How To: Display WordPress Categories in a Horizontal Drop-Down Menu

One thing more WordPress bloggers have been doing lately is moving their categories over to a horizontal menu, rather than displaying them in the sidebar. Depending on the type of blog you run and how well you keep your categories organized, I think this can be a great idea to help manage the website and improve overall navigation. Doing something like this allows for a much better use of sub-categories, and gives you the option of displaying them in a drop-down to give your blog a much more professional feeling.

If you are interested in moving your WordPress categories into a menu and then displaying sub-categories in a drop-down menu, Anthology of Ideas has taken the time to write a detailed post explaining how to display WordPress categories in a horizontal drop-down menu. You can also view their menu to see if you like it. I recommend you check it out before attempting this on your own.

Of course doing this will require the use of Javascript, but the author does a great job of detailing the process and provides the CSS required to style it properly. Once you have everything up and running correctly, you can then adjust the colors and margins to give your new menu the look and feel you want it to have, as well as fully integrate it into your WordPress theme.

I like the idea of having the sub-categories be drop-down menus, but one downside I see is that displaying categories in a menu sort of eliminates using a traditional menu for your pages. It would be hard, in my opinion, to achieve a good look with more than one menu, so you then have to find a different way to display your blog pages. I think you are probably best off using this method mostly if you are trying to achieve a magazine-style look or some sort of a content management system (CMS).

What do you think of moving your categories to a menu and displaying your sub-categories in drop-down boxes?

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  • How To: Showing Only a Post Excerpt in WordPress

    Depending on the type of blog you run, you may at some point have an interest in only showing only a short excerpt of a post on your blog’s homepage. This could be for a variety of reasons, ranging from attempting to increase page views to trying to make your homepage more easily navigated and organized.

    Another really popular place for using the post excerpt is for your archive pages, which helps you to avoid being penalized for duplicate content by the search engine spiders.

    No matter what the reason is, if you are interested in switching some of your templates to show post excerpts, it isn’t very difficult to do. Go to the template you want to make the change on and find the following code:

    < ?php the_content(); ?>

    Depending on your theme, it may include something in the parenthesis. Change this code to the following:

    < ?php the_excerpt(); ?>

    This will cause your blog theme to only display the first 55 words (and strip pictures/formatting). If you’d like to add a link to allow readers to then click over and read the full post, you can instead use something like the following excerpt code:

    <?php the_excerpt(__('Continue Reading This Entry'));?>

    You can of course adjust the wording to fit your personal needs.

    If you’d prefer to show an excerpt longer than 55 words, or want to display your pictures and formating, you’ll have to do a little manual work. You currently have two choices:

    More Excerpt

    1. Use the More tag – Once you’ve written your post, you can switch over to Code view in your WordPress Write panel, click where you want the excerpt to stop and click the More button.  (See the screenshot above)
    2. Optional Excerpt field – Paste the part of the post you’d like to display as an excerpt in this field of your WordPress Write panel. It should correctly display everything in the excerpt including links and specific formating.

    If you use either of these methods, you’ll notice that your feed is only displaying partial posts. If you’d prefer to have the feed display the entire post, but keep the partial post on your actual website, I recommend using the Full Text RSS Feed WordPress plugin to override this and have the feed display the entire post.

    Questions?  Let me know in the comments below.

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  • The Prelude to WordPress

    Comments Off on The Prelude to WordPress

    Ever wonder where Matt Mullenweg came up with the idea for what we now know as WordPress? I bet most people have wondered at some point, because at the time, the idea of starting up a business where the product would be free and everyone had access to the code was a recipe for disaster.  At the time, the concept of open source software wasn’t exactly mainstream and there wasn’t a good way to monetize it.

    I was happy to discover that back in 2003, you can actually find a blog post by Matt on his blog titled The Blogging Software Dilemma, where he writes about the idea of the perfect blogging software. Here is a bit of his post:

    What to do? Well, Textpattern looks like everything I could ever want, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to be licensed under something politically I could agree with. Fortunately, b2/cafelog is GPL, which means that I could use the existing codebase to create a fork, integrating all the cool stuff that Michel would be working on right now if only he was around. The work would never be lost, as if I fell of the face of the planet a year from now, whatever code I made would be free to the world, and if someone else wanted to pick it up they could. I’ve decided that this the course of action I’d like to go in, now all I need is a name. What should it do? Well, it would be nice to have the flexibility of MovableType, the parsing of TextPattern, the hackability of b2, and the ease of setup of Blogger. Someday, right?

    Click over to read the rest.   You can certainly see the wheels turning as Matt began to put together when would eventually become WordPress, and almost a year later Matt updated the post stating that this idea eventually became WordPress.  Thanks Matt for seeing this idea through and to the rest of the WordPress team that has made it happen.  Your hard work has made all of our online lives better!

