Get it All
Together

Among my very favourite reads on the Internet, AddThis always has something worth reading:

Tip 6: Freshen Up Your Feed

Brainstorm new types of content you haven’t tried in the past as a way to drive more engagement and reach new users via your social channels.

Here are some ideas to freshen your feed and boost engagement:&hellips;

I’d like to expand on this excellent bit of advice. Yes, you need to find ways to spark new creativity into your daily content. But let me suggest that another “feed” you need to refresh: the feed you feed your head. Spring is a great time to make sure that the things that are supposed to be inspiring you actually are:

RSS Feeds

This is a dying avenue, I know. But for those of you who, like me, cannot quite let go of your well-honed RSS feeds, now is the moment to undertake the grim work of seeing who’s news feeds have gone silent while you’ve been sleeping.

Other sites simply do not contribute the quality of content they once did. Just page after page of uninteresting promotions and grants. Gone is the excitement of the latest discovery. Even the discoveries aren’t written of with any enthusiasm.

Twitter Lists

Among the Eureka moments in my career as a social media personality was the moment I discovered the power of Twitter’s lists. Creating lists of accounts that you see as having a common bond – local feeds, topic feeds, influencer feeds – is a great way to survey an important component of your social network in-context. It is this ability to interact with your networks in such specific ways that I maintain is why content on Twitter is consistently better quality – even as compared to other social feeds of the same agent.

But people move on and feeds become less relevant than they promised to be. It’s not personal: yours may not be so hot, either. But spring may be time to start taking a long look at those accounts that are just taking up space on your lists.

The “Daily Scroll”:

We’ve all got one: that list of websites that, even when we know there won’t be more content, we still end up checking in bored moments throughout the day. Is yours working for you, or can you add some new stuff?

I’ve recently become fascinated by one of the most cerebral science news and thoughts sites I’ve ever read, Nautilus:

Could these people’s immune systems be converging because their microbiomes are adapting to their shared environment? The immune system must maintain a relationship with friendly microbes to keep them straight from the bad ones, so if partners are exposed to similar bacteria and viruses, that exposure could make their populations of immune cells more similar. The researchers point out that it’s already known that couples who live together have more similar microbiomes than strangers do, perhaps because they swap bacteria with each other or share lifestyle choices like smoking or drinking. “Some of these factors are likely to be even more shared after children,” says Adrian Liston, the senior author and a professor at University of Leuven in Belgium. “For example, children are likely to increase the exchange of gut bacteria by reducing the sterility of the household (to put it nicely).”

On top of fabulously-gross biology articles such as this one, Nautilus continues to surprise in it’s ability to describe the cutting edge of science in an understandable and engaging way without pandering to simple “wisdom.”

But other sites with whom I have “frequent flier miles” aren’t as inspiring right now. Maybe the core content has strayed from its mission, or just isn’t as sharp as it used to be. It may be time to move on.

It’s not personal, it’s inspiration:

A big part of me worries when I stop following someone. It’s silly, but it’s true. I know my support is just one set of eyeballs, but when content gets stale and I decide I need to move on, it feels like I’m letting someone down. Self-important, much?

But losing audience members has never been the end of the road for my writing career. It hurts, but only because you know you’re not inspiring people like you once did. But the answer to that is not to look on your former viewers with disappointment, but to look on their departure as a signal. The signal is: it’s time to get relevant, again.

foundation6-logo

I’ve been a big fan of Zurb Foundation for quite a while. So much so, that every WordPress project I’ve created in the last six months (about 40, all tolled) have been built using my Foundation 5-based theme, HN Reactive. The new version of Foundation has had me itching to start developing, but I’m presented now with a problem:

The production server where I house my clients’ projects has tons of projects that rely on Foundation 5. But Foundation 6 is significantly different from 5 that they’re not at all compatible. Worse, since both versions want to use the name “foundation” as their function name, they step on each other. So, how can we use Foundation 5 and 6 together?

It is true that the only reason to use the “foundation” command with 5 is usually to create a new project. You could probably continue to use Compass to compile existing Foundation 5 projects while using the Foundation 6 version to create new projects. But that is a wholly unsatisfactory position to put myself in, on the off chance that an installation of 5 needs to be rebuilt for some reason or another. And there’s no way I’m putting myself in that position on a production server where a lot of people are paying me money not to have such problems.

Zurb Foundation 5 and 6 together:

After searching for a solution and finding none, the solution ends up being aliases. By creating an alias record in your shell profile (.bashrc or .bash_aliases in Ubuntu), you can all live together in one happy, productive family:

Late Update: it appears based on further research that a recent update of Foundation 5 ended up putting that executable in the same place as F6. So with this in mind, I recommend:

  • Install Foundation 5
  • Move the foundation executable from /usr/local/bin to /usr/bin
  • Install Foundation 6
  • Setup your aliases.

