The new way in which WordPress develops means that they’re moving at a good pace, and today WordPress 3.8 was released.
Codenamed “Parker”, after Charlie Parker, this version brings mainly visual changes to the backend, as well as the usual security updates WP is well known for.
Here, I’m going to go through the main changes and what they mean for radio stations that use the platform for their website.
The ‘Fresh Look’
Gone are overbearing gradients and dozens of shades of grey — bring on a bigger, bolder, more colorful design! – WordPress
They’re right! Parker brings the flatness that we’re getting used to in Apple’s latest iOS to the world of WordPress. The admin bar and menu in the backend are flat and a single colour, which a contrast to highlight the current item you’re on.
Alongside the use of the Open Sans font and simplified icons, it gives the tired looking UI and breath of fresh air. It really does feel like it’s been dragged, kicking and screaming to the middle of the 21st Century.
And for radio stations, it means happier users. There’s nothing worse than logging into a system that looks a decade old, but under the hood actually acts like a 6 week old puppy and is ready to give anything a go. It might scare some users who don’t use it that often, but like anything else they will get used to it after using for a while.
A splash of colour, and then some
WordPress describes it as “Admin color schemes to match your personality”, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say personality, but more just to match the colour of your frontend.
For radio stations, it means all users can pick the colour that they wish. In one office you could end up with the colours of the rainbow, just on one WordPress site! That will certainly brighten up winter days, and make you scream for mercy the morning after the company Christmas party.
Posting from Tablets, properly
You could just about use previous WordPress version on tablets, if you had a lot of patience and time. But Parker means that the admin pages are truly responsive and enable you to easily update via your tablet (or other mobile devices).
Looking at the admin for this site on my Nexus 7 makes for a pleasant experience. It’s now easier to find icons and format the body of the post. Overall, it’s just a much more appealing layout, which may make me update on the move more.
And for radio stations, this means you’ll be easily able to update your site from the scene of an event, or if you discover a major error, it can be eradicated from your hand instead of your laptop. I believe that if used correctly, this is the best part of Parker and it will empower content creators like never before. Plus, there’s no need for a silly plugin to generate a nice admin section!
Whilst the first two points are simply cosmetics to bring it up to modern design expectations, the real kicker in Parker is the way it now properly reacts to devices like tablets.
You can get WordPress 3.8 either via the Updates system in your WP install, or manually from wordpress.org/download.
This post builds upon what was discussed in there, bringing in some new plugins and themes as well as news about future WordPress releases that will affect radio stations.
As usual, there are literally thousands of themes out there.
My main source of themes is ThemeForest. The new design for Cre8 Radio‘s website is a theme I bought from there and customised.
The only downside to any theme collection website is that sometimes you don’t get a feel for the features until you’ve actually bought it. If there is the option to log in and play around with the ‘Theme Options’ panel, do so. You will get a better feel for how easy/hard it is to customise, as well as see if it truly have what you’re looking for.
On Twitter, why not search for “WordPress themes” or something similar. You may have to be picky with what links you click, but there are some gems out there. It’s just finding what you’re after.
This is based on Drupul’s ‘Station‘ plugin. It has some pretty neat features and means you can do things with playlists, the role of ‘DJ’ for users and widgets which generate the current ‘DJ’ on air.
I tried it out on an RSL station’s website and found that it was difficult to work with at times. That might have been because I wanted to really customise how it looked and how the widgets were laid out.
I can see the promise in the plugin, however things like the presenter profiles didn’t work for me out the box and I couldn’t find a way to fix it.
If there was an update or explanation for this error, then I may have continued to use it, but it’s certainly one to watch.
There are some big changes coming to WordPress 3.6 which mean we can dispense with many of the audio or video plugins.
Previously there was a plugin which brought that library within the WordPress system, however it will soon be within the core of WP!
Audio/Video support in WordPress Core
With MediaElement.js within the core of WordPress, it means we no longer need to have plugins to generate those players for (many) podcasts or short clips that give context to a post.
