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How To Improve Your WordPress Website’s Performance

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If you haven’t been living on a desert island somewhere for the last fifteen years, you’ve been to a WordPress based website.  One thing that’s great about WordPress, it’s fast…or at least it can be if you play your cards right.  Sometimes, WordPress can get bloated and bogged down by some simple, common mistakes and we’re going to go over some of those mistakes to see what can be done to solve them.  Anyone that has used a WordPress website knows that it can be something that is absolutely amazing; a complete content management solution that can handle any sort of work you throw at it, at it’s completely free.  And as we know, free is a very good price.  It’s a great tool that many kinds of businesses use to express themselves, meet new people, win new customers, grow their business and expand their horizons.  That may sound a little over the top, but it’s true, WordPress is a valuable tool, which is why nearly a quarter of all websites on the internet today are powered by WordPress.  One thing for sure, WordPress is needed and many are glad this cool CMS exists.  Although it is something that is well liked by many, there has become a consensus on one particular part of WordPress… it can run really slow at times. While this can be something that you find extremely bothersome and it can be inconvenient at times, there is something that can be done about this. There are ways in which you can increase the speed at which the page loads and how quickly the work you are inputting into WordPress is being performed. But if you do not know what you can do to help the speed increase, how can it work for you? It cannot… that’s why you need to know how you can increase the speed of this remarkable site.

Generally speaking, anyone who is using a website, regardless of what the website is, expects the website page to load quickly. In most cases the expected time for a page to load is between two and three seconds. If a site has not loaded in that time, most users will leave the page… so loading time is of the essence. In most cases, if a website is having difficulty with the page taking too long to load the person visiting the site will not only leave, but they will not return back to the site; no one likes to try to deal with a site that has given them trouble. Not only do you have to deal with that person not returning to the site, but then you must think about the word getting around that problems have been had on the website; this fact alone could cause more people not to want to visit the site at all. This is not good… this means that you’re losing people that visit the site and you’re losing out on potential visitors because they will not visit the site at all. It is safe to say speed is a very essential aspect of your website and it can make a huge difference if the speed of your website is not going at a high rate like it should be. The speed of your site being slow is not good… but there is one aspect of it that is good; you know about it. Now that you know about it, you can do something about it!

Getting the speed of your site going at a faster pace is extremely important. Not just because of the reasons mentioned before, but also because you could lose out on people who have subscribed to the site and those that frequent the site to make it a success. It is important that you get the speed of your site up because it helps you with those that are visiting. When you have someone that is on your site for the very first time, if the speed is slow then you can lose their attention. The saying “first impressions are lasting impressions” does not just go for when you are meeting someone in person for the first time. The first time someone visits your website you are making a first impression on that person. You do not just want to impress them with the visual aspect of the website only… all things come into play with the impression that is made; and speed is a huge factor in this. No one wants to feel like their time has been wasted, and that includes when they are surfing the internet. Not only is the speed of your site important so you do not lose visitors; it plays a role in your site’s SEO… the slower your site is running the lower you will be ranked in search engines, and that’s never a good thing.

While your site may be running slowly, thankfully there are some things that you can do to help improve on the speed of your site. Some may think that it would be a difficult task to do, but small changes can make a huge difference, and in all honesty it’s not too hard to handle.