 

If you’re looking to use Zurb Foundation for WordPress layouts (hint: you should totally be using Zurb Foundation for WordPress layouts), you’ll probably want to create a fluid, responsive footer that is horizontal for desktop but vertical for everyone else. How do you go about such a thing? Bon apetit:

Change is hard. After 14+ years of WordPress development, change is also a constant thing. But the change to using the WP Customizer, as required by the WordPress repository, had me kicking and screaming rather than complying.

Mind you: I don’t actually submit to the repository for themes. But when the WordPress devs start laying down the law like that, it doesn’t take much imagination to recognize that more pressure will be building up soon. And development of the core will definitely be going in that direction, so you may as well find a way to love change because change is coming.

I understand perfectly the need WordPress devs are confronting: what used to be a relatively well-organized, small community is becoming unmanageably large and the result is a whole lot of bad code. People put options wherever they feel like, making the use of WordPress – because in the end, users will only ever blame WordPress, not private developers – an arduous and unsatisfactory process.

But I am also experienced enough of a WP developer to remember some of the bad roll-outs and misbegotten innovations past. Post formats were basically a half-assed attempt at building something CMS-like out of WordPress. Taxonomies were introduced with huge fanfare and literally no documentation on why the hell anyone would use them. The truth be told, taxonomies would continue to be teets-on-a-bull until custom post types were rolled out several years later.

And then there was the ultimate bugaboo: the Settings API. I’m confident that the rollout of the Settings API was as quiet as it was because everybody knew it sucked. One day, it didn’t exist. Then all at once, there’s the documentation… documentation which was predictably incomplete and completely unintelligible.

Functions in the Settings API were misleading and confusing. Their function seemed to point the way to some other, here-to-fore unmentioned other requirements. Whatever those were, they weren’t the things developers needed. This was doubly frustrating because, having worked with CakePHP for a while, I had really hoped WP would adopt the universal form functions that CakePHP used. I still believe there are people making money off forms – contact and the like – that should always have been a core feature of WordPress, but I digress.

The point is: I’m a bit punchy about just adopting the new propaganda wholesale. WordPress’s rollout history is checkered, at best.

Right. But you were saying you were “on board?”

Yes, yes. Sorry.

Like I said, I know that the pressure to adopt the Customization API is due to get stronger as we go. So, it pays to stay ahead of the curve, to the extent that such a thing is possible. And with the latest update to 4.3, there seem to have been some major updates to the Customize layout that make a difference.

The biggest thing I have objected to in the past – beyond my gun-shyness about WP updates – was the fact that, with only one narrow column to work with, I just could not see a world where dozens of plugin- and theme-derived customization settings existed in an ever-increasing Scroll Bar of Doom.

The WordPress gurus have solved this problem by making each section a drill-down, giving each options section the full height of the window to operate on:

customize-bar

Well, that’s much better, isn’t it??

Right off the bat, I can begin to see my content and modifications fitting inside the Customizer. Well done!

But even better – and I cannot stress how happy this makes me – the Settings API has been completely subsumed and improved with the Customize API. In fact, it’s about as basic as my needs are: create a section (if you want), create a setting, create a control that handles that setting, then place the control in the section you want. Boom! No messy saves, no ambiguous functions, no labyrinthine inter-functional hubba-bubba. Just tell WordPress what you want to save and consider it done.

More to go…

As wonderful as the Customize API is, it’s not a stopping point. The documentation could probably stand a brush-up, but there are also somewhat ambiguous points to the code itself. Like for example, if I have a group of checkboxes, I clearly want to be able to associate them all with a single setting. Sure, I could go with “icon_font_fontawesome,” “icon_font_zocial” and so on, but this seems to be a great way to clutter up the database with very little upside. It also makes getting/setting these options a bit cumbersome, as I solved with this little doozie:

But to me, this could have been solved by allowing us to save arrays to the database, which at present, does not happen. Lots of other optional settings might require array saves, or a developer might just prefer to save a multitude of related, oft-coexisting settings in one setting array to save on extra database pulls. To the extent that WordPress is still willing to accomodate differing coding styles, this really aught to be an allowable process.

But there’s no question that, on the go-forward, I will be using the Customizer over individual settings pages all day.

HolisticNetworking is looking to hire a part-time, outsourced sales partner to sell our line of WordPress website and custom hosting solutions. This position could lead to a full-time position down the line, but for now, we just need to book 2-3 new clients a month.

