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Danni G

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New Year’s Resolution #1: Redesign Your Website With WordPress!

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It’s just after the Holidays.  You’re flopped across the couch, poking thoughtfully at the Google Pixel smartphone your tech-savvy friend managed to snag for you.  You visit that website you set up for your business five years ago just because and—

—oh no.  Oh dear. Surely that’s not what your website looks like on the latest and greatest smartphone?

But it is.  Oh, it is.

Thus your 2017 New Year’s Resolution is born.  Redesign your dated website!

Technology changes fast. Sites that looked great before the smartphone revolution are unwieldy and difficult to navigate on small screens.  Sites that looked great even after the smartphone revolution may no longer look great now…hardware gets better, browser standards change, or maybe you simply added a lot of new content to your site without really adjusting the layout to cope with all the new articles or products.

This is all completely fixable.  But as with any New Year’s resolution, it’s best to plan your course of action ahead of time.

Below, we’ll walk you through creating a plan of action for a website redesign.

Alternately, you can skip to the end and have us redesign your site for you.

The Website Platform: WordPress

In the old days, sites were just text files hyperlinked together. Formatting and design was done via markup language, functionality was handled by code. No drag-and-drop. No clever functionality with videos and image sliders and galleries unless you coded it yourself. It wasn’t very friendly for the non-geek, and truthfully even the geeks got tired of doing everything the hard way.

So a dozen different platforms were born to make things easier.  One of them was WordPress, which started as a blogging platform and expanded from there.

We won’t lie: we love WordPress.  It’s been around forever (“forever” in technology terms meaning “over ten years”…think of it like dog years!), it’s very easy to use, it’s regularly maintained, and has a robust community actively creating new plugins and new themes.

Other platforms also have large vibrant communities.  Drupal, for example, comes to mind, but Drupal has a much higher learning curve for content authors and site developers alike and isn’t suitable for beginners, so we’ll talk about WordPress for now.

Plan Out Your Site

When you go into a WordPress-based website redesign, you need to define two things early on:

  • What do you want your site to look like? (Generally speaking—leave details for later!)
  • Do you want it to be mobile-friendly? (You do.  Trust us.)
  • What do you want your site to do on each page?

Because you will be doing most of the work through the WordPress UI without getting into code, it’s important that you select tools that work with you, instead of against you. So you need to decide what you want your site to do, and then check that the theme or plugin you choose can do that thing.

If you do it the other way around—select a theme or plugin, then decide what you want to do—you can end up reinventing the wheel because the tools you chose weren’t made with wheels in mind.

I don’t know what I want.

That’s fine.  You can cheat.

Go visit other sites doing similar things as your site is and write down…

  • What is common between these sites?
  • What pages or features do you like?
  • Rate your “liked” features.  Trying to “have it all” on a page doesn’t always work due to size or style limitations.  Be prepared to identify which features are “musts” and which are merely “nice to have”.

But you’re smart: you tell me what I need.

Sure, we can talk about common types of functionality you might want.

Do you sell things? You want an eCommerce cart. (We like WooCommerce, but there’s others.) If you sell digital items, double-check the cart you select can handle digital products.

Do you go to trade shows? Or host events? You’ll want a calendar plugin.

Do you make things? You might want a gallery plugin, a slider plugin, or a carousel plugin so you can display big, beautiful images of the things you create. Some plugins can fulfill all three roles.

Do you need to display videos? Check that any gallery, slider, or carousel plugins you already like can deal with video files.

Do you have fans or a userbase that likes to chat with each other? Consider a forum or message board plugin.

Do you blog? WordPress actually has that covered.  It started as a blogging platform! But you can look for plugins that add additional features.

Do you Tweet or post on social media sites? Look for plugins that will allow you to add a stream of updates from Twitter, Pintrest, etc. to your site.

Do you want to offer downloads of documents, files, music, etc? If these are for sale, see eCommerce plugins. If you’re not selling them, other plugins devoted to file downloads will work fine.

Do you need people to input stuff into forms? WordPress has a default form feature (used most often for Contact forms) but you might need something that’s more powerful so you can fine-tune the fields, and decide what other actions the forms need to do.

Locate WordPress Themes and Plugins

Once you know what features and functionality you need for your redesigned site, it’s time to hunt for themes and plugins that meet your requirements.  Visit https://wordpress.org/plugins/ to browse them.  You’ll find some other sites with great plugins too, such as https://wpmudev.org.

Generally speaking—and this is true beyond WordPress, for any platform you might build your site on—you want to evaluate any themes or plugins based on:

  • Number of installations/people using it (more is better)
  • Frequency of updates (more is better!)
  • How active a developer is when it comes to answering questions users have

A theme or plugin that’s widely used means bugs are more likely to be found and fixed. It also means if you have a question, it’s easier to find answers. Someone else might have had the same question as you!

A theme or plugin that is updated regularly is best.  It doesn’t matter if a million people are using the plugin or theme if nobody is bothering to keep it updated.

In fact, an unmaintained theme or plugin is a security risk when a flaw is discovered and nobody’s around patch it.

Theme-Specific Considerations

Remember when you got that new Pixel phone?  No?  I suppose it’s true Google didn’t make enough of ‘em at first…

When selecting a theme for WordPress, make sure it says it’s “responsive” and works with mobile displays.

More and more people are browsing the internet on the go, using their phones and tablets. If your site doesn’t work for them, you’re losing visitors. And if you’re a business, those lost visitors might be lost sales.

HTML Global-Recommended WordPress Plugins

We’ve used a wide array of plugins.  Here’s a few that we’re in love with!

