What is WordPress?- Posted March 19, 2017
WordPress is a content management system (CMS)
To start we’ll have to talk about what a content management system is and why you want one. A website is generally a place where you publish information or content for all the world to see. Even a small amount of content can be difficult to change and keep updated when working with a traditional HTML hard coded website. A Content Management System like WordPress acts as a layer between you and the code, allowing you to make changes to the site in an easy and convenient way. The final code of your website is generated by WordPress as it is requested by visitors.
How does it work?
Like other content management systems, WordPress acts as a layer between you and the code. WordPress allows you to make changes to the content of your website without ever changing the code, which means you can edit from a laptop, PC or phone without any technical knowledge. WordPress is modular and has thousands of themes and plugins you can easily add to your website. WordPress comes with some base functionality like blog posts, media management, and basic web pages; but if you want more advanced features you’ll have to install plugins. Plugins add features like contact boxes, forums, and more to your website; there are thousands you can add right from the WordPress dashboard.
There are two main components to a WordPress installation: the database and the WordPress Core files. If you are not hosting your own WordPress, it’s not too important to know how it works. Once you sign up with your hosting provider you’ll be able to log right into the admin panel.
The database holds all the information about your website like your posts, page content, theme options, and active plugins. The database can be hosted on the same server as the WordPress files, or on a different server.
The WordPress Core files include the admin panel and some basic themes to get started. The admin panel is where you can create and edit posts, pages, and make changes to the themes and plugins. Editing pages and posts should be familiar to anyone who has uses microsoft word or a similar word processor. The WordPress Core is accessed in the same way as a normal website which is what makes WordPress so easy to set up and use.
What does it look like?
The WordPress dashboard may be a little stark and minimalist but that doesn’t mean your website will be. You can make just about any website with wordpress!
The wordpress text editor is a common element used for editing blog posts, pages, and any custom text used by themes. The features and buttons should be familiar to anyone who has used a word processor like Microsoft Office. The official name is the “wysiwyg editor” which is short for “What You See Is What You Get”
There are thousands of themes available and WordPress makes them very easy to install. You can search, preview, and install right from inside the wordpress dashboard. A theme is a package of styles, page templates, and demo content that can help you get your site up and running quickly. A professional wordpress developer will also use what’s known as a framework theme, a theme that allows a developer full control over the fonts, colors, and menu style of the website; and usually make their own page templates.
Some themes allow you to customize the look and feel of your WordPress site right from the front page using the customizer sidebar. The themes that include this feature are designed to get you up and running as quickly as possible. The basic themes that come with wordpress all use the customizer feature.
The Media Library
The media library is an easy way to upload and view all your images. Simply drag and drop into the media library window to upload. You can also upload documents into the library and link to them in your web pages and posts.
Sounds great how do I get it?
If you want to start your own WordPress website you have two main choices: host your own, or sign up for hosted wordpress. There are many WordPress hosting companies out there to choose from but you can expect to pay from $10 to $20 per month, maybe a little less on an annual plan. Companies that offer dirt cheap hosting are generally some combination of unreliable, slow performing, and unresponsive. You can save yourself a lot of trouble by paying a few dollars more per month with a reputable hosting provider. A professional WordPress developer can help you set up your own hosting or work with a hosting provider on your behalf.
Bluehost offers high performance managed WordPress hosting, great for small businesses that expect to grow. Being managed means you don’t have to worry about your site ever going offline for technical reasons, they take care of all the IT. Bluehost also comes with free CDN (Content Delivery Network) which speeds up the loading of images and documents.
Dreamhost offers two options: an affordable option that’s great for businesses just starting out, and a high performance option that can scale with your business. The high performance option is fully managed so you don’t have to worry about it crashing or going offline for other technical reasons.
Questions about WordPress?
We’re always happy to answer your questions and help you find the best WordPress solution for your business. Contact us!
Recipe For A Great Website- Posted January 4, 2017
Building a website can feel like a daunting task even with the help of a professional web developer. A web developer can help you with design and best practices but you’re the only one with complete knowledge of your business and vision. Some planning an preparation can go a long way towards creating the best possible website for you. With good planning, the best WordPress plugins for business and fast web hosting, you’ll have a complete website checklist!
