WordPress Toronto North – Let’s Fix Your Site #7

On the tail end of the worst mid-April snowstorm the GTA had ever seen, 20 of us gathered at the North York Civic Centre for our monthly WordPress meetup: Let’s fix your site #7!  We had 50 people who RSVP’d with several on the wait-list, but the weather won out over some attendee’s plans. The next meetup is scheduled for May 22 (Tuesday this month due to the May long weekend). RSVP now to get a spot and avoid the inevitable waitlist.

We have to keep in mind the capacity for our meetups because there are only 4 committee rooms in the North York Civic Centre:

  • Room 1 holds 30 people at the tables, gallery seating for 6
  • Room 2 holds 20 people at the tables and can squeeze in some seats another the perimeter of the room
  • Room 3 holds 30 people at the tables and can open to include a gallery of 40 seats
  • Room 4 holds 35 people at the tables

We don’t know which room we’ll be assigned until 3 weeks before the meetup so RSVP early and please remember to cancel your RSVP if you can’t make it to allow someone from the waiting list to attend.  It is also advisable to come early to the meetup if you want to score a spot at a table. The good news is that since all of the discussion takes place around issues that are discussed on a big projector screen, you don’t need to bring your laptop (but please always bring your WordPress username and passwords in case we delve into your WP Admin to work on a fix).  

Our organizing committee will keep the meetup page updated as spots become available so keep an eye on the page for our updates as we get closer to the meetup date (always the 3rd Monday of the month unless it’s a holiday in which case, like next month, we move the meeting to the Tuesday).

We started off the meeting by looking at the posts on the meetup page where members had posed their questions and explained the issues they wanted fixed.  Alexia was 1st on the list and she has a 2014 WordPress.com site that she is using as a portfolio for her journalism and designs.  She is having trouble resizing images and doesn’t want to have to resize each image for every instance they are displayed on her site.  

Images in WordPress are stored in your site’s media library and are ‘invoked’ by WordPress to be displayed in different areas at different sizes in a post, on the homepage and/or in the preview (note that in WordPress the “featured image” can be featured as a post header in many themes).  The dimensions of the image in each of these display instances varies so it’s best practice to use a version of the image closest in size to how they are going to be displayed. WordPress gives you the opportunity to resize the image in the media library and when you insert it into a page or post.  

Alexia’s images also had a lot of white space around them so when they were shrunk, the image became too small.  This issue can be solved by cropping the images to reduce the white space so your only dealing with the actual image and not the padding, margin or white space around it.  Alexia can change the background colour to something darker than white while she works on the images so that she can see the size of the boundary (currently with white on a white background, you can’t tell where the borders are).  

Marios showed us a trick to right-click on the image and check the image boundaries the dimensions.  From here you can determine the aspect ratio and resize it without distortion to any size providing the aspect ratio remains the same (1:1 square or 3:4 rectangle etc.)

Margaret joined us for the first time and she is looking to learn WordPress to help out a friend who has two sites that need managing.  Margaret used to work in Dreamweaver but apparently the difference is so vast between Dreamweaver and WordPress that Alex suggested she start fresh with video tutorials from Lynda.com (free with your library card).  Alex recommended the WordPress Essential Training course which is a series of modules containing 5.5 hours of instruction.  Safari Books is another good free reference from the library. Margaret is working on a not-for-profit organization which is taking a lot of her time so hopefully she can figure out WordPress and use it for her own purposes at her organization as well.  

Johnny is a musician who is looking for suggestions on the best music player for his site.  One suggestion is to look for a theme with a player built-in. Johnny is happy with Audio Igniter but isn’t a fan of the hot pink colour that can only be changed if he upgrades to the paid Pro version.  Our members chimed in that vibrant colours are popular these days, so the player would attract visitors and should probably be kept.  

Johnny would also like to sell his tracks and didn’t think SoundCloud was the place to be because you can’t sell on SoundCloud (the question was posed whether you could sell on MixCloud).  Alex thinks that since SoundCloud is a social net for musicians and people who consume music, Johnny should stay on it and try to drive people to his site from there so that they hopefully consume and pay for music on his own site.  

Johnny was also not able to adjust the order of his tracks on an existing playlist unless he upgraded SoundCloud to the paid model. He was directed to the SoundCloud is Gold plugin that will allow him to make modifications.

Foti is in construction with a background in architecture  Currently he is specializing in the design and building of homes that accommodate people with disabilities and/or those who’d like to ‘Age in Place’.  Foti’s website is on WordPress.com and has chosen a theme and inserted some information but wanted our meetup’s impression of his site and what could be improved.  The group found a few issues such as the menu on the top not expanding from the hamburger when the screen size was high. Foti’s images were also very large and not formatted so they were all over the page and causing his site to be slow. This situation is rectified by using a responsive slideshow, gallery or slider to contain the pictures.  It was also suggested that he add more engaging content such as videos and to think more about appropriate themes for his business because his current choice isn’t doing much for his type of business with the super large ‘hero’ image on the main page.

