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Gutenberg is the future of WordPress, but you don’t need to be a developer to help shape it. So how do you contribute without code?

As a WordPress Engineer and part of the team behind GiveWP, I’ve been closely following the development of the new Gutenberg editor. While I write code in the WordPress ecosystem every day, my contributions to Gutenberg thus far have been decidedly code-free, as I’ve instead focused on testing and leaving feedback in the project’s GitHub repository.

In open-source software, providing feedback without execution is often interpreted as laziness or entitlement, but when done with respect and the right intentions, feedback can be just as valuable as the code that results.

Contribution vs. Execution

In sports and in many other aspects of life, the concept of affecting change without executing change is accepted without question. Whenever we credit coaches, teachers, or family members for our success, we are acknowledging that their intangible contributions played a vital role in our outcome.

For example, nobody doubts the contributions of Pittsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Noll even though he never played a snap of football during his four Super Bowl-winning seasons. Of course the coach’s strategy, foresight, experience, and motivational ability had a clear impact on the team’s success. He contributed without executing.

Sadly, when it comes to software development, we often limit our definition of contribution strictly to code-related activity. Too often the amount of code committed to large projects like Gutenberg is used to evaluate the worth of an individual. While code contributions are obviously essential to the success of a project, so too are the conceptual contributions that shape how and why the code is written in the first place.

(Not) Representing the Opposition

In a recent conversation about Gutenberg with my friends Matt Cromwell and Josh Pollock, I took on the role of “The Opposition.” I suppose I earned this title when my opposing views on Gutenberg’s meta box support found their way onto WP Tavern. While it’s true that I have strong opinions on the subject, I care much more about the wellbeing of the community — the Humanity of WordPress — that I remember Rich Robinkoff describing at my first-ever WordCamp.

Opposing views provide a necessary system of checks and balances in open-source projects, but the success of this system relies on a spirit of collaboration, not merely criticism. If my feedback has had any impact on the project, then I credit it to a conscious effort to respond passionately while never losing sight of the humanity behind the screen.

The Right to React

Like many developers, I’m still in the process of learning JavaScript deeply, which means I haven’t yet had the opportunity (read: confidence) to commit a pull request to Gutenberg. A lack of time, coding ability, and confidence are common barriers that hold otherwise capable people back from contributing to WordPress every day. It certainly held me back, that is, until I realized that I have more to offer than ones and zeros.

While I can’t always commit code, I can still influence the decision-making process of those executing change. I can lend my experience, my foresight, and my advice to those more capable than I am.

In other words, while I may struggle to write “hello world” in React, I still have the right and responsibility to actually react.

Stirring the Pot with Respect

When contributing to a project without code, it’s important to carefully consider one’s first impression. Be direct, objective, and provide actionable feedback. While you may not be the one to implement the solution, you can still set the wheels in motion.

From the team’s perspective, you may appear as a stranger barging into a project in the middle of development. Remember they’ve put in their time; you haven’t. Keep the following in mind and slowly but surely you’ll begin to settle in with your fellow contributors.

  1. Be respectful, always.
  2. Assume the best in people. Someone contributing hundreds of hours to WordPress is probably in it for the right reasons.
  3. Lead with the good, or at least the acknowledgement of good intentions.
  4. Criticize ideas, code, and pixels, not the humans behind them.
  5. Provide rationale. Don’t like something? Explain why and be specific.
  6. Imagine speaking to your subject in person. If you wouldn’t say it to their face, don’t press Comment. Breathe. Try again.
  7. We’re in this together. Use “we” and “us” instead of “you” and “they.”
  8. Be conscious of your feedback velocity (the number of replies over time). Give others a chance to chime in.
  9. Make it worth their time, every time. The emails, notifications, and alerts that your feedback triggers all have a cost. Is it worth it? Does it bring value?
  10. You’re only as good as your last response.
To the Gutenberg Team:

I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t always followed these rules verbatim, but I will—and we as a community should—do better. We should not only contribute, but also defend your contributions when outside criticism crosses the line into vitriol. Again, we’re in this together.

To the WordPress Community:

You have opinions—smart, valid opinions worthy of contribution whether they are accompanied by code or not. I encourage you to speak out when you disagree, endorse ideas when you do agree, and don’t be afraid to be the opposition every once in awhile.

After all, even the most talented chefs need someone to stir the pot.

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I chatted with some prominent plugin authors, page builder authors, and Gutenberg contributors to understand how Gutenberg could impact the broader WordPress ecosystem. This article discusses how it can impact content authors, plugin authors, and page builder plugins in the near future.

Gutenberg is the proposed new content editor for WordPress Core. It is currently in beta development. It is a radical departure from the simple WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) approach WordPress has traditionally had for content creation. As with any major change in WordPress, this will inevitably have ripple effects throughout the WordPress marketplace. With that in mind, here’s my take on how Gutenberg will affect the broader WordPress ecosystem.

The Awesome for WordPress Content Creators

From everything I’ve seen, the main motivation — primarily from WordPress co-creator Matt Mullenweg — is to dramatically improve end users’ experience with content creation in WordPress. With the advent of website builders like Squarespace and Wix, a cleaner WYSIWYG in Medium, and the plethora of full-featured page building WordPress plugins, the simple post editor has started to feel downright antiquated.

From all looks and appearances, Gutenberg is aiming to be the content creator of the future for WordPress. It’s not an interim improvement to the post editor — it’s a full-screen replacement for the entire post edit screen — en masse.

But will such a dramatic change actually help users or simply overwhelm them? Ideally, the Gutenberg editing experience should help users write better content with better search engine results. With that in mind, I asked a few folks who know what it takes to write great content in WordPress what they thought of Gutenberg and its potential.

