Web Design Trends WordPress Users Need To Know

published on April 22, 2014

WordPress is the most popular content management system existing today fetching 21.8% of the world’s total internet usage and capturing 60.3% of the market share as per W3tech’s latest market report. It comes as no surprise that the majority of the general web design trends predicted for 2014 are already common features available and/or integrated in most if not all WordPress themes being sold in the marketplace today. It makes you wonder whether WordPress is only a trend follower or it is actually THE trend setter to watch.

WordPress core developers, theme and plugin developers and authors, and the WordPress community in general are some of the most passionate people on the planet. With only ten years tucked into its belt, WordPress has emerged as one the most dynamic and cutting edge platforms today primarily because of the commitment of its community.

In a recent business article on eCommerce design trends for 2014, it lists trends that WordPress users already consider as familiar features. The trend list includes:

  • flat design
  • responsive design
  • less sliders
  • more user friendly navigation
  • more creative use of web fonts

These trends have actually appeared in most WordPress themes as common features in the last year or so. Even Forbes magazine, lists similar web design trends in an article that came out early this year. Although Forbes also adds “storytelling design” characterized by concise, compelling copy coupled with strong imagery as one of the significant web trends that will emerge in 2014. Guess what? A wonderful new WordPress plugin – Aesop Story Engine – in relation to the “storytelling” trend has already been generating a lot of interest lately.

For those who have been following the development path of the latest WordPress version that is to be released (April 16), there are several new features in WordPress 3.9 that could set off new “trends” in the web design world. WordPress 3.9 emphasizes more user friendly features and improved multimedia handling capabilities. A few of these significant features that are worth noting are listed below:

  • New features like live widget previews
  • a new theme installer
  • UI refinements when editing images and when working with media in the editor including the return of some of the advanced display settings for images.
  • audio and video playlists
  • new gallery support
  • The formatting function that turns straight quotes into smart quotes (among other things) underwent some changes to drastically speed it up.

More detailed features can be viewed on the WordPress core development website.

Having said all that, it is interesting to note that the thrust towards being more multimedia savvy while at the same time being more and more user friendly could be a significant WordPress feature that could set off a general web design trend. With WordPress gaining more and more influence over the whole internet population, it is possible that whatever developers, coders, designers, authors, etc. come up with to improve WordPress products and services could eventually be the standard that the web design community will use.

Who knows what WordPress will be like in the next 10 years. The innovations succeeding WordPress iterations will bring and the vast influence it will have in relation to the entire Internet population, mobile, tablet or what not together with the hardcore commitment of its core community will definitely create an impact on the way the world wide web looks and functions. Whatever it is, anything that goes on in WordPress is definitely going to be exciting and worth watching.


Three Things To Remember When Designing A Website

published on April 21, 2014

The state of your website can make your business or destroy it. Whether an ecommerce site, a business blog, or an informational site, it must have one central message that aligns with your marketing communication. With all of the bells and whistles available to Web designers, it is easy to lose the purpose of the site behind cute plugins and animated GIFs. Web design is pretty straight forward. Either the users click on your information or they do not. They either engage or they don’t. Functionality and easy navigation make a successful website, but those aren’t the only factors designers have to keep in mind:

Purpose

Images are a good way to quickly share a marketing idea while creating a visually appealing environment. Stock photos and footage allow a designer to use high quality, royalty-free content to boost user engagement and interest in your site. The more value a user sees on the site, the longer they stay. The longer on the site, the greater the possibility of the user retaining your marketing message.

Function

The IRS as an organization may have questionable effectiveness but the site’s webmaster definitely deserves kudos. Available in six languages with several thousand forms and countless financial calculators, the site has everything users would need and is indexed in a way that makes it all easily accessible.

If a person cannot quickly find what they are looking for, your site is not functional. During the design phase, keep the users’ technological strengths and challenges in mind. Some of your customers will be searching using a Windows-based PC while others will be on a mobile iOS device. Some of them will be 20-somethings who are comfortable with navigating even the most poorly designed sites while others might be less savvy and grateful for your simple layout.

