Step-up your featured image game

Attaching great featured images to your WordPress posts is key to grabbing the reader’s attention. The featured image is what typically shows up when someone shares your post on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter. Not only that, but the featured image helps to create a “feeling” to go along with your content. It can be the difference between your site feeling professional and trustworthy, and it falling flat.

But if you’re not a graphic designer or a photographer, it can be difficult to come up with a great featured image. Paying for apps like Photoshop can also be quite expensive, and so is hiring a graphic designer. While those are great options for larger companies with a budget for it, there are other great ways to get amazing images for your content. Here, I’ll share a super simple and effective way to create compelling featured images to go with your content. I’ll also share a way to optimize them for your website, all without expensive programs like Photoshop. Ready? Here we go!

The WordSwag App for iOS and Android

This is by far the biggest time saving app I’ve found when it comes to generating eye-catching images to go with my content. You simply type in the title of your post, choose an image, and the app lays the text out beautifully on the image. If you don’t have a huge budget to hire a graphic designer, and you don’t have time to do designs like this yourself, you’re going to love this app.

WordSwag has specific groups of word layout styles to choose from, so you can likely find one that fits your brand’s style, or at least one that comes close. You can also punch in your site’s colors (using hex codes) to make sure everything really fits your brand.

*To be clear, I am not getting any kickbacks from the WordSwag app for writing this article. It’s just truly a great app that I use myself and think you’ll find useful as well. In fact, I created the image for this post using the WordSwag app.

Check out some of their previews and grab the app for your phone here: http://wordswag.co/

The full version of the app costs about $5, which is way less than hiring a single graphic designer.

Now, while WordSwag is awesome for creating the image itself, it exports images at around 2 megabytes, which is way too large to upload onto your website. It will kill your loading speed time to have images that large. Instead, your images should be well under 1 mb each. The lower the better. That brings us to the next step.

The TinyPNG website to optimize your images

Compressing and optimizing your images to reduce their filesize is a hugely important step in making sure your website loads quickly. Overcompress the image and it looks like garbage. Undercompress it, and it takes too long to load, resulting in people leaving your website.

The simple solution is a website called “TinyPNG” found at www.tinypng.com. It compresses images so well you can hardly notice they’ve been compressed. That is, until you look at the filesize drop. It can greatly reduce the filesize of your image.

So take the image you created with WordSwag, email it to yourself, download it, and then drag it into TinyPNG’s website to compress it.

Download the photo that was compressed by TinyPNG and upload it to your WordPress post as the featured image.

I hope these little tips will help you create better featured images for your WordPress posts!  If you have other techniques, websites, or ways of creating great images for your blog posts that you’d like to share, leave a comment and let us know!

 

How to add Google Analytics to your WordPress site without needing a plugin

Learning about the people who come to your website can be a very useful thing. It can help you realize what type of content your audience is looking for, and in turn help you better serve their needs. And while not every website is the type that requires this kind of data, if you’re running a more complex site, or just want to know more about your users, you might be interested in adding Google Analytics to your website.

What is Google Analytics?

By adding a bit of code to your website, you can allow Google Analytics to track and log detailed information about every visitor. Adding the Google Analytics tracking code to your website is pretty straightforward to do. And while there are plugins out there to help with this like Monster Analytics, the simplest way is to add a small function to your child theme.

If you aren’t sure what a WordPress child theme is or why it’s so important, we wrote a quick article about it called “Why having a child theme is the best thing you’ll ever do for your WordPress website”. As a sidenote, every theme from Mint Themes automatically creates and installs a child theme for you.

