Category: Web Design

The WordPress Customizer Sucks

I tried, really tried. I really wanted to like it. I even promoted it. The truth, though, is that the WordPress Customizer sucks. I know I’m being harsh but that is the truth. It has almost no value for a developer or designer and has minimal value for users.  I’m writing this because I just got done reading the article “Initial Customizer Survey Results Reveal Majority of Respondents Don’t Use It” on WPTavern and had an “it’s-not-me-it’s-you” moment.  I’ll tell you why regular users and DIYers have no real use for it.

The WordPress Customizer Sucks for regular users

If you took the steps to learn a bit of WP and bought yourself a theme, learned it and created a site for yourself you have absolutely no use for the Customizer.  Any theme that can call itself a theme has fields which you can customize it in. The Customizer (as is) is not open to just any kind of customization. This forces the developer to split the customizable elements of his design into ones that can be part of the Customizer and ones that cannot and have to be placed somewhere else. Why would a theme developer, who cares about the user experience of his customers, force the user to sift through (more then they already do!) the dashboard trying to figure out what controls what!  One day, when all components of a theme can be edited in the Customizer then we can start talking about a useful tool. But from the moment I have a theme which lets me edit the theme title and paragraphs in its own editor, why would I go to the Customizer to do that?

The WordPress Customizer Sucks even more for professionals

Besides the fact the we are being pressured to adapt our themes to having (certain) parts adapted to the Customizer, we have been introduced with many features that we don’t use.  When I first heard about being able to tinker with CSS and see results live in the Customizer  I was pretty excited.  The experience has been underwhelming to say the least.  Maybe for a quick mindless edit it is fine, but it pales in comparison to the FF, Chrome or Edge inspectors.  For example, editing in FF, with all its features, is worth the “extra effort” of copy-pasting code into your styles.css, as opposed to the ‘ease’ of typing the css into the Customizer. Which, when you think about it, the inspector already shows you the CSS which you can play around with. With the Customizer you end up going to one of the above browsers to see what the damn classes and ids you want to change have attributed to them.

I love WordPress and I want to have a great a great Customizer, but it looks like I might have to wait a while for that to happen.

 

Add Bootstrap to your WordPress site

So, you want to add a bit of Bootstrap to your WordPress site and have heard about different ways to do it.  The Bootstrap site and most tutorials tell you simply throw it in the <head> tags and you are set. For a static page that works fine but WordPress has its own way of doing things.  And although you can just add something like this inside the <head> tags:

It is better the use the WordPress functionality known as enqueuing. Bottom line is that there will be <script> and <link> tags added to your <head> section, but by using enqueue, you’ll allow WordPress to ‘know’ all the scripts that are being used and to sort them out in the right order.  If in the future you might want to add more scripts (which you probably will), it’ll be apparent that script order is very important and enqueuing will help that out.  When you enqueue scripts they are added by the wp_head() and wp_footer() functions into the <head> and <footer> sections of the page respectively.

Now to the point of this post (if you want to read all about enqueuing scripts checkout this and this and this) which is how to enqueue.  You have two choices (there are others but keeping it simple):

Download Bootstrap CSS and Bootstrap JS

Download both of them from the Bootstrap Site. A common practice is to install the CSS in a folder you name ‘css’ and the JavaScript in a folder named ‘js’ but it doesn’t matter what you name them as long as get the path to each correct in the next step. Once you have that ready, open up the functions.php file and paste this snippet in there.

Use the Bootstrap Content Delivery Network (CDN)

Get the CDN link from the Bootstrap Site. Look for where it says Bootstrap CDN and copy the urls, open your functions.php file and paste them into the code below.  .

This is how you properly add Bootstrap to your WordPress site, know go and learn Bootstrap!

No More Popups on Mobile Devices

Google, our (benevolent?) overlord, has decided to punish popups on mobile devices.  This will start in January 2017.  We have enough time to set our media queries or for the popup plugin designers to set an on off switch on the popup depending on screen size.  Personally, I am glad to see them go on small devices, and even wish for a better way to curb their rampant use on all devices.  However, I don’t like how Google has become the internet policeman or rather judge, jury and executioner of things.  Sooner or later it will backfire and bite Google in the ass.

So, really, no more popups?

Barring the staging of mass demonstrations outside Google offices, there are some ways to accomplish what your popups accomplish on a small screen and not suffer for it.  Google will not punish these three cases:

1. Your cookie police statement

2. An age verification check for you owners of naughty sites

3. A small banner “that uses a reasonable amount of screen space”.  You can see the image below, taken from Google’s site that a form to collect emails could theoretically be used there.

Popups on Mobile Devices

I plan to use that space for my mailing forms.  If I hear of any changes before the new year, I’ll be posting updates here.

If you are interested you can read Google’s announcement here.

