Best simple poll for WordPress? Testing the Democracy Plugin

A client wants to be able to add some simple polls to his website, so I’ve been researching which are the best poll plugins, from both an ease of set up and use standpoint, as well as being visually appealing. We want something that can primarily be added to posts, but also can easily be displayed in a sidebar if desired.  We don’t need anything extremely fancy, just a nice, simple poll.

I tried WP-Polls first, but it looked pretty complex for a novice user, so I’ve moved on to Democracy. I figured I’d document how it goes for others who might be looking for something similar.

Here is an example of the poll in action (feel free to try it yourself!):

{democracy:2}

________________________________________

My thoughts:

Installation: The plugin installs easily, no problems, but I did have an issue with a strange case of it inserting a random “n” before a poll.  Google is my friend, though, and I found this post which addressed the issue.  Modifying line 331 of democracy.php to change the single quotes to double quotes in this line did the trick

Styling: The default styling seems nice, and if you know some css, you can customize the styling.  The only css change I made to the example above was to remove the bullets from the list by adding this to my style.css:

ISSUE: The bars on the results don’t display the same in IE as in Chrome and Firefox…

I had to add a width to the .democracy to get the bars to show up in IE.  By default it’s max-width:250px, but I changed it to 300 and added a width setting.

For mine,

Features:  It includes a widget for sidebar use, and is easily inserted into a post with one simple line.  It also (optionally) allows users to add their own poll options.  Can enable IP tracking and cookie tracking to prevent ballot box stuffing (though those options are disabled on this test poll).  The only thing I didn’t see was some sort of option to run the poll for a set number of days, but it does give the option to manually deactivate a poll.  All in all, everything I needed for this simple application.

Poll set up and Maintenance:  Seems simple enough.  A new section is created in the Posts section of your Dashboard, and you manage your polls from there.  Name your poll, add your choices, and you’re good to go.  Insert a particular poll in a post by using:

(where x= the ID of your poll)

All in all, I’m quite happy with this as a solution thus far, now that I’ve fixed the IE display issues.  I’ll update as I attempt to integrate it into the client site…

Update:  It looks like the Add your own answer option doesn’t work in IE.  Uh oh.

How to Backup your WordPress Website

I have an article up today at Dabbled on backing up your WordPress site or blog.

Go check it out:  Don’t Panic! Understanding and backing up your blog

Excerpt:
So last week I get an urgent message from blogger friend Carissa (GoodNCrazy.com) – She’d had problems with her host, and her blog was down, and she needed help getting a new host and getting her blog back up. Since I’d done her blog theme design, I was familiar with her stuff, and had a backup of her theme.  I also recommended my host, Bluehost.com – since I’ve been very happy with them*.

She had a pretty good scare that she’d lost her entire site, so I figured it would be a good idea to share how to avoid going through that kind of panic!

The advice that follows is specifically for self hosted WordPress blogs, but no matter where you host, you need to be doing regular backups!

Read the whole thing

Contact Form 7 Fix (what do try when you get the Failed to Send Message error)

One of the WordPress plugins I like to use is Contact Form 7, but it seems half the time I install it, I end up with that “Failed to Send Message” error, and it takes me a while of trial and error to remember how to fix it.

Well, I just fixed it on the website I’m currently building, so I figured I’d document the fixes for you guys, and for myself the next time!

A caveat- this is what works for Bluehost hosted sites, using Contact Form 7 Version 1.9.5.1, WordPress 2.9

1. Set up a admin@yourdomain.com email address on your server. (I forward that to my email while I ‘m testing the site, then that can be forwarded to the administrators current email later)

2. Ensure admin@yourdomain.com is set up as the admin email in WordPress (General settings: Email Address)

3. When you set up your form, Make sure the “To: ” email in the contact form settings is set to admin@yourdomain.com

(the key to all this being that I think the site domain needs to match the email address domain – it doesn’t have to be admin@, I just use that.)

Another thing that might help as well that I found in my research:

  • Set up a wordpress@yourdomain.com email address on your server.

Best WordPress Plugins for a new site..

For a site I’m finishing up right now, I went through my list of WordPress Plugins that are really nice “must haves” for a new website.  Since I  was documenting what I was recommending for the client, I figured I’d share it with you guys as well.  There are tons of great plugins out there, but these are a few that provide some great value…

Simple Trackback Validation Eliminates spam trackbacks by (1) checking if the IP address of the trackback sender is equal to the IP address of the webserver the trackback URL is referring to and (2) by retrieving the web page located at the URL used in the trackback and checking if the page contains a link to your blog.

