Why WordPress?

Why WordPress?

Having worked with WordPress for 3 years – and spent much of that trying to sell people on WordPress – I get asked a lot, “Why should I use WordPress? Why not Wix or Weebly or Squarespace?” There are a ton of answers to that question. Some are simple and some aren’t. Let’s start by determining what WordPress actually is and what it isn’t.

WordPress isn’t WordPress.com (it’s WordPress.org)

There are two different versions of WordPress and they are very, very different. WordPress.com is a builder that provides you with a domain (something like businessname.wordpress.com) and hosting. Hosting is the service through which your website can be displayed on the internet. With WordPress.com, all the pieces of your website are all wrapped up in one account, including your host, domain, and email. And within that package, you are limited in what you can do with your website. With a WordPress.com website, you can’t upload plugins, custom themes, and you can’t edit certain pieces of code. It’s easier to work with since everything is in one place, but you’re very limited.

The Benefit? WordPress.com is the only builder where you can bring in plugins and custom themes. This means you have almost an infinity of possibilities to choose from to customize and strengthen your website. Because other builders also include hosting and domain services, if that company goes down, everything will be lost.

WordPress isn’t a website template or theme

Downloading WordPress doesn’t mean you’ll have a website right away. The visual aspects that make up your site, the layout, and colors, and shapes, all come in when you download a theme. There are thousands of paid and free themes to choose from that connect to WordPress in order to make your website come to life. WordPress offers you themes (which provide you with the tools to build very versatile and customizable themes) or templates (which allow you to pop in your content, tweak a few settings, and be ready to go.)

The Benefit? Many comparable website builders, like Squarespace or Wix, allow you to pick from a few premade templates. You don’t have very many options as far as how your site looks and feels. Many of those sites end up looking similar because of the lack of customization. WordPress let’s you build something totally unique.

WordPress isn’t a hosting, email, or domain provider

As I stated above, WordPress(.org) is a stand-alone thing. WordPress itself, the builder, is free to download as many times as you like. But in order to make it all work and show your website to the world, you need to purchase hosting from a third party company. You should also purchase your domain name from that company, or you can purchase it somewhere else. WordPress is just the builder where all these things come together.

The Benefit? If you decide you don’t like your host or if you realize you’re paying too much for your domain name, you can switch to another company fairly easily. If you’ve locked into a Squarespace or WordPress.com membership, you’ll probably be stuck with what you’ve got until your plan is up. And on top of that, you may be charged for moving.

Now that we’ve broken down what WordPress isn’t, let’s discuss what it is.

WordPress is a series of files

Even if you’re the most anti-tech person in the world, you should know the very basics of what a website is: a series of files. That’s it! Just like the files inside folders that you have on your computer Desktop or Documents folder, the site is just a series of specifically named files and folders. Just like your personal files “live” on your computer hard drive, your website files “live” on a hard drive called a server, which is owned by your hosting company. So it stands to reason that if you download the files that make up WordPress, but you don’t have a host, you can’t use them! Just like your files on your Desktop can’t be used if your computer is off or destroyed.

WordPress is a tool

WordPress does not build your site for you and does not inherently provide value. It is a tool that allows you to organize your content, categorize it, use plugins to add extra features and use themes to add layout and structure. You don’t have to be a designer or developer to use it and because it’s a free tool that you partner with other paid services of your choosing, you have a large amount of financial flexibility and freedom.

WordPress is a hub of different resources

If you need a site that needs to be powerful in any sense of the word, WordPress is for you. WordPress is what’s called “open-source” which means that people all over the world work (paid and volunteering) to add to and improve WordPress over time. New, better plugins are constantly being added. Old plugins are constantly being improved. New themes are constantly being released. Old themes are constantly being updated. A website should be flexible and customizable enough to change over time and adapt to your needs. You have the power of SEO and analytics integrations, translation tools, e-commerce tools, all at your fingertips with little to no extra charge. WordPress is unique in this regard. Other builders have the features they have and that’s the end of it.

The Investment for a Business Site

Many people believe WordPress is too expensive for them and that the initial investment is too much. I took a look at the plans recommended for Businesses offered by WordPress competitors. They all require you to pay annually or pay more to pay monthly. If you choose the lower investment, you are locked into that contract. WordPress.org does not include any contracts.

