Archive for the ‘Accessories’ Category

Blogging U. for Photography: Developing Your Eye

Lots of us like to share photography on our sites, so we’re excited to add two photography courses to the Blogging U. library!

These free 10-day courses help you sharpen your visual eye so you can create a beautiful photoblog, enhance your website with images, or just get more comfortable with your camera (or all three!). Use a big fancy DSLR, a cameraphone, or anything in between — everyone is welcome.

Developing Your Eye I

Developing Your Eye I introduces you to the fundamentals of photography. You’ll get an email each day pairing a theme to inspire your image with a related shooting tip. We may ask you to consider composition or image orientation one day, or experiment with color on another.

Developing Your Eye II

Want to keep shooting? Developing Your Eye II offers ten more days of themes and tips. Experiment with light and motion, learn to lightly edit your images, and more. We’ll build on the tips and practices from the first course, but it’s not a prerequisite — you can take this first, or as a stand-alone course.

Both courses are based on our previous Photo 101: A Photo a Day four-week course. For more info about Blogging U. and how it works, check out these FAQs.

Looking for other photography resources? Check out a roundup of four of our favorite photo-focused themes,  or explore the “Craft of Photography” category over on The Daily Post.

Get started

Start and stop these courses whenever works for you. To get started, visit the Blogging U. homepage and click the “Sign up” button next to the course you’re interested in, or visit the course pages (Developing Your Eye I | Developing Your Eye II) and click the “Sign up for this course” button. You’ll get a welcome email immediately, then your first assignment ten minutes later.

Not interested in photography? There are a range of other Blogging U. courses for you to choose from:

Enjoy!

Filed under: Better Blogging, Photos
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New Theme: Karuna

It’s Theme Thursday, and I’m excited to present a new free theme called Karuna!

Karuna

Karuna WordPress Theme

Karuna, designed by Mel Choyce, is a clean business theme designed with health and wellness-focused sites in mind. With bright, bold colors, prominent featured images, a sleek responsive design, and support for customer testimonials, your business’ brand is sure to shine with Karuna.

Karuna, a Responsive WordPress Theme for Health and Wellness Businesses.

Want to explore Karuna? Head over to the theme’s Showcase page!

Filed under: Themes
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Customize Your Site’s Footer Credit

Every WordPress.com site displays a footer credit — a line of text at the bottom of the page — which links to our homepage and to the theme you’re currently using. These links help your visitors set up a WordPress site of their own, and highlight the reach and scope of our community. It’s a way to show the world the pride we take in building WordPress.com, which so many of you have chosen as your home on the web.

Over the years we’ve received feedback about the footer credit, where the language didn’t always align with the goals for your website or blog. So today, we’re rolling out the ability to customize the footer credit. We wanted to give you more control over your site’s appearance while maintaining an important part of WordPress.com.

Custom Footer Credits

What’s new? As of today, all WordPress.com users can choose among several options for the footer credit, from a minimalist WordPress.com logo to new options like “A WordPress.com Website” or “Powered by WordPress.com.” If your site is on our Business plan, you now have the option to remove the footer credit altogether.

To find these options, head to My Sites → Customize and select the site you wish to change. In the Site Identity section, look for the Footer Credit option. Choose the option you would like to use — the Customizer will let you preview how each one looks on your site — and hit Save & Publish when you’re ready. Your site will be updated instantly.

We currently offer five footer options, but we’ll keep an eye on your feedback, and will consider adding other alternatives in the future. If you have a suggestion, we would love to hear it — leave a comment with your ideas. Enjoy!

Filed under: Customization, Features, Themes, WordPress.com
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Two New Blogging U. Courses Available On Demand

Ready to dig deeper into the nuts and bolts of your WordPress.com site? We’ve got two new Blogging U. courses on demand to help you do just that.

Build a Business Site

Build a Business Site is a brand-new, ten-day course that helps you plan, build, and promote your business website. We’ll help you define your site’s raison d’être and plan content, choose the theme that fits your brand, and examine whether blogging can help boost your business. Along the way, we’ll cover specifics like pages and menus, domain mapping, widgets, using social networks to promote your site, and SEO.

