5 New Things You Can Do with WordPress 4.8

5 New Things You Can Do with WordPress 4.8

One of WordPress’ best features is that it’s constantly improving and evolving. Frequent major and minor updates ensure the platform is secure, and provide new and improved functionality. The latest version – WordPress 4.8 – is no exception, so it’s important to update your site as soon as you can. What’s more, it’s just as vital to understand what’s changed and how you can take advantage of the new features.

In this article, we’ll introduce you to WordPress 4.8, also referred to as ‘Evans’ in honor of jazz pianist and composer William John ‘Bill’ Evans. We’ll run through this update’s major changes and additions, and show you how to use them. Let’s take a look!

1. Add New Media Widgets to Your Site

Widgets have always been a simple way to customize your WordPress site’s functionality and add important features. The core platform has developed quite the collection over time, including widgets that add calendars, lists of comments or posts, custom menus, and more to your site.

WordPress 4.8 expands on the existing offerings by adding three new media widgets. While you previously had to install a plugin if you wanted to easily add media files through widgets, you can now do so without any extra tools.

First up, the developers have created an Image widget that enables you to easily add pictures to your widget areas. Simply drag the widget to your sidebar or footer to activate it. Then give it a title if you’d like, and click on Add Image to upload your file:

The new WordPress Image Widget.

The other two media widgets – the Video widget and the Audio widget – work exactly the same way. All you need to do is add the right kind of file, and it will be displayed on the front end of your site. It’s that simple!

2. Experiment with the Improved Text Widget

WordPress has had a Text widget for a long time. It’s always been a handy way to add some extra text to your sidebar or footer, such as a short bio, disclaimer, or copyright information. However, the existing widget was incredibly simple. It only enabled you to type in a title and content, and didn’t let you customize the appearance of either element easily.

This was inconvenient for many users, because they had to use HTML if they wanted to format the text in any way. Fortunately, WordPress 4.8 has brought a much-needed update to this older tool. The new version of the Text widget includes a simplified version of the same editor you already use to customize your posts and pages:

The updated WordPress text widget.

This means you can now easily add formatting and links, and view the content of your Text widget through both the Visual and Text editors. You can even incorporate bulleted and numbered lists. This is great news for existing WordPress users who wanted a more useful feature, and newer users who may not have known how to add formatting to the older version of the widget.

3. Build Custom Media Widgets

So far, we’ve covered both new and improved widgets courtesy of WordPress 4.8. This next widget-related addition is a little different, since it will be more of interest to developers than to casual users of the platform.

In a nutshell, the three new media widgets we talked about earlier were all created using the Widgets API. All three run using the same base class, which determines how they function. This same class can be used to simplify the creation of new media widgets. That means developers will have an easy time building similar types of widgets, such as ones that add a gallery or playlist to your site.

If you’re a developer (or if you’re simply interested in that side of WordPress) there are a few additional behind-the-scenes changes to the platform in this latest update. You can read more about them in the WordPress.org news section.

4. Simplify Your Workflow With the New Link Boundaries

Sometimes, the best updates are the simplest ones. Small changes that improve your everyday workflow can save you time and help your tasks go more smoothly. Such is the case with the WordPress 4.8 update to link functionality.

In short, there are now ‘link boundaries’ within the WordPress editor. When you add a link to your page or post, it will have a clearly defined beginning and end point. This means it’s easier to add text either to the link itself, or before and after the link, and avoid accidentally linking the wrong words.

You’ll see this feature working right away in your editor. When you add a link and click on it, blue highlighting will appear and show you exactly what characters are part of the link:

The new WordPress link boundaries features.

Simply type within the box to add text to the link itself. If you want to add text outside the link, place your cursor at one end of the box and hit the left or right arrow key. The highlighting will disappear, and you’ll know you are no longer editing the link. In the long run, this small update should save you some frustration and make the WordPress editor a little more intuitive.

5. Display Nearby WordPress Events on Your Dashboard

The previous four updates have introduced changes to the way you design your site and create content. In contrast, this final addition is meant to help you more easily connect with the larger WordPress community.

We’re talking about the updated WordPress News and Events widget on your website’s dashboard. It will appear by default as soon as you activate WordPress 4.8, although you can remove it if you’d like:

The new Events and News dashboard widget.

This back end widget was formerly the WordPress News section, which displayed the latest happenings in the WordPress community. The new version does the same thing, but now also displays a list of WordPress events in your nearby area – including WordCamps and meetups. These events are a perfect way to meet other WordPress developers and enthusiasts, hone your skills, and get more eyes on your own work. With WordPress 4.8, you don’t have to leave your site to find out about these valuable opportunities.

Conclusion

As an open-source platform with a huge, supportive community, WordPress is a project that’s always evolving. This is a good thing, because it means developers are constantly adding new features and improving existing functionality. Keeping your site up-to-date is vital, and so is staying abreast of the latest updates.

There are a number of new and interesting things you can do with WordPress 4.8, including:

  1. Adding new media widgets to your site.
  2. Experimenting with the improved Text widget.
  3. Building custom media widgets.
  4. Simplifying your workflow with the new link boundaries.
  5. Displaying WordPress events on your dashboard.
6 Reasons Why a Website is Important for your Business

6 Reasons Why a Website is Important for your Business

What are some other benefits of having a business website?

 

Cost Effective
You know exactly how much your website is going to cost you and it’s ongoings – a brick and mortar store, on the other hand, is susceptible to many out of the ordinary occurrences which could blow out the costs such as leaving the lights on, theft, damage, extra staff etc.

A strategically developed website and online presence solution provides tremendous benefits and costing outlines.

Accessible around the clock
Your website and social media accounts are accessible 24/7/365. Imagine that you want to buy from a store. You put in all the effort required to go to the store, but when you get there, it’s closed. We all know how irate we feel in that situation. You’ll think twice about going back given the bad taste its left (ok might have been your fault for not checking but hey, this is proving the point here!). You will just find another store that is more easily accessible.

Since your website is operational around the clock, from the convenience of the local coffee shop, their couch or their bed, your customers and clients can easily access your website and services.

Convenient
What is more convenient: driving outside to look for different stores that are available to shop in, or sitting in the comfort of your own home and shopping for the products you’re looking for? Pretty obvious answer, unless you like aimlessly driving around. Smart businesses realise this and thus have their own website housing their products and services so that potential customers can browse online for the products they want to purchase.

Credibility
By building a website you are giving your business the opportunity to tell consumers why they should trust you and the testimonials and facts to back up those opportunities. Believe it or not, most people will search the internet for a product or service before the purchase to check the credibility first. When you provide good service or product, positive word-of-mouth about your business is likely to spread. Which in turn, delivers more repeat and new business.

People tend to trust a business after they have done business with it. Using your website, you can continuously serve consumers online and increase your credibility as a business owner.

Sales
Without sales, or selling more than you spend, your business is doomed. By having an online presence you allow for the sale of your products or services around the clock to whoever whenever with no or hardly any limitations; Unless you run out of stock or overworked, but that’s a good problem to have right! Giving your business the online presence it deserves is crucial to your brand and accountants smile.

In short, being visible worldwide means you are very likely to gain more customers. The more customers and visitors you have, the more sales you will generate. The more sales you generate the happier you and your shareholders will be!

Marketing
Having a website and online presence strategy allows you to market your business online. There are lots of marketing strategies you can use to advertise and market your business. All online marketing strategies have been proven to be effective. Which ones you choose depends on the type of business you are in. Speak to us to see which are best for your business.

Bottom Line
It is imperative for every business to have a website. The more professional your website is, the more advantages you can gain.

How to Help Your Clients with WordPress SEO (And Make It Pay)

How to Help Your Clients with WordPress SEO (And Make It Pay)

Search Engine Optimization (SEO), most of us would agree, is vital in ensuring the success of many clients’ WordPress websites.

If nobody finds your client’s site, that client isn’t going to get business from it and they’re not going to be able to justify spending any more on it (i.e. on you) in the future. A bit of SEO can make a big difference to your client’s feelings about the Web, and can bring a lot of money your way from projects as a result of recommendations, or anything else that clients needs.

