WordPress.com Business Now Supports Plugins and Third-Party Themes

Now official-A huge and exciting step for WordPress.com and its users. Congratulations WordPress.com!

The WordPress.com Blog

For many years, WordPress.com has been a simple way for people to create their own beautiful WordPress website in minutes.

But that simplicity came with a tradeoff — WordPress.com did not offer built-in support for the thousands of third-party plugins and themes that helped make WordPress the world’s largest and most open web publishing platform.

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Summertime!

I’m currently taking an extended vacation from posting, but wanted to pass along a couple of updates:

WordPress.com Business Plan Gets an Upgrade (unofficial):

Since there has been no public announcement from WordPressdotcom/Automattic about the changes to the Business plan upgrade following the forum thread this past May, it seems those changes are in the testing phase for the time-being.

There have been some interesting forum threads which illustrate the limitations of the current Business plan set up.  For example, some features that you might want to activate, like new user registrations for your membership site or forum, means your users must still sign up first for a WordPressdotcom account.

Where Are the Free Themes?

As of this post, the current number of themes available in the Theme Showcase is 354, of which 140 are free themes. WordPressdotcom only announces the introduction of free themes, so it seems that the number of free themes being released is decreasing over time. The current trend is to update popular free themes to include WordPressdotcom’s newer features and to retire older themes that cannot be updated. While I think this is a good thing overall for users, it also pushes/encourages users to buy a Premium theme as a standalone upgrade. Arrivederci, “Theme Thursday.”

WPcomcierge:

Getting a new enterprise off the ground is surprisingly complex! At this point I’ve read more Terms of Service contracts than I ever thought existed, not to mention ogling oodles of plugins to make your WPcomcierge experience both fun and productive. Expecting to launch in Q4/2017. Provided I don’t lose my mind first. Kidding!

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The featured image in this post is from our short vacation in Lago di Garda, Italy. Enjoy your summer holidays wherever they may take you!

WPcom Business Plan gets an upgrade (unofficial)

With very little information to go on, it looks like WordPressdotcom has taken the final leap to enter the full, managed WP hosting arena by offering its Business plan users access to a wider range of plugins and custom themes through the Calypso dashboard. This includes access to WooCommerce and forums like bbPress and BuddyPress.

Other than new-to-me WPcom staff commenting in a community forum thread and an updated support document on the differences between WordPressdotcom and WP.org, there’s no official announcement yet to verify this change in the Business plan.

Update as of half an hour after publishing this post: a more-familiar Staff member answered in the community forum thread and confirmed that this change is official. Users who already have the Business plan upgrade can get more help and information via live chat.

How-To: Keyboard Shortcuts

Are you missing the underline and justify text buttons in the WP-Admin Editor? Several users have noticed their disappearance and commented about it in the community forums.

You can still use keyboard shortcuts to perform the above actions. If you need a reminder, you can find them by clicking on the ? in the second row of toolbar buttons above the editing box. If you don’t see that second row, click on the Toolbar Toggle button at the far right of the first row of buttons.

Editing Tools in the WP Admin/Classic Editor

While this change doesn’t affect those writing in the Calypso Editor, it’s an additional annoyance for users who favor writing in the WP-Admin Editor.

One caveat worth mentioning: Justifying text may cause issues in responsive-width themes when viewing on certain devices.

This gives me an opportunity to repeat a poll from a couple of years ago where you let us know which editor you are using. Let’s see if things have changed since then. This poll will close 1 week from today.

Other recent news is the collaboration between Google and WordPress.com which allows you to directly publish to your WordPress.com or Jetpack-connected site from Google Docs, including all the formatting, images and all. Have you tried it yet?

Lodestar-a trendy theme for your business

WordPress.com just released to its users the Lodestar theme (by Automattic’s Mel Choyce), which is also available for WordPress.org users. It’s a beautiful one-page business theme designed to highlight the best features of your organization.

One-page business themes have caught on hugely over the past couple of years. Initial set up of these themes can be challenging, but the reward is the ease of maintaining it after set up and, more importantly, a site that works well for business owners without a lot of continuing effort. While some themes in the below list are not strictly defined as “one-page,” popular free themes with a special front page template include:

  • Edin
  • Sela
  • Goran
  • Gateway
  • Harmonic
  • Motif
  • Affinity
  • Sequential
  • Pique
  • Shoreditch

One tweak that I would love to see included in theme “Content Options” on all the above themes is the ability to set the image overlay opacity without having to upgrade to either the Premium or Business Plans in order to modify the theme CSS. It’s a small tweak but certainly would be appreciated by users.

There’s been a lot of speculation from WordPressdotcom users about when we would see ORG’s new default theme, Twenty Seventeen, released here. Staff advised:

Twenty Seventeen is on the way, but it has some completely new features that are not entirely compatible with WordPress.com, so we’ve been working behind the scenes to get everything ready so the theme will work correctly when we launch it here.

I’m guessing this refers to the REST API endpoints, which you may recall only 2 short weeks ago was in Tech news headlines as it was used to deface standalone WP.org sites (ORG not COM).

So we’re still waiting (much like our in-the-works e-commerce solution), but Lodestar is the theme that Twenty Seventeen is based on.

 

Build Your WordPress.com Site-The Tutorials

Two of the biggest hurdles you need to overcome when starting out on WordPressdotcom is theme choice and basic site set up. Up until now the first resources have been Learn WordPress.com and your own theme’s Showcase page, which gives detailed set up instructions for each available theme. While these resources are useful, they can be too long or not concise enough if all you want to do is get your site set up and running quickly.

In addition to Build Your Website in 5 Steps and Set Up Your Blog in 5 Steps, WordPressdotcom recently added specific Tutorials for niche bloggers, but they are really great for anyone just getting started. Currently offered are:

Each tutorial is full of suggestions and tips for selecting a theme, editing your About page (more on that in a future post here), adding a Contact page, setting up a static front page, creating a customized navigation menu, adding images, sharing to social media, adding mailing lists and many more topics. If you want to dig deeper into each of these topics, links are included to separate articles in the WordPress.com Support site, as well as to each tutorial’s demo site so you can see what the final results look like.

These tutorials are an excellent resource for new users, especially when done together with Blogging U’s courses on everything from Blogging 101 to Building a Business Website.

UPDATED: A new site tutorial: Build a Site to Help Sell Your House Tutorial

Your Year in Blogging from WordPress.com

For the first time since 2010, WordPress.com will not send out its annual “Your Year in Blogging” report to users.

As far as this site goes, until today there were 4, now 5, posts published in 2016, with 1,730 page views by 1,150 visitors from around 80 countries with the USA, Canada, the UK, India and Israel the top 5. There were 18 Likes and 12 comments. (All these stats come from Calypso’s Yearly Stats Dashboard.) Compared to last year’s numbers, that is a big and not unexpected downturn given my lag in blogging. Looking forward to turning that around in 2017 with more updates and insights.

Are there topics about using WordPressdotcom that you would like to see covered in the coming year? Let me know in the comments.