Backup & Updating your WordPress Website

If you have a WordPress website, then you have logged in and seen that message at the top of the page that says:
updatewordpress

You have probably even gone so far as to click on the updates link on your dashboard and saw this message:
updatenowbutton

Did you sweat bullets or start to get hives at the thought of doing the updates?

I remember the first time I clicked on that update button. Terrified was not even close – I’m sure there was a thought in the back of my head that said I’m going to blow up my website or at the very least break it. But I did it! At the time I was new to WordPress, barely knew what I was doing and fumbling my way around trying to get used to the whole thing.

As time passed I got better and more confident. Until the first time I had to do an update for a client’s website and then all over again, I had those scary thoughts of breaking their website.

This is something I hear all the time from clients and I TOTALLY get it but let me say this. Being scared of it is no reason NOT to do it. I can’t stress enough of how important it is to keep current with all the WordPress updates for WordPress itself, plugins and themes.

Website Security – I love WordPress and I’ve heard a few others do too. With WordPress being such a widely used tool it has become the main focus of hackers and boy do they work hard at it, this has become a foundational piece for all my WordPress packages to defend against these attacks. This foundation must be maintained through regular updates.

Website Functionality – Many updates expand the options of what you can do in WordPress, making it easier to add photos, or edit text etc. Some of the WordPress 3.0 updates were Awesome Pawsome in my book. Custom Menu’s was one of my favorites :)

BUT….

Before you make any update at all, whatsoever or forever hold your peace. BACKUP YOUR WEBSITE!

99.9% of the time when you update there are no issues and nothing happens. But when that .1% happens, if you don’t have a recent backup of your site then you are in serious trouble and it will be hard to restore your site without a lot of work.

Here are a couple of options for you.

Basic Option:

At the very least… you need to update your WordPress database which is where all your content is stored. Blog posts, pages, images etc. And for that a great free plugin to use is WP DB Backup found here: http://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-db-backup/

With this free plugin you can schedule regular backups of your database and have them emailed to you.

But what about all your theme and design files? Then you will need to either a) login to your hosting control panel and download the files from your hosting server or b) use FTP software like FileZilla to logon to your server remotely and download your files and save them to your desktop.

Premium Option – DIY:

My favorite tool for this process is a plugin called BackupBuddy from iThemes (affiliate link). This premium plugin:

  • Can scan your website for malware and let you know of any potential problems
  • Schedule regular backups of your full website or just the database and email you the files or even save the file in Dropbox
  • Customize the settings of what to back up and when
  • Help restore your site if anything should happen or even make it easier (waaaaay easier) to move your site to a new hosting service should the need ever arrive.

For a yearly fee of $80 the peace of mind knowing your site is up-to-date and backed-up on a regular basis is sooooo worth it in my book.

Premium Option – Done for you:

Personally I use BackupBuddy for all my clients’ sites and for all of my  own websites. And love what it does. I have worked with and tried other plugins and have not been as pleased with the ease of use or the options.

So if pressing the backup and updates buttons still stresses you out (and really, I do understand!) we can help you with that. Let us remove that stress and take care of the updates and backups for you. We even supply the BackupBuddy plugin at no charge while you are on the monthly backup plan. You can read more about that option here.

Here is my challenge to you, set one of your 2014 resolutions to get your website updated and keep it updated throughout the year. Your website will thank you :)

Mobile Responsive vs. Mobile Friendly

The web design world races to catch up with technology, at least that is what it feels like most of the time! As more and more people have smart phones, Kindles and iPads the way your target market views your website has changed and in many ways changed completely. It is most definitely changing the way I approach creating a WordPress website.

The stats I am hearing both in my research as well as hearing the stats from my clients website analytics is that at least 40% up to about 60% of site viewership is now via tablet

or smartphone. Sit with that a moment – that changes everything doesn’t it? Think about it, for years we have relied on the larger size monitors on a desktop or laptop computer, more space to grab a visitors attention but now the screens are about 3 – 9″ across depending on the device. That is a waaaaaaaayyyyy small area to work with, it changes the game in many ways.

iPhone Mobile Friendly

iPhone Mobile Friendly

Mobile Friendly

For the past couple of years we have heard that your site needs to be mobile friendly, at a minimum your site needs to be viewable on a mobile platform and be able to press some navigation buttons and scroll back and forth or up and down to get where you need to go. And this works most of the time, which is great. I would prefer that a website works like this then not be seen on a mobile device at all.

This first picture is a screenshot of my website and how it would look if it was only Mobile Friendly.