Think about the users
Put yourself in the shoes of a visitor. Why are you here? What do you expect to find on this website? What kind of information is most important to you? How did I find this site? The answers to these questions all depend on the type of website you have and its purpose. This is part of what’s known as User Experience or UX.
For example consider a website for a retail sports store:
How did I find this site? Through google by searching “local sports store”
For retail stores google is going to be the most common way that customers find them. Customers are usually looking for a store in their area. Google Adwords (paid google results) are a great way to increase your presence on google, and the likely hood of a customer clicking your shop. Usually customers will choose the first or second result they see and not worry too much about comparing sites.
Why am I here? To look for a new bike helmet
A customer usually has a specific purpose in mind when searching for a business. Even though this purpose may not be your focus, it’s important to allow the customer to easily find what they are looking for. If you can make a good impression, a customer may come back for more!
What do I expect to find on this site? Sporting goods related photos and content
A website needs to look somewhat like what a customer expects it should look like, for the type of website it is. In this case, the website should have some similarities to other sports shops in the area. This is not to copy or rip-off what others are doing, but just to assure the customer that they are in the right place.
What kind of information is most important to me? Location and store hours, and bike helmets in stock
Now that we’ve established how the customer got here and what they’re looking for, we can decide what information is most important. Since the customer is looking for a local store, it follows that they would want to physically visit the store. The customer is going to need location information and hours and operation in order to plan their route. Location information should be big and easy to find especially on mobile. Next it would be helpful if the customer was able to browse products from the comfort of their own home.
Putting it together
Purchase a domain
A domain name is your web address, what you’ll write on your business cards, and what people will type into their browser to find you. For example beaconstudios.ca is a domain name. A good domain is important but it’s not going to make or break your website. A good domain should generally be easy to write down, easy to tell a friend, and easy to type in. You should avoid similar sounding or hard to spell words. For example “good dash cars dot com” could be gooddashcars.com, goodashcars.com, or good-cars.com. You can see how that could be hard to tell someone verbally. For more information you can read my blog post dedicated to domain names.
The best WordPress plugins for business
Plugins extend the functionality of WordPress and allow you to quickly and easily implement features that would otherwise be expensive to have custom coded. Many plugins are totally free but many are limited or ad-supported in their free versions. It’s well worth paying for a few key paid plugins to ensure you have legal up to date licenses. Though you may need some additional plugins for your specific needs, these are a few that every site needs. For free plugins just install them through the “plugins” panel of your wordpress dashboard. Here are some of my favorites and some of the best wordpress plugins for business.
Contact form 7 is a simple, free and easy o use contact form for your website. This plugin ranks as one of the best wordpress plugins for business because of how easy it is to use and how flexible it can be It is one of the most popular contact forms out there. No ads or limitations, it simply works. It supports captcha for anti-spam protection. You can customize the fields to turn it into a simple sign up or application form.
Visual Composer is a page building plugin that is used by millions of users and professionals! This plugin allows you to make complex and mobile friendly page layouts quickly and easily though a visual drag-and-drop builder. Visual composer includes advanced styling and layout options that give you complete control over your website. This site is built on visual composer and it is by far one of the best wordpress plugins for business!
Woommerce is a free eCommerce plugin for WordPress that allows you to sell your products and services online. You can sell physical goods or even virtual and downloadable goods, you can do almost anything with Woocommerce. If ecommerce is your business, then this is going to the most useful of the best wordpress plugins for business, for you. While Woocommerce is free you may need some additional paid plugins in order to support multiple payment and shipping methods. Woocommerce offers stripe payment for free so you can accept credit cards online.
Woocommerce Canada post shipping plugin allows you to give your customers an accurate and up to date shipping quote. This plugin uses the Canada post API to calculate a shipping cost in real time from you to your customer. People appreciate an accurate shipping price so they know they are getting the best deal possible.
Slider revolution is a plugin that will help you easily create rich media slideshows, presentations, and more. You can layer elements together to create interesting displays and advertisements too. Slider revolution comes with plenty of pre-built templates, icons, animations and more! The slideshow on the front page of this site is built with slider revolution just to give you an idea of what it can do.
