WordPress Development Magazine
Practical guide to WordPress development, blogging and programming

If you are looking for WordPress based helpdesk or support ticket software look no more. I introduce WPHelpDesk – first WordPress HelpDesk Plugin done right. What do i mean by done right? Well there are already multiple WordPress plugins that allow to add helpdesk, ticketing system or just customer support system to your site. The plugins come in different shapes (plugins or themes), forms and prices (from free to somewhat expensive), but all of them lack a couple of features that make the support software great:

  • Friendly, personalized customer experience. Usually email that comes from helpdesk software contains some scary, long ID number (that basically means nothing) and also meaningless status fields that only intimidate customers. This is NOT the case in WPHelpDesk. In WPHD tickets exchange for customer looks like normal email exchange, so it is easy for customer to get used to it as he was sending email his entire life (or rather for a last decade).
  • Perfect WordPress integration, just upload, activate the plugin on your site and your done, no customization no nothing. Just activate the plugin configure your inbox and start replying to tickets.
  • Designed for groups, with WPHelpDesk agents always know what to do, which tickets are assigned to them, who is replying to which ticket right now and see whole discussion with the customer.

If i got you a little bit interested feel free to check WPHelpDesk website, i hope you will find it useful in one of your future projects.

Despite SMS technology being almost 20 years old (the first official SMS was sent on December 3rd 1992 in the UK), there is still a huge problem with sending messages from applications. This is usually because there is no unified SMS API or there is no API at all, just SMS gateways.

Some time ago I was contacted by Pavel from TextMagic.com, a service that aims to solve this problem. While the TextMagic service is not free, I decided to write a tutorial about it since I believe many developers will find it useful.

This will be a pretty basic tutorial that shows how to send SMS messages to a WordPress administrator when a new post is being published (this might be useful when you have multiple authors on the blog).

Getting an API Key

Before getting started, you need to register your account at TextMagic. You will get 10 free SMS credits, which is quite nice because it allows you to test the service for free. When done, you need to log in and generate your API password. Finally, you need to apply for a SenderID (apply suggests that the Sender ID has to be approved by someone, but it seems it’s auto approved). Now we are ready to write some code.

You will find TextMagic API documentation at http://api.textmagic.com. PHP SDK is also available, however we won’t be using it since it does not fit our needs exactly, plus we will need just one API function.

Below is the source code with inline comments for a WordPress plugin that will send an SMS message when someone publishes or updates a blog post:

/*
Plugin Name: TM Example
Plugin URI: http://ditio.net
Description: TextMagic Example
Author: Greg Winiarski
Version: 0.01
Author URI: http://ditio.net
 
TextMagic SMS delivery example.
 
*/
 
add_filter('wp_insert_post_data', 'tm_insert', 0, 2);
 
function tm_insert($post) {
 
    if($post["post_status"] != "publish" || $post["post_type"] != "post") {
        // run only when post is published
        return $post;
    }
 
    $isUtf = false;
    $title = substr($post["post_title"], 0, 140);
 
    if (preg_match('!\S!u', $title)) {
        $isUtf = true;
    }
 
    $arr = array(
        "cmd" => "send",
        "username" => "your-username",
        "password" => "your-api-password",
        "text" => $title,
        // recipient phone number, starts with country prefix
        // should be just numbers, if you wish to send it to
        // multiple recipients you need to seperate numbers with comma
        "phone" => "48601xxxxxx",
        "unicode" => $isUtf,
        // from is the Sender ID you registered earlier
        "from" => "TM-Example",
        // make sure just one sms is sent
        "max_length" => 1
    );
 
    $query = http_build_query($arr);
    $result = wp_remote_get("http://www.textmagic.com/app/api?".$query);
    if(is_wp_error($result)) {
        // log error message somewhere
        $object = json_decode($result["body"]);
        $error = $object->error_message;
 
    } else {
        // sms sent
        $object = json_decode($result["body"]);
 
    }
 
    return $post;
}

Please note that TextMagic also offers an Email To SMS service that allows you to send SMS messages without any programming knowledge at all, which is very cool.

The tutorial is now complete; however, feel free to expand on it further by adding functionality that will allow you to check your account balance and SMS logs. Please see API documentation for more details on how to do this.

