Category: Blog

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.

Open Source - Word Cloud

 

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

Solostream Themes Good To Go with WordPress 3.8

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thumb upSolostream themes have been tested for the newest release of WordPress 3.8 and there are no known problems so we are giving it a thumbs up – green light rating for our customers.

Feel free free to upgrade at any time.

If you encounter a “bug” issue with a theme, please be sure to check for any plugin compatibility issues because these can cause issues with a site after upgrades.  If the problem persists, please use the Support Forum to report it to us.

This latest WordPress release primarily focused on changes to the user interface with minimal changes to the functionality of platform itself.  In addition, there were minor bug fixes which usually accompany a version release.  For additional details you can check out the Codex for the official summary of Version 3.8.

WP-Shopkeeper – First eCommerce Solution from Solostream Released

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WP-Shopkeeper: Built So You Can Sell Anything

Over the past year, we have received feedback from our customers who suggested that it would be great if we could create an  ecommerce theme. We are very happy to announce that we have completed development on our first ecommerce theme—WP-Shopkeeper.

As with all of our themes, we put in a great deal of time and effort to get WP-Shopkeeper launched. We felt it very important that the styling, options and coding had to be just right. We carefully studied the best eCommerce solutions and determined WooCommerce was the best one available for integrating into a Solostream product. For more information about the WooCommerce ecommerce toolkit click here.

Our goal in developing WP-Shopkeeper was to create a robust, professional online store that could be easily deployed by our customers to sell any product or service. To that end, we have included several page layouts for your Shop, Single Product, Cart, Checkout, and Customer Account pages. You can be up and running in a few minutes.

We welcome your feedback and look forward to seeing all the great ways you find to use this ecommerce theme!

WP-Clear 3.2 Premium WordPress Theme Now Available

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We recently completed an update of WP-Clear, and version 3.2 is now available for download in the Solostream member’s area after you login. Here’s a list of the changes we made:

1. Bugfix for featured content sliders.

This has been an intermittent problem with many of our responsive themes when viewed on mobile devices, and we’re happy to finally have a viable solution. We’ll be implementing this fix in our other themes over the next several weeks.

2. Added 4 new Blog page templates.

We’ve had several folks requesting these of late, so we decided it was a great “standard feature” to begin adding to our themes. You can see these Blog page templates in action on the WP-Clear demo site when you hover over the Page Templates link in the top navigation bar.

3. Rewrote code to make theme more child-theme friendly.

More and more folks are using WordPress child themes as a way to customize their theme, and technically, it’s the best approach when you need to change core theme files. As such, we rewrote much of the theme’s code to make it easier to create a child theme.

4. Added some new widgets.

We added a Featured Post widget, which allows you to feature a single post in any of the widgetized areas. We also added a Featured Posts widget, which allows you to feature a number of posts with a specific tag. You can see both these widgets in action on the WP-Clear demo site.

5. Other minor bug fixes.

These bugs have mainly to do with the visual display of the theme, as well as problems with Basic Style theme settings now working as intended.

How to Upgrade to WP-Clear 3.2 from WP-Clear 3.1+

1. Download latest version after you login to the Solostream member’s area.

2. Upload the new version to your WordPress site – The simplest way to do this is via the Theme page in your WP dashboard. Just go to your Themes page, click the “Install Themes” tab at the top, then click the “Upload” link, and upload the theme zip file.

3. Activate the new version – You can do this immediately after you upload the theme, or do it from the Themes page in your dashboard.

4. Update your custom menus – You may have to visit Appearance >> Menus in your WP dashboard and reassign your custom menus.

5. What to do if you modified the previous version – If you modified the previous version of the theme, you may have to carry those changes over to the new version. If you made modifications via the theme settings page, those changes should appear in the new version automatically. If you made changes via the custom.css file, you will just need to manually copy those changes over to version 3.2 custom.css. If you made changes to any other theme files, you will need to manually copy those changes over to the new theme as well.

How to Upgrade to WP-Clear 3.2 from WP-Clear 3.0 or Older

If you’re still using WP-Clear 3.0 or older, please read this post.

Questions?

If you have questions about anything in this post, feel free to post them in the comments section. If you have theme-specific support issues, please login to the members area and post your question(s) on the support forum.

Hurricane Sandy – An Unwelcome Visitor

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We are about to feel the brunt of a major storm for the second time in a little over a year. Last time it was Hurricane Irene. This time it is Sandy and apparently this storm is going to make last year’s experience feel like a dry run.

All of the Northeast is under alert to prepare for this massive storm. The authorities are predicting major power outages throughout the region that are going to last for days.

Since our team is based throughout this area, we expect that it will be a challenge to provide our normal level of support.  Please bear with us as we weather the storm and do our best to find ways to support the Solostream community.

 

WP-Professional – Premium WordPress Theme for Coaches, Consultants and Other Independent Professionals

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We’re please to announce the release of our latest Premium WordPress theme, WP-Professional. As the name implies, this theme is geared toward Personal and Business Coaches, Consultants, Authors and anyone else who’s in the business of sharing ideas.

If you take a peek at the theme demo site, the first thing you’ll likely notice is Featured Content slider at the top. In this slider, you have the option to show any one – or all – of the following components:

  • Video Email Capture Form
  • Standard Email Capture Form
  • Featured WordPress Pages with a featured image or video.
  • Featured WordPress Posts with a featured image or video.

What you’ll also find is a clean, modern-looking design with big, beautiful fonts, minimal graphics and plenty of white-space to show off your most inspiring ideas. Also, like our other recent themes, WP-Professional is built on a responsive design framework, which means it will look great on mobile devices as well as desktop machines.

If you’re not a coach, consultant or other independent professional – but you still like the look of this theme – you’ll be happy to know that it’s versatile enough to serve very well as a standard business website, blog or online magazine.

All-in-all, we’re really happy with the way WP-Professional turned out, and we hope you will be too.

WP-Clear 3.1 Premium WordPress Theme Now Available (Plus Upgrade Guidance)

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We recently completed several upgrades to WP-Clear, and version 3.1 is now available for download in the Solostream Member’s Area.

If you’re using WP-Clear currently, you should read over this before you upgrade.

Most of the changes we made are relatively minor, but there is one major change that may impact how you use the theme going forward. Lets get started with that one major change.

If you’d rather check out the WP-Clear demo site first, find it here.

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