Joost de Valk is the founder and creator of Yoast SEO — a plugin used by tens of millions of WordPress sites. I asked Joost if he thought this puts a giant wrench into his plugin or whether it opens new opportunities for the plugin and its users. In a word, Joost is excited.

Joost de Valk
Founder/Creator of Yoast SEO

“We love what Gutenberg means for the future of WordPress. The new editor experience comes with some new concepts around the publishing experience.

An example of one of the new concepts discussed for Gutenberg is a pre-publishing workflow, that allows for an intermediate step between being done with writing your post and actually having your post published. We’re actively thinking about integrating our snippet preview there.

The concept of “little blocks” also allows for a deep optimization of how we analyze post content, as instead of analyzing the whole thing, we can do it block by block. This also means giving feedback at a block level.

In all, we’re excited about the opportunity to reimagine one of the most important aspects of our plugin.”

This is good news for content writers, marketers, and advertisers. When each “little block” of your content can be customized you have more control and that ideally means better results as well.

Our own Marketing Manager, Bridget Willard concurs that if Gutenberg encourages better semantic writing, then it’s a win for content authors:

Bridget Willard
Marketing Manager at WordImpress/GiveWP

“Gutenberg changes how a user interacts with the CMS, not how the content is read by Google.

When a user is less intimidated by adding content (writing and publishing) there is potential for better and more frequently-published content. If the heading structure is more intuitive with Gutenberg, that would definitely be a plus for SEO — which is basically findability.”

But as they say, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Just because Gutenberg enables you to write all kinds of awesome things doesn’t mean you should either. SEO and Marketing pro Pam Ann Aungst warns that having more power over your content doesn’t replace the need for professionals like herself.

Pam Ann Aungst
President at Pam Ann Marketing

“I haven’t used it yet myself, but any kind of DIY functionality scares me from an SEO perspective. This could make it just too easy for clients to bloat their posts full of slow-loading ‘rich content’ and do things that go against SEO best practices like adding in multiple H1 tags.

I also am always weary of pagebuilder-type things like this because they tend to bloat the code, which also brings down page speed. And I can imagine that compatibility with AMP is either too far out in the future, or not even on the development radar — which is also concerning since most of what Google pontificates about lately is fast load times on mobile.

Overall, I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to technical SEO, so unfortunately, I’m more concerned about this than I am excited.”

Pam’s concerns are valid for sure. It wouldn’t be wise for WordPress to put a bloated page builder into core, or make AMP integration more difficult. Based on what I’ve seen from the code so far, Gutenberg doesn’t add anything additional to the front-end (except a tiny stylesheet as a basis for its layouts). Further, Gutenberg doesn’t make additional h1’s easier than currently with TinyMCE, so generally I think this will evolve to be something SEO Pro’s like Pam can eventually embrace. I think Pam and other SEO auditors and Pros are safe even if they might perhaps have more nuanced work to do; which also could be a win for them.

Generally speaking, it’s fairly clear that there is a lot of opportunity here for content writers and marketers. Gutenberg generally seems to be on track to meet these needs.

Reactions from Plugin Authors

While content authors might be already rejoicing, a lot of plugin authors are feeling hesitant and are experiencing trepidation. This comes primarily from the fact that they’ve been arm-wrestling TinyMCE into submission for years and they’ll have to reimagine how they can integrate their plugin into this new interface while supporting customers who might be totally lost. This doesn’t even factor the customers who are not on the current version of WordPress who also need support.

There is interesting insight on the Github repo for Gutenberg in this regard. The discussions around how it will support Custom Post Types and Custom Meta Boxes are complex and thoughtful.

Meta Boxes In Gutenberg

There’s no clear consensus yet, but the crux of the matter is that Gutenberg is written from top to bottom with Javascript and any plugin that does anything with the post edit screen or has a custom post type creates its own meta boxes in PHP. So how will Gutenberg manage to *not*completely ruin thousands of plugins that did everything right, but now in a language that won’t render?

This ticket is advocating for an “Extended Settings” section that will render all the PHP-based meta boxes in a static area at the bottom of the content screen. Personally, that would be a horrible user experience — but like I said, it’s the conversations around that question that are fascinating.

Gutenberg and Widgets & Shortcodes

Another big question is how will Gutenberg deal with widgets and shortcodes? This ticket  focuses primarily on the WordPress Core widgets but the implications for plugin widgets are pretty extreme. This quote from Joen Asmussen is particularly revealing.

Joen Asmussen
Code Wrangler at Automattic

“The block, combined with the inserter, are both intended to be evolutions of the shortcode interface.That is, the block can offer the same as and more than the shortcode can, and the inserter is a unified level playing field for inserting them in the content.”

So we might be looking at the end of hard bracket shortcodes as we know it. Personally, I say “Hallelujah!” Shortcodes are a terrible user experience particularly when a minor misspelling or missing character results in ruining the output completely. Generally speaking, plugin authors might question how much work it will be to re-code their shortcodes. I expect the Gutenberg contributors will ensure that registering new blocks would be as relatively straight-forward as registering new shortcodes. Meaning, it wouldn’t be all that much work in the end, only a matter of implementing your new block settings for the user to interact with in Gutenberg instead of memorizing shortcode attributes.

One criticism I’ve heard (and shared) from several developers is how Gutenberg identifies its blocks from a markup perspective. John James Jacoby first brought this to my attention. I expected well-defined markup; but instead, Gutenberg is using inline HTML comments to wrap block elements. What!? Here’s his summary of the problem:

John James Jacoby
Core Contributor & Lead Developer for bbPress and BuddyPress

“I feel very strongly that inserting HTML comments into post_content is a decision that would be deeply regrettable later. It’s extremely clever, and neat, but I am afraid of what problems plugins, themes, and core formatting functions will uncover… We’d be deciding that the very-best we can do is invest heavily in a bespoke data format with a loose set of conventions chock-full of compromises due to legacy schema restrictions, and we know how that song goes – it’s not good for anyone, and we’d have a hard time being convinced that it is a good idea if it weren’t our idea.”