WordPress.com (Business Plan): $300 for a year, billed annually

Wix (Business Plan): $240 for a year, billed annually

Squarespace (Business Plan): $216 for a year, billed annually

WordPress.org (Plus basic hosting, a domain name, and premium theme): $153.40 for a year, hosting cost can be billed monthly depending on what host you find

Summation

Building with WordPress.org may cost a little more in terms of planning, time, or effort – that’s true. And it’s in your best interest to hire someone to help you put the site together and make sure everything is running smoothly. I say this, as both a designer and an avid consumer of online messaging: having a bad website is worse than having no site at all.

If you’re in a position where you can’t invest what it takes to launch a strong and branded site, it would be in your best interest to put up a Facebook Page instead. But if you’re serious about the business or brand you want to launch and want it to be as strong and as scalable as possible, WordPress is really your best option.

Still unsure? Have questions?

I provide free 30-minute consultations to anyone who has questions about websites. My promise to you is that I will not, ever, try to sell you my services on this call. I offer them to create more informed and powerful business owners. My aim with these calls is not only to answer your questions but give you a few actionable items you can take with you in order to help you achieve your goals.

(featured image credit: https://beautifulthemes.com)

 

How to Make Stronger Website Design Choices

How to Make Stronger Website Design Choices

How-to-Make-Stronger-Website-Design-Choices

A few months ago I was approached by a client. She had previously worked with another company on her website and was unhappy with the results. When she showed me the “new” design, I could see right away why she was unhappy with it. I immediately started picking out the choices the previous designer made and tried to think of how I could make stronger and more compelling choices.

Before I go on, this is not meant to bash the work of the original designer. I use the word “stronger” instead of “better” because design is always subjective. And it’s just plain mean to point out what you think is “bad” about someone else’s design. I’m writing this case study to show how design is about choices and you always want the make the strongest one that will help you achieve your goals.

Identifying the Key Concepts

I believe good design – especially design that is used in marketing – is about communication. The client, any client, wants to communicate something to visitors. Something that will make them think, “Wow, I really do need this product/service!”

With this client in particular, here are some of the things she wanted to communicate to visitors about herself and her interior design business. These are the main concepts that I felt here imperative to bring through with the design:

  • High-end
  • Customizable
  • Amazing customer service
  • Attention to detail
  • Creative out of the box thinking

These were the key concepts I got from our first few chats and from the questionnaire I had her fill out. There were other details, like the fact that she has a background in architecture in addition to interior design. But overall, the 5 key concepts above are what got my gears turning.

When I looked back at the original design, none of the 5 key concepts were communicated.

The design didn’t feel high-end. It looked like something anyone could put together and the colors, fonts, and shapes did not have that high-end, luxury feel. It didn’t scream “customizable” because the photos that were chosen to show her work all blended together; I felt that the photos on the homepage all could have come from the same home. The client can promise impeccable customer service because the business is just her, one-on-one with her clients. But the headings and colors were cold, distant, and impersonal. The attention to detail in her business should be reflected in the design, but the details such as spacing and sizing were all over the place. And last, I could count nothing about the design as creative; it all seemed like something you would find in a template.

With these ideas being clear in my mind, I was able to find a way to piece together a new design and layout. To me, this project wasn’t just about providing a good design but directly addressing the areas in which the previous design fell short.

The Wireframe

In reexamining the layout of the site, we decided to go with fewer pages. The initial design had 12, but here we only wanted 4 and a pop-up for the contact form. Elegance comes hand in hand with simplicity. It would be a stronger choice to declutter and put the images front and center.

In the original design, the above-the-fold area left much to be desired. It was just a slider of photos without any text to greet the visitor as they arrived at the site. When I think of walking into a high-end or luxury storefront, I would expect someone to greet me and cater to my needs as soon as I arrive. Leaving the visitor to fend for themselves as they enter the site was contradictory to that idea. So we added a warm greeting that also communicated what the company actually does, along with some static imagery.

I wanted there to be a simple balance between text and imagery. I didn’t want the copy to overtake the images, but I didn’t want it to get lost either. Most people tend to skim website copy and won’t read everything word for word. The sections had to be small enough, yet compelling enough to be interesting and answer every single question someone may have.

The original design only had some Learn More buttons that were lost to the eye. It was imperative to me to have a CTA (call-to-action) at the bottom of every single page that gently but clearly ushered the visitor into taking some kind of action.

I wanted to get creative with presenting the client’s process. The original site had her processes laid out across multiple pages and in full left-to-right full-screen paragraphs, which are very hard on the eye and extremely uninviting to read. For my design, I opted for short and sweet blurbs that show just how fun and stress-free it would be to work with this company.

