WordPress – 1stWebDesigner https://1stwebdesigner.com Helping You Build a Better Web Thu, 20 Sep 2018 14:19:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 10 Free Tools for Maintaining Your WordPress Website https://1stwebdesigner.com/free-tools-maintaining-wordpress-website/ https://1stwebdesigner.com/free-tools-maintaining-wordpress-website/#comments Mon, 20 Aug 2018 19:10:02 +0000 http://1stwebdesigner.com/?p=128619 Keeping up with updates to core, plugins and themes are crucial. But there are other items that should also be kept in mind. Your site’s database, security, file structure and overall performance all should be kept in tip-top shape as well.

Let’s have a look at ten free tools that run across the entire spectrum of keeping your WordPress website humming along.

Wordfence Security

Wordfence is a security suite for your WordPress website. The plugin includes a firewall, daily security scans, and malicious login protection. But there are some other handy features, such as alerting you when WordPress core, plugins and themes have available updates. With a large user base (over 1 million installs), this plugin is a great security resource.

Wordfence Security


A jack-of-all-trades for your site’s database, WP-DBManager will back up, restore, repair and optimize it all from within WordPress. Backups are stored on your server and can also be emailed directly to you at a regular schedule of your choosing.


UpdraftPlus WordPress Backup Plugin

With UpdraftPlus you can back up your entire WordPress site (file structure and database) manually or set your own schedule. The plugin works with 3rd party services like Google Drive, DropBox and Amazon S3 so that you can easily store backups in the cloud.

UpdraftPlus WordPress Backup Plugin

Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions

A healthy database is an important part of overall site performance. This plugin will automatically remove things that can gunk up your database like redundant post revisions, trashed posts, spam comments, pingbacks and trackbacks. You can schedule optimization at automatic intervals.

Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions

Theme Check

If you create your own themes, or are just curious about the one you’re using, Theme Check is a very handy utility. It checks to ensure that your theme is using the latest WordPress standards. The tests are the very same ones WordPress.org runs when reviewing submitted themes.

Theme Check

Google Pagespeed Insights for WordPress

Learn more about how your site is performing with Google Pagespeed Insights. You’ll get visual data right inside WordPress that will help you increase performance and better your search engine rankings.

Google Pagespeed Insights for WordPress

PHP/MySQL CPU Performance Statistics

This plugin will give you a sense of how your server is performing. Tests run various calculations to gauge PHP and MySQL server performance. Network tests can also be run to see how well your server is responding to requests.

PHP/MySQL CPU Performance Statistics

WP Updates Notifier

If you don’t login to your website every day, you could miss out on critical updates. WP Updates Notifier will send you hourly, daily or twice daily emails whenever WordPress core, plugins or themes have new versions. You can even choose the type of updates you want to be notified about.

WP Updates Notifier

Broken Link Checker

One of those indispensible plugins for large sites, Broken Link Checker checks your content for broken links and images. If any issues are found, you’ll receive a notification via the WordPress Dashboard or email.

Broken Link Checker

ManageWP Worker

If you’re managing multiple WordPress installs, ManageWP’s free dashboard service is incredibly handy. You’ll be able to keep your sites updated all from a single, unified interface. The free version of their service also offers monthly backups, on-demand security scans and performance reports.

ManageWP Worker

Taking Care of Business

Having a WordPress website (or that of any other CMS) is hardly a ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ type of deal. To keep it updated and running smoothly requires some attention and effort. The plugins profiled above will help you stay on top of things.

Follow their lead, and your site will be in such good health that others will come to you for advice!

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10 Beautifully Minimal WooCommerce Themes https://1stwebdesigner.com/minimal-woocommerce-themes/ https://1stwebdesigner.com/minimal-woocommerce-themes/#comments Mon, 13 Aug 2018 21:20:14 +0000 https://1stwebdesigner.com/?p=132148 WooCommerce has become incredibly popular over the years – and for good reason. The venerable plugin turns any WordPress website into an eCommerce powerhouse. It’s extensible and can be used to sell just about any type of physical or digital product.

Another facet to love about WooCommerce is the flexibility you have with regards to design. All you need is a compatible WordPress theme. With that, you can create a website that looks and functions every bit as good as some of the biggest names in online shopping.

Today, we’ll focus on WooCommerce compatible themes that feature a minimalist style. Their use of whitespace and clean layout will help to draw attention to your products. Plus, they pack features that will provide shoppers with plenty of useful functionality.

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Sober features 12+ home page designs – including a stunning minimal look that lets shoppers get right down to business.

You’ll also find a handy live-search feature, product quick views and mega menus for easier navigation. There are several options for header styles – including a ‘sticky’ header. Copies of Visual Composer and Revolution Slider are included.



Depot brings a high-end, minimal style to your online shop. There are a dozen home page layouts to choose from – making it easy to find your perfect match. Product listings can be filtered and the ‘Quick Look’ feature encourages customers to explore everything you have to offer.

You’ll find several layout possibilities for individual product pages, as well. The included Visual Composer and Revolution Slider sweeten the deal.



Unero utilizes AJAX to enhance the user experience with features like a robust product filtering engine. It’s lightning-fast and will help shoppers find exactly what they’re looking for.

Other must-haves include the ability to create color, image and label swatches for your products, live search, featured product videos and product quick view. Visual Composer is included, as is the theme’s PSD file.



iOne offers a variety of slick home page layouts and some outstanding navigational functionality. Vertical mega menus (via the included Clever Mega Menus plugin) are great for shops with lots of categories. The AJAX powered shopping cart means that customers don’t have to leave the current page when adding an item to their cart.

You’ll also get an advanced product filtering engine. Instagram integration allows fan photos to display on your site. Included with the theme is a copy of Visual Composer and a child theme.



WizeStore sports an incredibly clean and classy look, along with the ability to customize several aspects of the theme. For example, you can choose from multiple shop and product page layouts and there’s also a way to build your own custom header layouts.

Visual Composer allows for building complex page layouts without code and there are plenty of custom Shortcodes available, as well. Revolution Slider is also included.



Mnml is (as its name indicates) a cool, minimal WordPress theme. It’s got a dead-simple layout that is also quite effective at showcasing products. Inside, you’ll find three home page layouts, a handsome newsletter signup form and parallax scrolling effects. Product Lookbooks enable you to create beautiful, full-width photo galleries of your goods. Visual Composer is included, as are a selection of custom widgets.