Version 2.1 | By Michael Woehrer | Visit plugin site

(This one solved my Trackback Spam problems)

Shadowbox JS A javascript media viewer similar to Lightbox and Thickbox. Supports all types of media, not just images.

Version 3.0.0.3 | By Matt Martz | Visit plugin site

(I like this particular viewer best out of the ones I’ve tried)

FD

Feedburner

Plugin

Redirects all feeds to a Feedburner feed

Version 1.41 | By John Watson | Visit plugin site

(Recommended for integrating feedburner)

Microkid’s

Related Posts

Display a set of manually selected related items with your posts

Version 2.4 | By Microkid | Visit plugin site

(I like that it lets you choose the posts that are ACTUALLY related!)

Twitter for WordPress Displays your public Twitter messages for all to read. Based on Pownce for WordPress by Cavemonkey50.

Version 1.9.7 | By Ricardo González | Visit plugin site

(Good basic integration.)

Ultimate Google Analytics Enable Google Analytics on your blog. Has options to also track external links, mailto links and links to downloads on your own site. Check http://www.oratransplant.nl/uga/#versions for version updates

Version 1.6.0 | By Wilfred van der Deijl | Visit plugin site

(I like that it gives you a GA Dashboard on your WP Dashboard)


WP

Captcha

Free

Block comment spam without captcha.

Version 0.7 | By iDope | Visit plugin site

(Simple and effective)

WP-

PageNavi

Adds a more advanced paging navigation to your WordPress blog.

Version 2.50 | By Lester ‘GaMerZ’ Chan | Visit plugin site

(Very nice feature)

Sociable Automatically add links on your posts, pages and RSS feed to your favorite social bookmarking sites.

Version 3.4.4 | By Joost de Valk | Visit plugin site

Exclude Pages from Navigation Provides a checkbox on the editing page which you can check to exclude pages from the primary navigation. IMPORTANT NOTE: This will remove the pages from any “consumer” side page listings, which may not be limited to your page navigation listings.

Version 1.51 | By Simon Wheatley | Visit plugin site

(Not useful for all site, but really nice for the more complex ones.)

Got others?  Let me know!

Tips for Websites for Writers

Since one of the things we focus on at Dabbled Studios is websites for creatives, today we’re going to talk about websites for writers.  A writer (particularly an aspiring to be published writer) needs to present his or her best face to the world.  A good, professional website is key to this.

Style:

  • Research:  Take a look at other authors, particularly successful ones.  Note what you like, and what you don’t.  See how easy it is to bookmark a page within their site, or find their contact information.  Do they seem to connect with their readers?  Do they blog?  Get a good idea of what you would like to see on your site.
  • Think about style.  If you are published, the cover art from your most recent book can be a great cue to use for the design style of your website.  The marketing department has all ready done half your work for you, and you can use that as a starting point for the look and feel of your site.  If you’re not published yet, you’ll want to try to figure out a way to distill the feeling from your most recent work into your website.  Think about your target market – a website targeted at teenage girls is going to look very different from one targeting spy thriller fans.   If in doubt, keep it simple and professional.
  • Keep it simple.  Don’t overdo on the bells and whistles.  Just like your writing, everything you do on your website should be for a purpose. Use white space effectively.
  • Avoid music.  You’re not a band.  Remember people may be reading your website at their desk at work, and having to struggle to find the mute button is not a good first impression

Content:

  • Minimal Categories:  Books/writings (include synopses / reviews of published or future novels), Bio, Contact (email + social networking), a blog or ‘news’ page.  Others: Articles/Essays, Media, Purchase
  • Keep it focused – your website should be about you and your writing.  If you write about a particular subject, then your website can focus on that as well.  And it should go without saying, but unless it’s relevant to your writing, avoid the big 3: sex, politics, and religion!
  • Show your best stuff.   Any samples of your work on your website should be good, representative samples of your work.  If you wouldn’t want a prospective publisher to be looking at it, it shouldn’t be on your website.
  • Although I’m not an expert in publishing, most of what I’ve read recommends you not include unpublished works that you are trying to sell, like a chapter from your new novel.

Resources:

Here are a couple of good articles:  what needs to be on your website… and what doesn’t!

And other resources:

Related:

Coming up…

  • What the heck do I do with Twitter?

