What to do about the wordpress.com dashboard?
WordPress.com hosts a great community, and they have several excellent ways of self-promoting each other. They also have a VIP bloggers program that gets big name, high popularity bloggers to use this site. But as they introduce VIP bloggers the non-VIPs can get pushed to the wayside. David Gray recently covered this in a post that got picked up by blogging VIP Robert Scoble.
One solution that I think might work out is having a WordPress.com section on FanPop
(If you’ve never visited PostSecret it’s one of the few sites on the Internet that is actually worth a damn and does something to change people’s lives)
This week’s PostSecret held a familiar screen to all WordPress bloggers and it revealed a our little ugly, dark secret. Every moment of every written post is a missed opportunity for something else in our lives. How many real connections with people in our lives have been lost from trying to create phantom connections with strangers over the Internet?
This is installment #4 of the WordPress theme review. My goal is to provide a clear document of the themes for the WordPress.com community. I also want to report all theme bugs to improve the experience of WordPress.com community. Support this project by linking to http://engtech.wordpress.com/tools/wordpress/wordpress-theme-reviews/ on your WordPress.com blog.
Light is a great looking theme, with the unfortunate problem that it is *really* easy to screw up by having too many pages in the navbar, or because of text wrapping issues. These are all avoidable if you are careful about how you set up your pages.
Pros: Looks good.
Cons: Fixed width, no custom image header, no page templates, easy to screw up with text wrapping.
Rubrick is very professional looking and it works — no questions asked. The only issue you can run into with it is the sidebar text widget not displaying HTML as you intended. I was surprised at how good this theme is because I’d discounted it earlier, but that was before it had custom header image support.
Pros: Flexible width, custom image header, links standout in text.
Cons: No page template,
Solipsus is one of the most distinct looking themes available on wordpress.com. I really like the way it looks. The only issue I have with it is the width.
Pros: Distinct, very nice looking theme.
Cons: Fixed width, no custom image header, no page templates, links blend in to text.
Supposedly Clean does not support sidebar widget and that makes it completely useless in my eyes. Add in the fact that it doesn’t do a good job of displaying HTML (no automatic spacing between headers and text) and the result is a theme that should be taken out to the back of the barn and shot.
Pros: Page templates.
Cons: NO SIDEBAR WIDGETS, fixed width, no custom image header.
Winner: Rubrick, followed very, very closely by Solipsus.
This is installment #3 of the WordPress theme review. My goal is to provide a clear document of the themes for the WordPress.com community. I also want to report all theme bugs to improve the experience of WordPress.com community. Support this project by linking to http://engtech.wordpress.com/tools/wordpress/wordpress-theme-reviews/ on your WordPress.com blog.
Pool: Good clean theme, a little too blue.
Pro: Custom image header, page templates, current page is highlighted in sidebar.
Con: Ordered lists do not display properly in posts.
Cutline: I’m *very* impressed with this theme. Very clean looking, very functional.
Pro: Custom image headers, visited links change colour, no bugs.
Con: No page templates.
Rounded: I don’t like it. It looks like an old Blogspot skin ported to WordPress. It is one of the buggiest (under Firefox) themes I have seen so far.
Pro: Links are very distinct from text, full width and scales well to all resolutions (even 640×480).
Con: Fixed sized font, CSS bugs.
Day Dream: If you’re worried about looking good at 640×480 then Daydream is the theme for you. Having the sidebar widgets below the posts instead of beside is good, except that it should be two columns instead of three. The sidebar text wraps too much, and if the words are too big they will overlap the text beside them.
Pro: Custom image headers, colour themes, 640×480 supported, sidebar on bottom, page templates.
Con: Wasted space on higher resolution, text wrap issues, hard to see links in a body of text.
The clear winner out of these four is Cutline. Great new theme. I’ll be using Cutline on my wptheme test page until I do the next series of testing.
After the break a big table that compares all the features of these four themes at a glance.