He said it so well. But John’s solution is that each block would be saved like a child_post relationship and would have its own individual post_meta as well. Personally, I think that’s overkill, but I am concerned about the level of HTML markup not being consistent with either Best Practices or the WordPress Way. After all, Open Source is not just about democratizing publishing, it’s about educating future developers. This markup would be leading them astray, and that’s putting it mildly.

To get more insight, I contacted Weston Ruter. We both joined the WPwatercooler for a discussion on Gutenberg. I asked him afterward about the decision to go with HTML comments.

This is what he said:

Weston Ruter
Gutenberg Contributor & CTO at XWP

HTML comments are used for encoding blocks for the following reasons, that come to my mind:
(1) Shortcodes were extensively used in unanticipated places, including HTML attributes, because the bracket notation didn’t enforce any limitations. By using HTML comments, however, there is a guarantee that the tags will only ever appear outside of HTML elements and thus can be reliably parsed.
(2) There are existing HTML comments that are already used in post content in WordPress, including < !--more-- > and < !--noteaser-- >. So blocks are following that pattern.
(3) Plugins can introduce their own blocks. When these plugins are disabled, any of the plugin’s blocks will then just be hidden or rather the underlying fallback content contained inside the block will then be displayed. This is in stark contrast to shortcodes which then show up everywhere when the shortcode is no longer recognized.
(4) HTML comments are resilient when post content is manipulated by other editors, including the classic WP editor or editors in other apps. They won’t get stripped out, though they also will be invisible.

Overall, those are all fair and reasonable points that I wouldn’t have considered at all. Further, a big part of John’s goal with child_posts is portability of blocks. The discussion is already happening about how that might be accomplished as well.

Gutenberg and Plugin Authors

Generally speaking, the plugin authors I’ve spoken with dare optimistic about and eager to see how they can make the most out of what it has to offer. For example, Adam Warner of FooPlugins likes that Gutenberg will allow plugin authors to make their features more apparent via the Insert feature, saying that

Adam Warner
Co-Founder at FooPlugins


“Making sure we have our plugins tightly integrated will be key for our continued growth, but more importantly, it gives us the chance to offer our features front and center within a more cohesive content creation experience.”

Some plugin authors have serious concerns though. Gregory Schoppe raises seven “flaws” that leaves him confused about Gutenberg.

Josh Pollock said he agrees with everything Gregory says and added to the discussion in his own article at Torque. Josh’s overarching concern is that Gutenberg can’t promise the highest level of backward compatibility that has made WordPress as successful as it has become. If backward compatibility really is ruined with Gutenberg, then it would be detrimental to WordPress as a whole. At this point though, I have faith that the Gutenberg contributors still ascribe wholeheartedly to the WordPress Philosophy of backward compatibility 100%.

Page Builders and Gutenberg

The challenge Gutenberg presents to page builders is the elephant in the room. Will Gutenberg gut and destroy all these major page builder companies that have banked on being the end-all-be-all of content and layout customization in WordPress? My short answer is — it depends.

It depends largely on the page builder in question and how they pivot. When chatting with Weston Ruter he mentioned that the Gutenberg team has been intentional about reaching out to page builder authors, like Beaver Builder, in order to learn from their insight and experience, as well as to prepare them for what’s coming.

In terms of the conversation around Gutenberg and page builders, this Github issue is really instructive. You can see the questions generally revolve around either toggling between editors (meaning they would not be integrated with each other in any reasonable fashion) or that whenever a “text editor” block is used in the page builder that it would be a Gutenberg instance. As of today though, the mock-ups being produced are primarily about having an either/or experience with page builders.

I reached out to Robby McCullough from Beaver Builder and he had this to say:

Robby McCullough
Co-Founder at Beaver Builder

I like the idea of standardizing and modernizing shortcodes and widgets. I’m excited about it. I think adapting to change is always tough, but there’s lots of potential for us to leverage Gutenberg and vice versa. Shared blocks and such.

That part about “adapting to change is always tough” is the thing that will set folks like Beaver Builder apart from other page builders that will just die away.

Another factor is the nature of the builder itself. For example, Divi Builder has a huge user-base, but it’s also very tightly integrated with the Divi theme itself. With that amount of coupled control (functions inside a theme), they can do what they want with Gutenberg. But seeing it as a challenge and opportunity would be the smart move. The only problem with that is that I have no idea what coupling Divi with Gutenberg would even look like. Also,who in their right mind would want to work with that?

Tailor is a relatively new page builder that was developed intentionally simple. In many ways, it does what Gutenberg is now doing. I have a hard time imagining Tailor surviving Gutenberg — but I could be wrong.

Elementor is another one that has come to prominence recently. They have a relatively smart way of interacting with existing widgets and shortcodes. They could also easily pivot with Gutenberg, but it all depends on how they manage that pivot and that user experience.

Overall, Gutenberg could very well be a radically new content writing experience for many WordPress users. But that doesn’t mean everyone wants to use it or that everyone should be forced to use it. Allowing a natural and programmatic way for users to choose to edit their content with page builders instead of Gutenberg is a good idea. I hope that happens with finesse.

How to Stay Informed with Gutenberg Progress

If you’ve read this far, you must be really invested in Gutenberg — bravo! One thing you should have picked up through it all is that there still is a lot to be determined. It’s still very early in development of Gutenberg at this time.

Quite honestly, I think it would have been more helpful to call this release an Alpha rather than a Beta simply because many very significant and important features and code architectural questions have zero consensus still. That’s a really important aspect of this whole discussion. We are having this discussion now simply because of how much impact this new feature could potentially have on WordPress as a whole and that it might even make it into Core by the end of this calendar year.

