by smoother? In the previous design, the sidebar and main editor share a similar color style. Dark gray area above a white content box. In 3.2 the editor has a darker gray than the headers in the sidebar, and the sidebar doesn’t put a white box below each header. Giving the content area it’s own look, softer color scheme and helping you focus easier on the content.

A quick note – the full screen composer is very cool as it gives you a feeling as though you are working in a word processing program.

Room for Improvement

While I think this is a great refresh I do think there is some room for improvement in the general settings tab. Reading and viewing settings seems to have lost some readability in 3.2. While I haven’t spent a lot of time in the settings yet I feel that the leading is too tight in between options and in some instances the columns are too spaced out.

On the whole I like this update. A very modern design that is constantly getting better.