Takeaways from April 2018 WordPress Show and Tell

Cleo Parker standing next to screen, speaking about her blogging site
Cleo Parker

For our April 2018 meetup, three of our members spoke about a WordPress site they worked on (their own or a client site), discussing how they built the site, challenges they faced, and successes.

Thanks to Cleo Parker, Jill Myllyoja, and Jim Luke for sharing their insights and experiences with their sites. We had a lively discussion with questions and suggestions for our presenters.

It was a great meetup! Thanks to everyone who attended.

Here are some of the resources and links mentioned during the meetup:

Stop by the Meetup site to check out the great photos that Dave Rotter took during the meetup.

Shoutout to A2 Hosting and Grand Circus for sponsoring our meetup, we are grateful for your support!

Advertisements

Takeaways from May 2017 WordPress Q & A Workshop

At our May 2017 Q & A workshop, our WordPress experts answered questions about website performance, web hosting, styling content, setup and configuration, child themes, and plugins.

I joined Eric Malcolm, Andy Melichar, and Randy Walker in helping our members with their WordPress questions.

Before we broke out into small groups, we had a good discussion among our Metro Detroit WordPress members about performance, themes, and identifying the goal for your site.

Here are the top takeaways from the workshop: Continue reading “Takeaways from May 2017 WordPress Q & A Workshop”

Recap of March 2017 Meetup: Distributed, Working Remotely at Automattic

Our thanks to Howard Dodd for taking notes from our March 2017 meetup.

Two Things About WordPress

  • WordPress 4.7.3 was released last week. Get updated quickly if you’re not on automatic updates. It includes important security & maintenance upgrades.
  • Two-factor authentication service Clef is closing down. If you are using it, you must seek an alternative before June 6, 2017.

Distributed, Working Remotely at Automattic

Our presentation was given by member George Hotelling, JavaScript Wrangler at Automattic, the company behind hosted WordPress.com, Jetpack, WooCommerce, Akismet, and other online services.

George spoke about remote work at Autommatic, how employees around the world communicate with each other, and work together in teams. Here are highlights from his talk:

Why work remotely?

  • There is a much wider job market
  • Quality focus time becomes available for deep thought work.
  • Structured flexible time can be very beneficial to the family.
  • The forgone commute has huge benefits in studied measures of happiness. The equivalent of a 67% raise for a $60,000 per year employee.
  • Automattic’s corporate culture is that all of the employees are fully remote.

Disadvantages of Working Remotely

  • Discipline can be difficult. Many potential distractions exist.
  • You must be diligent and thorough with communication. Document processes and write out thoughts so that details can be communicated.
  • Social isolation – you need to take the initiative to be social and make it a priority.

attendees listening to George Hotelling

Types of Remote Companies

  • Fully Remote – Employees are all over the world. The different time zones need to be considered. Space, autonomy, and authority needs to be distributed to keep things moving.
  • Partially Remote – Usually involves an office where colleagues have occasional meetings. In this scenario it is important to take the initiative to attend the meetings that are relevant.

Where is Remote Work Done?

  • Home
  • Coworking space. This was discussed at length, with many members recommending coworking spaces throughout metro Detroit. Randy Walker graciously published a post with coworking spaces in and around metro Detroit.
  • Wherever!
  • Traveling, out of town, hotel rooms.
  • Even on the road (as a passenger)

Communication is Oxygen!

  • Slack – This is a chat program for office and day to day work. Communication is generally asynchronous.
  • Screenhero (owned by Slack): Collaborative screen sharing tool. An invitation is needed to obtain it. It is highly functional and recommended, with high screen resolution.
  • Google Hangouts / Skype / Zoom – Video chats. It’s very important to understand text vs. video vs. audio. Text is easy to misinterpret. It lacks tone and nuance that could be essential to making a point.
  • IRL – In Real Life! Two or three company meetups are planned each year. Distributed companies travel a lot to encourage bonding and team building
  • P2 Theme: that is much like a Twitter feed. It is generally left open all day and serves as Automattic’s watercooler conversation point. Hashtags can be used to start a conversation thread and it is searchable!
  • Note that emails are minimized. – P2’s are the focus. All of the conversations are dropped into a searchable database and becomes a warehouse of accumulated knowledge.

Everyone who starts at Automattic does frontline support. It is part of the corporate culture and a lot is learned from this exercise.

Thank you to Grand Circus and A2 Hosting for their sponsorship of our meetups!

snowy view of Woodward and Grand Circus Park, Central United Methodist Church in the background
Our view from our meetup venue, snowy view of downtown Detroit

February 2017 Q & A Workshop Notes

At our February 2017 Q & A Workshop, several of our experienced WordPress users, developers, and designers helped answer questions from other members about their sites, configuration, and setup.

Before we started the workshop, I shared three recent news updates about WordPress.

