Optimum Length for Online Content

Attention spans online are much shorter than in face to face communication.  So if you are creating digital content for online audiences such as podcasts or videos, then what is the optimum length to keep your audience engaged?

Read more

Adding a thumbnail pic to your WordPress Website

Many of you might notice with WordPress websites, that you have an opportunity to display a picture of yourself as a little thumbnail.  This is typically displayed in the comments and about sections (after a post) and in wordpress terms is called an gravatar or avatar.  This post explains how you can upload one. Read more

Client wordpress sites hacked – our perspective

Hi all.  We awoke this morning to the shocking news that another 2 websites hosted with Crazy Domains had been hacked.  It’s obviously a serious concern now as we have close to 2 sites going down on a weekly basis.

We wanted to stress the importance of moving your website to WP Engine immediately, as well as explain the situation with Crazy Domains.

Can’t help but feel guilty

Most of our clients come to us as technology newbies and seek our advice for what they need to do to host and run a website.  Our typically customer is a small business, maybe 1-5 people, and a limited budget for website development.   As such our recommendations in the past had focused on the best value offerings.

Unfortunately that has meant we made recommendations that today we are not proud of.   We made these recommendations, based on our experiences, which at the time was correct.  But technology changes, and it changes bloody quickly.  So we feel guilty, but you must understand our situation in making these recommendations, and also understand what we are doing to fix the issues.

The lay of the land

Originally in the early days of our business we asked you all to host your websites externally with Crazy Domains (or your own suppliers).  The issue for us was that we were spending hours upon hours configuring all the technical back end hosting and email for our clients without us seeing a red cent.  And when the hosting went down everyone turned to us, and said ‘where is my website?’.   In effect we were acting like a customer service channel for Crazy Domains.  If we were to grow our business, we couldn’t keep this model, otherwise we’d have to charge you significant dollars which we wanted to avoid.

A reseller hosting provider with added security

So we decided maybe it’s better if we became a reseller of Crazy Domains and make a small mark up for the work we do.  We implemented our own security measures which included:

  • Weekly back up all wordpress databases
  • Weekly theme back ups of all websites to local machines and Google Cloud
  • Security plugins
  • WordPress and plugin upgrades as they are required.

Again this was taken a serious amount of our time, and the fact remained we were making about $20 on each hosting account, whilst providing a service that others were charging hundreds for.

Then the servers started crashing and the hackers moved in

Once the servers started crashing we started thinking that we needed to seriously do something about finding a new host.  And  then the  sites started getting hacked and it was the final straw.  Enough was enough.  Having had a baby, I was spending my Saturday morning fixing websites instead of enjoying time with my family.   So we decided we need to find a managed wordpress hosting supplier that can alleviate the issues we had.  This global search landed on WP Engine.

This global search landed on WP Engine

We had read about WP Engine numerous times and thought long and hard about moving our Florence Road website over to them. The reviews were unanimous that these guys were the kings of WordPress hosting.

They provided:

  • Full security and daily backups (if it gets hacked they’ll fix it!)
  • WordPress updates and plugin updates
  • Fully optimised speedy delivery of sites

But the cost? Is it worth it?  

The only thing that stopped us from jumping at WP Engine with both feet, was the cost.  The minimal charge per year was $360 which compared to Crazy Domains, is $304 more expensive.  We aren’t talking a small increase here we are talking a monster one.

But what’s the cost of downtime? 

So when we started to add the hours we were spending on maintenance, backups, and hosting issues, and we thought you know what we have to do this.   So we moved just our Florence Road website over and we didn’t have an issue for 6 months (still haven’t).  And then we moved a few of our premium clients who’m we knew $360 per year wouldn’t be an issue for the speed, reliability  and security that WP Engine brings.  Everything was running like a well oiled machine, and still is!

The more we worked with WP Engine the more we were convinced.  They’re customer service is the benchmark by which all technology companies should be measured against.

