Top 7 WordPress Plugins for New Bloggers

There is no doubt that plugins are a great way to boost WordPress functionality and versatility. They are also a great way to help clients learn to use their site effectively, and to help them increase their visibility and grow their community. Here are my top seven WordPress plugins to get any client who is new to blogging started with a bang. Top-7-WordPress-Plugins-for-New-Bloggers

WordPress SEO, by Joost de Valk

wordpress seo by yoast elaine griffinThis is the famous SEO plugin by Yoast, and it is a must for new bloggers. It is a great way to help your clients learn about, and actually do, SEO on their blog. It takes the guesswork out and helps them learn as they go, saving them time and frustration. This gets them on the right track from the get-go, so they don’t have to go back and do the SEO later. This plugin also allows users to verify their site and submit XML site maps to the major search engines.

Black Studio Tiny MCE Widget, by Black Studio

black studio tinymce plugin elaine griffin This plugin replaces the traditional WordPress text widget with a WYSIWYG text widget, which looks exactly like the WordPress visual editor found in the Post and Page sections of the dashboard. Adding a text editor in the widget area increases functionality and allows users to add rich text without requiring any HTML knowledge—which helps reduce the sometimes-difficult WordPress learning curve.

Simple Social Icons, by Nathan Rice and Studiopress

simple social icons plugin elaine griffinI have noticed that many of my new-blogging clients fall into three camps:the “I KNOW I don’t want to do any more than Facebook and Pinterest” camp; the “I WANT TO DO ALL THE SOCIAL MEDIA” camp; and the “I have no idea … what should I do?” camp. It is for this reason I always install Simple Social Icons for new bloggers. This plugin not only makes it simple to customize shape and color of the social media icons on their site, but also lets clients easily enter and remove social media account URLs.

What Would Seth Godin Do, by Richard K. Miller

what would seth godin do elaine griffinThis handy little plugin adds a custom message to the top or bottom of blog posts and/or pages, welcoming visitors to the site. This is particularly useful if your client would like to encourage new visitors to subscribe to the site feed or newsletter— something newbie and veteran bloggers alike should want.

Jetpack, by

jetpack plugin elaine griffinWhat I love about Jetpack for new bloggers is the number options included in one plugin, many of which help with ease of use and reduce the learning curve. As of this writing, it has 33 features. My favorite features to set up are social sharing buttons, contact form, and easy-to-understand stats.

Pinterest “Pin-it” Button Lite, by Phil Derksen

pinterest pin it button elaine griffin One thing I would love to see Automattic include in their Jetpack suite is a “Pin It” button, as it is an absolute MUST for all bloggers! For now, though, I install the Pinterest “Pin it” Button Lite. This plugin offers a variety of options, including button color and size, placement, and custom CSS. There is also a premium version available.

Comment Luv, by Andy Bailey

comment luv elaine griffinComment Luv allows visitors who comment on a post to leave a link to one of their own recent posts. This is a favorite way for bloggers to create their community. These plugins are really just the tip of the iceberg to get clients going with their sites. I do use many other framework-specific plugins, but these seven are the foundation I build for clients to help them learn to use their site effectively, increase their visibility, and grow their community.

What plugins would you suggest for new bloggers?

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WordPress Theme Review: Default Theme, Thesis, Headway, Genesis, and Elegant Themes

Gone are the days of web designers starting from scratch when designing a site. With so many themes and frameworks, we now have a good chunk of the coding done for us, and all we have left to do is customize based on the customer needs for functionality and aesthetics.
How do we decide which theme or framework to offer our clients?
WordPress Theme Review

The pros and cons to all themes and frameworks vary depending on the designer and the customer needs. Here are some pros and cons to a few of the most popular themes and frameworks: the default WordPress theme, Thesis, Headway, Genesis, and Elegant Themes.


WordPress theme review Twenty Fourteen Theme Elaine Griffin Designs


As of this writing, Twenty Twelve, Thirteen, and Fourteen are all installed when a new WordPress site is installed, and the Twenty Fourteen theme is activated by default. The default theme is updated annually (hence the name). It is generally in line with current and emerging web design standards; the most recent version highlights images, typography, and use of white space.