WordPress.com uses TinyMCE for text input. It’s great, except that it sometimes gets confused with paragraphs and line breaks. They also have a raw HTML mode. Unfortunately, it used to be a pain to switch back and forth between the two because the option was located 4 clicks away on your User Profile.
Note: This can be done with the Alt-E keystroke instead of clicking the button.
Now they’ve made it a simple button click from the editor. Great work guys.
What it does
- moves the category bar from the right sidebar to underneath the post box when creating new posts or editting existing posts
- expands the categories to three evenly sized columns
- removes scrollbars (you can see all categories at once)
- adds a link to the Save button after category editting
The intended audience is wordpress.com
Screenshots and install instructions after the break.
As I mentioned here, I’m going through all the WordPress.com themes one-by-one and evaluating them. This time the contenders are Pressrow, Andreas04, Andreas09, and Connections. All of the themes have issues with page order display. This is a bug with most of the themes on WordPress.com.
- Pros: Custom image header support, top nav bar, page template support.
- Cons: Fixed width, is missing edit post links, has issues with sidebar display.
- Pros: Full width, 2 sidebars, top nav bar, “about” page displays in sidebar.
- Cons: Sidebar list items aren’t distinct.
- Pros: Full width, colour themes, page template support, 2 sidebars, top nav bar, images have margins and borders.
- Cons: Sidebar list items aren’t distinct, “number of” displays on a separate line.
- Pros: Custom image header support, top nav bar, images have margins.
- Cons: Fixed width, fixed font size (instead of percentage), sidebar doesn’t display in single post view, sidebar text wrapping issues, link colour is very close to text colour.
The winner of this round is Andreas09.
After the break, a table that compares the theme features and lists their bugs.
Blog maintenance can be broken into different categories:
- Frequent maintenance
- Linking back to older posts (“deep archives”)
- Answering comments
- Banning comment spam
- Occassional maintenance
- Backing up the blog
- Generating buzz
- Infrequent maintenance
- Pruning dead links
- Changing themes
- Upgrading software (scripts, plugins, etc)
I haven’t checked my site for dead links yet, so I’ll do it for the first time. Here’s how:
As I mentioned here, I’m going to be going through all the WordPress.com themes one-by-one and evaluating them. For the first go I chose a few of the best themes: Shocking Blue Green, Blix, Regulus, Sandbox, and Kubrick (aka WordPress Default).
After a break, an overview of Shocking Blue Green, Blix, Regulus, Sandbox, and Kubrick themes plus a big table comparing the features.
WordPress is the best blogging platform.
You know, content? The reason why people read blogs in the first place? The reason why people write blogs in the first place? (And you thought it was AdSense revenue)
In my five months at engtech.wordpress.com my most negative experience with has been themes. Theme selection isn’t a problem, there are a number of themes to choose from (although there is a distinct lack of cat-focused themes, but hey, I can suggest one). It is the inconsistency in theme features.
Choosing a theme is like buying a house, there are purely cosmetic features that will appeal to some, but what’s of real importance is the bare bones — the foundation. My goal is to find the themes with the best foundations, and hopefully draw attention to the themes with poor foundations so they can get some Automattic lovin’.
Around once a week I’m going to review 4-5 different themes on WordPress.com and post my findings. I’ll highlight features and bugs, as well as develop a spreadsheet of what’s available so that the WordPress.com community can evaluate themes at a glance. Luckily switching themes is very simple, so I can do it all with one test blog.
This is why I read the WordPress.com forums: pressing
Alt-B Alt-V in the Rich Text Editor brings up a second menu with advanced options.
UPDATE 2006/09/22: The keystroke has changed to Alt-V. Alt-E can be used to switch between Compose and HTML mode.
UPDATE 2006/09/23: Mr. Matt of WordPress points out that you can insert page breaks instead of paragraphs in the Rich Text Editor using Shift-Enter.
