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7 essential WordPress resources, hacks and plugins

Essential WordPress Resouces

As we keep mentioning, we recently redesigned the Eightyone Design website. Over the long and painful 7 months it took us to get the new site up and running, we uncovered a lot of things we didn’t know about WordPress. Ranging from plugins to hacks, we found there were a great deal of ways you can customise WordPress to suit your needs. So I thought I would share with you some of the WordPress resources I found and used for the redesign of our website:

1. Installing WordPress locally using MAMP

Installing WordPress locally using MAMP

Whenever we are working on a new wordpress theme or on updates to a theme, we always work locally on one of the macs. The best way I have found to install a local copy of WordPress on a mac is using MAMP. MAMP, which stands for Macintosh, Apache, MySQL and PHP, turns you mac into a web server capable of running PHP and MySQL (as the name suggests). After setting up MAMP you can install WordPress on your machine and use it to build or edit theme template files. When you are finished with your template, simply upload it to your web server.

Installing MAMP and WordPress locally is very simple but if you have never used the software before, Tech-Recipes has created a great step by step guide.

You can download MAMP here.

2. Using conditional custom fields for advanced layouts

Using conditional custom fields for advanced layouts

Custom fields are a very intuitive way of creating advanced layouts within WordPress themes. However, custom fields are often overlooked due to people not understanding what they are and how you can use them. Lucky for us then that the pink and yellow blog have written this extremely good article explaining what custom fields are.

The new Eightyone Design website uses custom fields for our graphic design portfolio pages and for the featured projects images on our home page. Once you get to grips with them, custom fields can transform your WordPress themes.

3. Permalink Redirect WordPress Plugin

3. Permalink Redirect WordPress Plugin

The old version of our website (which you can view here) had two separate sections. The first was our graphic design portfolio which was created in Flash, and the second was our graphic design blog which used WordPress. When we came to redesign the site we decided we wanted to use WordPress to power the whole website rather than just the blog. This meant that the structure of our URL’s had to change. However, we had spent the previous 12 months building up incoming links to our blog articles so therefore wanted to redirect these old URL’s to the new ones.

After a bit of googling, I came across the excellent Permalink Redirect Plugin by Scott Yang which allows you to do just this. In a couple of easy steps you enter the old URL structure and your new URL structure and the plugin creates  301 permanent redirects for your URL’s.

4. Changing the default WordPress excerpt output

Changing the default WordPress excerpt output

Excerpts are great for displaying an introduction to an article. We use excerpts to display the three latest articles from the ‘News’ category on our home page. However, I really hate the default […] that WordPress outputs at the end of each excerpt.

Lynne Pope demonstrates a great way to combat this on her blog, a.k.a Elpie. By adding a short piece of code to your functions.php file, you can easily change the default […] to whatever text you want with a link through to the article. You can see how we have used this method to add the ‘Read the rest of this article ››’ text to the latest news articles on our home page.

5. Changing the default WordPress excerpt length

Changing the default WordPress excerpt length

If you have used excerpts, then you may know the default excerpt length is 55 words. But what of you are limited by space and only want to show half of this. In his article ‘Changing The Default WordPress Excerpt Length‘, Jarret Cade shows us a quick hack to the core WordPress files which lets you choose exactly what lengh your want for your excerpts.

6. WordPress Database Backup Plugin

Wordpress Database Backup Plugin

Remembering to backup your WordPress database manually can be a real problem. Fortunately, Austin Matzko has created an excellent plugin that does it all for you. With options to back up the database to the server or by email it really simplifies the backing up of any WordPress blog. You can also schedule a regular backup of the database which is sent through by email.

You can download the plugin from the WordPress Plugin directory or via Austin’s blog.

7. Custom WordPress Login Screens

Custom WordPress Login Screen

It’s not really a necessity to create a custom WordPress login screen, but it is quite fun and can come in handy if you are utilising WordPress as a Content Management System for a client. The guys over at Pro Blog Design show us a very simple and effective way of customising the login screen for a clients site or for use on your own blog.

Using this method, we have created our own simple custom login page for the Eightyone Design website shown below:

Eightyone Design's Custom WordPress Login Screen

There are many WordPress plugins and hacks that we use when building themes, but this list just features some of the new ones I have found during the redesign of our website. It’s amazing how we discover more and more each time we work on a new theme. I am sure that as we continue to use WordPress we will undoubtably learn new hacks, find new plugins and uncover more fantastic resources for the blogging platform. And as we come across them we will be sure to keep you informed!

What WordPress plugins and hacks do you use in your WordPress themes?

Posted by Steve

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Posted on Tuesday, May 12th, 2009 at 9:29 am
Posted In Blogging, Web Design, Wordpress | Tags: , ,

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