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5 Top WordPress techniques

Uncover an essential selection of blog techniques in Part 1 of Web Designer's look at the major web publishing platforms.

01. Add a new header image

Whatever theme is used for a WordPress blog it will come with a default header image. To personalise and customise a blog the header image needs to be changed. The first step is to discover the dimensions of the current header. Right-click on the header image and select Properties to reveal its dimensions. It is easier to replace the image with one of the same size. Also make a note of the image name. Head to Appearance>Editor, select style.css, if not selected, to reveal the CSS code. Locate the header image name, found in the header div tag. Change the header image name to coincide with the new header name. For example, the default Kubrick theme found in a WordPress installation is called kubrickheader.jpg. Change the name to the name of the image, ie newheader01.jpg. Before the new image appears in the blog it will need to be uploaded to the correct location. This will be similar to the following: www/blog/wp-content/themes/default/images.

02. Pretty permalinks

Permalinks are the permanent URL to an individual post and by default WordPress uses a combination of question marks and alphanumerics. The default option is known as Ugly and looks like the following: http://www.mysite.co.uk/blog/?p=463. Permalinks can be customised to become more relevant and offer better SEO. To modify the permalink structure first head to Settings>Permalinks. There are a number of common settings to choose from, simply select and press Save Changes. To create a custom structure, select the Custom Structure radio button. There are a number of tags that can be used including %post_id%, %postname%, %category%, %year%, %monthnum% and %day%.

Changing the structure to just %post-name% gives a permalink a more search-engine friendly URL. However, this is not the most efficient structure as WordPress first checks the URL to see if it’s a page before looking at the post. A more efficient option is to use %post_id%/%postname% as this recognises the URL as a page.

03. Add a new theme

Adding a new theme gives users the option to change the look and feel of a website/blog with just a couple of clicks. WordPress 2.7 users will have to install a theme manually via FTP. The theme folder will need to be uploaded into the wp-content/themes directory to become visible via Appearance>Themes. For users of WordPress 2.8 and above life is a little bit easier; simply start by heading to Appearance>Add New Themes. Use Search to find a theme via the WordPress theme directory. To install a previously downloaded theme select Upload, press Browse, locate the file, select and press Open to add. Now press Install Now; the theme will install, and press Preview to take a look and Activate to change.

04. Extend WordPress with plug-ins

Plug-ins take the standard installation of WordPress to new heights. There are thousands scattered around the web, some very good and some not so good. WordPress has it very own Plugin Directory found at http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins. By default, the directory searches via Relevance, switch the search to Highest Rated or Most Popular to get the better plug-ins. Select a plug-in, press Download and save the file. To add and activate go to Plugins>Add New and select Upload. Hit Browse, locate the downloaded zip file and press Install Now. To finish click Activate Plugin, then press Installed to view.

05. Remote publishing with desktop publishing clients

Desktop blogging clients allow users to publish to their WordPress blog without having to log in to their account. They integrate into a browser making posting just that little bit easier. Before a client can be used an admin user has to enable the remote publishing service in the WordPress installation. Head to Settings>Writing and locate Remote Publishing. Now click the XML-RPC check box and press Save Changes. A good example of a desktop blogging client for Firefox is ScribeFire. This can be downloaded from the website at www.scribefire.com. After installing ScribeFire an icon appears in the bottom right corner of the browser, click this to open the client. ScribeFire will need to be set up before it can interact with WordPress, click Launch Account Wizard to start. Enter the blog URL, select WordPress.com, press Next, select WordPress from the drop-down list, change the API URL to the blog address, ie http://www.mysite.co.uk/blog/xmlrpc.php and press Next. Now add Username and Password, press Next, confirm the blog name and address is correct by pressing Next and Finish. To add a post select the blog under Blogs, add content and press ‘Publish to…’.

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