Dictionary plugin

picture of a generic dictionaryI’ve added a dictionary plugin so that I can go mad with acronyms, initialisms and jargon to my heart’s content and still let newbie webtech readers understand what I’m going on about – I’d appreciate some accessibility testing from those using screen readers. I think it needs some better styling to indicate which words have a dictionary link for a start.

Here’s some of the terms that I have defined:

  • SEO
  • Information Architecture
  • HTML
  • JPEG
  • CSS

How does that work for you, dear readers?

Upgraded to WordPress 2.9

wordpress.org logoSo far pretty slick. It doesn’t seem to have broken any of the multimedia plugins and I’m enjoying some of the new features – the theme editor that remembers where you were at last save is long overdue!

As per major new release SOP, there’s an announcement post listing all the new features for 2.9 up at the WordPress Dev Blog (video too).

P.S. Heh, I just added a new category for “wordpress” all in lower case – and the category list autocorrected that to the official capitalised “WordPress”! Warms the cockles of my pedantic little heart, that does.

Common website mistakes #1: Images

picture of a very ugly fish in an elaborate gilded frameI see otherwise well-done amateur websites ruined by a lack of knowledge about images on the web all the time.

Too many people take an image straight out of their digital camera (or an image meant to be sent to a printer at high resolution) that is huge (1000-3000+ pixels wide), upload it directly to their server and insert it into a page as-is, using HTML to shrink the display to only 500 pixels wide, or maybe only 150 pixels wide. When you first realise that browsers can shrink or expand images to any size you like, it seems like a cool trick, and it is. But it’s also a trap. Browser-shrinking very large images creates the following problems:

  • it always looks horrible, with the image distorted and grainy
  • chews through the website’s allocated data storage as more and more are uploaded – when your webhosting plan has 100MB storage and you keep on uploading 5MB images, it doesn’t take long to reach your data storage limit -> increased webhosting costs
  • chews through the website’s allocated monthly data transfer as people access the page (similar to above, can lead to increased web host costs)
  • chews through the internet user’s bandwidth allotted by the ISP (can lead to increased costs to them)
  • worst of all, it slows down the loading of the page, leading to users losing patience and not clicking through to further content
  • And yes, if you are sending huge images straight from the digital camera to other people via email, that creates similar problems.

Solution:

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‘Frameworks’ for WordPress

frameIt seems like every month there’s a new framework template system for WordPress getting some buzz. There’s a reason people are excited about frameworks with WordPress: they are more than just a theme (themes essentially are just a way to display the basic WordPress functions with a particular “look”). WordPress frameworks add their own set of special functions in separate files alongside the WordPress core functions, and call them from within WordPress using the custom_functions file. This makes framework templates much more flexible for anyone wanting to use WordPress as a CMS rather than a blog only.

These frameworks mostly involve adding new ‘hooks’ that can be used for innovative customisation outside the areas already covered by the default WordPress ‘hooks’. Depending on the framework, you either need to know how to manipulate these hooks directly, or it can be much easier if the development team has included a custom admin interface accessed from the WordPress Dashboard. There are also several framework-specific plugins that help make manipulating the framework hooks much simpler.

I’ve become increasingly interested in how these frameworks operate, and what each of the designers is doing with them. It seemed like the more CSS, XHTML and PHP I learnt, the more I wanted to be able to tweak things, and the problem with tweaking normal themes is that they are often coded so quirkily that it’s easy to break something unexpectedly. These themes based on improved frameworks are meant to be more robust because of the way that the frameworks are coded with customisation hooks built in right from the basement, as it were.

I’ve played around with three of these framework templates recently:
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Multimedia plugins

multimediaI’m playing with a few WordPress plugins over on my Galleries Pages at the moment, as well as in the widget areas, so here’s a rundown of what I’m using to generate various displays/showcases/galleries:

  • altPWA
    altPWA is a plugin that will allow you to easily embed a Picasa Web Album in your pages.
    Version 1.1.2 | By Radu Capan | Visit plugin site
  • Flickr Gallery
    Use easy shortcodes to insert Flickr galleries and photos (and videos) in your blog.
    Version 1.3.0 | By Dan Coulter | Visit plugin site
  • Flickrpress
    Display Flickr items in the sidebar. Supports Flickr RSS, photostream, multiple photosets, favorites, filtering by tag and displaying random photos.
    Version 0.3.2 | By Michael Tyson | Visit plugin site
  • flickrRSS (this one is integrated into the Life Collage Hybrid theme for use in the Lifestream Page)
    Allows you to integrate the photos from a flickr rss feed into your site.
    Version 5.1 | By Dave Kellam and Stefano Verna | Visit plugin site
  • jQuery Lightbox
    Used to overlay images on the current page. Original jQuery Lightbox by Balupton.
    Version 0.9 | By Pedro Lamas | Visit plugin site
  • Lightbox Gallery (I haven’t got a demo page up for this one yet, although I’ve used it happily on other sites)
    Changes to the lightbox view in galleries.
    Version 0.6.1 | By Hiroaki Miyashita | Visit plugin site
  • TubePress
    Displays gorgeous YouTube galleries in your posts, pages, and/or sidebar. Upgrade to TubePress Pro for more features!
    Version 1.8.7 | By Eric D. Hough | Visit plugin site

What else are people using that they recommend?