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6 Ways to Prevent Computer Eye Strain

6 Ways to Prevent Computer Eye Strain

There’s a high chance that if you’re reading this, you work on a computer for most, if not all of the day. Even if you don’t, there’s still a high chance you’re looking at a screen of some kind for the majority of the day. And that makes you tired. More specifically, it makes your eyes tired. Which them stresses the rest of your body. It’s likely a cycle we all know a little too well. We have steps, however, that can alleviate and even prevent this kind of eye strain so that your job and habits don’t have to negatively impact your overall well-being quite so much.

1. Blink More

Okay, so the actual solution is a little more complicated than that, but in the end, blinking more often can really help prevent eye strain. Even those minute flashes where you’re eyes are covered give your brain a chance to rest. And that time adds up over the day. It’s literally why when you’re strained and stressed that you can simply close your eyes and feel an almost immediate sense of relief. (You can actually tell your boss “I’m just resting my eyes, not sleeping at work” and not be lying!)

Additionally, blinking keeps your eyes lubricated. Not blinking means that your eyes will dry out more often. If that’s something that you’ve noticed bothering you, get some eye drops to keep at your desk to moisturize them often. While that is just treating a symptom of the eye strain rather than rooting out a cause, relief is relief.

Unless you’re sure that you can consciously make yourself blink more often than you normally would (spoiler: you can’t), you need to make a few changes in your workstation and habits. While change can be hard, making these changes won’t be. They’re both simple and easy. Many of the other tips will cause you to blink more often as a by-product, eliminating multiple stressors at once.

2. Change Your Font Color, Size, and Family

If you’re a content creator or web developer, you probably know that what font you choose makes a drastic impact on how much eye strain you endure. Many font families are not ideal for constant and repeated use. What looks great in a screenshot or is fine for a 3-minute-read article might not work for an 8 hour shift of programming or writing. Choosing a font other than Arial or Helvetica (blasphemy, we know) might make more of a difference than you know. The kerning, spacing, and even shape of various fonts can increase readability and make it so that you don’t have to work as hard to decipher the characters.

Fonts such as Fira Code, Consolas, and Monoid are designed specifically for long-term usage, legibility, and prevention of eye strain.

On top of that, color and size (both independently and in concert) can be one of the largest factors of preventing eye strain. If you have a high-resolution monitor, there’s a good chance that your default font size is pretty small. On top of that, a lot of what you’re reading online and in other places might be low-contrast (light text on a light background). When this is the case, our eyes have to work overtime.

So to fix that, you don’t have to lower the resolution of your screen. No one wants you to give up your screen real estate. Instead, increase the default font sizes in your OS, your code editor, and adjust different web pages in your browser to accommodate larger text. (Usually CTRL/CMD and +/- will do the trick.)

3. Turn Your Brightness Down

This one’s tough for some people, us included. Whether it’s a phone screen, laptop, or the circle of computer monitors you have around you, the brightness is probably way too high. While doing so absolutely makes the colors pop and the whole experience generally much more aesthetically pleasing.

But it also strains your eyes at an accelerated rate. You will need to find the balance of brightness that works for you. If the monitors are like lamps in a darkened room, you might have a problem. But if you’re straining to see and the OS appears dim and dull, you’ve gone to far the wrong way. Once you find the right brightness, though, your eyes will be much better off.

Also, if your office or workspace has fluorescent lighting that reflects off of your monitor, you can get screens and filters that you can affix to it so that you can eliminate external brightness and glare, too.

4. Dark and Reader Modes

You also have access to Dark Mode in a lot of apps to make reading easier, and adjusts the brightness on a software level. MacOS and iOS even have them built in. This gives you a darker, less-bright screen with a decent contrast ratio of lighter text on darker backgrounds. It’s easier on the eyes in both daytime and in darker environments. We highly suggest working this way. Dark mode has saved everyone at Elegant Themes a lot of money on headache medicine over the years.

You can also try programs like Dark Reader to make any website or app appear in dark mode, whether they support it natively or not. Also, most browsers (mobile and desktop) have a “reader” mode where the text size, font, and color palette are adjustable with other non-essential elements not rendered. Take advantage of these tools. Your eyes will thank you.

5. Consider Your Posture

Where you are in relation to your screen plays a pretty big role in eye strain, too. Not to mention muscle strain and shoulder/neck aches. You want to be looking at your monitor front-on at eye level. Or, well, slightly below. You shouldn’t have to look up or down to see it. Your neck should be neutral. Keep this in mind when working on a laptop because you’re going to have your head titled down a lot of the time. Not only is this bad for your posture, most screens have a slightly different look from various angles. Colors shift a little, glare hits it differently, and so on.