 

WordPress – How to Set the Homepage

When you first create a WordPress site your homepage will display your latest posts.  Unless you will use your site only as a blogging platform you most likely will want a static homepage.  Here I will show you how to set the homepage to whatever you like.

Step 1 – Create two pages

Go to Pages –> Add New and make two pages.  You can name them as you like but for this example name one “Home” and the other “Blog”.  As the names imply, you will use “Home” as your static homepage and “Blog” will hold your posts.  NOTE: Even if you will not include a blog on your site, WordPress still needs a location to index posts, so you need to create this page.

Step 2 – Set the homepage

Go to Settings –> Reading

Set “Front Page Displays” to “A static page” and set the field “Front Page” to “Home” and “posts Page” to “Blog”.  Click on “Save Changes and you are done.

Set the Homepage

Step 3 – Permalinks

Once you have set the homepage go to Settings –> Permalinks and under the common settings select “Post Name”.  This will make your page cleaner looking your homepage address will appear as http://www.example.com and not http://www.example.com/?p=342.  It looks better, it is easier to remember and is also search engine friendly.

Step 4 – Add your homepage to the menu

Go to Appearances –> Menu.  If you don’t already have a menu, create a new one by clicking on “create new menu”.  Give it name and save it.

On the left of the screen you will notice “Pages” option, select “View All” and look for the page (or pages if you want to include the blog) that you created earlier. Select it and click “add to menu”.  One they have been added you can drag and drop and arrange the menu as you like.  Normally you set the homepage as the first menu item but that is up to you.  Click “Save Menu” and view your website.

Now we learned how to set the homepage in WordPress and the fun begins.  We can customize the front page and the choices are limitless from now on.

FURTHER READING

https://codex.wordpress.org/Creating_a_Static_Front_Page

 

 

 

 

 

Loop through specific pages in WordPress

Sometimes you might want specific pages to be displayed on your site. If you want to display specific posts you can place them into the same category and loop though them by cat.  However, you can’t do that with pages.  In order to solve that, this is what you have to do if you want to loop through specific pages:

Copy this code where you would like to use it and in the assignment of variable $args modify the array with the IDs of the pages you want to use. In case you don’t know how to find your page ID, simply open up the editor for the Page you want.  In the URL area you will see the page number mentioned in the http string.  It will look something like this: ‘post=74’. That is your page ID number.  Check out this guide for a visual on how to do this.

Next, add your own content inside the loop. Don’t forget to close out your php tags if your content will include html. For example:

That’s it really.  Here is an example of the code of a loop through specific pages that i created to make a mosaic of images that link to specific pages.

Enjoy, and if you have any questions, leave them in the comments below.

 

Add new email accounts in the Cpanel

Clients often ask me how to add new email accounts in the Cpanel.  We offer unlimited accounts and they deserve to have them!  Creating them is easy but with this quick guide it will be easier and you will probably never have to use it again after creating your first account.  The steps are as follows:

Add new email accounts in the Cpanel

1. Login to your cpanel.  You should have kept the login info somewhere safe when you subscribed, but if you didn’t, you can most likely find it in the introduction email we (or your current provider) sent you when you first subscribed to the hosting package.  The URL is http://www.YOUR_WEBSITE_NAME/cpanel ( For example http://www.barcelona-apartments.com/cpanel ).
Once you are in the cpanel click on Email Accounts.

Add-new-email-accounts-in-the-Cpanel

 

2. Enter the email username.
Add-new-email-accounts-in-the-Cpanel2

3. Use the password generator to create a secure password. Keep the new password in a safe place. Also set the Mailbox Quota to something according the amount of space you have in your contract. For example if you have 1GB of space contract don’t give your email account more than 200MB. If you are the one managing the site and the email address you dont have to worry about this setting, but you will have to make sure to clean out your inbox every now and then because inbox space counts as much as your website space when determining how much of your allocated storage space is being used.

Add-new-email-accounts-in-the-Cpanel3

4. Your new account should now appear below and you are ready to use it. From this new area you can edit or delete this email account.
Add new email accounts in the Cpanel

Hope this guide has been helpful and if you are interested in hearing about our design or hosting services or need any clarification on how to add new email accounts in the Cpanel, contact us here at Winzyweb today!

Web Design Podcasts

Do you ever wish there was more time in your day to read about web design and development? Do you find that when you are taking a break from your work you are heading to the Codex instead of Facebook? If yes, you are in luck. Podcasts have gone through a resurgence these past years and there are some great web design podcasts out there and many are specialized WordPress podcasts, which is even better if you are a fan like I am.

I present these great podcasts that will inspire and motivate you.  Download them, listen to them in your car, on the metro or listen to them on your next run.

