Monthly Archives: October 2016

WordPress Plugins

2015 has been a big year in the world of WordPress. We’ve seen notable acquisitions, a series of stable core releases, high-profile hissy fits, and the continuing emergence of high-quality plugins offering site owners solutions for everything from podcasting to membership sites.
Thanks to developments like the WordPress REST API, plugins are a part of the platform set for explosive changes in the near future and their very nature may be about to fundamentally change.
In this article, we’ll break out the crystal ball and step through five predictions for the future of free and premium WordPress plugins in 2016 and beyond.
Let’s get cracking!
1. The Premium Plugin Market Will Continue to Expand

Premium themes continue to be the larger commercial WordPress market, but there is now a very healthy community of premium plugin developers making significant money from their efforts.
Scott Bolinger has performed sterling work in tracking down some of the specific figures in his piece on the current revenue of several leading WordPress-based businesses. Cast your eyes down the list and you’ll see several prominent premium plugin makers featured.
Revenue reports from WP Rocket
Revenue reports from WP Rocket
Standout performers here include Gravity Forms and Yoast, both of which are genuinely multi-million dollar businesses. Smaller outfits such as WP Rocket are also providing behind-the-scenes breakdowns of current earnings with regular monthly revenue reports.
The whole subject of commercial plugins has been a surprisingly fractious one over the years inside the WordPress community. We’re still waiting to see true premium plugins offered via WordPress.org and it’s been clear for some time that Matt Mullenweg is not the biggest fan of commercial plugins as a general idea.
Envato’s breakdown of premium plugin sales shows strong recent growth.
Envato’s breakdown of premium plugin sales shows strong recent growth.
As we move into 2016, though, the toothpaste is very much out of the tube with commercial plugins. The clear market demand for professional paid solutions suggests that we could be at the beginning of something of a gold rush for plugin developers that’s likely to continue for many years to come.
2. The WP REST API Will Fundamentally Change the Plugin Landscape

The WP REST API is slowly creeping into core and is set to completely change WordPress as a platform and potentially revolutionize our understanding of what a plugin can be.

We’ve covered the technical background of the REST API here on the blog previously, so we won’t dwell too much on matters under the hood. The implications of WordPress being a fully-fledged application framework are pretty enormous, though, and suggest several specific changes coming down the line for plugins:
Plugins and mobile apps are about to get very friendly indeed: The introduction of the REST API finally gives WordPress a route into the previously walled garden of mobile apps. Considering that apps are where users spend the majority of their time, the scale of opportunity here is huge.
There will be a large increase in third-party integrations: The combination of an available API and tools such as Zapier opens a lot of doors for developers to integrate with third-party applications. Expect to see a slew of plugins arrive over the next 12 to 18 months that aim to connect WordPress with business-facing applications in particular.
Plugins could move outside of WordPress entirely: The arrival of the WP REST API means that developers are no longer limited to PHP and the current WordPress plugin framework to interact with the platform – they’re free to use a language of their choosing, from anywhere. It won’t happen overnight, but this has the potential to fundamentally alter our perception of what a plugin even is. As recent blockbuster projects like Calypso have shown, the REST API opens the door to moving outside of WordPress and PHP entirely.
It’s worth remembering that we’re right at the very beginning of the REST API era, but it’s already clear that the long-term future of the platform revolves around it.
From the consumer point of view, it’s likely to be a huge win. As WordPress opens itself up to a wider programmatic world, and experienced developers from other languages start bringing their skills and expertise to bear in the context of plugins, we can expect to see whole new classes of plugins emerge.
3. Leading Plugins Will Look to Become Mini-Platforms

Just as WordPress itself is becoming a much wider and more robust platform, you can also expect to see individual plugins carve out their own mini-platform plays by encouraging other developers to build on their underlying technology.
This is a trend that Chris Lema foreshadowed as long ago as late 2013, but the accuracy of his prediction is only increasing as the years go by. Once again, established plugin giants such as Gravity Forms, Easy Digital Downloads, and WooCommerce have led the way here by offering their own stable APIs for others to build on.
Plugins like Easy Digital Downloads are establishing themselves as mini-platforms.
Plugins like Easy Digital Downloads are establishing themselves as mini-platforms.
It’s an approach that makes an enormous amount of sense for plugin makers, whether they’re tackling broad areas such as e-commerce and form management, or drilling down into niche markets.
The runaway success of WooCommerce shows the potential rewards on offer when pursuing this strategy, and it’s one you can expect to see increasing numbers of plugin makers adopt.
4. The Emergence of a True App Store Could Be on the Cards