Mobile Responsive

iPhone Mobile Responsive

iPhone Mobile Responsive

The next generation of websites are moving towards mobile responsive. Where Mobile Friendly works on your phone or tablet you usually need to increase the screen and then slide it back and forth to be able to read it and have the menu buttons actually work. A Mobile Responsive site actually adjusts to the size of the screen you are using and has the text flow, slideshows and headers resize to flow down the screen so you are seeing the site in a way that you just need to scroll up and down with. You don’t need the increase the screen size to see the teensy weensy menu bar or scroll forever left and right to read the text.

The second picture is a screenshot of my website using a customized Mobile Responsive theme.

To be honest my site still has a ways to go… I want to make it work even better, but it sure has come a long way in the last year. It has been a playground for me to learn and try new things. A couple more issues that I will be working on are 1) fewer navigation options and 2) better location for the social media buttons

It can be a confusing issue and can make your head swim, so hopefully this gives you a better understanding of the difference between these two terms. Questions? Leave a comment below.

Did you know that 14 pt font is the new 12?

I recently watched an interesting video with tips on how to improve your website conversion rate. There were a lot of great tips  given out in a short amount of time but the one that caught my attention and that I seem to remember the most…  14 is the new 12!

When setting up a WordPress site for my clients, I go in and play with the font size and style. Many templates seem to have a fonts that are too small and crowded for my eyes. There are some I have come across that are downright minuscule!

The font size and style on your site has to be easy to read.

How many times have you come across a site where the pages looked and felt crowded? You may not have realized it but the font size was probably too small, the space between each line of text was too tight and the font style itself did not lend itself to easy scanning. These are all important points to remember -  make it easy on the eye for your visitors, help them scan your content quickly, get the highlights, and see if you are a match for what they are looking for.

Yes! Content is king but they need to stay long enough to read it!

In this interview Chris Brogan of ChrisBrogan.com interviews Derek Halpern of SocialTriggers.com about one of Chris’s websites. Here they cover quick tips on improving the website KitchenTableCompanies.com in order to improve how it converts visitors into subscribers and customers. You might find some tips that help you look at your website differently. It did for me! Even a couple small tweaks can make a huge improvement.

The video is just under 10 minutes and well worth the time. I’ll be listening to it again for sure!

What features should I include in my membership program?

In my humble opinion… there is no wrong or right way to set up a membership program. However I do think there are a few guidelines on what the “right” is and should be:

1) You can manage it! – This is a biggie; if you go with a piece of software or a purchased solution that you or someone on your team can’t manage, what is the point? You are going to be so frustrated you may never launch or you launch, and your members are frustrated because they are not getting what they paid for or expected.

2) User friendly – This has to be looked at. When you know who your target audience is, and their comfort level with technology, you have a much better idea on what type of program features to offer. Can your audience barely navigate email? Are they more web-savvy and understand how to login and navigate around your website?

These 2 are the most crucial considerations in my book – and must be looked at before deciding on any membership site software solution.

Back in the post “Stop Making It So Difficult”, it was pointed out that we tend to over-complicate projects, that we need to take a step back and break it down to its most basic component. I tend to get excited and overcomplicate things myself, especially when I am listening to too many “gurus” who each are saying, “This is the best way….”. Once I know what I want to offer my members, and how I want to present the information–keeping in mind my audience’s comfort level of comfort with technology–the solution many times presents itself.  Start simple! Remember you can always add on later.

There is a LOT of information out there–lists of pros and cons, arguments of what is better then what, reasons why this is the “must have feature” – it can quickly become overwhelming. Read one more review, and you just might go bonkers or even worse- not take that first step of getting your site started.

It is worth repeating; start simple!

  • How much money do you have right now to spend on this project?
  • How many features and bells and whistles do you really need?
  • What are you realistically going to be able to maintain and keep up with?

Is it possible that all you need to get started is a weekly email with a link to a page on your site to access the training?

On the other hand, you may find you need to have a place for protected files, a place for members to connect. That is when you take a step up and move beyond email.

But there is NOTHING wrong with starting with a weekly email! It is quick and easy to set up and get done quickly.

Then when you are ready, take a look at what your members are asking for, and see if it is time to bump up the features and benefits you offer… and thus possibly offer it at a new higher price tag??

My favorite combo is WordPress and WishList Member – a program that lets you start as basic as you want and grows with you as you need to add features like a forum, download pages, message wall, member directory… With this combination you can still start with a simple weekly email and then grow as your members ask for more.

You can read more about WishList here.