Intermediate Customization

This ten-day course takes you in-depth into the free customization options available to all WordPress.com members. Find and understand your theme’s details. Delve into how headers and titles are displayed, and create a totally unique custom header. Coordinate your background, get comfortable with widgets — including custom widgets and widget visibility — and learn basic HTML for even finer control over how your content displays.

Not what you need right now? There are five other courses available as well:

Ready to start? Head to the course that interests you, and click the “Start course” button!

FAQs

What is Blogging U?

Blogging U. is a collection of self-guided courses to help you get the most out of your WordPress.com site. Courses give you a daily assignment or writing prompt, along with the technical help you need to complete the task and insider advice from both our editors and the wider blogging community; each course has a handy resource page collecting everything in one place for you to refer back to whenever you’d like. Publish new posts using the course’s tag — don’t worry, we’ll tell you how! — and you’ll be able to connect with others working through the same course for support, feedback, and friendship.

How do I start a course?

Visit the page for the course you’re interested in and click the “Start” button — that’s it! If you’re logged in to WordPress.com, you’ll receive an introductory email right away, and your first assignment a few minutes later. If you’re not logged in, we’ll prompt you to do so, and then you’re off and running.

What if I want to stop?

No problem — every email you’ll receive includes an unsubscribe link at the bottom. Click it, and the course stops.

This won’t affect any of your other WordPress.com emails, like notifications. And if you want to give the course another try, you can restart it.

How many courses can I take? Can I take them more than once?

As many as you’d like, as many times as you’d like. We recommend taking one course at a time, but you’re free to take multiple courses simultaneously.

What if I need assistance during the course?

Every assignment includes expert advice from our staff as well as links to resources and to our support folks. We also encourage you to use the tag for your course when publishing posts, and to browse that tag in the Reader to find and connect with other bloggers.

What if I don’t blog on WordPress.com?

All general assignments (publishing posts, customizing your blog, leaving comments, etc.) are applicable to any blog, anywhere. However, you’ll need to have a WordPress.com account to register for a Blogging U. course, and any specific how-to guidance we offer will be specific to WordPress.com.

How much does each course cost?

Nothing. Blogging U. courses have always been free, and still are.

Ready to register? Head to the Blogging U. home page to get started!

Filed under: Better Blogging, Customization, WordPress.com
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Field Notes: Grow Leadership Academy 2016

Automatticians, the people who build WordPress.com, participate in events and projects around the world every day. Periodically, they report back on the exciting things they do in the community. This week, we share our experience at the Grow Leadership Academy.

On May 24th and 26th, Hugh Lashbrooke (WP community manager), Gareth Allison (WooCommerce marketing designer), and Job Thomas (WooCommerce education lead) visited Athlone, near Cape Town, South Africa to teach a module in the Grow Leadership Academy.

The Grow Leadership Academy was initiated in 2011 by WooThemes, RLabs, Silulo, Webgrowth, and the GivenGain Foundation in Cape Town, South Africa. The Academy trains high school graduates in challenging environments to help them enter a difficult job market.

Growing the Grow Academy

In less than five years, over 550 youth have graduated. Graduates have made over 500 job applications and started close to 40 businesses.

Starting with a one-week “bootcamp” in 2011, the program currently takes place three days per week — for an entire semester! Students learn about leadership skills, entrepreneurship, design, technology, community development, project management, and social innovation. The sessions mix in-class instruction and practical work mirroring real-life situations.

Whole lot of WordPress

During the first modules, the students helped locals by setting up projects to support the community. We helped them make websites for those projects which will be showcased on the Entrepreneurship Pitch Day on July 1st, 2016, at the Vangate Youth Café. During three-hour sessions, we taught the students how to set up a business website on WordPress.com, including setting goals, making accounts, creating content, designing, and connecting to social media. Check out three of the student sites: Green Patch, Take it Outside, and Transcycle.