  • Make sure the framework is lightweight and quick. You do not need framework that is loaded down with a lot of features that you do not really need, every little bit of code helps. Too much extra will slow down the speed of your site; you want a solid framework so you can have more speed. Makes sense, right?  A good one to have that always has premium framework is Thesis Theme Framework.
  • Have all images automatically optimized. There are some free plugins that are available to handle this for you; you do not want to have to reduce the file sizes manually (it can be really time consuming). WP-SmushIt will automatically process the any image that you upload them and it will reduce the file for you. It will save you time, and you will not have to worry about your site being slow due to the fact that image sizes are too large and slowing everything down
  • Make sure you have LazyLoad added to all of your images. This is a program that will only load images that are visible the persons browser window that is visiting the website… so when you move on the website page the other images come into view and the previous images go away. This will allow speed to come to your website and it will save bandwidth because it loads less data for those that do not have to scroll all the way down the page.
  • Utilize a caching plugin that is efficient. It’s important that elements of your page are cached… if they are not then your page is probably running slow. Once you set up a program that caches your website you will see a drastic change in the load speed. It’s a easy way to make a great improvement to your website.
  • Pick a good host that is not a shared one. Using a shared host may sound like a good idea and you may feel like you’re saving because you’re getting a good deal but you’re really making it hard on your website. You’re going to cause it to be slow and no one will like that. You want your site to run fast… downtime on a site can be murder to your site.
  • Have a revision control put in place. You do not want too many post revisions stored on your website. You should have a program in place that will get rid of the drafts that have been saved to your device once the posts have been published. You do not need all the drafts that you have worked on leading up to the final published post. There are programs that you can put in that automatically delete the post once you have the published one posted to your site. When the site does not have to hold on to all of the drafts, it has less clutter within it and that will allow more speed to come to your site.
  • Make sure you do not have pingbacks and trackbacks turned on. WordPress has other sites and blogs that it interacts with; whenever any other blog mentions your site it will send a notification to your site which can slow down the speed on your site. If you turn the notifications that you will receive off then this will add in speed to your site.
  • Use a content delivery network on your website. What a content delivery network does is take the static files that you have on your site and allows those that are visiting your website download items with the highest speed that is possible for them to do so with. This happens by using having the files served on servers that are near them making sure it does not take a long time for it to download for you and so you do not have the speed of your site slowing down trying to download a lot at the same time.
  • Optimize your websites homepage to load at a quick speed. This requires you to do a few things that will make sure your homepage loads at a quick speed. This is important to have in place especially because any visitors you have will go to the homepage and it’s the most frequented page you have on your site. What you can do to make sure this happens is: show snippets of the posts on your homepage and not the full post; do not show so many posts on the homepage… have a limited number there; do not have sharing widgets on the homepage only put them in posts that you have; if you have plugins or widgets that are not needed have them removed; and keep only what is needed on the homepage, your visitors want content not a lot of extra unneeded content.

These simple steps can make a world of difference in your websites speed… try them out and see how much your speed increases!

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The Layers WordPress Theme: A Comprehensive Review

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With the current popularity that WordPress enjoys, it is inevitable that a lot of builder tools for the free website hosting platform have come out, and the number continues to grow by the day, and one of them is Layers. However, Layers claims to be different from the rest of its competitors. In what ways, you ask? The following review of the Layers WordPress Theme will attempt to answer that question. It will also help you decide if it is indeed the website builder you have long been waiting for.

What Is Layers?

An open source WordPress website builder developed from Obox Themes, Layers is among the many WordPress builder tools available today. It attempts to distinguish itself from the rest by being both:

  1. The easiest website builder to use (try looking around for an easier to use too), and
  2. Available at absolutely no cost; it’s free.

With Layers, you can create multiple custom page layouts that will help you come up with the kind of website you have in mind. The best part is you will be able to do it without having to edit codes. The builder tool is equipped with built-in layouts, as well as custom widgets that you can use to add more content to your webpages.

For some people, the word “free” is enough reason to use the product. However, what good will it bring if it does not provide what you need? A product may come with a price tag, but if it is more convenient to use and allows you to save a lot of time, and it comes with a lot of superior features to boot, then price tags wouldn’t, and shouldn’t matter.

It is an entirely different story, though, if a free product comes a long that can approximate the benefits you will get from a premium product. This Layers review intends to help you uncover and learn everything there is that you need to know about the product.

Product Features: What Layers Can Do for You

The intention of the creators of Layers is to provide a tool that can help users build their custom websites specifically for WordPress. To give you an idea on what the builder tool can accomplish for you, have a glimpse of a few layouts built using Layers. These layouts are called Coffee, Weather, and Bakery, respectively. There are many other layouts available which you can later explore should you decide that this is the perfect tool for your website building project.

One good thing about Layers is that the entire process of creation is done within the Theme Customizer in WordPress itself. This way, you can immediately have a blow by blow account on the progress of your custom design project. You can view your work in progress as you continue to work. Likewise, instant feedback will be available for any change you effect on the appearance settings.

Because the entire design process is done within the confines of the WordPress Theme customizer, it simply means that the result will be a lot more efficient, interactive and intuitive. All you have to do is point and click, and go right back to work.