The problem? SEO takes time: lots of it.

Nevertheless, your clients cannot be expected to know how to optimize their sites alone – not least because effective SEO practice changes with such frequency; mostly at the whim of Google’s algorithmic variance. And it won’t do to allow their sites to become neglected – that wastes their money and won’t bring anything new to you in future.

There are ways to get the best of both worlds, though, by making sure your clients have excellent search engine rankings without the necessary steps being too much of a drain on your time – and what time you do invest will be paid upfront and well worth it in terms of overall client satisfaction and future work coming your way. This article will guide you through a few of the most effective ways to make this compromise work for both you and your clients.

Include SEO From the Beginning

First things first: You need to explain what SEO is and why it’s important for your client.

Another point is that keeping things simple to start off with for clients is probably a good idea. Many will not have heard of SEO before, much less thought about how to use it effectively to improve their business; to this end, using Google as the reference point for what you’re aiming at might be worthwhile – and anything else you can do to avoid confusion or information overload for the client. Make things as simple as possible to begin with and you can introduce more at a later date.

One nice easy task to get the client started with is setting up a business presence on Google  if they haven’t already – they can even do this while their site is still being developed. Although not pure SEO, it will improve their Web presence and make their pages look better on Google results.

google-plus-business-1024x412

Setting up a business presence on Google can be favourable for the world’s most popular search engine. It’s simple enough that your client should be able to create one themselves.

Take Advantage of Existing Software

As a WordPress developer, you’ve got the power of plugins at your disposal, which can make lots of things easier. SEO is no exception.

Having explained the importance of SEO, you can offer your client an SEO plugin install and configuration on their project for a small extra cost. There are some very good SEO plugins available free in the repository, such as WordPress SEO by Yoast, which includes a helpful traffic-light-style visual representation of how good SEO is on any given post or page.

yoast-seo

You should also use a keyword monitoring tool by adding Google Analytics code or activating the Site Stats module of the Jetpack plugin. These will show the user which keywords are getting them the most success and on which content, enabling them to tailor their future content to cater to these successful areas in a more focused way.

Since you want to give your client a fighting chance with SEO when they first start out, you can offer – again, for a reasonable fee – to have a few of their site’s first pages (e.g. the About page if they will have one) written in an SEO-friendly manner before the site is handed over to them. If you don’t want to be doing this, you can still offer the service but find a freelance writer who’s good at following instructions and has a good grasp of SEO concepts; take a small cut of the fee the client’s paying for the writing.

Offer SEO Training

So far, nothing I’ve suggested will actually be a huge drain on your time – the biggest would be configuring the settings of an SEO plugin, but they’re generally quite good to start with and require only a few minor tweaks. Now, however, let’s consider something that does require more time – but can absolutely be worth it for you and your client if you do it well.

SEO training is something you can have as a separate service, sold independently of your Web projects – although you should advise it for any SEO-conscious client alongside a new website. Using quite a bit of your time as it would do, you can charge a premium rate for it; the justification for clients is that it should overall improve their business’s prospects for the Web if they make the most of their session and go away with knowledge on how to boost their online impact.

What exactly needs to be included in such a training session will depend on a number of factors. Primarily, the client’s current understanding – do they have a vague idea of why keywords might be useful already, or are you going to have to explain that “Google” and “the Internet” are not synonymous? The amount of time available (roughly one hour per session is advisable) and changing SEO trends will also play a part, but the basics probably include:

  • Reiterating why SEO is so crucial for their business – getting found by the right people equals more sales.
  • The importance of writing content for their site’s blog regularly. Having a blog will give their rankings a boost in some search engines anyway (an advantage of blog-centric WordPress as a CMS platform) and writing regularly allows them to build a following of people who see them as an authority; post regular, interesting social media updates if they have accounts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or other websites; over time, create a large amount of SEO-friendly content for people to find in search engines.
  • How to write SEO-friendly content, including:
    • Using the SEO plugin, if you’ve installed one, to create good browser titles, descriptions and perform useful analysis.
    • Coming up with eye-catching titles.
    • Writing content of an appropriate length – less than 400 words will generally be considered “thin” content, whereas Google is looking for high-quality, helpful content.
    • Weaving in keywords to their content, including linking them and making them bold to improve SEO. In saying this, content should still flow well and be interesting for humans to read it or they’ll just leave and it’ll be pointless.
    • Never, ever, ever plagiarizing content – duplicating another site’s content will lead to penalties, not a quick boost.
  • Noting again how crucial blogging will be: they need to stick at it, creating a bank of good content, and results will start appearing over time.

Generally, you should try to keep at least the initial sessions as simple as possible – once the client is confused, it’s hard to get back on track without wasting a lot of the session.

Given the ever-changing nature of SEO, you can offer your clients refresher sessions in the future. This way, you keep your clients’ techniques up-to-date, their sites fresh and bringing in business (reflecting well on you as the developer) and keep earning on the sales of the sessions.

You could also consider compiling a booklet for those who have taken the session to refer to (again, this could be sold as an extra if you wish), updating it with new trends. This might also help you keep up if you spend a lot of time doing things other than SEO because you’ll have to dedicate a little time to finding out anything new.

Build a Network of Affiliates

Development isn’t everything in the Web business, but if you’d rather it were, you can make that happen – just make sure your clients don’t miss out on anything important as a result by building a network of affiliates to whom you can outsource various other tasks for them. This does have the advantage of allowing you to have a greater client base as you spend your time only in the one area (development), not in several (SEO, copywriting, and anything else).

If you’re not hot on the idea of giving SEO tutorials then find someone to whom you can refer clients for that training. They’ll still receive the benefits, as will you (active, fresh, successful site to your names) and in fact you could work payment through the agency so you take a small cut.

The same can be the case with freelance writers and SEO copywriters if the client feels that despite SEO training they might not be up to the task, or won’t have enough time. You can negotiate good deals and get the best people for your clients, making your service more valuable and hopefully ensuring your clients stick with you for a long time.

Once you’ve established these ties, you hardly need to invest any more time in them – although you could continue to take a small cut of the fee for setting up the affiliates with the clients. Your clients get good service, your affiliates employment and whilst reaping the benefits of an improved site for your client, you also make a little extra.

Summary

The core message here is that you should be making SEO part of your Web development services because it’s important for the client, and for you to retain the client. Making websites more successful is only going to be a good thing for the client and will keep them enthusiastic about the new opportunities you can offer them on the Web. Yet it needn’t be a loss leader: you can make money out of providing and/or recommending SEO services.

Whether you set up the services in-house or do build relationships with affiliates, it will benefit everybody not to ignore SEO and getting business’ websites found in favour of simply pursuing new development jobs (tempting as that can seem). To do the best for your clients, you need these services available in some form – and you can be paid for it, so what could be better?

55 Web Design Blogs to Follow in 2016

55 Web Design Blogs to Follow in 2016

As a web designer, knowing where to look online for all the best news, tips, tools, freebies, tutorials and other useful resources is pretty important. But with thousands upon thousands of blogs out there focused on web design, which ones are actually worth reading?

Your time is valuable, so wasting too much of it browsing through a large number of mediocre blogs isn’t a habit you want to bring with you into the new year. By subscribing to a few reputable blogs that delivered the highest quality content over the past year, it’s safe to assume that they’ll be doing the same in 2016 – possibly with plans to deliver even better content.

55 Web Design Blogs to Follow in 2016

The following list includes 55 great web design blogs that really shined in 2015. Here’s hoping that they’ll be around for many years to come!

1. Creative Bloq

Creative-Bloq

With a focus on both creative and inspirational tips, Creative Bloq aims to deliver the very best in web design, graphic design, 3D design, digital art and more.

All of its content is geared toward helping readers stay on top of current design trends, with multiple posts published each and every day.

One of Creative Bloq’s most popular posts from 2015 was 6 Tips for Using Grids in Logo Design.

