100 WPwatercooler episodes? What?!

Really? 100 WPwatercooler episodes? This is a bigger milestone than crossing the 5 million views mark! And not just because Google recalculated views and now we haven’t actually crossed the 5 million views mark!

100 episodes seems like a significant amount of content.  I haven’t been on all of them, but I’ve only missed a handful (half of which were this past summer). I suppose this being a milestone and all, I should probably count. I think Jason Tucker is making something that will auto-calculate it, so I’ll post it then.

That’s 100 Monday mornings! Well, actually, I think we counted some of the remote broadcast we did as episodes, so maybe there were a couple Saturdays in there too. :) 3,000 minutes of WordPress and various teas.

We’re still here!

WPwatercooler Episode 84: Choosing a WordPress Hosting Plan

Hey it’s Monday again, and that means we did another WPwatercooler! Booyah! Episode 84 … and we are quickly approaching 100!

Today we talked about hosting. As always, a gamut of opinions and a tangential approach. I’m not kidding when I tell the small business folk I work with that there is no one opinion about hosting … whether it’s WordPress-focused or any other kind!

It’s a pretty good episode, despite the fact that my sound settings continue to be unoptimal. And also, I made this face:

WPwatercooler Sé Reed
Smirk City.

Someday maybe I’ll learn not to make faces at the camera. Until then, enjoy the hosting conversation!

 

Craftcation 2014: E-Commerce – Sell Your Sh*t Online

Craftcation!! How I love thee!

Craftcation is a four-day conference for handmade makers, micro-businesses and other Creative Makers!! Craftcation is honestly one of the most fun, rewarding and inspiring events I’ve ever attended and hands-down the best conference I’ve ever experienced.  This is Craftcation’s third year and I was honored to be asked back to present for the third time!

My first presentation this year was E-Commerce: Sell Your Sh*t Online:

There are countless options out there for selling your products and services online, and more are added everyday. But how do you know which one to use? Should you do it yourself? Should you use a service? And what the heck is PCI-compliance anyway? This session will provide a breakdown of the features and foibles of various e-commerce approaches (including platforms like Shopify, Squarespace, and WordPress) to help you figure out which solution is right for you and your business.

Here are the slides … if you were there and have any comments or questions, please let me know!!

Why You Should Not Use the WordPress Media Library (or Taken Out of Context/I Must Seem So Strange)

If you are acquainted with me or my WordPress work, you likely know that I am a regular on the weekly webcast the WPwatercooler. The Watercooler is a grand old time … up to 10 WordPress folk chit-chatting about WordPress-y stuff in a live-broadcast Google Hangout for a half-hour every Monday. One of my favorite tech-geeks, Jason Tucker, asked me to come on the premier episode and we’ve been doing a show every week ever since.

The thing about the strict 30-minute format is that while it definitely makes the show fast-paced and snappy, it also doesn’t leave a lot of time for explanations or side-comment follow-up (believe me, I try).

Such was the case a few episodes ago, when I made an offhand remark that one shouldn’t use the Media Library to upload images.

wp media uploader screenshot
The Upload Media screen

Hooboy howdy! You would have thought I had said that the best way to edit theme files was with the Admin Editor! (Note: Never use the Admin Editor to edit theme files.)

Now, in order to understand the nature of this reaction, you’d have to understand the nature of the group dynamic that is the Watercooler’s regular cast. Have you ever seen Wet, Hot, American Summer? No? Okay, well you really should. How about Keystone Cops? Yeah, me neither.

Alright, well, essentially we’re like a bunch of geeky teenage siblings and cousins hanging out on a houseboat without any adult supervision. Chris Lema (who blogs daily at chrislema.com) likes to call it Seinfeld-meets-the-View, but I’m sticking with the geek-siblings-on-a-houseboat analogy.

Anyway, it is within this context that I made my comment about not using the Media Library, and within this context that my dear, dear friends Chris Lema (who blogs daily at chrislema.com) and Steve Zenghut (who blogs whenever-he-damn-well-pleases at zeek.com) seized upon my comment with the ferocity and tenaciousness of a tiger that has not eaten in weeks when you have a rib-eye steak strapped to your face and also you are covered in glitter and the tiger realllly likes glitter.

Since that episode (no, I have not gone back to figure out which episode it is), it has come up multiple times on the air and off the air (in the most congenial sense, of course) and now, today, I received the second Twitter-comment-from-a-stranger referencing it and I keep saying I’m going to write a blog post to EXPLAIN what I meant, by golly, and, by golly, this is that blog post.

Twit-tease

I may never live it down, but at least I can point here when I say, vehemently and with much false sternness, “That is not what I meant!”

