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WordPress Coding & Design

WordPress 2.7 Theme Enhancements II

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Last week I explained about two of the three enhancements available in WordPress 2.7. This week it’s all about the new comment options.

Before I continue however, there seemed to be some confusion last week from a comment or two. These changes are enhancements. Your existing themes will still work with WordPress 2.7, you will just not get the benefits or be able to use some of the new features until these changes are made. So don’t suddenly think your site is going to break or stop working when you upgrade to 2.7!

New Comment Options

In the admin for 2.7 there are 3 new comment options:

  1. Automatically close comments on posts older than X days
  2. Enable threaded (nested) comments
  3. Break comments into pages

The first new feature doesn’t require any theme changes, however if you want to use either of the second two features then we need to be updating the comments.php theme file.

New Comment Code and Comment Pagination

The WordPress team have simplified the comment code a lot now, so that it’s very similar to how the loop works for posts. They’ve also added in a lot of auto features such as various classes to help you target the post author, alternating comments etc. So no more need to hack code around to do this yourself (or no more need for the author highlight plugin if you had it).

If you have already got a copy of the latest beta (version 3 at the time of writing), then open up comments.php under the default theme directory. If you haven’t got this then you can download just this file – default comments.php File

Password Protection Check

The first piece of new code in the file is

[sourcecode language=”php”]< ?php if ( post_password_required() ) { ?>

This post is password protected. Enter the password to view comments.

< ?php return; } ?>[/sourcecode]

This check is already in place in the old default comments.php file. As you can probably tell, it checks if the post is password protected and if it is, it requests the password.This has simplified the original version and is a lot more easier to read. It also means it’s more future proof so it’s worthwhile changing if you password protect your posts at all.

Comment Output

This is the point at which comments are checked for, and if they are it lists them out.

[sourcecode language=”php”]< ?php if ( have_comments() ) : ?>

< ?php comments_number('No Responses', 'One Response', '% Responses' );?> to “< ?php the_title(); ?>”

    < ?php wp_list_comments(); ?>

< ?php else : // this is displayed if there are no comments so far ?>

< ?php if ('open' == $post->comment_status) : ?>

< ?php else : // comments are closed ?>

Comments are closed.

< ?php endif; ?>
< ?php endif; ?>[/sourcecode]

This is where a great improvement has been made, by making the code similar to the loop code. Going through this line by line we have

  1. If there are comments on the post…
  2. Echo our a h3 heading with how many comments there are
  3. Then uses the new wp_list_comments() template tag to list out the comments within an ordered list
  4. We then get the previous and next comments links which are there for the pagination feature should you choose to enable it.
  5. Else, if there are no comments…
  6. Check if comments can be made
  7. Else state comments are closed

For point 2 I’ll also point out that the first parameter of the function comments_number() is ‘No Responses’ which is a bit of a waste in this code, as this will never see the light of day because this heading is only displayed if there are comments. Personally I would move the header above the first if statement, however I’ll offer up my own sample code later on.

The output for each comment now looks like the following HTML code

[sourcecode language=”html”]


  • Sarah Says:

    Comment content goes here.

  • [/sourcecode]

    As you can see, we have a number of new CSS classes available to us without the need for plugins or theme hacking. In the class list for the list item we have

    comment
    Standard comment class available on every comment. If the ‘comment’ is actually a pingback or trackback you’ll have the class ‘pingback’ or ‘trackback’ respectively
    byuser
    This class is added if the comment is made by someone who is a registered user of (and logged into) the site.
    comment-author-sarah
    This is added for commentators who are registered users of the site. Of course ‘sarah’ is changed to the user’s nickname
    bypostauthor
    Added if the commentator is the post author – aka ‘Author Highlight’
    odd
    This, or ‘even’ is added for odd and even posts
    alt
    This is added to each alternating comment
    thread-odd
    This is the same as the odd class (and there is a thread-even), however it’s only added to the top level comments – only of use when using threaded comments
    thread-alt
    The same as the alt class however, as above, is only added to top level comments, which is only of use/interest when using threaded comments
    depth-1
    The class depth-X denotes which depth the comment is at, so depth-1 is the top level, depth-2 are replies to top level comments etc.