You will also want to make sure you’re the right distance away from your monitor. You ideally want to be between 20 and 27 inches away from your screen. It differs from person to person because of monitor size and setup. Generally, though, you want to be able to just reach out and touch the screen with the tip of your finger from your neutral sitting position. If you keep it at this distance, you should be able to take the entire screen into view and not have to search all around for points of interest, saving your eyes motion and wear.

Sitting too close to the screen won’t make you go blind, unlike what our parents told us when we were kids, but it can make your eyes work overtime. And that leads to easily preventable eyestrain.

6. Use Everything Anti-Blue

While the jury (read: science) is out on just what effect blue light has on your health and eyes and sleep, the evidence does point toward limiting your exposure to it as being good for your eyes. Most phones these days have a “night mode” which effectively adjusts the color temperature of the screen after certain hours. You can generally adjust them for any hours or intensity that works for you. It may seem a little odd warming up your screen’s overall tone, but you get used to it quickly, and it does make long hours of looking at the screen easier and less taxing.

Additionally, there are blue-light filters that you can hook to your monitor like the anti-glare ones we mentioned above. You can buy special “computer glasses” that supposedly filter out the light, too, which are fine if you wear contacts or don’t need glasses. For those who need prescription lenses, however, you can ask your eye center about getting the lenses covered in an anti-blue light coating that does the same thing. And bonus, sometimes that coating even makes your eyes flash purple to some people. (No kidding. It’s very surreal for them.)

Wrapping Up

Eye strain might not sound like a big deal, but anyone who deals with it can tell you just how intrusive it can be. If you have never experienced it from spending too much time in front of a screen, consider yourself lucky. But be proactive about making sure that you don’t. And if you’re a constant sufferer like many of us, it only takes a little effort and a few tweaks to make some high-quality adjustments that will make a big difference in your overall wellbeing.

Kerning, Tracking, and Leading: A Simple Guide to Effective Typefacing

Kerning, Tracking, and Leading: A Simple Guide to Effective Typefacing

When designing for the web, you have to keep one thing in mind at all times: readability. It doesn’t matter how great the design is, how gorgeous your layout is, or how genius your use of color. If people can’t read the words on the screen (and this is assuming there are words on the screen, of course), the website cannot serve its function. Three of the most important elements of readability for text are kerning, tracking, and leading, though many people either get them confused or simply don’t understand how to use them effectively. We intend to fix that today.

Kerning, Tracking, and Leading

If you boil these three down to the absolute fundamentals, you’re looking at the spacing between characters on both the X and Y axes. Digging in, you’ll see there’s more to it than that, but in essence, you’re looking at the relationship between text characters. It’s important to understand the relationship between these three attributes because good design and readability depend on your using them to the best of your ability.

And that comes with time and practice. But once you start paying attention to them, you’ll notice how kerning, tracking, and leading are used both effectively and poorly on everything you read and see on a daily basis. Let’s dig in.

Adjusting Kerning, Leading, and Tracking (and More!)

Actually, before we dig in, let’s go over how you change and adjust these settings. While most word processing programs have options for adjusting them, most people won’t ever need to when writing copy or typical text. It’s when you’re designing text that it becomes more of an issue, so programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. will have the options you need most.

In the Adobe products, you just have to open up the Text Layer Character Panel, and you have everything you need. The V/A is kerning, the VA in a box is tracking, and the underlined, vertical A’s are Leading. You can also adjust strikethrough, weight, size, super/subscript, and so much more in this panel. It’s worth getting used to keeping this open.

Kerning vs Tracking vs Leading

Just place your cursor where you need to adjust the spacing and go.

What is Kerning?

Let’s begin with kerning.  Kerning is the simplest of the three, really. It’s the space between two side-by-side characters. In a word, you can have variable kerning because the space between the first two letters may be different than between the last two (and so on).

In monospaced fonts, each character takes up exactly the same amount of horizontal space with no overlap. The A is the same width as the B as the J as the K. Adjusting the kerning between these letters tends to be easier than variable spaced fonts, where the letters might overlap as well as print at different widths.

Kerning vs Tracking vs Leading

In the example above, we have three lines that were copy and pasted using the monospace font Courier New. The top row’s kerning is set at 0, which is the default and uses whatever spacing the font designer chose. The second row is set equally between letters (and spaces) at 200. As you can see, the spaces are uniform between characters across the line. Finally, the third line was kerned at random with both positive and negative spacing within each individual word. As you can see, each character can have different kerning on each side.