2. Smashing Magazine

Smashing-Magazine

Smashing Magazine is one of the biggest design and development blogs that takes pride in emphasizing the quality of its content, rather than the quantity. Everything you read is based on the latest trends and techniques in the industry.

In addition to all the valuable free content you get from its blog posts, you can also purchase books in print or e-book form and get tickets to attend Smashing conferences.

Why Static Website Generators Are the Next Big Thing was one of their most popular posts in 2015.

3. Co.Design

Co.Design

Fast Company’s Co.Design has been around for years and is currently one of the largest design sites online, with more than a million readers every month. The blog puts a focus on both business and design, including all the areas in which the two topics intersect.

An interesting and popular post from 2015 to consider checking out is The Golden Ratio: Design’s Biggest Myth.

4. SitePoint

SitePoint

First launched in 1999, SitePoint has become a central hub for web professionals in all sorts of web-related fields including design, development, programming, product creation, SEO, and entrepreneurship.

The blog also offers a premium membership option for those who want access to thousands of video tutorials and every book ever published by SitePoint.

One of their best posts of 2015 worth having a look at is 3 Things (Almost) No One Knows About CSS.

5. Tuts+

Tuts

Envato’s Tuts+ is all about hands-on learning; helping people apply the creative skills they acquire in areas like coding, illustration, photography, web design and more.

Basically, if you’re looking for tutorials that you can follow at your own pace, Tuts+ is one place you’ll definitely want to check out. You have the flexibility to dive deep into a specific topic or expand your learning right across a wider range of topics.

One particular tutorial that did really well in 2015 was Blending Models in CSS: Color Theory and Practical Application.

6. Codrops

Codrops

Codrops is a blog that offers articles, tutorials, blueprints, freebies and all sorts of other great content based on all the latest trends and techniques in web design and development.

While the blog isn’t updated with new posts quite as frequently as some of the other blogs on this list, you can still count on Codrops for only the most useful, inspiring and innovative content.

A popular post from 2015 includes one where they showed off an Animated Map Path for Interactive Storytelling.

7. Hongkiat

Hongkiat

Hongkiat has been a popular blog for designers, developers, and other types of techies since 2007.

You’ll find tips, tutorials and inspiration on almost everything. Whether you’re looking to learn more about Photoshop, HTML/CSS, WordPress or even Facebook promotion, Hongkiat has you covered.

One of their most popular posts of 2015 includes 20+ Tools to Create Your Own Infographics.

8. Design Shack

Design-Shack

Design Shack has been around since 2003, aiming to provide inspiration in all areas of design with accompanying articles and resources that help readers learn how to create the same examples and succeed more in their work.

The blog offers content on a range of design topics including related subjects like business and freelancing.

A great 2015 post worth checking out on Design Shack is What’s a Logo Grid, and Why Should You Use One?

9. Designmodo

Designmodo

Designmodo is a blog packed full of resources for both designers and developers, offering useful content in categories like coding, WordPress, tutorials, freebies, inspiration and more.

Some of their UI packs are available for free and you can check out their shop for more premium products, ranging from website and design frameworks to icons and WordPress plugins.

One of their best posts from 2015 was Great Font Combinations You Need to Try.

10. Web Designer Depot

Web-Designer-Depot

Web Designer Depot’s goal is to share only the best and latest discoveries, tips and techniques in web design and development while also covering the business side of design work, mobile apps and working as a freelancer.

Given that it’s quickly grown to become one of the web’s most popular design blogs, you can find all sorts of great, in-depth articles and tutorials on almost anything.

7 Secrets for Enhancing UX with Micro-interactions was one of their best posts of 2015.

11. CSS-Tricks

CSS-Tricks

Back when it launched in 2007, CSS-Tricks was all about just what its name suggested – CSS. Today, however, it has since expanded to include all topics related to web design and web development.

The blog is updated with multiple posts every weekday and in addition to those, you can enjoy video tutorials, community forums, code snippets and more.

One post from 2015 worth reading is The Debate Around “Do We Even Need CSS Anymore?”

12. Speckyboy

Speckyboy

Initially launched in 2007 as the creator’s personal freelance web design site, Speckyboy quickly evolved into the design magazine that designers and developers know and love today.

You’ll find helpful tutorials, time-saving techniques, useful resources and inspirational art in all areas of design, development, advertising and mobile.

A popular post from 2015 that you won’t want to miss is 50 Free Books for Web Designers & Developers.

13. Noupe

Noupe

Noupe is a design and development blog that aims to keep readers informed about relevant news in topics like CSS, Ajax, JavaScript, web design, graphic design, typography, advertising and more.

The blog is usually updated with one daily post. There’s a great “Essentials” section with all sorts of freebies, deals and giveaways you’ll want to check out.

43 Handpicked Services for Completely Free Images was one of their most popular posts of 2015.

14. Web Design Ledger

Web-Design-Ledger

Written for web designers by web designers, Web Design Ledger’s main goal is to serve as a platform that allows users to share their knowledge and resources on everything from tutorials and tips to inspiration and interviews. This is another blog where you can expect to read multiple new posts each and every weekday.

You’ll want to have a look at The Anatomy of an Invoice (That Gets Paid) if you’re a freelance web designer.

15. Designr Fix

Designr-Fix

Designr Fix is a blog that caters to literally everyone and anyone who considers himself to be a design junkie.

With a big focus on community, there’s a big focus on the evolution of art in terms of both inspiration and technique. You can take advantage of freebies, tutorials, deals, resources and more.

A great post of theirs from 2015 worth a read is The Absolute Minimum Every Novice Web Designer Must Know.

16. Six Revisions

Six-Revisions

Six Revisions has been a resourceful blog for web designers and developers since 2008. The blog maintains a minimal look and is updated with new posts a few times every month with only the best content.

You’ll find all sort of posts on topics like CSS, HTML, JavaScript, design, WordPress and more, along with the opportunity to get access to great freebies, useful tools and in-depth tutorials.

Their most shared post of 2015 was 15 Free Books for People Who Code.

17. You the Designer

You-The-Designer

UCreative’s You the Designer is a design blog for both beginners and seasoned professionals.

Posts tend to lean a little more toward the artistic side of things rather than the technical side, and they’re kept short enough that you can read them in just a few minutes. You can also browse through other categories like business and photography or check out the resource section and freebies available.

A great post from 2015 to read would definitely be 11 Things That Don’t Mean Good Design.

18. Awwwards

Awwwards

Awwwards aims to recognize and promote the work of talented designers and developers who can offer readers useful, innovative and inspirational value. In addition to that, you’ll come across a lot of great posts featuring tutorials, tips, trends, interviews, videos, freebies and more by browsing the blog.

One particular post that did extremely well this year was 100 Greatest Free Fonts Collection for 2015.

19. Line25

Line25

First launched in 2009, Line25 is a blog that shares web design ideas and inspiration by publishing tutorials and showing off examples of beautiful site designs. The blog is usually updated with a new post at least every weekday, featuring everything from pattern and texture roundups to WordPress plugin reviews.

25 Interactive HTML Websites That Look Like Flash was one of their best of 2015.

20. Abduzeedo

Abduzeedo

Abudzeedo is a design blog that’s been around since 2006. It’s focused on collecting resources for visual inspiration and useful tutorials that serve designers.

Collections include topics like illustration, interviews, logos, photography, typography, sites of the week and more. Tutorials are broken down by the software program they focus on while also including longer case studies and shorter quick tips.

One great post of theirs from 2015 was 12 Paradoxes of Graphic Design.

21. MonsterPost

MonsterPost

Template Monster’s MonsterPost is a design and development blog that has been around for more than a decade, covering everything in the industry through daily posts.

Stay updated on news, read reviews, get access to useful tools and teach yourself new skills by taking advantage of the tutorials provided by MonsterPost.

Their most shared post of 2015 was Growth Hacking – an Outlaw of Marketing or Efficient Strategy for a Start Up..?

22. 1st Web Designer

1st-Web-Designer

1st Web Designer is a popular blog for newbie designers. It aims to teach people how to learn web design from scratch, but it’s still a great resource for seasoned designers too.