While you need to refresh pages, switch browser tabs, continuously save your work in progress, and then open preview windows when working with other backend WordPress builder tools, these are not necessary when you are using Layers.

Building Your Pages with Content Blocks and Widgets

When using layers, your new website design’s foundation is created using horizontal rows. You can then populate each of the rows with a widget. The widgets act as your website’s content blocks and each one can accommodate practically any type of content.

The builder tool comes with a variety of content blocks or widgets. These include:

  • A content widget
  • A slider widget
  • A maps and contact details widget
  • A widget for a displaying list of posts

This does not mean, however, that Layers cannot work with widgets provided by third parties. Layers is, in fact, compatible with 3rd party widgets, including ones that you may have created yourself, as well as widgets that are built in to other WordPress plugins.

Thus, if you find the need to feature or include a widget for an ecommerce product, a content slider widget, or a social sharing widget in the custom website layout you are working on, you can heave a sigh of relief because Layers will allow you to do that. This ability to integrate with 3rd party widgets is another advantage of using Layers. This allows you absolute freedom on how to create the various pages of your website.

Options for Widget Configuration

You can configure all third party and core WordPress widgets as they are incorporated into your layouts, but these may not be as easy to configure as the widgets that are built into Layers. These widgets are a lot easier to configure, for obvious reasons.

A very good example of this ease of configuration would be the posts widget. You are allowed to set the number of posts to display using the settings. You can also set the category that the posts must come from, as well as the list style and column layout, among many other options.

Aside from the post display widget, Layers also allows you to select the particular post content that you want to be displayed on the page, including the post titles, featured images, author info, post excerpts, and many others.

Because of the superior level of control that it provides users, Layers can be considered as the ideal tool to use when you need to build a custom page with which to display your most recent blog posts. If you are a blogger like a great majority of WordPress website owners, this is an important feature.

Options for Content and Widget Customization

As you work on the various pages of your website, the WordPress site building tool provides you with access to the Layers design bar. Here, you can customize the appearance and design of all the widgets that you wish to include in the layout. Again, everything happens without you having to directly edit any existing code.

Although the available design settings are specifically tailored to the kind of widget you are currently working on or customizing, these may include fonts, colors, text formatting, columns, list style, image ratio, and layout, among many others.

Pre-Built Page Layouts

While Layers allows you to make your own page designs from the ground up, it thankfully throws in a small collection of page layout templates that include:

The pre-built layouts are easy to customize. You can remove or add the widgets that will comprise the layout in a convenient and straightforward manner. Customizing how they appear can likewise be done with the same convenience.

Layouts for Mobile Users

Your website will not only be mobile-friendly and completely responsive, it will also be easy for you to target and cater to your visitors who come to your website via their mobile gadgets.

By using the website customizer, you can designate a specific area in the sidebar exclusively for mobile users. You can then populate this particular area with content that tablet and smartphone users will find relevant.

Now, because of the steady growth of people who access the web through mobile devices, this feature can be considered as an essential feature to have, and not just a “nice to have feature.” It would not be surprising that in the near future, your website visitors will be comprised mostly of users from the mobile demographic.

WordPress Plugins versus Theme Builder Tools

There are WordPress builder tools that are delivered as a plugin like the Themify Builder. When in plugin form, the tool will typically allow you customize your current theme design. You can do this as you retain the ability to make custom page layouts. The standard WordPress post editor is not equipped with the same features.

Because Layers is delivered in theme form, it can take over the entire feel and look of your website. With the tool, you have the ability to customize and personalize each and every aspect of your website, and not merely the page layouts. Now, to settle the issue on which between a theme-based builder and a plugin is better, both options are good at what they do. Neither of the two can be considered as better than the other. They just offer different ways of doing things.

In the same manner, since Layers is a theme, it will not be easy to change your theme in the future. All your custom designs will be lost in the process. Likewise, all the content you have added to your site over time using the Layers widgets will be gone. This isn’t true for Layers alone, however, as this will most likely happen when using practically any other WordPress website builder tool as well.

A User’s Layers Experience

Because Layers is a relatively new WordPress theme, the developers mad sure that first-time users would be treated to a pleasant user experience by featuring a Getting Started Guide that is quite useful and handy. As soon as you activate the theme, the guide is immediately displayed on the screen. This review suggests that you take the opportunity to walk through the guide.