 

MATT REPORT

Matt ReportThe Matt Report is hosted by Matt Medeiros and he provides a lot of insight into the workings of the designer and development business.  He tackles subjects suck as the viability of a theme development company and how to manage low budget projects vs high budget projects.  One of my go-to web design podcasts.

Website // Twitter // iTunes

 

THE WORDPRESS CHICK PODCAST

The WordPress Chick Kim Doyal does not deal with all the nerdy stuff, as she says.  She is about everything else: content management, strategy, marketing etc.  All the stuff I don’t like to deal with but I listen to her because she really breaks it all down into common speech.  In addition, she also gets you into thinking about how you can help your business. Good stuff!

Website // Twitter // iTunes

 

YOUR WEBSITE ENGINEER

Your Website EngineerYou can set your clock to Your Website Engineer by Dustin Hartzler.  Podcasts come out every week featuring the latest WordPress news, the presentation of a recommended plugin, followed by succinct information on some aspect of WordPress.  It could be measures to take to increase security or even fun pieces of code to add to your site.  Episodes are short and nutritious.

Website // Twitter // iTunes

 

WORDPRESS TAVERN

WP Tavern Jeff Chandler and Marcus Couch have a great podcast with very interesting guests.  They are true to the title of their podcast as the atmosphere is very tavernesque with a relaxed flow to the conversation.  You can count on them putting out an episode weekly, I rarely miss one.

Website // Twitter // iTunes

 

 

THE WEB AHEAD

Jen Simmons engages in great conversations with legends of design and development.  The web is getting more and more complex and the this podcast you will get to hear discussions that dissect every aspect of the web .

Website // Twitter

 

 What are your favorite web design podcasts?

Send me a message if you would like me to add them to the list.

WordPress Security – 9 Steps You Should Take

You hear about hacking, phishing, mining and brute force attacks and wonder about WordPress security. You might also wonder if you really should be worried about it. After all, why would someone want to target the website of the coffee shop you just opened in your town? In a way, you would be right in thinking that. Most likely no one is directly trying to harm you. However, these attacks are automated and hackers release scripts which randomly attack many sites till they find one that is vulnerable.  Once successful, they either hijack the site and ask for ransom, add malicious scripts or just plain vandalize it.  Here you can read a brief article about why your small business website would be of interest to a hacker.  Bottom line is that it is not personal (usually!) but it is an issue to be concerned about.  There is no need to panic, just play it safe.

When I design a website or provide hosting services I take every precaution to make sure that my clients’ sites are protected.  However, security is an ongoing concern and once the site is in your hands there are a few things to be aware of.

9 WordPress Security Steps

1. Reliable Hosting

Having a hosting provider that is reliable is very important.  Your website might be secure but if your hosting provider is not, it almost doesn’t matter what you do.  Unless you like dabbling with server software or have staff that dedicate time for an unmanaged server  the best solution is Managed Hosting on a VPS (Virtual Private Server).  Such a platform does the mundane tasks for you.  What you should look for in a managed hosting platform is:

  • Automated Updates
  • Backups (we get into that soon)
  • Scanning

Managed hosting on a VPS is more expensive than shared hosting and is not for everyone.  If you have a simple landing page and a generally light website you can make do with shared hosting. Beware of cheap 1$/month free-unlimited storage/bandwidth hosting services.  They deal in bulk and overload their servers and what they save in costs they sacrifice in security and speed and general quality of service.  Stick with a company you can trust, there are many good providers out there.   We host over 250 sites and know every client by name.  Contact us and we’ll send you tips on server management along with deals on our hosting services.

2. Backup

The lazy man’s security! Who cares about security if you have a fresh copy stashed away? Well, that’s the basic idea. If you have a recent backup you can revert your site to its previous state.  Obviously, it doesn’t mean you should not keep the site secure in general, but it is a final safety net.  We keep weekly backups of all our hosted sites on the amazon cloud in addition to the routine backups performed by our servers.  This is enough, but you should also keep local backups of your site as well, even daily if you produce a lot of content.  You will sleep better knowing you have your own backup in addition to the one’s your provider keeps.  Backup Buddy is f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c backup plugin.

3. Secure your admin account

Obviously you need a complicated password, but your username should not be very obvious either. Do not use admin, administrator, your site’s name, or your name as your login.  In addition, your user ID number shouldn’t be 1. In order to do that first go to Users –>All Users and click the number where your posts are.

wordpress security

In the new window, you can see your user ID number in the browser address bar.

wordpress security

So, if your username not a safe one and/or your user ID is 1. Take these 2 steps

    1. Create a new User with a proper name such as “badasspizzaman” or anything you like and will remember. Give this user ADMIN rights
    2. Delete the old user.  (You will be asked if you want to transfer all the posts the old user had to the new one – say yes!)
    3. Use a secure password.  WordPress security (any security actually) depends on that.  The password WordPress suggests might seem like a drag but use it anyway (or create one just as complex).
    4. WordPress security is not that difficult.