Devices

Designing a website requires a look into the past and a prediction of the future. Technology is not stagnant and it does not penetrate the market all at once. A designer must consider user devices; it could be an older PC, the latest tablet, or a future system not yet developed. To do this, you need to go with a one-size-fits-all design or several different sites for each of the technological applications. If you have a robust site with ecommerce components, it may be best to have parallel sites for your desktop clients and your mobile device users. An educational site or a blog can be one site that has been optimized for different formats. A great website always keeps the user in mind when being designed.


15 WordPress User Errors That Make You Look Silly via Copyblogger

published on April 18, 2014

This infographic courtesy of Copyblogger is too good not to share. Whether you are a veteran blogger or just a beginner, we all make mistakes. The great news is that you don’t have to make the same mistakes anymore. Check out the errors below and see if you are guilty of any of them. We are curious to know your scores, so don’t be scared to share. Have fun!

15 WordPress User Errors That Make You Look Silly [Infographic]

Like this infographic? Get more WordPress publishing content from Copyblogger.


Heartbleed Could Affect Your WordPress Site

published on April 16, 2014

A critical OpenSSL vulnerability nicknamed “Heartbleed” was discovered recently and you need to know whether your information could be impacted. What is Heartbleed anyway?

What is Heartbleed

The Heartbleed Bug is a serious vulnerability in the popular OpenSSL cryptographic software library. This weakness allows stealing the information protected, under normal conditions, by the SSL/TLS encryption used to secure the Internet. SSL/TLS provides communication security and privacy over the Internet for applications such as web, email, instant messaging (IM) and some virtual private networks (VPNs). (source – Heartbleed.com)

Basic Things You Should Know About Heartbleed and OpenSSL

  • The Heartbleed bug allows anyone on the Internet to read the memory of the systems protected by the vulnerable versions of the OpenSSL software.
  • OpenSSL is a library that provides cryptographic functionality to applications such as secure web servers. Be sure to read the documentation of the application you want to use. The INSTALL file explains how to install this library. OpenSSL is based on the SSLeay library developed by Eric A. Young and Tim J. Hudson and the OpenSSL toolkit is licensed under an Apache-style licence which basically means that you are free to get and use it for commercial and non-commercial purposes.
  • The Heartbleed bug compromises the secret keys used to identify the service providers and to encrypt the traffic, the names and passwords of the users and the actual content.
  • The Heartbleed bug allows attackers to eavesdrop on communications, steal data directly from the services and users and to impersonate services and users.
  • The Heartbleed bug is not a design flaw in SSL/TLS protocol specification. It is an implementation problem, i.e. programming mistake in popular OpenSSL library that provides cryptographic services such as SSL/TLS to the applications and services.

Should You Be Concerned?

Encryption is the process of encoding messages or information in such a way that only authorized parties can read it. Encryption doesn’t prevent hacking but it reduces the likelihood that the hacker will be able to read the data that is encrypted. Encryption is used to protect secrets that may harm your privacy or security if they leak. This bug has compromised secrets in four categories:

  • The Heartbleed bug leaked primary key material – the crown jewels – the encryption keys themselves. Leaked secret keys allows the attacker to decrypt any past and future traffic to the protected services and to impersonate the service at will.
  • The Heartbleed bug leaked secondary key material – the user credentials (user names and passwords) used in the vulnerable services.
  • The Heartbleed bug leaked protected content – actual content like personal or financial details, private communication such as emails or instant messages, documents or anything seen worth protecting by encryption handled by the vulnerable services
  • The Heartbleed bug leaked collateral – Leaked collateral are other details that have been exposed to the attacker in the leaked memory content. These may contain technical details such as memory addresses and security measures such as canaries used to protect against overflow attacks. These have only contemporary value and will lose their value to the attacker when OpenSSL has been upgraded to a fixed version.

OpenSSL is the most popular open source cryptographic library and TLS (transport layer security) implementation used to encrypt traffic on the Internet. You may be directly or indirectly affected if your popular social site, your company’s site, commerce site, hobby site, site you install software from or even sites run by your government might be using vulnerable OpenSSL.

Users of OpenSSL versions 1.0.1 through 1.0.1f with the heartbeat extension enabled are affected. OpenSSL 1.0.1 through 1.0.1f (inclusive) are vulnerable

OpenSSL version 1.0.1g addresses the vulnerability, as well as OpenSSL instances compiled without the heartbeat extension.