What I Did Not Mean When I Said You Should Not Use the WordPress Media Library

  • You should not use the Media Uploader
  • You should not ever click the Add Media button
  • You should upload all your images using FTP
  • Your site should never have any images on it
  • If you upload an image into your WordPress site using any method other than manually entering the binary code onto the motherboard you are a fraud and a noob and your site will shatter instantly into a thousand pieces and your first-born child will be cursed with a forever-unrequited love for Drupal developers and/or you will get Adult Chicken Pox

What I Meant When I Said You Should Not Use the WordPress Media Library

1) When perusing the WordPress Media Library, you may have noticed that there are no folders or categories … just a long list of images. If you have a lot of images, not having any way to filter or sort images gets unwieldy quickly.

Well, when you add an image to a page or a post in WordPress, it is “attached” to that page or post.

(Tangent! When I first started using WordPress (back in 2006!), it was by referencing this “attached” image that I would pull thumbnails for posts or pages. That approach has long been depreciated by the Featured Image, but the attachment function still happens. (Incidentally, that “attachment” status is the whole reason the attachment page is called the “attachment page” and not the “media page” (It also used to be how you would make galleries (Holy smokes, how many sub-parentheticals can one article have?).).))

wp_media_library
The WordPress Media Library

As it happens, the Media Library continues to display this fascinating bit of WordPress architecture, and, indeed, allows you to sort by the attachment page or post, which is the one, single, solitary way that the Media Library data can be sorted. (Yes, yes, you can also sort by date and author and file name, but the author and date criteria are too ubiquitous to be useful and when files have easily recalled and distinguishable names like IMG_07643.jpg and DSC_ABCD1234.jpg, as is common with beginning users, searching by the file name is, how shall I say this nicely … ? Totally useless.)

TL;DR: If you do not add the image to the page or the post directly, there will be no attachment specification. (Unless you use a plugin to do it manually.)

2) Most, probably around 95%, of my SBDC clients are beginner users. There is a tendency amongst them to want to use the Media Library as an image repository. Countless times clients have come in having uploaded ALL OF THE IMAGES to the Media Library. So when we would inevitably have to post an image to a page or a post, they would proudly say “I uploaded it!” and I’d have to sit there and scroll with them through a ga-bazillion pictures that all look the same, and then click all the variations to see the full crop.

Mind you, this is a trillion times more tolerable with the new Add Media window than it was with the old one when you had to click through 45 pages of 40×40 thumbnails. Nonetheless. This wastes valuable time on everybody’s part. I now make it a point to state that this should not happen.

It comes down to this: If you just add images to your pages and posts as you need them, it keeps things organized, cuts down on your data usage, and gives you great skin.

Actually, just the first two, but if you’re less stressed from scrolling through an endless lazyload of thumbnails trying to find thatonepictureomgwhereisit, your skin will probably thank you too.

WordCamp Phoenix – An Introduction to WordPress

WCPHX 2012 was the first WordCamp I ever attended, and it changed everything.

No more would I toil alone in front of my computer, with only Google and the codex to share my WordPress highs and lows. Before I even got home from Phoenix, I had found OCWP and I attended the very next meetup.

Needless to say, I was delighted to give an 1.5-hour presentation at WordCamp Phoenix 2014 and introduce a whole ballroom full of new WordPressers to the joys of WP!

The talk was geared toward total beginners, so I start from the very beginning. Hopefully I will find some time to put slide notes up at some point!

A breakdown of the WordPress image settings

Recently, I posted a query about session topics to a group of attendees of an upcoming indie biz conference that I’ll be speaking at. The responses I’ve received so far line up nicely with my planned curriculum, but I also received the following reply and accompanying screenshot from a crafter named NK:

“I’d like to know what all this stuff means And how should I be labeling it?”

wordpress_media_settings_screenshot

That is a screenshot from the WordPress Insert Media screen. I usually cover this in my WordPress II workshops, and I was writing NK back to say as much, when I remembered that the conference isn’t until April, which meant she would either have to wait til my talk in April or to try to figure out how to properly describe that particular screen and then comb through Google to find a decent answer.

Neither of those are good options!

See, this particular screen is actually kind of important. In terms of Search Engine Optimization, labeling your images is one of the easiest ways to do basic optimization on your website. Also, there are significant differences in the behavior of the fields: for some of the fields, viewers will see the text, for some they won’t and for others the text will be visible, but only if the image is clicked a certain way. Whatever the reason, it’s much better to start using this screen correctly now, rather than having to go back and re-edit 4 months of posts.

To that end, I decided to explain that particular screen right here, right now, no waiting for April.

wordpress_media_settings_screenshot_labeled

First, some context. This is the sidebar of the Insert Media screen that appears when using the “Add media” function in a WordPress page or post.