    To then use these classes to your benefit you can add some new styles in to your CSS stylesheet, after the main comment styles (else they will overwrite your custom settings). I highly recommend highlighting the author’s comments on the post, and possibly having some sort of distinction between alternating comments. For a multi author blog the site owner could then have his own comments highlighted even more distinctly, and perhaps other site authors could have a different distinction too. So for example take this scenario

    • Comments have alternating background colours – use ‘alt’
    • Registered users have a different background colour to others – use ‘byuser’
    • The site owner has a different background to everyone else – use ‘comment-author-nickname’ where the nickname is the nickname of the site owner
    • Post authors get their comment highlighted – use ‘bypostauthor’

    If you add the relevant classes in that order then each item will override the previous items.

    Next week will be the final part in this enhancement series, where I’ll explain how to use the new threaded comments and also explain how to control your comment output a little more than the default settings.

    Other posts in this series

    1. Your Theme and WordPress 2.7
    2. WordPress 2.7 Theme Enhancements III
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    A PHP Developer using WordPress to power both blogging and commercial CMS sites. I've written and released a couple of plugins for WordPress and am currently writing plugins for use on commercial websites.

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    WordPress Coding & Design

    Will Artificial Design Intelligence Takeover Web Designing and Development?

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    Artificial Design Intelligence

    The worlds are colliding.

    Web designing and development happens in two primary ways:

    1. DIY (bloggers and small business owners buying readymade themes, web hosting account, and setting up the website after reading a lot of online resources)
    2. Agencies (dedicated agencies that create websites from scratch, using manual coding and templates, and these are usually high budget)

    There is a third way, which in the next couple of years can replace both the above methods to a large extent. Will it? Let’s see.

    Artificial Design Intelligence

    Artificial Design Intelligence (ADI) is the ‘third’ way wherein companies are creating technology where a website could design and build itself. In 2003, prior to ADI, Adobe unveiled its suite of web designing tools and the industry experts spelled it as a doomsday for designers.

    Will this ADI technology completely eradicate the need for website designers and developers? Certainly not, says David Kosmayer from Bookmark. Bookmark is a website builder that uses ADI to cater to each user’s specific and unique needs. Kosmayer opines that ADI technology will become a productivity tool for innovative developers and designers where the technology will improve and escalate the efforts of the team involved in automating the website development process. He is anticipating a website building ADI revolution with Bookmark, thriving to be at the forefront of this inevitable movement.

    David gave me an insider peek into the ADI technology they are developing, scheduled to release in the next couple of weeks. Here it is:

    The ADI technology improves possibilities.

    I create my own websites and blogs. Now, if I have access to technology that Bookmark is designing, it will simplify my work. It’s unassumingly perfect for eCommerce stores. The ADI asks what kind of store does the user want – from a Bistro to a Laundromat, the user has tons of varieties. Once the basic is uploaded, you can add Focus Groups and Modules, and make the site live.

    This ADI technology is akin to a personal assistant that understands my business needs and creates a customized ‘product’ to use.

    After Bookmark, companies like Wix and TheGrid have ventured into the AI technology space too.

    AI for website development and designing is an uncharted area. Chris Lema has a brilliant article title, Has Website AI Arrived?

    The world of content marketing should rejoice. AI technology will strategically and dynamically depend on content to design the layout of the site. Here, content could be anything – article length, article quantity, images, videos and more.

    Artificial design intelligence is still in nascent stages.

    Who could use ADI technology? Bloggers, digital marketers, affiliate marketers, consultants, and other small business owners will find AI entertaining and useful. This group of professionals is usually a one-man army with a small remote team. It cuts down cost on resources as users will probably use the ADI service on a monthly subscription basis. As such, businesses can focus on branding and generating revenue.

    The stress of creating dynamic websites, learning technology, and implementing them is removed entirely.

    Personally, I agree with Lema that AI technology for website development and designing is yet to mature. With the coming of chatbots and other AI software, give this a year or two before the artificial design intelligence technology for websites booms.

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    How to Stop Comment Spam in 60 seconds with CleanTalk

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    Blog comments can be one of the most valuable assets to your blog, but they can also be a huge burden at the same time. Even with Akismet installed on my blogs, I still have to manually go through and remove the junk and spam comments many of my sites gets on a daily basis.

    When I login to my WordPress dashboard, I will continually junk like this just sitting there and waiting for my approval or deletion. The majority of comment spam happens because they are trying to get a backlink to a site, either through a link within the comment or from the username.

    How_to_Stop_Comment_Spam

    If you have a small WordPress site, you might not be getting overwhelmed with spam comments yet, but it’s simply just a matter of time. The worse part is that it’s pretty much all coming in on an automated basis, which means cleaning up your spam comments manually can waste endless hours of your valuable time.

