What to Look for in a Premium WordPress Theme

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WordPress continues to appeal to a large number of users due to the use of themes. WordPress themes allow users to easily change the look of their sites, without requiring a lot of coding. These themes can be divided into two main categories – free themes and premium themes. While free themes can offer quality design and a lot of features, there are many premium themes that are built to increase flexibility and customization options. Also, many of the free themes require a mention of the developer somewhere in the footer of each webpage, which many businesses find unprofessional when marketing their brand. Before you purchase a premium theme for your WordPress site, understand what you should look for in a premium WordPress theme.

Responsive Web Design

When browsing through different premium themes, the very first thing you should look for is that the WordPress theme uses responsive web design. The days of having a separate mobile site are gone. Your website should maintain a consistent look, no matter what device it is viewed on. From mobile phones to tablets to desktop computers, the design used in the premium theme should respond to the different screen sizes and present a good user experience.

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Support and Updates

The premium WordPress theme that you find should also offer support and regular updates. As WordPress goes through regular updates, it is important that the theme you pay money for does not become outdated and lose functionality. Before installing a premium WordPress theme, check to see if it has been tested to work with the latest release of WordPress. In addition to regular updates, the developers behind the premium theme should offer solid support and provide documentation. Find out how to contact them in the event of a malfunction and ensure that they have detailed documentation explaining all of the features included in the theme.

A Variety of Layouts and Customization

Customization and layout is probably going to be the first thing that attracts you to a premium WordPress theme. When browsing these themes, the thumbnail image that you see will be what grabs your attention. As you inspect the theme, make sure that the WordPress theme allows you to choose a layout that suits your needs. Additionally, color schemes and the font options can become a deciding factor in determining whether or not a premium theme is right for your website. Even though you like the look of a premium, you should be able to create a website using the colors and fonts that you want.

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Preview the Demo and Test the Theme

Most premium WordPress themes should have a live demo that uses the theme. This will allow you to explore the theme and ensure there are no errors in overall design. Adjust your browser and watch to see how well the responsive design works. The live demo provides the closest example of what your website will look like using that premium theme.

Finally, test the theme out. There are various WordPress plugins, such as The Theme Test Drive plugin, that make it easy to test the theme out on your site without removing your old theme. Once you have gone over all of these factors, decide if the features of the premium WordPress theme justify the price.

The Top Five Ecommerce Plugins for WordPress Sites

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When you are planning on creating an ecommerce site, WordPress may not be the first platform that comes to mind; though, there have been many quality ecommerce plugins that have been available in the past couple of years. In fact, you can have great success with an ecommerce site using WordPress, if you use a quality ecommerce plugin to make the process easier. From free WordPress ecommerce plugins to premium plugins, there are many different options. As you plan your ecommerce WordPress site, check out the top ecommerce plugins for WordPress.

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WP Ecommerce

One of the first ecommerce plugins to create for WordPress, WP ecommerce continues to be the most downloaded ecommerce plugin. The basic plugin is available for free; however, there are many different add-ons that can be purchased to provide additional features and compatibility. Some of the free features provided by WP ecommerce include a shipping calculator, Google and PayPal payment integration, coupon codes, and an administrator dashboard for keeping track of everything. Additionally, WP ecommerce can be used on any theme and is very easy to setup and begin using.

Jigoshop

Jigoshop is another free ecommerce plugin for WordPress. With easy setup, Jigoshop is a popular choice among WordPress ecommerce sites. Group your products into categories, thanks to the search capabilities of Jigoshop. Great for selling items that come in different sizes, you can also allow visitors to search by sizes for your products. Jigoshop also provides stock management features and several add-ons, such as additional shipping methods and payment gateways. The Jigoshop dashboard provides detailed reports and sales graphs.

Woocommerce

The Woocommerce plugin for WordPress is also free and provides a lot of customization options. Some of the included payment options built in to Woocommerce include PayPal, Cash, or Check. Like the other plugins mentioned, you can upgrade Woocommerce with extensions to add additional support and features. The dashboard is easy to navigate and includes methods for managing your inventory, whether it is physical merchandise or downloadable content. One of the benefits of Woocommerce over some of the other free ecommerce plugins for WordPress is the ability to setup coupon campaigns and offer discounts.

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The Cart66 ecommerce plugin for WordPress is available in both a free version and also a premium version. The free Cart66 plugin still includes the majority of ecommerce features that most users would require, such as inventory management, tax and shipping calculations, and reports that can be sent to your email.

