Website Revamp

Our revamped websiteI’m pleased to announce our much anticipated Website Revamp.

I’ve spent the last two weeks designing, tweaking and generally re-doing everything to do with the website.

It features an awesome Home Page “Layered” Slider, animated thumbnails and images, Testimonials and elegant styling.

It is of course responsive, meaning that it will display on all different devices regardless of screen size.

Get yourself a WordPress Test Website in 2 seconds!!

To put it simply, this is absolutely brilliant!!!

I regularly have a need to create a WordPress Test Website for either customer development reasons, or to test theories and/or plug-in’s, and I usually do it in a sub-folder on one of my existing websites.

This works fine, but there are implications.

For one, there is a drain on my Server’s resources, and I need to exclude the development website from backups. I also use up a spare SQL Database, and then there is the time involved in doing all these things.

And if you experiment on a Live Website and something goes wrong, there is the hassle of troubleshooting and fixing that up too. So it makes sense to use a WordPress Test Website.

But I just found a new FREE service by qSandbox (yes you read that right, a Free Service), where you can not only setup a Test Website for free, but it literally takes only two seconds to setup.

You just visit their website at http://qsandbox.com/app/, and create an account by filling in 3 fields on a Form that include your Website Name, your Email Address and your chosen Password, then click “Create Account and Setup Site”

Free WordPress Test Website

You can watch their informative video below:

The Free Account only includes one website with the following Features:

Basic Free Test Website Features

But for as little as $2/month, you can get a whole lot more including the ability to Import an existing Website and Upload and Edit Themes.

It is certainly worth checking out if you need a WordPress Test Website to test plug-in’s.

How to stop Comment Spam

Over the years I have used many different Plug-in’s and methods to reduce Comment Spam on my websites.

Those Plug-in’s included the default WordPress Plug-in AkismetinfoInfoAkismet is a hosted web service that saves time by automatically detecting comment and trackback spam. It's hosted on their Servers, but they give you access to it through a plugin and an API. (at last count on my main website it has blocked 3,306 Spam Comments), WP-SpamFreeinfoInfoAn extremely powerful anti-spam Plug-in for WordPress that reduces comment spam, including trackback and pingback spam. It works invisibly without CAPTCHA’s, or other inconveniences to site visitors. The plugin includes spam-free contact form feature as well. (it’s blocked 4,725 Spam Comments), and along the way various other Security Plug-in’s and methods.

But none of them have been 100% effective.

Sure, they “reduced” the amount of Spam, but some Spam has always managed to get through.

Now obviously you need to set your WordPress Discussion Settings so that they must be approved by an Administrator first (see image below), but having to plough through the Spam Comments and manually delete them too, well that is an additional Admin overhead we can all do without.

WordPress Discussion settings

Discussion Settings

Comment Spam has been a real bug bear for me, and to be honest, a pretty big problem. But at last I’ve finally found a Plug-in that reduces Comment Spam to zero, zilch, nada!!! That’s right, it’s 100% effective in preventing Comment Spam.

Well, let me qualify that by saying that it’s 100% effective against automated Comment Spam.

Obviously, if a real human is determined and prepared to take the time to post a bogus comment and physically undertake the CAPTCHA test, then you won’t stop that.

The Plug-in in that I have discovered is Fun CAPTCHA.infoInfoFun Captcha presents a mini-game that blocks the bots while giving your users a few moments of fun. It’s a real security solution hardened by experts and automatically updated to provide the best protection. Users complete these little games faster than other CAPTCHAs, with no frustrating failures and no typing. Fun Captcha works on all browsers and mobile devices.

The trouble with most CAPTCHA systems is that they are quite difficult to read (see the image below), and visitors to your website hate using them, and the Spammers are getting smarter all the time and can circumvent them.

CAPTCHA Examples

CAPTCHA Examples

So what Fun CAPTCHA does is stop the BOT’s, and turns the CAPTCHA system into a mini-game.  The visitor wishing to post a comment is required to complete the game with a series of mouse clicks, rather than trying to decipher hard to read CAPTCHA Images, and it works on all Browsers and Mobile Devices.

The best thing is that Fun CAPTCHA is totally free, however you must create an account on their website to obtain some security codes first.

Below is a video that shows how the Fun CAPTCHA Plug-in works.

You can download the Plug-in from the WordPress Plug-in Directory.

Why we use WordPress for Websites

WordPress Website Design Caboolture Morayfield

 

There are many reasons we use WordPress for the basis of our Web Designs.  First and foremost for me it’s because WordPress is by far and away the easiest to learn and understand.

