A Really Simple Web Site

August 7, 2014 at 4:34 pm | Posted in Blogs, Computers, Internet, Software, Web Design | 2 Comments

I’ve written much here on web design and set-up. If you have a business or service, you really do want to have a web presence. Otherwise, someone searching you on-line will get a blank or someone else. Networking by posting your email address on other web sites will bring you more spam than contacts. But posting your web address just brings the contacts. A nice, customized interactive blog with regular updates would be good but we don’t all have the time or inclination for that.

But you can have a simple, free on-line brochure/ business card. And it can be done quickly.

Firstly, you need a site. Your best choice long-term is a free WordPress.com blog. This can easily be migrated to a hosted site later if you decide to grow your presence. And it doesn’t have to be a blog. Most small sites today use blog technology, even when they don’t have a blog. It’s so much easier and feature-rich to set up.

Setting up a free blog (like this one) takes just a few minutes. This is just the basics:
1) go to WordPress.com and choose a blog name. On a free blog this is in the format
NAME.wordpress.com. Use your name or your service name or some easy version thereof.
2) Register for an account with them. They’ll send a confirming email. (they may ask you to do this first, then choose a name)
3) Log into your new blog at your new address. This will bring you into the Admin “Dashboard” with all the settings.
4) In Appearances, Themes, choose and activate one of the themes (the look) they supply. The one here is the Pool theme as you’ll see at the bottom – same on all free blogs if you see a layout you like. This can easily be changed and tuned here later.
5) Go into Posts, All Posts and edit the default Welcome post. This is like writing an email. Put in a short intro and how to reach you.
Do not post your email address directly. This will invite tons of spam.

You now have a live web site for your offering.

6) Next you need a contact form. Free WordPress doesn’t supply that so go to Contactify.com and sign up for a free account. Go back to edit your post above and add some text like “Contact Me” and use the special link from Contactify. (use the Link button to add a link to selected text) Your readers will click the link, fill in a small form and the result will come to your email account.

Now you have an official web presence and online business card. Simple.

When you have a few minutes later, you can explore other features like creating Home and About Pages, tweaking your chosen theme, changing the sidebar widgets around, and lots more. But that can be done any time. You can also get a little more professional by getting your own domain name for a dozen dollars a year. (as in NAME.com)

Molly Greene takes this process a little further with more details in her article here. WordPress has guides like this one.

There is also tons of on-line help for WordPress. But make sure you’re looking at WP.com support. Many sites are talking about WordPress.org, the version you host and configure. This is what you can migrate to later if you want. It’s much more customizable and modular but also more complex. Yet once familiar with WordPress, you can take that learning with you.

This blog you’re reading is a free blog I began in 2007.  I use the above Contactify service on my About page. My other blog is hosted, far more customized, and far more capable – it has a newsletter, ecommerce, and other features. It began the same as this one.

Enjoy!
David

WordPress Migration, Part 4 – Final Step

January 22, 2014 at 10:05 pm | Posted in Blogs, Internet, Software, Web Apps, Web Design | 2 Comments

< Part 3
If you haven’t already, now is the time to finish the content for your fixed Pages.

When your site is ready, take down the landing page and…  you’re live!

But there’s one more step.

10) Redirect the old site to the new
Given you have probably built up search engine rankings and reader bookmarks, your typical choice will be to activate a referral service to bring people from your old blog to the new site automatically. Then those clicks and SEO won’t be lost.

WordPress will take care of this for you for $13 a year. On the old site, go to the Dashboard and click Store. Then Site Redirect. Once the domain is in and you purchase, it’s live.

Other choices:
b- leave the old blog as is? Not a good idea. Search engines like Google may see your new duplicate site as a spam site and not index it. Dead SEO.

c- Delete the original .com blog.

d- if your old site is small, you can go into the old posts and replace them with links to the same post on the new site, with a small explanation. But that’s a lot of grunt work. Molly mentioned problems with forwards, but it’s worked fine for me. It would be a problem if you have not matched Permalinks though, as discussed prior (Step 6).

e- Labnol offers a process to redirect you, saving the WP fee. (see his Step 3-4) But you’ll need to be a little DNS server savvy to follow this for your registrar. I’ve not tried it.

If this sounds like it’s all too much, don’t let my proneness to detail overwhelm you. Molly described this in 4 steps, if you want to follow her simpler version for Bluehost. Or you can pay your host (some will) or WordPress to move your blog for a fee. WP calls it “Guided Transfer“. It’s also in the WP.com Dashboard, Store. You then need to pay someone to configure it for you or all you get is a generic default theme. But plug-ins are not hard if you take the time to look around or choose the Keep it Simple approach (see Part 3). Just take it a step at a time.