The blog’s design itself is very simple and minimal, featuring posts on everything from CSS templates and UX trends to WordPress theme reviews and font collections.

99 Jokes Only Web Designers Will Understand was their top shared post in 2015.

23. Digital Telepathy

Digital-Telepathy

Digital Telepathy is a design company focused on marketing sites, e-commerce, platforms, digital products and mobile apps.

All of the design work they do for companies is heavily focused on the user experience, which is what their blog posts focus on as well. Categories you can browse through include design, inspiration, business, philosophy, products, productivity, resources and interviews.

Their most popular post from 2015 was How to Choose the Right UX Metrics for Your Product.

24. Design Beep

Design-Beep

Design Beep is a blog that’s all about publishing content for designers and developers looking for inspiration, tutorials, tips and tricks, free collections and anything else that’s related to design.

There’s a great freebie section where you can get access to brushes, fonts, icons, PSDs and so much more. WordPress is also a big focus in the resource section.

A lot of their top 2015 posts are for free stuff, one of which was a free download for a Travel App UI Kit.

25. Inspired Mag

Inspired-Mag

Inspired Mag combines topics related to the web, design and lifestyle and aims to provide each reader with at least one piece of raw material that fuels their inspiration.

The blog features posts in categories like web design, reviews, WordPress and freelancing. There are some great freebies and deals you can take advantage of in addition to the daily posts.

Their most popular post of 2015 was 4 Reasons Why Czar Might Prove to Be the King of WordPress Themes.

26. InstantShift

InstantShift

InstantShift is a community geared towards web designers and developers that covers an array of topics, including WordPress tips, plugin reviews, CSS, Photoshop and JavaScript tutorials. They offer collections of open source fonts and icons too.

Readers are encouraged to submit news that they deem relevant to the site and submissions are always open for writers with an interest in web design or development.

Their breakdown of the Top 22 Designing Trends For 2015 That Are Must For Graphic Designers is well worth a read.

27. From up North

From-Up-North

From up North is all about visual inspiration, be it for graphic designers, photographers, or illustrators. Pretty much all professionals who deal any aspect of design are bound to find something that will get their creative juices flowing here.

The idea was born as a simple personal blog curated by Daniel Nelson in 2009, which then garnered enough of a following to be relaunched as From up North, and underwent a final visual makeover in 2013.

One of their all-time most popular posts was 35 of the Best Graphic Design Pieces of 2014.

28. Design Instruct

Design-Instruct

In-depth tutorials about web development, professional advice for web designers, and round-ups of inspirational tips are at the heart of Design Instruct. It may not publish daily articles, but those that make it on the site are all high-quality pieces.

It was launched in 2010 in a collaboration between Isaac and Jacob Gube (a photographer and a web designer/developer respectively) and the project is open to all contributors with an interest in design or art.

If you’re in the market for a job, 10 Free Clean and Minimal Resumé Templates to Help You get the Job might be just what you’re looking for.

29. David Airey

David-Airey

As you might surmise from its title, this website is all about one man. David Airey is both a writer and a graphic designer who has worked for renowned companies such as the BBC, the Yellow Pages, and the Asian Development Bank.

His website acts as both a personal portfolio and a collection of inspirational pieces for designers, which are brought to life by David’s writing.

In his most popular post of 2015, Airey published a short memorial for Swiss type designer Adrian Frutiger.

30. Spoon Graphics

Spoon-Graphics

Spoon Graphics is the brainchild of Chris Spooner, a graphic designer who has made it his mission to share interesting tutorials, in-depth articles, and collections of freebies that other artists can use in their own work.

His endeavor is in part supported by a premium area in which he shares stock material such as patterns, brushes, icons, and fonts for designers who want access to high-quality collections.

If fonts are your thing, you should take a look at his list of 60 Quality FREE Fonts You Probably Don’t Own, But Should!.

31. 24 Ways

24-Ways

24 Ways is a blog built around a unique concept. For 24 days during each December, a team of professional web designers and developers band together to bring you 24 articles focused on the topics they deem most important for workers in their areas of expertise, which are then published a day at a time.

Since its inception in 2005, 24 Ways has brought together over a hundred articles, published over two hundred articles, and given its followers an additional reason to cheer for the arrival of December.

Donovan Hutchinson’s piece, Animating Your Brand, was one of our favorite articles of their 2015 repertoire.

32. UX Booth

UX-Booth

UX Booth is one of the definitive resources for UX professionals; covering everything from analytics, to business and content strategy, information architecture, interaction design, user experience philosophy, research information, accessibility, and visual design. We weren’t exaggerating when we used the word definitive.

The publication was born on 2008 and since then it’s amassed a massive collection of writings by dozens of UX specialists.

User Stories: A Foundation for UI Design is a great introduction to the kind of content that you can find in this community.

33. A List Apart

A-List-Apart

A List Apart is a publication with a long history; I remember reading it when I was but a wee lad. It’s been publishing in-depth pieces centered around web design, development, and best practices ever since 1997, when it was founded as a simple mailing list.

The website was then born in 1998 and since then it has upheld the highest of standards when it comes to content while still remaining on the lookout for new voices who have interesting perspectives regarding web content.

One of their most popular articles of 2015 (and part of their issue number 415) was Quantity Queries for CSS.

34. Creativeoverflow

Creativeoverflow

While Creativeoverflow is, at its heart, a blog devoted to design, they also publish quite a lot of articles regarding work productivity and finances that can be appreciated by professionals from areas.

Their wide range of topics is part of the reason why this blog has amassed such a dedicated following since it was created in 2009 by Jacques van Heerden.

Design professionals will find some great advice in their 2015 piece, Frequent Mistakes Graphic Designers Make And How To Fix Them.

35. Vandelay Design

Vandelay-Design

Vandelay Design is a prolific resource not only for web design professionals and developers, but for all kind of entrepreneurs who want to get a leg up in their respective fields. In their mission statement, they make an emphasis on how education is the foundation upon with all success is built, and as such, their team strives to share the best content with their readers.

Aside from their regular articles, Vandelay Design also offers a shop which is stocked with thousands of handcrafted graphic resources, with everything from resume templates to icon packs.

One of their most popular articles of 2015 was a Blogger’s Guide to Creating Better Content.

36. The Next Web

TNW-Design-Dev

The Next Web is a leading online publication which covers tech advances, business, and cultural news. Despite not being solely design-focused, they do possess a dedicated Design & Dev section which is essential for professionals of these fields due to its combination of tips, tutorials, and coverage of the latest developments within their fields.

5 of the best interaction design trends of 2015 is a must read for designers with an interest in UX.

37. SiteInspire

siteInspire

SiteInspire has a unique concept: to showcase the very best in website design according to specific criteria. The team that decides which sites to showcase is partial to clean and simple designs, while excluding those that use Flash excessively, or those with obvious visual errors.

Over time, they’ve amassed a collection of over 4,700 sites that’s been painstakingly categorized according to style, type of website, subject matter, and platform (including Behance, Cargo Collective, ReadyMag, Shopify, Squarespace, and Tumblr). This makes it a breeze for designers to search their catalog when they’re looking for inspiration.

One of the latest sites to have been featured in their showcase is Merry Everything!

38. Onextrapixel

Onextrapixel

Onextrapixel is a Singapore-based online magazine featuring case studies, tips, news, tutorials, reviews, and other useful resources for both web designers and developers. Their case studies and analysis on design trends are particularly insightful, making it an essential stop for design professionals.

The site was birthed in 2009 by a team of design enthusiasts who then went on to recruit authors from across the globe as it grew into the successful publication it is today.

If you’re a creative professional, check out their recent roundup of 7 Ted Talks Every Creative Must See.

39. Little Big Details

Little-Big-Details

Floris Dekker created a simple collection of pieces meant to inspire designers in 2010, with Tumblr as his platform of choice. Five years and thousands of submissions later, he’s now joined by Andrew McCarthy and together they’ve kept their collection growing with a new piece every day.

Their thousands of subscribers help them out by sending pieces for consideration, which are mostly geared towards UX design.

One of their most popular notes is about the icon design of the iOS voice memo app.