Purchase your theme
Here’s where a lot of people get lost. There are so many themes it’s hard to choose just one to use in your site. A lot of themes are free but almost all of them are very limited until you upgrade to the “pro” paid version. Free themes can be a good starting point if you’re building your own site and don’t want to customize, but if you want to make any changes to the layout you’re probably going to have to get a paid theme. Choosing a good paid theme can save you a lot of time sorting through all the free ones, and they can offer enough flexibility to allow you to completely redesign your site all with the same theme.
Betheme is a responsive and highly customizable theme, and one of my favourites. The great thing about this theme is how easy it is to customize and how many different style options it gives you for menu, colour, and font. Betheme comes with a lot of pre-built site templates for you to try out. As an added bonus, Betheme comes with visual composer!
X theme is a hugely popular responsive theme that gives you 4 pre-built styles that you can customize and extend as much as you like. With many different menu styles and color options, you’re sure to find something that works for you. The best part about x theme is that it comes bundled with some of the best premium plugins out there including visual composer and advanced custom fields.
If you have any questions about plugins or themes feel free to contact us or leave a comment below.
How To Buy A Domain Name- Posted November 25, 2016
What is a domain name?
A Domain Name is the name of your space on the internet, it tells your browser where to look for your website. It does this through a process called a DNS (Domain Name System) lookup which finds the physical web server belonging to your domain name.
A fully qualified domain name consists of two parts: the domain name (the name you choose) and a top level domain (the extension you choose such as .com or .ca).
Which domain should I choose?
It was once commonly said that to get anywhere online you needed a .com name but these days that’s simply not true. There have been many modern online successes using other top level domains such as bit.ly and last.fm. You should use whatever top level domain will be most memorable for your customers and best describes your services. One exception is if you are registering a country specific domain like .ca or .us. A .ca domain can inspire trust because in order to register one, you need to be a Canadian citizen with a Canadian address.
It’s important to remember that a domain isn’t just branding, it’s something that a user will need to remember and type in to their browser. You should keep your domain as short and easy to remember as possible and don’t worry too much about the specific wording.
What if my domain is already taken?
With so many businesses out there you may find that your preferred domain is already taken. There are two things you can do: choose a new domain, or if the domain is unused offer to buy the domain from the current owner. Domain registrars (domain registration companies like godaddy or uniregistry) are required to hold a public database of domain owners called a whois database. You can use that database to contact the owner of the domain directly to make an offer. If you decide to purchase a domain that is already owned, make sure to use the escrow services provided by the domain registrar, this ensures the transaction will go smoothly for both parties.
Where do I register a domain?
Domains are registered with companies called registrars, they handle registration and most also provide basic DNS service to point the domain to your web server. Most registrars have the same pricing, the main difference is service and ease of use.
Uniregistry is a new company on the scene, they offer an attractive interface that is fast and easy to use. Their DNS service propagates quickly which means your site can be up and running faster. Uniregistry does not believe in upsells, their pricing is resonable and upfront.
Godaddy is one of the largest domain registrars out there. Their interface is a little older and slower but they’re making efforts to imporve that. They offer great customer service and can even make changes to your domains for you. Godaddy tends to try and upsell their customers with extras and promotional emails, which may turn off some people.
Responsive Web Design For Mobile Devices- Posted October 8, 2016
What is “Responsive Design”?
Responsive web design means creating web pages that respond to different screen sizes, specifically those of mobile devices like phones and tablets. In the past it was common practice to create 2 different versions of the website, one for mobile and one for desktop, and direct users to the appropriate site. While this type of website cans till be found, for most applications it has been replaced with Responsive Design.
The main idea of Responsive Design is to build websites that give users the same or greater features on mobile as they can find on desktop; This is known as “Mobile First”.
How Does A Website “Respond”?
A website responds by resizing page elements to suit different screen widths. For example the font of a heading may be 55 pixels tall on desktop, but when the same page is viewed on a tablet like an Ipad the font will appear as 35 pixels tall. Left at its original size, the text may be so large that it runs right off the screen on an Ipad. The same kind of resizing can be done with photos and other content blocks.
