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WordPress Coding & Design

Revisiting WordPress Custom Fields

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A few months ago I wrote about Custom Fields in WordPress. At the time I just gave a small example of how these could be used, and a couple of people still didn’t grasp the point of them so I’m going to give a few more examples of using them which will hopefully shed some light on how useful they actually are!

For the basics of using the custom fields in the admin then please read the custom fields post first. Below are just working examples.

Meta Description

Before you mention (or think it), yes there’s the fantastic All in One SEO pack, but I don’t use this for my blog as I don’t need that much extra code running. I don’t think that this plugin is needed for blog posts however, sometimes a meta description is. So instead of adding a full blown plugin for the benefit of a few pages, we can just use a custom field.

So if you set up a custom field for each post that you want to add a meta description for, give the custom field a name of metad and the value should contain the description. Don’t forget, once you create the custom field the name will be available automatically for all your other posts and pages.

Then in your header.php file you want to add the meta description tag in. You can either just use

[php htmlscript=”true”]<meta name=”description” value=”<?php echo get_post_meta($post->ID, ‘metad’, TRUE); ?>” />[/php]

Or, if you don’t want an empty description tag if there’s no description then you can use an if statement with it ie.

[php htmlscript=”true”]<?php $metad = get_post_meta($post->ID, ‘metad’, TRUE);
if ($metad) : ?>
<meta name=”description” value=”<?php echo $metad ?>” />
<?php endif; ?>[/php]

This will only put a description then if one exists for the post or page currently being viewed.

Post Image

A lot of bloggers like to add an image to their posts, and whilst this is easily done in the post content area, you could reduce your work by using a custom field. If you create a custom field for a post with a name of postimage and then the value is the URL of the image (you can still upload the image via the image uploader, but instead of inserting it into the post, just copy the URL). We also need some alternative text so create a second field called postimgalt and enter the text for the alt attribute in the value field.

Then in your single.php page (and index.php, archive.php and category.php pages if each exists and you’re showing full content posts in there) add the image code where you want the image to be placed. For example if you wanted the image to be at the top right of your post then you could use the following just before the template tag the_content();

[php htmlscript=”true”]<?php $postimage = get_post_meta($post->ID, ‘postimage’, TRUE);
if ($postimage) : ?>
<img src=”<?php echo $metad ?>” alt=”<?php echo get_post_meta($post->ID, ‘postimgalt’, TRUE); ?>” class=”imgright” />
<?php endif; ?>[/php]

Note the class imgright would then have the styles:

[css].imgright {
float: right;
margin: 0 0 10px 10px;
}[/css]

This way you would then just have content in your post and your post image would go into the custom fields.

Specify the Language

Last year we created a multilingual site in WordPress for a client, yet still wanted to be able to add the lang and xml:lang attributes to the HTML tag, so we created a custom field called langtype and then used this to insert the correct type ie.

[php htmlscript=”true”]<?php
$langtype = get_post_meta($post->ID, ‘langtype’, TRUE);
if (empty($langtype)) $langtype = ‘en’;
?>
<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd”>
<html xmlns=”http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml” xml:lang=”<?php echo $langtype ?>” lang=”<?php echo $langtype ?>”>
[/php]

This is useful for sites running two or more languages.

Credit Author

Sometimes you may have a guest author write for your site. Yes, you can create them an account for this but then that means you need to leave the account there for the lifetime of the blog (on account deletion, the author’s post will be recredited to the site admin or whoever you select during account deletion). Instead of creating an account for each guest author you have, especially if it’s only a one off, you can create a custom field to credit the author. So for a guest post, create a field called pauthor, and enter the Author’s name. If you want to link their name then you can also create a second field called pauthurl and enter the author’s website (note I’m just making up fieldnames here. Just make sure they’re unique and unlikely to clash with anything else already in the database table).

Then in your template files, where it usually says the author’s name, we can replace this with displaying the guest author, if one exists, else display the post author eg.

[php htmlscript=”true”]Post written by:
<?php
$pauthor = get_post_meta ($post->ID, ‘pauthor’, TRUE);
if ($pauthor) :
echo “<a href='”.get_post_meta ($post->ID, ‘pauthurl’, TRUE).'”>”.$pauthor.”</a>”;
else :
the_author();
endif;
?>[/php]

This would replace your usual “Post written by: Sarah” code. Of course each theme is different so you will have to determine what to replace where.