4. If you work on your site in public areas create an Editor account

If you like to sit in cafes and work on your site, write articles etc, create an Editor account for yourself.  The WiFi (or wee-fee as they call it here in Spain) in those places is very insecure. This way you can create and edit posts but have no access to the root of your website. This way if you are hacked the hacker only has limited damage he can cause.

5. Always keep WordPress and your plugins updated.

No need to say much about this except that these updates are often made in response to vulnerabilities or actual attacks, and often plug holes in the website’s wall of defense. Always, always backup your site before updating anything.

6. Do not download free things

That is not exactly true, there are many many great free plugins and themes – it is one of the things that makes WordPress so amazing.  You have to be careful, though, from where you get these plugins.  Plugins and themes from the WordPress repository are usually fine.  A good indicator is the amount of people who have downloaded the plugin and the reviews it has gotten.  And do not download anything from untrustworthy sites.  Themes from a torrent site, for example, are almost guaranteed to carry malicious code in them. Be careful. the themecheck website scans themes and checks for their safety as well as the Theme Check plugin.

7. Delete things you are not using

Do not simply deactivate unused plugins and themes, delete them.  I was participating in a discussion about WordPress security when someone asked if “unused plugins are a security risk?” well, they actually are not more or less of a risk than a plugin that is being used.  Every plugin or theme might have a vulnerability, so by limiting ourselves to only having the ones we need on our system we also reduce the change of something happening.  Also, and I speak for myself as well, most people don’t tend to update themes and plugins that are not in use.

8. Protect yourself locally

If someone can hack into your mac or pc then they can access your site site as well.  This is an obvious precaution but make sure you have a current antivirus software and a firewall.

9. Get a security plugin

Unless you want to spend your time learning about htaccess files, how to edit your website’s code to limit login attempts, ban IPs, I strongly recommend a security plugin.  I use one, almost every professional developer or webmaster has a plugin handling WordPress security for him.  There are a few great free ones out there, and I always install ithemes Security on all my client’s sites.  I install the free one but recommend the pro version.  The benefit of iThemes Security if huge. When you get your first reports of various attacks on your site that were blocked (by the way, almost all of them are attempts to login with the username ‘admin’ ) you will see how powerful this plugin is.

These steps in WordPress security will definitely make your site safer and will make it much more difficult to be compromised so you can worry less about security and more on generating business or creating content.

Is it time to redesign my website? (part 2)

The not so obvious. The more obvious reasons are found in part 1. While answering the question “Is it time for a website redesign?” last week, I covered a few of the obvious reasons for doing so.  This week I present a few more reasons that one could easily overlook or just not know about.

Your website is not your control center.

The center of your operations should be your web page even if you spend 99% for your time on Facebook.  Social media site regulations change and you can find yourself with content that is not accessible to your target audience or even removed.  You don’t own it.  Your website, on the other hand, is yours, you can claim everything on it.  The best way to handle communication on multiple platforms is to think of your website as the headquarters and have everything emit from it.  Write a blog post and have it forwarded to social media.  Don’t waste time reposting things across many platforms.  Build your own archive, it will enhance your presence, build credibility and will reduce the headache of keeping track of what you do where.

website redesignYou don’t have a landing page

Websites are, in many ways, what posters and billboards once were.  You could have the best restaurant in town but if you make your own flyers in crayon, you probably won’t get many diners.  What people see when they first open you website is what will determine if they will stick around.  Take the viewer by the hand and have them do something when they open your site.  Get them to watch a video, sign up for a newsletter, give them access to your eshop.

You know your site like the back of your hand

But your clients don’t.  Put yourself in the eyes of your client, or better yet, have someone who hasn’t seen your website open it in front of you.  What do they do first? Are they going where you want them to go? If they are asking you questions such as “where do I go now?” or “where is X section?” you know that you have some website redesign work to do.

Your business has changed

You opened a pet shop four years ago, along with a website.  As time passed you found selling dog food in bulk was most profitable and shifted your focus. However, your website hasn’t changed.  It is time to redesign the website and change direction.  Start thinking of writing dog nutrition articles and adapt your website to your current business model.

Your neighbor has a cooler car than you

If you notice that most of your competitors have updated sites, you have to do the same.  Visit their site, is the experience better than on yours? Are you being pushed down in search rankings by your competitors because they have better SEO?  Time to make some changes.

So, website redesign?

Take into consideration all these factors and determine for yourself if a website redesign is in order.  Of course, here at Winzyweb we can inspect your website and make recommendations with no obligation on your part.  Contact us and we’ll get back to you with ideas to make your site look great.

 

Are you ready for a new website?

Yes, let's start!