40. Creative Market

creative-market

Besides churning out high-quality articles mostly dedicated to design, Creative Market is also an online marketplace for handcrafted and mousemade (in their own words) content open to designers from all walks of life.

Their articles tackle all kind of subjects, from design trends to inspirational quotes, step-by-step guides to launch your own blog and a fun weekly column called Designer Problems.

In fact, if the idea of reading about designer problems tickles your fancy, you might enjoy another one of their articles titled 10 Things Designers Freaking Hate With a Passion.

41. Naldz Graphics

Naldz-Graphics

Naldz Graphics is a little blog with thousands of subscribers and regular readers, who flock to it for their regular fix of freebies which can be used in their own design work, breakdowns of the top trends in web design, and tutorials.

If you’re the kind of designer who likes to browse around for inspiration and keep his arsenal well-stocked with free content, you’ll enjoy your time at Naldz Graphics.

One of their most popular posts of 2015 was the 50 Finest WooCommerce WordPress Themes To Check Out Now.

42. Tutorialzine

Tutorialzine

This little zine was created by a team of highly-motivated (and talented) web developers and designers from Bulgaria, who’ve been regularly publishing their own step-by-step tutorials ever since 2009.

While their site may look simple, their tutorials are anything but sparse. In their web development pieces, you can follow their guidance as you code, and they include screenshots at every step for better understanding.

As far as design goes, their tutorials are just as in-depth as those focused on development, which you can see for yourself in one of their most popular pieces, Comparing Bootstrap With Google’s New Material Design Lite.

43. Treehouse Blog

Treehouse

Treehouse is well known in the world of web development as one of the best places for people to learn coding online, thanks to their thorough library of tutorial videos and practice platform, as well as their gamification approach to learning.

The Treehouse team also maintains a community blog which has turned out to be a surprisingly good resource for web and app designers and developers. On top of news regarding updates on their learning platform, they also publish advice for new professionals in their field and inspirational pieces about self-taught average people who’ve gone onto success.

One of their most thorough (and popular) pieces of 2015 was 3 Steps to Better UI Wireframes.

44. Happy Cog

Cognition

Happy Cog is a collection of the musings on web development and design from a team of professionals based in New York, spearheaded by founder Jeffrey Zeldman. A random sample of their articles pulls up diverse topics such as learning how to teach from kids (which could be used to simplify the UX experience), the development process, and print design.

Things I’ve Learned From Working With My First Web Team is one of their most interesting pieces and applicable to professionals working in pretty much any field.

45. WebAppers

web-appers
WebAppers is a compilation of the very best when it comes to open source resources for both designers and developers. For designers, there’s collections of icons, stock photos, brushes, fonts, and inspirational resources; all categorized according to their licenses to simplify your search.

It’s the brainchild of Ray Cheung, a web entrepreneur who runs several other blogs focused on the same fields.

If you’re on the lookout for high-quality stock photos, check out 15 New Websites to Download Free Stock Photos.

46. Hacking UI

HackingUI

Hacking UI is a goldmine of curated content meant for designers to develop their professional skills. Inside, you’ll find podcasts, step-by-step tutorials where professionals walk you through solving design issues, and unique insights into business-end matters such as scaling a design team.

This online magazine was created by the designer/developer team of Sagi Schrieber and David Tintner, who previously co-founded a web startup.

One of their most popular pieces deals with a designer’s experience after using Sketch for a year, A Year Using Sketch – An Honest Review, which was a follow-up to another one of their articles (which went viral) The Sketch Manual Part 1: How and Why I moved to Sketch.

47. Material Design Blog

Material-Design-Blog

Whether you love or hate it, material design has certainly made a big impression in the design world and it’s likely to remain in vogue for a while to come. This blog was founded upon that principle, and it’s made a name for itself by rounding up the best examples of material design out there, as well as publishing tutorials and apps to help designers in their day-to-day jobs.

If you’re a regular visitor to Elegant Themes, it’s probably safe to say you’re interested in WordPress, so you might enjoy this roundup of 11 Free Material Design WordPress Themes to Spice Up your Blog.

48. Design your way

Design-your-way

Design your way is a visual feast of tips for web, UI, and UX design, alongside a healthy helping of free resources for designers, and some articles covering typography and WordPress advice.

Its articles are filled with gorgeous imagery and you’ll be glad to find they have very few generic advice articles. Here it’s all about design, covering everything from case studies in good color contrasts, why UX is important for designers, to how to make the best use of blocks in web design.

Curiously enough, their most popular article of 2015 was about food packaging design, Intelligently Made Food Packaging – 50+ Examples.

49. Design / UX (Medium)

Medium-Design-UX

Medium hardly needs an introduction. In the past years, the publishing platform has gained enormous traction among bloggers and become one of the de-facto sources of information in the web.

This curated list of authors covering design and UX topics hasn’t been as active lately, but it still remains a good resource for those who looking for a first-hand account from professionals in the field.

Characteristics of a User Experience Designer is one of the most recent and well-received articles from this list.

50. UXPin Blog

Studio-UXPin

The team behind UXPin is most well known for their UX design platform, which is meant to help design professionals go from wireframing to testing in a single app, regardless of their platform of choice.

It stands to reason then that they should know their stuff when it comes to design, which is why their company blog is a fantastic resource for design, UX and project management tutorials and tips.

If UX design is your thing, you might want to take a look at 3 Problems Killing UX Design in the Enterprise (And How to Fix Them).

51. Good UI

GoodUI

Good UI’s website is an experience in and of itself. If you’re expecting a regular blog, you might find yourself confused for a few seconds once you find yourself in their homepage, which as its name implies, is a simple ongoing collection of ideas for good UI design.

Each idea is short and to the point and is accompanied by a graphic example, which makes them all easy to digest. Our favorite part of the website is the counter that tracks your progress down their list of ideas.

Want an example of one of their ideas? Try merging similar functions instead of fragmenting the UI.

52. UsabilityGeek

Usability-Geek

UsabilityGeek started off as a personal blog created by Justin Mifsud in 2011, who felt that there was a widespread lack of knowledge about how usability affected the quality of websites. Since then its reach has expanded and the array of topics has evolved to cover UX, conversion, human-computer interactions, and information architecture.

Overall, however, the main goal of the site continues to be educating its readers on how to deliver a great user experience. Its most popular article during the past year was 10 UX Design Trends You Shouldn’t Overlook in 2015.

53. Boxes and Arrows

Boxes-Arrows

This online journal has been dedicated to the discussion of graphic design, UX, information architecture and business design ever since its creation in 2001. This has been made possible through the contribution of hundreds of design professionals who’ve lent their voices and expertise to further discussion in the topics they feel most passionate about.

Its minimalist design may not turn any heads, but their articles are sure to get you thinking. A good place to start would be their recent piece into how Creativity Must Guide the Data-Driven Design Process.

54. Boagworld Blog

Boagworld

Boagworld is the aptly named suite of resources (from podcasts to books, and the aforementioned blog) devised by Paul Boag, where he and other members of the Headscape team get to talk about web development topics ranging from accessibility, design, marketing, and working in the web.

Headscape is a web solutions company with a diverse team and years of experience in the field (so you should listen to their advice) and their articles are both in-depth and enjoyable to read.

For starters, take a look at this article written by Paul Boag himself, User experience design is not what you think.

55. UX Magazine

UX-Magazine

Last but not least, UX Magazine has been a staple in the online UX community ever since 2005. For years now it’s been publishing top shelf articles regarding all areas of design thanks to the help of industry leaders who take the time to impart their wisdom to other practitioners.

Among its articles, you’ll find diverse topics such as accessibility, data visualization, storytelling and empathy in design, all alongside the traditional studies into UX design trends.

One of their best and most popular articles (with a title that is sure to raise some eyebrows) is Why Web Design is Dead.

Conclusion

And that’s a wrap! It definitely isn’t always easy to find the best or most up to date information on web design topics, but the above list of blogs can help solve that problem as you move forward with your work in the new year.