2 More Useful WordPress Plugins

An update on some of the new (or at least new to me!) wordpress plug-ins I’ve just found.

WP Greet Box – This is a great idea, though I’ve just installed it on my Arts/Crafts site, Dabbled.org, to try it out. I’ll keep you posted on how I find it to work. Thus far, I’m liking it. It determines where your visitor is visiting from, and displays a greeting message to either point them in the direction of more related posts (in the case of a Google search) or (in the case of Twitter) suggests they re-tweet and offers up how to follow you on twitter. In general it will remind them to follow your RSS feed. Which is pretty nifty.

Tweetsuite – I installed this on on Dabbled.org today, because I use Twitter a great deal with that site, and I was interested in displaying ‘tweetbacks’ (ie where other users had tweeted my posts). It appears to still have a few bugs (I got an error message when I tried to install some of it’s widget capability) but the core functionality seems fine. It’s a great idea, so I’m hoping it works well!

Update:  Neither of these I’m keeping… both didn’t quite work as I’d hoped.

How to clean up after an iframe hack

Hackers apparently never sleep, so I spend much of yesterday cleaning up from a hacker attack on several of my sites. This particular hack is quite “successful” since there is very little to indicate to the site’s users or administrators that a hack has occurred.  In the background your site could be spewing porn or gambling links to Google, or serving up malware to your customers.

At the Dabbled blog today, I did a writeup on symptoms that your site has been hacked in this manner, solutions for cleanup, and resources you can use if this happens to you.

Read the article

And everyone:

First off, everyone should do regular spyware checks on your computer. Yes, even if you have a mac.  Yes, even though you already run a virus scan.   There are a bunch of programs out there, but I typically use Spybot Search & Destroy and AdAware. They are both free for personal use. And if you use IE I recommend switching to Firefox. The ad blocking and script blocking add-ons will save you headaches. Also, if you’re using version 8 or below of Acrobat Reader, upgrade to version 9.

New site design for Grieg Wehr Photography

From 2009: Our  latest new website is out, this one for friend of Dabbled|Studios, Atlanta GA photographer Grieg Wehr.  Grieg is our primary source for stock and custom photography for websites we design (including the fabulous dandelion photos you see here on the Dabbled|Studios website), so of course I highly recommend his work!   His new website features a minimalistic design, with a lovely intro slideshow which links to his primary gallery pages, and nifty flash galleries of his wedding and portrait work.   View the site at griegwehr.com

New website: Grieg Wehr Photography

New website: Grieg Wehr Photography

Favorite WordPress Plugins for Controlling Spam

Spam is such a fact of life on the web these days, but there is a myriad of ways to combat it too. And while not much will stop a dedicated human spammer, there are some good tools out there for at least minimizing the hassle.

What do I typically use/recommend?

Comment Spam:

  • WP Captcha Free – A non-captcha solution, so no irritating box for your readers to fill out prior to commenting.  Simple to use/install.

Trackback Spam:

  • Simple Trackback Validation – Stops trackback spam either by sending suspicious trackbacks to moderation, or deleting them altogether.  Personally, I like to set it to just delete suspicious trackbacks, so I don’t have to deal with them, but log the deletions so I can check occasionally and make sure that it’s not being overzealous.

More Resources

There are some good lists of anti-spam tools for WordPress out there, so if you want more ideas, try:

Linda-Sands.com is live!

Although there are a few more enhancements to add, just wanted to announce the new website for our client, Linda Sands, an Atlanta GA author.

I love the muted, old fashioned tones on this one, very reflective of her new book.  And no boring, static site for Linda… this site is set up to be so easy for her to add her writing samples and new work, without any techie involvement.  Dynamic content, and an integrated blog, will allow Linda to connect with her readers, and potential readers out there.

So, go check it out!

Linda-sands.com website

linda-sands.com

Welcome to the updated Dabbled|Studios site!

Life gets busy, and suddenly you realize that you’ve been building cool websites for other people, but your own is sorely in need of help…

So this is version 1.0 of the new site… hope you enjoy! This is built on WordPress, and I think you’ll agree it looks nothing like a blog.

Still to come…
-I’ll be updating the Photography & Illustration section with some galleries, including some Creative Commons licensed items which you can use for free.
-An “About” Page
-Minor bug fixes – I’ve found a few, let me know if you see any more!

Glad you stopped by! And to stay updated, be sure to grab the Feed!
–Nancy