Though it was a lot to take in for some students who had never worked with WordPress before, they did an amazing job and made some very nice basic websites. We encouraged them to continue to play around and make their websites their own personalized online homes.

All three of us loved getting involved with this great initiative. Helping young and eager people discover the magic of building websites and publishing online is inspiring. The students’ fresh enthusiasm reminded us of the great opportunities WordPress has given us. It’s a privilege to share our knowledge with the next generation. In doing that, we can contribute to the hope Grow Leadership Academy gives youth in overcoming a challenging job market and achieving their dreams! Publishing online empowers students, allowing them to voice their world views, and even assist those in need in their local community.

Our slides of the session and the sample website we created can be found at growwp.org.

Below are some pictures taken by the in-house photographer of Grow Leadership Academy, Hendrik Louw. Thanks to Rabia AdamsonCyril Mphanga, and Nathaniel Dicks for their help! (Rabia, Cyril, and Nathaniel are all Grow Academy grads employed with RLabs. Huzzah!)

Hugh introducing WordPress.com
Student brainstorming on goal of her website
Job talking about homepage design
Student brainstorming on goal of her website
Facilitator Nathaniel helping out
Students working hard on their websites
Students working hard on their websites
Gareth teaching WordPress.com basics
Student spreading WordPress love
Facilitator Cyril assisting a student
Job helping student
Students enjoying their WordPress sunglasses
Filed under: Community, Events, International
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Make the Most of Our New SEO Settings Panel

WordPress.com has always taken care of your site’s search engine optimization (SEO) behind the scenes. Whether you have a free site or paid plan, we index your posts and pages so that the Googles and Bings of the world can easily find them. Many of you, however, have requested more hands-on control over your site’s SEO — so we’re thrilled to introduce a new SEO settings panel to your dashboard.

When it comes to attracting viewers via search engines, nothing beats publishing high-quality posts on a regular basis. But there are also a number of technical settings that can have an impact, and our new panel gives you easy access to and control over these settings.

When you’re working on your site in the WordPress.com dashboard (access it by going to My Sites in the top-left corner of the screen), head to the Settings page and you’ll see a new SEO section.

This section contains three items: Front Page Meta Description, Site Verification Services, and XML Sitemap. Read on to learn how they can help with your site’s visibility.

Front Page Meta Description

For the first time on WordPress.com, you now have the ability to edit the meta description that search engines detect for the front page of your site. Previously, we used the site’s tagline as the front page meta description.

Meta descriptions are a general overview of the contents of your site. Search engines sometimes use this information to display a description of the site for specific searches, so adding one allows you to craft a message that emphasizes your site’s content and purpose.

Still not quite sure what a meta description does? Here’s an example of how it works on our blogging-resources site, The Daily Post:

Text entered into the Front Page Meta Description box.

A Google search result showing the meta description.

As for the rest of your pages and posts, meta descriptions are pulled from the excerpt field.

Site Verification Tools

WordPress.com comes with built-in stats that give you ample information about your traffic. If you’d like even more stats, some search engines and social networks offer additional “webmaster tools” that may complement the data you see here.

We’ve made it easier for you to verify your site with several services (for detailed instructions on site verification, read our step-by-step instructions). All you need to do is copy the HTML verification tag from any of the platforms listed below, and paste it into the corresponding field:

New Site Verification Tools showing the different Webmaster Tools settings.

Site Verification Tools

We currently support the following services:

XML Sitemap

XML Sitemap Link

Your site has always had an XML sitemap, but now you’re never more than a couple of seconds away from finding it!

Sitemaps are special-format pages that let search engines know what pages exist on your site and where to locate them. After you’ve verified your site using Google, Bing, or Yandex’s webmaster tools, you can submit your sitemap to those services so that search engines can easily find all the pages on your site.

Going through this step may help search engines index your site more quickly, as well as establish your authorship of original content in case your posts get syndicated or shared elsewhere on the web later on. Once you’ve added your sitemap, some of these services (including Google and Bing) will also be able to provide you with more information on your site’s performance.