10 Free Versions of Popular Premium Plugins You Can Try Today

10 Free Versions of Popular Premium Plugins You Can Try Today

With thousands of free and commercial plugins available for your self-hosted WordPress website, its often difficult to know which ones will offer an essential upgrade for your site and which ones just look like they would.

Every website, blog, or e-commerce store is different, each with their own set of specific requirements. This means that there is, unfortunately, no one size fits all list that contains the best plugins for every WordPress website.

Furthermore, in many cases, our websites are our livelihood, and we want to make sure we pick only “the best” plugins available. Often premium and commercial plugins are perceived as being better, simply for the fact that we have to hand over money in exchange for access to them.

However, while there are many good reasons to opt for a commercial or premium plugin – which we’ll get to shortly – stumping up the cash isn’t always necessary. In this article, we will take a look at some well-known premium plugins which you can use on your site for free – albeit with fewer features. This is thanks to their creators making use of the freemium pricing model.

This freemium model means you can test out the user interface, inspect the code, and make use of some of the features, all without paying a penny. In some cases, you might even discover that you don’t need the extra power of the commercial version and the free option will suffice, if not forever, then at least for now.

I’ve attempted to compile a collection of plugins that are more well known for their commercial or premium versions, rather than their freely available counterparts. However, this will be subjective, depending on your knowledge of particular plugins and experience of WordPress. If you know of any other examples our readers might be interested in, at the end of this article you’ll have an opportunity to share them.

The Case For Premium Plugins

Free-Plugins-Pand-P-Studio-shutterstock_275076002Free isn’t always better – image by P and P Studio / shutterstock.com

You’ll be hard pressed to find a commercial WordPress plugin that offers features or functionality that can’t in some way, be added to your site via an alternative extension that is freely available.

For example, VaultPress is a brilliant backup solution for WordPress. However, you can get the job done with a free WordPress backup plugin. OK, the user experience might not be as slick, or you might have to put it a bit more work, but you’ll have saved yourself some cash along the way. So why opt for a premium plugin?

Good question. However, there are many good reasons to choose a premium WordPress plugin over a free one:

  • Often you do get more features and, therefore, better results from a commercial product
  • Premium support is typically more responsive than that offered for free plugins
  • Greater chances of more frequent upgrades and fixes, with less chance of plugin abandonment
  • You’re potentially funding the development of new products for the future

If you are creating websites for clients or building mission critical sites for your own business, then investing in commercial plugins gives you someone to turn to should a problem arise. As the product is someone’s livelihood, there’s also less chance it will be abandoned due to them moving onto some other project.

There are many reasons to choose a commercial plugin over a comparable freely available option. However, the costs can soon mount up with each new plugin you add to your website.

Shopping for Free Plugins Has it Advantages

But what if I told you that some of the most popular premium plugins have lite versions available that are absolutely free?

Often we only need to use one or two of the premium features and never even look at the rest. Why use a sledgehammer to crack a nut when a lighter, free version will do the trick?

As the name suggests, lite plugins are often more lightweight, easier to use, and usually still offer plenty of features to improve your website. They allow you to test the plugin and decide if you do actually need all of the premium features or if its such a good product after all. Marketing efforts are getting better and better each day and it’s easy to get seduced by the latest and greatest new product on the block, even if you don’t need everything it has to offer.

Furthermore, by choosing the lite version of a premium plugin, you often still get access to some of the benefits on offer from purchasing a commercial option, that you wouldn’t otherwise get with a plugin that was only available for free. This can include regular updates and less risk of abandonment.

So here are 10 freely available lite versions of popular commercial WordPress plugins.

10 Lite Versions of Popular Premium WordPress Plugins You Can Use for Free Today

Here is the collection of lite versions of popular or useful premium plugins that you can get started with today for free. You won’t get access to all of the features of the commercial product or the same level of customer support. However, for some users, that might be fine.

If you are happy with what you get, then you’ve always got the option of upgrading to the commercial version down the line and unlocking the premium features and access to the user support, as well as supporting the developing and funding future updates and new products.

MotoPress

Free-Motopress

Create creative content at no extra cost

Over the last few years, there’s been an explosion in page builder plugins for WordPress, including our very own, recently released Divi Builder. These tools enable users to easily create custom post and page layouts, without any need to edit any code themselves.

Many page builders have drag-and-drop functionality for ease of use. This allows even the most inexperienced users to create stunning page layouts and designs. Where in the past many small business owners would have to hire a professional to add a custom page layout to their website, they can now have a go themselves.

However, when it comes to adding a page builder to your WordPress website, many of the most popular options are commercial products. Thankfully, you can add this functionality to your site for free. One such option for doing so is the lite version of the MotoPress Content Editor.

The pricing of the Content Editor from MotoPress starts at $29 for a single license. However, the lesser-known, free version, MotoPress Content Editor Lite is available from the WordPress Plugin Directory.

If you do decide to use this lightweight page builder, after installation, the default WordPress page editor can be replaced with the MotoPress Content Editor. This is an easy-to-use, front-end drag-and-drop builder. The lite version retains many of the features of the premium plugin and is compatible with all WordPress themes. It’s also fully responsive and includes a library of built-in content elements that allow you to add many useful features to your custom layouts.

In case you are missing a feature or two, the developers offer add-ons that allow you to extend the functionality without paying the full price of the premium plugin. Add-ons include Google Maps Pro, a video slider, and an advanced countdown timer.

If you or your clients aren’t yet paid up members of the Elegant Themes club and don’t have access to the Divi Builder plugin, then the free version of the MotoPress Content Editor is a notable alternative.

Easy Pricing Tables Lite by FatCat Apps

Free-Easy-Pricing-Table

Add pricing tables to your website for free

Pricing tables might not be the sexiest feature you can add to a website. However, they can become an essential part of the pricing  strategy of almost any online business.

A properly implemented pricing table makes it easy for your visitors to compare your different offerings. By giving your price-conscious visitors the opportunity to carry out a comparison on your site, you remove the need for them to go elsewhere in order to check carrying out a price comparison off of their mental pre-purchase checklist.

If you haven’t experimented with pricing tables yet, then you should definitely do so. Offering multiple pricing options, compared against each other in a nicely presented table, can be a great way to raise your rates or increase your prices. You can add extra packages to your portfolio, at higher rates,  without running the risk of losing business by withdrawing your current tariffs.

There are a whole host of pricing tables plugins available for WordPress and if you are using the Divi theme or Divi Builder plugin, then you already have a powerful way to add them to your website. However, for everyone else, the Easy Pricing Tables plugin by Fatcat Apps is a great option.

This plugin is incredibly easy to use.  Speaking from experience, the claim from the marketing material that you can set up your tables in less than two minutes with just a few mouse clicks, rings true. Pricing options for the premium version of the plugin start from $29 for single website use, with a free 60-day money back guarantee.

With over 20,000 active installs, Easy Pricing Tables Lite isn’t the best-kept secret in the world of WordPress. However, the premium version has been effectively marketed, so much so, that you might not be familiar with the lite version.  Although due to its high levels of usage, you will probably be familiar with Easy Pricing Tables from Fat Cat Apps already, without knowing it.

The lite version is a little, how shall we say it, light on features, compared to the premium version. However, it does give you an easy way to add pricing tables to your WordPress website today, albeit with fewer options and functionality than its commercial counterpart.

Users Ultra Membership Plugin

Free-Users-Ultra-membership-plugin

Start your membership site for free

Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the last few years, you’ll know that membership sites are all the rage at the moment. They’ve even been called the holy grail of online businesses by some. When you consider their potential for generating recurring revenue, it’s not hard to see why.

Creating a membership site, or adding this component to your existing website gives you another way to monetize your content. However, whether you decide to charge a fee for access to your members only area or not, a membership plugin can be an effective way to better connect, interact with, and stay in touch with your audience.

However, there’s a lot to consider when setting up a membership site. There’s also many features that are required if a plugin is to fulfill the needs of all the different groups of users building this type of site. Therefore, the tools that give you the ability to add membership functionally to your site tend to be feature rich, and in turn, quite expensive.