I also wanted to add some creativity and delight to the page with a fun functionality that would gently fade in and out with new answers to the question: What do you get with Lotus Interior Design?

The original About page was dull, just text on a page. I wanted to be more creative and elegant. I broke up the copy in a way that was consistent with the homepage. I also used 2 subheadings to break up the message so you could skim, or even not read the bio at all, and still get the bigger picture.

Overall with the wireframe, I aimed toward a more airy and elegant layout and a more creative approach to presenting the information. The other 3 points came in when it was time to design the Mockup.  (Click on these links to view my original homepage, services, about, gallery wireframes.)

The Branding

Now that I had a strong baseline for the layout, I could actually look at imagery and color and design a basic branding board.

The original design didn’t use a color scheme at all. Everything – from links to headers to backgrounds – was the same navy blue. I try to never make links and buttons the same color as anything else. The visitor needs to see clickable things and know, 100% that they are there to be clicked on. There were also no strong font choices made. It seemed that they used a large, basic, run of the mill font like Arial without thinking about how it might impact that overall feel.

I worked hard to establish a color scheme that would help direct the visitor’s attention the way I wanted to, while also providing warmth and variety. The final set of colors that were approved were a deep blue, Kate Spade green, and a pinkish pearl. These colors were meant to preserve the high-end luxury feel while also providing a tiny splash of warmth and whimsy to complement the client’s ability to provide a high-end service in a warm, one-on-one manner.

I chose the same font from her logo for the heading. It was perfect for communicating the feel I wanted and provided consistency. I chose a thin Montserrat font and even selected a classy hand-written script for any accent text.

With the branding board I put together, I was able to target and achieve the high-end feel, the attention to detail, and more creative thinking.

The Mockups

The mockups were my chance to really hone in on how I would make stronger choices than those implemented in the previous design. Take a look at the homepage mockup below to see how I implemented each idea.

  1. Varying color vs. one color throughout
  2. Shadows on images vs. flat images
  3. Full-width images vs. smaller ones
  4. Green reserved for buttons vs. white buttons
  5. Varying fonts vs. identical fonts

I was able to pay more attention to the idea of good customer service by writing and laying out the copy in a way that guides the visitor through the process and answers every one of their questions without overwhelming. Attention to detail entered the design in my careful use of negative space and making sure sections were consistent throughout. And I was able to communicate the idea of customization by showing just how versatile my client is in what she does by using as many different photos of different spaces as possible.

(View the other mockups here)

The Build

The final product is not far off from the mockups. The client did decide to go back and make the color scheme all one color, as well as a few other changes, out of personal preference. If it’s what she feels is right, that may have been the strongest choice all along. I also wasn’t able to achieve the fun little animation I wanted on the processes page, but I am still incredibly proud of what the design achieves overall.

When you look at how the site is built and how it actually functions when a visitor arrives, I believe it does still communicate my 5 key concepts.

  1. Even with the changes to the colors, the spacing and fonts still provide the high-end look and feel.
  2. Images accompanying the text, a link to the gallery on each page, and full-width images at top and bottom communicate how you would be able to achieve whatever interior design you’d want with this company.
  3. You get the feeling of amazing customer service given how smooth and easy it is to navigate the site. Even though the buttons are not a stand-out color, they are large and dark enough to be easy to see and use.
  4. There is attention to detail everywhere you look, from how the fonts are chosen to the subtle image animations.
  5. Without being too “out there”, the site uses creative ways to share information by avoiding the full-paragraph sections of text.

 

Some Helpful Things to Ask a Web Designer Before Hiring Them

Some Helpful Things to Ask a Web Designer Before Hiring Them

I don’t know about you, but hiring someone to do something for me always makes me a little bit nervous. I never know if I’m asking all the right questions or if this person is really the right fit for me. I find that people tend to get this way about hiring me as well! So I wrote down a few things that I think people should ask me before hiring me on to design a site or logo for them. Typically, when these questions are answered up front, the process is much smoother and free of confusion!

“What are the services you offer?”

Some web designers just offer design. Some offer design and development (the actual building and launch of the site). Some offer content creation and logo design, too.  It’s important to know what your options are when shopping around. It’s more convenient to hire one person or company to cover the entire project so you don’t have too many cooks in the kitchen. Some designers offer packages so you can save money the more services you sign on for.

You’ll also want to make sure you know whether you’re getting a custom or template design. A theme can be used to accomplish both. Is hosting included? Will they maintain your site after launch? Find out what services are available and which are included, that way you don’t assume you’re getting a service that you aren’t actually getting.