Take Charge

With access to more SEO settings than ever, you have the ability to take charge of your site’s search engine success. If you’re interested in learning more about SEO on WordPress.com, visit our previous articles on the topic at The Daily Post, or check out some of the most frequently asked SEO questions.

Filed under: Dashboard, Features, New Features, Stats, WordPress.com
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Field Notes: SupConf 2016

Automatticians, the people who build WordPress.com, participate in events and projects around the world every day. Periodically, they report back on the exciting things they do in the community.

Last week I attended the first ever SupConf, held at Automattic headquarters in San Francisco, California. I attended the event with Mindy Postoff. Simon Ouderkirk and Jeremey DuVall gave talks. Andrea Badgley, Andrew Spittle, and Diana Potter helped organize the event, and Joe Boydston volunteered. We’re all Happiness Engineers. Happiness Engineers unite!

SupConf came out of the Support Driven community as a conference for people passionate about support as a career. Being an introvert I was worried about stepping out of my shell. I wanted to make the most of the experience and take advantage of being surrounded by fellow support professionals.

As it turns out it was easy to do.

Support professionals are dedicated to helping others. They’re empathetic communicators who made it easy to have conversations. This meant it was easy to have conversations with everyone there. The structure of the event encouraged interaction: after each speaker we, the audience, discussed questions related to the presentation. This worked so well, that at one point I looked up from the small group I was in to see that many people had left for a break. We were still involved with our conversation and there were some other groups still going as well.

Photo credit Ben Macaskill

In photo: Simon, Aubrey, Amanda (behind Aubrey), and Sandy. Photo credit: Ben Macaskill.

Talks were organized by theme, with three talks in each theme. For example, Jeremey spoke on improving team performance with his talk, “Hi. I hate your product.” Simon spoke on working with data in his presentation, “Use the data you’ve got.” After a series was complete we broke into smaller groups where we could ask questions of the speaker and others. This worked very well and allowed me to have many great conversations with new people without feeling awkward or uncomfortable.

only day one, but I think this may be the most useful conference I've ever attended. support people thinking deeply about support. #supconf

— m miratrix (@mpmiratrix) May 23, 2016

In all the conversations I had or overheard the feeling was the same:

The way it was designed, participants really got the opportunity to learn so much, not just from the speakers but from fellow attendees as well. — Mindy Postoff

Automattic, and my fellow Happiness Engineers, see support as a critical role. So important in fact that everyone in the company, no matter their role, does a one-week support rotation each year. This includes our CEO! However, that isn’t the case in all companies. Sometimes there is a stigma attached to customer support: it’s perceived as an entry level position, or a job that requires little skill. The community and conference did a wonderful job to bring together people from many different companies who want to make support a role you can build into a career. The speakers gave us ideas and advice which we can take back to become better at our craft, and the confidence to work at making the role of support be seen as a career choice like any other.

"A career in support is a lifetime of service, a way to help pple deeply use your product"- @andrewspittle #supconf pic.twitter.com/Izh1kPzglq

— Denise Twum (@awurama) May 24, 2016

If you are passionate about support but missed out on SupConf, I strongly encourage you to check out the Support Driven community. I know I’m going to be more active there now. There is talk of another SupConf, which I very much look forward to. Also know that there are many great companies out there where you can build a career in support, including Automattic. If this sounds like something you are interested in doing, we’re hiring!

Filed under: Community, Events
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Field Notes: An Event Apart Boston 2016

Automatticians, the people who build WordPress.com, participate in events and projects around the world every day. Periodically, they report back on the exciting things they do in the community.

This week, designers Kjell Reigstad and Mel Choyce and code wrangler Kelly Dwan attended An Event Apart in Boston, Massachusetts. An Event Apart is a tech industry conference built by, and for, designers and developers who believe “that through advocacy and hard work, each of us can make a meaningful difference.” Mel shares her experience from the event.

Yesenia Perez-Cruz, taken by Jeffrey Zeldman. Photo licensed CC BY-ND 2.0.

Yesenia Perez-Cruz, taken by Jeffrey Zeldman. Photo licensed CC BY-ND 2.0.

