WordPress

This is really cool! Our WordPress site for Texas Tech daily news, Texas Tech Today, was featured in the WordPress.org Showcase. Go check it out 🙂

It was even covered in part of a presentation which was mentioned over at WPCandy.

I am thrilled at the attention this has been getting. It Just shows that WordPress has the ability to be a full-fledged CMS if you know what to do (programming plugins to fit your needs and making custom templates) and have a vision for your site. See, it was fairly easy for me to come up with a solution for our office. I knew we needed a much better way of publishing stories, feature stories, news releases, clips, and videos. So I set out to design a theme that would display all of these elegantly and provided all the social media and user tools on each individual page.

Once I had a clear vision (in a Photoshop mockup), I started making my plugins and template/css to do what I already had in my head.  I hadn’t been exposed to WordPress programming very much at all prior to this project, but the codex helped tremendously and any answer I was looking for was easy to find.

If anyone has any questions, leave a comment or contact me.

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I recently had the need to perform some ajax functions on the backend of Texas Tech Today and wasn’t sure exactly how to go about it. So after a search, I found this great explanation: Simplified AJAX For WordPress Plugin Developers using Jquery. But it stops short of explaining how to receive some data from a POST, give it to PHP to do something with, and then return a result back to the form.

So, I thought I would detail how to do that in WordPress in a plugin.

The plugin just has a basic options page (Settings -> Ajax4WP) and lets you save an option to the database via ajax. Go ahead and download and install it; you’ll see how simple it is.

1. Create a php file that will have our javascript code, and save it into your plugins folder.

The reason we need our javascript code to be in a PHP file is to get the “get_option(‘siteurl’)” value dynamically, since we’ll need that to reference our PHP file with the ajax function.

js-Ajax4WP.php (download the plugin files)

<?php
include('../../../wp-config.php');
$site_url = get_option('siteurl');
?>
jQuery(document).ready(function() {

   //when the link with the id of save_settings is clicked, get the value of the text field and start doing the ajax stuff
   jQuery('#save_settings').click(function() {

      var Ajax4WP_test_setting = jQuery("#Ajax4WP_test_setting").val();

      //action is the name of the php function in your main plugin file
      jQuery.post("<?php echo $site_url; ?>/wp-admin/admin-ajax.php", {action:"Ajax4WP_save_settings", 'cookie': encodeURIComponent(document.cookie), Ajax4WP_test_setting:Ajax4WP_test_setting},
      function(res)
      {
         var message_result = eval('(' + res + ')');
         if (!message_result.success) {
            jQuery("#Ajax4WP_test_setting").css("border","2px solid #cc0000");
         }
         alert(message_result.message + ' ' + message_result.setting);
      });

      return false;
   });

});

This is jQuery ajax code that takes the value of a text field and passes it to Ajax4WP_save_settings() in our plugin file. We use jQuery.post to define a post variable (Ajax4WP_test_setting) that PHP can use.

Once the plugin code does its thing on the server (step 2 below), it returns the result back to this function at “function(res)”. Then we eval the json result and use an alert to display a message.

2. Create your standard plugin file and put in the Ajax4WP_save_settings function.

Ajax4WP.php (download the plugin files)

...

// our ajax action:
add_action('wp_ajax_Ajax4WP_save_settings', array(&$this, 'Ajax4WP_save_settings'), 10);

function Ajax4WP_save_settings()
		{
		   $name = 'Ajax4WP_test_setting';
			$value = $_POST['Ajax4WP_test_setting'];

			if ($value == "") {
				$message_result = array(
					'setting' => "",
					'message' => 'Please enter a Setting Value!',
					'success' => FALSE
	         );
			}
			else {
			   update_option($name, $value);
				$message_result = array(
					'setting' => $value,
					'message' => 'Saved! You entered:',
				   'success' => TRUE
	         );
			}
			echo json_encode($message_result);
			exit;
		}
...

This is standard PHP to process a POST request. When we’re through, we echo the json_encode() result. NOTE: json_encode is a PHP >= 5.2 only function, so be sure you are up to date on your PHP install.

3. Make a php file that will contain basic html and will get included on our settings page

Ajax4WP-settings.php (download the plugin files)

<div id="Ajax4WP Settings" class="inside" style="margin-left: 29px; width: 200px;">

   <h3>Ajax4WP Settings</h3>

   <div id="loading_message"></div>

   <p>
   <label for="Ajax4WP_test_setting">Setting Value:</label>
   <br />
   <input type="text" id="Ajax4WP_test_setting" name="Ajax4WP_test_setting" value="<?php if (isset($this->Ajax4WP_test_setting)) { echo $this->Ajax4WP_test_setting; } ?>" size="20" />
   </p>

   <p><a href="#" id="save_settings" class="button button-highlighted">Save Settings</a></p>

</div>

This is just a “stub” and gets included in our plugin. That way we don’t have a lot of html code mucking up the main plugin file. You can see what’s going on better in the source code when you download the files.

I hope that helps you out if you are wondering how to use jQuery and ajax in your WordPress plugins. Please leave a comment if you have any questions. Thanks!

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Texas Tech Today Screenshot

Whew! A few hard months of planning and preparation have come to a culmination with the launch of the new Texas Tech Today. TTT is our news and information site that holds all of our news releases, clips, stories, and videos. It all runs on WordPress with the help of some custom plugins and templates. This isn’t a typical blog site, and the extendability of WordPress allowed me to do some really cool things and use it as a CMS that will fit our needs very well. This is a credit to the developers of wp, and the fact that they have made it such a nice platform to work with.

This new version will make the posting of stories faster and more efficient. That way, our content developers can focus on producing more and more quality content that our audience will find valuable and want to share.

The old way of posting stories to our site was through dreamweaver and was completely file based, with no help from a cms of any sort. This worked ok for a while, but we realized there had to be a better way to manage our content. Since our stories are somewhat “templatable”, meaning they can have a standard sidebar and other options, I set out to find a way to make it dead easy to post a story without using dreamweaver. Enter wordpress and the ability to code plugins that do pretty much whatever you can think of, and we were set.

We used to have our stories and videos on one server and clips and news releases on another. The news releases and clips were pushed out with a custom mini-cms I built in CodeIgniter. The new way allows us to have everything in one place and the built-in rss feeds for every category make it easy to send out our feeds for each type of post.

Moving to WordPress will hopefully get us a little better search engine placement and maybe some chatter in the blogosphere. Wp-stats is amazing, but we’ve also got google analytics running so we can have a comprehensive view of our visitors and their interests in our content to serve them better.

My hope is that this can be a showcase of the power that wordpress has and that we can lead the way for other universities to use this wonderful software.

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