“Can you do all of what I need?”

You may just need 5 pages. You may need an e-commerce shop. You may need a complex application forum-like structure. Maybe you need them to write the content for you or to design graphic elements. Communicate to the potential designer all of what you will need in the end. Not only does this ensure that they are capable of these things, but your pricing will be more accurate. Don’t assume that just because you’re getting a website, it automatically comes with any and all functionalities you can think of.

RED FLAG! If the designer you’re working with seems like they can do absolutely everything under the sun, that may be suspicious. It’s common for designers to subcontract out work to others, which is fine. But if that’s the case, they should be up front and honest about their process. If they offer every single service you ask for and promise you results or traffic, they may not be telling you the whole truth about how they operate.

“Have you worked with companies like me before?”

This question is a little tricky. Your new designer may have never built a restaurant website. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t. Someone who has built 50 restaurant websites may still not be the best fit for you. However, knowing if they have worked within your industry before may mean there would be less to explain about your niche and the designer may reach your goals more easily. Take a look at their past work and see how well they have accomplished your goals with other clients. If they have worked with a business like yours, they may have a better grasp on your target market, which can result in a better performing site.

“How do you base your pricing?”

Some designers have packages where the size of the site determines pricing. Some designers work hourly. Some work page-by-page. Some will build an estimate in a completely different way altogether. Make sure you ask your designers how your quote will be built. This way you have an understanding of the value of the work you’re getting. You’ll also know roughly how much you’d pay if you needed more work in the future.

Asking about pricing is also an opportunity to see how dedicated the designer will be. The best designers will ask you a ton of questions before building your quote so that they can only price you for the work they know you want. Be wary of designers who promise a $200-page website, no strings. A specific and itemized bid is the best kind of bid. Otherwise, you leave yourself vulnerable for add-on services later and more money than you bargained for.

“What do you need from me?”

Some web designers need you to provide the content and images used on the site. Some need you to provide the font files or the theme. Some include all of that! So that there are no misunderstandings, make sure you know up front what you will need to be doing to help move the project along. A good designer will tell you this, but it’s best to get as much information up front. If you’re not comfortable writing content or you know you won’t have the time to browse and choose images, make sure that your designer will include it in the scope of the project before signing on with them.

RED FLAG! If the designers says they need nothing frmo you … maybe reconsider. Your business website is a very personal thing. The designer should need something from you, even if it’s just a call or two or a questionnaire answered in order to really understand who you are and what you need out of your site.

“How much control do I have over the site when it’s finished?”

Your designer should be willing to train you on how to update your site in the future. Take advantage of any training or education that is included. Also, make sure that you will have full and unrestricted access to your website in the end. (This should be in the contract you sign!) Some designers offer a plan where you “rent” the site as long as you continuously pay. If that’s what you’re agreeing to, that’s fine! But if that’s not what you want, make sure you get:

  • Training on how to edit site content
  • Training on how to update the site’s plugins, themes, etc.
  • An administrator or high-level access to the site and it’s hosting account

“How many revisions do I get?”

As you work on your project with the designer, you should be able to offer revisions, suggestions, and changes to the site. In my web design projects, I offer 2 sets of revisions at 3 different points in the process. That means my clients have 9 total opportunities to revise their site. This ensures that they are always pleased with the end product. Your designer should offer plenty of opportunities for you to not only view the site before launch but offer up suggestions on how to improve. Design is very subjective, so they cannot be expected to get it exactly right the first time! Some designers offer unlimited revisions, some only offer a few.

“What if I’m unhappy with the design?”

Even if you do get to revise the design now and again, you may never reach a full understanding and you may hate the design. Do you get revisions until you like it? Is there a certain point where you can cancel and get a refund? Make sure you ask your designer what their process is for a design that you won’t want to use. It’s not uncommon for designers to refuse full refunds – what if you do like it, but say you don’t, get your money back, and use the site anyway?

RED FLAG! Understand that designers have to protect their work and their time, but they should give you time to back out if you don’t like their work after a certain period of time. There should be a cut-off point where you can cancel the project without owing more money. But don’t be surprised if there is a point of no return where refunds are not accepted.

“What will I own vs. what will you own?”

Ownership of a website is tricky. “You paid for it, so you own it” seems like the easy answer. But the design is the intellectual property of the designer unless they sign that over to you in a contract. If they have paid licensing fees for your theme or any plugins, that part of the site belongs to them. It’s best to clarify with the designer who will own what in the end.