As alluded to earlier, we’re still waiting to see WordPress.org offer an official commercial plugin directory. There are various historical factors behind this, but it’s not a scenario that looks likely to change anytime soon – Matt Mullenweg is on record as saying it will never offer a premium plugin marketplace.
The situation in recent years has been that premium plugins were available in basically two places: via the plugin developer’s own website or through the dominant commercial plugin directory Code Canyon.
Pro Plugin Directory
The launch of the Pro Plugin Directory earlier in 2015 was an attempt to provide a bit more variety to users in terms of tracking down quality premium plugins and brought some handy search and filtering options to the table. The site got off to a strong start but is currently up for sale which doesn’t suggest it got quite the initial traction hoped for.
With the overall plugin market continuing to grow, and a potentially explosive amount of new types of development about to kick off on the back of the REST API, it seems unlikely Code Canyon is going to remain the only game in town forever. This prediction is something of a speculative one, but there seems to be a big gap in the market for a brand new option along the lines of existing app markets for other platforms.
Looking around at likely candidates for making that happen, the obvious front-runner has to be Automattic. Mullenweg has insisted WordPress.org won’t be used for that purpose for years but there’s nothing stopping something similar happening in the context of WordPress.com. It’s admittedly a long-shot, but the purchase of WooCommerce shows that commercial plugin makers are on Automattic’s radar.
5. Plugins Will Finally Be Truly International

A big part of WordPress moving beyond its current 25% share of the overall market will be continuing its strides into the non-English speaking world. It’s easy to overlook from within the Anglosphere, but English is slowly losing its grip as the language of the internet.
WordPress has long had one eye on internationalization and localization and Matt Mullenweg’s Q&A with an international live audience at WordCamp Europe showed that it’s still near the top of the platform’s agenda.

Following solid work on the core platform itself, themes have been added to the WordPress translation project and plugins are next on the list. An official announcement in September made clear that language packs will soon be offered to all plugins.
Existing active plugins (those that have been updated in the last two years) will be imported into WordPress.org and made available for translation over the coming months, though there is no fixed timetable for completion. This process will give developers the option of both using existing translations and actively soliciting new ones.
The true internationalization of plugins is a project that isn’t going to happen overnight but the payoff for both users and developers will be huge as non-English speaking audiences are finally put on an equal footing.

Change the Default WordPress Avatar

Most WordPress websites display avatars for user’s images. These avatars can be images the user themselves have chosen or they can be assigned by the website owner or by WordPress. The default avatar is a shape resembling a person on a gray background. To be honest it’s boring. Fortunately we can easily change the default WordPress avatar.
In this tutorial we’ll see how to do just that. We’ll also see how to choose your own avatar and how to use plugins to allow your users to choose their own avatars. The only knowledge required is very basic – how to install a plugin, crop an image, and upload a file.
What is an Avatar?

WordPress defines an avatar as an image that appears next to your name when you comment on avatar enabled sites. They’re usually around 80×80 pixels and can be practically any file type, although PNG is popular.
Default Avatar Settings
We’ve all seen the mystery person avatar. It’s boring and reminds us that avatars are not set up for the website. Fortunately we’re not limited to the mystery person. With WordPress we have several choices.
You can choose the default avatar for anyone commenting on your site. There are several built-in choices and you can even add more. These are the avatars for anyone leaving comments as well as the users for your website (unless they specify one, as we’ll see later).

In the dashboard, go to Settings, Discussion, and scroll down to Avatars. Make sure Show Avatars is checked. Here you have seven built-in choices. Also choose the appropriate rating for your audience (g-x).
Mystery Person is the default. Four of the choices are generated. These use the commenter’s name or email address to mathematically generate an image according to the pattern you’ve chosen.
Select the avatar you want as default and click Save Changes.

The avatars on your website will then update to match your default selection.
Gravatar – Getting Your Own Custom Avatar
You’re not limited to the default avatars a website chooses- you can have your own. The most popular are provided by another Automattic company called Gravatar. Gravatar stands for Globally Recognized avatar. You create your profile in one location and then it will follow you to every Gravatar enabled website.
The advantage of having a Gravatar is one person can have an avatar that follows them across the web. How? They are tied to your email address. Any time you comment and use your email address your default avatar will be used. If you don’t have a default, or if you don’t include your email address, WordPress will assign a default avatar to your comment.
In the dashboard, go to Users, Your Profile, and scroll down to About Yourself. This shows your profile picture. Change this picture on the Gravatar website by clicking the link. You can also just go to Gravatar.com.