Twenty Fourteen Theme Customization Elaine Griffin Designs

Twenty Fourteen Theme Options Panel

The default theme is free and pre-installed when WordPress is installed. The Twenty Fourteen default theme requires no knowledge of CSS for the most popular customizations, such as the header, colors, fonts, and links. For experienced designers, WordPress default themes can be a great blank canvas for professional customizations.


This simple design is just that. It’s one design, which can be a great start for a first-time blogger or budding business, or for a new designer who is interested in learning more about code and how WordPress works. The default theme is not a great choice for a professional site or a branded blog requiring a robust customization. In addition, there is no SEO functionality, and mobile responsiveness isn’t totally up to speed.


The default WordPress themes are free, and free support is offered through WordPress Codex and the support forums.


Thesis Framework Elaine Griffin Designs


Thesis is a drag-and-drop website creator that requires little to no coding knowledge. You can customize in four areas; Site Options, Skins (themes), Packages (CSS), and Boxes (elements)—where experienced designers can create full child themes which can be saved, exported, and installed on other Thesis websites.



Thesis Theme Settings Elaine Griffin Designs

Thesis Theme Settings

Drag-and-drop customization options make it easy to modify a site quickly. In addition, any part of the site can be widgetized. Thesis has built-in SEO, site verification, and analytics tracking, and it is mobile responsive.


Light documentation on updates has made it hard for users to keep up with any new developments. This is unfortunate for beginning and advanced users alike, as the drag-and-drop customization options are not as intuitive as one might think.


The Professional license costs $197 per year, which includes unlimited licensed domains, 3 skins, support for life, and other functionality. You should recommend to clients who wish to use this framework that they purchase their own license for $87, so they can take advantage of the support forums and/or email support if they need to.


Headway Theme Elaine Griffin Designs


Headway Visual Editor Elaine Griffin Designs

Headway Visual Editor

Headway is essentially a drag-and-drop editor that employs a grid-drawing system. This visual designer interface is a time saver—great for designers who have a graphics background, but lack the coding knowledge needed to get a site up and running. Experienced designers can take advantage of advanced customization areas that use CSS and scripts.


Unlike some other drag-and-drop themes, Headway gives designers the ability to create different templates for posts, pages, and categories, and to create child themes. In addition, Headway has built-in SEO functionality and is mobile responsive.


Some of the blocks, or content areas/widgets, have to be purchased separately.


The Headway Professional license costs $199 per year. This includes support and updates for one year on unlimited sites, and access to all of the Headway templates. Recommend to clients who wish to use Headway that they purchase their own license for $59, so they can take advantage of the support forums and/or email support.


Genesis Framework Elaine Griffin Designs


Genesis is a light framework that offers 50 child themes, which are all suited for particular business types and blog niches. Most of the child themes require at least some knowledge of CSS and HTML. You can enhance the functionality with a basic to advanced knowledge of PHP.


Genesis Layout Settings Elaine Griffin Designs

Genesis Layout Settings

Beginner designers with a basic knowledge of CSS will find that the child themes are fairly easy to customize. There is a helpful forum community, as well as email support to assist in the customization process. Designers who would like to increase functionality but do not have an extensive knowledge of PHP will find the Genesis plugins helpful. Various page templates are included with child themes, and you can change layouts on a per-post and per-page basis, eliminating the need for special coding. Genesis also has built-in SEO and Google Authorship.


Genesis child themes offer a lot of functionality, but will need a lot of design time.


The Genesis Framework itself (which can be customized into a child theme) is $59.95. This one-time fee includes unlimited support for unlimited sites and free updates. Child themes are extra, but you can buy them at a discount if you are a returning customer. You can also purchase the Genesis Framework and all child themes bundled for $399. New child themes not included in the bundle can be downloaded for free when they become available. If your client wants to use the Genesis Framework, urge her to purchase her own license for $59.95, to take advantage of the support forums and/or email support.


Elegant Themes Elaine Griffin Designs


As of this writing, Elegant Themes offers 87 themes, with new themes added frequently. Elegant Themes also categorizes themes based on how they should be used. All themes include various page templates, shortcode, and theme options, which can be customized in the ePanel. Elegant Themes also offers four premium plugins that bring their functionality to any WordPress theme.