What is Tracking?

Tracking is similar to kerning, but it’s not kerning. Where kerning is the space between two individual characters, tracking is the uniform space between each individual word or line. Instead of worrying about how things are put together on a letter-by-letter basis as with kerning, you make sure the entire line is uniformly spaced.  Looking back at the earlier example image, the second line could have been done in a much easier way.

Kerning vs Tracking vs Leading

What I did for the kerning was to place my cursor between each individual character and adjust to 200. I essentially tracked the whole line. Which is what you should do. Simply highlight what you need to track and adjust it in the Character Panel.

Kerning vs Tracking vs Leading

Be aware, however, that some fonts and scripts may become unreadable as the tracking is adjusted.

Kerning vs Tracking vs Leading

Handwriting fonts and cursive typefaces are set with specific kerning, and if you adjust the tracking, you will get gaps in an otherwise unbroken line. Or going the other direction to compress the lines, you might simply make the script unreadable.

What is Leading?

With Leading, you’re no longer dealing with spacing between characters. Leading is the space between lines.

Kerning vs Tracking vs Leading

Effectively making use of leading lets you effectively make use of whitespace in your designs. Cramped lines — even with correct and well-done kerning/tracking — can make a miserable experience for readers.

In some places, you might see leading called line height, but they’re roughly the same thing. One good rule of thumb is to make sure that you leave at least a little space above and below your characters. As you can see in the top example, a 40px font has a 48px line height. That means that no matter what, there will be spacing between the letters. If you set that at or lower than the font size, you will get character overlap.

Additionally, this is the height of the line that the characters sit on. This is not the height of the character. Just as kerning and tracking don’t make the characters fatter or thinner, tracking doesn’t make them shorter or taller. It is simply the space around them.

As you can see, however, the options under the kerning/tracking in the Photoshop Character Panel adjust the width/height of characters independently of kerning, tracking, and leading.

Photoshop/Illustrator Keyboard Shortcuts

The only downfall of the Character Panel is that it gets to be pretty annoying when you’re needing fine adjustment. Thankfully, there are keyboard shortcuts that make kerning, tracking, and leading an absolute breeze to use.

These shortcuts are for the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, so they might be different in Gimp or Paint.NET or another program.

  • Kerning – With the cursor between two characters, hold ALT (or Option on Mac) and use the left/right arrows to adjust the kerning
  • Tracking – With the word/line highlighted, hold ALT (or Option on Mac) and use the right/left arrows to adjust the tracking of the highlighted text
  • Leading – Highlight the lines you want to adjust, hold ALT (or Option on Mac) and use the up/down arrows to adjust the space between lines

While you can place your cursor or highlight the text and type values into the Character Panel, the keyboard shortcuts make the whole process much less tedious and time-consuming. Plus, you get more granular control, so you can make better designs that way, too.

(As an aside, if you aren’t using Photoshop/Illustrator/Premier, etc. keyboard shortcuts regularly, we highly recommend learning, as it makes your workflow much smoother, more enjoyable, and more productive, too.)

Wrapping Up

Kerning, tracking, and leading are fundamentals of readable text in web design (and design in general). Learning the difference and how to use each of them effectively will make you a much better designer. It may seem a little odd that something as simple as the spacing between letters and lines could have such a large impact, but once you deal with it for even just a little while, you will never look at websites, advertisements, logos, or billboards the same way again.

The Best WordPress Blogs to Follow in 2018

The Best WordPress Blogs to Follow in 2018

1. Smashing Magazine

Best WordPress Blogs

One of the most consistent and high-quality publications around, Smashing Magazine works as kind of the gold standard for WordPress blogs. Or technology blogs. Or really, blogs in general. Long-form content that dives deep into each subject they tackle is a mainstay, and even when they have sponsored posts, the content is held to the same standards as their day-to-day work and covers useful topics that just happen to pertain to the sponsor’s niche. Whether you’re a WordPress designer, developer, user, or some combination of all of those, you need to read Smashing Magazine. Stat.

 

2. The Pagely Blog

Best WordPress Blogs

You know who understands WordPress? Managed WordPress hosts. That’s just what Pagely is. But their blog isn’t self-promotion at all — it’s a valued resource covering business skills for professionals using WP to make their livings, designers, and more. Their marketing articles touch on topics that many of the best WordPress blogs don’t, so they hit on pressure points you may not even know you need to be pressed. Even their posts on managed WP hosting aren’t tied specifically to them and can be applied to multiple other hosts. All in all, Pagely’s blog is worth a read.

