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Managing Multiple Authors: Customizing the WordPress Author Page

Manage Multiple Author Tips and TechniquesWe’ve been covering a lot of different suggestions for increasing the exposure of a contributor in a multiple author blog, and in this article, I want to focus specifically on one of the most important page on a WordPress site to an author, the author page.

The author page in WordPress is generated automatically, featuring the author’s name in the link and the page title, followed by an archive listing of their posts in reverse chronology. While this serves the purposes of most sites, if you truly want to feature your author as a vital contributor, consider adding a few more features.

An author page can feature custom content such as:

  • The author bio.
  • Author photograph/Gravatar.
  • Twitter address.
  • Facebook address.
  • LinkedIn address.
  • Twitter stream.
  • Feed stream from their own blog(s).
  • Counts of the number of posts.
  • Links to a contact page or an actual contact form.
  • A list of categories their posts are in.

Use your imagination as you develop the author page on your site. Ask the author what information they would want featured on the page, and ask you readers what they want to know about your authors, too.

To customize the author page in WordPress, you can use a variety of WordPress Plugins or customize the author.php file in the WordPress Theme. I’m going to cover all these options to give you a few examples of well designed author pages and options for you to consider.

Author Photograph

User Photo WordPress Plugin is a popular choice for easily adding a photograph for any user, especially contributors. The image is added from the WordPress Administration Panels “Your Profile” panel and image sizes are created automatically. There are a variety of template tags for the Plugin to use on the author page, author bio on single post pages, and other spots you want to feature your author images. There are also Plugins that complement and work with User Photo to enhance the Plugin such as Square Thumbs for User Photo WordPress Plugin which turns the thumbnail images into square not rectangles, and WordPress Users WordPress Plugin which displays the user images on your site, not just for authors.

The Author Image Plugin is another similar Plugin which helps to put the author’s image on their author page and other spots around the site.

I happen to adore working with Gravatars, avatars associated with an email address. You can replace your author images with a Gravatar, making life easy for everyone, using the Gravatar Plugin for Multiple Authors, or integrate it directly into WordPress yourself with a few bits of code.

Author Bio and More on the Author Page

Example of author page with author categories.

What information do you want or need on the author page to help the author showcase their bio, references, resources, websites, social media outlets, and more? Meta data about the author can consist of a count of how many posts they have published, the number of comments they’ve posted on the blog, and other information related to the author and their activity on the site.

In general, the use of the_author_description template tag on the author.php template file brings in the default user description or bio into the author page. The author can write using HTML anything they want with as many paragraphs, links, images, whatever they need to add to their bio. Unfortunately, this bio can also appear at the bottom of blog posts if styled using the same template tag, so check the Theme and institute space and code limitations if necessary.

Add User Profile WordPress Plugin adds more meta data options to the user profile panel, which can be incorporated into the author page such as the author’s various websites, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Skype, and other information so the reader can follow the links to learn more about or contact the author. Extra User Details is another Plugin that does much the same thing.

The Author Box Reloaded WordPress Plugin is designed to work as a post author box, shown at the bottom of each post, but it can be customized to replace the author description and meta data on the author page. It includes a wide range of options for adding social media sites and network links and other external website links.

There are also WordPress Plugins to add more information about the author and their site activities, as well as off-site activities.

The Comment Author Count WordPress Plugin displays a count of the number of comments the author has posted to the blog.

You can add the author feed link by customizing the author template file or use the Subscribe To Author Posts Feed WordPress Plugin to add a feature link to the author’s feed.

Wish to show the location of the author, where they live or work? While some aren’t too happy to let such private information be known, others enjoy it. The Author Location WordPress Plugin puts a Google Map where they want it to show off their location.

Author Performance WordPress Plugin adds information on how many words and posts the author as published, and other interesting factoids about the author’s actions on the site as an incentive or competition with other authors.

Want to display all the categories associated with a specific author? The Author Categories WordPress Plugin helps you add such a list, or you can manually add it with a little bit of code to the author template:

 
<?php
$categories = $wpdb->get_results("

	SELECT DISTINCT(terms.term_id) as ID, terms.name, terms.slug
	FROM $wpdb->posts as posts
	LEFT JOIN $wpdb->term_relationships as relationships ON posts.ID = relationships.object_ID
	LEFT JOIN $wpdb->term_taxonomy as tax ON relationships.term_taxonomy_id = tax.term_taxonomy_id
	LEFT JOIN $wpdb->terms as terms ON tax.term_id = terms.term_id
	WHERE 1=1 AND (
		posts.post_status = 'publish' AND
		posts.post_author = '$author' AND
		tax.taxonomy = 'category' )
	ORDER BY terms.name ASC
");
?>
<h2>Author Categories</h2>
<ul class="author-cats">
	<?php foreach($categories as $category) : ?>
	<li>
		<a href="<?php echo get_category_link( $category->ID ); ?>" title="<?php echo $category->name ?>"><?php echo $category->name ?></a>
	</li>
	<?php endforeach; ?>
</ul>

Source: WordPress Support Forums

You can style the list in a variety of ways easily to set it appear from the rest of the author meta data.