Rubino offers a really sharp look and some unique functionality. One standout is their product builder, which lets you easily customize the layout of the product page. Title, images and positioning can all be tweaked to your heart’s content.

Elsewhere, the theme features 12 home page layouts, AJAX product filtering and image hotspots – which allow for interactive images via an included plugin. Also, be sure to check out the beautiful mega menus. Visual Composer, Slider Revolution and PSD files are also included.



Vinero is billed as a multi-use theme – a WooCommerce shop being one of them. The look is understated, yet makes a great impact. The use of large images ensures that products take center stage. You’ll find multiple page layouts, parallax scrolling, multiple header/footer styles and support for the WordPress Customizer.

Included are copies of Visual Composer (and Ultimate VC Addons), Revolution Slider and support for Advance Custom Fields Pro.



Franco is an ecommerce theme that includes 16+ home page layouts – each with a unique and compelling look. Also inside are attractive mega menus, multiple shop and product layouts, a product wishlist and AJAX filtering.

Store locator functionality is included for those with a brick-and-mortar presence. Multiple custom Shortcodes are built in to make quick work of adding common design elements. Visual Composer (plus Ultimate Addons), Slider Revolution and the ability to access PSD files are included with the theme.



Oasis features 9+ home page layouts that skew towards the fashion/home industries. Whichever look you choose, the theme is quite beautiful. Typography is well-done and color design accents help to bring attention to the right places.

Useful extras including product photo zoom, mega menus, advanced product filtering and custom swatches complete the high-end shopping experience. Visual Composer and Revolution Slider are included.


Sell with Style

It really is amazing what you can accomplish with WooCommerce and the right WordPress theme. An online shop with real world convenience and functionality is within the reach of everybody.

Not to mention the fantastic look and layout options like those we covered above. Add in simple management on the back end and it’s easy to see why more store owners are turning to WooCommerce.

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When to Forgo Stock WordPress Plugins and Build It Yourself https://1stwebdesigner.com/wordpress-build-it-yourself/ https://1stwebdesigner.com/wordpress-build-it-yourself/#respond Sun, 05 Aug 2018 20:45:32 +0000 https://1stwebdesigner.com/?p=138887 One of the biggest benefits of using WordPress is that you have access to tens of thousands of plugins – including a ton of free options. Plugins enable us to add complicated features such as eCommerce, forms or even a full-blown knowledgebase with just a few clicks.

But you may find yourself in situations where an existing plugin isn’t necessarily the best solution. In fact, if you have some basic web development skills (including HTML, CSS and some rudimentary knowledge of PHP and JavaScript), you may be able to build something yourself that is a better fit.

Today, we’ll take a look at some situations where it may be wise to forgo the use of a plugin to perform a specific task. But note that this isn’t meant to be a tutorial on how to build any specific feature. Rather, it’s more of an invitation to challenge the way we tend to think about WordPress development.

Situation #1: It’s Already Built into WordPress

During my earliest days in working with WordPress, I wanted to install a plugin for everything. But as I grew more comfortable with how the software worked and the process of customizing themes, I found that I had been using plugins for some of the most basic tasks – things I could take care of myself.

Take, for instance, adding a list of blog posts to a page. Beyond using a plugin, there are multiple ways to approach the task. If your WordPress theme uses Widgets, the included Recent Posts widget could do the job. Or, you may want to build a custom query right into the template, allowing you to fully manage the look and functionality.

WordPress has so many features already built in, but they often fly under the radar of even experienced developers. The argument can be made that that’s a big reason why certain plugins exist. They do things that many people don’t know about and add a layer of convenience to sweeten the deal.

But something that can be done rather easily within a theme or through building your own custom plugin puts you in control. You don’t have to worry about applying updates and aren’t left hanging if the author decides to, ahem, pull the plug on the project. Plus, you can build these types of features without the bloat that may come with a pre-built plugin.

Toy characters constructing a building.

Situation #2: You Have to Hack Your Way Around a Plugin

Have you ever found the “perfect” plugin for a specific need and then found yourself repeatedly saying “if only”’? As in, “If only it would do this, that and the other”. This is a common problem and in no way the fault of the plugin’s developer.

Everyone has a unique wish list when it comes to their website. No plugin could (or should) anticipate every possible use case and the billions of nuances that come along with them.

I find that a client will just about always ask me to make a plugin do at least one thing that isn’t on the feature list. Sometimes, as is the case with WooCommerce, there are enough hooks built in that things can be customized well enough. Woo may be the rare exception, though, as it’s not always such a straightforward process with other plugins.

Indeed, there are times when it seems like you might have to reverse engineer a plugin in order to make it fit your specific needs. The more drastic changes you make, the more opportunity there is for something to break down the road. In these cases, you might actually be better off building something yourself or hiring someone to do it for you.

Toy building blocks scattered on a floor.

Situation #3: You Don’t Want to Rely on Anyone Else

Here’s a situation that’s probably more about philosophy than functionality. When you’re building a website that has a very important core functionality (eCommerce, memberships, etc.), it can be difficult to cede control of that to a third party.

This is especially problematic when something breaks. You might have to deal with technical support that, in your view, takes way too long to respond and help to solve your problem. Meanwhile, your site’s either unusable or at least hindered in its ability to work properly.

The catch is that, to avoid using existing plugins, you’ll need either great development skills, a big budget or both at your disposal. Needless to say, this leaves a lot of people out of the equation. But if you do have the wherewithal to do things this way, it will keep you in the driver’s seat in terms of your website’s core functions.

Toy construction worker cleaning up.

When Plugins Are Optional

It’s often so tempting to quickly install a WordPress plugin and consider the job well-done. But it’s important to think about each and every addition we make to a website. When choosing a path to achieving a certain feature or function, we should ask ourselves the following:

  • Is this feature already a part of WordPress core?
  • Is there a plugin out there that will do everything I need (or, at least get me 90% of the way there)?
  • Am I comfortable relying on a third party to handle support?
  • How will a plugin affect site performance and stability?
  • Am I capable of building this myself?

Sometimes, the answer will point you in the direction of a plugin. But, the more you hone your development skills, the more likely it is that you’ll find at least some items that you can build yourself. That can be both highly satisfying and turn out to be the best thing for your project, as well.