Alternatively you could just add a line at the top of the post if there is a guest author set eg.

[php htmlscript=”true”]<?php
$pauthor = get_post_meta ($post->ID, ‘pauthor’, TRUE);
if ($pauthor) :
echo “<p>The following post is a guest post by <a href='”.get_post_meta ($post->ID, ‘pauthurl’, TRUE).'”>”.$pauthor.”</a>.</p>”;
endif;[/php]

Conclusion

Hopefully this has given a few more examples of custom field usage to help you understand how you can use them, or for those who haven’t seen them before, given you some new ideas on how you can add unique content to your posts and pages without too much effort.

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A PHP Developer using WordPress to power both blogging and commercial CMS sites. I've written and released a couple of plugins for WordPress and am currently writing plugins for use on commercial websites.

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Will Artificial Design Intelligence Takeover Web Designing and Development?

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Artificial Design Intelligence

The worlds are colliding.

Web designing and development happens in two primary ways:

  1. DIY (bloggers and small business owners buying readymade themes, web hosting account, and setting up the website after reading a lot of online resources)
  2. Agencies (dedicated agencies that create websites from scratch, using manual coding and templates, and these are usually high budget)

There is a third way, which in the next couple of years can replace both the above methods to a large extent. Will it? Let’s see.

Artificial Design Intelligence

Artificial Design Intelligence (ADI) is the ‘third’ way wherein companies are creating technology where a website could design and build itself. In 2003, prior to ADI, Adobe unveiled its suite of web designing tools and the industry experts spelled it as a doomsday for designers.

Will this ADI technology completely eradicate the need for website designers and developers? Certainly not, says David Kosmayer from Bookmark. Bookmark is a website builder that uses ADI to cater to each user’s specific and unique needs. Kosmayer opines that ADI technology will become a productivity tool for innovative developers and designers where the technology will improve and escalate the efforts of the team involved in automating the website development process. He is anticipating a website building ADI revolution with Bookmark, thriving to be at the forefront of this inevitable movement.

David gave me an insider peek into the ADI technology they are developing, scheduled to release in the next couple of weeks. Here it is:

The ADI technology improves possibilities.

I create my own websites and blogs. Now, if I have access to technology that Bookmark is designing, it will simplify my work. It’s unassumingly perfect for eCommerce stores. The ADI asks what kind of store does the user want – from a Bistro to a Laundromat, the user has tons of varieties. Once the basic is uploaded, you can add Focus Groups and Modules, and make the site live.

This ADI technology is akin to a personal assistant that understands my business needs and creates a customized ‘product’ to use.

After Bookmark, companies like Wix and TheGrid have ventured into the AI technology space too.

AI for website development and designing is an uncharted area. Chris Lema has a brilliant article title, Has Website AI Arrived?

The world of content marketing should rejoice. AI technology will strategically and dynamically depend on content to design the layout of the site. Here, content could be anything – article length, article quantity, images, videos and more.

Artificial design intelligence is still in nascent stages.

Who could use ADI technology? Bloggers, digital marketers, affiliate marketers, consultants, and other small business owners will find AI entertaining and useful. This group of professionals is usually a one-man army with a small remote team. It cuts down cost on resources as users will probably use the ADI service on a monthly subscription basis. As such, businesses can focus on branding and generating revenue.

The stress of creating dynamic websites, learning technology, and implementing them is removed entirely.

Personally, I agree with Lema that AI technology for website development and designing is yet to mature. With the coming of chatbots and other AI software, give this a year or two before the artificial design intelligence technology for websites booms.

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How to Stop Comment Spam in 60 seconds with CleanTalk

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Blog comments can be one of the most valuable assets to your blog, but they can also be a huge burden at the same time. Even with Akismet installed on my blogs, I still have to manually go through and remove the junk and spam comments many of my sites gets on a daily basis.

When I login to my WordPress dashboard, I will continually junk like this just sitting there and waiting for my approval or deletion. The majority of comment spam happens because they are trying to get a backlink to a site, either through a link within the comment or from the username.

How_to_Stop_Comment_Spam

If you have a small WordPress site, you might not be getting overwhelmed with spam comments yet, but it’s simply just a matter of time. The worse part is that it’s pretty much all coming in on an automated basis, which means cleaning up your spam comments manually can waste endless hours of your valuable time.