Every now and then a conference comes around that makes you want to get up and go work. That’s always been An Event Apart for me — I leave feeling energized and amped up, with a strong desire to make the world (or at least the web) a better place.

An Event Apart is a series of one-track conferences hosted across the United States, focusing on designing and developing the modern web. The speakers are top-notch industry leaders, who present eye-opening talks on topics ranging from the technicalities of using CSS Grids to designing for people in crisis.

Thanks for the vulnerable talk, @meyerweb. It was powerful and helped remind me how impactful we really can be. #aeabos

— Michelle Matthews (@michematthews) May 17, 2016

Throughout this week’s event in Boston there was an undercurrent of compassion, empathy, and understanding for the real people who use the products we create. The web should be accessible to everyone — not just people with fast connections and modern devices, or perfect vision, or people who only speak English.

This sentiment was woven into talks about designing deliberately, creating for touch screens and physical interfaces, building products that last, and improving your site performance. More than their technical expertise, each speaker’s humanity shone through in their presentation. I can’t imagine leaving An Event Apart and not being inspired to make the world a better place.

Let’s design for "the next billion" – @beep #aeabos #aeaboston #aea2016 #design #designthinking

— Rocky (@RocksterWho) May 16, 2016

At WordPress.com our mission is to democratize publishing. That means making a space for everyone on the web to have a voice that is their own, that they control — not us. If you ever want to leave WordPress.com, you can take your content with you, no strings attached. Making a place that enables you to tell your story and carve out a niche on this world wide web is critically important to me and to everyone here.

To see people using WordPress.com to kickstart their careers as writers, build their businesses and support themselves, and share their experiences with their family and friends is inspiring. Seeing what y’all build here is a reminder of how beautiful and diverse our world is, and An Event Apart is a perennial reminder that our work touches and empowers so many communities.

In addition to the three of us attending, WordPress.com had the great privilege of sponsoring this event. Before and after sessions, Kelly, Kjell and I (Mel — oh what rhyming we brought with us) hung out at our booth, where we handed out stickers, buttons, and some beautiful WordPress pennants from Oxford Pennants. (I can’t wait to hang mine up in my home office!)

Looking forward to another epic day at #aeabos. Stop by our table and grab one of our newly designed WordPress pennants (by @OxfordPennant)!

— WordPress.com (@wordpressdotcom) May 17, 2016

We also got to talk to people about their love of WordPress. Pretty much everyone who approached us throughout the conference either used WordPress at their current job, or at a previous job, or were trying to convince their job to switch to WordPress. We got to chat about the benefits of using the Jetpack plugin for self-hosted sites. Folks seemed really excited about the new features we’ve been introducing into Jetpack, especially Jetpack Manage, which lets you manage and update your self-hosted sites from WordPress.com — a feature I wanted when I worked at an agency and had a lot of client sites to maintain.

I was sad to see An Event Apart end, but I’m excited to get back to work. If you’re a designer or another member of the tech industry, I encourage you to check out an upcoming An Event Apart in your area.

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2016-05-16 07.21.42
2016-05-16 07.21.49

If you’re as pumped as we are about making the web a better place, WordPress.com is currently hiring Product Designers, Marketing Designers, and is on the lookout for our next Head of Design!

Filed under: Community, Events
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New Theme: Rebalance

It’s Theme Thursday again, and we have a brand new free theme called Rebalance to share with you!

Rebalance

Rebalance is an elegantly simple portfolio theme for photographers, artists, and graphic designers looking to showcase their work. It was designed by Automattic’s very own Mel Choyce and inspired by the classic Imbalance 2 theme for WordPress.org.

The theme comes with six custom accent colors to choose from and site logo support so that you can tweak the design to your liking. It also has a customizable header menu and social menu that your visitors can use to further connect with your site.

Want to explore Rebalance? Head over to the theme’s Showcase page!

Filed under: Themes
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Introducing Blogging U. On Demand

Over the past two and a half years, thousands of bloggers have used Blogging U. — step-by-step courses with manageable daily assignments and pro tips from WordPress.com staff — to get started with WordPress.com, grow as writers, push their photography skills, and more.