    Comment spam is something all bloggers have to deal with, and while there are ways to minimize worthless and fake comments with plugins like Akismet or using CAPTCHA forms, these methods either don’t work or are just too annoying to setup.

    CleanTalk.org felt the same way and they wanted to create a comment spam solution that works for all blog site owners, while also having a solution that actually works.

    How CleanTalk WordPress Spam Plugins Works

    Like most things in the world, you just want the product or service to work and not have to deal with the complexities of how it’s made. This is how most online marketers and bloggers feel — they just want a solution and not have to deal with coding, programming and working with a dev team to figure it out.

    CleanTalk is quite advanced on the backend, but super easy to setup and use from a site owner perspective. Through it’s cloud based platform, CleanTalk actively monitors the visitors on your site and makes sure the comments being made, are from actual visitors (not spam bots).

    The process of how CleanTalk works, is as follows:

    1. A visitor writes a comment or registers.
    2. CleanTalk plugin sends action parameters into the CleanTalk cloud.
    3. Service analyzes the parameters.
    4. If this is a visitor, the comment will be published. If it’s a spam bot, then CleanTalk blocks this comment or registering.
    5. Parameters are written to the log which can be viewed in the Control Panel service.

    Not only does CleanTalk protect your blog comment area, it also covers all forms throughout your site (contact, registrations, etc). When logged into your account through their site, you will also have access to real-time stats on how well it’s protecting your site and showing you what activity is happening where.

    How to Install CleanTalk on WordPress

    Since CleanTalk is a WordPress plugin, it’s super easy to setup. All you need to do is visit their main site at http://cleantalk.org, create an account and grab your access key on the following page.

    After that, all you need to do is head over to your WordPress dashboard, go to the “Plugins” section and search for “CleanTalk”.

    CleanTalk Installation

    Install the plugin and then throw in your access key and you are ready to go!

    CleanTalk_Dashboard

    To make sure the plugin is properly installed and running, go back to your blog and complete a dummy comment, registration or contact message with the email address stop_email@example.com and you should then see the plugin react with the message like the one in the screenshot below.

    CleanTalk_anti-spam_setup_on_WordPress

    You can also head back to the main dashboard at CleanTalk.org to monitor your site comment stats and manage how many sites you would like to add the plugin to.

    Get Your Free 14 Day Trial of CleanTalk

    You can register on the CleanTalk.org site and install the plugin right away. After completing this step, you will have 14 days of free access to their comment spam blocking service. After the 14 days, you will then have the renew your account.

    The good news is that the cost of CleanTalk’s comment spam blocking plugin is just $8 per year, and you can save even more by using coupon code “BLOGGINGTIPS“.

    Head over to http://cleantalk.org, create your free account and add the plugin to your site. It’s only takes a couple minutes and it will save you a massive amount of time in the long run. Eliminate comment spam from your site forever!

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    The Importance of Responsive Web Design

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    Responsive web design is quickly changing how sites are viewed on the internet and on mobile devices. Back when I first started making money online in the mid 90s, everything was so basic and simple with web design… it was pretty much all HTML.

    Then in 2007 I started using WordPress to create my first blog and the rest of my sites there after.

    However, this was only the beginning. Now with everyone so focused on using mobile and other various devices to browse the internet and with the wide range of desktop sizes for viewing, it’s now more important than ever to make sure you have a site that is capable with all solutions.

    I still find it amazing that I can look up sites on my phone or iPad and still come across sites that aren’t mobile optimized or that don’t load correctly. It’s quite a shame and something that really needs to be fixed immediately. Statistics show that 25% of internet users only access the internet via a mobile device. Have you checked how your site loads on a mobile device lately? If not, it might be time for you to invest some resources into your web design and development. By working alongside a respectable design team, they will be able to improve the performance of your site, while making sure it is fully optimized in the process.

    Thus bringing us to responsive web design

    Responsive web design refers to a website designed to adapt to whatever device a visitor is using. The same applies for desktop viewing as well. You can make the browser bigger or smaller and the content on the site will continue to adapt to your viewing solution.

    Most premium wordpress themes are now responsive as well, as it’s almost become a requirement for site owners now.

    When it comes to designing and coding wordpress themes, I’m the last guy that wants to deal with these issues. Fortunately there are designers and teams dedicated to mastering the art of design and wordpress.

    For those of you who are wondering how responsive sites are created and the various tech specs involved, be sure to check out the infographic below from verveuk.eu.

    What is Responsive Web Design

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