Let’s talk about all this geeky WordPress stuff later.

First, there’s a breaking news. Scientists have invented digital clothes that can change colors when needed. Imagine buying 2 or 3 comfortable dresses and having them change colors when needed.

That would be great, right?

OK, there’s no such invention. I was just getting the idea into your mind.

Now, replace yourself with your WordPress blog/website and this digital cloth with a theme framework.

Got the idea?

What is a Theme Framework?

If you are interested in WordPress, you must have heard the words “Theme Framework” floating around the internet. Ever wondered what it is?

Well, a theme framework is just like the digital cloth I mentioned above. Here’s what WordPress Codex says about it:

A Theme framework is a Theme designed to be a flexible foundation for quicker WordPress development, usually serving as a robust Parent Theme for Child Themes.

So, the idea is to have a solid foundation for a good design.

This also highlights how a theme and theme framework are different. A theme is a complete package. It comes with a good design and you are ready to go after installation and a few careful changes. When you buy a theme, you are buying a painting. hand it on the wall and you are good to go.

A theme framework, on the other hand is like a blank canvas. You have to paint it yourself or get a good painter.

Why You Should Use A Theme Framework?

One most important reason:

Changing themes is a necessity.

You can stay with same old design for long! In a recent article, Smashing Magazine said that one year is quite a long time for a design these days.

Fine, one year may not suffice but it is fine to change design every two to three years. And that means lot of costs. Apart from visible costs, here are some other things that may affect your blog or website(and which a framework can save you from!):

  1. SEO: SEO is important for any website. This is how search engines find you. With a new design, your site information may change. For example, all H2 tags becoming H3 and other weird stuff. With a theme framework, you do not need to care about this as back end stays same, just design changes.
  2. Loading Times: A significant slow down of website can turn down even the most loyal visitors. If you redesign and then the site gets slow, it would be harmful. With a theme framework, only front end will change which won’t slow down anything. While look and feel will change, speed will remain almost same.
  3. Isolation: When editing themes, the biggest problem is getting an error. And since PHP is an interpreted language, a small error can take down whole blog. With theme framework, all the changes are isolated. You usually edit a single file or a child theme. In worst case, you ‘ll have to disable child theme but your content will still be there! By providing isolation, a framework can make your life easier.

Which Framework to Choose?

I’ll discuss this in next post on Monday. If you have any suggestions, do comment!

Image Credit: kaz k via flickr.

While WordPress Security is very important, nothing is fully secure.

If someone wants to hack your blog or website, they will do it sooner or later. And security is not the only issue. You have other things too that can cause problems like server faults, SQL database corruption.

The best way to be secure is to take regular backups.

Here are useful WordPress Plugins that can backup your blog for you:

  1. WP Complete Backup: WP Complete Backup saves all the files as well as WordPress Database on your server. The backups are stored on random locations and you can manually download them when and as needed.
  2. WordPress Backup to Dropbox: Everything is going to cloud these days. Why not send your WordPress backup as well? WordPress Backup to Database plugin saves all your files and SQL database to your DropBox account at given time of day. You can select where to store files and if any files have to be excluded.
  3. WP DB Backup: WP DB Backup takes regular backup of your database. It can take scheduled backups and store them on server or mail them to you.
  4. Backup And Move: Backup and Move plugin is useful if you want to move to a different server. It allows to store the WordPress installation on different server, domain or sub-domain easily.
  5. VaultPress: VaultPress is not a plugin but a service. And it’s not free. But for $15 per month, it will take regular backups of your blog. You can also get support in case there’s a problem from experts.

These are some of the best plugins to help safeguard your blog.

Know any other good ones? Do not forget to comment.

I’ll give you a phone. A smartphone that is special. I’ll give you this phone:

iPhone 4S

Interested?

Let me make you the deal more special for you.

I’ll integrate your iPhone with all your electronic items in your home. So, you’ll be able to cook food while sitting on your couch playing Angry Birds or Infinity Blade.

OK, now that I’m done with my quota for iPhone reference, let me put this straight.

You’ll love a phone like that can control everything in your home, right?

Now, consider this:

Internet is your home and WordPress is the iPhone. You publish a post and automatically, all your social profiles will be updated about it!