With that in mind, if you are interested in keeping up on Gutenberg progress, here are the best places to do that:

  • Download and test it here but not on a live or production site. Updates are pushed there so you’ll get them as soon as they are stable and available.
  • Gutenberg Github repo is where actual code is happening and all issues are being publicly discussed there as well.
  • The Make WordPress blog is posting about Gutenberg regularly as well.
  • General discussion about all things Gutenberg is happening in WordPress Slack in the #core-editor channel.

Also, check out this episode of WP Water Cooler with the gang and Weston Ruter and myself. It was a really helpful conversation overall.

EP238 - The future of WordPress - Gutenberg - YouTube
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Are you using the PHP compatibility checker to determine which plugins to use on your site? What are its limitations? Let’s talk about it.

PHP 7 is awesome. It’s one of the best things to happen to WordPress in a long time. It’s safer and faster than any previous version of PHP, and when you turn it on, your WordPress site is noticeably faster both frontend and backend.

With that context, I’m a huge fan of PHP 7. I want as many WordPress sites on it as possible. But with such a fundamental change of your server environment, there are necessary precautions you have to take.

Naturally, you’ll need backups and a good way to revert your PHP version if things don’t go well. Some WordPress hosts provide this ability really well. Honestly, if your host doesn’t allow you to safely update to PHP 7 and potentially revert that change if necessary, consider moving hosts.

The other important thing you need to do is make sure that the theme and plugins you use to run your WordPress website are compatible with PHP 7. For that, many users are going to a new plugin by WP Engine called the “PHP Compatibility Checker.”

Caveats and Pitfalls of the PHP Compatibility Checker Plugin

The PHP Compatibility Checker is a plugin you install on your WordPress website. Once activated, it can scan all your plugins and your theme and let you know if there are any functions that are not compatible with your given version of PHP.

This is a great plugin that is very useful for the greater WordPress Community and WordPress users. I like it. It’s helpful.

BUT!

It has a couple major caveats. Consider this quote from their plugin page:

“This plugin does not execute your theme and plugin code, as such this plugin cannot detect runtime compatibility issues.”

This means the PHP Checker does not actually RUN the code. This plugin depends primarily on a library of code called “CodeSniffer.” A lot of WordPress developers use CodeSniffer. It’s a great tool. But all it does is scan your code — similar to the way the Yoast SEO plugin scans the content of your page.

Scanning for obvious things is useful, both for Codesniffer and for Yoast. But that doesn’t mean the results of that scanning is definitive.

Here’s another quote from the plugin page:

“Please note that linting code is not perfect. This plugin cannot detect unused code-paths that might be used for backwards compatibility, and thus might show false positives.”

“Linting” is the technical term for scanning for developers. This quote basically says that when it finds code that isn’t compatible, it can’t tell you why that code is there or what it does or whether it will work at all. That’s not its job. The plugin’s job is to scan your code against a known list of functions that are deprecated for your given version of PHP. Whether that code is wrapped in other code for backward compatibility reasons or not, doesn’t affect the final results.

The PHP Checker Results

When you run the PHP Checker, it’s going to show you a list of items to be wary of. It will reference the file name and line number where it found the incompatible code. Typically, it will either indicate that the offending code has either triggered a “Warning” or an “Error.”

For example, if you run this plugin with our Give plugin active, you’ll see the following results:
_____________________________________________________________________
219 | WARNING | Use of deprecated PHP4 style class constructor is not supported since PHP 7.
1044 | ERROR | Function set_magic_quotes_runtime() is deprecated since PHP 5.3 and removed since PHP 7.0
280 | WARNING | INI directive ‘safe_mode’ is deprecated since PHP 5.3 and removed since PHP 5.4.
44 | WARNING | Method name “Give_Logging::__setup_hooks” is discouraged; PHP has reserved all method names with a double underscore prefix for future use
_____________________________________________________________________

If you’re an average WordPress user who wants to be informed and careful with your website and do everything correctly, you might see those errors and think: “Oh man! I can’t upgrade to PHP 7 because I need Give and Give isn’t PHP 7 Compatible!”

You’d be right to think that if you only used this tool to make your decisions. But in the end, that’s not correct unfortunately.

Instead, Give — like WordPress itself — seeks to be backward compatible to PHP version 5.3. In order to leverage the best parts of PHP 7 but still work perfectly with older versions of PHP, Give has built in these functions as fall-backs.

You see, we develop Give every single day in PHP 7 environments and have been for over a year now. All of our developers are on PHP 7 every single day. We live and breathe PHP 7. We love it and want every user to be running it all the time. We’d NEVER push code that wasn’t compatible with PHP7. Quite the opposite. Occasionally, we accidentally push code that isn’t compatible with PHP 5.4, or 5.3.

Like I said, the PHP Compatibility Checker plugin is really useful and helpful. Nine times out of ten it could highlight a plugin or theme that is just really outdated or unprepared for PHP 7 and it could save you a lot of heartache. But rather than run the scan, then throw your arms in the air and say “I can’t upgrade because of these crappy plugins!” reach out to the plugin authors with the results of your scan and ask them to clarify. Most likely they’ll be more than happy to clarify or jump on the chance to upgrade their plugins to be compatible.

The Only Way to Check for Compatibility

So what is the best way to check for PHP 7 compatibility? There’s only one answer: A test environment. While the PHP Checker plugin can be generally helpful, the only way to know for sure whether your site works on PHP7 is to run it on PHP7.

Some hosts provide one-click PHP version changing, like Siteground, for example. You can create a staging environment of your website, switch it to PHP7, fully test it, then change your live site with confidence. WP Engine — the authors of the PHP Checker plugin — also has a robust staging environment and their support team is very hands-on when it comes to migrating to PHP7.