Each of the guide’s sections include brief text descriptions and a quick walkthrough video. Thus, you will find all the information presented quite easy to absorb. The screenshot below will give you an idea on how the Getting Started Guide looks like.

The guide is not only designed to help you understand everything you need to do to get started in using the tool. For one, it is not entirely passive as you can input your website’s name, your tagline, as well as upload the logo to use for your website as you walk through the steps provided in the guide.

The final step in the walkthrough will ask you to select one from among the pre-built layouts that come with the tool. However, if you prefer to begin with a blank page, you can do so as well. Regardless of your preferred option, the next display you will see on the screen will be the WordPress Theme Customizer’s upgraded version.

There are several groups that the main customization options fall under. More options will appear once you click on a particular group. The process will go on until you reach the actual settings level. The screenshot below provides an idea on what to expect while in the customization settings screen.

You can customize practically all the aspects of your website via the settings menu. These include:

  • The navigation menus to display, and where to display them
  • The sidebars to display, and where to display them
  • The layouts for the headers and footers
  • Whether or not your header is sticky
  • Widgets
  • Fonts
  • And many other options

All the changes made through the customizer are applied to your project in real time. There is a live preview that will allow you to see the effects of the options you selected for your page, as well as how they will appear. It is obvious that this is one important feature that you need to have access to. You will definitely have a lot of use for it.

When the time comes that you need to see your page from the point of view of your intended site visitors, sans the customizer options on the screen, you can just press the preview button. The page, as how your visitors will experience your site, will be opened in a new tab on your browser. Having said that, however, even just using the customizer view will already provide you with a more or less accurate display of your page, and thus, you need not resort to using the preview icon too often.

The process of creating a custom layout for your site involves adding a widget first into a page. You then customize the widget to suit your particular needs. To do this, just go to the customizer’s Edit Layout section, then choose the widget you want to use from among the active widgets on your site. These include that come built-in with Layers, the core WordPress Widgets, as well as other widgets that may have come from 3rd party plugins that may be active on your site.

After you have selected the widget to include in your website, you can now proceed to customizing it. The controls may vary, depending on which particular widget you have selected. In general, however, you will find a lot of detailed settings that you can take advantage of.

The entire Layers interface is well thought-out and designed in a functional way. Thus, it is quite easy to use and get used to. Whatever icon you select is guaranteed to work as intended. You will feel like, you already know what will happen once you click on a particular icon, and the tool usually does not disappoint.

If you need to add content to your page or set up a widget, you can count on the design bar to provide you with more control on how your widget will appear. You can alter the layout, change the formatting of the text, set up a background image, as well as include your own customized CSS, if necessary. However, these all depends on the particular widget you are using.

Once you are done adding content to your webpage, and you have sufficiently customized how it looks, your work is now ready to be published. If you are making a static website homepage, you may first want to take a look at the customizer settings to select which among your designs is to have the distinction of becoming your website’s front page.

The rest of the pages you have created using the Layers tool may then be included and designated to serve as the navigation menus for the site. You can do this through the core menu editor of WordPress itself. This way, your site visitors will be able to access the various pages on your site, just like how they would do it on a regular WordPress website.

Just like when working on any other project, you may need to review or go back to any of the other pages you created using Layers for some minor edits or modifications. You can do this easily. Just access the page manager screen of WordPress, then open the page that you want to review or edit.

Recommendations and Conclusion

This review finds the Layers WordPress website building tool to be among the most user-friendly and most intuitive interfaces around. A good idea that we strongly recommend is to use the WordPress Theme Customizer to help you build your site layouts.

Layers made the right decision in choosing the interface to offer. This is because it allowed Layers to assume the look and feel of being a part of your WordPress website’s admin area, instead of being just the added-on extra that it really is. If you have been using WordPress for some time now, or have gotten used to the platform, then it is highly recommended that you soon include Layers in your projects.

Meanwhile, if you are just a recent WordPress user, and is still in the process of familiarizing yourself with the website hosting platform, getting Layers now would also bring you a lot of benefits. For one, you can quickly get started on your website building project simply because you only have a single new interface to learn and work with.

The extra controls that come with layers provide to the core controls already included in the customizer tool. More importantly, these controls are very convenient to use such as the controls that allow you to modify the content and appearance of the widgets.

