WordCamp Phoenix 2014 Resources

During my presentation this morning at WordCamp Phoenix 2014, I walked through the steps you should take before you even think about installing WordPress or searching for a theme.

I want to share some of the resources that came up during the session.

Slides

Style Board Template

The style board was inspired by Samantha Warren’s StyleTil.es concept, and it has changed the way I work with clients.

StyleBoard_TEMPLATE_PE2014Download PSD Styleboard Template

INK Sample Website Analysis

Evernote notes for Iris’s fictional PR site

Other Resources

Color Palette Design & Inspiration

Typography / Web Safe Fonts

Stock Images, Illustrations & Icons

Content Development

Image Editing & Resizing

Placeholders

Style Board Design

Cheat Sheet: Ecommerce Shopping Cart Plugins

For tonight’s Arizona WordPress Group meetup, I facilitated a panel discussion on Ecommerce with group members Brian Murphy of xpleo.com, Mindi Bear of WinkSoap.com, Brandy Lawson aka TekGrl, and Maura Teal of Positive Element. We discussed pros and cons of various payment processing options and the panelists experiences with different shopping cart plugins.

I also presented a slide with a handy cheat sheet, which I thought some of you folks might find useful. It’s based on an article over on Chris Lema’s blog that helps you make the right choice based on your own experience and site requirements. Enjoy!

Shopping Cart Plugin Cheatsheet

 

Finding Harmony with WordPress Maintenance — Part 1

Nobody likes maintenance. I certainly don’t enjoy it. But it has to be done, or sometime, somewhere, you’ll be left in the lurch.

I’ve learned that lesson with WordPress the hard way, and more than once. My own site was brought down 2 1/2 years ago by malware — the dreaded Red screen of death. Soon after, I found 2 authors’ web sites and a legal client’s site infected.

Danger Malware Ahead

You DO NOT want to see this on your site

Without recent backups (GAH!), and a very limited understanding of malware, it cost me countless hours of troubleshooting, researching, and rebuilding.

The author clients got reinfected repeatedly in 2011. They were hosted with various low-cost (aka CHEAP) hosting companies (WhichIWillNotName But YouAllKnowWhoIMean), and their tech support was less than helpful.

But somehow, the lesson didn’t fully sink in, and I continued to be lax with maintenance, hosting, and security in general.

At the time, I did not have ongoing support agreements with past clients. And being busy busy busy with new projects, and not particularly interested in boring maintenance work, I did nothing to reach out to my past clients about increasing security and reducing risk on their sites.

I was a workaholic (still am, actually), but I've never actually had my laptop on the toilet.

I was a workaholic (still am, actually), but I’ve never actually had my laptop on the toilet.

Fast forward to late-2012. Freelance business was good, great even — more than I could handle on my own. I had a team of contractors working on a client projects, but still found myself working all hours, being responsible for project management, design, some dev, and servicing the growing list of past clients who were in need of occasional support.

As many entrepreneurs do, I found myself getting only 3-4 hours of sleep at night. You’ve all heard this story, or been there yourselves, right?

To hire someone full time, I needed a reliable income stream to offset the widely variable revenue of a client services business.

It was a happy coincidence that brought this need into light alongside the ever-increasing need that my clients had for ongoing support, updates, and maintenance. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Scottsdale Web Designer and Developer meetup group for allowing me to monopolize more than one session with my challenges and helping me see how my clients’ needs were perfectly coinciding with my own.

Soon I began approaching past clients with a new offering: a WordPress support and maintenance plan. For 12 months now, they’ve been taking me up on the offer, and all indications point to this model continuing to grow.

Stay tuned next week for Part 2 to see how this new venture continues to unfold. And please comment to share your malware and maintenance horror stories!

CloudFlare is our WordPress Superhero

In light of the current & ongoing brute force attack against WordPress sites worldwide, I just want to take a moment to thank CloudFlare for blocking this attack and protecting our sites.