Comment spam is something all bloggers have to deal with, and while there are ways to minimize worthless and fake comments with plugins like Akismet or using CAPTCHA forms, these methods either don’t work or are just too annoying to setup.

CleanTalk.org felt the same way and they wanted to create a comment spam solution that works for all blog site owners, while also having a solution that actually works.

How CleanTalk WordPress Spam Plugins Works

Like most things in the world, you just want the product or service to work and not have to deal with the complexities of how it’s made. This is how most online marketers and bloggers feel — they just want a solution and not have to deal with coding, programming and working with a dev team to figure it out.

CleanTalk is quite advanced on the backend, but super easy to setup and use from a site owner perspective. Through it’s cloud based platform, CleanTalk actively monitors the visitors on your site and makes sure the comments being made, are from actual visitors (not spam bots).

The process of how CleanTalk works, is as follows:

  1. A visitor writes a comment or registers.
  2. CleanTalk plugin sends action parameters into the CleanTalk cloud.
  3. Service analyzes the parameters.
  4. If this is a visitor, the comment will be published. If it’s a spam bot, then CleanTalk blocks this comment or registering.
  5. Parameters are written to the log which can be viewed in the Control Panel service.

Not only does CleanTalk protect your blog comment area, it also covers all forms throughout your site (contact, registrations, etc). When logged into your account through their site, you will also have access to real-time stats on how well it’s protecting your site and showing you what activity is happening where.

How to Install CleanTalk on WordPress

Since CleanTalk is a WordPress plugin, it’s super easy to setup. All you need to do is visit their main site at http://cleantalk.org, create an account and grab your access key on the following page.

After that, all you need to do is head over to your WordPress dashboard, go to the “Plugins” section and search for “CleanTalk”.

CleanTalk Installation

Install the plugin and then throw in your access key and you are ready to go!

CleanTalk_Dashboard

To make sure the plugin is properly installed and running, go back to your blog and complete a dummy comment, registration or contact message with the email address stop_email@example.com and you should then see the plugin react with the message like the one in the screenshot below.

CleanTalk_anti-spam_setup_on_WordPress

You can also head back to the main dashboard at CleanTalk.org to monitor your site comment stats and manage how many sites you would like to add the plugin to.

Get Your Free 14 Day Trial of CleanTalk

You can register on the CleanTalk.org site and install the plugin right away. After completing this step, you will have 14 days of free access to their comment spam blocking service. After the 14 days, you will then have the renew your account.

The good news is that the cost of CleanTalk’s comment spam blocking plugin is just $8 per year, and you can save even more by using coupon code “BLOGGINGTIPS“.

Head over to http://cleantalk.org, create your free account and add the plugin to your site. It’s only takes a couple minutes and it will save you a massive amount of time in the long run. Eliminate comment spam from your site forever!

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The Importance of Responsive Web Design

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Responsive web design is quickly changing how sites are viewed on the internet and on mobile devices. Back when I first started making money online in the mid 90s, everything was so basic and simple with web design… it was pretty much all HTML.

Then in 2007 I started using WordPress to create my first blog and the rest of my sites there after.

However, this was only the beginning. Now with everyone so focused on using mobile and other various devices to browse the internet and with the wide range of desktop sizes for viewing, it’s now more important than ever to make sure you have a site that is capable with all solutions.

I still find it amazing that I can look up sites on my phone or iPad and still come across sites that aren’t mobile optimized or that don’t load correctly. It’s quite a shame and something that really needs to be fixed immediately. Statistics show that 25% of internet users only access the internet via a mobile device. Have you checked how your site loads on a mobile device lately? If not, it might be time for you to invest some resources into your web design and development. By working alongside a respectable design team, they will be able to improve the performance of your site, while making sure it is fully optimized in the process.

Thus bringing us to responsive web design

Responsive web design refers to a website designed to adapt to whatever device a visitor is using. The same applies for desktop viewing as well. You can make the browser bigger or smaller and the content on the site will continue to adapt to your viewing solution.

Most premium wordpress themes are now responsive as well, as it’s almost become a requirement for site owners now.

When it comes to designing and coding wordpress themes, I’m the last guy that wants to deal with these issues. Fortunately there are designers and teams dedicated to mastering the art of design and wordpress.

For those of you who are wondering how responsive sites are created and the various tech specs involved, be sure to check out the infographic below from verveuk.eu.

What is Responsive Web Design

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