Essential WordPress Plugins

WordPress plugins are additional “apps” that enhance the functionality of WordPress. WordPress works quite well “out of the box”, but chances are you’ll be installing several plugins before your new site is ready to go live. The best place to search for plugins is on These plugins have been tested and assumed to be safe. However, do take note of the plugin details such as  compatibility with current core files, popularity stars, comments, and how often it is updated. They are free, however, many of the plugin designers also offer upgraded versions for a fee. Check the plugin author’s websites to learn more before installing a plugin.

Once installed and activated, most plugins have a variety of settings that need to be tweaked and personalized. Be sure to check them carefully, and check your site front-end pages to make sure there are no unexpected results.


A good security plugin allows for fine-tuning what visitors can do, and helps keep out hackers and spammers. Wordfence has extensive settings and also shows traffic information. There are many security plugins, so research them before installing one.



IThemes Security:

Backing up:

A backup plugin allows for automated scheduled backup’s, with user-control over what is backed up, just the database, everything, or only important content files. On a large site backups can become quite large and difficult to manage, so having control over what is backed up can be helpful. The location of the backup also needs to be determined. Best is offsite to a cloud server such as Dropbox or Amazon S3. Storing a backup in the root folder on the server is not recommended! A database-only backup file can be emailed, but only as long as it’s small enough file size for email.



Amazon s3 bucket interface

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Sept. 19, 2014 SIG Meeting Subject: WordPress Plugins

Although I have mentioned plugins before, at this meeting let’s take a closer look at a few essential WordPress  plugins and their configuration settings. Specifically the “Wordfence” security plugin and a couple of different backup plugins. Even the simplest site needs some help so we’ll look at several other plugins that can enhance a site. Which plugins are appropriate for your website? Join us and find out more!

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July 15, 2014 Image Optimizing & WordPress

Before uploading images or photos to a website, they need to be checked and optimized. This is important not only to avoid long downloads – especially important when viewed on alternate media  – and can to boost SEO results.

Things to consider and optimize as needed:

  • The actual size of the image in pixels – set it at the largest size it may be viewed on screen, but NO larger!
  • The actual file size in kb’s. Images should be run through an optimizing process that will convert the resolution to 72 dpi.
  • The image color space needs to be RGB, (sRGB) or “index” for .png’s.  Most photos will be RGB. (CMYK is used for print.)
  • Best file format options are .jpg, .gif and .png.
    • .jpg: best for photos and any graphic that has gradient colors. No transparency.
    • .gif: best for graphics with flat areas of color and animated gif’s. Transparency possible.
    • .png: suitable for both gradient and flat images, used more now. Transparency possible.

When an image needs a transparent background, a “matt” has to be set, this is a color closest to the anticipated background color that will show behind the image.


Check the image file properties. In Windows right-click an image and chose Properties. The “General” tab will show the file size, the “Details” tab will show the pixel dimensions. If the image is already 72 dpi or 92 dpi, and the pixel width is no larger than an “average” screen width of 800px, and the file size is under 300-kb or so, it may be ok to use as-is. But if the image is much larger, in weight or pixel size, it will need to be optimized.

Graphics editing software is useful to have, top choice is PhotoShop, but there are cheaper alternatives. The software has to be able to reduce the resolution, edit the pixel size, and optimize (compress) the file, and save as one of the chosen file types, without too much image quality loss. Each image should be optimized individually for best results.

Too much compression and pixelation starts to appear – too little compression and the file size is larger than necessary.

Never up-size a “too-small” image file in HTML pixel dimensions, it will look terrible.

Online options:

There are also image optimizer plugins for WordPress, which will automatically reduce the file size.  Some are mentioned on this site:

If your site has large images where quality is important, and you anticipate these being viewed on ‘Retina’ displays, this plugin will create duplicate images to be served when viewed in media with Retina display:


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June 17th, WordPress Widgets

Widgets are an integral part of any WordPress theme, and their locations and options change depending the theme structure. Widgets are small pieces of functionality (PHP code) that can be placed in widget locations within a theme. Widgets can be simple text (a text widget can contain hand-coded HTML or PHP), or ‘WYSIWYG’ functions with multiple settings to control the way they work. (No code wrangling required!)

Available widgets in default 2012 theme. (Click for enlargement)

Available widgets in default 2012 theme. (Click for enlargement)

A brand new default WordPress installation will use a default theme which comes with a limited set of widgets and widget locations. But as soon as you install and configure a custom theme, different types of widgets and other locations will become available. The theme designer will determine what widgets are available for use, and where they can be positioned on the site. Many plugins will also add plugin-specific widgets that can be placed in the available widget areas. The WordPress templates [used by pages or posts] specify which widget areas will be displayed when that specific template is in use. Most common is for widgets to display in a sidebar. But specific page templates can be coded to include “widgetized” areas elsewhere on a page.  For instance – a template that is “full width” won’t have a side bar location coded in, and therefore no place for a widget to display.

Available widget areas in the Responsive theme, and widgets added by a plugin

Available widget areas in the Responsive theme, and widgets added by a plugin. (Click for enlargement)

Its important to know how to recognize and use  the options available in your specific theme, as well as any widgets that are added as part of a plugin. To become familiar with a new theme, it’s helpful to add a text widget to each widget area, and title it the name of the widget location. The widget locations will become apparent when viewing the pages.

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