15+ Tips and Tricks for Working with WordPress

Last night, I spoke at a joint meetup of Hollywood WordPress and LA WordPress 101. I called it "Everything I Always Wanted to Know About WordPress (but only learned through experience)", but the main point was to give people who are new (or newish) to WordPress some tips and tricks on how to use it, and ways to proceed when they need to start customizing it.

This is my recording of the talk itself, basically a screencast of the slides. The organizers also shot video where you can see me, and if I get my hands on it, I'll update this post.

Download the slides here

Here's a summary of the tips and tricks:

  1. Start with a WordPress.com site. You don't have to install anything, it runs really fast, and it's really easy to export your content into a self-installed installation later. Also, you'll have a WordPress.com account that you can attach to Jetpack to get all of its goodness.

  2. You can edit images right in WordPress. Resizing, cropping, rotating, flipping. The Edit Image button is easy to miss, but it's there!

  3. Screen Options appear all over the place in the WordPress dashboard. They allow you to hide stuff you don't care about, but they also, by default, hide some things you might care about. Don't miss them.

  4. You can use Quick Edit to make small changes to posts and pages quickly, including password protecting a post, enabling or disabling comments, adding tags, and more.

  5. When you first install WordPress, check its Discussion settings. I recommend disabling pingback and trackbacks, since no one really uses them, and they only seem to be attractive to spammers. I also recommend a couple plugins to help disable pingbacks more thoroughly, and stop pages from allowing comments.

  6. Don't install too many plugins. They drag your site down, and each one is a potential security risk.

  7. When shopping for a new theme, watch out for themes that seem to get you 80% of the way there; that last 20% could be a nightmare. Make sure that the theme you're starting with is either designed for customization through child theming, or maybe consider starting from scratch.

  8. Beware of themes that build in too much functionality, especially things like custom post types and widgets. If you want to switch to another theme, you could appear to lose data. Functionality that you want to keep regardless of the theme should come from core WordPress or plugins.

  9. Instead of getting email for comment notifications, you could try using the comment RSS feed that WordPress provides, and watch comments come in via your favorite RSS reader. Holy crap, I'm a nerd.

  10. Use good web hosting. That means a host that doesn't grossly oversell, supports WordPress well, and offers great customer support. I personally enjoy Pair and PairLite for lower-cost, general-purpose web hosting.

  11. Attach a domain name to your website, and use it for your email too. I think most people do the former, but not everyone does the latter. If you're going to publish an email address publicly, use your domain, and forward it to your Gmail/Yahoo/Outlook.com address. Keep control of your online identity!

  12. Keep some basic security in mind. Don't use admin for the administrative username, use a weird table prefix when installing WordPress, don't use FTP to move files around, and read more about hardening WordPress in the Codex.

  13. As you start building themes, you're going to need to understand the technologies of the web: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. More specific to WordPress, you might learn a bit of PHP and jQuery. And then when CSS starts to bug you, check out SASS.

  14. Learn to make mistakes safely. Get a copy of Desktop Server, MAMP, XAMPP, or Vagrant if you're really ambitious, and install WordPress on your own computer so you can mess around with stuff and not worry about it.

  15. If you're comfortable on the command line, check out wp-cli. It's really nifty, and especially attractive to pros coming to WordPress from Drupal (whose drush is the envy of all the other kids).

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