 

My Top 9 Free WordPress Plugins for Small Business Websites

My Top 9 Free WordPress Plugins for Small Business Websites

I have been working with WordPress to design and build websites for quite a while now. And in that time, I’ve installed, used, and struggled with a ton of different plugins.

I hear people asking the following questions so often:

How many plugins is too many?“,  “How can I tell what’s a good plugin and what isn’t?” and “What plugins are best?

The answers?

Quality over quantity, but there is no magical number.” “A plugin that is updated often, that is compatible with your version of WordPress, and has a lot of good reviews is a good plugin. But those are not hard and fast rules.” and “There is no best plugin, but some are much better than others.”

To go further into the last question, here are 9 of my favorite plugins of all time. Ones that almost any website can find useful, that have great reviews, and that are lean and won’t slow your site down very much. And they are all completely free to use! Let me know in the comments if you use any of the plugins below and what you think of them!

 

404page

  • Last updated 3 days before this was written
  • 70,000+ active installs
  • Tested with the latest version of WordPress
  • 275 5-star ratings vs 4 1-star ratings
  • (view the WordPress plugin page here)

The 404 page is a page people see when a link is broken. You’ve probably run into them a few times even if you don’t use the internet a whole lot. This plugin allows you to customize the 404 page to look and feel however you like within the limits of your current theme. If you want to have a fun picture up or a contact form to help people find their way, it’s entirely up to you!

 

Popup Maker

  • Last updated 30 days before this was written
  • 200,000+ active installs
  • Tested with the latest version of WordPress
  • 2,179 5-star ratings vs 23 1-star ratings
  • (view the WordPress plugin page here)

While the plugin above easily lets you set up a MailChimp pop up form, sometimes you need a pop up with something else in it. A simple message or maybe a brief form. This plugin is perfect. I personally love using it in conjunction with Caldera forms to create Contact form pop-ups instead of creating a new page for Contact information. The plugin lets you add literally whatever content you want – written, images, shortcode, etc. – and customize it looks to your heart’s content!

 

Akismet 

  • Last updated 30 days before this was written
  • 5 million+ active installs
  • Tested with the latest version of WordPress
  • 689 5-star ratings vs 33 1-star ratings
  • (view the WordPress plugin page here)

No one likes spam. One of the downsides to WordPress, in general, is how pervasive and annoying spam comments on your posts and pages can be. Akismet is probably the #1 most popular app to help you filter out spam messages. It automatically checks every single comment, recognizes the fishy ones, and filters them out. This not only saves you time in cleaning up your comment section, but the plugin completely blocks the worst types of spam which can save you disk space, speeds up your site, and helps protect it from malicious spammers.

 

Caldera Forms

  • Last updated 3 weeks before this was written
  • 100,000+ active installs
  • Tested with the latest version of WordPress
  • 270 5-star ratings vs 28 1-star ratings
  • (view the WordPress plugin page here)

Everyone needs a contact form on their site. Sometimes you need something even more complex than a simple contact form. Maybe you need a form where people can submit attachments or enter very specific types of fields. Caldera Forms allows you to build custom forms which forward the submissions directly to your email! A simple shortcode lets you drop the form onto any page or post you’d like. Now, this plugin can be buggy every so often, but their support team tends to be pretty helpful!

 

Use Any Font

  • Last updated 6 months before this was written
  • 100,000+ active installs
  • Tested with the latest version of WordPress
  • 721 5-star ratings vs 44 1-star ratings
  • (view the WordPress plugin page here)

Let’s face it. Google Fonts are okay, but they don’t always get the job done. If you buy a custom font and then want to use it, you’ll have to know a bit of code to be able to throw it in and start using it. This plugin lets you upload the font file, decide what kind of text you want to apply it to, and you’re DONE! Now this plugin isn’t entirely free. There’s a free of a few bucks (literally, I think I paid $5) and you get an API key to use for life for as many sites as you want! That is gold for someone like me who has used this plugin on over 15 sites by now. This plugin also goes against one of my rules: plugins should receive updates every month or so at the most. This plugin hasn’t been updated since around February, 2018. While that’s a bit worrisome, it has been tested with the newest version of WordPress which means the developer is still making sure the plugin is functioning. I still use this plugin and it has literally never given me a problem, so I feek okay suggesting it.

