Contact Form 7 for WordPress Tutorial

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There are a few “forms” plugins available for WordPress. This short tutorial is on one of my favorite, Contact Form 7, and the database plugin which extends it.

Contact Form 7 may be downloaded from the administration plugin panel or from the WordPress library. The database extension for Contact Form 7 may be downloaded from the WordPress plugin library as well.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yn3KrUDDmwQ

Finally! WordPress 3.1 is here

We’ve been playing with it. As developers we’ve checked our themes, plugins and widgets. We’ve talked about it in the WP develoepr community. We’ve seen things we really liked and saluted. We’ve seen things we didn’t like and submitted them for changes … and finally, after months of hard effort – WordPress 3.1 is live!

wordpress 3.1 releasedWhat does this mean for you?

If you host on the free WordPress.com site it means you’ll see a few new features like I wrote about at WordPress 3.1 – Developers get ready. That’s really about it.

If you self host or host with a WP developer it is possible, certainly not probable, a few things may break along with all the joys of the new features:

  • Internal Linking – click a button for an internal link and it allows you to search for a post or browse a list of existing content and select it for inclusion.
  • Admin Bar – contains various links to useful admin screens. By default, the admin bar is displayed when a user is logged in and visiting the site and is not displayed in admin screens for single blog installs. For multisite installs, the admin bar is displayed both when visiting the site and in the admin screens.
  • Streamlined Writing Interface – new users of WordPress will find the write screen much less cluttered than before, as more of the options are hidden by default. You can click on Screen Options in the top right to bring them back.
  • Post Formats – meta information that can be used by themes to customize presentation of a post. Read more in the article Post Formats.
  • Network Admin – move Super Admin menus and related pages out of the regular admin and into a new Network Admin screen.
  • List-type Admin Screens – sortable columns for list-type screens and better pagination.
  • Exporter/Importer Overhaul – many under the hood changes including adding author information, better handling for taxonomies and terms, and proper support for navigation menus.
  • Custom Content Type Improvements – allows developers to generate archive pages, and have better menu and capability controls. Read more in the article Post Types.
  • Advanced Queries – allows developers to query multiple taxonomies and custom fields.
  • Refreshed Blue Admin Color Scheme – puts the focus more squarely on your content.

What happens if it breaks?

Before you call me at 877-7000-KEN (877-700-0536) or hit up free online support for WordPress, try the following depending on your error:

  • Login as admin
  • Backup your installation of WordPress
  • Do one or all of the following then refresh your home page (or the page where the trouble is)
  • Disable your plugins either all at once then turn them back on one at a time or
  • Disable your plugins one at a time until the problem is gone
  • Switch to the default WP theme

If you find a WP theme or plugin that does not work after the upgrade or breaks your site THEN you may call me.

Email abuse! How do you manage your inbox?

No, I did not see your email

A few weeks ago I received an important email from a connection of mine. They had asked me to contact a prospect, a small business needing a website that “does stuff”. The email message included the important note that the owners were anxious, had already done some shopping and had their budget ready and available.

It was the developer’s dream. They had graphics, had cash, were ready to add their own content, and needed it all in a reasonable time period for the person who could start by the beginning of February. I missed the message.

Had the man told me he won the lottery and was handing out $1000 bills I still would have missed the message. Why? Every day, at least two or three times a day, he forwards a funny picture, a joke, a sappy story, a slideshow, a link to a YouTube video, or something else he finds interesting to a list of about 80 people. How do I know? Because he never BCCs, he just sends.
email inbox management
I stopped reading his emails months ago not because there is never anything of value in them but because I, like many of you, receive somewhere upwards of 1,500 emails every day. Of course my entire life is spent “online” because that is where I work, quite literally, since I manage several WordPress sites, a few social media accounts and a handful of online referral banks for my company and some private clients. This means my emails are crucial.

So what to do about it?

Hopefully a reader will have a great solution. I have tried numerous email clients, a few online email services, different apps for my ‘Droid, filters, folders, traps … still I struggle with email. For example I recently created a new email address “just for business” which has also been invaded by forwarded messages which mean nothing to me. Oh, they may be interesting but when I spend over 2 hours a day going through emails they really are a bother – not a pleasure. In the end they cause me to either block, spam or otherwise ignore that sender so my stream isn’t clogged. Then, as in my earlier recounted experience, I miss the one email out of dozens or hundreds which is a viable message.

