Wordpress wants my featured image to be my sad, sad face
November 20, 2017 12:48 PM   Subscribe

Is there any way to add "featured image" capability to a self-hosted Wordpress site without CSS? Is there really no plug-in?

Background: As part of my business website, I have a blog (with about 10 years' worth of posts). A number of years ago, I did a trade with a friend – I edited her book, her husband would be my webmaster (as I was set to overhaul my site). I did the editing, he moved my site to Wordpress and made a few tweaks in advance of the big overhaul. Then my friend and her husband got divorced, he stopped doing web design, and I've got a ton of credit with him I really can't use. (This isn't a threaten-to-sue situation; it's more, I'm not going to add to this guy's agony.)

Problem: I'm pretty handy with Wordpress and HTML for updating pages and posts. My sole problem is that he designed the theme for me without any support for featured images. So, even though I always want my first image in a post to be the image shared via social media, this is hit-or-miss, and more so on FB than Twitter. 90% of the time, Facebook lets me fiddle with the images -- delete the default image and add a different one -- but some days, like today, it will only allow a carousel of images. I can use theirs, the carousel that includes mine, or no image at all. If I use the Facebook Open Graph debugger, I can see that the og:image lists one of the other images (invariably the least interesting one in the post), but all the "scraping" in the world doesn't change which og:image is used, and there endeth my comprehension.

I tried adding a plug-in which claimed to always use your first image as the featured image, but it didn't do anything. (And yes, I know how to install and use plug-ins.)

Question: With all my research, there are only two solutions I can find for not having featured image built into my theme. 1) I can play with CSS per the end of this post, or 2) hire someone for this fiddly thing, or 3) I can swap All-In-One SEO for Yoast SEO, per this tutorial, as apparently Yoast has a workaround (but then I have to sit down and learn a new skill set for that).

Am I missing something? I don't really want to learn CSS or mess up my site or pay much to fix this one annoying little thing. 99% of the time, Wordpress has a plugin that fixes far more exotic problems, but this fairly obvious thing seems impossible. (Why don't ALL themes have featured image support? Why wouldn't everyone want to control which photo represents the blog when shared?)

You might ask, why not just ignore it and not worry about it? But there's a dramatic difference in the number of hits/clicks/likes on my FB business page when there's the right photo vs. the wrong one or the carousel. Like 500 vs. 10 in the first few hours.

You are not my web designer, but if you were, what would you tell me to do, particularly for the near-term? Thanks!
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
Disclaimer: I know just enough about self-hosted WordPress to be dangerous, but this is something I have fought with as well. Does your theme include tweeting-functionality? Because on my blog when I installed either WP to Twitter or JM Twitter Cards I got the option to choose a featured image that seems to faithfully show up in FB/Twitter (which is 95% of where I share any of my posts). Can you figure out how it's choosing the featured image now? Like is is picking the first one you add to a post, even if it doesn't come first in the post?
posted by jessamyn at 1:05 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

The theme itself? No, I use Jetpack, so the Publicize function shares to wherever someone wants (Twitter, FB, Pinterest, Pocket, LinkedIn) etc. I have it set, though, so it only automatically sends to Twitter and LinkedIn right now, and do anything else manually to prevent weirdness. It is picking an "attached" image (item #2 under Images in Publicize) but it's not picking anything predictably.

And it's definitely not picking anything by any pattern I can detect. It's not the first image I add. It's not the last image I add. It has nothing to do with sizes, as I tend to try to make all images one of two or three heights, depending on the situation. I'm flummoxed as to how/why it picks things.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 1:20 PM on November 20, 2017

When you're on an Edit Post page is there a Featured Image widget in the right sidebar? If not, can you activate it using the Screen Options tab at the header?
posted by humboldt32 at 2:00 PM on November 20, 2017

You can try this.

The reason your theme didn't support it is featured images were not released until about 2010.
posted by travis08 at 2:13 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

humboldt32, nope, there's no Featured Image widget, and no, it's not an option under Screen Options. Hence the kerfuffle.

travis08, he created my theme in early 2013, so I don't know that that's it. And thanks, I'll try that plug-in; can you verify that it works to set a featured image post-by-post? I'll never want to "bulk manage" my images -- just be able to set a featured image when I create a post. Off to try it!
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 3:07 PM on November 20, 2017

Nope. Once installed, I get: "The current theme does not support featured images. Anyway you can use this plugin. The effects are stored and will be visible in a theme which supports featured images." (Sorry, it's hard not to thread-sit for tech-y Asks!) Thanks, though.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 3:12 PM on November 20, 2017

Yoast SEO gives you support for adding an open graph image to the post (or it did a month ago). Or you can search “open graph” in the WordPress plugin repo (or go to Plugins -> Add New in your WordPress dashboard and search “open graph”) and install a plugin that will let you do this on a post by post basis.
posted by annathea at 3:55 PM on November 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

So what theme is activated, and is it a child theme? What's the last modified date on those files in /wp-content/themes?
posted by humboldt32 at 5:05 PM on November 20, 2017


Annathea, your post prompted me to go back and re-read the fairly incomprehensible open graph plugin descriptions, trying, as a non-developer, to parse what they were saying. So, I Googled "easiest open graph plugin wordpress," set it to show me only posts from the last year, and got this post from WPLift, the first post I'd found (of dozens I'd read today) that said how to accomplish this with All-In-One SEO, which already have installed. There was no change at first, but I used the Facebook Debugger to re-scrape my post, and the third time was the charm!

humboldt32, the theme was custom designed, so the name is unique to me. (Imagine it's The Wrong Kind of Cheese theme.)

Thank you all. You've helped me eliminate a long-time stressor! Wheeeeee!
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 6:20 PM on November 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

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