 

 

Coming Soon Page & Maintenance Mode

  • Last updated 3 weeks before this was written
  • 700,000+ active installs
  • Tested with the latest version of WordPress
  • 3,685 5-star ratings vs 4 1-star ratings
  • (view the WordPress plugin page here)

Have you ever wanted to make big changes to your site but didn’t want people to see your site under construction? Maybe you need to flip your theme or make some serious edits to your homepage. This plugin allows you to essentially but a curtain up over your site! You can add a few simple messages, your logo or an image, colors and fonts to match your brand, and voila! You have a branded, mobile-friendly and beautiful coming soon page that will pop up whenever someone tries to visit any page of your site. If you’re logged in, you’ll see the site as it is so you can keep working. As soon as you’re ready to “lift the curtain”, just hit “disable” and your new site is live for all to see!

 

 

Google Analytics Dashboard for WP

  • Last updated 30 days before this was written
  • 1 million+ active installs
  • Tested with the latest version of WordPress
  • 276 5-star ratings vs 41 1-star ratings
  • (view the WordPress plugin page here)

Google Analytics is one of the most popular ways to monitor your website traffic and conversions. But not everyone likes having to log in to Google Analytics or visit the external site in order to see their data. With this simple little plugin, simple Google Analytics data is shown on your WordPress Dashboard! You can pull real-time stats and reports from the plugin as well. You do have to already have Google Analytics installed and running on your site before you can use this plugin.

 

 

 

MailChimp Forms by Optin Cat

  • Last updated 2 weeks before this was written
  • 10,000+ active installs
  • Tested with the latest version of WordPress
  • 49 5-star ratings vs 7 1-star ratings
  • (view the WordPress plugin page here)

Call me lazy, but I hate the way MailChimp has it’s embedded forms set up. You have to know a fair bit of code to truly be able to customize your forms as you want them to appear on the site. And even still, they don’t always look too great. This plugin let’s you build your own custom sign up form (either for in-page or sidebar or pop up) and then connects it to your MailChimp account. That way, those who sign up through the form are automatically added to your MailChimp workflow and the appropriate list!

 

 

Yoast SEO

  • Last updated 1 weeks before this was written
  • 1 million+ active installs
  • Tested with the latest version of WordPress
  • 20,270 5-star ratings vs 446 1-star ratings
  • (view the WordPress plugin page here)

SEO tools are some of the most hotly debated tools in the WordPress world. I’ve heard people say they live by Yoast and some people say it’s total garbage. In my experience, it’s always performed well for me. If has a few bugs, but it should serve you more as a guide for your SEO goals rather than the end-all-be-all. SEO deals with a lot of suggestive concepts, such as “how easy is this page to read?” and “how many times should I use my keyword on this page?” What Yoast does is give you visual aids to help improve your SEO. It won’t shoot you up to page 1 on Google, but if you already have a general understanding of SEO, this plugin is a great way to focus your efforts on making improvements.

 

 

How to Easily (and Correctly) Create a Divi Child Theme

How to Easily (and Correctly) Create a Divi Child Theme

Before you begin, make sure you have a fresh new WordPress install – details here!

The Divi Theme for WordPress has had more updates than any other 2 premium WordPress themes combined since 2004.

I actually have no evidence to support that statement, I simply feel it to be true.

Whatever the case may be, I think we’ve known each long enough where we can be honest with each other: Divi has a TON of updates and that’s a good thing.

It seems like every time I log into one of my client’s websites, there is an update for Divi waiting for me.

While we’re being honest with each other, let me add this: I actually like seeing that update notification. It means Nick Roach and the team of developers over at Elegant Themes are working hard to make my life easier.

However, if you spend any amount of time browsing some of the Facebook groups related to WordPress themes (not just for the Divi theme), you’ll come across plenty of posts that dread updating their theme.

There is no shortage of horror stories about theme updates losing code, moving elements of the site around or straight up breaking sites.

There is a general hesitation, if not slight fear when it comes to updating a theme. The increased heart rate, holding your breath, waiting until you’re sure the update went smoothly.

I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t have to be like that.

There is a better way.

Why Divi Needs a Child Theme

If you’re not currently using a child theme on your website it’s likely because:

You’re actively avoiding child themes because you’re not sure what to do with/how to use them
You’re new to WordPress
You enjoy a general sense of panic, fear or uncertainty in your life.

No matter the reason, I’m going to show you how to create a child theme for Divi (spoiler alert, it’s as simple as a folder with 2 files and 12 lines of code) AND I’m going to straight up give you a free Divi Child Theme you can use immediately.