Are there any membership program ideas sitting on your shelf or in your idea book? Have you been feeling overwhelmed on what you “should have” or the options available? Ask! Ask questions, get feedback, survey your target audience – find out what they are looking for and how you can help.

Remember, you don’t have to do it ALL right now… start uber simple and build on that foundation. Now that is the RIGHT way to set up a membership site.

Is it a membership site or a forum?

Is there a difference?

Yes, and well, no… there comes a point when it really is just a matter of semantics. A membership site is about community – and how that comes about shows up in all sorts of different shapes, sizes, formats and features. How you want to reach out to your community and interact with them will tell you what you need in your membership site. What do you need to have in place to interact with your tribe and encourage them to jump in and participate?

A Forum…

…can be the centerpiece of a membership site, or it can be a standalone feature on your site that magically turns your website into a membership site. A forum can also be a burden and eye-sore in an otherwise healthy active community. With the right audience you will have a highly interactive community with a lot of give and take between you and the members and between members; if not you have an eye-sore that you will probably have you wondering, why do I have it?

The truth is that most forums resemble the abandoned gold-mining town with a few townsfolk that are loyal and will never leave and possibly the occasional newcomer passing through to see what is going on. Usually, though the newcomer will see the lack of activity and not stay around long; this can hurt your retention rate.

Keeping a forum active can be hard work and not one that most people want to take on or even SHOULD take on. There are a lot of experts out there who do not even bother any more, and opt for other communication tools. I have stopped recommending them as something that should be in the first version of your site (unless you know for sure how your audience will use it).

A forum can always be added later, IF your audience is asking for it.  My recommendation is to start simple and don’t start a forum. If your members ask for it later on, go ahead when you are ready. Now that is a great retention strategy!

Forum Options:

1) Blog post comments – create a discussion based around an event listed in a post or a new training video, etc.

2) WP-Wall Plugin (add link) – Here is another great tool that works well on some membership sites. It is a widget on a sidebar where members can leave comments and ask questions. It can be a simple yet effective way to start a conversation.

Membership Site

When you hear these two words, you usually envisions a full featured space on the web where people gather to learn, share and network. It is a community of people drawn together by common interests and goals. With that in mind, a membership site usually includes a variety of features and functions of videos, audios, downloadable files, articles, forums, profiles, member directories — content that is not restricted to a forum.

This is a good spot to note: forums (we use and recommend Simple-Press.com ) do have a way to list profiles and can be an easy place to get started with a members directory. There are more options when you set up a specific members directory using WordPress Plugins; again it really depends on your target audience their needs and requests.

When you go back and look at the plan for your membership site (insert planning post link) take a close look at the target market section and consider what type of communication they are going to prefer. How are you going to present discussion topics for feedback? What is the skill level of your target audience? Is commenting on a blog post going to tax their expertise or is adding a forum with a variety of topics going to be something they can navigate and use easily?

There is no wrong or right answer – does having access to a forum affect your decision to joining a membership program?

Recommended Resource: Evernote

So awhile back I promised an update on my self organizing efforts and how Evernote was going. I will admit it, it took some time to start using it, I was resistant to trying yet 1 more thing that probably wouldn’t work. Yep, I know, great attitude going in huh! So what’s a gal to do.

Well in keeping with my new theme of Ready, Fire Aim, I dove in and started using it. Still hesitant on how to make the most of it and how to organize, but I do have to say, the more I use it the more I like it and more importantly, I can read it!! There are times I am writing so fast that I can’t read my writing.

One of the very cool things is that I have it on both my laptop and my desktop PCs and they synchronize between both which is ultra cool in my book.  So if you are looking for a way to organize your notes, thoughts, to dos etc. I would highly recommend giving Evernote a try. The basic version is free and so far I am not seeing any reason to upgrade.

It is a tool that I think can certainly help!

I think I’m in love

The OmmwriterFrom time to time I want to share with you tools and resources that I use and highly recommend in the hope they may help you too.

This week – It is the ommwriter software – you can find it and download it here: http://www.ommwriter.com/

This past year, my struggle to focus and concentrate was at an all time high. Working with a variety of doctors, ADD was one of the top suggestions thrown around, but even with the medication I was put on, it doesn’t always help. Being able to focus and write continues to be a struggle.

Ah, but now there is a tool I am using that in just the past week has helped me write more and more consistently then I have in a long time! The ommwriter.

This is a piece of software that plays ambient music and gentle sounds as you type. Just enough to be in the background, allow me to focus and write, perfect for my easily distracted brain. I can see this making a huge impact on my business and marketing efforts.