YAK for WordPress

The YAK for WordPress plugin is free; though, it does not provide all of the features provided by the previously mentioned plugins. Basically, YAK is a shopping cart plugin, meaning it really only provides a simple solution for adding products and allowing checkout. Adding products is easy, using the post ID as the product code. For a simple solution for offering products without as many management features, the YAK plugin works well.

There are dozens of other ecommerce plugins for WordPress; however, the advantage to using any of these ecommerce plugins is that they are all free with most offering additional features at a cost. This allows you to tailor the WordPress plugin to suit your needs.

 

Common Misconceptions about WordPress

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A growing number of businesses are beginning to see the potential in WordPress. For years, WordPress was primarily used as a blogging platform; though, businesses, both small and large, are jumping on the WordPress bandwagon. Despite this increase in usage, there are still those that ignore WordPress, due to these common misconceptions.

Misconception 1: WordPress is Only Good for Blogging

This is probably the most common misconception that people have about WordPress – WordPress is only good for those that want to blog. A part of this stems from the fact that WordPress was initially marketed for that purpose. As this open source software began to grow and increase its functionality, it became a viable full-fledged Content Management System (CMS). WordPress can now handle any of your website needs. The only real limits to the potential of WordPress lie in the developers working on your site. Basically, there is nothing that WordPress cannot do that other web development platforms can.

Misconception 2: WordPress Does Not Offer Quality Support

Another reason that some businesses are skeptical about switching to WordPress is the fact that it is an open source project. This means that there is no definitive number to call when things go wrong. The fact that WordPress is open source does not mean that there is no support available. With thousands of developers and everyday users, there is an abundance of help that can found online. Whether you visit the WordPress.org forums or individual WordPress developers, there is no shortage of online help and indirect support.

Misconception 3: WordPress Does Not Provide a Good Environment for Ecommerce

For a long time, Drupal was the go to platform for the easy creation of ecommerce sites. Thanks to a variety of free plugins, WordPress is just as capable of providing the perfect platform for managing an ecommerce site. The truth is, many other ecommerce platforms are limited in scope, while WordPress brings its large amount of features and customization options to the ecommerce world. If you are planning an ecommerce site, be sure to look into the available ecommerce plugins for WordPress.

Misconception 5: WordPress is Not a Secure Platform

Security is always a concern, no matter what framework or website platform you use to create your site. If you were to look over the numbers, WordPress sites are more likely to be targeted by hackers than many other CMS platforms. The reason for this is the large amount of sites that use WordPress. The simple truth is that whatever software has the most users is going to attract more hackers. This does not make WordPress any less secure than other options. The bottom line is that when you use WordPress, you need to use common sense and follow all of the traditional security protocols.

Due to these common misconceptions, many businesses are hesitant to use WordPress for their online needs. The reason WordPress has become so popular is that more people are starting to use it, leading to an increased interest from individual developers willing to create themes, plugins, and additional features. No matter how you look at, there is nothing that WordPress cannot do.

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How to Keep Your WordPress Site Secure

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The internet is an amazing place, full of websites and connecting people from all over the world. With so many people spending a great deal of their time online, there is always the risk of hackers and malicious users attempting to gain access to a WordPress website. Whether you operate a business online or post to a personal blog, you can still become the victim of a targeted attack on your website. WordPress has become one of the most used methods for creating websites affordably and quickly. The more attention a blogging platform like WordPress gets, the more likely there are to be those that want to hack WordPress websites. If you use WordPress for creating your website, then make sure that you learn how to keep your WordPress site secure.

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Maintain Strong Passwords

Above all else, you should always create a secure unique password. This applies to both your administrator account and any other users that have administrator privileges. Many hackers utilize software that will automatically go through and try to enter every word in the dictionary until they come across a word that works. The same is true of number sequences, such as dates, including birth dates. The best passwords are randomly generated and carry no significance at all. If you choose to not use a random password generator then at least try to follow the standard safety protocol of using a combination of letters and numbers.

Keep Everything Updated

There are so many different reasons for keeping your WordPress installation updated and security is definitely one of them. In fact, the majority of WordPress updates are related to security fixes. After the WordPress team has encountered security vulnerabilities in the current release of WordPress, they start working on security fixes, which result in updates to WordPress. In addition to keeping your installation of WordPress updated, go through and ensure your theme and all of your plugins are up to date as well.

