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What’s new in WordPress 3.9

Published by | Thursday, April 17th, 2014

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WordPress 3.9 “Smith,” named after James Oscar “Jimmy” Smith, was released yesterday. This new version of the popular web publishing app introduces several highly anticipated new features that make managing your WordPress site and its contents easier. Let’s break down the key new features of WordPress 3.9:

A more powerful Customizer
The Customizer makes managing the appearance of your WordPress site easier by allowing you to see your edits as you make them and preview your theme configurations before you take them live. With the 3.9 update, two of the WordPress community’s most anxiously awaited feature requests have been added to the customizer to make it “complete”:

WordPress 3.8: A quiet revolution

Published by | Thursday, December 12th, 2013

Today’s release of WordPress 3.8 is revolutionary in the history of WordPress—and a clear sign of things to come from the popular content management system. Sporting a clean new interface, tons of new features, and a new development philosophy, the 3.8 release is a milestone for the WordPress community in many ways. We’re already hard at work updating our WordPress Essential Training course to reflect WordPress 3.8, but there’s a lot to notice in today’s release beyond just what ships in the code.

Deadlines are not arbitrary
Establishing the current WordPress philosophy “Deadlines are not arbitrary,” WordPress cofounder and project leader Matt Mullenweg made a series of bold announcements at WordCamp San Francisco back in July. First, he stated that WordPress 3.7 and 3.8 would be developed in parallel, with firm, preannounced release dates for each. Furthermore, he announced that all new features slated for version 3.8 would be developed as stand-alone plugins first, and only built into the WordPress core code once they were stable. Finally, Matt announced that he’d be personally leading the development team for the 3.8 release.

WordPress 3.6: What’s new, and why it matters

Published by | Thursday, August 1st, 2013

A few months behind schedule, version 3.6 of WordPress is out and ready for you to make the most of. The scope of changes in this release are relatively minor, but the updates are important and will help in your day-to-day work with WordPress. Here’s what’s new and why it matters to you.

Twenty Thirteen: The new theme standard

Since 2010, a new default theme has been released every year, and this year is no different. With 3.6 comes Twenty Thirteen. While the previous three themes—Twenty Ten, Twenty Eleven, and Twenty Twelve—got progressively simpler, Twenty Thirteen goes in a new design direction. It’s aggressively blog-centric with a heavy focus on Post Formats, and it’s a great example of the popular flat design trend currently sweeping the web.

The Twenty Thirteen WordPress default theme

Post Formats are a new feature in WordPress 3.6 that lets you choose unique layout and design templates for specific types of blog posts, such as images, videos, quotes, and regular articles, among others. The Twenty Thirteen theme supports Post Formats by providing a bold, unique visual style for each post so your site visitors can differentiate between the content in each one. In the image above you see the Video, Quote, Status, and Chat post formats on the front page. The Standard post format has a white background. The post format styling is also carried over into the post editor so as you change your post format you’ll see the styling change as you work, and the post formats are now identified using icons throughout the dashboard.

WordPress under attack: How to protect yourself

Published by | Monday, April 15th, 2013

WordPress is under attack and your self-hosted site may well be in the crosshairs of people with nefarious intent. I’d like to shed some light on what’s going on, how to protect yourself against becoming a victim, and what to do if you’re hacked.

A bot-what-now attack?

Over the last couple of weeks, WordPress sites all over the world have been subjected to an unprecedented attack. Botnets—essentially thousands or millions of infected computers working in tandem—are executing brute-force attacks on self-hosted WordPress sites, attempting to log into administrator accounts, and taking over the sites. A brute-force attack is when a computer tries to log in using every password under the sun. While this would take forever for a human, a computer can make hundreds or even thousands of attempts per minute and eventually stumble upon the correct user name/password combination. This is one of the most extensive and wide-reaching botnet attacks ever recorded and it’s targeting all kinds of sites, from personal blogs to enterprise solutions.