On the other hand, you can easily make sense of what the icons and other visual controls are for just with a single glance. The addition of the Getting Started Guide – complete with walkthrough videos and descriptive text – is a brilliant idea. It is very useful, especially for first time users of Layers.

Layers is not perfect, however. While it obviously has a lot of advantages, just like most other products on the market, it also comes with a few downsides. To allow you to decide whether Layers is really the right tool for your website building projects, you need to know the product’s downsides as well.

Compared to other builder tools in its class, Layers doesn’t have as many superior custom-built widgets and pre-built page templates. While there is no question that the page templates included in the tool are impressive enough, there simply is not enough of them to select from. Likewise, some of the templates do not have the “wow” factor that you see from other templates from time to time.

As for the widgets, the current lineup offered by Layers is no doubt impressive, but it definitely would not hurt if some more are added. This will no doubt make the tool’s feature list more competitive and more formidable.

Having said that, it is also worth mentioning that being a new entrant to the WordPress site builder tool niche, you can reasonably expect Layers to include a lot of improvements in the future.

Overall, Layers offers users an intuitive interface to use for creating custom website designs for WordPress. You do not need to be equipped with a good amount of design skills to make your website work, although it would be an advantage. However, with Layers, you can turn all the ideas in your head into actual pages – in a relatively easy manner. After all, that is what really matters.

So, is Layers the ideal WordPress website builder for you? After learning about all its features and weighing them against the few downsides, the answer should be quite obvious.

If you’d like to see a few more options for your website, we’ve got themes for all occasions.  Video portfolios, personal blogs, WooCommerce shops and magazine templates too.

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ReachWord SEO Techniques for WordPress

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Matisse Jon F. Grubb's most prized design.

This is some awesome stuff from a buddy of mine who started a company called Reach SEO.  They’re all about SEO for WordPress and I’ve asked him to give us a little rundown on what it takes to get rankings that are rock solid and reliable.  This is what he has to say.

If you want to reach the most folks who want to access the content you’ve created, there are a few things you can do to reach the most people possible.

So, I’ve been at this SEO game for some time now and trying to reach the most people possible with creative, effective SEO.  I’ve looked for the most effective, most consistent techniques you can utilize to drive traffic to your website.  For some niche markets, just having the right WordPress magazine theme is enough, but for some, it isn’t.  I’ve worked hard at this for a few years now and What I’ve found is this.

Content.

That’s it, that’s easily the most important thing on the internet.  Creating posts of high quality, posts that people will want to see, posts that people react well to and that give good value for your time clicking on them, that’s what drives traffic.

Sure, internal links are important too, links to similar content can also help you reach the most amount of people you can.  SEO is an ever changing game but making sure you keep your content fresh is simply put, the best thing you can do to ensure you get the rankings you want to get.

If you’re looking for some amazing themes to help you get the content you need to get, the content your site deserves, another thing you can do is select the right theme.  We’re in the business of finding amazing WordPress themes and reviewing them for quality.  SO whether you’re looking for a WordPress minimalist theme or a personal blog WordPress theme, we’ve got you covered.  These themes are the best of the best.

There are a lot of things you can do to make sure your site is ready for the bigtime.  Fast load times are critical.  A theme that makes visitors want to stay for an extended period of time is equally important.  If you’re selling products in your own online shop, a WordPress WooCommerce theme with the right set of features, a user-friendly design and great SEO optimization, that’s also important.

It’s also smart to check out sites like Ahrefs or SEOMoz to help make sure your site is optimized as well as it can be.  That kind of stuff is often overlooked, but it’s really, really important.

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WordPress 4.9 Released

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customizer-publish-settings-draft

Well, the time has come to say hello to WordPress v4.9, so I thought I’d check in to see what you can expect to see with this new version.  I did some scouring of the internet to see what people are saying and the word is, it’s a big improvement over previous versions.

WordPress 4.9 is named Tipton, after jazz musician Billy Tipton.  All the major updates are named for jazz musicians and singers, if you didn’t already know that.  There are tons of features to help smooth work flow and make for a better user experience overall, particularly in terms of coding errors.

There are design drafts, scheduling, preview links and locking, the theme customizer workflow is greatly improved for collaboration between different bloggers or content creators.  Also, there’s code syntax highlighting and error checking.  That’s meant to make for a smooth site building experience.  Oh yeah, there’s also a slick looking gallery widget now too, which is very nice and it’s a great way to lay out your images.