UPDATE 2007/01/10: If you’re having trouble getting it to work, make sure you click in the text entry box first. Also try Alt-Shift-V instead of Alt-V� (if Alt-V is bringing up the View menu in your web browser).
The biggest surprise was that you can cut-and-paste from Microsoft Word to WordPress and have it generate good HTML!
It has options for
- selecting text and applying formatting
- heading 1-6
- underline (also Ctrl-U)
- align full (full justification, IE: text is fully justified on the left and right columns with extra spaces between words)
- text colour
- paste as plain text (instead of doing an OLE paste that will retain formatting)
- paste from Word (haven’t tried it, but I assume it correct some of the HTML cruft from Word)
- remove formatting eraser (leave text content, but remove and of the HTML around it, useful for correcting a messed up section)
- clean-up messy code (HTML auto-correction)
- insert custom characters (accents, special characters like copyright and trademark)
- undo (Ctrl-Z) and redo (Ctrl-Y)
After the break, formatting examples.
There are only two things about wordpress.com that seriously annoy me.
I was looking at the Presentation option on my dashboard, and I noticed the “Edit CSS” button. My first thought was that some kind soul had bought the feature to force me to make this site more readable. But no, this the Automattic guys being the geniuses that they are and letting you try out and mess around with the stylesheet before you buy.
Damnit, it was so easy to avoid purchasing this feature when I could lump it in with “CSS Editing is Hell”. Now that I can try it out and potentially develop something I really like, I know I’m going to get suckered into it.
WordPress.com is the best freely hosted blog solution. That’s why I use it. They’ve always been saying they’ll eventually offer pay features to make money. Today’s feature announcements (new minimal Sandbox Theme , private user-level access controlled blogs, custom CSS for a fee) revealed the first pay feature.
One of the main advantages to running a wordpress.org self-hosted blog versus a wordpress.com multi-user blog is the ability to customize your layout via themes and install plug-ins. WordPress.com offers a limited selection of 38 themes. The themes are very inconsistent. Each theme supports different features and has different bugs. In fact, the only thing themes have in common is that they all seem to have bugs.
I wonder if the ability to customize CSS for a fee will deprioritize fixing theme bugs even further? I trust the guys at WP, but I know that fixing theme problems would be the last thing on my list if people could get around it by using custom CSS.
The price is a reasonable $15/year. The average cost for having a custom WordPress blog hosted professionally elsewhere is around $7/month. I’m assuming that once you’ve paid it is good for all of the blogs hosted on your user account, but it may be by individual blog.
Update: it is per blog, not per user.
I hope once they’ve added other wordpress.com “products” they start offering bundles. There should always be a bundle with all the wordpress.com products that is similiar in cost to hosting elsewhere.
Evolving Trends is what I think the perfect example of a well-layed out WordPress blog looks like.
- Little sidebar clutter.
- Lots of tags to make it easier for people to find his blog and to increase inbound links.
- Intrasite links (Related and Semi-related) on every post to ease navigation to similar articles.
- A sane amount of Web2.0 social bookmarking site submissions chiclets on each article.
- Each post is a well thought out article instead of a quick link (like this post).
- …and as I mention again and again, the occasional off-beat post with a sense of humour.
Google Sitemaps has been updated to offer site statistics if you’ve verified your blog. The verification method requires either uploading and html file to the website root directory or placing a specific meta tag in your HTML HEAD element to prove that you are the owner of the website. Both of those methods of site validation are not possible for users of WordPress.com because you do not have the ability to edit the HTML template.
I was asking Lorelle of Lorelle On WordPress to see if she had any suggestions for a workaround and this is what she had to say on the subject matter:
Honestly, if you have a WordPress.com blog, then skip submitting your sitemap. WordPress.com’s pinging service gets you totally into Google. Focus on creating intrasite links between your posts, use Most Recent Posts in your sidebar, and choose a Theme with good intrasite links well-featured, and you don’t have to bother with this. Google finds you and crawls WordPress blogs REALLY well. Submitting a Google site map would be redundant, and could penalize you.