What You Can Do

  • If you are not using OpenSSL on your servers (or are not hosted on one of our Shared hosting plans), you are not affected.
  • If you do use OpenSSL, identify which servers are running OpenSSL (versions 1.0.1 through 1.0.1f are affected).
  • Update to the latest patched version of the software (1.0.1g), or recompile OpenSSL without the heartbeat extension, if applicable.
  • Reissue any SSL certificates on affected web servers after moving to a patched version of OpenSSL.
  • Test your SSL installations. You can also test your site here: http://filippo.io/Heartbleed/
  • Revoke any certificates that were replaced. Please revoke AFTER the reissue has been completed and you have successfully installed it on your web server.
  • Consider resetting end-user passwords that may have been visible in a compromised server memory.

Helpful Resources regarding Heartbleed

It is wise to take all the necessary precautions but without allowing panic to come in. Learn all you can and act accordingly.


Social Tools For Better Blogging

published on April 8, 2014

Appealing to today’s readers means harnessing the power of social media. According to ShareThis, the amount of shared digital content increased ninefold from 2006 to 2011 globally, and is expected to grow exponentially. Use social media tools to your advantage and bring in the right readers at the right time.

Monitoring Your Online Presence

Free monitoring tools and specialized premium tools can help you understand and optimize your social media presence. A service like Brandwatch tracks mentions and conversations about your brand and competitors. Starting at $800/month, the service isn’t cheap, but the information can be used to improve customer service and marketing, like responding to an upset customer or discovering conversion opportunities.

If you’re a blogger, a free tool like Social Mention provides useful data like top keywords and hashtags found in queries. Furthermore, Tagboard tracks specific hashtags across the social networks and offers a basic account for individuals.

Attracting Subscribers, Followers and Fans

High quality, engaging content will always be the most effective and authentic method of earning traffic. If you are stuck for ideas, collaborate on copy and don’t just post for the sake of posting.

Sometimes great content is timely content. Comment and write about newsworthy topics and issues that matter to readers. Known as newsjacking for marketers, it’s just as effective for publishers. Find out what matters to your readers in the simplest of fashions — just ask. Polls and surveys will indicate what your audience looks like and how they act. Conversations through social media and comments will solidify authority on the given topic. For an ever deeper look, install Google analytics and an analytics service like Kissmetrics. Starting at $150/month, the service will track factors like:

  • Which traffic source or campaign people came from.
  • How many times they used a specific feature.
  • Which subscription plan they’re on or the last product category they purchased from.

Manage Your Social Platforms

Impeccable content and a proud online presence will do nothing if no one sees it. Social media management has turned into a career field and is big business for digital companies. Firms like Sprout Social and Hootsuite offer many of the tracking capabilities of other services but also offer automated posting and analysis. This is crucial for enterprise accounts, like payroll software company Intuit, that are active on social platforms like Twitter, Facebook and even YouTube.

Just as brands diversify their social sharing, bloggers should share their content across all platforms. Standards should include Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Other sites, like Pinterest, StumbleUpon and Reddit, should also be utilized often. Hootsuite automates five accounts for free and has an app directory for adding networks. However, bloggers should be careful of too much automation. The power of social is lost if you fail to engage with an interested reader in a timely fashion.

Get Mo-blog-ile

According to Kissmetrics, 51 percent of website visitors are more likely to do business with a company that has a mobile site. Just as businesses can expect more and more mobile visitors, bloggers also need to be prepared for a smartphone and tablet audience. A slow loading mobile blog can even be penalized by Google. The first step is to test your mobile website for compatibility. Google’s How to Go Mo offers multi-screen testing and analysis. Issues like too much scrolling, image sizing and load speed can all be discovered with proper testing. If you do notice issues, mobile website creation services like Dudamobile can help. A simpler solution is to use the plugin WPTouch for a mobile-friendly theme.


Best Contact Form Plugins That Help Deliver The Message

published on April 4, 2014

The Contact Us page is one of the most important pages on your website. Users and visitors need to know that they have an opportunity to contact you directly and in a more private setting. Here are some of the best Contact Form plugins you can add to your website to help make sure communications between you and your audience get delivered on time.

Contact Form 7 plugin

Contact Form 7 is one of the most popular contact forms around. With over 16 million downloads, this free plugin can manage multiple contact forms,the form and the mail contents is customizable with simple markup, and it supports Ajax-powered submitting, CAPTCHA, Akismet spam filtering etc.