 

3. CodeinWP

Best WordPress Blogs

CodeinWP is, as they put it, a hub for WordPressers. Anyone involved in the pressing of words in any way can find something here. The art of blogging? Check. Business acumen and monetization? Yep. Even productivity tips that can make your WordPressing more…well…productive. They also offer neat downloadables every so often (productivity planners and so on), so they really try to be helpful for their readers. They aren’t just in it for the clicks.

 

4. Cats Who Code

Best WordPress Blogs

While the title absolutely can mean cats in the general folks or people way, this site was named after actual kitties. That’s a major point in its favor. That said, they also provide fantastic resources to WPers, and not only in the WordPress sphere. They cover ideas in general web development, too, as well as design trends. All of the topics, generally, can be applied to WordPress. I don’t think a week goes by that I don’t click into a CatsWhoCode article at least once.

5. Sucuri

Best WordPress Blogs

Not only are they one of the most trusted security plugins in the WordPress world, they also have one of the best WordPress blogs out there, too. When something blows up (not literally of course, but then again you never know with hackers) regarding WordPress, Sucuri will have a blog about it. You should check in occasionally to make sure you’re up to date on the latest threats (and their fixes) to your workspace and livelihood.

 

6.  Wordfence

Best WordPress Blogs

Take everything I said above, but replace Sucuri with Wordfence. (That’s a joke.) You can never be too careful when it comes to website security, and having two go-to publications to stay informed is better than having one.

 

7. WPLift

Best WordPress Blogs

Designed to be accessible, WPLift has a little bit of everything for the WordPress user. If you need to know about plugins, they probably have a write-up. If you want to see about certain themes, again, it’s probably there. They cover security and general tips and even put together guides so that you can be the best WordPresser around. Some of the most lifehack-style WP uses I know came from something I saw on WPLift at one point or another.

8. ManageWP.org

Best WordPress Blogs

Not exactly a blog, ManageWP.org (remember, it’s the .org extension, not .net or .com) is an aggregator of the best WordPress articles that have been published recently. Community submitted and voted on, the best articles tend to make their way to the top across all sorts of different categories. ManageWP is a great way to find some of the best WordPress blogs that you’ve never heard of. They may not be the millions-of-hits-per-day blogs all the time, but if you see it here, it’s generally going to have amazing information.

 

9. Torque

Best WordPress Blogs

Published by the top-end managed host, WP Engine, Torque pretty much lives up to its slogan: all the word that’s fit to press. If it’s worth talking about, you can bet that Torque has either written about it — or will in the near future. Daily posts from some of the WordPress communities top names make this one a guaranteed bookmark in your browser. Or entry in Feedly or whatever you use.

 

10. WP Tavern

Best WordPress Blogs

Free WordPress news. Free podcasts and free commentary. WP Tavern is one of the top news sources for WordPress because they are fast and accurate with what they report. In general, their community is strong and opinionated, and there can be some fantastic discussions in the comments sections. If you want to keep your finger on the beating pulse of our industry, WP Tavern is where to go.

 

11. The Layout by Flywheel

Best WordPress Blogs

If you’ve noticed a trend of managed WordPress hosts having great blogs, it’s because they generally do. Not only is it a great way to give back to their community, but it also helps attract people to their products. Flywheel is managed WP hosting aimed at designers, so their blog, The Layout, targets that same demo. Many of their articles are design best practices, tips to enhance the look and function of your WordPress site, and so on. But they also publish general WordPress tips, too, and a lot are on the technical side but broken down so that non-techies and right-brained people can make heads or tails of them.

 

12. The Yoast SEO Blog

Best WordPress Blogs

Yoast is arguably the King of the kingdom of WordPress SEO. If Google (or other search engines) does it, Yoast is on top of it, too. And their blog then explains it all to you in understandable language with videos and tutorials and infographics. With various series being published at different times, you might see an advice column one day, a use case the next, and then an explanation of why Yoast works the way it does the day after that. There’s a running joke on my weekly livestream that I can’t go a week without talking about Yoast and their blog, and there’s a good reason for that. It’s just too good not to share. So here’s me talking about Yoast’s blog again, sharing it with you, too.

 

13. WooCommerce

Best WordPress Blogs

If you sell things using WordPress, you likely use WooCommerce. If that’s the case, then you should subscribe to the WooCommerce official blog. Not only will you get development updates and know what’s coming so you can prepare your store, they also publish lots of best practices and business tips that have been tested and tend to work really well with the software.