You may also find it useful to run your site by Google’s Pagespeed check. Just keep in mind that some of the things they suggest may not be in your control. Does it matter if your theme could compress the CSS by 3KB?

For this process, I want to thank:
Molly Greene: Moving from Free to hosted WP blog

I supplemented with tips from Labnol and my final host of choice, easyPress. Plus WordPress themselves. Not to mention the many links in this series.

I hope this series helps you in your migration. I’m very pleased to have made the shift myself. My new site is far more advanced and customized than at WP.com. But it did take longer to tweak and experiment than I thought.
David

< Part 1 – Prep
< Part 2 – Setup
< Part 3 – Customization

WordPress Migration, Part 3 – Customizing with Plug-ins

January 22, 2014 at 9:53 pm | Posted in Blogs, Internet, Software, Web Apps, Web Design | 8 Comments

< Part 2 – Setup
One you have the site up, you’ll want to browse the dashboard and all the settings you have. Lots of little things to tweak.

You may find going over the free Easy WP Guide will help you get a sense of the WP.org dashboard and features. It is much like WP.com, but with extras.  This is the start page for WP.org help. Google will bring you more.

The Appearance, Widgets section allows you to sort and change the components and appearance of items in your sidebar(s). This is much as in WP.com but much fancier and many plug-ins will add more widget options.

Your research will have given you a good idea of the extras you’ll want to add and thus the plug-in research you’ll be doing. Most integration with WP.org is with plug-ins – be it e-commerce, subscription services, SEO, backup, social networking, and a zillion little tweaks you can make.

You may find small things your theme settings don’t cover. There may be a snippet of custom CSS that can be added to the theme to make these adjustments. The themes support pages should have examples. For example, I removed the author footer, changed the hyperlink colours, and fixed a couple of plug-in issues this way. Don’t try to edit the theme itself or your changes will be overwritten on the next update. Use the Custom CSS box in the themes settings.

Plug-ins
There is a vast plug-in repository. Some are abandoned or no longer compatible with current versions. Some are not compatible with each other. The key is to review the info on the plug-in – Is it what you need? Current? How is support response? Rating? Is there a cost for the features you need?

After reviewing your theme and site, what features remain to be addressed?

As you’ve already installed a plug-in or 2, you’ll be a little familiar with the process. But for review, these are they typical steps.
1 – research on-line per above
2 – search for the chosen one in Dashboard, Plugins, New
3 – click Install on your choice from the above
4 – click Activate (a way to control which plug-ins are live)
5 – browse settings – in Plugins, Installed or in the Dashboard, Settings menu (generally)
You may also need to go into Appearance, Widgets and set sidebar widgets up. And tweak theme settings.
6 – test

Some plug-ins will require you to create an account at the related service, like Twitter or your newsletter service. The service will then provide you with special links, API or security keys to interact securely between your blog and them. Record your account login and these details carefully.

You have 2 main approaches to plugins:

The first – Keep it Simple. You may find that Jetpack and Akismet (spam protection) are all you need. These make your hosted blog the most like WP.com too. Jetpack is a mega-plugin that includes over 30 modules, made by the people behind WordPress. Some are pre-activated and others can be activated as desired.

Then you can add a couple of others if you like. However, some find Jetpack pushes features you may not want unilaterally, much like WP.com. And it keeps you tied to WP.com.

Your other approach for greater control and customization is to locate and install plug-ins to cover each feature you need. I started with Jetpack but soon realized I’d have the same issues with it as I did with WP.com.

Be very careful about plug-ins that have overlapping functions that may conflict. And be open to experimentation. I replaced some plug-ins that were on my initial list with others.

Your first step may be to browse some recommended plug-in lists. Just keep in mind that just because there’s a category, it doesn’t mean you need it. You don’t want to bog down your site with too many fiddly bits.

Here are a few recommendation sites:
MakeUseOf       Popular @ WordPress

50 Best at WPExplorer       35 Best at PC Mag

Here are some categories I looked at:
*Rather than linking to specific plug-ins, I’ll let you look up the names on the WP Plug-in site. That way, they’ll be placed in context and other alternatives will be more obvious.

Comment Spam control
Akismet? Captcha? Complex captcha is over-kill for low traffic sites. But you’ll be flooded with people making vague comments, trying to get their links on your site without something. I deactivated Akismet and started simple, then raised the bar a little. Still an experiment.