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10 Free Knowledgebase Themes & Plugins For WordPress Users https://1stwebdesigner.com/free-wordpress-knowledgebase-themes-plugins/ https://1stwebdesigner.com/free-wordpress-knowledgebase-themes-plugins/#respond Fri, 03 Aug 2018 20:12:57 +0000 https://1stwebdesigner.com/?p=132821 WordPress is the perfect system for just about everything. You can use it for a small blog or a company website or yes, even a knowledgebase.

And with the vast array of free resources online you don’t need to build your own theme either. There’s something out there for everything, and this collection proves it!

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WP Knowledge Base

kb knowledgebase theme

The incredible WP Knowledge Base theme is one of the oldest and most widely supported themes. It was developed well over 5 years ago and works perfectly with the bbPress community plugin.

Only issue is that this theme hasn’t been officially updated in over two years and you’ll see this message on the main theme page.

The latest release supported WordPress 3.5 and we’re now up to 4.x(and counting!).

But what’s interesting about WordPress is how it supports backward compatibility for most features. This means that a theme developed ten years ago could still run pretty smoothly on a modern WordPress installation.

WP Knowledge Base is by far one of the more detailed themes out there. But it’s also somewhat dated so weigh the pros & cons before using this one.


myknowledgebase theme

Here’s a very simple theme without many excessive frills. MyKnowledgeBase is totally free and built for the latest version of WordPress.

It comes with a built-in FAQ module along with simple columns for data organization. This includes homepage widgets, sidebar widgets, and extra menus for getting into multi-tiered links for your site.

MyKnowledgeBase will take some customization to get it looking good, but it’s also one of the few themes with clear knowledgebase features.


wikiwp theme

Wiki-style sites can also make fantastic knowledge bases if you make adjustments to the interface.

One of the best Wiki themes is WikiWP which is also totally free and styled much like Wikipedia. You can choose which links appear in the side menu and how people should navigate the site through search or categories.

The theme is very SEO friendly but can be used as an internal knowledgebase if you want to hide it from search engines.

Really great layout and very relevant for knowledgebases. The biggest factor is if you want to run a wiki for your knowledgebase site.


mywiki theme

Here’s another alternative that’s meant to operate like a wiki but feels more like a knowledgebase center.

MyWiki has a solid 5-star rating across all reviews and thousands of installs. It’s extremely lightweight and features different homepage designs with sections for content categories.

I like this one a lot more than the Wikipedia-styled theme above because this one does work more like an organized knowledgebase.

It’s also easy to setup and perfect for non-technical WordPress users.

WP Knowledgebase

wp knowledgebase plugin

Getting into the plugins side of things we have WP Knowledgebase. This free plugin lets you add custom knowledgebase features into any theme.

Keep in mind this doesn’t have much styling, so you’ll need to position the categories/links accordingly. It helps if you start with a simple theme and build out from there.

Features include predictive search, drag & drop editing, a responsive content design, and a whole bunch more.

DW Knowledge Base

dw knowledgebase plugin

Another competing plugin is DW Knowledge Base created by the folks at DesignWall.

This plugin was built as a premium item but has a freemium version in the WP plugins directory. And the freemium version should be more than enough for a simple knowledgebase website.

It has a full backend panel for knowledgebase articles where you can add, edit, and refine how your content works. These also have their own categories so you can keep them separate from your main website.

Very Simple Knowledge Base

very simple knowledgebase

True to its name is the Very Simple Knowledge Base plugin released for free in the WP plugins directory.

If simplicity is what you’re after, then VSKB has the answer. It uses simple link columns that you can embed anywhere on your site from the sidebar to the footer or even on a single knowledgebase page.

These link lists are divided by category and include “archive” pages for all your knowledgebase articles.

But note the design here is very limited so it helps if you know your way around CSS.

Ultimate FAQ

ultimate faq plugin

While this plugin wasn’t technically designed as a knowledgebase it still functions well as one.

The Ultimate FAQ plugin lets you create unlimited question/answer type posts with custom tags and categories. It also supports an Ajax-powered search feature where topics are auto suggested and link right to the page.

Check out the demo video to learn more about this awesome plugin.

Knowledgebase by WebberZone

knowledgebase webberzone

The greatest strength of this plugin is how it walks the line between complex yet detailed.

The Knowledgebase plugin by WebberZone is totally free and offers a genuinely valuable method of curating content. You can organize questions by categories, and these appear in lists on your page.

KB entries can have sub-entries and Q&A sections within the page too. Plus they appear in WordPress search so you can design an entire site just around this plugin. For the price of free, that’s not half bad!

Knowledge Center

knowledge center webapp

Here’s one of the more advanced plugins offering a bunch of features and a premium alternative too.

Knowledge Center supports pretty much every type of edu-content page you need. FAQs, Wiki pages, knowledgebase pages, and archive category listings for easy browsing.

This does have a costly enterprise version, but I think the free alternative is more than enough for most users.

It comes with a handful of widgets like recent articles, most viewed, and featured items. You can also add custom search parameters and use knowledgebase shortcodes to embed certain articles/category lists anywhere on your site.

Definitely one of the better plugins if you’re looking for tons of features and a detailed management system. Check out their video guide to learn more and see this bad boy in action.

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8 Plugins to Improve WordPress Search https://1stwebdesigner.com/improve-wordpress-search/ https://1stwebdesigner.com/improve-wordpress-search/#respond Mon, 23 Jul 2018 06:33:34 +0000 https://1stwebdesigner.com/?p=138597 There are so many things to love about WordPress – but its default search capability is not one of them. It’s very basic and doesn’t account for things like misspellings or context. That can really hamper the user-friendliness of a site that’s heavy in content.

Thankfully, the WordPress developer community has created some fantastic plugins to bring search functionality up to snuff. Most are fairly simple to set up and will start providing better results in mere seconds.

Here is a collection of WordPress plugins you can use to turn your search field into a truly powerful tool:

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Relevanssi is a great choice for those who are looking for fine-grain control over search. There is a plethora of settings to tweak. For example, you can add “weight” to post elements such as the title or tags used. It also accounts for a lot of the quirks involved with a typical WordPress site. Custom post types, custom fields, PDF documents and even the contents of Shortcodes can be indexed (note that some features may require the Premium edition). But even if you aren’t keen on changing a lot of settings, you can simply install the plugin, build your site’s index and instantly improve search.