If you are using Custom Post Types, Cleverness has a tutorial on adding author categories on custom post type pages.

Customizing the Author Posts List

By default, WordPress displays a list of all the posts the author has published on the site. There are a few ways to customize this list.

Author Complete Post List WordPress Plugin displays the complete post listing of the author with the total number of posts, and includes posts co-authored with others, which may not be displayed be default.

List Posts By Author WordPress Plugin displays all the posts and/or Pages by all the authors, but it can also be customized to show only a specific author and used on the author template file to replace the default listing if desired.

You can also customize the author template file to list the posts in different ways such as alphabetically, monthly, or reverse chronology using the wp_get_archives() template tag. Creating an Archive Index on the Codex offers some other examples and options for creating a custom archive list.

If the site is using post thumbnails, those can be incorporated easily into the author post list, adding more visual effects.

Creating a Author Lifestream

A lifestream is a one-stop collection of a person’s activities online, bringing all your trackable online activities into one place. There are a variety of ways to create such a summary collection on your author pages. You can piece meal the thing together or use a lifestream WordPress Plugin.

To put it together one piece at a time, here are some suggestions:

Tweet Import WordPress Plugin imports Twitter accounts from one or more authors. It can be used to bring the Twitter feed directly to the author’s page or elsewhere on the site. As can Author Tweets and twitterRSS.

Get Author’s Comments WordPress Plugin displays all the comments by that author.

The RSSImport WordPress Plugin is an easy-to-use feed importer allowing you to customize what appears in the feed and can be placed on an author page with little effort, as well as other places within the blog’s design.

How To Create Your Own Lifestream On A WordPress Blog In 3 Easy Steps” by MakeUseOf is a good tutorial to help you manually create a Lifestream.

The Lifestream for WordPress is an excellent Plugin for bringing in all the various activities of an author into a single stream. It features fairly easy integration with dozens of social media and networking sites. It should be updated soon, but until then, see this easy temporary fix for the Plugin.

While I haven’t tried it yet, the WP SIMILE Timeline WordPress Plugin looks like it could be an interesting addition to your author pages, or at least to your site. It integrates the SIMILE Timelines into a WordPress site to create category timeline charts, lifestream timelines with various feeds, and a variety of different timelines showing site activity in different ways.

Customizing the Author Template File in WordPress

The Author Templates article in the is an excellent guide to help you get started customizing the author.php template file in your WordPress Theme.

Key template tags associated with authors you will need to know are:

  • the_author_description for adding the author description from the User Profile page of the author.
  • the_author_posts_link links the author’s name to the author template file and usually used for the byline.
  • the_author() displays the author’s name as set in the User Profile.
  • get_the_author() is used in PHP to generate a variety of author data on the page.
  • the_author_meta() displays a variety of user meta data such as their email, description, social networking sites, and more.
  • the_author_posts() displays the total number of posts an author published on the site.

There are so many ways that the author page can be customized, I’m going to let others share some tips they’ve come up with for their own author pages.

Use your imagination. If your site offers multiple contributors on home schooling or childhood education, have the author’s bio meta data include a hand drawn picture of their favorite food or pet, or something creative they’ve done recently. Have the authors add more than just their bio such as their top tips in their expertise, or resources they recommend for more information.

Turn the author page into an about page with some creative and interesting information and facts to make the author appealing, trustworthy, and someone the reader needs to know.

What’s Next?

In the next group of articles, I’ll look at other ways to feature multiple authors within a site’s design, adding contributor lists, communication and interaction within a multiple blogger site, and more. Who knew this was such a huge topic? Stay tuned!

I’m speaking at WebVisions on “Managing Multiple Bloggers in WordPress” on Thursday, May 26, 2011, at 11:30AM in Portland, Oregon. This is part of a series of articles on the topic and notes from my presentation.

Article Series on Managing Multiple Authors in WordPress


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

14 Comments

  1. Guido
    Posted May 24, 2011 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    Now this is some useful stuff :-) I hadn’t even though about using the author functions; so far I’ve stuck what little bio info I had under an ‘about’ page. Thanks for speeding up my brain!

    Cheers!

  2. Posted May 25, 2011 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Really a nice way to customize author pages and also decrease bounce rate.

    • Posted May 25, 2011 at 8:31 am | Permalink

      Bounce rate isn’t a good metric to follow in this case as author pages may have a high bounce rate as people get the information they need within the first couple seconds and they are off to the next thing or an article on the site. Tracking the flow of traffic, however, to and from the author pages helps you measure how well your design favors the author and if the author is creating a sticky effect as people are interested in knowing more.

      Bounce rate is a much misunderstood metric.

