Here at Southern Web Group, almost every project we build or touch is built on the WordPress Content Management System. It’s a great open source CMS wrapped in an excellent community of developers and contributors. As such, there are a ton of plugins that we use on almost every build when building out the pages and site architecture, as well as managing images and content during and after the project build.
Site Architecture and Navigation Setup
One aspect of WordPress that could use some work is the way that admins add pages and set up the navigation in the initial stages of a build. When working on a large site, without clicking “Add New Page” and then typing in your page title and selecting the parent page 50-plus times, there’s just not a great way to get the sitemap in place. Even with all of the pages added, it’s a fairly involved process to get the navigation in order. Using the following plugins together creates a workflow that is much faster and easier to handle.
This plugin in combination with the next plugin we’ll discuss — Bulk Page Creator — allows admins to build out site architecture, pages, and menus all at once. To accomplish this, admins first need to download and install the Auto Submenu plugin available at WordPress.org or in the Plugin repository. Once you have activated and installed the plugin, the only thing you have to do is create the menu that you are going to use as your main navigation and under the “Menu Settings” at the bottom of the page click the “Auto Add Pages” check box. Once you’ve done this, any page – including sub pages – will be added the the menu.
Bulk Page Creator
Once the Auto Submenu plugin is installed and the menu is setup to automatically add pages, admins can use the Bulk Page Creator plugin to add all of the site’s pages, populate dummy content, and build out navigation all at once. Once the plugin has been installed from the plugin repository or downloaded from WordPress.org, there will now be a new sidebar menu item under Settings called “Bulk Page Creator.” Once clicked, admins will be taken to screen that looks similar to the screengrab below.
There are a number of options for this plugin but the most important ones are as follows:
- Multiple Pages mode: When checked, admins can add multiple pages at once by using a comma separated list. The only requirement is that the pages have the same parent.
- Parent: This simple little dropdown — in combination with selecting Multiple Pages mode — is what really allows the site’s architecture setup in minutes.
- Set Pages Content: If selected, this option will display a field that allows for content population on every page being created at once.
Once pages and hierarchy are set up, click “Update Site” and the plugin will create all of the pages, populate the content and set up the hierarchy. Also, if enabled, the Auto Submenu (above) will add all of the sub pages to your new navigation.
Managing Images in WordPress
While WordPress does – in general – a pretty solid job with managing images and sizes, there are definitely a few shortfalls in the process, especially once an admin has handed the project over to a client. Whether it’s not having the ability to get exactly the image size that you need or want, or the inability to crop your post thumbnail to the most desirable size and area, there are some shortfalls that can be addressed with the following plugins.
Simple Image Sizes
Now that the menu and site architecture is down, it’s time to consider some of the images and sizes used on the website. On almost every project there is going to be some custom image sizes needed, whether it’s for headshots of the team or product photos. While most people (read: developers) know it’s not hard to add a custom image size to your WordPress theme, this simple little plugin makes it even easier to handle.
With this plugin, admins can edit the standard WordPress image size options (Thumbnail, Medium, and Large) with whatever new pixel sizes desired. The feature Southern Web Group often uses, however, is the Add a new size option. Once clicked, admins will be able to name new sizes, add pixel values, select whether or not the images in this size need to be cropped, and then save a new image size. Admins can now use that new image size in any template and without having to worry about cropping photos perfectly.
Another feature of this plugin is available at the bottom of it’s settings page. Let’s say the admin added a new image size after already adding several images that you don’t want to have to manually resize. If clicked, “Regenerate Thumbnails” above the “Save Changes” button at the bottom of the settings page, the plugin will go through and regenerate any of the new thumbnail sizes for all existing images. Not always needed, but if you do run into a scenario where you have a ton of images that need resizing it can really be a time-saver.
Post Thumbnail Editor
This is another plugin that works great in conjunction with the plugin listed above. Once all of the image sizes are setup, this plugin will let admins crop post thumbnails and images manually to get the exact section of photo needed. Southern Web Group uses this for things like employee headshots and Post Thumbnails all the time.
Once selected, the Post Thunbnail Editor will display a screen similar to the one below:
This is where this plugin is at its best. Admins can select any of the image sizes (even the ones created with Simple Images Sizes plugin) and then crop the selected photo to the right size and ratio. Again, Southern Web Group uses these all the time for headshots and product images to keep a consistent look. Also, it automates the process for clients, so when they are adding images after the site has been handed over the project they will still get properly sized and cropped, and it’s all done by using some very easy to setup plugins.
While there are a few schools of thought regarding plugins, here at Southern Web Group we have a selection that are invaluable to us. While there are probably three or four terrible plugins for every one worth it’s salt, there are still many on the market that do exactly what they say and in the correct way. We’ve learned our fair share about plugins through trial and error, so we figured we would share what we learned the hard way before you had to. Keep an eye on our blog as we will try to cover more of the plugins that we use in the upcoming weeks.