Another type of test environment is a local environment. We’ve written many times about the advantages of working locally. There are some really great tools out there that will let you test your website on a local PHP 7 environment. Local by Flywheel or Kalabox are both valuable local environment tools which can help you with that.

If you find that your web host cannot or will not upgrade you to PHP 7, then it’s time to look for a new host. If you don’t have the ability to create a staging environment to test your site effectively before upgrading, then it’s time to either find a new host or invest in learning how to work with a local environment. This stuff is vital for a growing and thriving business or nonprofit organization. The last thing you want to do is cripple your website and your ability to take online donations because you didn’t have the hosting tools you needed to upgrade safely.

Upgrade to PHP 7 Today

With that in mind, upgrade to PHP 7. Today! It’s important, helpful, and fast. This might just be the kick-in-the-pants you need to learn a new skill (i.e. staging, or a local environment), or to spend time on your site in a way you never thought of before.

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Between the Google Styling Wizard and Snazzy Maps you no longer have to settle for default Google map colors. Why not match them to your site colors like you do everything else? This tutorial will walk you through exactly how to do that.

Now, Styling Maps is Easy

Google Maps is such a powerful tool and many websites really just use it for showing a simple location. But one seemingly simple feature has always been extremely complex: colors and styling. That is, until recently.

Since we launched Maps Builder back in 2014 we supported the only way to apply map style themes easily with Snazzy Maps. In our free Maps Builder plugin, you can choose from 16 different preset themes. In our Pro version there are over 80 and if you had the know-how to create your own themes, you could upload them directly into your map. But the part about “if you had the know-how” was the really tricky part.

Recently, Google released it’s own tool for styling maps on your own. And guess what? It creates the color themes in the exact same format Snazzy Maps does so you can upload them directly into Maps Builder Pro today.

Navigating Google Styling Wizard

It may seem relatively easy to say “I want the roads red, and the other stuff blue or white” but there are a lot of different types of locations, routes, landmarks, and more that makes up Google Maps. Each element has space that it fills as well as borders. Further, the details change at different zoom levels. Generally speaking, in order to fully customize a Google Map you need A LOT of controls.

That’s what the Google Map Style Wizard does for you. It creates an interface with A LOT of options for customizing the colors and border widths of pretty much everything. Honestly, writing an article all about all the settings would be redundant and pretty much unnecessary. It’s best to just jump in and start customizing.

You can start by just choosing any of their preset themes. They’re fine, but they are basically already included in both our Free and Pro plugins. From there, you can choose your basic style then click on the “Advanced” options button. That’s where the real magic of this tool is found.

The advanced options do some smart things. Each root menu item can set a color which the sub-items can then inherit. This is really useful for keeping your colors simple. But if you want to customize further, you can open up the sub-items and customize those for more detail. With most items, we can set both a fill color and border color and border width. These three simple items can dramatically impact the overall look and feel of your maps.

For example, “Road” is a root menu item. In the example you’ll see below, I used the Orange from our WordImpress website. The side roads and highways all can inherit that color.

But here’s a few general things to keep in mind:

  • Use a colorpicker (like the ColorZilla Chrome/Firefox Extension) to get the colors of your website to use.
  • Keep it simple: 2-4 colors tops.
  • Color contrast is really important. The side roads can get lost very easily.
  • The map isn’t useful if people can’t understand where they are in relation to important landmarks.

Once you have that all dialed in, you need to apply your style to your maps.

Apply Your Styles with Maps Builder Pro

This is the easy part. In Google Style Wizard just hit “Finish” and you’ll see a popup like this show up:

Google Style Wizard JSON Popup

Once you hit that “Copy JSON” link, go into your Maps Builder Pro map, and in the “Display options” section click on the “Set a Custom Snazzy Map” button and paste the code into the text area that appears.

Here’s a quick video overview of how that works dynamically:

Applying Custom Map Styles with Maps Builder Pro - YouTube
Try it out with our WordImpress Maps Styles

Here’s the JSON code I created when testing this out. Copy and paste the below into your map:

[
  {
    "elementType": "geometry",
    "stylers": [
      {
        "color": "#212121"
      }
    ]
  },
  {
    "elementType": "labels.icon",
    "stylers": [
      {
        "visibility": "off"
      }
    ]
  },
  {
    "elementType": "labels.text.fill",
    "stylers": [
      {
        "color": "#757575"
      }
    ]
  },
  {
    "elementType": "labels.text.stroke",
    "stylers": [
      {
        "color": "#212121"
      }
    ]
  },
  {
    "featureType": "administrative",
    "elementType": "geometry",
    "stylers": [
      {
        "color": "#757575"
      }
    ]
  },
  {
    "featureType": "administrative.country",
    "elementType": "labels.text.fill",
    "stylers": [
      {
        "color": "#9e9e9e"
      }
    ]
  },
  {
    "featureType": "administrative.land_parcel",
    "stylers": [
      {
        "visibility": "off"
      }
    ]
  },
  {
    "featureType": "administrative.locality",
    "elementType": "labels.text.fill",
    "stylers": [
      {
        "color": "#bdbdbd"
      }
    ]
  },
  {
    "featureType": "poi",
    "elementType": "labels.text.fill",
    "stylers": [
      {
        "color": "#757575"
      }
    ]
  },
  {
    "featureType": "poi.park",
    "elementType": "geometry",
    "stylers": [
      {
        "color": "#181818"
      }
    ]
  },
  {
    "featureType": "poi.park",
    "elementType": "labels.text.fill",
    "stylers": [
      {
        "color": "#616161"
      }
    ]
  },
  {
    "featureType": "poi.park",
    "elementType": "labels.text.stroke",
    "stylers": [
      {
        "color": "#1b1b1b"
      }
    ]
  },
  {
    "featureType": "road",
    "elementType": "labels.text.fill",
    "stylers": [
      {
        "color": "#8a8a8a"
      }
    ]
  },
  {
    "featureType": "road.arterial",
    "elementType": "geometry",
    "stylers": [
      {
        "color": "#373737"
      }
    ]
  },
  {
    "featureType": "road.highway",
    "elementType": "geometry",
    "stylers": [
      {
        "color": "#f39731"
      }
    ]
  },
  {
    "featureType": "road.highway",
    "elementType": "geometry.fill",
    "stylers": [
      {
        "color": "#363636"
      }
    ]
  },
  {
    "featureType": "road.highway",
    "elementType": "geometry.stroke",
    "stylers": [
      {
        "color": "#363636"
      }
    ]
  },
  {
    "featureType": "road.highway.controlled_access",
    "elementType": "geometry",
    "stylers": [
      {
        "color": "#f39731"
      }
    ]
  },
  {
    "featureType": "road.local",
    "elementType": "labels.text.fill",
    "stylers": [
      {
        "color": "#616161"
      }
    ]
  },
  {
    "featureType": "transit",
    "elementType": "labels.text.fill",
    "stylers": [
      {
        "color": "#757575"
      }
    ]
  },
  {
    "featureType": "water",
    "elementType": "geometry",
    "stylers": [
      {
        "color": "#729fc0"
      }
    ]
  },
  {
    "featureType": "water",
    "elementType": "labels.text.fill",
    "stylers": [
      {
        "color": "#3d3d3d"
      }
    ]
  }
]

What’s Your Favorite?

There’s another tool called MapStylr which does a similar thing and has much more preset styles. You can see it in the video above. So there are more tools for this as well, your options really are many.

Have you customized your maps to match the look/feel of your site?

We’d love to see it live. Feel free to drop a link in the comments or even drop your custom JSON code there as well.

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Is Advertising in WordPress important? Advertising is just as relevant in WordPress as it was back in the day of David Ogilvy, the founder of modern advertising. We can accomplish a lot — together.

At Post Status’ Publish event this past December, I was talking to a web agency owner. He had a successful business, running large enterprise web projects. We talked a bit about advertising. He didn’t know who David Ogilvy was. As the father of advertising and a requisite study for most agency owners to operate successfully, I was surprised.

Then again, I have often heard from many in our space that building a business without advertising is something to take pride in. I don’t understand this notion.

It seems that a lack of advertising efficacy runs deep in the veins of our community. For me, and I’m sure much of the great business community, this is a blatant signal that us WordPress folks are much more “business beginner” than many of us internally conclude. Thankfully, that’s changing.

State of the Word

The culminating event of WordCamp US is Matt Mullenweg’s State of the Word — I’m happy that my team and I were there to listen live. Thinking about the conversation I had a few days prior, sitting in those little chairs — at a packed house — advertising became relevant in WordPress.

When Matt Mullenweg announced the start of the WP Growth Council at the State of the Word, I remember feeling the same energy from my childhood when I learned how to hit a real Hockey slapshot! Safe to say, I was stoked.

I’m proud of Matt for making this statement and taking the steps necessary to succeed in line with reality of our business and volunteer ecosystem. In 2008, WordPress got away with not advertising. In 2017 and beyond, we will not.

Wix and Squarespace are Spending Ad Dollars

First things, first: get to know David Ogilvy. He is the father of modern advertising. Ogilvy, arguably is the reason we have California wine, Colgate toothpaste, and marketing rigor. His book, Confessions of an Advertising Man written in 1963, is required reading.

As Ogilvy will teach you, competitors are lurking, trying to infiltrate, distract, and take market share. And they can lurk more easily with advertising budgets and become relevant and market-aware overnight.

Did anyone (other than the parents of the creators themselves) known anything about Wix globally, prior to this ad in February, 2016? Likely, no. Today, they are so prominent, that many of us obsess with their model, growing user base, and technology.

WIX SuperBowl Ad:
Wix.com Big Game Commercial | Wix’s #ItsThatEasy Big Game Campaign - YouTube

Back in 2016, our friends at AdWeek had something to say about an unscalable, un-versioned, no-developer network platform used for small businesses.

And guess who was getting talked about?

Wix. Not WordPress.

Ad Gold in 2017

And in 2017, Squarespace struck ad gold.

Have you seen their John Malkovich ad talk right against our friends at Woo? I was so stirred by emotions in this ad because it represents many of our hopes and dreams.

Even more, I was emotionally distraught as proprietary platform like Squarespace own our communities actual space. Like it or not, they are winning the ad game.

John Malkovich x Squarespace. Make Your Next Move: 30s - YouTube

And the long form ad is what wins awards. It also takes market-share from WordPress based businesses.

John Malkovich x Squarespace. Make Your Next Move: Longform - YouTube
It’s Our Turn, WordPress. It’s time to advertise .Org

On that sunny, Saturday afternoon in December, WordPress woke up and met Ogilvy. Now it’s time to run.

Here’s how building the ad-pool and raising the $14 million+ capital funds for WordPress to build a national advertising campaign might go:

  1. First, Automattic must lead the way. The leadership has taken the first step with the WP Growth Council. They also need to ante up $750,000.
  2. Next, the top website hosts need to step up and each put in $100,000.
  3. Then, every WordCamp attendee (in the US) for the foreseeable future, should have $2 of their ticket to go to the WordPress Global Brand Fund. We are all in this together.
  4. Automattic will be represented in the advisory council as lead. However, advertising will be governed by the fund participants.
    • Every WordPress Plugin and Theme Shop provides 0.5 percent of their gross operating income into the ad fund.
    • When the community steps up, they are rewarded.
    • All participants vote in the ad council and are given free WordCamp tickets (up to 10) for the year.
    • They also receive recognition on the WordPress.org website for supporting the Brand.
  5. None of this violates our values. To succeed and compete, we all need to start agreeing more with Mr. Ogilvy.
Collective Ad Fund – The Math

Here’s the math on building a fund of $14,330,000/yr to advertise WordPress.org and all the glory and hope we deliver on.