But what about our smaller clients?  They’re the core of Florence Road

Florence Road has always had musicians, actors, artists, and small businesses as the core of it’s business.  And if we were experiencing a revolution in hosting, then we would have to find a way for the majority to enjoy that as well.   So we worked with WP Engine to devise an offering that was a happy compromise between the full services of WP Engine but at a fraction of that cost.

WP Engine Networked Sites

So we worked out that we could host a number of websites together in one shared account which meant we can pass on big savings.   The actual content of your website, the stuff you upload, is completely separate and is not shared.  What you probably don’t realise is with Crazy Domains, and most hosting companies for that matter, you are on a shared hosting server anyway!  This is why when one site gets hacked, we see a number of them get infected.

So what are we doing?

We’ve sent numerous emails to our clients and we will be reaching out to them individually to encourage them to move their websites over to WP Engine.   WP Engine charges $300 per website move, however we are doing this for our clients at a fraction of this cost because of the recommendations made above.

We can never gaurantee 100% that a website won’t get hacked, but we are doing absolutely everything we can to minimise it.

WordPress Plugins – Pop Up Window, Help or Hinderance?

I was recently asked by 2 clients to install a wordpress plugin that could enable a pop up window and I agreed, all be it kicking and screaming.  But now, having installed a pop up with the help of a wordpress plugin, I’m actually really liking it.  So I thought I’d share what plugin to use, and how to use it effectively, without being annoying! Read more

5 Simple Reasons We Love WordPress Websites

When we talk to new clients, we often have to explain why we only use wordpress for our websites content management system.  So we thought we’d put together our top 5 reasons for why we love wordpress websites.

1) WordPress is free 

WordPress is a content management system, which you install on a hosting server to run your website.  Think of it like a software application that sits on your desktop, like Microsoft Word.  Today WordPress powers one of every 6 websites on the Internet, nearly 60 million in all, with 100,000 more popping up each day.

So why would anyone develop something as sophisticated as wordpress, which powers more websites than any other, and then give it away for free?  How can anything that is free be that good?

They are difficult questions to answer, but it’s fairly safe to say, that wordpress is what it is today, thanks to the fact that the software is ‘opensource’ and has had significant improvements from a community of developers.     It’s like a community garden.  People love gardening, they plant seeds, they water the plants, the build shades, just to see it grow and bare fruit.

I guess you can consider wordpress is that market garden.  And once that garden is in place, people can make a living out of providing for that garden to help it improve. Nutrient soil, watering systems, fences, and fertilisers perhaps.  Or in wordpress terms, designers, developers, themes, plugins, hosting, and security products all allow us to make a living from that garden.

For more information on wordpress founders visit:

2) It’s powerful and yet really simple

I can teach somebody how to post content, upload images, edit menu’s, change a header, and add a sidebar feature in their wordpress website in less than hour.  When you think back to what a web developer had to do 3-4 years ago, reading lines and lines of HTML code, you marvel at wordpress’s simplicity.

And yet on the other hand, I’m often confronted with a new challenge each day.  Something to fix, a problem to solve, and each time I learn something new about WordPress.

There in lies the beauty of wordpress websites. They can be so very simple for the novice user, but  can be extremely powerful, and flexible for the more advanced.

3) Need a feature?  Plug it in with a plugin 

WordPress had a bursting apps market long before Apple.  Of course they are very different, wordpress calls their apps, plugins.  I compare the apps on your phone to plugins, because they provide additional functionality with a simple click and install.   The majority of these plugins are free, and can be installed from the WordPress dashboard.  Our favourite plugins for wordpress do things like improve SEO rankings, add contact forms, integrate e-commerce, or pull in image galleries from places like Picasa, Flickr or Instagram.

Not all plugins are good for your wordpress website however and some have major security concerns.  For our clients, we don’t allow people to add any plugin they like, and instead we vet them before installing any.