Add Google Analytics tracking code to your child theme

Back to the topic at hand, by adding the Google Analytics code to your child theme you won’t require any additional plugins. This can save you money, especially if you don’t require the additional complexity covered by the plugin mentioned above. If you’re just getting started, or you’re not a data-mining expert, the following code is the surest way to get going with Google Analytics quickly:

  1. Log into your Google Analytics account at https://analytics.google.com/analytics/web/
  2. After logging in, if you haven’t already created an “account” for your website in Google Analytics, click on the “Admin” tab from the left side menu and click “Create Account”
  3. Once your account is created, go to “Admin” > “Tracking Info” > “Tracking Code”. Keep this window/tab open so you can copy the tracking code later. 
  4. In your WordPress dashboard, with your child theme activated, go to “Appearance” > “Editor”, and make sure you are editing the “functions.php” file.
  5. Add this code to it:
  6. Replace line 10 with the code you will copy from Step 3 above.
  7. Save the functions.php file.
  8. That’s it! You’ve now added the Google Analytics Tracking Code to every page of your website.

 

Photo by Neven Krcmarek on Unsplash

Why (Properly) Plugin-Powered Themes are the Future of WordPress

Having a (Properly) “Plugin Powered” WordPress Theme is a major advantage to you as a website owner. We say “Properly” because, unfortunately, not all Plugin-Powered themes are created equally. At the end of this article, we’ll go over some of the things to watch our for with Plugin Powered Themes. But first, lets get to what makes them great!

More secure.

Plugin Powered themes (vs Themes that have all functionality “baked-in”) are more secure because each plugin can focus on its own task without worrying about a lot of other things. The development process is much more streamlined. This makes applying a security update much quicker for us as the developer. Also, updates are all available right in your WordPress, which is good because you won’t need to hunt for updates and manually install them. Your website can always be totally secure because new threats are immediately dealt with by new updates being applied. To apply new updates you just need to log into your WordPress dashboard and go to “Dashboard” > “Updates”. This is a good thing to check every time to you log in to your WordPress.

Avoid “Theme Lock”.

Having a theme that is “Plugin Powered” also makes it easier to move to a new theme in the future. This is because plugins can be used alongside themes – but you can only ever have one theme active at a time. If a theme’s functionality is “Baked In”, you lose that functionality when you change to a new theme. This is known as “Theme Lock” and plugins completely solve this issue.

Things to Watch Out For.

As we mentioned at the start of this post, there are some things to watch out for when buying a WordPress Theme that is Plugin-Powered – especially from places like Theme Forest. When purchasing a “Plugin Powered” theme, you want to make sure that you are getting updates for all of the plugins that power the theme – otherwise you may be at risk for a hack when your plugins aren’t properly updated. If the theme seller isn’t offering updates for the plugins as well as the theme, it isn’t worth buying. Our Plugin Powered Themes all come with updates for the plugins because we actually make our own plugins. This is a very important thing to remember so that you don’t get hacked in the future.

Also, before you buy a Plugin Powered Theme, make sure that the plugins actually come with the theme and are automatically installed for you. If they are not included, come with updates, and don’t automatically install, don’t buy the theme unless you are willing to purchase each plugin separately, install them all yourself (which can take hours and be frustrating), and renew licenses for them all manually as well. This can all be a huge headache.

Fortunately, our Plugin Powered themes come with the plugins included, updates are included, and auto-installation is included. This makes the entire setup process very quick and simple and is the future of WordPress theme-ing in the future.

If you’d like to check out our Plugin Powered Themes, head over to our Plugin website where they are available:

https://mintplugins.com/themes/

 

Product Launch WordPress Themes

Launching a new product online is both fun, exciting, and also a lot of work. If you are launching a new product, you know just how hard it is to get people to pay attention to your new product – and to have a great looking/working website to capture their excitement about your new product.

Videos are a great way to showcase a new product and how it works. But it’s also important to feature that video properly on your website – along with well-thought-out feature sentences that are small enough for the reader to digest – while being long enough for the reader to learn valuable things about your product.

If it’s time for you to get your website built for your new product launch (whether you’re doing a Kickstart campaign or an Indie Gogo – or any other crowd-funding campaign), or if you’re ready to launch and sell, we’ve built WordPress Themes specifically for launching new products. They are complete with all of those well-thought out sections designed to capture and keep your user’s attention while helping them learn new things about your new product.