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  • How To: Add Smilies To Your WordPress Blog with Smilies Themer

    Have you ever noticed those cute little smilies that some WordPress bloggers use to show emotions within their posts? Offering these has become quite the trend around the blogosphere.

    As a user of WordPress, there are a few WordPress plugins available for you to easily offer smilies to commentators on your blog. My plugin of choice to accomplish this is the Smilies Themer plugin. Once uploaded and activated, you can then pick a smilies theme to use.

    A variety of people have submitted smilies themes for this plugin, and many come in a variety of colors. My favorite was provided by Nyssa J Brown called the XPressions Emoticon Pack. You can choose from a variety of colors:

    XPressions Emoticon Pack

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  • Web Hosts That Support Installing WordPress Via Fantastico

    If you aren’t very technology-savvy, or just prefer to easily setup/upgrade your WordPress installations, there are a number of web hosting services that now support one-click installation of WordPress via Fantastico.

    I’ve yet to find a good list, so I figured that it was time someone put one together to help these people know which web hosts they can choose from. Here are a list of web hosts that I have managed to confirm support WordPress installation via Fantastico:

    Does your web host support Fantastico? If they aren’t on the above list, let me know in the comments below!

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  • WordPress 2-Column Themes: Left Sidebar or Right Sidebar?

    When it comes to WordPress 2-column themes, people seem to fall into one of two categories: left sidebar or right sidebar.   Which do you prefer?

    I’m not sure which is better, but in browsing through my 2-column WordPress theme gallery, one of the first things you’ll notice is that theme designers seem to prefer releasing themes with a right sidebar.   Is this a coincidence or do theme authors find that they get more downloads with a right sidebar?

    I couldn’t tell you for sure, but I know that most “A-list” bloggers use 2-column themes with the sidebar on the right, so I suspect that this has something to do with the trend.  I know from my personal experiences that I prefer a right sidebar because I feel it looks better and creates a much more friendly experience for readers.

    David of CyberCoder argues that people that have advertising on their websites should use a left sidebar for their 2-column theme.   His argument is that heat maps show that people read from left to right and your advertisements are more likely to get noticed on the left side.  While this is probably true, most advertising these days seems to be moving away from PPC advertising and more towards direct advertisements.   This is why the few theme designers that offer 125×125 banner slots on their themes are getting a ton of downloads.

    So, what do you think?  Why do you prefer to use a 2-column theme?

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  • Tips For Protecting Your WordPress Installation

    Matt Cutts is most commonly known for his job as the head of the Google Search team, but the guy also appears to know a lot about being a webmaster. A couple of days ago Matt wrote a post titled Three Tips to Protect Your WordPress Installation where he details three things you can do to help avoid having your WordPress blog get hacked.

    Here is the first tip:

    Secure your /wp-admin/ directory. What I’ve done is lock down /wp-admin/ so that only certain IP addresses can access that directory. I use an .htaccess file, which you can place directly at /wp-admin/.htaccess . This is what mine looks like:

    AuthUserFile /dev/null
    AuthGroupFile /dev/null
    AuthName “Access Control”
    AuthType Basic
    <LIMIT GET>
    order deny,allow
    deny from all
    # whitelist home IP address
    allow from 64.233.169.99
    # whitelist work IP address
    allow from 69.147.114.210
    allow from 199.239.136.200
    # IP while in Kentucky; delete when back
    allow from 128.163.2.27
    </LIMIT>

    I’ve changed the IP addresses, but otherwise that’s what I use. This file says that the IP address 64.233.169.99 (and the other IP addresses that I’ve whitelisted) are allowed to access /wp-admin/, but all other IP addresses are denied access. Has this saved me from being hacked before? Yes.

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  • WordPress Tip: Customizing Your 404 Page

    Most themes typically come with a 404.php page that shows up by default whenever an invalid URL is visited on your blog. Depending on how often you change the URL of existing posts or delete old posts, it may or may not be a high traffic page for your blog.

    Either way, when a typical web surfer finds your blog and is greeted with the lovely 404 page, they will most commonly just click the “Back” button on their browser and continue browsing through the other search results. If your 404 page is setup correctly, you can often retain that traffic by either offering something funny to grab the readers attention or by offering a variety of methods for them to find the post they are looking for. Over at Theme Playground I ran across a great post about customizing your 404 page, which includes a bunch of suggestions for retaining that traffic.

    I personally prefer to provide useful resources on my 404 pages, so I will typically use something like the following code to help search engine traffic hopefully find what they are looking for:

    <h1>Not Found, Error 404</h1>
    <p>The page you are looking for no longer exists.</p>
    <p>Perhaps you can find what you are looking for by searching the site archives!</p>
    <b>Search by Page:</b>
    <ul>
    <?php wp_list_pages('title_li='); ?>
    </ul>
    <b>Search by Month:</b>
    <ul>
    <?php wp_get_archives('type=monthly'); ?>
    </ul>
    <b>Search by Category:</b>
    <ul>
    <?php wp_list_cats('sort_column=name'); ?>
    </ul>

    I will also sometimes call the search box (usually searchform.php) and the popular posts plugin as well to help retain that traffic, depending on the type of blog the 404 page is being built for. How do you have your 404 page setup?