Comment enhancements
CommentLuv – adds an article link of the commenting bloggers below their comment, encouraging them.
– Subscription tools (see below) often offer a subscription checkbox for your commenters, contact form, etc.
– Replacement commenting systems like IntenseDebate or LiveFyre. (careful with conflicts here)

Contact Form, like Contact Form 7. You may want to add a custom choice field to avoid Contact spam. I added a required “Contact Type” pick list, for example. Simpler than Captcha but that’s an option too.

You do NOT want to publish your email address directly on your site. This is like wearing a Kick Me! sign for spammers to sully your new email account. If you do decide you want to offer it, use code from a munger site like Enkoder (best) or AddressMunger.

Writing support
TinyMCE Spellcheck
TinyMCE Advanced – adds a whack of features to the Add New Post form, including inserting tables, video, columns, pull quotes, buttons, and more. Very customizable.

Widgets
Image Widget – to add an image on the sidebar.
Custom Meta Widget (clean up the sidebar Admin Menu)
Link Manager – If you’d like to bring back the Blogroll. I decided to have a links Page instead.

Maintenance
Broken Link Checker [see comments] – great if you have many external links in your articles. It checks periodically and warns you of links that have gone south.

Dashboard Stats
Simple Feed Stats (for RSS)
Google Analyticator or the more customizable Yoast (for Google site stats)

Google Sitemaps – for search engines – helps your site get indexed. (not Google XML Sitemaps though)

Social Media – 3 types:
a) Feeds
The RSS feed of your articles can be posted to other social media sites, like Twitter (use WP to Twitter). This way, readers can get your content however they wish. Your email subscriber service may have a newsletter to social connection. MailChimp feeds to Twitter and Facebook, for example.

b) Readers sharing your article
Typically under your blog post will be a row of links to social media sites the reader may use. This allows them to more easily share a link to your article with others and bring traffic.

I’m still experimenting with this. Shareaholic [see comments] was buggy in Firefox. obsocialbookmarker is less prominent and a lighter load but out of date. ShareThis and Social Media Feather are others – each has a different look, style and approach.

c) Connecting with your social sites (Follow)
There are also plug-ins to place links to your Twitter, LinkedIn and other such accounts on your sidebar or footer. This allows readers to connect to you that way as well or instead. I looked at a few plug-ins but discovered some simple code in a text widget with the icon set of my choice was a better solution. This is also a good place to put RSS feed links for the less familiar. Just search free social media icons for many options and ideally, the size you want. I ended up with WPZoom’s big set.

Also note that some Themes have social media features – but make sure you’re clear which of the above they are.

e-commerce
Some people get confused looking at shopping carts with this or that host. WordPress allows you to add shopping carts to your blog more directly, making this less relevant unless you plan on building a large store.

If all you want to offer is digital downloads like a few ebooks, EasyDigitalDownloads may be enough for you. For more range, WooCommerce is a popular one. I chose iThemes Exchange plugin as it was free for the basics and I quite like the approach of the company. For example, development priorities are partly based on user feature votes. It also works with StripeStripe is an e-commerce integrator that, unlike Paypal, keeps clients on your site for transactions. Don’t let Stripes developer approach make you nervous. Exchange guides you through the steps you need with videos and support pages. Basically it’s selecting Stripe in the plugin, creating an account at Stripe, then pasting some numbers from the account into boxes on the Exchange plugin. Stripe only charges per transaction.

Email subscribers
While WP has a built-in subscription function, you have zippo control over it or subscribers. If you are working to build a subscriber base, you definitely want something better. I’d recommend a Newsletter service. You connect that to your RSS feed and your posts go out daily (or weekly, etc.) in a newsletter format of your choice and design. If you have under 2,000 subscribers, you can go free with MailChimp or MadMimi. More experienced marketers than I recommend the second but MailChimp is a little older and has more integration. There are also more basic newsletter plug-ins but if you plan to grow this, you’ll find them limited. A newsletter has a bit more setup but both sites have lots of support to guide you through the necessary steps. Basically in MailChimp it means setting up a list by importing your subscribers. Then creating an RSS “campaign” with an RSS layout theme (or customizing another more) and walking through the settings for it, including social sites. You configure the connection to MailChimp and forms on your blog with MailChimp for WordPress plugin.

Please Note: Your subscribers are NOT migrated with your web site. Email rules require opt-in.

I originally chose Feedburner so that when my site moved, I just needed to point all subscribers to the new site. Easy. But 2 problems with that idea. WordPress unilaterally added a subscription service later that you could neither manage nor turn off. I ended up with 2 sets of subscribers. (and nags to change from Feedburner – they knew) Meantime, Google bought Feedburner but now appears to be abandoning it. They’ve killed it’s API.