 

14. WPBeginner

Best WordPress Blogs

Pretty much the place for WordPress how-tos these days. If you want to know how to do it in a simple, easy-to-understand, step-by-step way, WPBeginner probably has an article on it. Depending on the problem, their recommended solution may be a plugin to get the job done, while others may be a dive into your PHP files. Either way, when you have an issue, WPBeginner is a great place to see if there’s a solution. And if you can’t find it there…well, you may have just broken the internet.

15. WP Mayor

Best WordPress Blogs

If you can’t trust a blog that has a mascot with a monocle, who can you trust? WP Mayor is one of the best WordPress blogs because it has a little bit of everything for WordPress users. From beginners to advanced users, the team here has something for you. You may find out about a new plugin that makes your life easier or get a tip that increases your ecommerce revenue three-fold. Additionally, they keep a list of WordPress job boards for you, so if you’re looking for a side gig or even a full-time career, you should consider tossing your vote to WP Mayor.

 

16. WPMU DEV

Best WordPress Blogs

You may know WPMUDEV for their great set of premium WP plugins, but did you know they also publish one of the best WordPress blogs, too? Problem-solving is kind of their thing, and if it can happen to WordPress, they probably have a solution for it. And not just a hackey, good-enough solution. But a down-in-the-trenches, in-depth, you’re-never-going-to-worry-about-this-again kind of solution. Their writers will walk you through the steps you need for whatever the task is, and when you’re finished, you can’t not have learned something.

 

17. WPShout!

Best WordPress Blogs

While there are a ton of blogs out there focusing on the everyman WordPresser, WPShout is one of the best WordPress blogs aimed at developers. As you can see in the screenshot, they have quick guides for different topics, free courses you can run through, and they are always posting up new articles with goodies that will keep you clicking. Some of the best posts on WPShout are small commentary blogs that provoke thought and enable discussion, then link out to the article that brought up the idea in the first place. This is a great place to discover so much new stuff that you just have to check it out.

 

18. Ma.tt

Best WordPress Blogs

In 2003, Matt Mullenweg created WordPress. This is his blog.

19. Kinsta

Best WordPress Blogs

Another managed WordPress host putting out amazing content, Kinsta publishes one of the best WordPress blogs. It contains tips on PHP, back-end development, front-end development and design, plugin awareness, marketing, and even ecommerce. Some of the most intriguing content they do, though, is called Kinsta Kingpin, a series of interviews with WordPress professionals like you. While their normal content is superb, there’s something about these interviews that always makes me excited when I see another one posted. I think you’ll feel the same way.

 

20. Post Status

Best WordPress Blogs

Not so much a typical blog as a podcast with really good show notes, Post Status is one of those sites that grabs you and won’t let you go. Run by WP pro Brian Krogsgard, PS has become so much more than just a show or a site. Brian has put together a great community with PS, and he has been publishing and working in WordPress long enough that he has insight into the CMS that many of us only dream of having. He also covers topics that other sites tend to back away from, such as WordPress and Blockchain. Definitely worth a look (and a listen, too).

 

21. Make.WordPress

Best WordPress Blogs

I hesitated to include this one because it is definitely not the typical WordPress blog. But when I was thinking about the best WordPress blogs around, I realized that I check Make WordPress just as often as I do any others out there. You see, make.wordpress.org is the blog where you see what’s going on with WordPress as it happens. You get Gutenberg updates (in their What’s New in Gutenberg? series), team meeting minutes so you can see what was talked about during the latest design team or community building meeting, and that sort of thing. It’s not really a how-to kind of blog, but if you have even a passing interest in the goings-on behind the curtain, Make WordPress Core is going to impress you

 

 

The Essential Elements of Blog Management

The Essential Elements of Blog Management

Starting a website takes a lot of planning. Far too often, the planning stops there. Keeping a blog going and making it successful also takes planning. A blog is just like any business or project. To make a blog successful requires careful blog management.In this article we’ll take a look at blog management and see the tasks involved. These tasks are not that difficult but they do take time and focus. If you put in the effort and manage your blog well it will go far into meeting your goals for your blog. Along the way I’ve added links to articles where you can read more about each topic.

Content

Image via Julia Tim / shutterstock.com

A blog is only as good as the content it provides. Content should be high quality and meet the reader’s needs. This isn’t done by chance. Content must be strategically planned.

Some of the tasks involved include:

  • Ongoing ideas
  • Categories
  • Editing
  • Sourcing for images
  • Schedule
  • Mediate comments
  • Monitor success

Content Strategy

Don’t just post what you like. Know what the market needs. Keep in touch with the community to know their struggles and needs, understand trends, follow news, and other opportunities. Listen to readers in the comments and on social media. This will help in creating ongoing ideas for posts.

