WordPress Plugins Essential To Building WordPress Websites

Essential WordPress plugins
What you are going to learn in this section
Learning Level: Beginner

In this section, you are going to learn the essential WordPress plugins that you need to install with your WordPress to boost or power up your website. It assumes that WordPress is already installed on your site, technically in the web server that hosts your website. Some of these plugins are indispensable especially those that protect your site. Some plugins are optional but may be essential depending on what type of website you have.

If you are a beginner, you will be overwhelmed by the thousands of plugins available for WordPress, that in the end you clutch your head with choice-fatigue. Lucky for you now, you will be stress-free because I am going to explain here the some of the essential plugins that you need to install right after installing WordPress, or later as needed. This will save you plenty of time deciding which plugins are best for your website because you will skip the tedious and time-consuming process of plugin research and tests.

The plugins are labeled with the following categories: most essential, optional, and advanced.

Most Essential

Akismet 

Power: Website Strength

Akismet is an anti-spam WordPress plugin for your website. It comes pre-installed upon installing WordPress. All you have to do is activate it.

You must hate spams. You do not want your website to be spawned by hundreds of comments that are not related to your content; instead try to sell their products or services, or invite you to visit their websites. Even if you tick your WordPress settings to moderate comments, your dashboard will be flooded with spammy-comments that are awaiting your approval. So, what do you do? You need an anti-spam plugin on the defense, that before any spam hits your site, this plugin is on the front to defend you.

WordPress says, Akismet is

…used by millions, [and] … is quite possibly the best way in the world to protect your blog from comment and trackback spam. It keeps your site protected from spam even while you sleep.

This is true. Akismet is an indispensable plugin.

To activate Akismet, you need an API key, which will be given to you upon signing up for Akismet. You can get one key for your personal site. Keep this key written on your notebook because you will be needing this each time you activate Akismet. You enter the API key on the Akismet configuration page of your WordPress admin dashboard, which becomes visible after you have clicked Activate. If you already have your key, you may enter it manually. If not, WordPress will do it for you automatically after you have signed up.

Akismet is an advanced hosted anti-spam service aimed at thwarting the underbelly of the web. It efficiently processes and analyzes masses of data from millions of sites and communities in real time. To fight the latest and dirtiest tactics embraced by the world’s most proficient spammers, it learns and evolves every single second of every single day. Because you have better things to do. ~ Akismet.com

Wordfence Security

WordPress sites are attacked by hackers worldwide more than 19000 times per minute. You can view a map and a graph of real-time attacks on wordfence.com.

Wordfence Security is one of the recommended plugins you will find in the plugins section of your WordPress dashboard. In case, you do not find it quickly, on the plugins dashboard, search for ‘wordfence’ without quotes.

Wordfence Security is available free. The premium (paid) version of this WordPress plugin has more features like country blocking.

Wordfence is the Leading Cyber Security solution for WordPress. We provide a Complete Anti-Virus and Firewall Package for your WordPress Website including Two Factor Authentication, a Firewall incorporating Machine Learning and Tools to help Recover from a Hack.” — Wordfence.com

WP Super Cache

With too many WordPress plugins, complicated PHP codes, and heavy images that you upload on your site, your site may not upload fast. If in 10 seconds your viewer does not see anything worth reading or watching, he will leave your site and try another site. You wouldn’t want that to happen. So, to keep your website running fast, your site needs a plugin that does just that. And that is, WP Super Cache.

WP Super Cache is a very fast caching engine that produces static html files on demand, or something of that sort. Meaning, there are cases, depending on user’s interaction with your site, like writing comments, when your site needs to run the PHP scripts rather than just showing a static version.

For more info, go to wordpress.org/plugins/wp-super-cache/.

TinyMCE Advanced 

Power: Ease of Use

TinyMCE Advanced is a visual editor, something like your Word or OpenOffice Writer word processor that has editing toolbars to help you customize your text with regard to the type of font, size of font, alignment, etc. A webpage is constructed with HTML codes called <i>tags</i>. Each element is specific to its use. For example, there are 6 types of headings. When writing a numbered list, you use the right code for that. A link, i.e. hyperlink, requires a specific HTML tag in order for the link to work. So, if you are not familiar with HTML, then TinyMCE Advanced is going to help you compose your content without even having to know a single HTML code.