Gravity Forms

Gravity Forms is a premium contact form plugin that gives you the flexibility and ease of creating forms that are responsive to the needs and goals of your website. This plugin features: a built in Form Builder that allows you to build and design WordPress forms with options to define specific fields in your forms and easily embed them into your website. You can create multi page forms, define and configure form settings, limit the number of forms that can be created, create advanced forms with specific filters and parameters, set a start and end date to the validity of the forms, create order forms, and even build forms that create WordPress posts on your site.

Jetpack Contact Form

Jetpack is a powerful plugin once available only to WordPress.com users but can now be taken advantage of by self-hosted WordPress sites using the cloud power of WordPress.com. Jetpack includes with it a simple and easy to use Contact Form builder using the familiar WordPress interface. You can customize the contact form, add, edit, and reorder the form fields, receive an email notification for each contact form response, and for Akismet users you can have every form submission be checked for spam.

Ninja Kick Sidebar Contact Form Premium Plugin

Ninja Kick Sidebar Contact Form Plugin adds a WordPress contact form with content push animation effect and clean design on every page of your site. The Contact Form is responsive to screen size changes and works well on mobile devices and reacts to swipe gestures. The plugin uses modern CSS3 transitions with a fallback to older JS animations if browser lacks support. Key features include: User-friendly Settings page, option to hide label and trigger form opening from any element on page (menu button, link, image), sleek fly-out animation effect, client-side form validation and form AJAX submission, always-visible floating contact button, and human test option to prevent spam.

Contact Form Clean and Simple

Contact Form Clean and Simple is a straightforward, clean and simple AJAX contact form with Google reCAPTCHA, Twitter Bootstrap markup and Akismet spam filtering. A standard set of input boxes are provided: Email Address, Name, Message and a big ‘Send Message’ button. All input entered by the user is then stripped back – to minimize the likelihood of any malicious user’s attempt to inject a script into your website. If the Akismet plugin is activated all form data will be scanned for spam. reCAPTCHA can also be activated to avoid your form being abused by bots.

WP-CRM – Customer Relations Management for WordPress

WP-CRM Plugin for WordPress is intended to significantly improve user management, easily create contact forms, and keep track of incoming shortcode form messages. This plugin allows you to organize your users using custom attributes, find them using filters, and keep track of correspondence. The premium version allows you to to send newsletters to users, or user groups and also to synchronize email management. You can create your own forms with custom data fields of your choice, send messages, collect all kinds of custom data which can be filtered for easy contact analysis. These forms can also create users with the user role you want to assign


Moving to WordPress?

published on April 2, 2014

Many website owners start off as casual bloggers, typically on a free platform, and usually not expecting any life-changing thing to happen to their websites. However, life in cyber space is full of surprises and no one can really predict which site will be the next big thing. Some, are fortunate enough to find their match audience and experience reasonable success. This could mean that the free platform might not be enough to contain and sustain the increased volume of traffic and content. Migrating to a more robust and dynamic platform could be the solution.

But what about all the historical content that’s been created? Or what about a test or a private staging site you use for you or a client? If you are moving from a free platform, another WordPress site or any other platform and migrating to a self-hosted WordPresswebsite, here are some tools to help you make the transition as less hairy as possible.

All-in-One WP Migration

All-in-One WP Migration allows you to export your database, media files, plugins, and themes. You can apply unlimited find and replace operations on your database and the plugin will also fix any serialization problems that occur during find/replace operations. It is also the first plugin to offer true mobile experience on WordPress versions 3.3 and up. Features include: multisite compatible, works on Windows OS and IIS.

WP Migrate DB

WP Migrate DB exports your database as a MySQL data dump (much like phpMyAdmin), does a find and replace on URLs and file paths, then allows you to save it to your computer. It is perfect for developers who need to update their local install with fresh data from the production site, or copy their locally developed site to a staging or production server. It also takes into account serialized data (both arrays and objects) and updates the string length values. You can select the tables you want to migrate, pull production db down and replace local db, push local db up and replace production / staging db, enjoy unlimited find & replaces (free is limited to 2), Multisite support, Video walk throughs and how-tos.