WordPress.com will move your WP subscribers IF you use the Jetpack plug-in on your new site. Their web site indicates they support this but I got 0 response. It also became apparent I didn’t want WP subscriptions anyway as there are no tools for managing them so I didn’t pursue it.

I recommend you migrate all email subscribers to a subscription management service as above. Gather them in a spreadsheet or text file and you can import them into the above services. They did already Opt-in, after all. I notified everyone of the change and only one unsubscribed.

After this, I removed email addresses from Feedburner and changed the RSS feed to the new site, then invited them to migrate to the new sites RSS. And invited WP RSS subscribers to the new site. A large % quickly complied. RSS users are usually very familiar with easily adding and removing sites.

Other Categories
There are lots of other things you can add like forums, image galleries, feature pages, Google fonts, search enhancements, SEO, caching management, uptime monitoring, database management and so on. It depends on your needs and you can adapt features over time.

My priority was to get the initial features I need up, then refine it over time.
David

Part 4 – Finishing up>

WordPress Migration, Part 2 – Setup

January 22, 2014 at 8:48 pm | Posted in Blogs, Internet, Software, Web Apps, Web Design | 5 Comments

< Part 1
Part 2 – Setup
4) Setup
This step will depend a little on your host. With easyPress, the blog is installed and secured for you when ordered so you can skip this step. With some cPanel sites, they have a one-click install. Molly runs through a BlueHost install here (see Part 1)*. Other hosts may require you to download the installer from WordPress.org and do the server install yourself – see WP.org for the Manual install. It’s not difficult.

*Another site recommends installing WP to a subdirectory. This separates the standard web site files of you and your host from the WordPress files making it a little tidier and easier to work with.

5) Theme
Time to install your new theme.
You can go to WP Dashboard, Appearance, Themes, Add New. Browse & select your chosen theme. (the zip file)

Some sites suggest you NOT activate your theme at this time. I did and it caused no problems but it can add  problem variables to the Import coming up. This would  depend on the theme.

6) Permalinks (article address format)
In Dashboard, Settings, Permalinks. I’d highly recommend you set them to the old WP.com style of “Day and Name” for ease of import. It’s better for SEO as well to have named posts, not numbers.

If you’re going to have your old WP.com blog forward to the new site (Step 10), matching URLs is required.

6) Export your old content
– On your old WP.com site, log in to the Dashboard.
– Clear out Spam comments and any blog posts you don’t want to migrate, including any unpublished. (Dashboard, Posts)
– Click on Tools, Export. Choose what you would like to migrate to the new site – Normally you want to choose All Content. This includes pages, posts, comments, and custom post types.
– Click Download to Export the XML File
– Save the file somewhere safe. This is all your prior hard work.

7) Import – migrate time!
– On your new site Dashboard, click Tools, Import
– Choose WordPress (if you’re importing something else, choose that platform)
– it will ask you to install and activate the WordPress Import Plug-in. Follow the prompts.
– click Browse and locate your Exported XML file.
– Upload – It will unpack the old content.
– When the uploading finishes, it will ask you to choose authors. You can create new ones based on the prior authors or retain the same authors (users) as the old blog. You have this choice for each author.
– Choose to import the attachments – this is your media library, like pictures, PDF files, etc. These were not exported in the XML but are instead migrated now. This may take quite some time.

When it’s done, you have migrated your .com blog! Congratulations!

Issues
I had 3 issues with the import.
a – All internal links still pointed back to the old blog. The fix for this required a search and replace script run from the database admin. Geeky but reliable. Just follow the instructions carefully as you’re editing data directly. Hundreds of links took seconds to fix. You’ll need your database admin login for this.

b – Embedded content partly broke due to the non-standard way WP handles it. In the new environment, a few things are different.

Embedded images lost their text wrap. Old images now display between paragraphs of the old posts rather than in-line. Not a concern and may be theme related.

Embedded videos such as YouTube now just show bracketed URLs that are not hyperlinked. Not a big deal as the URL is available. I didn’t notice this issue while Jetpack was installed, so if you use that, that may address this. (didn’t check)

8) Activate Theme
Next, activate your chosen theme.
– On your new WordPress Dashboard, go to Appearance, Themes. Select your uploaded theme and click Activate. Ta daa!

You’ll want to browse the Appearance sub-menu for options. They vary widely by theme but can include WP menu items, altered WP menu items and theme specific items. Widgets are ways to customize your sidebar column(s). Each widget has its own features.

