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WPMU-DEV Awesomeness

Last year I had a vision for an awesome site for home schoolers in South Africa.  I envisioned a web site that would act like a portal to everything home schooling, and particularly South African home schooling, online.  I hoped I could create something like that, but I didn’t have the coding and design expertise to pull it off. 

WPMU DEVUntil I stumbled across WPMU-DEV.  This company offers the most amazing themes and plugins for the WordPress.org platform for blogs and websites.

For many of my readers, you’re thinking …  Plugins?  Themes?  What are those?  Quite simply, they’re like mini components of a website, all ready for you to use without ever needing to know your html from your css.  It’s the IKEA furniture of web site building. 

Take a look at ;my family website for example – see the way it is laid out?  Well, I didn’t code all of that.  I just chose a nice theme from a ready-made system, selected a few options like colours and images, and voila, we have a webpage. All the extras – the comments section, the linked within images and more are all “plugins”.  They’re little extras that can be added to the basic theme of one’s website simply by plugging them in, so to speak!

With my dream for a great home schooling site in South Africa taking on a life of its own, I was super excited to find WPMU-DEV – and find out that they had EVERYTHING that I wanted for my site.  Within a month I built the Homeschool HUB with the vision to provide homeschoolers across South Africa a HUB to all things homeschooling.

Here are just a few of the great plugins/themes that I love:

Buddypress Themes:  Buddypress is a plugin that turns the site into a standard blog site into a social network site that allows people to become members, belong to chat groups and more.  WMPU-DEV offers great themes designed to work, well with this plugin.

Autoblog Plugin:  Many South Africa home schoolers blog and it’s great to be able to share our blog posts automatically in one spot.  Autoblog simply duplicates members’ own blog posts so that they all feature on the same website (with links back to the original source of course). 

Group Calendar:  with so much happening in and around South Africa that pertains to home schoolers, this plugin is invaluable.  It allows each member to create an event, invite others and put it on the website calendar. 

These are just a few of the great plugins that turned my dream of a Homeschool HUB into reality: ww3.homeschoolhub.co.za.

Unfortunately, through unforeseen circumstances, the HUB came to a grinding halt as I had to change hosts unexpectedly and ran out of money to keep this project going and hence couldn’t renew my WPMU-DEV membership.  For now the HUB is there, but it is not functioning at the capacity it has potential to.  Which is another reason for this post.  WPMU DEV is giving away THREE lifetime memberships to someone like me (or you!).  Simply write a post that connects to them and you’ll be entered into the draw. 

I’m really REALLY hoping that I win this one as it will mean I can kick life back into the HUB and hopefully it will grow beyond its current 120+ members into something of a awesome service to people around South Africa.  WPMU-DEV is by far the best WordPress support, theme and plugin site for all people – newbies and developers alike!  I want to be part of the WPMU-DEV family again – and, if you’ve ever considered building a website, then you do too!

(oh, and if you win because of me – you’re allowed to share!! 🙂

Q: how does a non-techie like me build the HUB?

  A: with the very awesome WordPress MU blogging platform and the even more awesome WPMUDEV site that makes professionalism so very easy…

homeschoolhublargelogoHomeschool HUB is a very new, very exciting venture for me and, potentially, homeschoolers nation wide here in South Africa.  After starting the Homeschool Western Cape group in Facebook, I felt frustrated that it was only open to people who were actually on Facebook.  There seemed to be no sites open to the public that were interactive, informative and completely devoted to homeschooling.  Which is where the idea of the HUB arose. 

  The trick, however, was building a website with my very limited knowledge.  I do not know code.  The very little I do know I’ve kind of figured out over time, like learning a foreign language simply by being immersed in it.  So, how was I going to build the website of my vision? 

This is where WPMUDEV comes in.  The Hayes Happenings blog is built on the WordPress platform.  And I knew that I could work with this blogging platform to make a halfway decent site that could represent my vision.  But, I didn’t know how close to my ideal it could be, until I stumbled upon WPMUDEV

Suddenly my fledging attempts were blown out of the water and I was presented with a whole new world of excellent themes, plugins and (very important) support!  WPMU have excellent, slick, professional "out-of-the-box" themes that work, beautifully. 

It didn’t take much persuasion for me to sign up for a 1 month membership.  Since the HUB is a sideline community service, I can’t afford to throw tons of money at it.  Actually, truth be told, we can’t afford to throw money anywhere!  But, because WPMUDEV impressed me so much, I decided to see if I could use them to build a site from scratch to "live" in less than one month.

And I succeeded!  Thanks to WPMUDEV’s awesome themes and plugins, and VERY prompt support forums, I was able to build a website in my "after hours" and have it ready for launch in just under a month.  It’s not perfectly user-friendly yet – but that is mostly due to my inexperience and a couple of server issues.

Why am I telling you all this?

Well, aside from dispelling any false idea that I am some kind of tech guru (wahahahah!), I’ve just heard of a great competition that WPMUDEV is running. To celebrate their 98, 99 and 100th plugins, WPMUDEV are giving away annual membership subscriptions worth over $400!  Yip, I can score a year’s membership with WPMUDEV just by outlining my favourite plugins…!  So here goes…

The HUB is built on the Buddypress Scholar theme.  Every theme from WPMU has a really easy user interface to change things like fonts, colours, links, social w-capegroupmedia links et cetera. 

Plugins

But, even better, are the really exciting plugins.  What is a plugin?  Quite simply, it’s an extra tool that enhances the functioning of the website.  You simply download the "plugin", pop it into the plugin file and wallah – a new feature is enabled on your site.  The HUB has plenty!  From enabling people to send their posts to Facebook (facestream plugin) to having an Events Calendar to which any member can add an event … the HUB quickly became closer to my vision than I even dreamed to envision!

Here is the lowdown on 3 of my favourite plugins…BuddyPress Group Calendar

Events Calendar:  every group in the members’ section of the HUB has its very own Calendar.  That means that all members can be easily made aware of every outing, homeschool event, new show in town et cetera.  All members can add or edit events and all events are linked to a widget (similar to a plugin, but it is specific to the information one can see in the sidebars and footers).  The Calendar widget then displays all the latest events on the website’s sidebars. 

Mailchimp integration: Mailchimp is a really great mailing programme that allows you to set up classy looking, spam-free newsletters to send to your mailing list.  It’s all strictly regulated and no one is opted on without their knowledge.  WPMUDEV has developed a great plugin that integrates my website with my newsletter mailing list.  I love it!

Forums: The HUB has a place for people to chat, just like any regular forum.  They’re linked to groups and, yet, are also independent.  It was so incredibly easy to set this up.  No fancy tech language needed.  Plug it in – there we go! 

There are just short of 100 plugins that will enhance any WordPress site – from the simplest blog to the most content-heavy media sites, you will find essential plugins at WPMUDEV, including site-wide SEO; making money; tracking code and much much more!

Check it out here, maybe you too would like to win a year membership with these guys!

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