Responsive Design is not just limited to simple resizing, the entire web page layout can adapt to different screens. For example a layout that is 4 columns across can change to a 2×2 grid layout on a tablet (a medium sized device) and then that can change to a 1 column layout when viewed on a phone (a small sized device). Responsive resizing is not just limited to mobile devices, it applies to desktops as well. Some older desktops may have similar screen resolutions to many mobile devices. Websites should be accessible by anyone regardless of device.
Responsive And Mobile Friendly
Being responsive is a good start but a website should also be mobile friendly. There are two main differences with a mobile device compared to a desktop:
- Actual screen size
- Input method
Even though you can resize a web page to fit on a mobile device it’s important to remember that the actual screen size of a phone is around 5 inches on the diagonal. Mobile devices are usually held a good distance away from the eye which means that text and images must be much larger in order to be easily seen. The most common approach is to make most elements span the entire with of the screen, stacked in a single column.
The challenges of a small screen size are even greater when you consider that the main input method for a phone or tablet is touch. A thumb can take up as much as 30% of the width of the screen. It is important that any buttons, menus, and text boxes are big enough to be easily tapped.
Responsive design isn’t just about making things smaller, sometimes it’s making things bigger too.
You Can Reach Twice As Many Customers
It may sound like too much work to make your website optimized for mobile but in fact it is critical. More people than ever are using mobile devices to view the internet and that trend is just increasing. In 2015, 51% time spent using the internet was on mobile. If your website is not optimized for mobile viewers you could be turning away half your customers!
Choosing A Payment Provider- Posted October 3, 2016
What is a payment provider?
A payment provider is a company that processes payments between customers and sellers. Essentially they make it easy for sellers to get paid!
There’s a lot more to processing a credit card transaction these days than just entering a number, which is why most companies go through a payment provider rather than dealing with the credit card companies directly.
Here are just some of the service offered by most payment providers:
- Currency conversion
- Accepting different card types (American Express, VISA, Master card, Etc)
- Customer address verification / anti-fraud measures
- Accepting different payment methods (Contactless cards, Visa Debit, Etc)
Without a payment provider, merchants would need a separate relationship with each credit card company and payment type. Due the the volume of transactions that payment providers deal with, they often get preferential rates from credit card companies which can more than make up for the fee that payment provider charge.
PayPal is one of the world’s largest Internet payment companies. It was established in 1998 and offers payment processing to merchants all over the world.
Their fees break down as follows:
|Sales within Canada:||1.9% to 2.9% + $0.30 CAD per transaction|
|Discount rate for charities registered with the CRA:||1.6% + $0.30 CAD per transaction|
|Sales to the US:||2.7% to 3.7% transaction fee + fixed fee (based on currency received)*|
|International sales (excluding the US):||2.9% to 3.9% transaction fee + fixed fee (based on currency received)*|
Papal offers a good variety of solutions for vendors, from a simple hosted pay page that is easy to configure, to fully customizable payment processing. Their developer documentation is not as complete as Stripe but it’s enough to get started.
The stripe fee model is simple: 2.9% + CA$0.30 regardless of country.
Stripe’s fees are lower than paypal initially but become more expensive for larger businesses due to paypal’s volume discounts.
Moneris Solutions is canada’s largest payment processor. Moneris was established December 2000 as a joint investment between RBC Royal Bank And BMO Bank of Montreal.
Moneris charge one of the lowest fees around: 2% + $0.10 per transaction
Moneris also offers instant deposit for all transactions, a huge advantage compared to up to 7 days with stripe.
The main downside to Moneris is their application process, which can take weeks to process. Being owned by banks, they tend to operate like a bank; Using tried and true, but outdated technology. Both Paypal and Stripe take less than 10 minutes to sign up.
A major issue with Moneris is that they don’t allow you to test your payment configuration. You must use a special test account if you want to do any testing, and then copy the configuration to your live account. Overall I would not recommend using Moneris for e-commerce. If you operate a retail location and also sell things online, moneris could be a good solution as they offer retail POS services as well.