And of course, take a look around your site – how’s it look?

9) Point the Domain
It’s time to point your domain to the new site. Follow the directions of your domain registrar and host. Your host will have given you your sites IP address. This will be entered into your Registrars domain A record.

Here are the steps for easyPress, for example. (other registrars will be different but somewhat similar)

Note that this change is then updated to the DNS servers which then update the DNS servers the world over. It may take a few hours for your local ISP to update. You can monitor progress on sites like this.

Under Construction
When you’re designing a standard website, leaving the domain parked while it’s under construction is common. But because Blogworld is so interconnected, the domain has to be in place for many features to be set up, including Jetpack. Thus you need a blog equivalent of an Under Construction page.

I can recommend the “Ultimate Coming Soon Page” Plug-in for this. You can mock-up an under construction page for visitors with a link back to your old site.

In the Dashboard, just go to Plug-ins, Add New and search for the above. Click Install, then Activate. In the Plug-ins Settings, you can lay out the page and colours and turn it on. Use your domain/wp-admin/ address to login in while it’s up. Your site will only be visible if you’re logged in. You’re free to browse your imported content, checking and tweaking and noting any issues. Everyone else gets the Coming Soon page.
David

Part 3 – Customizing >

WordPress Migration: Moving your Blog from Free to Hosted, Part 1

January 22, 2014 at 8:31 pm | Posted in Blogs, Internet, Software, Web Apps, Web Design | 7 Comments

Part 1 of 4
Many bloggers start out using a free blog service, then migrate to a hosted service after they’ve gotten into the swing of it or tested their market. When it’s time to go pro, it’s time to go paid.

WordPress (WP) is the dominant player. WP comes in 2 versions. This difference is key as you have to go to the right site for the right support. The communities are also quite distinctly different. WordPress.com is the free blog hosting service. WordPress.org is the source for hosting your own WP-based site. It is the platform of choice for millions of blogs and web sites because so much of the design and feature set can be built and managed with widely available themes and plug-ins. It’s modular – like web site by Lego.

There is still a learning curve to managing your own blog, depending on how custom and sophisticated you want to go. But it’s nothing like learning Dreamweaver, HTML, CSS, PHP, Ajax, and Javascript. With a little time and experimentation on your part, you can have a professional web site at a very modest cost, mostly by checking boxes, clicking buttons, and following directions.

This is an article about migrating from WP.com to a WP.org hosted blog, derived from my own experience migrating my other blog. I also draw on the experience of many others. Migrating from Blogger or other platforms is similar but the Export and Import steps are a little different. Key resources for the process I used are at the end of this article.

Prep
Before beginning, you want to prepare. Do some research. What is the purpose of your site? Who is your market/ readership? What features will you need to support them? This will inform your choices as you go along. These questions may have different answers than they did when you started your free blog.

Is this a graphical site, for an artist or photographer? Is it magazine style? Clean and professional? A writer or journalists? What is your colour scheme? Your own style and approach will determine the style of the theme you’ll be looking for.

Make a list of the features you’d like. Make a list of the fixed Pages you’ll want: the web site around the blog. Do you want a Home page? Contact and About pages are common. This site has some colour tables (tabs above). Note that your old blogs fixed pages are normally imported as well. They’ll get renamed if you added matching ones to the new site prior. Plan the general layout of the banner, columns, sidebar, and tabs or menu to access those pages. Bookmark web sites like that. Do they show the theme name at the bottom?  Browse WP theme sites for styles you like. (see links in Step 3) Some allow you to change colours or layout.

A note on Branding – you want a site name, domain name, and logo or icon that align to your brand – be it your company, personal or site-specific name. If they don’t align, it’s confusing and hard to remember.

You can use the default banner of the theme you choose but your site will look much better if you design a custom banner with your icon and tagline. An icon can be as simple as your name in a certain font and colour.

WordPress does allow you to change your mind many times: change the theme and the look changes completely. But it’s better to get these choices made before you launch so you don’t confuse people.

Begin drafting updated content for your fixed Pages, as required. Start a spreadsheet or text file to collect the key links and passwords from suppliers that you’ll need to reference over time. Save those “Welcome” emails from suppliers too. They often have key links or numbers you’ll need.

You may also want to print out (to PDF) the stats from your old site. That is left behind.

When you’re ready, let’s get underway.

1) Domain
Find a suitable domain name. This is the name you’ll go by. Hopefully, it’s easy enough to remember and type. And it ties in with your brand. If you find something suitable, park (reserve) the domain. Or set it up to point to your old blog until you’re ready*. Don’t leave it for later or you can lose that choice. I explore more details about choosing a domain and the structure of domains here.