The right candidate will be able to speak intelligently to our perspective clients about:

  • Why WordPress is the preferred platform for small businesses.
  • Why Responsive Web Design is the cost-effective choice for web design.
  • Why a managed website is preferable to go-it-alone web sites.

Familiarity with web design and development technologies, social media management and search engine optimization – at least conversationally – is a huge bonus. HN properties come with a suite of important technologies, and conveying the benefit of those products to low tech people is the biggest challenge.

Compensation is a healthy commission from sales. Sales could technically be pretty brisk – I can generally complete a theme in 8-12 hours – but because I’m currently working for a client taking up 30-40hrs a week, I have to keep the list of active clients to a minimum, hence I need a part time salesman.

Send me a love note if you’re interested in getting a good relationship started. I’m looking forward to meeting you!

Part Time Sales Partner

Sooner rather than later, you’re going to get asked. No matter how you slice it, people are going to insist they need it. But… how do you go about grouping a list of posts by taxonomy?

I’ll give you an example, referred to in the title of this post: the menu. While menu items are normally listed by a specific menu or category – breakfast, lunch and dinner, for example – many menus require a further subdivision of menu items. Wine lists, for example, need to be broken down by red, white and blush or rose. Beer might get split up between domestic, imported and microbrew. So, if you use a custom taxonomy to organize your menus, you’ll need to be able to further subdivide in this manner.

With my current client, I do a lot of menu work. And yes, you could just list out each menu and submenu with their own loops. But that’s inefficient and just not in the character of a good developer. There has to be a way to make this easier. And there is.

The below code is based on code further derived from a WordPress.org blog post. But while that code worked for a limited set of options, I wanted something more abstracted that could apply to many different types of scenarios. Here it is:

You’ll notice, of course, that this example is highly-specific to menus at the moment. That’s at least in part because I couldn’t get WordPress to load a template part with the right variables. You’ll also note that the call to the second function looks like it’s OOP. That’s because it is. I write my WordPress theme functions.php file as OOP. But otherwise, this should be a very easily-compatible bit of code to fit your own particular needs. Enjoy!

I’m mostly just placing this snippet of code here because I don’t want to lose it. Regardless, if you’ve been searching for a way to filter your list of posts (or CPTs) by a custom taxonomy (like you can filter through posts with native Categories), then this is your solution. It began with a WordPress.org forum post, which while close, didn’t quite get the job done.

After a bit of tinkering, I know I’ll be using this filter quite a little bit. So, bon apetite. Please note that I use an object-based functions.php file, so this is a snippet directly from my object. Your mileage may vary.

The new, improved Rochester Optical Stores website.

The new, improved Rochester Optical Stores website.

More than anything else, I love making life simpler for my customers. Who doesn’t? And when making my customer’s customers’ lives easier is the name of the game, I can’t wait to get started!

Rochester Optical’s local stores needed a web facelift. After years of tweaking and retooling their website for the needs of the business, it had become a labyrinth of back alleys and places for customers to just get lost, get bored and ultimately leave. Google Analytics told the tale: customers would use the top-level navigation to seek out information they wanted, then scatter into a dozen different directions, based on the next hyperlink they encountered that interested them.

It’s great to inform your customer, but ultimately, what RO needed was a lead generation machine. On this level despite having an online form to book appointments, the site had not really pulled its own weight.

Speaking with the Director of Retail Operations, it was clear that what was really needed was a drastic simplification of their message and their website. Instead of letting customers get lost in an endless stream of links, we stripped the site down to a one-page appointment-booking machine. Those top-level links that had been so successful in luring customers before were maintained, this time directing the customer down the page on a horizontally-striped layout.

Every single section of the site ultimately encourages the customer to come find out more. Want to find out more about a location? Come book an appointment. Like the designer brands Rochester Optical works with? Book an appointment and have a closer look.

The company has plans to expand the site presence with a blog to publish to social media outlets with helpful advice about glasses, contacts and vision health. HolisticNetworking has plans to help them see it through and increase the social footprint of a local Rochester institution. HolisticNetworking will help you get it all together, whenever you’re ready, too!

Need some fresh thinking in your web presence? Contact us today!

At HolisticNetworking, we understand: you’re not a web developer and you’re not a web company. You need the web to do what you do best. But maybe the web has been taking too much of your time and not giving you what you need. Even worse, you may be paying for services you don’t need that used to support a project you are no longer working on. Dollars are flying out the back window, while trying to keep your eyes peeled out the front window.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Those lost dollars can be recovered, if you just have an expert take the time to look over your web infrastructure and help you reorganize. One possible solution is to consider using WordPress for some or all of your web properties. If you’re thinking of ways to save your company money, here are five good reasons to take a second look at WordPress – and five good reasons to contact HN today to help you do it.