Funding Mechanism Annual Revenue Amount Total
WordCamp Attendees 40k Attendees $2 $80,000
Automattic N/A $750,000 $750,000
Top Hosts N/A $100,000 $500,000
Top 4 WordPress Firms $50M+ $100,000 $500,000
Top 30 $10M $50,000 $1,500,000
Top 100 5M $25,000 $2,500,000
Top 200 $1M $5,000 $1,000,000
Top 500 $500K $2,500 $1,250,000
Top 1000 $250K $1,250 $1,250,000
Top 10,000 $100K $500 $5,000,000
Total $14,330,000

As our business and volunteer ecosystem comes together, let’s remember why we are all here: to democratize publishing, bringing open and easy to access publishing tools for the web — for everyone.

Borrowing a term from 2008 ad campaigns: “now more than ever, in these times — we all need to step up.”

As of today, WordImpress is in and is ready to give 0.05% to a global ad fund.

Who’s coming with us? It’s a half of penny, CEOs!

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Recently at WordCamp US, Joost de Valk, CEO and Founder of Yoast, gave a presentation on SEO. Why does it matter? How do you optimize it? Are there shortcuts?

There is a lot more to SEO than just the technical. SEO is way more than keywords.

“Optimization is really the last step of a really long process.” Joost de Valk

Some people think search engine optimization (SEO) only matters for big box companies or for e-commerce sites. But Joost believes that SEO is for everyone. In fact, that’s their new mission.

"SEO for everyone is our new mission statement; we still believe in #SEO." @jdevalk #WCUS

— Give (@GiveWP) December 3, 2016

Organic Search is Not Dead

Optimizing your text for search is still important and it’s important to note that organic search is still a major factor.

“22.6% of all e-commerce in the US came from organic search.” Joost de Valk

Make sure that Google has access to titles, robots.txt, and JavaScript. There is a lot more to SEO than just optimizing that exact post or page. Your whole site should be able to be crawled by a search engine.

Take Advantage of Google Search Console

Joost believes that the better source of data, rather than Google Analytics, comes from Google Search Console.

“Every single one of you should have a Google Search Console account.” Joost de Valk

By the way, there is a beginner’s guide to Google Search Console from Moz.

Utilize Proper URL Structure

One of the things Joost brought up is the URL structure in WordPress. It’s important that the words in your link (URL) contain your keyword and relate to your page or post’s content. Your URL (permalink) should say something about your content.

Currently, the default in WordPress for permalinks is plain. That looks like domainname.com/?p=123. That’s not optimized for SEO.

“Make [your URL] as simple as possible and that they make sense. If it doesn’t say anything about your content, it’s probably not a good URL.” Joost de Valk

In the settings of your WordPress dashboard go to Permalink Settings to change your URL structure. Since Google counts the words in your permalink as part of a ranking signal, that’s going to be good choice. High volume sites can use time-related permalinks. For most businesses, post name is perfect.

#SEO is relevant. Good writing WORKS. Organic results STILL deliver. Thank you @jdevalk for creating @yoast #wcus pic.twitter.com/d0YY7KjF2m

— Jen Miller (@JenBlogs4U) December 3, 2016

Write About Your Product, Simply

Keyword research is still an important part of optimizing your site. But think of parallel searches, think of how your customers find you, and do some sample searches.

“Because you can’t really install a plugin to do this for you, you need to do keyword research.” Joost de Valk

Joost also emphasizes that your product’s name is not what people are searching for, as much as you think they are. So find out how people are searching for you.

This means writing about each topic separately. Don’t try to rank for several keywords on the same post or page.

“You simply cannot be found for words that you never use. Each topic needs its own post or page.” Joost de Valk

Your Site Should Be Mobile Responsive

One in four (28%) of WordPress websites are not mobile friendly. This is not good. Even though Google rolled out ranking factors for mobile-responsive sites in 2015 (do you remember Mobilegeddon?), Joost says, “we need to get better and we need to get better soon.” When he says “we,” he’s referring to us as a community of WordPress developers.

It may be surprising, but not every theme in the WordPress repository is mobile-friendly. Not just that but not every theme contains mobile responsive elements (like images and embedded content). You’ll need to test as you develop your custom themes.

“Not having a mobile friendly theme like taking a knife to a gunfight.” Joost de Valk

Watch the the whole presentation here:
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As is his custom, Matt Mullenweg co-founder of WordPress and CEO at Automattic, gave his annual State of the Word presentation at the end of WordCamp US. This gives us a review of where WordPress has been in 2016 and where it’s headed going forward, as a software, community, and a Foundation.

#wcus crowd waiting for @photomatt State of the World #sotw pic.twitter.com/0B0CSu05AK

— thecplab (@thecplab) December 4, 2016

“Meetups are a leading indicator of WordCamps”

62,566 attendees at #Wordpress #meetups! #sotw #wcus pic.twitter.com/pbwhV5bKyh

— Justine Pretorious (@jpretorious) December 3, 2016

You cannot hold a WordCamp on $20 a day alone. The cost isn’t $40; it’s closer to $516 which is made possible by the sponsors and volunteers. There were 115 WordCamps in 2016 with 41 unique countries and 36,000 people attended with 750 unique organizers and 1,036 sponsors and over 2,000 speakers.