This is something that can be an issue when you are just starting out. Especially when you don’t have any paying members yet, or even know if there is a market for your product.

So to help you overcome this potential barrier to adding a membership element to your website, I’d like to introduce the lite version of the Users Ultra Membership plugin.

The lite version of User Ultra isn’t clearly mentioned on the website of the commercial version of the plugin, so you probably won’t be aware of it. However, it’s well worth checking out as it’s packed with features and has a positive rating of 4.6 stars out of 5.

With the ability to charge and collect one-off and recurring membership fees with the lite version of this plugin, plus the highly rated user support offered via the WordPress Plugin Directory, this could be a great way to start your membership site.

Envira Gallery Plugin Lite

Free-Envira-gallery

Try this leading responsive galleries plugin for free

If you’re a photographer, designer, or artist, or you just love photos, you will probably want a gallery plugin for your WordPress website. There are thousands of plugins of this type on the market and the choice is mind-boggling. A good gallery plugin should be fast loading, simple to use, and of course fully mobile responsive.

Envira Gallery plugin is one of the most popular premium plugins in this category and it’s a great tool for adding galleries to a WordPress website. However, it’s not a cheap option and you’ll need to pay $99 per year to gain access to all of its features and customer support.

Thankfully, the developers do also offer a lite version. You would be forgiven for not knowing about this option, though, considering it’s not mentioned on the plugin website. However, it can be freely downloaded from the WordPress Plugin Directory.

The lite version is definitely a stripped down plugin. You only get access to one pre-installed theme for styling your galleries, for example. However, you do get to check out the user interface and see how quickly you can create and publish photo galleries on your website, before making a decision on whether you want to pay the premium prices for the extra features.

Chat

Free-Chat

Chat with your visitors for free

While WordPress gives you the ability to communicate with your readers via the comments area of your site, if you want to get more interactive with your audience, then the option of installing a live chat plugin is well worth considering.

Whether you are selling a product or service and want to answer questions to help close more sales, or you just want to know more about your visitors, adding a live chat tool to your website makes sense.  In fact, studies have even shown that having a live chat option on your website can increase conversions by over 40%.

One way to add live chat to your WordPress website is to make use of the Chat plugin from WPMU Dev. Packed with features and fully customizable, it’s a great plugin. However, it can feel a bit overwhelming when all you’re really after is a simple chat box, especially at the price of $19 a month.

Thankfully, they’ve also created a free, slimmer version that can add a live chat box to the corner of any WordPress website. With the free version, you can still customize the colors and the size of your chat window, as well as choose which posts and pages to display it on.

If you want to experiment with live chat on your WordPress website, then the well received and free version of Chat is ready when you are.

Ajax Search Lite

Free-Ajax-Search-lite

Upgrade your WordPress site search for free

The default search functionality of WordPress should be good enough for small websites with only a handful pages. However, once you start accumulating a large amount of content, such as blog posts, videos, landing pages, and attachments, it’s often not quite powerful enough to deliver the best results.

An effective search feature is really important when it comes to helping your visitors find exactly what they are looking for. Due to this, there are many great search plugins for WordPress.

One of those options is the Ajax Search plugin and its one of the most popular search plugins around. Like it says on the tin, it’s Ajax powered. This means it works dynamically without the need to refresh the page as you type. It’s also super fast and comes with a price tag of $26.

However, there is a free version available and if you’re not running a full-fledged online empire, it will probably be sufficient for your search needs.

Ajax Search Lite comes jam-packed with features. This means you can search within posts, pages, and custom post types. The plugin fully integrates with Google Analytics to give you an insight to what your users are actually searching for. Keyword suggestions and Google autocomplete can be enabled and it also displays featured images in the results for a better user experience.

The search plugin space is certainly competitive. However, Ajax Search Lite is a free and easy way to upgrade the way your visitors look for content on your site.

Soliloquy Slider Lite

Free-Soliloquy

Soliloquy Lite the free slider plugin for WordPress

Sliders are everywhere. It seems like every website you visit nowadays features a shiny slider in the header, but not everybody thinks they’re great. In fact, sliders have earned a rather bad reputation among web designers and marketers, who say that they slow down your site, negatively affect usability, and are bad for search engine optimization (SEO). That doesn’t have to be true, though, not if you use them correctly and choose a great slider plugin like Soliloquy.

While there are many WordPress slider plugins out there, one of the most downloaded options, Soliloquy, is not only incredibly fast but also fully SEO optimized. This means you can enjoy your slideshow in its full glory, without worrying about performance and SEO. With the basic version starting at $19 for use on a single website, and with prices going up to $99 for the full featured version, Soliloquy isn’t cheap.

Thankfully, the good people at Soliloquy have also created a free lite version that still retains some of its awesome features.

Soliloquy Lite is fully responsive and allows swiping on touch screens. Creating a slider is a piece of cake, simply drag and drop the images you want to use into your slider, change their order, and edit them. This allows you to edit the meta data for each image in your slider, including alt tags and image titles. This can help overcome some of the SEO objects against sliders.

Formidable Forms

Free-Formidable-forms

Create advanced forms for free

Despite being one of the most important pages on any website, the Contact page often gets neglected. A nice looking contact form that’s aligned with your website’s general look and feel is a great way to let your potential clients and customers reach out while also adding a professional touch to your site.

Countless form plugins let you generate virtually any type of form you can think of and Formidable Forms is one option that has a great reputation. At $47 for a single license it doesn’t come cheap, but if you only need a relatively simple form, the free version will be more than capable.

The Formidable Forms marketing material claims you can create a beautiful contact form in just two minutes, either by applying one of the pre-designed templates or using the drag-and-drop builder.

The free version lets you pick from 7 different field types: simple text, email, URL, radio, dropdown, checkbox and paragraph text; more than enough to create a professional form. Security is taken seriously at Formidable, and equally so in the free version, with reCAPTCHA and Akismet integration to make sure you don’t get spammed.

If you want a tried and tested way to add custom forms to your website for free, Formidable Forms is a great choice.

Tweet Wheel Lite

Free-Tweet-Wheel

Automate social media promotion and marketing

Social Media is hard. Yet, every business owner will know by now that you simply have to do it. Thankfully, there’s a whole bunch of tools available to us to help lessen the load.

Tweet Wheel by NerdCow is a relatively newly released Twitter plugin. Despite only racking up a few sales and activate installs, it’s received some very popular reviews and feedback from those who’ve used it so far.

Tweet Wheel isn’t your standard social sharing plugin, though. Instead, it’s a tool that will automatically share your posts on Twitter. After authorizing Tweet Wheel to use your Twitter account, you can create a custom posting schedule, corresponding with when you think your target audience will be online to see your tweets.

Your content is automatically added to the Tweet Wheel queue, before being shared at the next scheduled opportunity.  You are free to manage your queue how you wish, including manually adding and removing items, as well as ensuring anything that’s already been shared is added back into the queue for further promotion on Twitter at a later date.

One useful feature of Tweet Wheel is its looping abilities.  When enabled, your tweets will be slightly amended and then re-posted again. This can avoid them becoming repetitive when you are sharing items multiple times.

If you want to automate the promotion of your content on Twitter, while also ensuring your site has a constant presence on this popular social network, then the free version of Tweet Wheel is more than up to the task.

Suppamenu Lite

Free-Suppamenu

Make your menus mega with Suppamenu

One of the most used features of any website is the navigation or menu bar, which is usually found at the top of the site. The menu enables your visitors to find their way around your website, making it an essential feature. Every decent WordPress theme has a way to display menus, and while most work fine, they often just look, well, a little bit boring.

If you want to upgrade the menu of your website, without changing themes, then the Suppamenu plugin can help you out. The premium version of this plugin has achieved a good number of sales on the Code Canyon marketplace, where it can be yours for just $17.

However, if you are on a tight budget, or are just not sure if a mega menu is right for you, you can try the well equipped lite version for free. The free version allows you to create an unlimited number of menus for your site, each with their own style and appearance.

Suppamenu is multi-language ready and fully responsive to ensure that your menus can be enjoyed on any device.