This attack is widespread and powerful — at least 90,000 bots, or distinct computers, are apparently involved. Security monitoring firm Sucuri reported seeing 3 times the usual number of brute force login attempts.

CloudFlare reported that nearly every WordPress site in it’s network has seen evidence of some attack. But CloudFlare is blocking them…

CloudFlare

 

From CloudFlare’s blog:

We just pushed a rule out through CloudFlare’s WAF that detects the signature of the attack and stops it. Rather than limiting this to only paying customers, CloudFlare is rolling it out the fix to all our customers automatically, including customers on our free plan.

If you are a WordPress user and you are using CloudFlare, you are now protected from this latest brute force attack.

So — thank you CloudFlare!

Protect Your Own WordPress Site

If you have a user called “admin,” change it immediately from “admin” to something else. While you are it, strengthen you passwords to pass-phrases.

  1. Log in and go to Users / Add New
  2. Enter info for new username — anything but “admin!”
  3. Set Strong PW and Administrator RoleBe sure to set a long, hard-to-guess pass-phrase.
  4. Set the Role to Administrator (very important!) and Save.
  5. Log out, and log back in with the new username.
  6. Return to Users.
  7. Delete the “admin” user.screenshot-delete-admin2
  8. When prompted, attribute existing posts to your new user. Confirm Deletion.

And, if you are not currently using CloudFlare, consider it!

Positive Element clients: contact Betsy to find out if you are protected by CloudFlare.

Why Every WordPress Site Needs a Support & Maintenance Plan

I’ve been trying to adapt my business model these past few months, and it’s been challenging to find the best direction for me and for my clients. But even more challenging than that is explaining to clients who have been paying $5/month to GoDaddy or Bluehost why I suddenly want them to pay me $99 or more each month instead.

Let me give you a little more back-story to put this into context: I’ve been feeling pressure for some time to adapt my business model, to take better care of clients after launch, and cover the important aspects of their sites that I’ve never focused on in the past, such as WordPress and server maintenance, security, site speed/performance, backups, etc.

Site owners may not see the value in a monthly support retainer at first, if they haven’t felt the need or benefit of maintenance services in the past. They wouldn’t have noticed these services as lacking, because some have been very lucky.

If they’ve made it this far with no malware attacks, or if they haven’t noticed when their site’s been painfully slow, or when it’s gone down for hours… If they didn’t notice these things, why would they want to pay more to prevent them?

I have definitely seen the impact for other clients, and some of it has been very painful — losing work, missing out on leads and revenue, hours spent troubleshooting server issues while GoDaddy and Bluehost support sends us in circles and wastes our time… In a couple of cases we’ve had to spend hours searching for the source of a recurring malware infection, or rebuilding something that was lost due to attacks, where we did not have of recent full backup to restore…

And no one is immune to hackers. You may think that they’d have no interest in your site, but there’s no rhyme or reason for the sites they choose to disrupt. I’ve been hacked, as have well-known (and not-so-well-known) author clients in my portfolio. Add a commercial real estate site and a law firm to that list, and that’s just among my own clientele.  I’ve heard countless stories from friends and colleagues as well.

We are all at risk.

So I have stepped up my game. I’m trying to protect my clients as best as I can —through prevention (secure servers, regular WP maintenance) and through measures to ensure that if it does happen, we can minimize downtime and cleanup costs (backups, security monitoring).

There’s time and costs involved in these measures, and I’m trying my best to contain them and make it affordable.

But I honestly believe that we will all have to pay the price one way or another: either in prevention, or in cleanup, rebuilding, and lost opportunities down the road.

Hopefully that helps you understand why we’re changing things up on you after months or years of working together.

The Beauty of Gmail “Canned Responses”

Depending on your workflow you may never have thought to save yourself some time and effort by using Gmail’s “canned response” feature (found in Labs). Recently I have found it a great tool not only for effortless duplication of typical responses, but also a great way to include a email letterhead when wanting to touch up the overall appearance of my email before sending it to specific contacts. Briefly I’d like to show you how to use canned responses to help you be more efficient when composing emails.