4) Out of the box, fully functional themes

Time is money (unless you are developing wordpress apparently).  Building websites in the past was a costly experience, working with designers and developers who’d provide flash slide shows, funky menus, and a general styling.  These days we can procure themes that have the majority of the functionality built in, at a small cost, and then customise them to suit each client.

We tend to think it’s like buying a kit home.  It’s a lot cheaper to purchase and assemble, but can be customised to suit individual needs.  Change the colour on the walls, move the kitchen, add a balcony, that it’s all part and parcel of the sort of thing we do with wordpress themes.    The extent to which you can customise your theme is really dependent on your theme and skill level.  Again just like building a house.  Sure you can have a go at building and painting, but if you want expert construction you working with a project manager, a builder and a architect.

Again not all themes offer ongoing reliability and security.  Our preferred supplier is Woo Themes, who have a huge theme portfolio and a great support community.

5) Dynamic Publishing

We can save the best for last.  Wordpress is a dynamic publishing platform, which began life as a blogging tool.   I always explain the way wordpress works by using an online newspaper as an example.  You can post articles to various sections of the paper, like technology, or latest news, and as each article comes in, the other articles move down.  You can click on the article heading and read the full article on another page.  It’s this sort of functionality that comes built into wordpress.  This means you can have hundreds and hundreds of articles, that might go hundreds of pages deep, and they are all filed away in categories, or tagged, and are in date order.  And at any given stage you can pull an article to the homepage, or link to it, or delete it.

I just wish I had a filing cabinet like that.

So there you have it, the simple reasons we love wordpress websites.  What started out as a simple list, turned out to be something much bigger, but we’d love to know if we missed something, or if you have other ideas.

Design Inspiration – Jason Mraz and Taylor

This is the first in a series of posts where we are going to look at some cool websites to draw some inspiration.  Our roots are in music so why not start with a musical inspired site from Taylor and Jason Mraz.

Why we love it:

The fold is dead!

Everyone used to talk in terms of ‘the fold’ meaning when you read the site online, the content you read above the fold is we you see without scolling.  But with tables these days, people have learnt to scroll more frequently on websites.  The fold is dead, the click is the new fold.

Colour Usage

It’s industrial with the grey which represents makesmanship, but it’s also simple black text with wood tinges.  Guitars are made from wood…good figure.

Block Styles

All the content is laid out in nice blocks.  There is no column consistency, with each block ranging from 4 column to a single column, but order is maintained thanks to minimised text, consistent imagery and lots of clean space.

Image treatment

The majority of images have a 3/4 circle effect.  This consistency of application makes it an artwork in itself, but it also helps me process the clumps of information on the page.

However most important is the image quality.  We don’t see faded white, pixaleted, stretched anything.  These are quite obviously professional images with identical tone and balance.

Bloody lovely if you ask me.

 

Apple maps business listings io6 – Yelp

One of the interesting updates to the new io6 software, is the removal of Google maps for Apple’s new mapping software.  My first thought was how on earth Apple would close the gap on Google considering it’s already comprehensive business directory.  I can’t possibly comprehend that the answer is going to be Yelp. Read more

Reduce WordPress Comment Spam

As the world’s leading CMS, and as a native blogging platform, WordPress attracts quiet a bit of spam.  To minimise the amount of comment spam you get we recommend the following top 5 ways of reducing spam on your wordpress powered website.

Read more

Quick Tip Video – Changing Windows 7 Desktop Icons

My Windows 7 desktop was seriously uncool, compared to my tablet and phone, so I thought I’d share you can easily edit your Windows 7 icons to make them look more like a tablet interface.   It’s not just about making them look cool, it helps you be more productive, as you’re already used to switching back to home screens to open new windows!

Helping Mum and Dad learn online

If you are like me, you’ve probably started getting the invetiable ‘how do I’ questions from your folks.  I’ve put together some top tips and a great website to help get your folks off your back.  Read more