Real quick, just so you know exactly what we’re doing, this is the description of a Child Theme, directly from the WordPress documentation:

A child theme is a theme that inherits the functionality and styling of another theme, called the parent theme. Child themes are the recommended way of modifying an existing theme.

What this means: a child theme is a way to customize a theme without the risk of having your changes being overwritten when you update your parent theme.

The best part is that you can add CSS to your child theme to customize Divi (or whatever your parent theme is) to ensure your changes stick around after each update. Here’s how to do it.

How to Create Your Own Divi Child Theme

First, from the root folder of your WordPress install, navigate to your themes folder. You can find this by going to your root folder > wp-content > themes.

In our example, we’re just going to create a folder called divi-child but you can name your folder whatever you’d like.

In order to make this a legitimate child theme, we only need 2 files in this folder:
style.css
functions.php

In the style.css file, write the following code at the very top of the file:

/*
Theme Name: Divi Child Theme
Description: A custom Divi child theme built by Green Tree Media.
Author: Green Tree Media, LLC
Author URI: https://greentreemediallc.com
Template: Divi
Version: 1.0.0
License: GNU General Public License v2 or later
License URI: http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-2.0.html
Tags: responsive-layout, one-column, two-columns, three-columns, four-columns, left-sidebar, right-sidebar, custom-background, custom-colors, featured-images, full-width-template, post-formats, rtl-language-support, theme-options\, translation-ready
Text Domain: divi-child-theme
*/

There are really only 2 lines that NEED to be in this section in order for the child theme to work correctly.

They are Theme Name and Template. You can completely omit the other lines if you’d like and the Child Theme should still function properly.

Theme name tells WordPress what the name of your theme is and this is what is displayed in the theme selector.

Template tells WordPress which theme is the parent theme. In this case, the parent is Divi.

Below this, you can write whatever custom CSS code you’d like to use to customize the Divi theme.

The Wrong Way

It’s important to note that there is an outdated way of creating a child theme that involved writing the following code in your style.css file:

/*
<pre>
@import url(../parent-theme/style.css);
</pre>
*/

In the above example, instead of ‘parent-theme’ you would write the name of the parent theme you were using.

This is an antiquated way of creating a child theme and should not be used as it could stop working in the future.

If you’re using a child theme which currently has that written in it’s style.css file, I recommend you remove that line. In the second (and final) file we’re going to create, we’ll correctly load in your parent theme’s style.

Create a file in your child theme folder called functions.php file. In this file paste the following:

/*
<pre>
<?php
function child_enqueue_styles() {
wp_enqueue_style( ‘parent-style’, get_template_directory_uri() . ‘/style.css’ );
wp_enqueue_style( ‘child-style’, get_stylesheet_directory_uri() . ‘/style.css’, array( parent-style ) );
}
add_action( ‘wp_enqueue_scripts’, child_enqueue_styles );
</pre>
*/

This will import your parent theme’s stylesheet into your child theme and then also import your custom style.css.

That’s all there is to it. Once you activate this theme, your custom styles should be active and you can add new additional styles to your child theme style.css file without worrying that an update will override custom code.

 

Download Free Divi Child Theme

To make things even easier, I’ve put together a free Divi child theme that’s ready to be installed on any website that’s already running the Divi theme.

To download the child theme, click the link here.

 

Alex Brinkman is the founder of Green Tree Media and prefers his coffee black. He can frequently be found hopping from coffee shop to coffee shop, hunting down reliable wifi connections like an urban Bear Grylls. When he isn’t coding up WordPress plugins to make the web a better place or completing client work, he enjoys competing in 5k obstacle course races. He also has a twin brother that looks nothing like him so you’ll likely never get them confused. Alex is also a sucker for a good motivational quote so feel free to send him your best quote via Twitter at @alexwbrinkman

Monthly WordPress Website Maintenance Checklist

Monthly WordPress Website Maintenance Checklist

Having a website maintenance checklist handy to help you manage the maintenance of your site can make this process way less daunting and much more fun!

I always say that having a website for your small business is like having another employee. If you hire a living, breathing person to work for you, you have to “maintain” them. In other words, you have to keep up with them, communicate with them, analyze their performance, give them resources and tips to improve their performance and fill them in on new things happening with your business. Without consistent communication with your employee, they won’t turn out to be very helpful.

A website is the same thing. You have to maintain your website, not only to make sure it performs well but to make sure it’s healthy and safe from hacks. This is where your monthly website maintenance checklist comes in!