  3. WPDesign
    Posted May 26, 2011 at 1:09 am | Permalink

    Thanks Lorelle. This is another top notch post. I’ve always been a fan of plugins so I won’t be doing any coding to author.php for now lol..
    Very nice detailed post.
    Thanks again

  4. Posted May 28, 2011 at 5:02 am | Permalink

    Thanks for mentioning the link to my article. You listed some great plugins there which can come handy ,if one wants to avoid code.

    Cheers!

  5. Posted June 1, 2011 at 1:50 am | Permalink

    This is definitely one exhaustive post on Author pages Lorelle! Great selection of plugins and ways to make it better than the default out of the box! All these years later, you’re still putting out incredibly informative posts. Thanks again for taking the time!

  6. Posted June 2, 2011 at 5:57 am | Permalink

    Wow. this is an awesome post. I was just looking for the same tips. Thanks for sharing the knowlege :)

  7. Dave Drew
    Posted June 2, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t gotten to the point of needing to set up my blog for other users yet, but I hope to get there soon. This is great.

    Okay, I have to admit, this is going to sound like one of those typical comments that even I like to just delete whenever I see them on my blogs, but this is my first time here on this blog and I just want to say, I will be bookmarking this one, because I’m actually quite blown away at all of the information that goes into each post here. That’s a lot of dang work and solid information too. I don’t know how I’ve been able to surf around the Internet for more than a year into blogging and WordPress and not run into this one.

    I just started using a cool SEO WordPress plugin and it grades each of my posts and page content. I’m looking over the content on these posts and I bet the SEO Gods love this blog. So, for my first comment, I just wanted to say, NICE JOB on this blog and the amount of work you’ve put into each post.

    I really love the ideas you given about “An author page can feature custom content” … and the items you’ve listed. I had already thought of a few of those, but you’ve really knocked yourself out. I’m looking forward to the next post already.

    • Posted June 3, 2011 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      You are right. SEO comments are not favored on this site, so I’m leaving your comment here as a lesson to all. Just because you think that I write to serve the SEO gods of Google or wherever, I don’t, which is why I have been around so long doing great things. I know you are new to the social web scene so welcome and I’m glad you have a chance to learn here.

      I appreciate your comment and thoughts on the subject, and enjoy engaging in dialog, not commentary, in my blog comments. When one focuses on the wrong intentions for publishing a blog or participating in the social web, they never win, and usually burn out quickly. Again, thanks for the comment and good luck finding a better purpose than SEO for your web publishing and social web experiences.

  8. Posted June 3, 2011 at 4:40 am | Permalink

    This is a very nice post. For sometime, I wanted to customize my author archive pages but did not get any resource, and I was lazy and careful about not breaking my site. With this post at hand, I may try customizing author pages. However, a doubt still remains, as WP Design also mentioned – I want to modify theme files to the minimum (I have already modified a few files), is there a way to use plugins to accomplish this task?

    • Posted June 3, 2011 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      The best way to modify a WordPress Theme is by creating a Child Theme. Next up are Plugins, and there are a ton to choose from, as showcased in this series.

  9. sorenbobby
    Posted April 15, 2012 at 4:32 am | Permalink

    It’s elaborately definitive post. It’s helped me for the Google authorship as it recognizes the author pages and looks there for the rel=”me” tag.

    Keep it coming.
    Bobby

  10. dessymine
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Uhn! this is a complete tutorial that worth million of DOLLARS!
    Nice work, you really make my day
    Thanks!


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  1. [...] VanFossen shared Managing Multiple Authors: Customizing the WordPress Author Page. Managing Multiple Authors: Customizing the WordPress Author [...]

  2. [...] Managing Multiple Authors: Customizing the WordPress Author Page « Lorelle on WordPress on May 24, 2011 at 8:21 [...]

  3. [...] Managing Multiple Authors: Customizing the WordPress Author Page « Lorelle on WordPress on May 24, 2011 at 8:21 [...]

  4. [...] Managing Multiple Authors: Customizing the WordPress Author Page [...]

  5. [...] Post Author WordPress Plugin goes a small step beyond by giving you options to add the author bio information to the top or bottom of the single post pages, category pages, author pages, and other archive or multiple post pageviews. You can add the author name, avatar, date of first publication, and author and date of the latest revision. This is excellent for sites with often updated content like educational or tutorial content. What it doesn’t do is feature the author bio or other information in the author profile. The author name does link to the author page which can be customized in greater detail. [...]

  6. [...] Managing Multiple Authors: Customizing the WordPress Author Page [...]

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  10. […] http://lorelle.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/managing-multiple-authors-customizing-the-wordpress-author-p… […]

  11. […] Author Performance WordPress Plugin adds information on how many words and posts the author as published, and other interesting factoids about the author’s actions on the site as an incentive or competition with other authors. http://lorelle.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/managing-multiple-authors-customizing-the-wordpress-author-p… […]

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