*a virtual domain is pointed to a web address, like your old blogs URL. A true domain points to a server IP address. The good registrars support both for no extra cost.

Many people get their domain at their blog host (Step 2 below). Some hosts include the domain cost in your hosting fee. This is also simpler. More sophisticated users may prefer managing their domains at a separate registrar. If you’re uncertain of the host, having a separate Registrar can simplify migration if necessary.

Registrar choices include sites like EasyDNS and  Register.com. Check on-line reviews. You are not limited to .com domains but do understand what the extension (TLD) means before you launch it to the world. .org, for example, implies non-profit.

Email
Also, you’ll want to set up email accounts at your new domain for your new site. The WP setup process will ask for them. contact@, info@, author@, shop@, etc. as required. They can be set to forward to your usual email account but it’s useful and professional to have domain-based accounts for you site.

For those accounts you expect to use on other sites and for commenting on your own site (your User email), go to Gravatar.com and create a gravatar for them. Use your site icon so your logo follows you. Or your picture. Quality comments on related blogs can be a great driver of new readers. Don’t mess that up by looking amateur.

2) Your Blog Host
Who will provide you server space and a network connection for your site? Host reviews have been around forever but some are old or biased, even paid. Use of cPanel is a good choice for ease of site management. I discuss some of the things to watch for here.

I can recommend:
TRK Hosting – smaller, recommended by a tech expert, I’ve happily used them for clients.

I can also note that many of the “top” web hosts in reviews these days I would not recommend. Quite a few have been bought up by EIG [the link used to list the companies but thats been deleted] which is followed by reports of long down-times and deteriorating service. GoDaddy is non-standard and problematic for some blogs. Some avoid them for ethical reasons. Also note that cheap isn’t always your best choice for your professional on-line presence. You want value rather than flaky.

3) Theme
What features do you want? How do you want your site to look? How much custom control of the look do you want? Some themes now are whole design packages. Some are single layout and colour schemes. And many are somewhere in the middle – a single theme, but with a range of customization.

Browse web sites and try the live demos out.
Here’s a few I explored more:
Elegant Themes       Woo Themes

WordPress Themes     DIY Themes

ThemeHybrid     This site discusses free vs paid themes and things to watch for.

I ended up going with Cryout’s Mantra theme. It has a large range of customization options.

Find the theme you want and purchase (if needed) and download it.

Banner
At this point, you may want to make note of the required banner size and start designing your banner. Each theme can be different. Here’s an article with links to several programs with tutorials that can help you do that. And here’s an article with tips on choosing a legal image. Just keep in mind it’s not just about a nice image but tying that to your long-term brand.
David

Part 2 – Setup >
Part 3 – Customize >
Part 4 – Final >

New Old Pages

January 12, 2014 at 9:44 am | Posted in Blogs, Computers, Internet, Online services, Software, Web Design | Leave a comment

Those of you who have followed the blog for a while know that this is a spin-off of what was once a large site on web design, from the hand-coding era. Better resources for that came up over time but a few key pages I retained as a stub on some other web space.

When I went to grad school in ’10, that web space ended and the resources went off-line. The “Web Ref” tab here closed. Finally I’ve tackled the grunt job of converting a few key pages with their custom styles and tables into the theme-driven blog environment.

Now you’ll find 3 new tabs:
Web Colour is an updated intro to how colour is defined on the web, using hexidecimal numbers. While software does a lot of that work for you now, it’s useful to understand it and  standardize how you use it. There’s also a link to some Character Code tables elsewhere, useful when you want to insert obscure symbols into text, like Ø, Ψ, or ©. Most software only covers parts of the full set.

Colour Chart is an old Web Safe table of 216 colours. While we no longer have to worry about low-bit screens, it does still offer a table of simple, clean colours and easy compatibility checks. I still use it. There’s also a small table for converting from web-safe HEX to RGB. And links to other excellent online color tools.

CMY to RGB is a comparison of the print colour gamut (range) with RGB screen colours. Print colours are produced in a different way resulting in a very different range that only partially overlaps. The table is based on the 64 shade CMY Colour Cube and includes CMY, HEX and RGB values for all sample colours. There’s also a table that compares key RGB colours to CMY. If you plan to choose web colours that will translate easily to print, this may be a good starting point.

Hope you find them useful.
David

Markdown

October 27, 2012 at 11:40 am | Posted in Blogs, Design, Internet, Software, Web Design | Leave a comment

If you have simple web site needs, one of your best solutions is to use a WordPress blog with fixed pages. Just choose a suitable theme (predesigned look & layout), put your domain name in the banner and you’re ready for content. You can browse and tweak settings at your leisure or change the theme without redoing anything*.