Sounds interesting?

That is exactly what I’m going to teach you in this post, how to integrate your WordPress blog with social networks.

Facebook

I’ll start with the biggest social network, Facebook.

We’ll use Wordbooker for this.

Wordbooker Plugin For WordPress

Wordbooker allows you to cross post to Facebook. You can post whole post or just an extract.

  • You can post to your profile, group or page.
  • Different users can post to different accounts.
  • The published posts show a WordPress icon instead of normal note icon on Facebook. A small but nice touch!

Twitter

Twitter is next in line.

And for it, we have Twitter Tools.

The description of WordPress plugin page reads:

Twitter Tools is a plugin that creates a complete integration between your WordPress blog and your Twitter account.

And every word is true.

This plugin is impressive!

Here’s what all it can do for you:

  • Publish your posts to Twitter.
  • Publish a daily digest of your tweets.
  • Allow you to tweet from WordPress Dashboard.
  • Display a widget of your latest tweets, which has a nice tweet option below it.

Linked In

Linked In offers a relatively simple service.

Instead of a plugin, you just need to add a simple app on Linked In. And then name of app is….. no prizes for guessing it: WordPress App.

Just add app to your profile and enter your blog address.

Poof…. It’s that simple!

Tumblr

Tumblrizer allows you to cross your posts to Tumblr and Posterous easily.

You can post to a group, add tags to your posts(same as WordPress) and independently publish to Posterous if you want to skip Tumblr.

These plugins can help you integrate your WordPress blog with famous social media sites. From now on, all you need is to post something on your WordPress blog and all your social profiles will be updated!

Sit back on your couch and enjoy.

Do not forget to comment and subscribe though!

Image Credit: titanas vis flickr

It’s great time to be a WordPress Developer. You can do design, coding or both and make good money.

If you have good WordPress skills, you can find work for yourself. But where?

That is what this post covers.

Here are some of the best places to find WordPress related work:

  1. oDesk: oDesk is a leading freelance marketplace and you can find lot of WordPress related work there. Currently, WordPress is fifth most requested skill on oDesk.
  2. Elance: This is another good freelance marketplace. WordPress is third most request skill here.
  3. Twitter: Twitter is a good place to look for jobs. Search for “wordpress help” and you will surely find someone in need of help.
  4. Freelance Switch Job Board: Freelance Switch Job Board is a good place. The best thing is that there are mostly quality postings here. But you have to pay $7 per month to apply to jobs. A small trade-off for quality, I’d say.
  5. Smashing Magazine Job Board: Smashing Magazine is a highly respected blog related to web design. If you want to find some WordPress related work, this is a good place.

Any other suggestions?

Do let me know via comments.

WordPress is known to be extensible. You can turn it into anything you want.

What if you are inclined towards music?

Yes, you can start a music website or blog. If you are an artist, you can share your creations with whole world easily.

In this post, I’ll cover some plugins that allow your visitors to easily listen to audio.

  1. WP Audio Player: WP Audio Player lets your visitors play music file that is assigned to post. Upload media file to WordPress Media Library and then assign the song to the post. Once that is done, use [media-player] shortcode to display music player in the post/page.
  2. Music Affiliate Pro: Music Affiliate Pro will prove useful if you write about music frequently and want to earn while doing it. You can use this plugin to easily insert affiliate links to various music websites like iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and eMusic.
  3. oEmbed HTML5 Audio: HTML5 is the future. If you want to play audio using HTML5 player in your posts, use this plugin. The best thing is that it has fallback flash player for browsers that do not support HTML5, so you have got them covered.
  4. MediaElement.js: It is another HTML5 based player that provides fallback through Flash as well as Silverlight. Just upload the file and embed it using

These are some of the best plugins for WordPress that allow you to play audio. Any other suggestions? Do let me know via comments.

No matter who you are, a seasoned expert or a newbie, there will be times when you will find need for some help. I’m sure you know everything I’ll discuss if you are an expert or have used WordPress for some time. This post is not for you.