Responsive design for all screens

Published by | Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Is your audience getting the whole picture?

Is your audience getting the whole picture?

Responsive design has long been on the minds of web designers and developers, and over the last couple of years, it has become a focal topic among industry insiders and clients alike. Is the site responsive? Should it be responsive? Is responsive web design a good idea, or are we focusing on it as an exclusive solution to a much broader set of problems? Going to web design conferences these days you hear as many takes on the topic as there are people, and a common theme among them is that responsive design is profoundly confusing and complicated.

But does it have to be?

Why WordPress?

Published by | Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Why WordPress?

 

What makes WordPress a good solution? Why is it so popular? Regardless of the question, the answer is the same, and it can be boiled down to three simple words:

Because WordPress works.

Of course, it’s a little more complicated than that. Let me put it into context from the perspective of the three main users of WordPress: the end user, the site owner, and the designer/developer.

 

 

Easy to find, easy to use, easy to share

A poorly kept secret about WordPress is its findability. If someone asked you how to get indexed on Google and you answered “Just set up a WordPress site,” you would not be far from the truth. The way WordPress is built makes it a magnet for search engines and other online indexes. So much so that if you don’t want your WordPress site indexed, you have to take steps to prevent it from happening.

Out of the box, WordPress has great search and share optimization. With the addition of plugins like WordPress SEO, AddThis, and Facebook for WordPress, these built-in capabilities are further enhanced, giving any site the opportunity to become the next big thing on the web. This is provided the content is great, of course. We’ll get to that later.

The purpose of many websites is to put out easily findable, accessible, and shareable information. And WordPress does this in spades. When you are searching for content on the web today, you will likely find it on a WordPress site. If you are reading or viewing content on a WordPress site, you are able to access and interact with that content through comments and RSS feeds. And once you have read the content, you will have an easy time sharing it with your friends on social sharing sites and social media.

 

Easy to publish, easy to configure, easy to maintain

WordPress is a prime example of the virtues of open source. It is built, evolved, and maintained by the people that use it and is therefore in a constant state of forward-moving flux. For site owners this means by simply running a WordPress site and keeping it up to date, they are at any time using the most current web technologies to communicate with the world.

Over the past three years, WordPress has undergone several fundamental design and development changes that have made an already easy-to-use application even easier to use. At the same time it has become more powerful and diverse. From how it is installed to how a site owner can publish content and interact with visitors, WordPress leads the way in removing the barriers that prevent anyone from publishing online. Between WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress, most people with access to an Internet connection are now able to publish their thoughts, ideas, and creations online with minimal effort. With the challenges of web technologies all but removed, the site owner can focus on what matters: producing and publishing excellent content to share with the world.

 

Easy to build, easy to augment, easy to evolve

For me, the true power of WordPress lies in the back end. Whether you are a complete novice or a seasoned pro, building themes and plugins for WordPress will make your life easier and will enable you to do more in less time. I am walking proof.

With a design in place, building a custom WordPress site from scratch—one that looks and behaves nothing like what is expected of a WordPress site but is still just as easy to use and maintain—takes less time than with any other platform I have tried. When people ask me what WordPress can do I answer, “Whatever you want it to do.” And I stand by that statement. At its core, WordPress is a simple interface between the site owner, the database, and the end user. All the stuff in between (administration, themes, and functionalities) is available for the designer and developer to play with and add to in any way they want. And because WordPress is open source, people can step in and contribute to the WordPress community in whatever capacity they feel fit, from answering questions in the forums and building free themes or plugins to contributing to WordPress Core.

The bottom line

Though it may sound like I see WordPress as the be-all and end-all of web publishing, the reality is I am a pragmatic platform agnostic. The reason I laud WordPress and why I love teaching people about WordPress is because I see it as one of the best available solutions for most websites today. I have and continue to work with other solutions including Drupal and Joomla!, but for most of the websites I encounter, WordPress is one of the best options.