Do Not Use the Admin Username

In the past, WordPress would create an administrator account during setup called admin. Despite the fact that you can now create a new username during the setup process, many people still choose to name their primary user admin. This is the first username that hackers will use when trying to log into your WordPress installation. If you are already using the admin username, then create a new user with administrator privileges and delete the admin user.

Keep Your Installation Clean

As mentioned, you need to keep everything updated; though, you also need to keep your WordPress installation clean. This means removing plugins that you no longer use and deleting files that no longer serve any purpose. After installing a new theme, be sure to go through and delete themes that you are no longer using.

Finally, remember that no site is completely secure against hackers; however, by following some of these common sense tips, you can increase the difficulty of others being able to access your site. The more safety tips that you follow, the safer you will be, as a hacker will more than likely try to find a WordPress site with less protection.

 

 

Improving Search Engine Optimization for a WordPress Site

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The term Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is thrown around a lot, with different people providing a variety of definitions. In reality, SEO in its simplest form refers to optimizing a website to get better search engine results. Using WordPress for the creation of your website or blog will give a good start on SEO for your site, as WordPress incorporates several methods of SEO that are automatically applied to your pages and posts; though, this may not be enough to give you the search engine results you are hoping for. To increase the amount of traffic from search engine queries, learn how to improve Search Engine Optimization for a WordPress site.

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Focus on Content

There is a popular saying that gets passed around – content is king. The reason behind this is that search engines, especially Google, focus on the content of your website before factoring in other details and determining search rankings. When you write a WordPress blog posting or an informative article, you should aim to provide relevant content. Once your content is created, you can start worrying about additional SEO for your WordPress site. This will also help you retain visitors, as people are more likely to want to come back to your site and share your posts, if they found your content useful.

SEO Plugins for WordPress

With your content written, you can begin implementing additional SEO for your WordPress website. One of the easier ways to do this is through the use of WordPress SEO plugins. There are hundreds of different WordPress plugins that provide some form of SEO, from automatic sitemap generators to keyword usage calculators. Be far, one of the most popular and widely used SEO plugins for WordPress is the WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast. A free download, this plugin will automatically generate XML sitemaps and provides a method of analyzing your post to ensure you do not use a keyword too often or not enough.

URL Optimization

By default, WordPress is set to name the URL of all of your posts with a unique identifier. This results in an unreadable URL containing a series of numbers. Instead of automatically naming your posts using the default setting, you have several other options. Your first two options are to have your posts placed in a structure based on the date it was published, as in http://example.com/2014/04/10/post-name; though, the better option is to simply have the URL of your post named after the actual name of your post, as in http://example.com/post-name. Whichever method you prefer, any of these options are better for SEO on your WordPress site than going with the default setting. You can find these options under Settings – Permalinks.

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In addition to the use of SEO plugins, URL optimization, and providing relevant content, there are many more methods of ensuring good SEO for your WordPress site, including social media integration and making sure that you provide each of the major search engines with updated XML sitemaps each time you create a new post or page.

 

The Most Common WordPress Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

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Not Updating WordPress and WordPress Plugins

There are several reasons that updates are an important part of maintaining a WordPress site, including security and browser compatibility. This is true of both WordPress itself and the plugins that you install. The majority of the updates to WordPress are related to security fixes. After the WordPress team has discovered a security issue in the program, they try to release an update when possible. By keeping your WordPress site up to date, you are keeping it secure. Once WordPress releases an update, many of the most used plugins will release an update to ensure compatibility. Just remember, every time that you update your installation of WordPress, perform a backup, which brings us to the next common mistake.

Not Creating Backups

As with any major project, you should perform a regular backup to avoid losing all of your hard work. While WordPress provides methods for backing up your WordPress database, you may want to use a backup plugin to back up your entire website. As mentioned, you should always perform a backup before updating your release of WordPress; though, you should also backup your database before switching themes, moving to a new domain, or transferring your site to a new hosting plan.

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Creating Too Many Categories

WordPress has included several ways for users to label and categorize their posts. This has led many enthusiastic users to create several new categories for each new post that they create. Using too many categories does the opposite of what categories where designed for, by making it difficult for visitors to find related articles based on category. You know what your site is about, so stick to a handful of broad categories and use tags for further labeling.