Right now I am playing with the basic free version for PCs and may upgrade later if it continues to be a help. The PC version is fairly new and they also offer downloads for the Mac and iPad.

I’m thrilled to find something to help me write more!

What is a membership site?

What is a membership site?What – A definition:

Here is a basic definition of the word “Membership”: the total number of members belonging to an organization, society, etc.  Source: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/membership
Short sweet and to the point but let’s elaborate on that shall we? Basically it is a group brought together through a common interest. It can be to learn something new, strengthen a skill, working toward a common goal, promote ideas… you get the picture. When you have an idea, a product, a class – anything you want to share with your audience you can make a membership program out of it.

Now whether that will be a successful membership site, that is another story. For right now we are going to stick with the the “What” question.

What  – Examples:

Here are some examples of memberships: Church, your local Gym, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace. These are all groups that you join, become active in, learn something and share ideas – a membeship site/program is a community.

What – An Idea:

A membership site is also a place to connect with people.

This is the part I like best about membership sites and is at the core of why I am in business for myself – creating opportunities for those who are struggling to connect and find support.

The right membership site can offer that, a solution to the problem you are facing right now.

What – Building Your Tribe:

A membership site is also a way to build and support your tribe.

Sidenote: If you haven’t read Seth Godin’s book Tribes, run don’t walk to you nearest bookstore or computer and buy it. If you have read it already, I suggest you read it again before starting a membership site.

Once you have a tribe of followers and they find success in the training and ideas you are teaching, they are going to look for ongoing support. Your membership site can offer that by connecting and bringing your tribe together so that they not only help each other out but in the end, you as well!

Through interaction with your members you learn what areas they are struggling with. What is working, what isn’t. What questions are they asking, what type of support will they need in the future? This gives you all sorts of feedback and information on what products and services you may need to offer in the future.

So maybe instead of membership site, we need to call it a Tribe Site? Hmm, have to think about that one huh?

5 Reasons to consider WordPress for your next website

Why? What’s the big deal.

You have probably heard over and over again how great it is, and what a great website it would make for your business. But do you know why? What makes people say that on Facebook, Twitter, Blog posts, classes, marketing gurus…

I’m going to give you my take on it and why I have come to love working with WordPress.

  1. It’s Free – Need I say more? No expensive software to buy and learn to create a WordPress Website. Simply go to WordPress.org and the software is just sitting there for you ready to be download.

  2. Tons, tons, tons (and did I say tons?) of options to choose from – A crazy number of WordPress templates to choose. From free WordPress themes to Premium WordPress Themes. Plugins, yeah don’t even get me started on that one. I love plugins – plugins extend the functionality of what your WordPress website can do. Of course there is the age old warning, “Too much of a good thing…” can cause problems (will expand on that more in a later post)

  3. It grows with you – This is right at the top of the list for me. A WordPress website/blogsite is something that will grow with you and your business. When set up and designed correctly, you have a tool that is easily adapted and changed to fit your business today and still in a year or 5 years from now. That is pretty cool to me.

  4. Lots of help available – If you have questions, there is an incredible array of resources to help you out. YouTube video tutorials, blogs, books, training programs, articles, and of course virtual assistants!! … you name it, it is probably out there to answer your questions. One of the biggest resources is the WordPress.org community itself, with an active forum to ask a question or help someone else out.

  5. You can control your website – This is far and away the biggest reason that WordPress just rocks! Have you ever had a word or phrase on a website that just begins to bug you and you can’t get to it to fix it? With WordPress you can and that is such a relief and a time/money saver even better. Now should you have a support tech on speed-dial, absolutely! There are so many things that you do not have the time to learn and frankly shouldn’t, having someone on hand to help you with the big updates, changes and integrations is a smart move but thankfully with a WordPress website you are no longer a slave to changing that niggly little word that is bugging you.

There are more reasons… I could go on but these are the big ones on my lit of why using WordPress is a smart move for your business.

Why do you like WordPress?

 

Selecting the best WordPress Theme for You – Part 3

Here is the long overdue- Part 3 of “Selecting the Best WordPress Theme for You”.

In Part 1 – we covered the wide variety of “Free Themes” available

In Part 2 – we covered the pros and cons of “Bulk Themes”

Here in Part 3 we cover my favorite – Premium Themes.

A Premium Theme is one where you pay for a theme that has been thoroughly tested and usually comes with great support not only from the developer but from the community that has been built around it. [Read more...]