Use analytics to know your audience, their knowledge level, their goals, and their needs. Are they beginners that need information to get started? Are they hobbyists that need information to get them to the next level? Are they professionals who need information they can use to grow their own business? It’s a good idea to know your 3 primary target audiences.

Keeping your target market in mind, create a road map to provide readers with information they need. This will help grow your readership. This information sets the level and tone, and ensures the content the blog provides is what the readers expect.

Perform keyword research to help you know the content that would meet the needs of your audience and set your blog apart from the crowd.

Test various content types (long form articles, interviews, reviews, etc.) to see what works best for your readers. Don’t be afraid to ask them.

Know your competition. What do they produce that’s missing from your website that your readers need? Provide this content with greater detail or in a better format.

Use deep analytics tools to learn what your visitors are looking for and information such as their country, screen size, etc. Keeping an eye on the traffic will let you know when it’s time to upgrade your server.

Quality and Quantity

Create high-quality content. Always edit each post for the highest level of readability and accuracy. This includes SEO best practices to help improve blog rankings in search engine results.

Improving quality includes performing keyword research for every post, formatting images, text, bullets, links, meta, tags, tailoring calls to action to the audience, and tracking what works.

Maintain an editorial calendar with a good mix of content. This means keeping a consistent post schedule. According to HubSpot, blogs that post more than 16 times per month receive 3.5 times the traffic as those that publish 0-4 times per month.

Even if you can’t post 16 times per month you should keep a consistent posting schedule so your readers will know when to expect your articles. The frequency will depend on your audience and your site’s goals. How many websites have you seen that proudly display their latest event and it was two years out of date?

Writers and Writing

Large blogs often utilize multiple writers who are able to specialize in specific fields. Keep an eye out for the best freelance writers to contribute to your blog. Look for a diverse knowledge rather than everyone specializing in the same thing. Maintaining a list of reliable writers can keep your content high quality and on schedule.

Provide writing guidelines. This includes quality of writing expected, acceptable sources for media, media sizes and types, word counts, formatting, how to use links, how to submit articles, submitting ideas, deadlines, etc. The guidelines should be updated as changes are needed. Writing guidelines are useful even if you are the only writer because they help keep your posts consistent.

Utilize project management tools to keep content on schedule. Popular tools include:

Ads

Manage advertising programs within the articles and sidebars. This includes finding the best and most relevant affiliate programs, choosing ad designs and styles that fit within your branding, and keeping them updated.

Products

Managing products can be a full-time job on its own. Whether the products are digital or physical, the blog manager must handle product sourcing, prices, descriptions, customer questions, support, updates, etc. This also includes the eCommerce platform itself with viewing reports and keeping shipping and payment gateways up to date.

Comments

Image via Julia Tim / shutterstock.com
Comments are a great way to build a community and it gives readers a chance to voice their opinion. Depending on the size of the blog, dealing with comments can take a lot of time as the blog manager must determine which comments to allow and which to block. Maintain a commenting policy. This will explain to readers what is allowed and what isn’t.

Unfortunately not all comments are from real readers and not all comments should be published. Many comments are actually spam in disguise. The blog manager must not allow spam comments as they undermine the quality of the blog. I recommend using a spam-blocking plugin to help filter comments.

I don’t recommend posting offensive and insulting comments as they don’t provide value and can do more harm than good. I do recommend posting comments that identify problems and even disagree with points in your content. These can bring healthy conversation and debate, which adds to the quality of the discussion.

Social Media and Newsletters

Image via Julia Tim / shutterstock.com
Blog management isn’t just creating content – it’s also promoting that content. Years ago we could publish articles and walk away, but today we have to share our content to get as many eyes on it as possible.

The blog manager needs to share on social media, post videos and podcasts to YouTube and other networks, create and post newsletters, etc. The blog manager must also create and sharing specialized promotions and ads.

They must determine which social networks, and which groups within those networks, bring the best ROI (return on investment, which in this case is time).

Post according to the best times for your networks and audience. Many prefer to use tools such as Hootsuiteand Buffer to help manage social networks.

Maintenance

Image via The Cute Design Studio / shutterstock.com
A blog must be maintained. This includes creating backups, hardening security, etc., as well as updating the WordPress core, themes, and plugins. These updates are crucial. They not only provide feature enhancements but also security patches and bug fixes.