Ajax Search Lite

Ajax Search Lite

These days, users are quite accustomed to using a “live” search that offers up suggested results as they type. It’s a feature that can really make finding a specific piece of content a more efficient process. Ajax Search Lite adds this capability to any WordPress site, along with the ability to filter a search by category or post type. Plus, you also have the option of letting the plugin replace your site’s existing search field or add it in via a Shortcode or widget. The Pro version adds even more features, like the ability to search a BuddyPress feed and media attachments.

Search Exclude

Search Exclude

There may be times when you want prevent specific content from being searchable within your WordPress website. Search Exclude makes this quite easy – just click the added checkbox in the post editor to hide that content from internal search. It’s important to note that this plugin will not affect any SEO settings for a page or post – just the ability for users to search for it within your site.

Advanced Woo Search

Advanced Woo Search

If you’re running an online store powered by WooCommerce, then search is critical to helping users find the products they’re most interested in. Installing Advanced Woo Search adds live search capability that also sports several powerful features. You can set specific product data like the category, title, content or excerpt to be searchable – or not. Product images and pricing appear in the results to make searching a more visual experience. A premium version allows for searching product attributes, custom fields and more.

WP Extended Search

WP Extended Search

As its name suggests, WP Extended Search takes the default WordPress search functionality and lets you tweak it to better suit your needs. Site administrators can enable the searching of specific taxonomies, meta keys from custom fields, post types and authors. A particularly nice feature is the ability to prevent the searching of content older than a specified date. This could be useful in ensuring that users are only seeing the most relevant results.

Highlight Search Terms

Highlight Search Terms

Highlight Search Terms exists to do one thing without any major fuss or hogging of resources (and the name sort of gives it away). Whenever a user performs a search, their terms are highlighted in the results. And, when a result is clicked on, the terms are highlighted in that page or post as well. Note that there are no settings to configure and you must define a CSS style for highlighting in your theme.

Better Search

Better Search

Built to be highly extensible, Better Search is similar to Relevanssi in that it offers up a ton of options. The main difference is that Better Search doesn’t require you to manually build an index of your site – it starts working as soon as you activate the plugin. Inside, you’ll find the ability to sort results by various methods, customize how the results look via a template, support for caching plugins and a profanity filter. You can also display a listing of popular searches to show what’s trending. There is a lot of power under the hood of this free plugin.

WP Custom Fields Search

WP Custom Fields Search

For WordPress sites that rely heavily on custom fields, WP Custom Fields Search can be quite valuable. It enables searching of any custom fields you have added to pages or posts, in addition to what standard WP search offers. But what’s really neat is that you can build a form interface to allow users to filter their search via custom field data. The UI includes a variety of form field types so that you can build a custom search form within minutes.

Get Top Results

While search may be a bit overlooked by WordPress core, it certainly gets the royal treatment via the plugins above. And, even though some of the options here offer a lot of potential for customization, you don’t need to dive that deep into the weeds to simply improve your search capabilities.

The main idea is that, if search is an important part of your WordPress website – don’t settle for the default. A little bit of effort will bring you much better results.

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Top 10 Free WordPress Portfolio Plugins https://1stwebdesigner.com/free-wordpress-portfolio-plugins/ https://1stwebdesigner.com/free-wordpress-portfolio-plugins/#respond Mon, 16 Jul 2018 09:59:29 +0000 https://1stwebdesigner.com/?p=136134 The easiest way to build an awesome portfolio site is through WordPress. The open source WP community makes it so easy to find help, install a sweet theme and even find a free plugin to handle your portfolio. It’s all a part of designing a great site.

If you’re looking for some options to get started, I’ve curated my 10 picks for the best portfolio plugins.

All of these plugins are 100% free to use and they work with the latest version of WordPress.

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Portfolio Post Type


If you already know how to build a plugin, then you probably know how to make custom post types. But many people who launch a portfolio site using WordPress aren’t coders. And that’s fine!

This Portfolio Post Type plugin is free and easy to install. While it takes a little work to get going, it’ll eventually become like second nature. No coding is required.

The biggest learning curve is adapting to the dashboard for adding and editing portfolio entries.

At the time of this writing, the plugin is only in version 0.9 – yet it’s got over ten 5-star reviews. I have a feeling this one will be around for the long haul.

Easy Portfolio

Easy portfolio plugin

If you want the full WordPress plugin experience, try Easy Portfolio. It’s dedicated to providing an interactive experience for users who visit your portfolio website.

Everything works through input fields on the backend. Just add your portfolio contents, fill in some data and hit “save”. From there, add the provided shortcode onto a page and you’re good to go!

This is probably one of the easiest options if you’re not too comfortable working in WordPress.

Portfolio & Gallery

Portfolio and gallery

Anyone who does visual work can benefit from a grid-style portfolio.

The Portfolio & Gallery plugin works really well for this, as it comes with over a dozen unique grid formats to pick from. They each have their own custom features like lazy loading, masonry formatting or custom pagination bars. Plus you can mix and match these features to suit your needs.

Visit the plugin page to check out a whole list of demo links. You’re bound to find something in here that will match the needs of your site.

TLP Portfolio

TLP Portfolio plugin

The TLP Portfolio plugin is one of the simplest options here. It’s also a “freemium” plugin – one of the many on this list.

“Freemium” means that it offers a premium alternative with more features. But the free version always remains free.

With TLP’s plugin, you get a handful of custom styles for grid features and page layouts. You can switch between them using different shortcodes and targeting which portfolio gallery you want to display. It may seem confusing at first but there’s a rhyme and reason here.

Take a look at their promo video to see this plugin in action.

Visual Portfolio

Visual portfolio plugin

The Visual Portfolio WordPress plugin is actually very cool. It provides you with a complete portfolio editor where you can move things around on the backend without touching a single line of code. Features include a masonry layout for oddly-shaped items, infinite scrolling (or “load more” scrolling), along with custom filtering to make browsing easier.

Have a look at the live demo get a better idea of how it works. This plugin’s pro version is certainly fine, but I really think the freemium option is enough for most people.

Nimble3 Portfolio

Nimble portfolio plugin

If you want a mix of portfolio items with different grids, frontend features and a sidebar widget, Nimble Portfolio is for you.

Each portfolio item links to a full image displayed in a lightbox slideshow. This looks pretty darn fancy and gives you room to add a caption and outbound link if you want.