WordPress – the website you can update yourself

Repeat after me, “WordPress is NOT a blog!”

Back between 1995 and about 2000 one of the most costly website jobs to program was a dynamic and interactive website the user could update and maintain on their own. During that period I was able to create some pretty amazing sites, or extensions to sites, for companies like Loomis&Fargo, Shari’s Restaurants, SiGARMS, CrossGeneration Comics, The American Outdoorsman, and many more. Honestly my team and I worked quite diligently to create those sites, mostly eCommerce solutions, to allow the company’s webmasters to update and make minimal changes to the site.

If WordPress had existed back then instead of a few thousand dollars for each site the companies could have had a much more powerful solution for a few hundred or at the most a couple thousand. They also could have been online in hours instead of weeks. So when you try to comprehend what WordPress is just think of a website you can update yourself by adding pages, images, videos, calendars, mailing lists, appointment scheduling, online stores … so much more.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D22BN5M2DSs

[twitter_status screenname=thekencook]

How to Change Themes in WordPress

Making your entire website look completely different has never been easier. Unless, of course, you have hire me to do so for you. Here is the 1-2-3 look at changing themes in your WordPress website. This applies to either WordPress.com or WordPress.org (self-hosted) sites and uses the Themes link inside of the Administrator’s Control Panel (Admin Panel).

Log in to your WordPress Admin Panel (it will be found at http://yourwebsite.tld/wp-login.php or straight to http://yourwebsite.tld/wp-admin/) [Figure A]

Figure A - WordPress Login

Once logged in to your Admin Panel look in the left tool bar for “Appearance”. If it does not look like the image [Figure B] click on the word “Appearance” to activate the script to open the submenu. Then click on the word “Themes” in the submenu. [Figure B]

Figure B - Themes Access

When the screen loads you will see two tabs. One says “Manage Themes” and the other “Install Themes”. Click on “Install Themes” [Figure C]. Now you can search by typing in key words, the author’s name or tags the author used when uploading to the Themes directory. You can also use the check boxes to make selections. The more terms and boxes you choose the less likely you are to get a result. When the search engine sees check boxes it looks for a theme that matches all of the check boxes you have ticked. Check one color, a theme layout preference and click submit.

Figure C - Select a Theme

For the purpose of this tutorial I selected “Blue” and “Right Sidebar” from the check boxes and you can see part of the results which were returned to me [Figure D].

Figure D - Theme Search Results

I like the one called “Pool”. Before installing it I can see a “Preview” by clicking the word “Preview”. This will open a preview so you can see what it would look like full screen. After that simply click on the word “Install”. The newest versions of WordPress (we are at 3.0.5 right now) will present you another option to “Install Now” or “Cancel”. Hopefully you do not need an explanation of those. Keep in mind you are only installing at this point and you will still need to activate the new theme in a coming step. Click “Install Now” and the theme will install into your WordPress theme directory [Figure E].

WordPress Hotfix plugin may be just the ticket

It happens. WordPress is updated then some other crucial component outside of WP is updated and WP “breaks”. In fact it happened with 3.0.5 just the other day.

Andrew Nacin addressed this issue in a developer group release just last night: “WordPress 3.0.5 was released at the same time as jQuery 1.5. Unfortunately, 1.5 has some backwards incompatible changes that appears to break a number of areas in the admin. The timing is awkward and it looks like it was us. It wasn’t.”

Even prior to this announcement Nacin had addressed issues to 3.0.5 in an update to the Akismet install but not everyone runs Akismet on every installation. So thanks to the quick thinking of Mark Jaquith for putting together a plugin called Hotfix which can be used to address corrections between version and minor version releases.

In an email sent this morning Jaquith observed, “first non-critical-but-sort-of-annoying bug in WordPress, and it won’t be the last.” Fortunately, and I think this is a great idea, he didn’t stop there. In fact he created the Hotfix plugin to address future issues just like the one which affected admin and editor level users with certain content in comments.