WordPress is built in with the basic HTML editing toolbar. TinyMCE Advanced extends and enhances that facility so that you can further control how your post or article is going to look like in the front-end, i.e. what your website looks like on the World Wide Web. For further reading about the features of this plugin, read it on its plugin page on WordPress.

TinyMCE Advanced is essential for beginners; optional for advanced users.

Optional

Jetpack

Jetpack is a handy all-in-one WordPress plugin. Instead of installing, say 20 plugins which may not be compatible with each other, install Jetpack instead. Jetpack has more than 30 plugins housed in a single plugin. All you have to do, after installing Jetpack, is to activate the features that you need. Some of its features that I find very useful are:

  • Customizing CSS
  • Installing and changing the favicon the quick and easy way
  • Display carousels, i.e. full-screen slideshows
  • Display tiled galleries instead of just the boring grid arrangement
  • Auto-publish your posts on social media sites (very useful)
  • Display sharing buttons
  • Create contact forms
  • Display related posts

Jetpack, however, is simple but complicated as a whole. What is annoying about it is the protection plugin. If it is on, it can block your own ISP that you yourself cannot login to your own website. To prevent this to happen, you must set your ISPs as an exception.  Your computer uses a range of ISPs. You must know them beforehand. You must also know the ISP assigned to you by your Internet provider. I suggest that you do not turn this on because it is a bit of a hustle unblocking your own ISP.

To use Jetpack for your site, install it then sign up for WordPress.com to integrate the two. Then, activate the features that you need. Complete list of features is on jetpack.me.

Advanced

WordPress SEO by Yoast Versus All in One SEO Pack

Power: SEO

SEO means Search Engine Optimization. When you talk about SEO, it means that you do things to make your website rank on the first page of search engine results. For example, if someone searches for “love the second time around”, your site, if it is about love, should be the first on the list on the first page, or at least, in the top 10. The SEO WordPress plugins guide you on how you can do this technically. Technically, I say, because the other side of it is your own effort to promote your site.

You have 2 choices for this type of plugin. You can pick one.

Both plugins are good, popular, and well-recommended. What makes All-In-One SEO Pack different from WordPress SEO by Yoast is that the former provides SEO integration for e-commerce sites. If you prefer the Yoast version, you can install a separate plugin, also by Yoast, that integrates SEO for e-commerce sites. On the other hand, what makes WordPress SEO by Yoast more useful is that it pinpoints where you lack the SEO factors, then suggests on how you are going to improve your post or page.

For beginners, I would recommend All In One SEO Pack because of its simplicity. If you want to go deeper and wish to fully understand the techniques behind SEO, SEO by Yoast is what you need.

Simple Custom CSS 

Simple Custom CSS allows you to change the plugin and theme default styles of your website without creating a child theme. However, some themes prevent you to overwrite certain CSS elements. In such case, you may need to use the theme’s own custom CSS, if provided; or create a child theme. Simple Custom CSS is a WordPress plugin that adds the styles to the head section of your web page.

For beginners, CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheet. It is where you write ‘codes’ to style the elements of your website. To style means to set the attributes of your website’s elements. Elements refer to HTML tags, text, images, and containers. Attributes basically refer to an elements type, size, position, color, among others.

You can learn how to use CSS on Codecademy.

OK. That’s it. If there are more WordPress plugins that I find useful for WordPress sites, I will add them to the list.

Build A Website In 5 Easy Steps

Building a web site of your own nowadays is easy. Compared to yesteryears, designing a web site would take months and an agonizing period of writing codes. Today, even if you are not a programmer, you can build your own web site. Online CMS (content management system) such as Blogger.com and WordPress.com are web builders that you can sign up with and get your site hosted for free for life.

If you want to be in full control of your own site, go self-hosted. You can do it in 5 steps. Download the infographic I made in pdf. Just follow the 5 steps and you won’t be lost. If you need more information, continue reading.

Be ready with your domain name.

Before building your own website, be ready with your domain name. What is a domain name? Facebook.com, google.com, twitter.com and wordpress.com are domain names. Mine is amikvs.org.  As of this writing, there are over 1 billion websites in the world, and growing by the second. (Check live stats here.) That means, whatever domain name you have in mind, most probably it is no longer available. So, be creative and start brainstorming now before you proceed further. Read this article to help you in coming up with a domain name.