5. Many sites? Just one WordPress.

Most companies have, for one reason or another, several domain names under their ownership. Maybe you’d like to market directly to a very specific audience. Maybe you’re protecting your brand and registered trademarks by owning microsites for each of them. You have your reasons.

Where Did My Content GoBut they all need to be tracked, administered and occasionally updated. That costs time, and time costs money. In fact, literally every thing on this list can be multiplied by the number of sites you need to maintain. Is there an easier way?

Why, yes! Yes, there is! WordPress was developed to be capable of hosting several websites all at once. Different domain names, same WordPress. That means only one version of WordPress to be updated, ever. One set of plugins. One set of themes.

Say goodbye to multiple web hosting accounts and nickel-and-dime costs of doing business: with WordPress multi-domain, you can have just one bill for all your accounts.

Find Out How You Can Save on Web Hosting Today!


4. Updated content? No problem!

Maintaining and administering a website is one thing. Updating the content on the site is quite another. Do you really need to call in an expert every time you need to change a phone number?

Photo courtesy Diesel Demon @ Flickr.com

Why, no. No, you do not. With WordPress, you can grant users permissions to alter or post new content any time you need them too. Not just updating phone numbers, but posting new updates about products, sales or promotions. Whatever you’d like the world to know about what you’re doing, you can have your own people – the people you already pay to come up with marketing content – to update your site and leave the pros like me to work on something else.

But… doesn’t that mean a lot of chaos and potential damage to the site? Why, I’m glad you asked…

3. Who changed that? User control and tracking.

If you’re used to having developers like me alter pages by hand, then if nothing else, you’ve always known who was at fault if content was not correct. Now that you have WordPress running your sites, does this mean you lose that ability to pinpoint trouble?

….nnnnnope. WordPress has user accounts whose changes to content are always tracked. If a change is made, just look up the last person who altered the content and let them know it’s wrong!

Not only that, but you can actually control which users have access to which content. So, users who have no business updating marketing material never have to worry about potentially messing things up. It’s piece of mind for you and your employees!

Save Time. Save Money. Unburden Yourself!


2. Are we safe? Regular security updates.

Photo courtesy Sarah Joy @ Flickr.com

Don’t be fooled: even the best of us find ourselves checking our six, watching for the next hack or outbreak. That concern – along with a goodly dose of real-world experience – is what makes the good developer what he is. But for those without that real world experience, worrying about viruses, hacks and whatever “malware” is tends to just be an anxiety-ridden waste of energy.

WordPress takes the guess work out of security by featuring a regular update schedule and regular security checks: if developers discover a nasty, they take steps to fix it and roll out updates. The WordPress community also has award-winning security measures like iTheme’s Security suite that makes the already-secure WordPress even better.


1. Can we sell it online? Now making eCommerce even easier!

WooCommerce-LogoVeterans of WordPress development know that eCommerce never used to be an easy thing with a WordPress site. And since the WooCommerce plugin came along, it’s been almost every developer’s go-too eCommerce solution. Now WordPress has taken things to the next level and purchased the WooCommerce plugin from it’s parent company.

This means that an already highly-effective eCommerce solution just got even more effective, and that over the next couple years, will become native to the core. Now would be a great time to get ahead of the curve and start selling using the once-and-future WPe solution!

Get it SOLD. Start a WooCommerce store today!

Probably the biggest name in WordPress stuff besides Automattic (the WordPress development company) is WooCommerce. That’s largely because so many people looking to use WordPress also want the opportunity to sell their product lines on their websites. Not only that, but many of us use WooCommerce in conjunction with Prosociate to offer Amazon products to our customers as I do on the DFE Bookstore.

As Matt Mullenweg explains, many of us have been wondering when building a store in WordPress would be as easy as building a blog. Well, now they’ve inked the deal that brings Woo and Automattic together for the first time. And you can bet that means big changes for both WooCommerce and the WordPress core in the next few years:

For years, we’ve been working on democratizing publishing, and today more people have independent sites built on open source software than ever before in the history of the web. Now, we want to make it easy for anyone to sell online independently, without being locked into closed, centralized services — to enable freedom of livelihood along with freedom of expression.

It’s not a new idea: at a WordCamp a few years ago, someone stood up and asked me when we were going to make it as easy to create an online store as we’d made it to create a blog. Everyone applauded; there’s long been demand for better ecommerce functionality, but it’s been outside the scope of what Automattic could do well.

Many of my clients use WooCommerce in one way or another. And eCommerce is what HolisticNetworking knows best. Are you ready to start selling on your WordPress website?

Contact me today and see how I can help!