Here are some after-the-fact notes from our meetup Q & A session.
Q: Where do you host your WordPress Multi-site installation?
Sallie: I use WPWebHost for a Multi-site installation with about a dozen sub-sites, none of which get a ton of traffic. Cost for the plan I’m on (an older plan which isn’t offered anymore) is $152 per year, including CDN. It’s a shared host but a server with fewer customers. They’re based in Singapore, which is a drawback, but e-mail service is quick to respond and helpful, even if their English isn’t perfect. If you need something like a php.ini memory upgrade, you’ll get it.
Another possibility is pSek’s WPMU hosting, starting at $15/month.
Customizing WordPress Search
Q: Is there a tool to search by custom fields?
You could try the Query Multiple Taxonomies widget, which lets you create taxonomy drill-down widgets to help people find items that are in several taxonomies at once. There’s also a Custom Field List Widget plugin (no personal experience of that).
Q: Is there a way to make background images responsive?
There are two great articles about this by Chris Coyier. The first is How To: Resizeable Background Image from 2008, and the second is Perfect Full-Page Background Image from 2010. (Thanks to Anca for those references.) To make regular images responsive, see Making WordPress Images Responsive on the Blissful Interfaces blog.
Cost of WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com
Q: If I switch to WordPress.org (self-hosted WordPress), how much will that cost?
About $7/month for shared hosting and about $10/year for a domain name. The WordPress software itself is free. Most web hosts will install it for you (possibly with dozens of themes and plugins you don’t want) or you can download it from WordPress.org.
WordPress as a Newsletter
Q: Does anyone know of a plugin or e-mail service that will exactly duplicate your WordPress theme in a newsletter?
Nope. There are ways to create similar designs with tools like MailChimp, aWeber, Constant Contact, etc, but none simply imports your theme design, sidebars and all. Most of the meetup members thought the client was a bit daffy for wanting this, since almost nobody sends newsletters that exactly duplicate websites. The general conclusion was that the most workable thing to do would be design the e-mail template and then build the WP site to match. Not an enviable task.
Recommendation for a WP newsletter plugin: Wysijia Newsletters