There are some optional add-on plugins you can buy from Nimble, but none are truly needed.

My only thought is that Nimble’s interface won’t work for everyone. It has a lot of fields and optional settings, so it’s not the simplest choice. Although it’s definitely one of the more powerful ones.

Advance Portfolio Grid

Advance portfolio grid plugin

I haven’t used this plugin too much, but from what I have seen it’s just awesome.

Advance Portfolio Grid relies solely on a grid to display your work. This means you’ll find it far more useful if you do visual work (art, design, photography) rather than non-visual work (writing, coding).

Still, the portfolio layout is clean and easy enough to customize. And you can add tags for filtering your projects by company, style, date, etc.

Have a look at the plugin’s sample video to see how it all works.

Behance Portfolio Manager

Behance WordPress plugin

Some designers and digital artists like to post their work on Behance. It’s a totally free portfolio/networking site and it’s one of the best places for sharing creative work online.

Thanks to the Behance Portfolio Manager plugin, you can quickly import all of your work from Behance into your fancy new WordPress website.

This plugin makes the process stupid simple. Even if you’ve never used WordPress before, this plugin is practically unbreakable.

It’s highly recommended for anyone who already has a lot of work posted on Behance.

Responsive Filterable Portfolio

Responsive filterable wp portfolio

What’s better than a fully filterable portfolio? One that’s also fully responsive!

The Responsive Filterable Portfolio is totally free and totally awesome. It has a cutting-edge dashboard that really gives you control over your portfolio without feeling too intimidating.

This is a plugin you need to see in order to fully understand, so have a look at their demo video before you form an opinion.

Portfolio Manager Lite

Portfolio Manager Lite plugin

Portfolio Manager Lite is a plugin that’s sleek, easy to customize and just a real pleasure to use.

It won’t take very long to get the gist of how everything works. You can learn more on their demo page.

Note that this is also a freemium plugin, so you’ll find messages in the dashboard urging you to upgrade. You really don’t need to.

This plugin is strong enough to run on its own and you’ll get plenty of features to handle all of your portfolio needs.

There you have it – a whole slew of awesome WordPress portfolio builders to pick from. Feel free to experiment and find one that brings your portfolio to life.

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Starting to Build Websites with WordPress? Here Are 5 Things You Should Know. https://1stwebdesigner.com/starting-build-websites-wordpress-5-things-know/ https://1stwebdesigner.com/starting-build-websites-wordpress-5-things-know/#respond Sun, 08 Jul 2018 12:11:17 +0000 https://1stwebdesigner.com/?p=137584 When it comes to WordPress, we so often focus on advanced techniques meant for experienced developers. But that leaves out an awful lot of people who are just getting their feet wet with the popular CMS. So today, we’ll focus on those of you who are either thinking about building a website with WordPress or have limited experience in doing so.

The platform is incredibly flexible and also a bit deeper than you may think. And because there are multiple ways to accomplish the same thing, it’s easy to make mistakes – only you may not fully realize it until issues arise down the line.

With that in mind, here are 5 items to think about when building with WordPress:

1. More Plugins = More (Potential) Problems

When first starting out with WordPress, it’s easy to become enamored with the sheer number of plugins available. But tread lightly, code ninja. Plugins can indeed satisfy a number of functionality needs. But with each plugin we add comes another potential future maintenance issue.

As new versions of WordPress core and plugins are released, there is always a chance that one piece will conflict with another. That can cause anything from minor administrative annoyances all the way to full site breakage on the front end.

Another possibility is that a plugin’s author will decide to stop maintaining it. This can lead to unpatched security issues and generally-frustrating bugs that never get fixed. It can be a major problem if you’re depending on the plugin for crucial functionality.

Lastly, there is also a potential hit to performance that can occur. Although, this doesn’t so much correspond directly with the number of plugins you’ve installed as much as their quality.

So, before you install a plugin, make sure it’s well-maintained and has garnered some positive feedback from the community. Also think about whether the functionality really is necessary or can even be easily replicated by some quick code in your theme.

More Plugins = More (Potential) Problems

2. Choose a Theme or Framework That Does Only What You Need

One of the most important decisions you’ll make when building a website with WordPress is the theme or theme framework you’ll use as a foundation. Make a poor choice here and both the building and future maintenance processes will be that much more difficult.

If you’re using a ready-made theme, consider those that are minimal in code and provide you with some level of design flexibility. A bloated theme that tries to be everything to everyone all at once is usually going to be slow-performing and difficult to customize.

Frameworks are a great choice because they are usually quite minimal and built to be customized. Look for choices that let you easily enable or disable specific features.

Either way, you’ll want to do some research regarding the best practices for using a specific theme or framework. For example, WordPress child themes are often recommended as they allow you to make customizations without the potential for having them overwritten by a theme update.

Choose a Theme or Framework That Does Only What You Need

3. Conditional Tags Are Your Friend

Part of that famous WordPress charm is in its many available Conditional Tags. They bring a higher level of conditional logic (if x, then do y) to your website and allow for some powerful customizations.

For example, if you only want a particular code snippet to appear in certain situations, these built-in tags can make it happen. Whether you want to target the site’s home (front) page, a post type’s archive or even pages that use a specific template – there’s a tag for that.

The other great benefit is that Conditional Tags can make the development process more efficient. You could, for instance, add several conditionals to a single template rather than have to create multiple new template files. This can save you some hassle down the road should something need changed.

The key to it all is being smart about where and when you use Conditional Tags. There are times when you might be able to combine several related snippets into a single conditional statement, thus cutting down on the number of calls to your database and improving performance.

Conditional Tags Are Your Friend

4. Security is Paramount

Because WordPress is so widely used, it is often a big juicy target for automated attacks. Bots routinely attempt brute force logins, script injections and other nefarious deeds to infiltrate websites. Think your site is too small for such attention? Sadly, even the smallest of sites (both in content and traffic) are constantly under assault.

Understanding this reality is the first step in beefing up security. It’s recommended that you consider running a security plugin such as Wordfence or iThemes Security to help keep an eye on things, 24/7. Depending upon your setup, some security plugins can be resource hogs. But that can be mitigated to some extent by turning off unnecessary features (Live Traffic views, for example,  is a big one).