Adding content to a blog is much like using Webmail. Type the text and use the toolbar for bolding, links, and so forth. Publish and your content is live. You can put a blog behind a fixed home page if you like. Or leave the blog unlinked (semi-hidden) but use it to produce a newsletter.

A free blog like the one you’re reading can also be structured as a web site but you can’t use ads or post commercial content here. For that, you need your own hosted site with your own domain and web host.

If your needs are more complex, you may find you need a full web site. You can similarly seek a CSS (stylesheet) theme. However, the issue becomes how you or less experienced people produce content for the site. Programs like Word allow you to “Save as Web Page” but this produces large files, full of code for advanced MS services. I found few tools that allowed non-geeks to produce clean HTML content without coding. Adobe Contribute is one such but it’s not cheap.

Recently, I ran into the free MarkdownPad. It works much like a typical Webmail or word processing tool but produces clean HTML for a web site. You can attach the custom stylesheet your site uses or just use it to produce simple, clean pages. Copy them into your web site and you can easily update and do the basic maintenance without hiring a specialist each time.

You solution depends on your needs, but this might help.
David

*click right side links to change the look and layout while leaving the words the same. Different stylesheet theme, same content.

Work at Home

December 2, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Posted in Blogs, Economoney, Internet, Online services, Web Design | Leave a comment

The idea of a home-based business is enticing. None of the wasted time and money for commuting, a later start to the working day, and you control your hours. But if you search the subject on-line, what you mostly find is others who are trying to make a living telling you how to make a living on-line. Or they’re outright scams.

There are however ways to do it. If you do your research. It’s like starting any business. The first thing you need is a product with a market – be it information, downloads, or deliverables like books or gift-ware. Then you need to find out the best way to deliver it – the suppliers and technology you’ll need that actually work. Simply opening a web storefront on-line will add you to millions of other pages on the web. You’ll be lost in an aisle no one goes down.

A simpler way to work at home may be a traditional job done at home. Your job and pay is the usual but your office is a corner of your home. They also call this “telecommuting”. Some companies are shifting in that direction so you may be able to find such a job. But you’d have to demonstrate your ability to do the job, work unsupervised and know the needed technology.

A similar way is with independent jobs where the office can be in your home. Self-employed accountants, for example. This Workopolis article reviews the highest paying  work-from-home jobs according to Forbes. Some of them may surprise you. And most are skilled professions.

And finally, you can establish a web-based business. The key here to understand is that there’s a pretty low entry cost (if you do your research) but you need to learn your stuff. If your business is the web, you need to learn about web technology and be able to update, edit, tweak, and adjust your site. If you don’t, it would be like having to call in a contractor every time you need to move a shelf or sweep the floor of your store.

If you choose a blog-based web site (not a free one – this is business), this will reduce the coding required. But you’ll still need to get to know how to link and tweak and so forth. Again, the key here is research. There’s lots of help on-line.

Steve Pavlina wrote a classic article on making money from a blog. He also wrote on how to get high traffic. The articles have gotten a little old but the principles remain the same. They’re still among his most popular posts.

Here’s a site that specializes in Internet Marketing, to help you get the word out. Look around; the site will give you an idea of what it takes to be successful on-line. The author is a technology expert who’s sharing her own experience developing her markets. Changetheworldmarketing.com

Here’s one on best blogging practices: Bloggingwithoutablog.com

You also need to recognize your own strengths and weaknesses. Are you self-motivated enough to work mostly solo? If you don’t do the work, your bank account will drain surprisingly fast. You’ll need a lawyer and an accountant, plus anyone else who offers the skills you don’t have. Writing? Marketing? If the skill is central to your business offering, you need to ask yourself if that’s the right model for you.

Good luck!
David

Iconic

October 20, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Posted in Blogs, Design, Internet, Web Design | Leave a comment

There are a few tweaks for your WordPress.com blog that will give you more polish and professionalism.

A – your Blog Icon
This shows up in web browsers beside your web address, on tabs, bookmarks, and so forth. Like the @ above. Makes the site look more professional. In WordPress.com, they call this the “Blog Picture”
1 – Find a suitable picture that will look good small and square. Think icon, like other web sites have. Make sure you’re free to use it.
2 – In WordPress.com, go into your Dashboard and select Settings. You can upload and crop it in the box on the right.
3 – click the Save Changes button.
This is called a Favicon on a regular web site* (or wordpress.org) but for WordPress.com, you don’t need tools to convert your image to an .ico file.

