Worpress Plugins For Producing Mobile Responsive Websites

Today about 60% of the traffic to almost any website is made up of people on their phones, tablets and devices. That means that your site will be experienced more on mobile than any other platform. Furthermore, there is no sign of change in the future. Each year, mobile browsing will play a more and more significant role in the marketplace compared to traditional desktop browsing.

Although WordPress continues to be a dominant force, it is not typically mobile friendly right out of the gates. Today we are going to go over various ways in which we can improve usability and user experiences

WP Touch

WP Touch is a very simple solution even for users with limited technical experience. This is one of the more popular solutions available. WP Touch works simply. It was made to recognize when visitors are viewing from a mobile device and then display a mobile optimized version of your site to them. Basically, with this solution you will have 2 different versions of your site, One for regular browsers and one made just for mobile. There is a free version of this plugin available and a paid version but even the free version comes with a lot of useful features.

WordPress Mobile Pack

This program allows you to repackage your existing web content into a mobile app for various platforms. The intention is to replace the need to create a whole different app and instead allow us to utilize the content that’s already available on our website. Webmasters can create a professional look that really feels like a native running app on mobile devices.

WP Mobile Edition

This is a plugin that features a complete toolkit to optimize your pages. Different themes are available right out of the gates. Best of all WP Mobile Edition brags that it will work without writing a single line of code. As a bonus feature visitors also have the option to choose between desktop and mobile viewing.

If you are looking to try out any of these, ASPnix provides FREE starter Linux accounts with 1 click WordPress installation. Even paid services are as low as $5/mo. Linux Hosting / Windows Hosting

How to launch a new website with WordPress.

Today I am going to walk you through the whole experience of building a website with WordPress. If you aren’t particularly tech savvy or just have no experience with building websites than you are in the right place.

Let’s get started.

You will need:

  • A domain name

  • Hosting

  • A little bit of time to work on your site.

Will building my website cost me money?

The answer is maybe. How much you want to spend is up to you. ASPnix has a free Linux hosting option if you just want to practice, learn or get started making websites. This is a great option that gives you a chance to try something new without costing you anything. This is especially for people who are just dipping their toes in the web design pond. It can always be upgraded if you realize at some point down the road that you want to do a lot more than just the basics.

My suggestion is to spend less at first. A lot of places will try to sell you a stack of crazy addons and stuff that you wont ever need.

Will WordPress cost me money?

Nope. It’s open source. That means anyone can use it and nobody has to pay for it. Everyone from teenage bloggers to huge companies like Sony, Microsoft, and Disney use it for their websites every day.

Step One: Hosting Service

First we need a place to put our website. As mentioned before, there are various ways to do this. Most of which cost a small amount of money. If you are just starting out look at a cheap or free solution. ASPnix has a $5 per month option, a $50 a year option or a FREE option on Linux hosting. Pick whatever makes sense for your needs and your budget.


Click Order when you have decided on an option.

 

Step Two: Getting a Domain Name

If you already have one, you can connect it to your new hosting service for free. Go right ahead and skip this part.

On the other hand, if you don’t already have a domain name than you might want to spend a couple dollars to buy one to get started. A domain name is the way people will find your site. Try to get one that is easy to remember and isn’t already taken. Different domain names have different prices ranging from a few dollars up to $20 or $30 sometimes. Again, pick whats right for you.

Afterwards, finalize the process. Check out and pay if you bought anything.

In the image below I chose to buy a domain name for $20.00 for 1 year.

Step 3: WordPress Installation

After you log in to your account for the first time, you will see the client area. This is the very first screen you will see.

As you can see, there is still one more step. For security purposes you need to open your email and verify yourself. Afterwards comes installing WordPress.

WordPress is software intended to make your website building experience quick and easy. It was originally designed to help bloggers build attractive websites quickly with minimal frustration. Installing WordPress is actually the easiest part of this tutorial.

Below is a tutorial video of WordPress being fully installed in 1 minute and 10 seconds flat.

That’s it. Welcome to your new home on the internet.

What is WordPress?

WordPress is an easily accessible and easy to learn content management system (or CMS).

A content management systems is defined by Wikipedia as:

a computer application that supports the creation and modification of digital content. It typically supports multiple users in a collaborative environment. CMS features vary widely. Most CMSs include Web-based publishing, format management, history editing and version control, indexing, search, and retrieval. By their nature, content management systems support the separation of content and presentation.