Three things to know about WordPress

  1. If you haven’t updated to version 4.7.2 already, do it ASAP. Over 1 million sites WordPress sites have been defaced
  2. Starting in March 2017, the ads on the commenting plugin Disqus will no longer be free to disable.
  3. Have you seen it? Gutenberg, the first prototype of the new WordPress editor, has been released. Check it out and give your feedback.

Takeaways from Q & A Workshop

Discussion of custom post types & forms to publish a post.

  • Gravity forms is a powerful forms plugin. Can be used to “submit & publish” a post to a website. Note: would require a username/password field. Best for sites where your users get a basic membership/role.
  • https://wp-types.com/ Tool Set as a way to create, re-edit, delete blog posts that a user publishes. More edit features after publish than Gravity forms?

Consider a plugin audit on your site. Review your plugins to determine:

  1. Are you still using the plugin? If no, uninstall it. Any plugin you’re not using on your site can be a liability.
  2. Does the plugin offer functionality that’s available in WordPress core? Consider uninstalling the plugin and using built-in functionality.
  3. Is the plugin updated to the latest version?
  4. Has the plugin been updated in the past two years? Plugins that haven’t been updated in two years can be a security risk. Consider another plugin that is being maintained. Or consider whether you want to adopt the plugin and take on the development

Thanks to Laura Eagin for contributing to the notes.

Troubleshooting a WordPress Site: Where Is My Sub-Menu?

How our members worked together to resolve an issue on a WordPress website

At our September 2016 meetup, we held a Q & A workshop where our Metro Detroit WordPress members can get answers about their WordPress site from other members. Or they can ask specific questions about WordPress features and functionality.

Because it’s community-focused, the Q & A workshop is one of my favorite meetup formats. It’s where we learn about each other sites and what members do.

Our Q & A workshops are casual, with people moving from table to table to help each other. Or just listen in to hear what other people are doing on their site.

What’s the Issue?

One of our members was having issues with her self-hosted WordPress website, where the sub-menu wasn’t displaying.

She was using the Divi theme on her site, one of the drag-and-drop premium WordPress themes, which has a lot of built-in functionality that’s usually provided through plugins.

Divi recently released version 3.0, which none of our Metro Detroit WordPress members had worked with.

Nevertheless, several people stepped up to the challenge to try to find a solution. Which they did!

Troubleshooting

Knowing others go through similar situations, trying to figure out why some feature isn’t working as expected on their site, we wanted to document the steps.

1. Backup the Site

Before making any changes, backup your site. That means backing up both the files and the database.

You can find lots of free backup plugins in the WordPress repository. Additionally, there are many premium backup solutions.

WP Beginner recently published a review of several WordPress backup plugins.

Luckily our member already had a backup plugin installed on her site, so a backup was quickly completed.

2. Update WordPress

You always want to have the most current version of WordPress installed on your site.

WordPress releases major updates and security updates regularly, it’s important that your site has the latest version to stay secure.

One of our members helped to get the latest WordPress version updated on the site. Still, the problem persisted.

3. Update Themes and Plugins

As with WordPress, you want to make sure you have the latest versions of the themes and plugins installed.

Developers update themes and plugins to incorporate new features from the latest WordPress version, to fix bugs, and to add new plugin functionality.

If you’re having an issue that is theme- or plugin-related, it’s possible the latest version will fix your problem. Why waste time searching for a solution when an update will resolve the problem?

Her site themes and plugins were updated, but the sub-menu still wouldn’t display.

4. Activate the Latest Twenty XXX Theme

This is a tried-and-true solution to many issues.

The latest Twenty XXX theme is the default theme installed with every new WordPress installation (at the time of this post, the latest is the Twenty Sixteen theme).

These themes are used to rule out any issues that might be theme-related.

Review in Other Browsers and Devices

At times, a browser or device might be the culprit.

Checking the site in different browsers or on different devices (tablets, smartphones, etc.) can help narrow down the cause of the issue.

This wasn’t the case for our member’s site.

Unfortunately, the sub-menu wouldn’t display in other browsers, nor in other devices.

Theme Options

Many free and premium themes have Theme Options that control fonts, CSS, menus, and other features in the theme.

Voilà!

That was where the issue was, a custom CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) setting was the reason the sub-menu wasn’t displaying.

The existing CSS code in her site was copied to a text file for safe keeping. The CSS was updated, saved, and the sub-menu displayed.

In Conclusion

Troubleshooting the WordPress theme on our member’s site only took a few steps. We were lucky it wasn’t a more involved issue, with conflicting plugins or an issue with the web host.

If you find yourself needing to troubleshoot your site, always start by:

  1. Backing up the site, both database and files
  2. Updating to the latest WordPress version
  3. Updating to the latest theme and plugins

Shoutout to our members Angela Samuels, Randy Wright, Andy Melichar, and Eric Malcolm for their help in troubleshooting the issue!

Photo credit: Randy Wright