Whether you are just starting to play with the idea of publishing a blog, you want to become a web designer or developer, or if you already know all there is to know about the web and you just want to play with something new, WordPress is a great tool to use. It has both the ease of use and the advanced features to suit pretty much any need. And when that need isn’t met, a theme, a plugin, or an extension is there to fill the void.

Interested in more?

Suggested courses to watch next:

Twenty Twelve–lean, clean, and ready for your WordPress site

Published by | Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

The Twenty Twelve WordPress theme, responsively displaying itself at mobile resolution.
The past two years have seen the release of two default themes for WordPress, aptly named Twenty Ten (released in 2010) and Twenty Eleven (released in 2011). Now we can add this year’s addition, Twenty Twelve, to the list. And with it we get a new stock theme that redefines what a stock WordPress theme is and sets a new standard for lean and clean design and coding. But like all good things the Twenty Twelve theme is not without controversy, which makes it all the more exciting.

Less is more

Twenty Twelve is at the same time stripped down and sophisticated in a way we’ve only previously seen in sandbox and development themes like Toolbox and _s. But unlike these themes, which were created specifically to be used as baselines for new themes, Twenty Twelve is fully built out and ready to take on the challenges of pretty much any content you throw at it. Twenty Twelve is responsive, conforming to small and large screens and providing custom navigation for smartphones and tablets; it is in line with current ultra-minimalist design trends, putting content and typography front and center; and it has tons of cool features built in for beginners as well as advanced users. All in all it makes for a great theme whether you just want a fresh look for your site or you want a good baseline to start from when you build your own child theme or full-on custom theme.

If you ask me, one of the most important aspects of the Twenty Twelve theme is its simplicity in design, code, and implementation. When the Twenty Ten theme was released, it was a revolutionary shift from the old and stale default themes. Twenty Ten was simple to work with and had lots of advanced features under the hood like custom background color, custom header images, and more widgetized areas people could take advantage of. The next theme in the series, Twenty Eleven, built on this concept and introduced more advanced features like a custom front page template, a featured content slider, and other elements. However, the advancements of Twenty Eleven came at a cost with the theme being far more complex on the back end and far more convoluted and tricky to work with.

Considering this, Twenty Twelve is a step in the right direction. Gone are advanced features that few used in practice, replaced with simpler, more meaningful templates and tools to make customization and use as easy as possible.

Efficient in both code and display, the new Twenty Twelve WordPress theme is simple and powerful.

Twenty Twelve at a glance

The key features of Twenty Twelve include responsive design and custom phone and tablet menus; a custom front page template as well as full-width and sidebar templates for pages; full support for Aside, Image, Link, Quote, and Status post formats; full Theme Customizer support for all the standard WordPress functions; Google Fonts integration; and the standard header image and background color support we have come to expect from modern WordPress themes. Not to mention a clean and modern design with the content front and center.

Even with all this, the true power of Twenty Twelve can be found on the back end. Twenty Twelve is a leaner and cleaner theme than its numerically named predecessors. This is great for novice theme tinkerers and advanced theme developers alike. The theme provides more bang for your brackets, separating out functions and templates in separate files and folders and wrapping up functions in conditional functions, actions, and filters to make modifications and interactions easier. In my opinion, Twenty Twelve could be the new standard from which child themes and full themes should be built.

Controversy abounds

I say “could be” because quite a bit of controversy has stirred up around one decision made by the theme creators: It doesn’t seem to support Internet Explorer 8, at least not the way that is expected.

Twenty Twelve is fully responsive and ships with a custom mobile menu for smaller screens. This much is to be expected from a modern WordPress theme. However, in implementing the mobile menu function the developers of the theme made an interesting and controversial decision: Rather than setting the desktop stylesheet as the default for the theme and making special media queries for smaller screens and mobile devices, they chose to set smaller screens and mobile devices as the default and wrap the styles for larger screens in media queries. While this is no problem for modern browsers that follow the new HTML5 standard, it is problematic for older browsers like IE8 because the provisional media queries that create the layout for larger screens is not understood by these browsers. As a result, users of older browsers like IE8 get the mobile layout on their full-size screens.