WordPress is freely available software built with PHP and MySQL. It was originally intended to be used by bloggers. Today it is the most used blogging platform and CMS software available. It has grown to become the standard by which most websites are formed and managed. Web designers and non web designers alike use it every day.

WordPress is particularly popular because it is easy to learn, has tons of options and right out of the gates is pretty powerful. It’s ease of use makes content more manageable and pages easier to operate. The software is growing and improving all of the time. People all over the world contribute to its continued development and growth because the software is open source. It is easy to acquire and is free for anyone to use, modify, or improve.

Plugins, Themes, and Addons.

Once you have WordPress installed there is a whole sea of plugins, addons, widgets, themes, etc. Designers, programmers, and companies have created a massive ecosystem around WordPress. Whether you are building a huge E-commerce site, or a small artist portfolio there will inevitably be a plugin that will make your experience better, easier, faster or more lucrative.

Finally, web hosts like ASPnix.com and other hosting providers typically provide free 1-click WordPress installation. If you need help after that, there are a ton of tutorials and resources all over the web for WordPress users to learn more!

To learn more about ASPnix hosting options check out ASPnix Windows Hosting or ASPnix Linux Hosting.

A Comparison of CMS Platforms

When it comes to CMS platforms, there are three that stand out as the most popular of the field: WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. All of the systems boast fast and intuitive services as well as being open sourced. As much of a benefit as this is, it does make the decision making process more difficult. The initial choice is very important, as most people do not switch between platforms and tend to stay with their first choice. To make your decision easier, we have compiled an overview of each platform.

WordPress is one of the best options for newcomers to the field, made obvious in the fact that it is far and away the most popular, with over 140 million downloads. It excels in sites and blogs that range from small to medium sized. Manual installation time runs about 5 minutes and the entire time it takes to set up a blog or website can be under an hour. WordPress offers over 2,000 free themes and 27,000 free plugins, allowing a large array of professional-looking options. Another advantage is the extensive community support that springs from the millions of users.

Cons: WordPress is designed more to support small and medium sized sites, so the larger your site gets, the more server resources are required. Also the framework can difficult to manipulate.

Overall: If you are a newcomer with limited technical knowledge, this platform will be ideal for your needs.

Joomla requires slightly more technical knowledge particularly in coding, but is excellent for e-commerce or social networking websites. It offers excellent native support for online stores and is relatively simple to set up. It is a nice middle ground between the more basic WordPress and more technically complex Drupal. Manual installation takes around 10 minutes to complete. With about 30 million downloads, it also offers 900 free themes and 7,000 free plugins.

Cons: Joomla is free, but does not offer a free hosting server such as with WordPress.

Overall: If WordPress is too basic for you, but you are not ready to tackle Drupal yet, Joomla will be your top option.

Drupal may be the most complicated to work with, but also the most flexible, with even the root files editable. It boasts the most powerful CMS. It does stand at the lowest downloads with just over 15 million, which may simply be a reflection of the technical knowledge of the typical users, as the platform is the most technically advanced. Performance is topnotch with swift response and page loading time. Naturally this may vary as plugins are added. Manual installation takes around 10 minutes to complete. It offers over 1,800 free themes and 24,000 free plugins.

Cons: While the software is free, Drupal does not offer hosting on their servers, requiring you to purchase your own web hosting and domain name. Finding support also can be difficult, as the system requires some in-depth knowledge.

Overall: If you have a basic knowledge of coding/programing languages and are looking for ultimate flexibility, this platform will be a perfect fit.

WordPress Plugin CCTM Compromised

A WordPress plugin called Custom Content Type Manager has been revealed to contain a backdoor which its owner was using to access core files and steal user credentials. The plugin has been installed on over 10,000 sites in the three years it has been available, offering services for creating custom post types.

However, in the past month the plugin abruptly changed owner and released a new version, after having had no updates for the previous ten months. This new version was riddled with problematic changes, including the auto-update.php file which could download files from the server on the infiltrated website and CCTM_Communicator.php file which alerted the owner’s server when a new site became compromised.

The plugin gathered information on the infected site, recorded encrypted usernames and passwords, and sent the data to the core server, giving the owner full access as administrator to any of the infiltrated websites.

Those who have downloaded this plugin are advised to remove it immediately, downgrade core files to the standard version, and either get rid of the CCTM plugin or use the last confirmed stable version (0.9.8.6). Even if you have installed the plugin at some point but never updated it, you may have been automatically updated to this malicious version.