1. Enable “Canned Responses” in Google Labs

01In your Gmail account simple go to the gear tool on the right, and slide down to “Settings.” While in settings you should see a “Labs” tab; here you can search for and enable/disable all lab features (if you’ve never seen this before you are missing out on some great features you can add to your Gmail experience)

Once you are in Labs, save yourself the trouble and just type “canned responses” in the search bar and enable it as soon as it appears. Make sure to save your changes.

02

2. Create a Canned Response

Next, create a response. Simply begin to compose a new email and in the body create the snippet you would like to save, if you have a signature enabled automatically you will want to remove that so that the body only contains your snippet. Then below the subject line you will notice a new option called “canned responses” where you can save the response you created or you can insert saved responses it from this same dropdown link.

03

04If you ever need to edit a snippet simply save over the exist response. And if you need to delete a response you can do that as well.

Once you have that mastered the next goal would be to take this even farther, using it to insert custom letterheads and email templates by following the same methods. Depending on your html/css skills, developing the layout can be difficult at first but once you have what you need created in an email you can save it as a response and call on it anytime you need.

The scope of this article doesn’t cover how to create your email template or layout but if it is something you would like to see be sure to comment below and we will consider adding another article in the future on the topic

WordPress for Authors Presentation @ WordCamp Phoenix 2013

I’m so grateful fo the positive feedback I received from my WordPress for Authors presentation at WordCamp Phoenix 2013. This was the first time I applied to speak at a tech conference. It was so much fun and I learned an incredible amount of info on some topics I already knew quite a bit about!

I’ll be posting more about the takeaways from the weekend, but for now, here are the slides from WordPress for Authors. I’m available for quick q’s here in the comments or  via Twitter @betsela.

WP 101: Pages, WYSIWYG and Images @ WordCamp Phoenix 2013

I had a great time at WordCamp Phoenix and I do plan to post about some of the hundreds of takeaways… but for now I’d like to share the slides from my WP 101 class that I led on Friday Jan 18th at 11am.  I’m happy to answer quick questions here in the post comments or via twitter @betsela.

Thanks to everyone who gave me feedback — I’ll use it to make my next presentation stronger. And better timed!

WordPress for Authors Presentation Overview

WordPress for Authors Presentation

Winston Churchill once said,

 “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.”

Great for Winston Churchill, but what about you? In the digital age bristling with social networks, blogs, and Twitter, you can rarely control what is said about you and your work.

So what can you do? While you can’t control the conversation, you can influence it. A good author web site can serve you in this effort — it helps you establish your brand, and puts out into the world the image and the story of yourself that you want people to know.

But, just as people judge a book by its cover, they will judge your work by your website.

In Saturday’s session WordPress for Authors, we will discuss the process of designing and building a web site that represents you as a professional and reflects your author brand.

Some of the topics include:

  • Structuring a site to reflect your goals
  • Identifying your audience
  • Incorporating your personal identity
  • What to look for in a Theme
  • What content to include
  • Plugins and post types

We’ll also touch on ways to use your site once it’s built as part of a broader author platform to help you launch your next book.

These topics are relevant to anyone who writes or works with authors, but they can easily be applied to any professional or creative individual with a web site.

Presenting…. Me, at WordCamp Phoenix!

I'm speaking at WordCamp Phoenix 2013!I am so excited that my application to speak at 2013 WordCamp Phoenix has been accepted.

WordCamp Phoenix will be January 18-20 2013 at various venues in Chandler, AZ.

I’ll be speaking in the Saturday “Verticals/Design” track on the subject of WordPress for Authors. I’ve been working with authors for 4 years now, and I’m excited to share some of what I’ve learned.

On Friday I’ll be leading a 45-minute session in the WP 101 class on Pages, WYSIWYG Editor & Image Editor. Beyond that, I’ll be attending sessions and hanging out. Hope to see you there!