The theme developers argue that this is not an issue for two reasons: One, the mobile version of the site is perfectly acceptable even on larger screens, and two, people shouldn’t be using old and outdated browsers like IE8 to begin with.

While I agree with both these statements, I believe our job as web designers and developers is not to police the Internet but rather to provide great experiences for the end users and educate them in the process. And since we have little to no control over what hardware and software the end users choose to access our sites, we need to provide the best experience possible for all of them regardless of their choices.

We can’t let older technologies hold us back from implementing new standards. In that case, providing a suboptimal experience for users with older browsers would be acceptable. However, the IE8 issue in Twenty Twelve is not caused by this type of situation but rather the choice to set the mobile styles as the default and wrap the desktop styles in media queries. In other words, they turned the theme stylesheet upside down on purpose. Had it been turned right side up, this would not be an issue.

These are the types of issues that arise in open source and they are incredibly interesting and frustrating for everyone working in open source. Unfortunately, more often than not the end users are left in the dark about what’s going on and get the impression that things are not working right. That is not the case at all. The great thing is that these issues are usually resolved through a collective effort, and a solution to the IE8 menu problem in Twenty Twelve is imminent.

If you want to read more about the IE8 menu controversy and get an idea of how these things happen and how they are resolved, check out the forum streams Excellent base for child themes and nav bar fails in IE8 as well as the track ticket. They provide for some interesting reading.

Check out Twenty Twelve right now!

Though it may sound dramatic, do not let this minor controversy deter you. Twenty Twelve is a great and forward-looking theme and a excellent basis for child themes as well. If you are itching for a new look for your WordPress or WordPress.com site, you should give it a spin and see what you think. There are lots of customization options and you can easily make it your own. Once you’re done, post your thoughts, ideas, and questions in the comments below.

Interested in more?
• The Twenty Twelve theme at wordpress.org
WordPress 3: Building Child Themes at lynda.com
• All WordPress courses on lynda.com
• All courses from Morten Rand-Hendriksen on lynda.com

Suggested courses to watch next:
WordPress Essential Training
WordPress: Building Responsive Themes
WordPress Mobile Solutions

WordPress 3.4 update to WordPress 3: Building Child Themes course

Published by | Monday, July 9th, 2012

With the update of WordPress to version 3.4 came some important feature improvements that changed the way certain key components work, including how the header image and background functionality are implemented. This in turn can mean some of the old methods of making changes to WordPress elements suddenly won’t work anymore if you’re trying to apply old code techniques within the new and improved WordPress 3.4 environment.

The issue

Recent WordPress 3.4 upgrades to stock WordPress themes have made a previously well functioning component in my WordPress 3: Building Child Themes course currently non-functional.

Specifically, in movie 2.3 (Creating a functions file and changing the header image size) I instruct the viewer to redefine the height and width of the header image using the following code in a child theme functions.php file:


Unfortunately, with the new implementation of the header-image function, this no longer works. A new filter function is needed.

The fix

To get the result you want without messing things up in the process, a modified version of the code above is necessary. So, to resize the header image in a WordPress 3.4 Twenty Ten child theme you use the following code:

An update is imminent

We are hard at work rolling out an update to the WordPress 3: Building Child Themes course to bring it in-line with the new WordPress 3.4 version of Twenty Ten. Until then, using the code above should solve the problem.

Do you have other WordPress 3.4 questions? Feel free to ask them here and I will do his best to get back to you as soon as possible.

 

Interested in learning more about WordPress?
The complete WordPress 3: Building Child Themes course on lynda.com
• WordPress Essential Training
• WordPress 3: Developing Secure Sites
•  Dreamweaver and WordPress: Building Mobile Sites