Beyond that, some basics of WordPress security include:

  • Using strong passwords
  • Limiting administrative access to only those who need it
  • Changing the prefix of your database tables
  • Ensuring that you’re using proper file permissions
  • Take advantage of any security features your web host offers
  • Utilizing SSL

There are no guarantees that your site won’t get hacked. But some small adjustments can help to fend off the most common types of attacks.

Security is Paramount

5. Routine Maintenance is a Must

The work does not end when your website launches. WordPress core, themes and plugins all release updated versions – some more often than others. You may find that some sites have at least one update waiting to be installed on a near-daily basis.

This doesn’t mean that you need to nervously log into your site every few minutes to check for updates. Checking in every week will be enough in most situations, although sites that feature more robust functionality, such as eCommerce, should be monitored more closely.

If you’re handing the website off to a client, you’ll want to make them aware of the maintenance responsibilities involved. It’s quite possible that you can sell them on a software maintenance service you provide. This is a great way to add some recurring revenue to your business and can give clients peace of mind.

One other item to note is that, the more mission-critical a website is, the more important it is to use a staging site to test out updates before applying them to the live version. The last thing you want is for a buggy piece of software to result in downtime or lost sales.

Routine Maintenance is a Must

Keep Learning and Adapting

It’s important to remember that no one starts out with a perfectly crafted website. As you continue to build with WordPress, you’ll likely find that your techniques will evolve as you gain experience. You’ll learn more efficient ways of doing things and garner some first-hand knowledge of the “WordPress Way”. And, with such rapid changes coming along – you’ll have plenty of company in the learning department.

So, whether you’re just starting out with WordPress or looking to up your game, stay positive and persistent. That will help lead you to where you want to go.

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Becoming a Better WordPress Developer – One Project at a Time https://1stwebdesigner.com/becoming-better-wordpress-developer-one-project-time/ https://1stwebdesigner.com/becoming-better-wordpress-developer-one-project-time/#respond Thu, 28 Jun 2018 10:14:49 +0000 https://1stwebdesigner.com/?p=135759 Time is one of the best indicators of how far you’ve come in terms of being better at your job. But it seems like web design and development is a line of work that provides the most tangible evidence of progression. All you have to do is take a look back at an old project and the proof will be there, looking right at you.

In my own career, I go back to my days with static HTML websites. I can easily see the signs of improvement in the code – and particularly when it comes to how I accomplished various layouts (hint: table layouts were older).

But over my years of building themes for WordPress, I can also see how things have changed. Sure, the design trends have come and gone. Those are the most obvious types of progress. But there are other, more subtle, aspects of development that provide an even better picture of evolution.

Below are some lessons of WordPress development I’ve learned through experience. Most all of it has been learned the hard way. And, while I can’t guarantee that this is how others would do it, I hope that it can at least spark some thought about how and why we do things.

The Straightest Path Isn’t Always the Best

Rarely do we ever build a WordPress website that doesn’t include some sort of custom functionality. That is, after all, part of its appeal as a CMS. It can do just about anything we dream up.

Oftentimes, that means using plugins. We literally have an entire world of them at our fingertips. They help us do things like sell online, optimize our site for search engines and share content with others.

We often think of plugins as the straightest path to solving whatever challenge we’re facing. And, while a well-coded and properly maintained plugin can be exactly what we need, the decision to use one is often more serious than we may think.

The ease of installing and activating a WordPress plugin can give us a false sense of security. A few clicks provide instant functionality (and gratification). However, there are potential consequences each time we do it. Plugins can have an impact on virtually every aspect of a website – security, performance and compatibility to name just a few. Then, there is also the possibility of a plugin becoming abandoned and left to die out. That puts us right back to square one.

In many cases, the right code snippet can provide a much more efficient solution. It can save performance-degrading overhead and, importantly, is within your control. One of the most frustrating aspects of plugins is that you are essentially handing over part of your site’s well-being to a third party. If something breaks, you must rely on them to fix it. And even the best plugin developers out there will run into a hard-to-fix bug sometime. That leaves you to wait while a solution is found.

The bottom line here is that, while it’s fine to use plugins, think about the alternatives as well. There may be a better way to accomplish your goals.

The Straightest Path Isn't Always the Best

Find a Comfortable Starting Place

My first designs with WordPress were often the result of pulling apart whatever default theme that came with the software. For example, many of the sites I’m now in the process of redesigning were built with a thoroughly hacked version of the Twenty Ten theme. I didn’t even bother using a child theme, which of course is a big no-no. I just renamed the theme and went to work.

While this method worked, it was hardly efficient. I found myself having to rip the same things apart over and over for each new project. Default themes are actually meant to be used as a starting point, so it wasn’t quite as bad as it could have been with a fully-bloated theme. Still, there had to be a better way.

As time has gone on, I discovered the beauty of a WordPress starter theme. There are a number of ways you can go, from full-on frameworks to something a bit more barebones, like Underscores (my personal favorite solution).

What I love about Underscores is that, out of the box, it’s pretty much as unformatted as you can get. That means I don’t have to rip anything apart before I can start building. I’ve got my own customized version, complete with some basic responsive styles, to give me a healthy head start on design and development.

This also allows me to design prototypes knowing how it will apply to my starter theme. There aren’t nearly as many worries about how I can achieve a specific look or layout because I have built in ways to handle most anything. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t still some challenges, it just provides a nice blank canvas with which to work.

If you develop a lot of sites, you’ll be much further ahead if you set up your own starter theme. Include the scripts and layouts that you use most often. That will get you up and running with each project in no time.

Find a Comfortable Starting Place

Take the Time to Learn

Early on, one of the biggest mistakes I made with WordPress was that I didn’t put in the foundational work when it came to learning the right way to do things. In particular, I had very limited knowledge of PHP. While I knew enough to hack my way through things, not having a grasp of the fundamentals made everything more difficult than it should have been.

For instance, it seemed like every project had a point where development stalled while I tried to figure out how to make something work. Because I didn’t really understand things, I found myself just hunting for code snippets and hoping they’d do the trick. Oftentimes I found that I couldn’t even customize those snippets to fit my needs – all because of my incredibly scattered approach.

Finally, I did something about it. I took an online PHP course one summer and, all of the sudden, things began to make sense. I am nowhere near a master programmer (the next must-have plugin won’t be coming from me anytime soon), but this basic understanding of how things work has improved the development process dramatically.