The number of themes included in the price—many of which are recently and continually updated and mobile responsive—is a huge plus. The ePanel makes customization quick and easy, increasing design turnaround time. Advanced CSS areas are included, as well as SEO options and pre-defined locations for ads.

Elegant Theme Option Panel Elaine Griffin Designs

Elegant Theme Options Panel


The biggest con of Elegant Themes is that they offer no premium support. Although they provide full documentation for their themes, the forum-only support is lacking, and not what you would expect when you’re paying an annual fee.


Designers can expect to pay $89 per year for licensing, or a one-time $249 for lifetime access. Both of these options come with access to any current and future themes and updates, and unlimited site access. This also includes access to the premium plugins, which is a huge plus. In this case, I don’t recommend that clients purchase their own license, since there is no access to email support.

These pros and cons are just the tip of the iceberg to get you started. There are many other pros and cons to each theme and framework—all dependent on who you are as a designer, and what you need to offer your clients.

When considering what to offer, ask yourself the following questions. Who am I as a designer? What are my strengths and weaknesses? Do I expect to learn so my skills and designs can grow and change? What type of functionality do I want to offer my clients? Do I want to design fast and have quick turnaround, or do I want to design well?

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NaBloPoMo: Let’s Do This

BlogHer NaBloPoMo badgeDo you guys remember when I participated in NaBloPoMo last year? For those who don’t and have no idea what I’m talking about, go visit the NaBloPoMo site on BlogHer. In short, NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) is a challenge to write. One post a day for the month; it helps get the creative juices flowing, and it’s a darn good way to build your community of blogging contacts (friends) because not only are you encouraged to write, but you are encouraged to read other NaBloPoMo posts.

Last year when I participated, I had just started blogging, and was just starting to get comfortable and cozy at BlogHer It was a crazy hard month, and I thought I might go insane. But I lived. I wrote. I felt good about it. And, I met some of my best blogging friends. I heart them.

Until today, I was really undecided about participating this year. Things are crazy. But aren’t they always? Plus, this year, I know what to expect. I know that not every post has to be EPIC. I could post an Instagram picture and write a couple of sentences. I could just write a couple of sentences. It’s all good.

So, I’m doing it. And, I’m also going to NaBloPoMo over on Elaine Griffin Designs. I need the creative jump start. I hope you will join me and enjoy my insanity!

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Top Five This Week: Mom Fail, Back To School, Organizing, Pinterest, and Sh*t My Kid Says

Mom Fail

So, this one time, I was a hot mess and thought school started a day before it actually did. I got Ben all excited for school (he’s not a huge fan), we had the night before jitters, and the next day I realized it was not, in fact, the first day of school.

Back to School

Need I say more?! School started!!!! I miss my little buddy when he’s at school, but holy hell is it easier to work with only one kid in the house.


You know I love it, and I know you do too. I have a system for almost everything now. I even recycled papers the boy brought home from school! AND, I have 14, yes, 14 new 2-pocket folders that I have categorized with all the different things I’ve got going on in my life. It might seem crazy to you, but I feel so.much.better.


I love Pinterest. LOVE IT! I find it so inspirational. But let’s face it, it’s really easy to get a complex looking at all these things to do with your kids, your home, your hair. It goes on and on! So if you have not read You Are the Pinterest Perfect Real Mom by finding joy n BlogHer , do it now! And then go make your own Real Mom’s board on Pinterest. I did – let’s start a revolution!

Sh*t My Kid Says

I swear, it must be so bizarre to live in the boy’s head. I know it’s bizarre to live out of his head. One of my favorite gems from this week went a little something like this. He is on the couch, just randomly screaming into a pillow. I lovingly say, “dude, WHAT is your problem?” He says, “Who, me? I’m EXOTIC!!!” Yes, son, yes you are!

What were the highlights of your week? Enjoy your Sunday!

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Guest Post at Rough and Rede

I was very privileged to be asked to guest post again this week for my friend George at Rough and Rede. I “met” George last November during NaBloPoMo, which was hosted by BlogHer. How very brave of George to imerse himself in a sea of powerful women bloggers! We have been corresponding since last November and I was very pleased when he asked me to take part in his “Voices of August 2.0” series. So please, go read my post, Evolution of Self and also be sure to check out George and the other guest bloggers