Our commitment to supporting Happy Joe

This week is an exciting one for Real Big Marketing. After years of focusing exclusively on providing quality services to clients, we will officially be releasing our first product: Render. We’ve worked hard to make Render as powerful and as useful as possible to those who use WordPress as a content management system and I think we’ve done a pretty good job. Much of the credit for this goes to our amazingly talented developer Joel who joined our team last summer.

But our excitement is not due only to this new offering our business will be adding. We are also excited to announce that through Render, we are going to be adding something else to our business: donations to a cause. At Real Big we strongly believe that businesses have a responsibility to do more than focus on profits alone. It is important to invest in and seek to better our community and to constantly strive to make a difference in the lives of others. To this end, we’ve decided that the launch of Render is the perfect opportunity to incorporate this kind of contribution into our business. Enter Happy Joe.

Happy-Joe-LogoHappy Joe

Happy Joe is a non-profit organization which focuses on helping veterans succeed in this digital age. By helping former military men and women develop skills, find jobs and start businesses, Happy Joe is truly making a difference to others. The organization was founded by James Dalman who is a veteran himself and also a talented designer and WordPress guru.

I reached out to James recently to let him know that we supported Happy Joe and also that we were very interested in doing what we could to support his efforts to help veterans. Our company is 50% veteran owned and supporting those who served our country is something we strongly believe in. I also told James that we were a small company and couldn’t afford to make a very sizable one-time donation. However, we did have a new product launch in the works and would be interested in using that as an opportunity to contribute. I also explained to James that giving in this manner would be ideal for us because ultimately, we want giving to be something that we DO rather than something that we DID.

James was very supportive of the concept of continuous giving and expressed to me that he’d like to introduce it as an alternative way of supporting Happy Joe for prospective sponsors. We would be the first to pioneer this new program and hopefully inspire others to follow suit and make giving to Happy Joe a part of what they DO as well.

Our contribution

After several discussions with James and an evaluation of our own financial goals, we decided that we would commit to donating 25% of all sales of Render directly to Happy Joe. We believe this amount is enough to make a real difference while allowing us to remain sustainable and continue to grow this portion of our business.

An official announcement from Happy Joe can be found on their blog. In that announcement you’ll also see a video of James and I discussing this partnership as well as the Render plugin. You can also learn more about James in an upcoming episode of WP Round Table in which myself and several friends will be interviewing Mr. Dalman and digging deeper into his experiences, challenges, hopes, ideas and goals.

Your part

Happy Joe is making a difference but there is still a lot to do. If you are interested in doing your part to help better the lives of military veterans and their families then visit the Happy Joe website, follow Happy Joe on Twitter, contact James Dalman and, if you use WordPress and need a better way to include complicated elements into your content then consider checking out Render.

We are releasing a premium WordPress plugin

At Real Big Marketing we have been using WordPress to help our clients achieve their goals for years. Over the course of those years we’ve gained experience with the platform and have participated in the WordPress community in a big way. From publishing free plugins, to contributing patches to Meta trac, to co-organizing a meetup and a WordCamp, we have made a name for ourselves as the WordPress guys.

And so now we’ve taken another big step and are announcing the release of our first official product, Render. Render is a plugin for WordPress which enables content creators to insert complex elements anywhere they desire with very little effort. What sort of complex elements? Here are a few examples:

  • A dynamic list of posts
  • Content in a column layout
  • Content that is visible or hidden based on conditions such as whether a user is logged in or not
  • Information about the current user such as their username and email
  • Many more

Here’s a video which demonstrates what the plugin does:

The plugin includes a very easy to use interface for adding these elements to a post’s content or even a sidebar. It is also incredibly developer friendly so taking advantage of the functionality that Render provides is a snap for anyone with basic WordPress coding skills.

What does this mean to you?

If you use WordPress…

Consider taking a look at Render to see if it might be able to help you create better content more easily. We’ve packed it with very useful and unique features and invested heavily in the User Experience to ensure the use of the features is painless for even basic users. And let us know what you think! Do you see any way that we could make it better? Do you have questions about it? We’re here to help.

If you are a client or considering hiring Real Big Marketing…

Know that our commitment to providing the highest quality marketing services to all of our clients is unchanged. Consider this an illustration of the fact that we are more than capable of developing quality custom solutions and you will have to search for a while to find a team more comfortable and experienced with the WordPress platform. If anything, this demonstrates how important it is to us that what we develop is easy to use.

How To Customize the WordPress Admin Menu

For as long as I’ve used WordPress, the admin menu has been a component I’ve wished for more control over. In stark contrast to the menus one can assemble for the front end of a WordPress site, the backend menu is extremely inflexible. There have been countless times that I’ve wished for an easier way to modify the WordPress admin menu to improve the experience for my users and even myself.

To be fair, it has always been possible. Plugins have existed for some time that enable users to take a little control over the WordPress admin menu. In addition, anyone with development skills can make their vision a reality by writing some code. But most long time users would agree with me when I state that no easy solution has been available.