Customizer Workflow Improvements

Draft and Schedule Site Design Customizations – Yes, you read that right. Just like you can draft and revise posts and schedule them to go live on the date and time you choose, you can now tinker with your site’s design and schedule those design changes to go live as you please.

Collaborate with Design Preview Links – Need to get some feedback on proposed site design changes? WordPress 4.9 gives you a preview link you can send to colleagues and customers so that you can collect and integrate feedback before you schedule the changes to go live. Can we say collaboration++?

Design Locking Guards Your Changes – Ever encounter a scenario where two designers walk into a project and designer A overrides designer B’s beautiful changes? WordPress 4.9’s design lock feature (similar to post locking) secures your draft design so that no one can make changes to it or erase all your hard work.

A Prompt to Protect Your Work – Were you lured away from your desk before you saved your new draft design? Fear not, when you return, WordPress 4.9 will politely ask whether or not you’d like to save your unsaved changes.

Coding Experience Enhancements

Syntax Highlighting and Error Checking? Yes, Please! – You’ve got a display problem but can’t quite figure out exactly what went wrong in the CSS you lovingly wrote. With syntax highlighting and error checking for CSS editing and the Custom HTML widget introduced in WordPress 4.8.1, you’ll pinpoint coding errors quickly. Practically guaranteed to help you scan code more easily, and suss out & fix code errors quickly.

Sandbox for Safety – The dreaded white screen. You’ll avoid it when working on themes and plugin code because WordPress 4.9 will warn you about saving an error. You’ll sleep better at night.

Warning: Potential Danger Ahead! – When you edit themes and plugins directly, WordPress 4.9 will politely warn you that this is a dangerous practice and will recommend that you draft and test changes before updating your file. Take the safe route: You’ll thank you. Your team and customers will thank you.

Tons of Widget Updates

The New Gallery Widget – An incremental improvement to the media changes hatched in WordPress 4.8, you can now add a gallery via this new widget. Yes!

Press a Button, Add Media – Want to add media to your text widget? Embed images, video, and audio directly into the widget along with your text, with our simple but useful Add Media button. Woo!

Enhance Your Site Building

More Reliable Theme Switching – When you switch themes, widgets sometimes think they can just move location. Improvements in WordPress 4.9 offer more persistent menu and widget placement when you decide it’s time for a new theme.

Find and Preview the Perfect Theme – Looking for a new theme for your site? Now, from within the Customizer, you can search, browse, and preview over 2600 themes before deploying changes to your site. What’s more, you can speed your search with filters for subject, features, and layout.

Better Menu Instructions = Less Confusion – Were you confused by the steps to create a new menu? Perhaps no longer! We’ve ironed out the UX for a smoother menu creation process. Newly updated copy will guide you.

Just for the Developers

Customizer JS API Improvements – We’ve made numerous improvements to the Customizer JS API in WordPress 4.9, eliminating many pain points. (Hello, default parameters for constructs! Goodbye repeated ID for constructs!) There are also new base control templates, a date/time control, and section/panel/global notifications to name a few. Check out the full list.

CodeMirror available for use in your themes and plugins – We’ve introduced a new code editing library, CodeMirror, for use within core. CodeMirror allows for syntax highlighting, error checking, and validation when creating code writing or editing experiences within your plugins, like CSS or JavaScript include fields.

MediaElement.js upgraded to 4.2.6 – WordPress 4.9 includes an upgraded version of MediaElement.js, which removes dependencies on jQuery, improves accessibility, modernizes the UI, and fixes many bugs.

Roles and Capabilities Improvements – New capabilities have been introduced that allow granular management of plugins and translation files. In addition, the site switching process in multisite has been fine-tuned to update the available roles and capabilities in a more reliable and coherent way.

And probably a ton more.  but that’s enough of a list for now.  What do you think, have you updated yet?  I have and love the experience so far.

If you’d like a great looking WordPress theme to install on your fresh update of WordPress 4.9, check out our WordPress video themes, WordPress personal blog themes or WordPress minimalist themes, which are three of our most popular posts.  Or, check out a free theme like Silverbow or Quartz.

 

 

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