WordPress Duplicator

WordPress Duplicator gives WordPress administrators the ability to migrate, copy or clone a site from one location to another. The plugin also serves as a simple backup utility. The Duplicator supports both serialized and base64 serialized string replacement. This tool is great for pulling a production site down onto your local machine for testing and validation. It also works great for developing locally and then pushing up to a production server for a first time site release. Requires above average technical knowledge and not recommended for WordPress beginners.

WordPress Move

WordPress Move is a migration assistant for WordPress that is capable of changing the domain name in use and/or migrating your installation to another server either as is or based on your choices. You can use WordPress Move to transfer your database or create backups of your installation.

Site Push

SitePush is a WordPress plugin that allows you to have multiple versions of your WordPress site, so you can edit, develop, test without any risk to your main, live site. It’s great for developers, designers and editors or anyone who wants to be able to test changes to a site before it is visible to the world. You can easily easily move content between sites, test new themes and plugins – all in a private staging site, and you can also test and easily push new code on to a live site.


Must Have Features in Choosing a WordPress Theme for your Website

published on April 1, 2014

WordPress theme trends come and go. Some popular features a while back have faded away while others went mainstream and have become basic and essential features integral to a WordPress theme. A lot of the WordPress themes in the marketplace today are feature-packed and sometimes it gets overwhelming to choose the perfect one. Website owners need to be able to sort through long menu of features, pull out those that are relevant to their own specific website needs and goals, just to make sure they don’t get an over bloated and slow-loading website. Here are some basic features to look for in selecting a WordPress theme to fit your website needs.

Flexibility and Ease of Use

User experience is a key factor in web design. WordPress themes must be flexible enough to adapt to the user’s needs and provide way for customization to be simple and easy. A popular feature nowadays is the drag and drop feature where layouts can be configured and reconfigured by simply dragging and dropping elements into specific areas. WordPress themes that include this feature already have a fan base as it makes customization convenient and friendly even for WordPress beginners.

Responsive (On or Off feature)

The emergence of mobile platforms in internet usage makes its users a population that shouldn’t be ignored. A lot of people think that mobile might eventually displace desktop as the dominant platform for internet access. In light of this, website owners need to consider WordPress themes that are 100% responsive enabling content to be presented efficiently on smartphones, tablets, and other mobile or handheld devices. Themes that include features such as menus especially designed for mobile devices, responsive sliders, and responsive images are also a plus factor. Some also prefer that they have control over whether they want the responsive feature turned on or off which means that WordPress themes that have this option will appeal to this type of web user.

Search Engine Optimization

It would be a pity for a site with amazing content to be left to obscurity because search engines can’t find it. According to Joost de Valk, creator of the popular SEO plugin Yoast,

“Out of the box, WordPress is a pretty well optimized system, and does a far better job at allowing every single page to be indexed than every other CMS I have used. But there are a few things you should do to make it a lot easier still to work with.”

WordPress themes that are built according to best code practices and are integrated with sound SEO measures will do well as far as search engine visibility and ranking are concerned.

Multi Media Handling Capabilities

Gone are the days where people are merely content reading stuff on the web. Today’s generation of internet users seek more interactive and media heavy content. Website users tend to lean towards WordPress themes that are flexible enough to handle all types of media formats (audio, video, images, etc). Support for self-hosted videos, Youtube, Vimeo and SoundCloud, and other third party multi media content hosts is always a plus as internet users today.

Animations, Parallax, Sliders, etc.

Some people detest sliders and other visual eye candy. Some don’t even think that it helps a site at all while some consider these visual effects necessary features in a website. When people get to your site, you want to ensure that they get enough interest to go through your content. The use of all these visual effects can go from cheesy to spectacular depending on how it is presented. Today’s media bombarded user can benefit from well-thought of and creative visual presentations that feed both the eyes and the mind.

Translation or Multi Lingual Ready

WordPress already powers more than 21% of the Internet and will continue to increase even as of this writing. This means that more non-English speaking users will be thrown in the mix of users and will need themes that can be translated into their own languages and with RTL (right to left provision). This segment of WordPress users will be more attracted to themes that are easier to adapt to their local audiences.

These features listed here may or may not be on the top of your list. If you do have some suggestions, feel free to leave us a comment and tell us why you think so. We’d love to hear from you.