Popular WordPress Plugins

Choosing a theme and plugins for your WordPress blog can be the fun part of setting up your site, but it can also be overwhelming with thousands of possible plugins available and new ones being developed every day. Here are some of the most popular and useful plugins we have found:

Yoast SEO works as a built-in editor to encourage and promote the best writing. It walks you through techniques for readable and consistent content by having you choose a focus keyword for each article as you write it and then making sure you continue to use the keyword throughout your writing. It goes on to show you examples of what your post will look like in search results, giving you an edge on competition to increase rankings. The Page Analysis plugin works as a final copy editor to check that your posts are the optimal length, if your images contain an alt tag with the focus keyword, and if the meta description also contains that keyword. All in all, this plugin optimizes your content for search engines.

wordpress-logo-simplified-rgbFor improving your webpage’s performance and speed, Zen Cache is designed to reduce download time, optimize progressive rendering, reduce the loading time for pages, and more. Search engine rankings will improve with the speed of your site.

BackupBuddy is a secure and complete option for complete reassurance that in case of a catastrophe you will not lose anything from your database, media library, theme files, and so on. Automated backups are easy to set up and will be quick to restore in the case of emergency.

A great plugin for easily adding nearly any type of online forms, from contact forms to surveys and user submitted posts, is Gravity Forms. It is very popular, in use on over one million WordPress sites.

Ultimate Branding promotes your logo, company name, and so forth across your network in place of any WordPress branding. It makes your site feel more unified and consistent. The best part is that this plugin does all the fussy work for you, so you won’t have to worry about writing a single code.

A helpful plugin for reducing spam is Akismet, which automatically catches comments that look like spam and allows you to review the filtered comments.

Envira Gallery is an aesthetically clean and pleasing plugin to create beautiful image galleries. If your site is photography related or tends to be picture heavy, this plugin simplifies the business with responsive design, fast loading, and stunning effects. It even offers a helpful free version, so you can try out some of the features right away.

Sucuri provides malware protection by blocking attacks, identifying spam, and preventing intrusions. It gives you real time alerts to keep you updated with any causes for concern. When it comes to website security, it is always better to be safer than sorry.

Another excellent way of tightening security on your site is Login Lockdown. This plugin limits the amount of failed attempts a user receives. This is helpful for deterring hack attempts, as most are focused on breaking your password by entering multiple combinations.

Using Design to Promote Readability

An important aspect of running a blog or a text-heavy website is readability. This is the concept of keeping a reader interested with an understandable flow of progression and alleviated strain on the eyes.

To start off with, avoid large blocks of text. These are intimidating and also difficult to read as it is easy to lose your place. Separate your text out into multiple paragraphs. This will help ease the intimidation factor of a wall of text as well as provide natural breaks for different topics. Adding in pictures or graphics (with a buffer border to keep the text from crowding around it) or breaking items into bulleted lists will also provide some white space and metaphorical “breathing room” for the eyes.

An easy way to point out the proper path of vision is changing font size. A step beyond this, text hierarchy, uses several sizes to differentiate between titles, headers of sections, and the body. This keeps the text organized and clear.

Bolding or italicizing for emphasis can be a tasteful addition, as long as it is used sparsely and specifically. Inserting bolded or italicized words creates an invisible category in the reader’s mind, so be sure to keep it consistent. In other words, if you have been bolding terms that you then define, avoid bolding, for instance, a warning or exclamation, as it will feel out of place to the reader and be distracting.

Emphasizing with all capitalized letters is usually a bad idea. While it certainly draws attention, it can make the word hard to read and can slow down the reader’s train of thought. In short titles, all caps can be acceptable.

A fun way to add character and style to your text is through changing the fonts so that, for example, the title is more unique and striking than the body text. The best way to make sure this is complementary and not distracting is to keep all of the fonts within the same font family. If your body text uses a sans-serif font (as is typical on the web), look for a title or header font that is also sans-serif. This is an easy trick for finding fonts that look excellent together.

Your line-length or measure ideally should be between 65 and 75 characters. Any longer will make it difficult for the reader’s eyes to find the continuation of the sentence from line to line.

Be aware of your audience. If you need to use a word they might not be familiar with, provide a definition in a non-demeaning way. A simple rephrasing of the word within parentheses immediately after its use is a safe way to make sure you and your readers are on the same page.