1. Title

This field will auto-populate with the name of the image file. So if your file is named “kitten.jpg”, by default this field will display “kitten”. The text entered here will show in the code pulling the image, but it will also display when a user hovers over the image, usually in a small yellow box.

While the screenshot NK posted doesn’t include anything about the image file name, I’m going to bring it up anyway. The image file name (i.e. “kitten.jpg”) is one of the ways search engines determine what is going on in an image. If what is going on in the image relates to page’s content, the search engines will index the page more accurately … essentially giving your keyword strategy additional “umpf”. To put it another way: No one is searching for IMG098776. But people are searching for kittens.

This is the Title.

2. Caption

The WordPress caption behaves like you might expect a caption to behave: It is text that provides detail and context to the viewer about the image, and is often displayed beneath the image. How (or if) the caption displays is determined by your WordPress theme. As far as SEO goes, if you’ve got your keywords in the caption, it counts as having them as part of the main text of the page.

This is a caption about a cat.
This is a caption about a cat.

3. Alt text

Alt text stands for “alternative text”. It is not normally displayed on screen, but it will display for viewers who have images turned off or who are using screen readers for accessibility.

Alt text is also the most significant setting in an SEO sense. So significant, in fact, that Google’s go-to SEO explainer Matt Cutts has a little video about it:

What he says, essentially, is that the alt text tells Google what the image is about, even more so than the image file name.

What that means, essentially, is that if you do nothing else, you should fill out this field at every possible opportunity, briefly describing the image and incorporating your keyword strategy .

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 12.53.53 AM

4. Description

The description can also be important, but please note: this is not the same thing as a meta-description, which shows up on search engines. This field is primary related to WordPress and how the image shows up on your site.

Although the description can be used for display by your theme, it is not common. Primarily the description appears as the main text on the image’s attachment page, which are automatically created for each image you upload to WordPress. Attachment pages have addresses like:

http://sereedmedia.com/?attachment_id=563#main

and, depending on your theme, display things like the image, its title, its description, its size, its upload date. etc.

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 11.49.17 PM

That means that not only will the information you enter for the image be helpful in optimizing the post or page you’re using it in, but it can serve to optimize the attachment page as well. And since these pages are auto-generated, they double your SEO-efforts with no extra work!

5. Alignment

This one is pretty self-explanatory, and most folks have no trouble understanding it. It’s usually pretty straightforward:

pawAligned left means the image will be flush to the left side and text will wrap around to the right.

 

paw

Aligned center means an image will appear in the center, with no text on either side.

Aligned right means the image will appear flush to the right side and text will appear on the left (depending on how the text is aligned). paw

 

pawNone means the alignment will default to the most basic setting, usually aligned left with the text aligned to the bottom edge of the image.

The only time this can get tricky is if a theme’s settings override the settings specified here. Then you can right-align and left-align all you want, but the image will stay aligned where the theme is telling it to, until you update the code, override the override, or get a new theme. Things like the amount of spacing between the the text and the image is also determined by your theme.

6. Link To

This field allows you to specify where, or if, the image should serve as a link.

Media File: links to the image itself. By default this will take the viewer to a new page that has only the image on it. Sometimes this option is used to display the image in a lightbox.

This is a caption about a cat.
Links to Media File

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 12.27.07 AM

Attachment Page: Links to the image’s attachment page (as discussed in Description, above)

This is the Title.
Links to Attachment Page

Custom URL: Linking to a custom URL allows you to use the link to direct traffic to a specific page, post, or external link.

This is the Title.
Links to a Custom URL

None: No link, just an image that won’t click. Good for logos, icons, etc.

This is the Title.
Links to None

 7. File Size

Every time you upload an image to WordPress it automatically uploads up to four versions of the image. A thumbnail, a medium size, a large size, and the original, full size. The thumbnail, medium and large sizes are set in the Settings>Media screen.

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 12.42.59 AM

WordPress likes to keep things pretty, so if your original image size is smaller than any of the size iterations, WordPress won’t stretch it to make the bigger sizes. Also the settings are not dynamic, meaning if you edit the size settings, WordPress will use those dimensions for all new images added, but it won’t go back and re-size your existing images (you can use a plugin to do that).

The image size you should use in a page or post will depend on your individual settings and the needs of that post. I tend to use the medium size the most, but as long as your image sizes are consistent, you can use whatever suits you best!

This is the Title.
Thumbnail
This is the Title.
Medium
This is the Title.
Large

 

And that’s it! A brief tour of the WordPress image settings, a cute kitten and no waiting til April.