Getting Help

If you need help with WordPress, here are the places to visit:

  1. Google: Most of the things on internet start with the big G and so does our search for help. All you need to do is enter your question and hit Enter! If you are getting a PHP error or something similar, enter that and you will surely find something.
  2. WordPress Support Forums: Official WordPress support forums are a good place to ask for help. If you have problems with WordPress, and not with any theme or plugin, it is possible that your problem may have been solved already.
  3. Other Forums: You can also ask for help on other popular forums like Digital Point and SitePoint. Both have dedicated areas for WordPress.
  4. Plugin/Theme Developers: If you are having a problem with a specific plugin or theme, it is most likely that you will get help from the developers of that particular plugin. Contact them to see if they can help.

Complaining

If you have a feature request or complaint, you can get your voice heard here:

  1. WordPress Ideas: You can extend WordPress with your ideas too! Yes, literally. The “Extend” section of WordPress.org has plugins, themes and ideas! You can suggest new features here and if community likes them, you may see them in next release(s)!
  2. WordPress Kvetch: Here, you can complain anonymously about any problems you have with WordPress. It won’t be read necessarily. When I visited the page, I had a funny thing waiting for me. The random kvetch read “Matt Mullenwag”!
  3. Developers: Again, if possible, it is best to contact plugin or theme writer.

Any other suggestions? Do let me know via comments.

 

ToolsWhether your job requires you to develop new plugins or set up new blogs and website regularly, this one tip can save you a lot of time.

Why You Should Maintain A Plugin Quick List

  1. Simplifies Installation: There’s this good plugin called Plugin Central by Vladimir Kozlov that can install multiple plugins by name or links. So, instead of installing 10 plugins one by one, you can instead install this plugin and copy paste to quickly install all the plugins. Then configure and go.
  2. Saves Time: Once you find the perfect plugin for a task, it is easy to forget. Who knows when you’ll need it? Better save it in your list. Next time, just check what’s the task and install away.

How To Create Quick List

Simple, just browse the WordPress Plugin Directory for needed plugins and copy the links to a text file or better, Google Docs.

After that, just copy paste when you need to install. WordPress’s automatic upgrades ensure that you do not have to update it ever. Just install the older version and hit update.

Any thoughts and tips about this tip? Do share via comments. And do not forget to subscribe.

question markChoice is strange. When you don’t have enough, it’s a problem because you can’t get many things. And for some of us, enough choice is another problem in itself.

We spend time choosing the best out of available ones and never complete goals or end up being late.

When it comes to WordPress, choosing the best plugin for anything is essential but tedious. There are so many choices available but not all are equal. Many times, I myself had to spend lot of time to find the best plugin for something.

So, I decided to write this small guide.

Why This Guide Will Save A Lot Of Time

If you are a WordPress Developer, then you surely have to spend lot of time with finding and setting up correct plugins for clients. And even though you may have a list of favorite plugins, a client may pop up with some unexpected request. In such case, this guide can save a lot of time that you can use somewhere else.

How To Choose That Perfect Plugin

Magnifying Glass

  1. Write Down Your Requirements: You need to have clear requirements in place before you start looking for a plugin. Just a vague description won’t do. At the very least, have a list of must have features that you need. For example, a client recently asked me to set up events on his blog. He wanted to let users register and then post events by themselves. I made this the primary requirement when looking for plugins and in the end, found a perfect one. The catch, it was not the first search result. In fact, I left 2 other plugins for this because I checked the features first.
  2. Search: Once you have a clear list of features, start searching. The best place to start is WordPress Plugin Directory. If you do not find satisfactory results there, try a Google search(for plugin directory only, using “free” plugins from unauthorized sites can be dangerous!) as results are better there. Once you have 2-3 good plugins, move on. If you do not find any good ones, try looking for premium ones or start thinking about developing a custom one.
  3. Compare: Going with the first result is a mistake that I have done several time. It is better to compare the plugins to make sure that the required features are there. First, read the description thoroughly and check compatibility rating. You may find that a feature is missing or a neat little surprise. Next, check the forum complaints. Sometimes, you may find major problems this way.
  4. Install: Once you are sure about your choice, install the plugin. Set it up and go flying.

Sure, following this process may take a lot of time but rest assured, you will save lot of time as compared to installing and testing every plugin you find.

Any thoughts or suggestions? Do let us know via comments. And do not forget to subscribe.