B – your Personal Icon
This shows up beside your comments on other peoples blogs and such. You can use the same icon as above or have a different personal one. It demonstrates your blog presence. As comments can be a major draw for solid new readers, it’s good if they look professional.
The most widely used service is Gravatar: Globally Recognized Avatar. It just uses your email address. It’s easy & it’s free.

C – your Sidebar
Also, be sure to explore the Widgets under Appearance in your Dashboard. Depending on the theme, you can rearrange the sidebar sections, add other components, and alter their look. You’ll note, for example, how I have Categories and Archives in a pick list. Plus, I’ve added the image at the bottom and the subscription section at the top. These just use a text box with links. Some people put their icon in the sidebar as well. A larger version, of course.

Be an icon  😉
David

*if you’re building a regular web site, you’ll need a “favicon.ico” and a META tag to get the icon. Just Google “favicon” for techniques and the line of code you’ll need.

Blog as Web Site

September 14, 2009 at 10:40 pm | Posted in Blogs, Internet, Online services, Software, Web Apps, Web Design | 5 Comments

One of the more interesting trends in web sites is the shift towards blog-based sites. Blogs were started more as a journaling tool but their sophistication has gradually developed into a complete platform for easy small web site management.

This blog, for example, is mostly blog oriented with a variety of posts. But it includes the stub of a formerly large site under the ‘Web Ref‘ tab. A variety of other static pages could easily be added. One of those could be set as the “Home” page, turning the blog into a typical web site. A blog without a blog.

Blogs are pre-coded so are much easier to set up and maintain. It’s actually cheaper to use a blog like this than build and host your own site. You can change templates and tune and tweak it on the fly.

I’ve come to recommend a blog platform for most people looking for a small site that is word based. A big reason for this is ease of use. Many people pay to get a web site up then leave it languishing, unchanged. A regular site requires ongoing maintenance. Why not make it something you can do yourself? With WordPress, your time is spent on content rather than code.

Also, visibility. If you set up a new web site on the web today, congratulations. You’ve just joined the other 100 million web sites and trillion web addresses out there. Will you be seen in that crowd? The search engines pay more attention to blogs as they’re expected to update more often. You’re also recognized on other blogs and linked back to yours.

My favorite platform is WordPress. WordPress is open source and is used by organizations that include the United Nations, Ford, Sony, MTV, and many more. Yet with good content, even a one person show can draw big traffic. The current top rated WordPress blog is one man’s Typography resource.

WordPress comes in 2 varieties.

WordPress.com is the free hosted blog with yourblogname.wordpress.com, like this one. You can launch a site in just a few minutes. Choose a name, choose a theme and launch. You can later change themes on the fly as well as the sidebar features. On this blog, I added the Welcome section with Feedburner links, adjusted the sequence of the features, turned Categories and Archives into pick lists, and so on. I picked a theme with a custom banner option and put my own in. I also like the tabs for the static pages this theme has.

For a fee, you can add things like your own domain, a more highly customized look, more space, and so on. The blogs at WordPress.com create a kind of sub-section of the Internet as they’re cross-referenced in several ways. That further enhances visibility.

Technically, WordPress can place ads on your free blog but I’ve only ever seen one once. You can pay them not to but I suspect that only arises if you’re getting a lot of traffic.

WordPress.org is the open solution hosted on your own servers. This allows you to take it into far more customized, commercial, and volume territory. Most web site hosts I’ve used allow you to add or build the site from a WordPress blog directly. Little need for server configuration – just activate it in your Control Panel. But you can also roll your own.

The plugins available for customizing your own blog are immense, from a choice of any theme or layout, to adding eCommerce, galleries, feeds, twitter integration, and more. Presently, there are over 6,500 plugins. But you will need to maintain and sometimes debug some of them. If you’ve ever run into a problem on a blog, this was probably the issue.

If you do roll your own server, you will need to take care of server maintenance and the usual security updates as well.

Another nice thing about WordPress is that if you outgrow your free blog, you can export your posts to your own hosted blog.

Some people are big on social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. If you’re a musician, MySpace has advantages. Personally, I’d stay away from Facebook. Some of the others are pure information collection systems. If you want to communicate with the world, communicate with something that’s open to the world. If you don’t want to communicate things with everyone, don’t put it on the Internet.

If you can figure out how to use webmail, you can start a blog. Tweaking the look may take a little more time to fiddle through, just as browsing the settings for webmail. But the basics are easy and quick to learn.
David

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