Recently, we made some BIG updates. One major new feature that we will be officially announcing very soon, is called SnapShots. You might notice it in the back of the sites if you look closely. Check back here in a week or so for our big announcement.
In the meantime, we also updated several plugins and improved a whole list of things behind the scenes.
First, a word about Upgrades
One of the great benefits about the managed sites, is the one that is most hidden. As new plugins and themes are added, as new features are added, as bugs are fixed… everyone sees the improvements immediately, (usually) with zero impact on active sites.
Any upgrade requires a complex process to do it properly. The files that make up WordPress, the themes, the plugins all need to be backed up. The content of the entire site (for us, every user’s site) needs to be backed up. And the database needs to be backed up. Then you try the upgrade in a way that can be undone in case it all goes wrong. Because sometimes it does – as anyone who has ever hit that “Upgrade Automatically” button, and seen their site break, knows.
A few weeks back, we upgraded WordPress itself and made sure that all plugins, themes and features worked before we made it live. This last version of WordPress
broke changed lots of things. You might have seen the new look in the admin area, other than that, you probably didn’t notice. The only reason that is possible is because of the rigorous testing we do before making things live. We test it all on a local installation, then on a beta site and check it all again and again before going live. We go through this process with even the smallest additions. We are pleased to report there were ZERO support tickets caused by the upgrade.
Adding new plugins can also mess with things. Each plugin can introduce conflicts between the plugins you already have active and the current theme you are using. Over this last weekend we made some major new features available, upgraded three plugins and added a completely new one.
The end result… Some cool new features and improvements and you never had to call your web guy to backup the site, do the upgrade or fix things after.
And now, because (hopefully) you didn’t even notice that we worked on anything at all, here are the new toys…
Probably the most useful and fun addition was recommended by a user in our Feature Suggestion forum. Most of our features are added this way, so if you have ideas, head on over and make suggestions!
The Editorial Calendar is a simple yet really powerful tool. It adds a calendar view to your posts, allowing you to schedule drafts ahead of time and reschedule by simply dragging and dropping posts to a new date. While scheduling posts was always possible, this plugin makes it easier and adds a visual representation of the schedule so you can see where you should be blogging more often.
Here is a preview video by the plugin’s author, Zach Grossbart:
Better Images when Sharing on Facebook
Facebook has gone through a few changes in the last year, including, in the way sites are shared. You might notice sometimes you can choose from multiple images, sometimes only one and sometimes none show up at all.
It used to select images at random. But that might add the banner ads on the side of a blog, or images that were part of the design of the site and not the content. Then Facebook told developers to specifically define the image used for the thumbnail preview. While the chance to be more specific sounded like a good idea, how do you choose one image for a site, for a page, for a blog full of images?
So we took another look at things and totally reworked the way the preview images were defined. For each page on the BlogSite, there is now a whole series of images that might get added to Facebook:
- Your Logo : Nothing is more important than establishing and promoting your brand online, so on every page, we add your logo image as one of the possibilities.
- Home Page: On the Home Page, you might have a fading slideshow of images, featured links with images or sliding panels with images. Each of these sections is added as a possible image for the Facebook preview. Sometimes Facebook will limit the number of images it pulls based on the size of the images. But we added them all in the order you have it on your page.
- Interior Pages and Posts: Each page and post can have a featured image. Even if the page template you are using does not display that image (for example on the gallery page template) we look for the featured image and add it to the potential Facebook previews images. Want to very specifically control that image? Add a featured image to the post or page. We also look at the content of the page and try to add every image that might be in the content, including image galleries.
- Image Galleries: Like pages and posts, every gallery can have a featured image and multiple images. All should be added to the potential Facebook images.
- Blog Page: On the blog, you can have a series of posts as well as a slideshow of images or banner image at the top. If you have a slideshow or image at the top, each image will be added to the Facebook images. If not, we look at the most recent post and try to add any images from that.
Tweet & Like now with Google + and Home Page options
There was a new version of the Tweet & Like plugin available and it added two simple but much needed improvements. You can now add the sharing buttons to the home page and can add the Google+ button anywhere.
Just visit “Settings->Tweet & Like” and check out the new settings available.
Upgraded the Contact Forms
Sneak Preview of Snapshots
SnapShots are about to change the way themes work. You will be able to save style settings and import and export them between sites. Plus… we will be releasing LOTS of SnapShots to get you started.
Watch for the full announcement coming soon. It’s going to be fun!