But here is a detailed list of the reasons and advantages to using WordPress:

  • It’s FREE and Open Source – Being an Open Source Project, WordPress is completely free to use, forever!!!. Being Open Source means that there are people around the world continuously contributing to the project and improving it with extra features and improved security.
  • An Abundant Array of Plug-in’s – If you need to add a particular function to your WordPress website, you can almost guarantee that there is a Plug-in available to do it.  There are Plug-in’s for SEO, Contact Forms, Buttons, eCommerce, Photo Galleries, Guestbooks and Forums, Social Networking and the list is endless.  By and large, the majority of plug-in’s that you would want to use are also free, with Plug-in developers offering “paid for” versions which add some extra features, or support for a fee.
  • User Friendly CMS – In my opinion, WordPress has to be the easiest and most flexible Content Management System (CMS) around.  I have used others, but WordPress is very intuitive and there is a wealth of information and help forums online if you get stuck.
  • Themes let you “Style” the look – The way your WordPress website looks, feels and behaves is determined by the Theme used.  So if you get sick of the look, or just feel like a change, you can achieve this by simply uploading a new Theme, activating it, and hey presto, there you have it.  Of course it isn’t quite as easy as that because the reality is that some content may not suit the new styling, but there is nothing that is overly difficult to overcome.
  • Your website can grow with you – Your WordPress website can grow with you and you can easily upgrade it with new features and security. You can change your Theme at any time without the need to re-do your whole website. Plug-in’s can be added for enhanced functionality (add e-commerce if your business grows, a photo gallery, conatct forms, etc.).  WordPress is used by millions of websites, so it won’t be going away in a hurry.
  • Good for SEO – Over the years I’ve used various SEO plugins including All-In-One SEO, WordPress SEO by Yoast, and Google XML Sitemaps.  But even without these plugins, the simple structure of WordPress, the permalinks, and the easy linking in WordPress is Google friendly. I even heard a statement directly from the horse’s mouth Matt Cutts (the head of Google’s “Web Spam Team”) when he spoke at WordCamp San Fransisco 2009 where he said, “WordPress is a great choice” and went on to say how much “WordPress automatically solves a ton of SEO issues“.  Don’t believe me, see for yourself below.

 

Top 5 WordPress Plug-in’s for your Business Website

Top 5 WordPress Plug-in's

 

There are almost an infinite number of Plug-in’s available for a WordPress based website.

However, there are some that I believe are a must have regardless of what type of Website or Blog you have.

The following Plug-in’s are the top five that I believe are essential and you should have installed:

    • Change the urls (web address) for the WordPress dashboard including login, admin, and more.
    • Rename the “admin” account. For example you could rename it admin2013.
    • Change the WordPress database table prefix. The default is wp_.  The plug-in will change it to a random set of letters.
    • Change wp-content path. You could change this to anything, for example site-content.
    • Ban bots and other hosts.
    • Prevent brute force attacks by banning hosts and users with too many invalid login attempts.
    • Enforce strong passwords for all accounts from Subscriber’s to Admin’s.
    • Detect and block numerous attacks to your filesystem and database.
  • BackupBuddy – This plug-in has saved my bacon on more than one occasion.  Imagine you have spent 100’s of hours and dollars developing your website, and the unthinkable happens.  Your website is hacked and your website is compromised, or even worse, the Web Hosts’ Server is hacked and everything is lost.  Now wouldn’t it be nice to be able to restore your website from a backup almost immediately?  Well that is just one of the things you can do with BackupBuddy.  BackupBuddy is a “Paid For” plug-in, but it’s worth every cent.  With BackupBuddy, you can:
    • Back up your entire WordPress installation. Your Widgets, Themes, Plug-in’s, Files, Images, PDF’s and SQL database – the entire website!  Just like you would backup your laptop or desktop computer, you should be doing regular backups of your website. With BackupBuddy you can schedule backups and have them sent off-site to Dropbox, Amazon S3, Rackspace Cloud, an FTP server, or your email. Or you can download them straight to your computer.
    • Restore your WordPress site fast. The restore function in BackupBuddy is very simple. Upload a file called importbuddy.php and your backup file, and it restores WordPress including your Themes, Widgets, Plug in’s, and everything else. You don’t even need to re-install WordPress first!
    • Individual File Restoration – Did you make a whole lot of changes to your theme and then decide that you wanted everything back like it was?  Now you can identify files to restore individually, instead of having to go through a complete site restore!  Easily browse your backup .zip file contents right from the dashboard and decide which files to restore.
    • Move your WordPress site to another Web Host easily.  Not happy with your current Web Host?  No problem.  Simply make a backup of your website, sign up to a new Web Host, upload the backup file and importbuddy.php script and run it.
  • WordPress SEO – WordPress SEO would have to be the most complete WordPress SEO plugin around. It does everything including a Google Snippet Preview and Page Analysis that helps you optimise your page content, image titles, meta descriptions and more, as well as creating XML sitemaps, and a heap of optimisation options in between.
  • Broken Link Checker – Over time, a website will accumulate quite a number of links within pages, both internal links and external links.  These links will occasionally break when the website they point to cease to exist for any number of reasons.  You would only know if this was the case if you happened to check the links periodically, or you are notified by a vigilant visitor to your website.  Broken Link Checker will notify you via the WordPress Dashboard and via Email if it detects any broken links.
  • Imagify – One of the biggest mistakes I see when people manage their own websites (and sometimes by so called professionals), is the use of images that haven’t been optimised for web use. Imagify takes the hard work out of optimising images by doing it as you upload them. Of course you should still resize images to an appropriate pixel count first, but with this plug-in, images will be optimised on the fly. If you already have images on your website, there is also a bulk optimisation feature. The free version of the plug-in offers 25MB of data per month at no cost. After that, a fee is applicable, or you can wait until the next months anniversary and pick up a further 25MB Free.