Be ready with at least 5 domain names. Then check your domain name’s availability at whois.com. If yourdomain in dotcom is no longer available, don’t try the other gTLD such as .org or ccTLD or a combination, e.g. yourdomain.com.ph. The idea is that if you cannot own yourdomain.com, better not go for yourdomain.org or yourdomain.ph or yourdomain.com.ph. The reason is that to avoid using a domain name that might have been trademarked already by the owner. Another reason is that, your domain in search engine results ranking will be competing against another domain with the same name.

Sign Up For A Web Host – A Green Host Preferably

Once you already have a domain name in mind, you’re ready to register it. You need to register your domain name so that you can own it. You can do that via a web hosting company. A web host is a computer network company that provides shelter to your website. A website comprises data files such as scripts and images. You put these on a web host so that it becomes accessible via the Internet.

You have to have a web hosting account in order to use the services of a web hosting company. The price of a hosting plan varies — ranging form $4 – $15 a month.

I would recommend green web hosting. Green web hosting uses renewable and sustainable energy such as solar and wind. By using a green host, you show care to your environment.

Register your domain name and open a web hosting account via this green web hosting company. If the promo is still open, they usually give discounts if you sign up for 3 years plus a free domain name for life. In my case, I paid $3.95 a month for 3 years, thereafter, I pay $4.95 a month. They register my domain name amikvs.org every year for free as long as I maintain an account with them. That’s a good deal that comes with unlimited bandwidth, unlimited number of websites, unlimited disk space usage, etc.

Login, Open cPanel and Install WordPress

Once your hosting account is ready, go to your web host’s website and login to your account. Go to your cPanel by clicking the button . Scroll down to the bottom of cPanel until  you find a section called Softaculous Apps Installer. Click the WordPress icon . In the next window that appears, click the button . The WordPress installer provides the default parameters. So basically, just accept whatever is provided by default. When done, your website is ready. All you have to do is to enter the contents of your website.

That’s it. If you need assistance, message me via email or through my social media accounts.

Download the cheatsheet in pdf. Size 5MB. Click to view or right-click to download.

Save

Movie Posters Design Examples

These are 8 movie posters I designed for an event, which had a film festival theme. The event was for a rotary club induction of officers. The challenge was to make the movie posters relevant to the rotary club. I did some research on the areas of focus of the rotary, its core values, and the local projects that this rotary club had accomplished.

All the films presented in the design are fictitious. They do not pertain to any particular film or documentary. The movie titles were all made up except for A Star Is Born and Mulawin, which happened to have movies of the same title. I insisted on using these titles because they are relevant to the club. If the other titles I used happened to be of the same titles of existing movies, it was not intentional. The name of the actors, movie reviews, and reviewers’ names were all fictional.

If you happen to be a Rotarian who is viewing this, can you guess what the posters are trying to depict?

 

Artist Or Designer: Who Do You Hire?

think big concept in visual design

Let me tell you what I can do and what I cannot do; or what I am and what I am not. This is to let you know what to expect and what not to expect from me. That way, you can decide whether I am the right person to hire or not.

First. What I am not and what I cannot do.

I am not an artist. I cannot paint nor sculpt. I cannot draw cartoons, human figures, and animals. I am not someone who creates an artwork as a form of his expression for the purpose of art appreciation. Perhaps, in the future, I can, but not presently.

In the area of digital art, just the same, I cannot draw like what artists can in digital composing, creating visual effects for motion pictures and animation. I cannot draw a clip art, a caricature, or illustration for comics. These are the jobs of a digital or graphics artist. I am not a digital or a graphics artist.

Second. What I am and what I can do.

I am a creative graphics designer. A creative designer is someone who has a knack in visual arrangements and color. The purpose of his work is to communicate meanings and messages using words, shapes, and images. In other words, his work is often times informational. At few times, it is subliminal. But at all times, his work is always visual whether in shapes, figures or letters.

You hire a creative designer usually for business, especially for marketing or promotional purposes to design your marketing collateral or image branding such as a logo or product label.

The following are the things I can design for you.