Hopefully Mark will have the Hotfix plugin updated regularly to remove deprecations and changes corrected by version releases to the core. “This plugin provides fixes for selected WordPress bugs, so you don’t have to wait for the next WordPress core release. This does not mean you can stop updating WordPress! It just means that you’ll get a few selected fixes more quickly.”

Brand Tightening – Online strategy for local business

Let’s face it. A real estate agent in Omaha does not, generally, benefit their business by getting hits from around the world – or nation for that matter. Likewise Montgomery County Plumbing and Electrical probably doesn’t care too much about hits from Fairbanks or Denmark. The question arises, however, “what does it hurt to have hits from around the world to my local site?”

Take off your hat that says it’s cool to have a lot of visitors and think like a robot. Well, actually, think like an indexing engine like the one at Google. Remember, no matter what you learn about SEO or who is talking to you about SEO all of the indexing is performed by a program. That program evaluates every link based on a few key components which include content, relevance to the search term, number of inbound links, number of outbound links, what sites the inbound links come from, and how relevant the inbound link is (which reminds me to write a post about themed links and bounce rates).

SEO exampleOne factor even some SEM and SEO “professionals” fail to consider is geographic relevance of the address on the website to the searchers geolocation and the geographic relevance of the sites linking to the target site … your site. In other words is your site close to the searcher, at least as close as the search engine can determine, and are the sites you link to and which link to you also in the general vicinity of the searcher?

Google isn’t too groovy on handing out a guidebook detailing the inner workings of their indexing engine but through a process of elimination the SEO world (the real one, not the one portrayed on the internet by out of work landscapers and small time public speakers) we have a pretty good estimation of what works and what does not. We know, for example, having links to your page in FFA pages is bad for page rank and a bad page rank does affect SERP. We also know, because we play with proxy servers at different locations throughout the world, Google prefers local on words like plumbing, home for sale and barbecue. We know this because Google gives us local results and a map.

What can you do with WordPress?

Repeat after me, “WordPress is not a blog.” WordPress can be used as a blog because it’s just that powerful. It can also be used as a user community, an online store, a matchmaking service, an inventory control system, a static website (old school), a photo album community, a real estate site, an auction site … seriously.

WordPress is a Content Management System. If you can send an email you can run one of the most robust websites available.

Here’s a short video with picture and words and music and ….

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1Uc2YB-YA4

What is WordPress?

This is a question most WordPress developers, hosts and pundits usually skip past. When moving WP into a new market, like real estate agents and small business people, it is a question which must me answered and really should be presented with “Why You Need A WordPress Site”.

WordPress is, for all practical purposes, a web based application which allows anyone who can type and send an email with an attachment to run a robust website.

You were expecting a more detailed answer? How about a video instead …

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7YyRspWfW4

WordPress for Real Estate

Don’t get ripped off. Don’t pay hundreds of dollars for what is only worth maybe $300 at max.

First question from most people’s mouth: do you have any sites you can show me?

WooThemes - WordPress themes for everyoneHere’s the thing – it’s WordPress. The theme is the site.  You pick your look. Click on the link to the right and choose from hundreds of looks. (Don’t let the word “membership” confuse you. Call me if it does 877-700-0536) Or you can give me $1500-$2000 and I will choose for you. (That’s a joke that many people fall for – by getting burned paying for someone to install one of these themes for that price.)

ANYBODY CAN INSTALL A THEME. If you are paying someone to install a theme it should not be more than about $35. Even to customize a theme’s looks you should not pay more than about $150 including the creation of a custom header/banner image for most cases.

I DON’T GET IT. The other people are charging $750 – $2500 and you expect me to believe you will do the same thing for less than $300?

Yes. They don’t “design” those WordPress sites. They use a theme, create a custom header, install a few plugins then call me when they can’t get it to work right. Furthermore the chances they actually know PHP, MySQL, AJAX and JSON enough to truly customize a theme is highly unlikely.

If you use a Woo theme purchased through me and web hosting purchased through me you never even write me a check – at all. I will setup your WordPress, install all the applications you need for SEO and social engagement to get you started, install your choice of themes and spend an hour showing you how to use it.