Gravity Forms – http://www.gravityforms.com

Slider Revolution – https://revolution.themepunch.com/

WooCommerce – https://wordpress.org/plugins/woocommerce/

WPMU Dev – https://wpmudev.org

Can You Redesign Our Site?

Certainly. Give us a call or contact us through the form and we’ll be happy to work with you.

HTTPS:// in an address bar

Chrome, HTTP Notifications, and SSL Security

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In January 2017, Google Chrome will release an update marking webpages using HTTP pages “Not secure” for users if:

  • The page allows a user to log in
  • The page allows credit card information to be submitted

This change is a first step in Google’s plan to mark sites using HTTP pages as insecure. Over time, they plan to mark all HTTP pages as insecure, but for now they are starting with pages that handle sensitive information.

So what does this HTTP change in Google Chrome mean?

Enable HTTPS security with an SSL certificate (image of padlocks)If you run an ecommerce site, probably nothing.  As long as your site is correctly configured to use HTTPS instead of HTTP, you will be set.  To check if you’re already using HTTPS, visit your login and checkout pages to see if they have HTTPS in the address. Most ecommerce sites already use HTTPS instead of HTTP, and have a valid SSL certificate installed.   Users visiting these sites in Chrome won’t see any changes.

However, if you run a blog or forum that has a login page, it’s possible you don’t have an SSL certificate installed already.  This means you can’t use HTTPS yet.  Chrome users will see a “Not secure” message next to the address bar while on the login page.

In January, this message will be neutral gray.  But that will change. In the long-term, Google intends to make the message red and urgent.

How do I enable HTTPS?

It’s a two-step process.  You need to see what types of SSL certificates your webhost offers. You can also purchase an SSL Certificate from a 3rd party
and have your webhost install it. The SSL certificate is necessary because it provides the encryption that makes using the HTTPS protocol possible.  Once your SSL certificate is installed, make sure scripts on your site are configured to use HTTPS (this doesn’t happen automatically).  So if you use WordPress, Drupal, phpBB, or any other 3rd party software or script that provides a user login, you need to change the configuration to use HTTPS instead of HTTP.

Is it important to fix this?

Yes. Security-minded users may wisely decline to use your site if they see a “not secure” message in Chrome, and ghost away without you even knowing why they left. You may also get direct questions from your userbase if they notice the change and become concerned. It’s good security practice to use HTTPS on pages handling sensitive information.  You’ll protect and reassure your userbase by adding an SSL certificate and HTTPS on your site.

When does my site need to have an SSL certificate installed and HTTPS enabled by?

Chrome will have this update rolled out in January 2017, so you have approximately two months to update your site.

Where can I learn more?

Check out Google’s official announcement here.

Can HTML Global Check if My Site is Using HTTPS and SSL?

HTML Global Can Help You Install SSL CertificatesYes we can!  If you’re an HTML Global client and we host your site, we’re already updating sites and reaching out to clients in the background.

If you’re not an HTML Global client, but have a site that needs an SSL certificate installed, contact us and we can help you out!

 

Collaborate using G Suite

G Suite: New Name, and New Features!

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Google Apps has recently changed its name to G Suite. Not all apps are using G Suite name just yet, but the change will roll out soon for Gmail, Docs, Drive, Calendar, Hangouts, and more.  Learn more about the change here.

In addition to rolling out G Suite, some new features and updates have already been added to G Suite apps.  Here are a few of the recent updates.

Smart Scheduling with Google Calendar

Available currently for Android and iOS, and soon for the web, Google Calendar now has a “Find a Time” option when scheduling meetings.  

It analyzes the individuals being invited to an event, meetings they may already have in their calendars, and suggests the best time-slot and location based not only on the earliest available time-slot, but also its intelligent predictions taking into account timeslots that may be able to be freed up for parties that have busy schedules.  Find out more here.

View Deleted Files in Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides on Android

If you’re using the Android version of Docs, Sheets, or Slides, you can now view and restore deleted files.  Navigate to the menu and tap on Trash, and you’ll be able to restore–or delete permanently–files there.  Learn more here.

Explore All The Things!

Or at least, Explore Google Sheets, Slides, and Docs with Google’s new Explore feature.

Google has several updates for you that allow you to tap into Google’s consolidated knowledge when working on a spreadsheet, a slide presentation, or a document.

If you open up a Google Sheet, you’ll see on the lower righthand corner a new icon.  If you click on it, you’ll open up the new Explore feature. You’ll be able to take a tutorial, and even copy a demo spreadsheet to play around in, with data about the FIFA World Cup.  Ask it the question, “How many World Cups has England Won?” using plain English (not a formula!) it will tell you “1”, and show you what formula it used to derive that answer.  Pretty neat!  You’ll be able to make all sorts of plain-English queries on your data.

The Explore pane in Slides is accessed in the lower right as well, but a little to the left.  When you click on it, you’ll be able to select various layouts for your presentation’s look, and then use the Explore pane to search the web, images, and your drive right from the Slides page.  You can drag and drop content right into your presentation.

Explore in Docs works similarly to Slides.  Click on the Explore icon in the lower right of the screen, and you’ll be able to search the web, images, and your drive right from there.

Learn more about Explore for Google Sheets, Slides, and Docs here.

G Suite on Android: New Quick Access Feature on Google Drive

For Android users of G Suite, Google has launched their “Quick Access” feature.  This feature takes advantage of their prediction algorithms to provide you with easy access to documents you may need before you actually search.  It does this by analyzing regular events such as meetings on your calendar, as well as analysis of your typical Google Drive search patterns and your interactions with co-workers.

Read more here.

Not using G Suite or Google Apps Yet?HTML Global is a G Suite and Google Cloud Partner

HTML Global can help you understand what G Suite can offer your organization.  Visit our Google Cloud page to learn more.