Now, accessing expert support is even easier: Blogging U. courses are available on demand, so you can begin whenever you’d like! We’ll be offering courses in four tracks, Blogging, Websites (coming soon), Writing, and Photography (coming soon) — all your Blogging U. favorites will be back, along with lots of new topics we’ve got up our sleeves.

There are five different courses currently available:

  • Blogging: Learning the Fundamentals (formerly Blogging 101)  — a solid grounding in the three big components of blogging: publishing, customizing your blog, and engaging with the blogging community.
  • Blogging: Commenting Basics (formerly Commenting Bootcamp) — a short course to get you comfortable with reaching out to other bloggers and commenting etiquette.
  • Blogging: Branding and Growth (formerly Blogging 201) — audit your brand, analyze your stats, explore social networks, learn about SEO, and more in this intermediate course.
  • Writing: Intro to Poetry (new course) — find your inner Dickinson with daily poetry prompts, and sharpen your verse by learning some basic poetic forms and devices.

Courses give you a daily assignment or writing prompt, along with the technical help you need to complete the task and insider advice from both our editors and the wider blogging community; each course has a handy resource page collecting everything in one place for you to refer back to whenever you’d like. Publish new posts using the course’s tag — don’t worry, we’ll tell you how! — and you’ll be able to connect with others working through the same course for support, feedback, and friendship.

Click on any course title for more detail on what it covers and to begin immediately (click the “Start” button on the course’s page to enroll) or read on to learn more about the changes to Blogging U. and what’s coming next.

FAQs

How do I start a course?

Visit the page for the course you’re interested in and click the “Start” button — that’s it! If you’re logged in to WordPress.com, you’ll receive an introductory email right away, and your first assignment a few minutes later. If you’re not logged in, we’ll prompt you to do so, and you’re off and running.

What if I want to stop?

No problem — every email you’ll receive includes an unsubscribe link at the bottom. Click it, and the course stops.

This won’t affect any of your other WordPress.com emails, like notifications. And if you want to give the course another try, you can register again.

How many courses can I take? Can I take them more than once?

As many as you’d like, as many times as you’d like. We recommend taking one course at a time — blogging is fun, but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be overwhelming! — but you’re free to take multiple courses simultaneously.

What happened to the other courses on writing, photography, and intermediate/advanced blogging?

We haven’t forgotten about them. We’re working hard to adapt them and will be adding them to the lineup as soon as we can, along with other, brand-new courses on building a website, advanced photography, and more.

Hey, the course names seem different! Are these the same courses that have been offered in the past?

We’ve updated the course names to make them clearer and more descriptive, so you can more easily decide what course is right for you. We’ll always let you know if a course is one we’ve offered previously, or new.

What if I need assistance during the course?

Every assignment includes expert advice from our staff as well as links to more resources and to our customer support folks, called Happiness Engineers. Blogging U. courses no longer have private sites for those participating — but that doesn’t mean there’s no way to get support when you need it!

How do I connect with other bloggers during my course?

Reaching out to other bloggers helps participants get the most out of Blogging U. courses. We encourage you to use the tag for your course when publishing posts (e.g., #bloggingfundamentals) and to browse that tag in the Reader to find and connect with other bloggers. If you don’t know what tag to use or browse, don’t worry — when you begin a course, we’ll tell you.

We also have a weekly Community Pool discussion thread where anyone can seek or give feedback on any aspect of blogging. A new thread opens every Monday. And each Friday, new bloggers are invited to share their first posts with the community in our First Friday thread.

What if I don’t blog on WordPress.com?

All general assignments (publishing posts, customizing your blog, leaving comments, etc.) are applicable to any blog, anywhere. However, you’ll need to have a WordPress.com account to register for a Blogging U. course, and any specific how-to guidance we offer will be specific to WordPress.com.

How much does each course cost?

Nothing. Blogging U. courses have always been free, and still are.

Ready to register? Head to the Blogging U. home page to get started!

Filed under: Better Blogging, Community, Support
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