“Meetups are a leading indicator of WordCamps.” Matt Mullenweg

As we know, meetups are the groundwork for WordCamps. In 2016, there were 3,193 official Meetup events in 58 countries. And 99.9% of the revenue that runs through the WordPress Foundation is WordCamps.

And, what’s more, the presentations at WordCamps are available for anyone to watch on WordPress.tv. This is an untapped resource for beginners in my view and it’s good to see they’re expanding to YouTube as well.

“We had a 26.7% increase in videos published this year on WordPress.tv.” Matt Mullenweg

Improvements to WordPress.org

State of the Word 2016. #SotW #Philly #WCUS pic.twitter.com/bKA7bj91sw

— Tracy Levesque (@LilJimmi) December 3, 2016

WordPress as a software or content management system (CMS) is improved by a team of volunteers and contributors. If you want to begin contributing, forums is a good way to start.

“Participating in forums is not just great way to help other people but to learn as well.” Matt Mullenweg

The Contributor team is also working on making the plugin repository, often referred to as the repo, more searchable and user friendly.

“You’ll start to notice in your dashboard [and in the repo] much better search results.” Matt Mullenweg

WordPress is working toward making plugins accessible to more languages with the GlotPress team. They’re making progress, but there’s a lot more to do. So if language translation is your thing, this is a good way for you to give back.

“The top 10 plugins are 82% complete in Top 12 languages.” Matt Mullenweg

Last year, Matt’s call to action was to learn JavaScript, deeply. This year he said, “28% of WordPress is JavaScript. It was about 28% last year, too.”

Security will become important, too. In fact, you will have more options and features if WordPress detects that https is enforced.

“Starting next year, WordPress is going to have progressive enhancements [if you have #SSL].” Matt Mullenweg

Though WordPress still has a commitment to backward compatibility, they now suggest running on PHP version 7. We recently made this change on GiveWP.com and the difference is significant. We applaud the move to go forward.

“WordPress.com is now 100% on PHP 7.” Matt Mullenweg

The Release of WordPress 4.7 “Vaughn”

For the first time ever, Mullenweg previewed the WordPress Release video and announced the Jazz singer in advance of the release. The audience at the State of the Word learned live that 4.7 would be named after Sarah “Sassy” Vaughn and saw the release video.

3 focuses for future @WordPress development: the #API, the editor, and customizer #sotw #wcus

— Taylor McCaslin (@Taylor4484) December 3, 2016

Lead developer Helen Hou-Sandí talked about the features and themes of WordPress 4.7 including the new default theme “Twenty Seventeen” that is more business-focused.

“When you set up a menu from your site, now you can add new pages.” Helen Hou-Sandí

“In 4.7 we will have live previewing of custom CSS. It will work with Jetpack. I promise.” Helen Hou-Sandí

“WordPress 4.7 includes the content implements for the #RESTAPI.” Helen Hou-Sandí

The WP REST API endpoints are getting merged in WordPress 4.7. Exciting times ahead for WordPress projects! #feelingrestful #wcus #sotw pic.twitter.com/FLthPRoLH7

— A Day Of REST (@feelingrestful) December 3, 2016

Even the website to the Guggenheim Museum is built using the REST API endpoints. Let’s continue to build the web!

New Approach to the WordPress Release Schedule

Something that deserves a huge shout out is the awesome work @obenland & team did on the new plugin directory ❤️ #wcus #sotw pic.twitter.com/HuMnxn2xF9

— Petya Raykovska (@petyeah) December 3, 2016

Previously, WordPress has been on a release schedule with 3 major releases per calendar year. There have been 14 major releases in the past five years resulting in the growth the market share for WordPress.

“In the past five years we’ve been able to grow WordPress’ market share from 13.1 to 27.2%” Matt Mullenweg

In 2017, the coming releases will be lead by design and will not have hard dates. They feel it’s important to focus on UI/UX.

“If the core of WordPress is about publishing and writing I think we should have the best interface in the world…” Matt Mullenweg

WordPress Growth Council

Matt recognizes the importance of advertising for the growth of WordPress as a CMS and a community. We believe that the move to set up a council is good. Market research and determining how to target both end users and developers has been something we’ve worked on for a few years now.

"Advertising does work." @photomatt

In 2017 look for th WP Growth Council #WCUS #SOTW

— Give (@GiveWP) December 3, 2016

“There’s no one company in the WordPress ecosystem to match 300 million dollars in spending.” Matt Mullenweg

WordPress has grown but can still do so much more. As a plugin development shop, we like where this may be going. We’re interested to see how we can collaborate more as an ecosystem; especially, with sharing benchmarking and indexing data.

Our team is very excited about this new development. We’ll be writing more about it in the near future.

The Trend in Nonprofit Work

As you know, Give is our flagship plugin for online donations and donor management. So of course, we’re most excited about the announcement that the WordPress Foundation will partner with more nonprofits. We’re finding that nonprofit work isn’t just a niche, it’s part of all of our lives.

Part of the call to democratizing publishing is, in fact, giving a voice to the voiceless. WordPress wants to return to that mission with in-kind grants and scholarships to nonprofits.

Really excited that the WordPress Foundation will support @hackthehood @internetarchive @BlackGirlsCode next year. All very important. #wcus

— Andrew Nacin (@nacin) December 3, 2016

In 2017, The WordPress Foundation is going to promote hackathons to build sites for nonprofits. We saw a lot of success with groups like Website Weekend in Los Angeles and GiveCamp. As a company, we’re proud to participate with in-kind donations to both of those in 2016. It’s exiciting to see what 2017 will bring with WordPress’ new emphasis on nonprofits.

Let’s all continue to press forward, build community, and give a voice to the voiceless. Watch The State of The Word:
Matt Mullenweg: State Of The Word 2016 - YouTube
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