  • Logo or emblem
  • Business card, stationery (letterhead and envelope)
  • Brochure, flier
  • Pamphlet, booklet, catalog
  • Card, poster, signage, banner
  • Newsletter, magazine
  • Book, e-book
  • Photo album in press ready portable document format (PDF)

Third. Graphics Designer + Writing Skills

When designing marketing collateral, you also need a copy writer. The copy writer is the one who will provide the text for your brochure, catalog, etc. His special skill is that he must be able to convey an important message using only a few words. Better if he can express it in only one word.

For example. Imagine a blue planet that is partly turning red on a black background. Written in big letters are the words “It’s time!” So, what are you thinking? If you thought of the urgency to prevent further the danger of global warming, then you are right.

In contrast, an artist would do it with intricacy like using or applying complex and overlaying curves, lines, patterns, shapes, dimensions and colors. When you see his work, you would remark, “Wow!” There are exceptional artists, though, who also possess the skills of a designer.

I am no artist but my edge is this – I am a creative thinker. I design and I write creatively. With me, you don’t need to hire two people to design and copy write. You only need someone who possesses both skills. And this kind of person is rare. 

Examine the featured image you see in this article. Can you guess what it is trying to say to you? That’s the work of a creative designer, not of an artist.

Last But Not Least, Design Thinking In Mind

Design thinking is not something visual like graphics design. It is more like a process that is solution-based rather than problem-based. When I design a website or a business collateral, I imagine its effect on people. I imagine how people would react on it, and even how the eyes would literally act on it. I like my designs to trigger an emotional or psychological impact. And most importantly, it should serve its purpose as a solution.

In A Nutshell

Creative design encompasses visual design and creative writing with design thinking in mind.

A design should impress you, first and foremost. If you do not like it, why would you accept it? If it impresses you, you believe that anyone can be impressed as well. Therefore, I do my best to design to impress.

A design should express a meaning, a message, an idea, or a thought. A design material or collateral should present an information. If a design cannot express something, then it is useless. Therefore, to the best of my ability, I make sure that my design clearly expresses what it should express.

A design should cause an action. For example, a brochure is not designed just to be touched, read, or appreciated. It should cause, motivate, or impact an action that leads towards the serving of its intended purpose.

What’s My Price

Prices for my particular works vary in time. If you’re a close friend, I lower the price. Sometimes I offer my services for free depending on our relationship, or the worthy cause of a project. To give you an idea, here’s how I priced a long time ago.

Brochure
PHP1000/page. A brochure usually has prints front and back; so that’s 2 pages. I only design one study. Take it or leave it. If you need another study, you pay additional. Whether you accept or not, use or not the brochure, you pay just the same. You pay first before I design.
Poster
PHP3000. My style is minimalist, so don’t expect too much elements on your poster. A poster is meant to be viewed a few meters away from the reader. Therefore, a poster should not be cluttered with too much images and texts. If you insist on cluttering your poster, find another designer.
Magazine, Catalog
PHP1000/page. Ditto my style. However, a magazine or catalog is meant to be viewed at close range compared to viewing a poster. That means, I compromise between minimalist design and information.

You can view my portfolio on the home page.

How To Build A Website In Just A Few Days

With WordPress or other CMS applications, a web designer’s job has become easy. If your job is to design and develop a website, you have saved your time doing the design, coding, and debugging parts because it’s like 90% of your job has been done and tested. The only thing left to do is to make some adjustments on the built-in design to suit your requirements; then, populate the site with contents.

Web development is truly a time-consuming job that requires unconditional patience. For an individual, it could take weeks or months to develop a website. It is for that reason why back then, developing a website was so expensive.

The very first (and only but also the last) intranet site I designed and developed for a pharmaceutical company, if I still remember clearly, took me a month or two to complete it. Truly, it was no big deal, because I could straightly write the codes right from my brain without any documented systems analysis. I think, that’s how geeks do programming. As a programmer then for a big holding company, I would just make sketches on paper to gather and contain my thoughts, then I would go right ahead to my keyboard and start typing the codes.

Good for you and me now because we do not have to wait for a month to put your website online. With CMS like WordPress, I could complete it in a week and voila! Your website is up on the World Wide Web.

For the design part, WordPress comes with thousands of design templates. All I have to do is pick what’s right for you. If the design does not satisfy completely my creative palette, then I can just tweak it.

The First Few Steps

So, how do I go about it, just in case, you’d be my client and you are hiring me to build a website for you.