Instead we can simply type audio src="audio-source.mp3" (in square brackets) and the player with MP3 will appear. It even supports WAV and OGG files. You can specify just one or all of the file types and the WP core will handle how the file is delivered to the user.
It even works in IE7! And can deliver native player options to devices such as iOS or Android.
It remains to be seen how exactly we’ll be able to manipulate the library or even if there is any visual customisation, but it is certainly a step to help us use less plugins!
Recently several associates in the community radio industry have asked me for tips and useful plugins that I have used on site like One Media Group and Cre8 Radio. So I’ve pooled together some great tools that can help make a WordPress system work for a radio station; useful if you’re on a budget!
I won’t tell you where to go, but firstly you need to buy hosting and install WordPress on it if you want to have great flexibility. The sites on WordPress.com are only good for personal blogs and don’t have the functions required to use many of the tools below. You can find suggested hosts on the WordPress.org website at www.wordpress.org/hosting, but do look around elsewhere.
Personally, I use Tsohost. They are a great UK based company that provides 24/7 support (genuinely, I asked a question at 11:30pm and they replied in 20 minutes!) and even offers free whole website migration with some hosting packages. And with the coupon code “WordPress Rocks!” you can get 10% off any hosting package! Just enter it when placing your order.
Choosing your theme is essential, but don’t just look at the theme and take it as it is. Many sites take a template and then modify it to suit them. Whether that be a colour change or simply moving things about, beyond the widget function. If you have HTML, PHP & CSS knowledge then it will be very beneficial! If you can, stretch to a budget. Most good themes do cost a bit of money, usually between £20-£40, including exchange rates from American websites. Sites I would suggest for premium themes are WooThemes and ThemeForest. I don’t find the WordPress.org Free Theme Directory too useful, however the WP Theme category on Smashing Magazineis full of gems. Or you could always spin off your own WordPress theme which would give you exactly what you want, but may take a bit longer.
If you purchase a theme and it doesn’t support smart phones, why not try the plugin WPtouch. It is basically a theme which is only activated when users visit on a smart phone. There are lots of choices within the free version, however the paid version ($49/£31) does give you a lot more features like using custom menus and inline replies.
There are two very useful bundles available for free, which contain some amazing features.
This bundle comes with WordPress and to activate it you must link it to a WordPress.com account. That account is free, easy to do and complete with a how to within the bundle. Notable features include WordPress.com Stats, Jetpack Comments, Sharing, Contact Form and Shortcode Embeds. All of which you should activate and configure upon installing Jetpack. I’ll talk about some of these later on.
This is already the second time I’ve mentioned WooThemes! Their WooDojo bundle brings features like Branded Login, Maintenance mode and Widget Previewing. Features here are ones where you’d usually have to install a separate plugin for each one, however they are bundled together nicely here along with simple settings. Definitely several here I use all the time!
Here are some of the plugins I use to enhance the radio stations that I have on WordPress. I will refer to some of the features within Jetpack and WooDojo, but alongside others I’ll include links to their WordPress plugin pages.
WP.me Shortlinks – part of Jetpack
If you really want WP.me short URLs then you can use this as part of Jetpack. You can’t choose any other short domain or services and it doesn’t post automatically to Twitter.
WooDojo ShortLinks – part of WooDojo
Just like WP.me this will automatically generate your short URL, but you have the choice of TinyURL or bitly. If you hook in your Bitly username and API key you can use the bitly services and even your own short URL!
Having installed my own version of YOURLS I gave their WordPress plugin a go. I find this much easier to use then some of the others. It automatically posts to Twitter and can use a variety of short URL services, including the bitly custom domain setting.
On the One Media Group website, I decided that as our audience were students, Facebook would be an ideal platform to use for our comments. I gave our management team moderator rights to the Facebook platform and then used the Facebook Comments for WordPressplugin to replace the standard comments system provided by WordPress. There are ways to implement it yourself, however using a plugin means that any API changes that Facebook makes, the maker of the plugin should keep them up to date for you. However do keep an eye plugins when using third-party services like Twitter & Facebook as they may break if the social networks change something very quickly.