Wrap Up

And there we have it, 10 completely free lite versions of popular commercial plugins that you might not even know existed.

Instead of forking out for a premium plugin, why not give the free versions a try first. More often than not, they are packed with nearly as many features as the commercial versions and may well be totally sufficient for your needs. Either that, or it turns out it’s not the right choice for your project after all.

How to Create a Sales Funnel for Your WordPress Business to Land More Clients

How to Create a Sales Funnel for Your WordPress Business to Land More Clients

One of the most challenging aspects of running a WordPress business is breaking out of the feast or famine cycle that so many of us are a victim too. Doesn’t it always seem that you either have too much work or not enough?

If you find yourself wishing there was a more consistent way to attract and convert new leads, this post is for you. We’re going to discuss the basics of developing a sales funnel for your WordPress business.

The objective is to help you create a sales funnel that makes the process of converting  your website visitors to prospects, leads and clients easier, more consistent and less stressful.

The Problem With Your Current Sales Funnel

Most of the time, when it comes to a small WordPress business, there are two common problems with sales funnels. The first is not having a sales funnel at all. An easy enough problem to fix, right? If that sounds like your business, you can probably jump right to the next section where we’ll discuss how to start building your funnel.

The second, and possibly even more common problem is having a sales funnel that assumes every visitor to your website is ready to hire you or your agency – today. These “funnels” are usually made up of a single contact form that says “Call Us To Discuss Your Project” or something similar. You might even have an opt-in form with a simple lead magnet. But that’s where the funnel begins and ends. If you’re able to capture their email address, what happens next?

Unfortunately, these “one size fits all” sales funnels don’t really work. Most visitors to your website aren’t ready to hire you – yet. But that doesn’t mean they’re a lost cause. Quite the opposite in fact.

Once you build a proper funnel, you’ll start to see an increasing number of visitors who are willing to move through the different stages of your sales process. You’ll begin generating more qualified leads and landing clients with greater ease. Over time, as you have more prospects enter your funnel, the sales process will produce qualified leads more consistently.

Building Your Sales Funnel

Taking the time to build, test and refine a proper sales funnel can not only improve your conversion rate, but it can also make it easier to find and attract leads that are actually interested in the services you offer. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a developer, designer or you’re selling custom Divi templates. Your business stands to benefit from well-designed sales funnel.

A properly designed funnel makes your sales process easier for you and your future clients. There are 4 things we’re going to discuss in this article. The first is how to structure your content in a way that is more likely to attract new clients. The second thing we’ll look at is the 3 different parts of your sales funnel that are critical to its overall success.

The Need For Content

Blog Content-shutterstock_234456937

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to have a blog on your website. You can still create your sales funnel using a combination of landing pages, lead magnets and opt-in forms.

That said, having a blog is certainly a preferable way to begin the process of creating your sales funnel. It allows you to post regular content for visitors at every stage of the decision-making process. Whether you’re creating blog content or landing pages with email sequences, there are some general best practices that you want to pay attention to.

  1. Know who you are writing for. This article is directed specifically at business owners who use WordPress to earn their living. The bulk of that audience is made up of designers, developers or small agency owners who are interested in attracting more clients with less effort. Your target audience for every post or email that you write should be just as specific.
  2. Headlines should capture the attention of your audience. Don’t beat around the bush. Each blog headline or email subject line should tell your visitor exactly what the contents are about. It should also do it in an engaging and personable way.
  3. Start with a compelling first paragraph that addresses their problem or question and hints at a solution. Make sure you’re subsequent paragraphs deliver what was expected.
  4. Use great images to break up the content wherever possible.
  5. Provide social proof if it makes sense to do so. Making sense means that if you content is being shared, let people know. But if you’re content isn’t being shared very much, don’t brag about the fact that only one person has taken the time to share your post on Facebook.
  6. Include a relevant call to action that matches where the reader is most likely to be in their decision-making journey (this will make more sense in a minute).

With those content best practices out of the way, let take a closer look at the three primary parts of your sales funnel.

Acknowledgement Stage – “Uh Oh, I have a Problem”

Solving a Problem

When a visitor first arrives on your website, they are usually in the very early stages of the decision-making process. They know they’ve got a problem or a challenge that needs to be addressed and that’s about it. Maybe they’ve seen a drop in sales due to less website traffic but are unsure of the exact reason why. Your visitor is looking for possible answers.

The chances of this visitor picking up the phone and calling you at this stage are somewhere between slim and none. Presenting them with a contact form offering a free consultation probably won’t work.

What will work, is broad spectrum, general content that is likely to help identify or provide more information about their problem. So what does this look like? Using our previous example, you might have a series of blog posts that discuss everything from Google’s recent algorithm changes to the importance of having a website that’s mobile friendly or maybe even a post covering the top on-page SEO factors most likely to affect their rankings.

Attached to these specific blog post would be a call to action. For example, you could have an email opt-in that subscribes your visitor to a series of emails. In each of those emails, you would go into further details about the potential reasons that their website might see a sudden drop in traffic. Cover the top 4-5 reasons and create a brief email for each one.

Also included in the content of the emails you’re sending should be a link to additional content. This content is what will help the prospect to transition to the next step in the process.

Consideration Stage – “Maybe I Need to Hire Some Help?”

The next step in your funnel is designed to help your prospect move further into their decision-making process. There will be a lot of people who drop off or disappear in the first stage. These are the “do-it-yourself” people or possibly the ones who have an uncle who builds websites as a hobby. No worries, they might be back later but for now, there is no sense wasting your time and effort on them.

For those prospects who make it through the second phase, your mission becomes to answer their next round of questions. At this stage in the process, they’ve invested some time on your website and reading your emails. Chances are they’ve read your about page, examined your portfolio and read a few client testimonials as well.

The specific content you want to provide at this stage centers around how you help clients with a similar problem to theirs. Some ideas might include case studies, white papers or even videos that answer some of the specific questions, concerns or objections that previous clients have presented you or your sales team with.

As you answer objections and provide more information, some of your prospects will get to the stage where they are ready to find out more about your services. After watching a case study, they might be wondering if you can produce the same results for their website that you did for the client in the case study. Which of course, you can.

In the content that you create for this second stage, it’s time to start introducing some specific offers that might allow your prospect to request additional information directly from you. As they move closer to the final decision-making process, it’s time to start presenting offers that are more specific to their final decision. They’re ready to commit to redeveloping their website, they just need some help taking the next step.

The Decision Stage – “I’ve Found the Company I Want to Hire”

The decision stage is where you can finally turn your attention to actually landing your new client. How you approach this stage is dependent upon how you like to run your business. Maybe you provide a free website critique? Maybe you prefer to direct prospects to a sales page where they choose their desired service level and then await a follow-up call from you or your team?

Specific ideas for this stage of the process might include a landing page that offers a free critique of their current website or a free personal phone consultation. Maybe you direct them to a sales page where they select from one of three website development plans and fill out a contact form.

If your prospects have made it this far, it’s more than likely they are ready to make a commitment. They understand their problem, the potential solution, how you can help them and why your two companies might be a good fit. This is your chance to land a new client.

Wrap Up

We covered almost all of the basics involved in setting up a sales funnel for your WordPress business. If you spend a little time researching some of your competitors, you’ll probably discover that very few of them have taken the time to develop a proper funnel. If that’s the case, it leaves you with a great opportunity.

Trying to land a new client the first time they visit your website is a losing proposition. Sure, there will be a small percentage of visitors who are ready to make a decision as soon as they visit your site, but most are not.

Instead of trying to land a new client right from the first visit, respect the fact that they have a process that they need to work through first. It’s your job as a WordPress professional to answer their questions and help them work through the process.

It’s also important to remember that not every prospect will move through your sales funnel at the same pace. Some may take much longer than others. By being helpful, earning their trust and establishing yourself as an authority, you’ll stand a much better chance of landing them as a client.

Do you currently have a sales funnel created for your WordPress business? How has the funnel made an impact of your sales process?

Article thumbnail image by ADE2013 / shutterstock.com

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