  1. I sit with you so that we can exchange ideas. First, I will listen what’s on your mind. Then, I will tell you what possibly can be done.
  2. I will pick a WordPress design, tweak it according to your liking using my creative energies, then put it online on a temporary host so that you can view it.
  3. If everything looks good, we move on to finalize it.
  4. If your domain name and web host are ready, I will need the technical specs so that I can upload your site to your web host. If you do not have a domain name and web host yet, I would suggest that you pick one now. No idea yet which web host to pick? I would suggest my favorite earth-friendly web host.

In a few days your website will be up and running on the web. All you have to do next is to put in some contents.

If you prefer other CMS applications, I will study one that fits most your needs. If CMS is not what you need, I will make one from scratch. That means, I am going to design one for you, then build it using the latest HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and anything that is currently useful in the web technology.

If the site you have in mind is uniquely a complex one that requires new codes of programming, then I am not the guy for you. 🙂

Feel like discussing your thoughts? You can start by emailing me your queries to amikvs @ gmail dot com.

Build Web Sites With WordPress

I build websites using WordPress because I can get my job done fast and much easier. If I would build a web site from scratch, it would take me months to develop and design it. WordPress and other CMS (content management systems) has made the web development and design process something like 89% completed. For that reason, not only that I save time, I also save money. That benefits you as well because you would not have to pay much. Moreover, with WordPress, your site is up and online within a few days, a week perhaps.

There are other CMS besides WordPress. Whatever you need, I’ll take a look at what’s best for your site. Read more on how to build a web site in just a few days.

Design Websites With HTML & CSS

If you do not prefer the ready-made web designs that come with WordPress and other CMS, I can design one for you from scratch, so long as it is for a simple website that I can develop with HTML and CSS.

In order not to confuse you between building sites with WordPress and this one, with WordPress, my work is 89% done. If I design a website from scratch, I start at 0%. Web design tackles both the visual layout of a website, its look and feel, coding such as HTML and CSS, and graphics design. Designing a website also tackles its functionality, flow of information or navigation, visual appeal or attraction, impact or effect to its visitors, and the methods to be implemented to drive traffic.

Design Marketing Print Collateral

For your marketing or promotional collateral print needs, I can design your company profile brochure, product or service brochure, promotional flyer, product catalog, poster, banner, among others. For your stationery, you need a letterhead, business card, and envelope design. If your are a new organization or wish to re-brand it, I can design a logo for you. I also design digital wedding albums.

Add An Event To A WordPress Site

how-to-add-an-event-on-wordpress-site
Fig 1

WordPress does not come built in with functions that handle events/calendar events. You need to download a plugin that you can install with WordPress. With the right plugin, you can add an event to your WordPress site or blog. Depending on the plugin you installed with WordPress, adding an event is as simple as adding a new post.

how-to-add-an-event-on-wordpress-site-page-2
Fig 2

There are a variety of events plugins on the Net that you can download or install to your WordPress site. Choose what fits your liking. The plugin that I used for the site Code of Champions is Event Organiser by Stephen Harris. I chose Event Organizer because with it, your event is treated as one of your posts. The procedure of adding an event is simply the same as adding a usual post. For that matter, your event is treated as a post entry which you can categorize and tag, filter and search just like any other post.

how-to-add-an-event-on-wordpress-site-page-3
Fig 3

Let’s begin.

Assuming you have already installed and activated your events plugin, adding an event to your blog is as simple as ABC.

  1. On the left panel of your Dashboard (Fig 1), click or hover your mouse on Events. A sub-menu shows up (Fig 2).
  2. On the sub-menu, click Add New to display the add-new post page (Fig 3).
  3. On the post-page form, enter the details of your event in the blank fields.
    1. Enter the title of your event.
    2. Type the details or a brief description of your event.
    3. In the Event Details below, enter the date the event starts and when it ends.
    4. Enter also the time the event starts and the time it ends. If it is an all-day affair, check All day.
    5. If the event is recurring, specify how often the event is repeated; then select the dates the event does not occur.
    6. Specify the venue of the event.
    7. On the right panel, select the appropriate category. If the category is not given, you can add a new one.
    8. Add one or more tags to your event.
    9. Add an image to your event to catch more attention.
  4. Publish your event post.

That’s it. If you need to make changes to your event, select All Events. Choose the event you wish to change, then edit the details the same way you would edit a usual post.