I still get stuck from time-to-time, but those issues tend to get cleared up much more quickly than before. And, while I still need code snippets, I generally can make them work for my situation.

So, instead of hacking your way through building with WordPress, take the time to learn the skills you need to know. Having even a basic understanding will empower you to do more than you thought you could.

Take the Time to Learn

Tomorrow Will Always Be Better

Lastly, I think it’s worth pointing out that evolving into a better developer is what we are supposed to do. So often, it’s easy to be hard on yourself when you have to dig in and try to fix something you built years ago. The old, “Why did I do it this way?” is a lament that we all face sooner or later.

The key is to learn from what you’ve done. As time goes by, you’ll find that your knowledge is greater and your processes are leaner. The result is that you’ll improve – one project at a time.

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A SEO Checklist for Your WordPress Website https://1stwebdesigner.com/seo-checklist-wordpress/ https://1stwebdesigner.com/seo-checklist-wordpress/#respond Sun, 27 May 2018 17:19:23 +0000 https://1stwebdesigner.com/?p=134355 A website, no matter how amazing it looks or how great the content, isn’t worth much if people don’t know it exists. That’s why SEO generates a never-ending stream of hype. A well-optimized site is much more likely to be found through organic search.

If your site has been built with WordPress, then you’re already off to a great start with the optimization process. WordPress is built with SEO in mind and it’s flexible. That means you can build a SEO strategy that matches your particular needs.

But there are some things you need to be aware of when it comes to optimizing a WordPress website. Beyond the standard SEO practices, the open nature of the platform means that you’ll need to inspect your theme and plugins to ensure you have the best possible setup.

With that in mind, here is a handy SEO checklist for optimizing your WordPress website:

Check WordPress Settings

Check WordPress Settings

WordPress has a few settings that will certainly have an effect on SEO. But when you’re rushing to launch a site, it’s easy to forget about them. Before your site goes public, make sure to check out the following items:

Settings > General

Ensure that both the Site Title and Tagline fields are set correctly. While we usually set the Title while installing WordPress, the Tagline often stays set to the default “Just Another WordPress Site”. If you’re not paying attention, it will show up in your search listings. Feel free to either change the Tagline to something more relevant or delete it altogether.

Settings > Permalinks

WordPress generally comes with SEO friendly Permalinks already set. But it’s still worth fiddling around with to make sure you have the best setting for your type of site. The Post Name option is usually just fine. But if you publish often, Day and Name or Month and Name may be more appropriate.

Settings > Reading

While a site is still in development, often times we might block search engines…then forget to unblock them after launch. It’s best to check the Search Engine Visibility setting before launching your site – just in case.

Make Sure Your Theme Uses Proper Markup

Make Sure Your Theme Uses Proper Markup

A well-made WordPress theme can have a very positive impact when it comes to SEO. But older or poorly-coded themes could make it harder for search engines to appropriately index your content. Here are some items to look for in your theme:

HTML5 Semantic Markup

At the very basic level, you’re looking for a theme that contains HTML5 semantic markup. This means that content areas are marked with tags such as header, footer, article and aside. Navigation should be wrapped in a nav tag. And page/post titles should be wrapped in h1 headings.

The beauty of these tags is that they provide search engines with some context when analyzing your site.  While your site may not look differently to the naked eye, search bots will see this markup as a way to more efficiently index things.

Structured Data

On the higher end of the feature scale would be the inclusion of Schema.org structured data. Descriptive attributes are added to tags for things like events, reviews or even a person. Breadcrumb navigation is also quite useful here. This provides search engines with extra information that could be displayed in search results. For example, if you’ve ever noticed a star rating in a listing – that comes from structured data.

If you build your own WordPress themes, this is something fairly simple to strategically add in. But if you’re using a third-party theme, you’ll want to check to see if it’s included. No worries if it’s not in your theme, though. You can still add this data through various plugins.

Mobile Friendly Responsive Layout

Whether you build your own theme or use a third-party offering, it simply must work well on mobile devices. This is not only a usability issue; it also pertains to SEO as well. Google will mark sites that aren’t optimized for mobile devices in search results. That could cost you precious clicks and sales.

Install SEO-Boosting Plugins

Install SEO-Boosting Plugins

There are a number of great SEO related plugins for WordPress. Which one you choose really should come down to your needs and personal preference. Yoast SEO is a great all-around choice and has over 5 million active installs. All in One SEO Pack has over 3 million active installs and is also a solid pick. They’re two of the most well-known and popular plugins but they’re far from the only ones available.

Regardless of the plugin you choose, there are some standard features that you’ll want to have:

Optimize Individual Pages and Posts

SEO isn’t just about your home page. All of your content should be optimized in some way. A plugin that enables you to individually optimize each page and post is a great help. Things you’ll want to change include titles, keywords and descriptions. It’s also handy if you can individually turn off indexing for a specific piece of content.

Automatic Optimization

For the content you don’t necessarily want to fine-tune yourself, it’s nice if a plugin will do some of the work for you. A good SEO plugin will allow you to change title, description and permalink formulas to automatically tweak things in the background.

Add OpenGraph Data

OpenGraph data is imperative for allowing your content to be shared on social media. It grabs items such as page titles, featured images and excerpts for display on services like Facebook and Twitter. You’ll want use a plugin that adds these tags to your site and allows you to customize settings.

XML Sitemap

Submitting a XML sitemap to Google is an easy way to ensure that they can index your content. Look for the ability to both create sitemaps and customize what content is (and isn’t) included within them.


Don’t forget about analytics! Whether you use Google’s service or someone else’s – add tracking code through a plugin or your theme. It’s the best way to find out whether your strategies are working.

These features may all be included in just one plugin, or you might use a combination of niche plugins to accomplish this functionality. Either way, your site should be taking advantage of each item on the list.

Best Practices in Content

Maintain Best Practices in Content

The same SEO best practices for content writing and markup still apply when using WordPress. Since there are plenty of resources on the subject, we won’t go into great detail here. But in general you’ll want to comb through your site and check for the following:

Proper Use of Heading Tags

This one still trips up some people because the classic WordPress editor doesn’t make it so obvious. Content writers will often separate distinct sections within a page with bolded text, rather than the more semantically-correct h2 tag. The new Gutenberg editor, slated for launch in WordPress 5.0 may help in that adding headings will be a bit more of an intuitive process.