Create a Gravatar account (this is free), upload your image, and you’re done. You can have multiple emails with a different Gravatar for each. A square image around 250×250 is a good choice.

It even has a cropping tool with two previews to show you what the image looks like large and small. This creates a copy so your original image remains intact.

Once you’ve selected and cropped your image select the rating (g-x), choose the email to use it with and click the button. This avatar will now follow you anywhere that you use the email you’ve assigned it to that allows for Gravatars.

Refreshing my profile page on my website now shows my new Gravatar (a cropped version of my original – sorry for all the pics of me here).

Every website that displayed my old Gravatar now displays my new Gravatar. Here’s how it look within comments.
Plugins for Adding New Avatars

WordPress has lots of plugins available to customize and add new avatars. Here’s a quick look at some of the most popular.
Add New Default Avatar

Add New Default Avatar adds a field where you can link to images to be used as an avatar. Add as many avatars as you want and all of them will display in the list of options. You can even specify an image size for it to convert to image to. It provides examples of how to specify the URL with the image size.

Here’s the link field added to the default avatar selection screen. The new avatars are added to the bottom of the list of choices.
WP First Letter Avatar

WP First Letter Avatar creates an avatar using the first letter of the user’s name if they don’t have a Gravatar. Each letter has a different colored background. It includes multiple sizes and will automatically select the most appropriate size. You can even create your own avatar set and use the same naming rules. You can also turn off Gravatar if you want all users to have the letter avatars.

Here’s an example comment. This commenter’s name is Tester, so the avatar is a T.
Avatar Manager

Avatar Manager allows your registered users to upload their own avatars to be hosted on your website. The file upload is added to their user settings page. You can specify the default pixel sizes and set custom permissions. Users can choose to use their Gravatars or their uploaded avatars.

This image shows how easy it is to disable the Gravatar and upload a file using common controls we’ve seen on the web for years.
WP User Avatar

WP User Avatar adds a file upload feature to the avatar list and a library where you can see and manage the avatars that have been uploaded. Any images in your library can be used as an avatar. You can add upload shortcodes to widgets and posts so contributors and subscribers can add their own avatars. You can also set their file limits and disable Gravatar if you want more control.

The new avatar upload is added to the top of the avatar list. Click the button to upload a new image.
Basic User Avatars

Basic User Avatars add a file upload to the user’s profile page where they can upload their own avatars. You can set upload permissions to user of author-level and above if you want. It has a shortcode for frontend avatar management allowing users to upload through posts or widgets.

This one is a simple file upload button.
WP User Avatars

WP User Avatars adds an avatar file upload section to the user’s profile page, allowing users to upload and select their own avatars. It adds a set of options so you can select user roles that are allowed to upload avatars and to keep WordPress from contacting Gravatar for avatars so you can specify them yourself.

This one lets you upload or choose from the media library using the upload box in your user profile page.
Image Guidelines for Creating Your Own Avatars

Choose your image type and size based on the design and need. 128×128 will work fine for most images. You might consider 250×250 for images with more detail.
PNG is good for transparency and lots of color.
JPG is great for gradients such as photographs.
GIF is good for repetitive color such as line art, logos, and illustrations with text.
You might need to experiment to see what works best for your design but these simple guidelines will help get you in the ballpark.

Editing Tricks to Better Attract

I know you already spend heaps of time writing content for your WordPress site. But how much time do you spend on the images you use in your content? If you’re like a lot of bloggers, probably not that much.
In this post, I’m going to dig into some basic image editing tricks and tips to help you get the most from the limited time you have to create blog images. I’m not a professional designer – so these tips should be easy to implement no matter what your knowledge level is.
Let’s jump straight into it…
1. Use These Colors Whenever Possible

Let’s start with a disclaimer – color advice should always be taken with a grain of salt. If I tell you X color does better on social media (on average), that doesn’t mean you need to make every single image include X color. It just means that if you have a natural opportunity to include X over Y, that might be a good idea.
We’re talking averages here – that doesn’t mean there aren’t situations where an image using a below average color does gangbusters.
With that being said, red is the key to getting your images shared more often…at least according to two different analyses of millions of Pinterest images.
In the first study, a joint project between Yahoo Labs and Georgia Tech, the researchers found that images with red, purple, and pink tones got shared more often. According to the researchers, “warm and exciting colors seem to affect the recipient’s likelihood of sharing the image.”