Here is a (growing) list of our best Product Launch WordPress Themes:

 

#1. The Launchstack Theme Bundle:

Launchstack1

Video Backgrounds WordPress Plugin

A new trend on the web has been to show really nice-looking videos as backgrounds instead of images. We’ve just built a plugin that does exactly that and it’s extremely easy to use. It gives you the ability to use any public video on YouTube or Vimeo, or even upload your own video file to your WordPress media library and use it!

To get the plugin head over to our plugin website and check it out:
Video Backgrounds WordPress Plugin

Responsive version of Soundstage Theme Released

We just released the first responsive version of the Soundstage Theme. The version number is 1.0.4.6 and will change it’s shape (responsively) for mobile devices. This will help to keep your rankings on Google as Google is now giving extra “rank” points to sites that are responsive.

This release is only the first of a few where we will be tightening up the look and feel on mobile devices. There might be a few design elements out of place here or there – but it will help you to keep your rank on Google so feel free to do the upgrades as we release them – or get the latest version now by logging into your account here at http://mintthemes.com

If you need other responsive options, we have released a totally free WordPress theme called “Knapstack” – which we are actually really proud of (and should probably charge for it). The reason we aren’t charging for the Knapstack theme is because it is a great companion to “MP Stacks” – our free Page Builder Plugin for WordPress – which we are really excited for you to try.

The way we plan to make money from Knapstack and MP Stacks is by selling Add-On plugins – so that you only need to pay if you love the plugin already and want to add some extra features. However, to help with growing the plugin and to get people using it, many of the add-ons are free as well! We’d love to hear what you have to say about it – and if you need a responsive website fast, MP Stacks and the Knapstack Theme are a great (and totally free) way to do that!

A super easy way to Backup your WordPress Customizer

Have you ever wanted to play with your WordPress Customizer settings and not worry about losing that perfect colour combination? Maybe you want to develop on a “staging” website and then move to your live site?

Our latest free WordPress Plugin allows you to do just that! It’s called “MP Customizer Backups” and it allows you to feel free to play with your Theme Mods under “Appearance” > “Customizer” without worrying about losing your settings! When you are happy with your settings, just click the “Create Backup” button and you’ll always be able to revert to those exact settings in the future. You can even download the backups to make sure you save multiple copies in a safe place.

Check it out here:
https://wordpress.org/plugins/mp-customizer-backups/

Check out this website built using our MP Stacks plugin!

There’s a new kid on the block in the royalty-free stock market called Creative Ready. Their specialty is digital products created for radio advertising professionals and they built their homepage using our MP Stacks plugin which is a page building plugin for WordPress. They sell things like pre-made radio ad templates which give radio ad makers a huge launching point to finish more ads. In their radio ad templates, the entire advertisement is scripted, recorded, and ready to use with some minor tweaks to be made custom.

They have hundreds of pre-made radio ads categorized by industry – so if, for example, you need to make an advertisement for a golf course, they have several ready-to-use with great, entertaining ideas.

Another one of their products that I find really exciting is their stock radio jingles. The jingles are also ready-to-use, with thousands of melodic “sell-lines” that can be used for almost any radio advertisement. Basically, if you need a jingle, this is the place to do it. Their pre-made jingles are timed for radio ad slots so you know exactly what space you have in which to write your script. They employ advertising agency pros to build these jingles to the exact specs that Radio Stations require – and are releasing new ones almost on a daily basis. This is truly a huge and amazing resource for anyone in the advertising world in need of a catchy radio jingle.

Again, the main reason I bring up Creative Ready here is because they built their website using plugins available over at our plugin website: https://mintplugins.com. For example, if you check out their homepage at https://creativeready.com, it was built using MP Stacks, our free Page Building plugin for WordPress.

They were able to completely customize their homepage and have changed it up several times already to help keep things fresh. Here’s what Jamie, the lead designer at Creative Ready has to say about his experience using MP Stacks:

MP Stacks is literally my new favourite WordPress plugin.  Finally a plugin that helps me produce the kind of designs I like and it’s way easy to use. Our entire homepage at Creative Ready is nothing but MP Stacks.  Great job guys!”Jamie Aplin – Lead Designer at Creative Ready

Here at Mint Plugins we are really excited to see such a great, and interesting new company using our plugins to power their website. It shows how big the possibilities are – and how well they function in a large-website format.