Use Internal Links

When you have other related content within your site – link to it. It’s something recommended for SEO and also may encourage visitors to dig deeper into your content.

ALT Text for Images

Images within your content should contain alt attribute text. This is vital for accessibility and Google recommends it for SEO as well. If your site is rather large, you may want to use a plugin to help you find and assign descriptive text to save some time.

You Are Officially Optimized

You Are Officially Optimized

The combination of the right theme, plugins and content strategy can make your WordPress website fully optimized for search engines. And with so many outstanding tools available, you can mix and match to achieve your goals.

So, whether you’re launching a new site or maintaining an existing one, take the time to go through the checklist above to ensure you’re doing all you can with regards to SEO. A little bit of effort can make a huge difference in your results.

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In 2018, Work With These Great WordPress Plugins to Get Better Results https://1stwebdesigner.com/great-wordpress-plugins/ https://1stwebdesigner.com/great-wordpress-plugins/#respond Mon, 21 May 2018 12:22:13 +0000 https://1stwebdesigner.com/?p=137154 In 2018, work with these Great WordPress Plugins to get better results

There’s a reason for WordPress’s popularity among web designers and developers. Part of the reason is the platform itself. But much of it stems from the added flexibility you can expect. It is thanks to the thousands of themes and plugins this platform supports.

The added capabilities of these plugins advance websites, blogs, and portfolios. They also bolster their respective brands and attracts clients. That’s the good news.

There’s a downside, however, although we’re about to show you how easily you can avoid it.

We’ve separated the wheat from the chaff. These popular, best of their type plugins will help you improve your workflow. They will also enhance the features and functionalities of your web products.


wpDataTables WordPress Plugins 2018

The amazing thing about this WordPress plugin is how much it can do with so little effort on your part. For starters, wpDataTables can create tables and/or charts that contain information based on millions of rows of data in mere minutes; as opposed to hours or even days.

As you build your table or chart, you can preview it in real time, make any necessary adjustments on the fly, and end up with a product that is easy to understand, responsive, editable, colorful, and flat-out immaculate.

You can publish responsive tables in WordPress with any of these purposes in mind: to summarize financial, statistical, or scientific data; to provide product or price comparisons, product inventory information, or product catalogs; for event rundowns and sporting results and statics; and for progress tracking and more.

No coding is necessary with wpDataTables. You do what is required of you by clicking and the plugin software does the rest. wpDataTables is currently used by more than 16,000 companies.


LayerSlider WordPress Plugins 2018

LayerSlider is much more than a slider creating tool. This premium WordPress plugin is best described as a multi-purpose animation platform you can not only use to create attention-grabbing sliders, but image galleries, mind-blowing slideshows, and animated popups and page blocks.

You can use LayerSlider’s animated page blocks to create landing pages and even entire websites. Other features include a versatile array of slider layout options, a visual drag and drop editor with live preview, and a Photoshop-like image editor.

A growing selection of professionally-created slider templates will get your projects off to a fast start. Beginners will appreciate the smaller selection of simpler templates as an aid in learning how to use the plugin. You can expect great support, detailed documentation, and lifetime updates.

NextGEN Gallery & NextGEN Pro

NextGEN Gallery & NextGEN Pro WordPress Plugins 2018

With either of these powerful and popular WordPress gallery plugins you can easily manage thousands of images and present any number you choose in the gallery style you select. NextGEN Gallery and NextGEN Pro are the very best plugins of this type.

Both are open source software products, NextGEN Gallery is the free version, while NextGEN Pro, the subscription version, features a large selection of eCommerce and other powerful extensions.

Both offer a variety of album and gallery display choices. You can allow clients to pick their favorites, order prints or digital downloads, and pay via PayPal, Stripe, or personal check.

Give NextGEN Gallery a try. It may have every feature you’ll ever need, and you can always upgrade to NextGEN Pro and take advantage of its offerings.


MapSVG WordPress Plugins 2018

MapSVG allows you to take any SVG file and convert it into an interactive vector map, Google map, or image map. The image map function includes drawing tools, and MapSVG also has a database that allows you to create custom objects, show them on a map, and include them in an attached director.

All the main features can be viewed on the landing page.

Essential Grid WordPress Plugin

Essential Grid WordPress Plugin WordPress Plugins 2018

Whether you are creating a gallery, a blog, or an eCommerce shop, a highly customizable grid system is always preferable to working from a selection of grid options. Essential Grid gives you the capability to place content items precisely where you feel they belong on your pages.

The content formatting power Essential Grid provides is also great for placement of product sliders, social media streams, and anything else you can think of.

WP Review Pro

WP Review Pro WordPress Plugins 2018

This #1 review plugin for WordPress is perfect for reviewing everything from products and services to books and videos. WP Review Pro features include multiple rating systems (star, percentage, thumbs, etc.), an area for user comments (plus a review of user comments) a comparison table, and a popup and notification bar.

WP Review Pro is developer friendly, mobile friendly, and optimized for speed.

Heroic FAQs

Heroic FAQs WordPress Plugins 2018

You’ve probably visited enough FAQ pages to get a good idea of what makes a helpful FAQ section and what’s not so helpful. The Heroic FAQ plugin is guaranteed to take you in the right direction when it’s time to build this section; a section whose importance to users is often overlooked.

5 FAQ styles along with a style configurator come with this visual drag and drop FAQ builder.

PhotoBlocks Grid Gallery

PhotoBlocks Grid Gallery WordPress Plugins 2018

This plugin will give you gallery-building options you’ve only been able to dream of up to now. You can drag and drop mixed-media gallery items of different sizes and aspect ratios on pixel perfect grid locations, avoiding problems like having an ill-positioned image create an unwanted distraction.

PhotoBlocks Grid Gallery is also a great tool for creating galleries from custom posts.


Blog2Social WordPress Plugins 2018

Blog2Social is the ideal solution to your social media automation needs. It enables you to automatically schedule and share your social media content among up to 15 supported social media networks.

You can tailor and share your posts at the best times on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, and up to 10 additional social networks. A drag and drop social media calendar comes with the package.


We hope you’ve found one or two or more plugins that satisfies a critical need of yours. Or, as a minimum enables some tasks that you’ve always been able to do well do even better and easier.

These WordPress plugins are the best of the bunch with respect to the functions they perform. Thus, you can be assured of getting your money’s worth. You will also get your share of high fives from clients and users as well.

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