Kerning is the space between specific characters in a sequence. Letters like “A” “V” and “W” fit well with most other letters, but put alongside each other can be too wide, creating an awkward space in the middle of a word. This is where kerning comes in. Most design programs have the ability to adjust pairs one at a time, affecting only the highlighted text. Before you begin, make sure kerning is turned on in your program’s type preference menu.

Optimize WordPress Performance

Whether you are running a WordPress blog for high-traffic business purposes or with a more low-key personal focus, you will want to optimize your performance for smooth and efficient running.

A universal quick fix option is to install a plugin such as W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache or our personal favorite, Zen Cache to store your blog posts and pages in a static format to be presented to users. This greatly decreases strain on the server’s processing load.

For shared hosting, your options are slightly limited, but it is still very possible to speed up your site! After caching plugins, look into browser caching. This will decrease the amount of requests per page by storing the unchanging files on the user’s computer, allowing the browser to check if the files have changed rather than automatically requesting them.

wordpress-logo-simplified-rgbIf you run a site with very high traffic, web server caching is more complicated but promises results. It offers a wide range of options. On a basic level, it can cache locally in the background while other more complicated systems use multiple caching servers up front where WordPress is actually running.

Plugins can slow down your performance considerably if you have a large amount or unnecessary plugins. Before you start deleting though, try deactivating each one separately for a time to see the effect on your site’s speed. From there you can discern which plugins to deactivate and delete.

Optimize your theme by looking for unnecessary images or ones you could replace with text. Having the incorrect format for the type of image can also slow your site down. Check that all image files are optimized with the correct form (JPG/PNG/GIF). Reduce the number of files by merging all CSS files together. A plugin to help minify and condense files is Head Cleaner.

Offload static files and images (JavaScript or CSS files for example) to a different server. Feeds also are simple to offload. Google FeedBurner, for example, is a service that takes care of the traffic for you, while still keeping up with feed updates.

Look into free hosting services, particularly for images. Flickr and Imgur are both popular options. The only downside to consider is that corporate networks often block picture hosting websites. Additionally watch out for the copyright rules in the service’s disclaimer, as you might not want to share your rights to original pictures.

For virtual hosting and dedicated servers, check back later for a post dedicated to optimizing WordPress performance on those specific servers.

Securing your WordPress site, Part 1

Blogs have been an increasingly popular way of distributing information since their inception in the 90’s. They provide many benefits for promoting information, updates, and multimedia sources. Naturally if you are looking to begin promoting your business, services, or your thoughts via a blog, you are going to want a secure, trusted method.

WordPress has been growing rampantly over the last couple years as a blogging platform. According to Google Trends, interest in WordPress from 2011 to present has been consistently twice that of other blogging sites. Its layout is understandable and has many options for customizing and personalizing. Clearly it is a trusted and effective platform to blog from.

While WordPress comes with security methods, there are steps you can take to improve the security of your blog and protect it from attacks. Most hackers are not willing to spend much time or effort in breaking into your site. They are looking to compromise your server and use it to email spam. An attack is most effectively deterred by making your site more than averagely inconvenient to the hacker.

wordpress-logo-simplified-rgbFor starters, avoid using “admin” as a username or part of your username. Most attacks target the username admin with a combination of passwords. Eliminate the first part and you will be protected from the majority of attacks. If you already have that username in use, changing this is fast and easy. Simply create a new user and give it administrator rights. Then delete the old “admin” user and assign past content to this new user so that nothing will be lost in the transition.

You have probably heard this hundreds of times, but it is worth hearing again: use a complex password. Consider this: the three most common passwords of 2015 are “123456,” “password,” and “12345.” Be ahead of the curve and pick a password that is not on SplashData’s annual list of stolen passwords!

Change the table prefix from wp_ to something obscure like nho509b_ to make it less accessible to hackers and harder to guess. This might sound complicated to the less tech-savvy, but it can be as easy as a five minute fix. If you are just now setting up your blog, the customization option will be available during the set-up for database details. Simply change the default setting.

Keep up with updates. WordPress is constantly striving to provide a better blogging platform for your needs. Each new version has updated security methods to address holes found in previous editions. Updated versions are released biannually, with more minor updates released following the two major versions.

These steps are a good place to begin, but for the best security, you will want a quality hosting company. Nearly half of hacking attempts are due to faulty hosting platforms. If you are using a shared hosting platform, make sure it offers account isolation. This extra layer of protection prevents one account from overloading the server and affecting your website.

We will soon be posting a more advanced article outlining addition steps you can take to secure your WordPress site, so stay tuned!