Older versions of WordPress pose a danger of getting hacked. WordPress does update to the latest minor version automatically, but major updates have to be implemented manually. This can require testing and possibly fixing compatibility issues.

Themes and plugins also provide security patches, bug fixes, and add new features, but they have another concern to deal with – compatibility. Even if your themes or plugins have no security or bug issues it’s possible that some features will not work which can make your site look incomplete.

Try updates on test servers before implementing them on your live website. Be sure to test on multiple platforms and browsers.

Improvement

Image via aurielaki / shutterstock.com
Even if your website is running smoothly it can always run better. This includes the design, features, and even content. This also means keeping your site SEO optimized.

The site needs to be tested against its objectives and goals. For example, does your call to action perform according to your expectations? Are you getting the traffic or conversions you want?

Qualitative and quantitative data can help improve the blog. The blog manager should run a/b testing to see what’s effective and what isn’t. Maybe colors need to change, buttons need to move to a new location, calls to action need to be clearer, content quality or focus needs adjusting, etc.

Pay attention to performance. Test page-loading speeds to see what the loading issues are and make the changes it recommends. Pages that load too slowly can send your visitors to your competition. The faster a site can load the better.

Choosing Themes and Plugins

Often features need to be added or the design direction needs to be modified. This sometimes requires the blog manager to choose new themes and plugins. Making good choices is crucial as themes and plugins affect not only the design of the site but also the security and speed. Every plugin that adds a new feature might have a negative impact on something else such as usability or loading time.

The blog manager will need to compare themes and plugins on a routine basis to ensure they still provide the features needed and to see if there are better options.

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of tasks involved with blog maintenance. Running a blog is much more than posting articles. It’s determining which topics to focus on, the length of content, types of content, hiring writers, promoting content, handling comments, keeping the site safe and updated, and making improvements. It’s setting blog goals, ensuring the blog is meeting its goals, and modifying goals as needed.

Managing a blog isn’t difficult, but to do it right it does take time and planning. You can get out of it what you put into it. The principles are the same regardless of the size of the blog. If you manage your blog well you can have a website that meets your goals and your readers’ needs.

How to Defeat WordPress Spam Users: Identify, Delete, and Prevent Future Registrations

How to Defeat WordPress Spam Users: Identify, Delete, and Prevent Future Registrations

Back when WordPress was just for blogs, spam users weren’t really a problem site owners had to combat. But as WordPress has expanded into membership, multi-user, BuddyPress, and all kinds of other sites with open registration, WordPress spam users have become an all-too-common problem for many site owners.

Spammers target WordPress registration forms to create bot accounts that spam links and/or try to inject malicious scripts. But guess what? With a little know-how, you can fight back against these nasty folks and rid your site of spam users once and for all.

In this post, I’ll take you through how to identify and delete existing spam users. Then, I’ll show you how to proactively prevent WordPress spam users once and for all.

Why WordPress Spam Users are a Problem

Spam users can hurt your site both internally and externally, which is why they’re such a nuisance.

On the internal side, spam users bloat up your database and just generally make it harder to manage your site. If you have to sift through hundreds of spam users to manage the real users, you’re going to waste a lot of time. Similarly, if your server has to store heaps of spam users in the database, it’s going to work less efficiently, too.

Spam users can hit you on the external side by posting spammy outbound links, which can hurt your site in the eyes of Google. If you’re running something like BuddyPress, spam users might even send private messages to legitimate users, which your real users certainly won’t appreciate.

So, end the spam user problem once and for all by learning how to identify, delete, and prevent WordPress spam users.

How to Identify and Delete Existing WordPress Spam Users

Once you implement prevention methods, you hopefully won’t need to do this very often. But if you’re just starting out, you’ll first need to identify (and then delete) any existing spam users.

If your spam problem isn’t too large, you might be able to do this manually by bulk deleting users who exhibit spam behavior. If you’ve got a real infestation, you’ll want to turn to a plugin that can automatically go through and detect spam users.

How to Bulk Delete WordPress Spam Users Manually

The simplest way to delete spam users is to just go through your Users tab and check the users you want to delete. Then, you can bulk delete them by choosing the Deleteoption from the Bulk Actions dropdown.

Bulk delete WordPress spam users

Of course, doing this with the default WordPress screen options is infuriating because it only shows 20 users per page. Thankfully, you can change this number by clicking on Screen Options in the top right corner of your WordPress dashboard:

screen options

Then, change the Number of items per page box to the number of user accounts you want to display on each page.

items per page

If clicking a couple hundred checkboxes doesn’t appeal to you, you can also automate some of this process by using a plugin called Bulk Delete.