Assuming WordPress Is Only For Blogging

The final common mistake to point out is that WordPress is not just for blogging. While WordPress came to life as a blogging platform, it now provides so much more. Businesses and universities are starting to notice that WordPress holds its own as a Content Management System and as a site builder for creating truly dynamic and professional websites. Major companies, such as Time, CNN, and UPS, have used WordPress for the development of some of their websites. For those looking for an affordable detailed solution to their site building needs, do not write WordPress off.

As you may have noticed, WordPress continues to grow and offer new features that businesses and bloggers can take advantage of. This includes an ever expanding amount of help through forums and discussion boards. When in doubt, regarding an aspect of WordPress, search the WordPress forums and you will probably find and answer to your dilemma.

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Finding the Best WordPress Plugins for Your Site

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WordPress is a popular blogging platform that is used by millions of users. A part of this popularity is due to the ability of WordPress users to choose plugins that add features to their website. There are thousands of different plugins to choose from, providing a large variety of benefits. While these plugins can be very useful, using too many plugins can cause your website to load slowly. This can be unappealing for visitors to your site, causing them to head on over to your competition. To provide a great user experience to your visitors, ensure that your WordPress site is not bloated with too many plugins. Discover how to find the best WordPress plugins for your site by testing them, or read on to learn more!

 

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Only use Plugins when Necessary

The more WordPress plugins you use, the longer it will take your page to load. Additionally, having too many plugins can cause your site to crash and lead to compatibility issues. Start by going through your existing plugins and determine which ones are absolutely necessary.

Caching Plugins

Caching plugins can dramatically change the load time of your site. Every time a user visits one of your WordPress pages, a dynamic PHP page is loaded. As the page is loading, various scripts, plugins, and widgets are loaded. A caching plugin will create a static HTML page of the final result. The majority of your visitors will then see the cached static HTML page, instead of waiting for the standard PHP page to load. In addition to caching pages, many caching plugins will also compress JavaScript, CSS, and other external scripts. Some of the more popular caching plugins include W3 Total Cache and WP-SuperCache.

Search Engine Optimization Plugins

While there is technically nothing wrong with the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) capabilities of WordPress, there are plugins that make the process of ensuring your content is optimized even more. You can find WordPress plugins that automatically generate XML sitemap files and submit them to search engines and WordPress plugins that allow you to keep track of how often your focus keyword is used. One of the most used WordPress SEO plugins is WordPress SEO by Yoast. This plugin provides the ability to both generate XML sitemaps and makes on page SEO a breeze.

Social Media Plugins

Linking your social media accounts to your WordPress sites allows your visitors to easily follow you on social media. There are many WordPress plugins that add social media options to your site, from sharing buttons to follow buttons. For example, Follow Me is a plugin that provides a widget that you can link all of your social media accounts to. This way, no matter what page a visitor is on, they can find your Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ account. Other plugins, such as Digg Digg, add a floating box containing share and like buttons for all major social media platforms.

The Bottom Line

Before you add any additional WordPress plugins to your site, take a moment to consider their worth. If the plugin does not provide a feature that you deem necessary to providing a good user experience, then you probably do not need it. In the end, you should always put user experience before the need to fill your site with dozens of features.

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How to Speed Up Your WordPress Site

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WordPress certainly provides a large assortment of features, plugins, and options that allow you to create a unique website. While all of this customization can be a good thing, you run the risk of having a slow loading website. The longer it takes for your WordPress website to load, the more likely your visitors will quickly abandon your site, especially for visitors that are using mobile devices. If you have a WordPress website and are worried about how sluggish your site may appear to users, then be sure to learn how to speed up your WordPress site.

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Site speed will directly impact how well your site can capture the attention of new visitors. To make a good first impression, do everything in your power to limit the load time of your site. This can include making sure that WordPress and all of your plugins are up to date, finding adequate website hosting, limiting your blog roll, removing plugins, and various other techniques.

Keep Everything Updated

First and foremost, make sure that you always keep your installation of WordPress updated. This is easy to do, as WordPress will remind you that there are available updates as they are released. While updating your installation of WordPress, also update any plugins that you use. These updates will fix bugs and may help with the overall performance of your website.

Find a Good Website Host

Where you choose to host your WordPress site can affect the speed of your site. A simple search will provide you with dozens of hosting sites with incredibly low rates; however, many of these end up being shared hosting. Shared hosting sites will limit the bandwidth available for your site and can also result in downtime. If you plan on providing a service on your site or want to ensure visitors are always able to access your site, find a solid hosting plan that does not use shared hosting.