Image Source: Curalate
Similarly, Curalate looked at 500,000 Pinterest images and also found that red images got significantly more repins than blue images.
I know – this data is for Pinterest, not blog images specifically. I can’t promise the exact same principles apply. But it’s the best data I could find. And the fact that both analyses look at over 1.5 million images leads me to believe it’s not an isolated phenomenon.
Red is associated with excitement, so it makes sense that it would elicit more “excited” responses than calm blues.
Ignoring social shares, it’s also a good general idea to match the colors you use with the voice of your blog. In Jacqueline’s logo post, she has a detailed discussion of the psychology of color. So if your blog is upbeat and exciting, red is great. If you’re trying to push out a calm vibe, using blue might well be a better option.
2. Make Sure You Have Proper Color Contrast

Bloggers love adding text to the images that they share. And that’s great! Text helps your images get shared on social media. But only if people can actually read it.
See, there’s this thing called color contrast that affects how easily people can read. Ever try to read yellow text on a lime green background? It probably gives you a headache just thinking about it.
Thankfully, you don’t need to try to guess whether or not your background/foreground pairing has enough contrast – you can just use the Color Safe tool.
Image editing tricks
Just enter your background color and the tool will generate a number of foreground colors for you to choose from.
3. Use the Right Fonts and Pair Them Correctly

Did you know that fonts can affect everything from how cynical you are to how you perceive other people’s ideas?
Font choice is the reason that, despite the researcher’s amazing science, the public laughed at Higgs Boson researchers. All because they published their research using Comic Sans.
Though it wasn’t very scientific, Phil Renaud also did a playful analysis and found that his essays which used the Georgia font got the best grades over other fonts.
So, don’t just brush off font choice as something with no real effect. Choose fonts that match your mood. If it’s a serious post, choose a serious font.
Unsure how to match font with mood? Me too! Thankfully, Tympanus has a good post connecting fonts with their respective mood.

Image source: Tympanus
Also, to keep your images visually appealing, it’s a good idea to use more than one font. But when you choose to pair fonts, you need to pair them correctly. For that, I’ve got another great resource for you – Tom wrote a whole post on just font pairing.
4. Blur Background Images

If you’re adding text to a background, a neat effect is to blur the background image behind your text. This sharpens the appearance of your text and makes for a more interesting image.
If you are planning to blur the background image, you should try to choose an uncluttered image, though. If you have a busy background image, the blur effect will look more sloppy than attractive.

Image Source: Bill S Kenney’s Dribble
Canva’s Design School has a great guide with tips for designing with a blurred background.
5. Consider Adding Filters

All by itself, the popularity of Instagram is proof that people love image filters. They’re a neat way to add some visual variety to your blog images.
You can either add a full-on filter with something like Canva or just play around with saturation, contrast, and brightness, tint, and more using any photo editing tool.
6. Make Multiple Images Into a Photo Grid

If you have multiple images, combining them into one single photo grid can be more engaging than showing three images with the exact same dimensions:
FotoJet
FotoJet lets you quickly create photo grids from your existing images. And it only takes a few seconds!
7. Use the Right Dimensions and Optimize Images

You know which images perform the best? The images that actually load quickly. Yeah – this isn’t a style tip, it’s a performance tip. But it’s true – no matter how cool your images look, if you’re uploading 3MB monster images, your readers might never even get a chance to look at them.
For an in-depth look at optimizing images, check out our guide to optimizing WordPress images.
What Types of Images Resonate With People?

I’m going to end with a brief rundown of some types of images that especially resonate with readers. This is not intended to be a complete list of every single image that works – just a look at some good options from the data and my personal experiences.
People Like Looking at Images of…People
Whether it’s biological or social conditioning, people love looking at images of faces on the web. In an eye-tracking study from Nielsen Norman Group, they found that people spent 10% more time looking at people’s faces than they did reading the biography paragraph next to the image.
Infographics Are Still Popular
Though the golden age of infographics may have passed, they’re still a popular type of image. They’re also easier to create nowadays – you can use Piktochart to create infographics, even if you lack any graphic design skills.
Quote Images
People love sharing quotes. Quotes consistently get more retweets on Twitter than other types of Tweets. Quote images are also quick to create, giving them a great ROI as far as blog imagery goes.