Bulk Delete allows you to bulk delete users that meet criteria like:

  • Specific User Roles
  • Specific Meta fields
  • Last login date
  • Registration date

If spam users are thoroughly mixed in with real users, these criteria may not be especially helpful. But Bulk Delete is great for cleaning up a one-time attack where the spam accounts all registered on similar dates or eliminating old spam users who logged in once but haven’t been back since.

Identifying and Deleting Spam Users with a Plugin

If you have too many users to identify manually, you can turn to a plugin called SplogHunter (formerly known by the somewhat awkward name “WangGuard”) to automatically identify and remove spam users. I’ll also discuss the proactive prevention part of this plugin in the next section.

SplogHunter goes through your existing users and compares them against its database of sploggers/spam users. If there’s a match, SplogHunter will mark that user in a new “Splogger” column. You can then easily delete spam users after verifying they’re not real people:

bulk actions

SplogHunter also provides an easy Report as Splogger button that both deletes a user and adds them to SplogHunter’s centralized database (similar to how Akismet functions for comment spam).

Note – as you can see in the screenshot, there is still WangGuard branding in the most recent version of the plugin. Rest assured that SplogHunter and WangGuard are the same thing.

How to Prevent Spam User Registration on WordPress

Do you know the old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? That definitely applies to spam users on WordPress. If you stop them from registering in the first place, you won’t need to worry about identifying and removing them.

There are a number of ways you can block them:

  1. Fortify your sign up form with CAPTCHAs – this is my least favorite method because it requires real people to verify they’re not a robot, which isn’t good for user experience.
  2. Use a plugin that compares signups against a database of spam users – this is a better method because it doesn’t inconvenience real people. It just quietly blocks known spam users.
  3. Add access rules to prevent sploggers – if you notice that most spam users come from, say, .ru domains, you could create a rule that blocks anyone from using an .ru email to register.

Now, I’ll share some plugins that can help you implement one or more of these checks:

Captcha by BestWebSoft – Add CAPTCHAs to Registration Forms

BestWebSoft

If you want to require all your users to fill out a CAPTCHA before signing up, you can use Captcha by BestWebSoft to add a simple math equation to your forms. Again, I don’t think you should go straight to CAPTCHAs. But if you have a really bad spam problem, it’s a good way to knock out spam right away.

Key Features:

  • Works on login, registration, recover password, comments, and contact forms
  • Adds a simple math equation that fools spambots
  • Allows users to get a new question if it’s too difficult
  • Can configure the difficulty of the math questions
  • Includes letter and number CAPTCHAs as well

Price: Free | More Information

SplogHunter – Automatically Flag Spammers Without CAPTCHA

SplogHunter

In addition to filtering out existing spam users, SplogHunter can also protect your registration forms without requiring users to fill out a CAPTCHA. When users sign up, they will be automatically compared against SplogHunter’s crowd-sourced spam user database.

Key Features:

  • Blocks spam sign ups without CAPTCHA
  • Spammer database is constantly updated because it’s crowd-sourced like Akismet
  • Works with WordPress,WordPress Multi-user, BuddyPress, and bbPress 2.0
  • Can manually block specific domains from registering

Price: Free at the time of writing (there is talk of moving to a freemium model) | More Information

Note -you will need to obtain a free API key from WangGuard/SplogHunter to properly use the plugin.

WP-SpamShield Anti-Spam – Full-Service Anti-Spam

SpamShield

WP-SpamShield Anti-Spam is a highly-rated plugin that handles spam protection for every aspect of your site. Part of that includes your registration forms.

The plugin works in a very smart way. It protects you with both JavaScript/cookie protection AND and an anti-spam algorithm. It also doesn’t use CAPTCHA, which I’m a fan of.

Key Features:

  • Protects against registration spam as well as comment, pingback, and other forms of spam
  • Doesn’t utilize CAPTCHA – no front-end impediments to users
  • Works with BuddyPress, bbPress, WooCommerce, and a variety of other forms

Price: Free | More Information

Wrapping Up

WordPress spam users can be a real pain for anyone running a site with open registration. These bots can harass your real users, bloat your database, and damage your SEO with spammy outbound links.

But, if you implement the right protections, you can root out spam users and prevent them from even registering in the first place.

Before inconveniencing your human users with a CAPTCHA, you should try a plugin like SplogHunter or WP-SpamShield. If you still have a spam problem while using those plugins, then you might consider blocking specific domains that are spamming you or adding a CAPTCHA.