Limit Your Use of WordPress Plugins

One of the ways that WordPress provides customization is through the use of plugins. There are many useful plugins out there, and you should never completely rule out the use of plugins. Go through the plugins that you are using and determine which ones are completely necessary. Try to limit the number of plugins that you use on your WordPress site and disable any plugins that you no longer use. The more plugins you that your WordPress site uses, the longing it will take for your pages to load. Additionally, plugins can occasionally conflict with each other, leading to unresponsive plugins.

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Advanced Options

For further speed increases, consider using browser caching, reducing the number and size of images that you use, and limiting the number of posts displayed on your homepage. By paying attention to which features of WordPress you employ, you can maintain a fast WordPress site and provide a pleasurable user experience.  To ensure that your that your edits run smooth, try loading the site using various internet connectivity speeds to see how the load times differ.  Other testing you can do to is by adding more, or less images, and see how this impacts the load times.

The more you play with it, the more you will understand about how it works, so be adventurous and have a little fun, and remember that with a SoloStream theme package you will have a wonderful bundle of themes to create an exceptional site.  These tips are a good starting point for those wanting to speed up their WordPress site, so go ahead and get started with one of our theme packs today!

The Importance of Selecting the Right WordPress Theme

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Over the years, the number of websites built with WordPress has continued to grow. While using WordPress allows you to easily create a website, there are thousands of different themes to select from. Before you get too far involved in the creation of your website, take a moment to learn more about the importance of selecting the right WordPress theme.

There are many different factors that can make a WordPress theme standout among others, whether it is a free theme or premium theme. Instead of focusing on just the aesthetics of the WordPress theme, you should also consider some of the underlying specifics of the theme that will end up affecting the way your website is presented on different devices, how quickly your website will load, the amount of customization, and overall browser support.

WordPress Theme Browser Support and Responsive Design

It is easy to focus on how your website looks on the browser that you are currently using; however, you also need to realize that not everyone is going to be using the same browser or have the same size screen. A growing number of internet users spend more time on their mobile devices than on desktop computers to browse the internet. With this in mind, it is important to find a WordPress theme that offers a responsive web design. This is easy to test, when previewing a WordPress theme, adjust the width of your browser and see how the site responds the changes in size. In addition to a responsive design, also be sure to test your site on other browsers, especially Internet Explorer, as IE offers the least amount of compatibility for newer design features.

WordPress Theme Page Load Time and Code Bloating
With an increase in mobile usage, it helps to have a website that will load quickly on all devices. There are many different free online speed tests that will allow you to determine how quickly a site loads. Once you have performed a speed test, view the source code of the theme and take a look at the HTML of the WordPress theme. If you notice a lot of different links to external scripts, then the WordPress theme that you are considering may end up taking a long time to load.

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WordPress Theme Customization
Browser and device support, along with page load time, are crucial to providing a good user experience; though, there is one final aspect to look at – customization. Go through the theme settings and see if you are allowed to change background colors, fonts, sidebars, and other layout changes easily.

In the end, find a WordPress theme that allows you to create a website that matches your needs. While load time, responsive design, browser support, and customization are all important, you want to be able to build a WordPress site that you are happy with. Have fun looking through the variety of WordPress themes available from our excellent package, and take your time choosing one that works well and offers everything that you are looking for.

Introducing Our Newest Theme: WP-Boundless

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boundless-scrnWe’re pretty excited about WP-Boundless. It was developed with the direct input of Solostream’s customers. The best ideas that have been incorporated are the feedback that you have suggested to us.

Here are some of the new features that make this a unique theme:

One-click Color Schemer – This tool enables you to select the specific color of your Site Title banner and then automagically generates a complete color scheme for your site. This is the fastest and easiest way to create a custom color layout.

Advanced Site Styling – Another set of color controls makes it possible to change many individual design elements throughout the theme. You can set up the theme to have an entire spectrum of colors just by clicking buttons — no need to muck around with CSS code!

The header can be set up to use the stylized ribbon graphic or you can easily upload your own custom image/logo for a feel that is truly your own.

The theme is perfect for a novice who wants a clean styled blog as well as power web gurus who will appreciate the speed in which design changes can be quickly implemented. The possibilities are endless!

More info and how to buy here: WP-Boundless

Check out the theme demo here: WP-Boundless Theme Demo

Demo video may be viewed here: WP-Boundless Demo Video