Today, thankfully, that is no longer true. We’ve spent quite a bit of time and effort on this particular issue and recently incorporated an elegant admin menu customization feature in the latest release of Client Dash. So, here’s how you customize the WordPress admin menu using this plugin:

1. Install and activate Client Dash

Install the Client Dash WordPress Plugin

It is a free plugin listed on the WordPress.org plugin repository so you will be able to find it by searching within your WordPress site’s Add New plugin feature.

2. Navigate to the Menus section in the plugin’s settings

Go to Settings – >Client Dash. The second tab will be Menus. Go there.

3. Select a role

Where it says “Select a menu to edit”, click in the dropdown and select the role you would like to customize the admin menu for. Then click on the Select button.

Select a role to create a custom WordPress admin menu for

4. Create the menu

Ensure that “Import role’s existing menu items?” is checked and hit the Create Menu button. This will show a progress bar briefly as the menu that the selected role is currently seeing is imported. This way you don’t have to start from scratch but can easily modify what users with this role are already experiencing.

5. Add new menu items (optional)

Add items to WordPress admin menu

If desired, you will now be able to select available menu items from the left side of your screen and add them to the menu. You will then be able to drag and drop them to their desired location in the menu. Indent them to the right if you wish for them to be submenu items.

6. Remove menu items (optional)

Each item in your menu will have a drop down arrow on the right. Clicking on this will cause the item to expand and present other options. On the bottom left you will see Remove which will delete the item from the current menu.

7. Change menu item labels (optional)

If you’d like to change the actual name of an item simply expand that item and change the text in the Navigation Label field. This will not change how the item works or where it goes but only what it says. Here are a few ideas of labels you might consider changing:

  • Posts – >Blog
  • My Sites – >Your Sites
  • Your Profile – >About You
  • Media – >Pictures
  • Plugins – >Features
  • Plugins – >Addons
  • Dashboard – >Home
  • Add New – >Create New

This is where it would be a good idea to consider your site’s users and what skill level and familiarity with existing terminology they have. A good idea might even be to interview them and ask them to describe what they expect to see in their dashboard and what words they understand.

8. Change menu item icons (optional)

Change icon for WordPress admin menu item

Icons can communicate as clearly as words so choosing the right icon for your admin menu items is important. To change them, simply expand a menu item and click inside the Menu Icon field. A drop down will appear which will list all the available icons. Clicking on the icon you want will automatically add it to the current menu item.

9. Save your changes!

Once you hit Save Menu, all users with the selected role will begin seeing the menu you just created.

10. Test your menus

If you want to verify that everything is working correctly and see what your users are seeing it is simple to do so. I would recommend one of two plugins which could help you do this:

  • Role Quick Changer – This plugin allows administrators to easily change their role on the fly in order to experience their site as a user with another role would. Very handy.
  • User Switching – Gives you the ability to switch your account to a different specific user, experience the site as they see it, and then switch back. Super useful for understanding what clients are actually seeing when they login. For testing all roles it does require that a user with each role exists that you can switch to.

Other notes

  • Each role will continue using the default menu arrangement until you create a new menu for them and save it. So if there is only one role you need a custom menu for, don’t bother making one for the others. Simple as that.
  • If for some reason you don’t want to use your custom menu for a certain role, it is helpful to simply hit the Off toggle next to the top save button. This will save your custom menu but will not enforce it on users with that role. Instead they will go back to seeing the default settings for their role until you decide to turn your custom menu back on.

I hope this is helpful. If you have thoughts on this tutorial, please leave a comment below. If you like the plugin, please consider leaving a review.

Good Times at WordCamp Chicago 2014

Here we are again. Back at WordCamp Chicago and having an excellent time.

Yesterday I gave a talk on shortcodes in WordPress in the 201 track for Foundation Friday. It was really exciting and I had a blast. Lots of positive feedback afterwards which I really appreciated. I was also grateful to be so early in the schedule so I could complete my talk, get my awesome speaker gift and enjoy the rest of WordCamp.

Yesterday I was able to spend most of my time in the “unconferenced” 401 track where I chatted with other speakers, developers and general WP masters. I took a way lots of learning, inspiration and also positive feedback. Especially helpful was the encouragement I received from Steve Zehngut about a plugin we’ve been working on for a while now.

We’ve been meeting lots of great people and reuniting with friends while learning more about WordPress, the web and this awesome community. Looking forward to the rest of the sessions and the after party tonight.

Kyle’s WordCamp Chicago 2014 Presentation

Here are the slides for my Shortcode Shenanigans presentation for WordCamp Chicago 2014:

Shortcode Shenanigans

I really hope everyone found my presentation useful. I had a fantastic time talking about shortcodes with everyone and had an amazing audience. Lots of great questions and excellent feedback when I finished.

Here are some tweets about the talk:

WordCamp Chicago 2014 was an awesome event and I had a great time. Got to meet and reunite with so many great people and learn from a host of brilliant experts in the WP community. Looking forward to many more WordCamps in the future.