Be sure and create a body of work, about two to three months of consistent blogging before you do a search on Google to find out how many posts it has found. Usually they are found by Google within hours, but you make it into the page ranking through time and volume.
As for verification, I didn’t have to go through that when I wrote this article and submitted my blogs. This may be a new feature. All you should need is to follow the instructions above.
As for meta tags, some WordPress Themes include meta tags in their Theme’s header. Check your source code to find out if they do. If they didn’t, understand that few search engines even pay attention to meta tags any more, so they aren’t the SEO feature they used to be. Too many people abused them.
Pings are the way to go and you can get much more mileage to know who WordPress.com pings and how to ping other search engines and directories.
Well, I found another WordPress bug and consequently wiped out a post that had taken me a while to put together.
Right underneath "Add trackbacks" where you would expect a submit button is the delete button.
If you hit the "Delete Post" button you will be prompted with a dialog box that says "Are you sure you want to delete that post? [OK] [CANCEL]"
If you choose cancel it gives you a *second* prompt "Are you sure you want to do that? [No] [Yes]".
Of course, I'm thinking "Yes, I'm sure I want to cancel deleting that post".
This is also the same dialog that you see when ever you publish an editted post, so it isn't unreasonable to think it's not doing something harmful.
Unfortunately, the second query seems to be asking you again if you want to delete that post, as you are quickly present with a blank page.
I'll keep this updated as to whether or not it was possible to recover the post. My glance at the WP interface doesn't seem to show any kind of undelete option. I'm glad they recently put in an Import/Export feature so that it is possible to make personal backups every now and then. It's too late now, but definitely something I'm going to start doing for the future.
The theme I initially settled for was "Silver is the New Black 1.0 by Gregory Auld". The problem I had with it is that categories are displayed flat with no hierarchy. WordPress.com installed some new themes this week (1, 2).
What I'm looking for is
- hierarchical categories
- doesn't have "empty categories*" bug
- uses a good amount of horizontal space (not fixed width)
What would also be nice
- looks good
- displays the number of posts in each category
* The "empty categories" bug is that if a parent category is empty then the child categories are not displayed.
Here are the candidates:
|Dusk 1.1 by Becca Wei||Flat (looks good though)||Doesn't support hierarchy|
|Blix 0.9.1 by Sebastian Schmieg||Hierarchy||Fixed width, does not display categories on the posts|
|Connections 1.0 by Patricia Muller||Hierarchy (with posts/category)||Empty categories|
|Emire 1.0 by Phu Ly||Flat (looks good though)||Doesn't support hierarchy|
|Fresh Bananas by Jeff Wheeler||Hierarchy||Empty categories|
|Supposedly Clean 1.0 by Alvin Woon||Hierarchy (if sidebar is on right)||Fixed width|
|Sweet Blossoms 1.01 by TalkXHTML.com||Hierarchy||Fixed width, pink with little hearts|
The show down on features is between Blix and Supposedly Clean and Blix wins. Even though they are both fixed width, Blix is wider. Also Supposedly Clean does not respect widgets properly (it shows "About Author" and "Links" even though I have those widgets removed).
It looks like Blix is the winner on technical merit, although I'm not a big fan of the colours.
Well, I found my first bug with WordPress tonight. I decided to change the "Jobs" super-category to "Careers", and all of the sub-categories disappeared. Luckily, the categories still exist on the individual posts, they have just disappeared from the "Manage Categories" and "Add to Categories" views.
The work-around is to recreate the "Jobs" super-category, refresh and then the sub-categories will reappear. Manually edit them and change them to be under the "Careers" super-category, then delete the "Jobs" super-category.
The fix would be to move all sub-categories when renaming a super-category.
Note: even though this bug exists, you still want to rename the "Jobs" category instead of just creating "Careers" and moving it because there were some entries marked with "Jobs" that you want to move to "Careers".