If you are interested in using MP Stacks to freshen up your WordPress website, make sure to check it out – it’s free to download and use!

Armonico Theme has been updated!

To all customers who are using the Armonico Theme for WooCommerce, make sure you head to your Mint Themes account and grab the latest version. The theme works 100% with WooCommerce and we are constantly making sure that we release updates to keep it that way.

WooCommerce has a habit of changing a lot of major things with their updates – which a lot of the time causes errors in themes that were built on previous versions.

But that’s why we’re here – to keep you from getting the headaches that would ensue without theme updates. So make sure to grab the latest version – Armonico 2.0.2.1

And if you need any help, we’re always here. Just head over to your account and log into support. Thanks guys.

Support Report

In our goal to provide the best customer support on the WordPress theme market, we want to release some of our statistics to give you a better idea of how we stack up.

First Reply Time

This is the amount of time you generally have to wait for a response. We are always pushing to get this number lower and would like to see more on the 0-1 hour range. But we are happy to say that all tickets fall under the 24 hour wait time mark!

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How we compare

This shows how we do in comparison to other people in our industry that ZenDesk tracks. We have a lower response time by almost half! The satisfaction numbers are skewed based on the fact that we generally don’t get satisfaction ratings from customers – so it shows as 0%.

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Need Support or Help? We’re here for ya. Open a new support ticket in your account above and we will be happy to point you in the right direction. Happy creating!

Learn From Our Mistakes, Bug Testing Theme Tips

Over the years of developing themes we have learnt quite a lot in terms of how to best develop our themes for a wide audience. Things like knowing when to put a feature into a plugin VS baking it into the theme, knowing when to stop adding features just for the heck of it, and finding the best plugins and methods to bug test our themes before release.

Today I just wanted to go over some of the details of how we bug test our themes and do quality assurance testing. I find the best way to bug test a theme is to set it up as if you were going to use the theme yourself for a project. This way you can spot all the difficulties customers could run into and iron out all the kinks.

The number one lesson I’ve learnt over the years is to ask yourself continually the question: “Could this feature be in a plugin?”. We believe the theme should just be the appearance and not the functionality. We have, ourselves, included features in our themes that should have been apart of a plugin and saw how adding the functionality into the theme has caused issues with updates, support, and overall has cost us money. So if you’re a theme developer, ask yourself  “Could this feature be in a plugin?”.

On that note: We have some great upcoming themes in the near future that use our new plugin “Framework” for the functionality and the theme just is, for the most part, a CSS file. We hope that this will help us develop themes much faster as updates can be done to the theme without changing the customizations the customer may have done to the theme.

My top 5 plugins I use when bug testing our themes are:

  1. Monster Widget – this plugin consolidates all of 13 core widgets into one single widget meaning I don’t have to drag all the widgets into the side bar, I can just move the one Monster Widget into the sidebar area, this saves a ton of time and helps us see all the issues that need to be addressed via CSS in the theme.
  2. VIP Scanner – which is very much like the Theme Check plugin but if you’re thinking of submitting your themes to the WordPress.com marketplace then you need to run this plugin against your theme. It has a few different checks built into the plugin i.e. WordPress.com and WordPress.org theme review checks. It allows you to run the checks against themes, plugins, directories, single files etc.
  3. Deprecation Checker – along with running the WP_Debug mode in your WordPress setup, I use this plugin to see any deprecated functions that may be in the theme. It allows you to view all the deprecated functions with the path to the file, which line number the deprecated function is on, and the new recommended function to use.
  4. JetPack – It can cause a ton of issues with the theme so I extensively test our themes with all of the features that JetPack offers. Each time theres a new feature in JetPack I have to test it with the theme
  5. WordPress Beta Tester – testing with future releases of WordPress is something that I haven’t done much of.  But now that I’ve found a plugin that makes it easier, I will be checking our themes with the nightly builds when the WordPress version is close to being released.

So what are some plugins or ways you like to bug test your themes/plugins? If you have any suggestions, I’m all ears!