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  • Should WordPress Fan Sites Worry About The WordPress Trademark?

    Today I ran across an interesting discussion happening over at one of my favorite WordPress blogs, WPCandy, that I figured I would mention over here.

    The discussion is regarding trademarking, and the use of “WordPress” in your domain URL.   Obviously this domain uses WordPress in the URL, so I have both a fan interest and a financial interest in the discussion.

    First, here is some information from Michael’s post:

    According to WordPress.org, to protect their trademark they ask that if you are going to create a WordPress related site not to use “WordPress” in the domain you choose.

    What’s the meaning behind this? Are sites that use WordPress in their name at risk? Is WPCandy at risk?

    Although they are not lawyers, WordPress still insists that they must make it clear, “so that we protect our trademark.”

    In addition to running this website and Slick Affiliate, I also spend a lot of my spare time as an active “domainer”, meaning that I buy/sell/develop/park domains both to generate extra income and invest in my online future.   One of the things you learn very early when you buy and sell domains is trademarking and what domains are off limits.  When you purchase a domain that includes the name of a trademarked product, the company that owns the trademark can take it from you if they invest the time and resources to.

    Unfortunately, when I originally purchased the domain Hack WordPress, I knew about the risk of trademarked domains, but I didn’t realize the word “WordPress” had been trademarked.  Looking back now, I probably should have done a trademark search, but it is to late now.  When I eventually learned that it was indeed trademarked, I went out and purchased a “wp” domain that I am very happy with, should I ever have to move this website to a new domain.

    Fortunately for those of that have a “WordPress” domain, I find it very unlikely that WordPress would ever invest the time or money involved in “shutting down” domains that use WordPress in the URL unless the sites were somehow trying to harm WordPress in some way, or were making really good money off the WordPress name.   After all, this product is built upon open source and the WordPress community!  I believe that WordPress fan sites do a lot to help the software and the community that supports the software, so it probably would not be in their best interests to remove them.  We promote the WordPress product for free and help generate both interest and support for their product.

    Overall, I believe this statement is more a legal precaution to protect them in situations where they would need to enforce this.  The only thing I worry about is a major corporation such as Google/Yahoo/Microsoft acquiring WordPress, because they have been known to pursue fan sites violating trademarks.

    What is your take on this issue?

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  • Guide to Making a Successful WordPress Theme

    There are a lot of different variables when it comes to making a successful WordPress theme. It’s not always difficult to get people to actually download your theme, but it takes a little extra work to get them to stick with your theme for the long haul.

    With that said, there are quite a few things you can do to help make your theme appeal to more people. If you release free WordPress themes, here are a few things I recommend you do to maximize the amount of exposure (downloads and inbound links) from your WordPress theme:

    • Make a 2-Column Version and a 3-Column Version – This will allow your theme to appeal to both types of WordPress users.
    • Browser Compatibility – Make sure your theme is compatible with IE6, IE7, Firefox, and Opera.
    • Use a white background for the content area – Your average theme user prefers white backgrounds in the content area. I’m not sure of the reason for this, but studies show that the most downloaded themes have a white background in the content aera. I would presume this is because it allows users to easily add images that don’t have transparent backgrounds.
    • Offer an attractive subscribe section – Users want to promote their feed, so offering an attractive subscription section will draw more people to download and use your theme.
    • Keep it simple – There are a lot of really great themes, but browsing over the most downloaded themes, it looks like the simple themes are used the most often.
    • Search Engine Friendly – There are quite a few things a theme designer can do to optimize the theme for search engines. Set up archives to display partial posts, optimize headers, etc.
    • Integrate WordPress Plugins – I’ve talked previously about how to prevent WordPress plugins from breaking your blog. That same method can be used by theme designers to set up WordPress plugins to work out of the box. It is easy to do and will go a long way towards keeping people using your theme.
    • Validate Code – Having a valid XHTML and CSS compliant theme will go a long way to help your theme impress potential users.
    • Widget Ready – I was surprised at just how many people will only download widget ready themes. This ensures people with no coding knowledge can easily use your theme.

    Other useful things to consider when creating your theme:

    • Does your theme allow users to easily add advertisements? Themes with built-in spots for 125×125 advertisements are being downloaded like crazy right now.
    • Is there an options page that will allow users with minimal coding knowledge to make adjustments to the header and other things?
    • Do you offer the same theme with different colors?

    What do you look for when downloading a WordPress theme?

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