This recent addition to Jetpack seems to take care of wanting to allow users to login using Facebook or Twitter accounts when commenting. It builds right into the main commenting system of WordPress so uses all the regular settings you make in the Discussion panel.
I’ve used this plugin before as I didn’t know about other alternatives. This requires you to make a Disqus account and moderate via their platform. I would now opt for other ways of sorting out comments however it might have something you want that others don’t.
I always get asked how to do schedules in WordPress for a radio station.
I’ve worked with my good friend Christopher Smith to pull together a system that uses a text file and a series of PHP files to extract information. These files also are configured to generate an on air now, and on air next display. However this isn’t a fail safe system and it does require a lot of setup.
This tutorial shows how you can use custom post types to generate your own schedule. For my liking it is rather messy as you have to create lots of different posts with the information. However you can add descriptions easily, plus if you want to change it slightly you can as you go along.
Whilst this plugin is primarily for TV schedules, it does double up nicely as a radio weekly schedule. You can have multiple schedules and display the show description either in the table itself or in a popup window. It also has categories so you can distinguish your speech-based content versus your daytime or specialist shows.
Using a Google Calendar is also a practical way to display your schedule, even if it does require putting in every single show manually. You could also share your calendar with other managers at the station so that it can be changed by others. It is possible then to embed the calendar in an iframe upon a normal WordPress page.
If you’re looking for something with a bit more flexibility, without the coding work, then this plugin could work for you. It boasts a selection of pre-defined skin colours and a neat side-scrolling feature.
You’ve probably seen this player if you’ve been looking at websites with audio on. It is easy to install and comes with lots of customisation options, including a nice colour picker for the player. There’s also a button in the Media window when you add audio to a post, which makes embedding audio very easy.
However, if you are expecting a large amount of iOS or Android users to visit your site, it might be best to avoid this as it is purely Flash based.
If you’re planning to have lots of users who will be logging in to provide content for your site, then you may want to watch what permissions they have more closely. Whilst the Editor/Author/Contributor model is okay, with Advanced Access Manager plugin you can create your own model for user access. You can create a new user type based on the original ones and then customise it as you wish.
A nice plugin that will help you keep a backup of your precious database. Either download, email or simply save the core database to your server. There’s even the option to add additional information from other plugins. You can schedule a backup as well, however I’ve found this not to be very useful with large databases.
I’ve used this plugin to enable external show providers to send in their WAV/MP3 files. It’s faster than using WeTransfer and also it keeps all the data on your hosting. However, as the plugin page says, “Uploading files should be considered risky.” I would almost certainly always put this plugin on a private page or add a password to this plugin, which comes built in. It works in all browsers and is a nice tool to transfer content from different providers.
This is useful if you want to have external advertisers, maybe your on air advertisers as well, or even ‘in house’ promotions on your site. It has a nice system for handling expiry dates and ad-rotations with weights. Plus you can see how many times an advert has been seen, along with it’s conversion rate.
Every website owner likes to know who’s visiting what and when. If not, you should care! If you don’t then your boss and advertisers certainly should.
I usually run these two tools side by side as they differ in results and each have their own merits.
There are an abundance of plugins that allow you to put your Google Analytics code in WordPress, but the easier (and arguably most effective) way is to simply post your code in your theme’s footer.php file, just before the </body> tag.
Google Analytics’ dashboard is nice and you can see a lot more details in here compared to the next tool.
Another great part of Jetpack is the Stats component. It gives you all the important information like visits per day, top posts & pages and search engine keywords used today. It is great for Editors or Admins that want to quickly see what has been popular today or yesterday. I tend to use this more than Google Analytics.
Hopefully all of these plugins or tools will be useful to your radio station WordPress website, one way or another.
If you have any suggestions of plugins that have worked for your station, then please do leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
28/04/13 – I’m now looking to write a follow up to this post, especially as it was picked up by the CMA. If you have any more suggestions of plugins/resources or have specific questions, please drop a comment below and I’ll try and cover it in the next related post.
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