Here’s a list of items you can perform on a monthly basis to keep your WordPress website well maintained. No one has time to be working on their website each and every day, so maybe set one afternoon aside each month to perform these tasks.

Update Plugins

If you have a WordPress website, you have plugins. When you log into your site, you probably see a number in a red circle beside the word “Plugins”, indicating your plugins are out of date. All you have to do to update them is go to your Plugins page, find the highlighted plugins, and click the link prompting you to update them. Done! In almost all cases, you won’t have to do any further work to update your plugins.

Update WordPress

WordPress itself comes out with new versions all the time. Each version is an improvement on the one before. Many WordPress installs will update automatically. But you can always check for a new update by going to Dashboard > Updates after you log in to your WordPress site. If there is a new update for WordPress available, this page will prompt you to click the blue Update button.

Update Your Theme

Whether you have a free or Premium WordPress theme, you will need to update them in the same way as you updated WordPress. Again, sometimes they will update on their own but usually not. Go to Dashboard > Updates and check the Themes area of that pages. Sometimes you may see that a theme you aren’t using needs to be updated. Go ahead and update that theme. even if it’s inactive, it’s still coded on your host that is out of date and can be a point of weakness that a hacker would love.

Updating plugins, WordPress, and your theme is very easy. But if you want to make it even easier, I suggest ManageWp, where you can update ALL these things with a single click, all from one Dashboard. And it’s totally free! And if you want to make it even EASIER THAN THAT, sign up for my WordPress Website Maintenance Package!

Test Contact Forms

If you have any contact or inquiry forms on your site of any kind, it’s a good idea to test them once a month to make sure they are functioning properly. You’d hate to lose leads due to a form that isn’t working right or is sending submissions to the wrong email address. Simply send a quick test form to yourself and make sure you get it!

Update Promos and Deals

Chances are, you offer promotions and discounts sometimes to bring in new business. If you don’t, maybe consider it! A website is a great place to showcase any promos or sales you have going on. Many companies rely on a monthly rotation of promos so things are constantly changing and new offers are constantly being released.

Publish a Blog Post

If SEO is a focus for you, even if you just want to build some brand trust between you and potential buyers, blog posts are a great method. For SEO purposes, I personally suggest a post a week. But a post a month is fine if you’re busy or don’t feel like you have much to say. Your monthly website maintenance check is a great time to reflect on the past month and maybe answer a question you’ve been hearing a lot in a blog post. If you’re curious about how to write good posts, read this one about how to use content to build your brand.

Run a Malware Scan

Check with your hosting provider to see if they offer any malware scanning tools that find malicious code that could bring down your site. Siteground, for instance, has a daily tool that searches for errant code in your site, as does ManageWP as I mentioned earlier. If you run monthly scans starting in January, for example, if you find something amiss in April, you know that everything up until March was fine and you can know to go back to a backup from before April. Which leads me to…

Take a Backup

Both ManageWP and Siteground offer amazing backup tools. I prefer the one on ManageWP. You can choose monthly manual backups or pay for daily ones. If sometimes happens to your site, you only have to pick a date and press Restore. The program takes care of restoring the site to a healthy version for you. Daily is best, but you’re taking backups at least monthly, you’ll be able to restore your site if something goes wrong.

Test Links

Things happen as you make changes to your site. Especially f you have more than one person who alters and edits content, mistakes can happen. Once a month, it’s a good idea to simply click through your site and make sure that all the links you have on the site go to the proper places. Or, you can simply use a free plugin! I recommend Broken Link Checker, which does exactly as the name suggests. It scans your pages, posts, comments, and custom fields and finds any links that don’t work, images that are missing that may have gotten deleted, and redirects that are not functioning properly.

Test Site Speed

There are lots of different factors that can affect site speed. You typically want your site to load in 3 seconds or under. It’s not enough to just visit your site and see how fast it loads. Because you visit your site more often than most visitors, your browser saves information about eth website to load it faster to you. The experience of new visitors may be different. My favorite tool for testing site speed accurately is called Pingdom. The Pingdom Website Speed Test is so easy to use; you just type in the URL of your site (you have the option to test from different places in the world) and hit Start Test. The tester will show you exactly how long it takes your site to load, as well as other, more detailed information about what exactly is causing your site to slow down.

 

Use the handy website maintenance checklist below as a quick-reference guide – did you do all these things this month? If not, save the image below and add them to your task list for next month!

wordpress monthly website maintenance checklist