Jacqueline came to the meeting to escape the cold of her apartment which was still out of power from the storm.  She had recently changed her domain and Google Search Console had returned a warning that she had 8 pages from the old site that were throwing errors; Jacqueline now has orphaned pages.  Mainly these were old defunct paged from the old site. She doesn’t need the pages but she doesn’t want the 404s either so she asked for advice from the group. The answer as to what to do with these pages depends on whether she wanted to do nothing and let Google figure it out and stop presenting defunct image pages or whether she wants to use a Redirection plugin that could point those pages to the new site’s home page.  Because she had changed the name of the site, the old pages need new information to point the query to the new site. This is what happens when you don’t clone your site before making big changes.

Jacqueline asked the group about whether there was a plugin she could use to turn off the indexing of single pages on her site.  She wants to have a hidden page for selected visitors and used to use a plugin to hide it from search engines. It was determined that she’d be better off using a content protection plug-in or shortcode to restrict access.  Restrict Content Pro and S2 Members were suggested. S2 can track who downloads what and how many times.

Our next question came from Ralston, a new member who wanted to know how to create a crowd-sourcing plugin.  He wants it to integrate with WooCommerce and has found one but it is old and doesn’t look to be maintained.  Apparently if you come across neglected plugins you are allowed to take it and build on it as long as you credit the original author.  It was suggested that since there are already several plugins that deal with WooCommerce, that Ralston should try to use one of those such as WP Crowdfunding.  He was also encouraged to try to build his own plugin. Apparently plugins are easier to develop than you’d think (the hard part is the integration piece). When you download a plugin zip file, you are essentially just copying it so you have all the documentation you need to work on it.  There is also the WP plugin boilerplate where you can start building one from scratch. If Ralston is going to modify a plugin, it would be in his best interests to build on top of one that uses the WooCommerce stack so that the existing functionality remains and he can capitalize on the Woo brand recognition.  

Julia has a site for her hair academy and had some questions about the builder she was using and what to use for SEO.  The group encouraged her to take her own pictures instead of using stock photos so that there was more personalization in her site and recommended the plugin Yoast SEO.

That was the conclusion of our two hour meetup session and below you’ll find some supplementary comments for our group:

One of our resident experts, Dan, has volunteered to do a 5 minute talk at the beginning of our meetups to offer us insight on a concept, tip or idea related to the web and WordPress.  This quick session will make sure we get some great Developer advice before we commence with the site fixes. Proposed topics for this session include:

  • Introduction to free images – unsplash, burst, etc
  • How to easily resize images with image resizer (no need for Photoshop or complicated software)
  • How to add a video to you WordPress site

Please send us your suggestions in the comments below and we’ll work them into the schedule.

We had a great prize to give away courtesy of Jeremy Choi of WPUP.co.  The lucky winner from last Monday’s WP NY meetup gets one free month of the WPUP.co Professional Plan, value $97 USD, which includes:

  • Daily Secured Off-Site Backups to Amazon S3 Cloud server
  • Daily WordPress Core, Theme and Plugin Updates
  • Daily Security Scans (they perform the scans and remove any malware and infected files)
  • Performance Scans (they scan your site weekly and report on issues and offer solutions)
  • Website Recovery and Cloning (they give you the back-up of your choice from every day of the last 30 days and if you want to make a big change, they’ll clone you site to a development server)
  • 24/7 Uptime Monitoring (they’ll notify you immediately if your site slows down)
  • Priority Chat & E-mail Support for questions, instructions and recommendations
  • Unlimited 24/7 quick fixes and chores (You email them any task that is within the WordPress Admin and their engineers will get it done for you in a few hours.)  

And the lucky winner this month is Julia K.

We encourage our meetup members to try out the WPUP.co service.  There are no contracts and if you try it for 30 days and don’t find it useful, WPUP.co will refund your money. 

Another issue for the consideration is advertising our meetup and how the changing availability of rooms in the North York Civic Centre.  To make sure everyone can easily find us when they arrive at the meetup, we’d like a sign we can put in the lobby of the lower level and we’re asking for contributions towards the cost.

Our committee of experts, coordinators and assistants also incur travel, parking and various other expenses organizing the monthly meetups and so any extra donations would be greatly appreciated to help offset these costs.  For the past two years Alex’s company NewPath Consulting has sponsored the meetup and covered all associated costs including equipment, material and staff for the administration and write-ups etc. Currently NewPath supports the meetup to the tune of $1000 per year. We plan to get signs for the event so the meetup is easier to find. We are accepting donations to fund these signs. $20 is the recommended amount. So please bring a donation at the next meetup or donate by PayPal to alex@newpathconsulting.com

Here are some example signs we would like to get for the meetup group and we hope you can help us out!

Signs for the WordPress Toronto Meetup Group
Signs for the WordPress Toronto Meetup Group