News & Updates about Web Design in Asheville, NCNews & Updates

We’ve got some news. You really should listen.

Well, maybe. If you’re interested in news and developments around Blue Dozen Design, this is the blog category for you.

This is where we’ll put site updates, news about the business, and any other newsy type items. It might be the latest update from Google, it might be the latest New Jersey Devils score – you just never know.

But – check back often. We love news. We love you!

crying baby

WordPress Security Issue – SUPER IMPORTANT!

WordPress XSS VulnerabilityAccording to Sucuri, there’s an XSS vulnerability that affects a large number of WordPress plugins. Now, what does that mean for you and your site? Not a whole lot, really – but it DOES mean that your site might have a hole that could be exploited by ne’er do wells. Most likely, though – your site is fine. But, to be cautious and stay out in front of stuff, your site and your plugins needs to be updated.


Well, you can call us – we’d be happy to help out.

Or, you can take the DIY route and update your site and plugins yourself. It’s really very easy! Check out our video for super-easy instructions.

We also suggest using Sucuri’s security scanning plugin. Installing is easy – watch the video below.

Here’s a partial list of major plugins known to be affected by “The Hole.”

There are bound to be others – but the main takeaway here is this:


It’s a good idea to update things fairly often. WordPress developers and the community as a whole are a pretty proactive bunch, and you can bet your bottom dollar that plugin and theme developers are staying on top of this breach – and other breaches and snafus that nobody is really aware of. They stay on top of things – but to keep your site as safe as humanly possible, keep updated.

We try VERY hard to never touch core files or modify things to a point where you can’t update things. If we’ve developed your site, you should be able to update EVERYTHING at will without worrying about overwriting work we’ve done. Unless we’ve specifically let you know that you shouldn’t update something, get after the updates.

Keep it fresh, keep it updated, keep it clean!


Mobilegeddon – Should YOU Worry About Google’s Mobile Update?

Mobile Site Update? Don't Panic!Is your site mobile responsive? Does it have a mobile-only version? How much does it matter? Is it time to panic?

Depends on your traffic. Depends on your site. Depends on a lot of things.

But the main thing here is: DON’T PANIC. (towel optional.)

Here’s the nuts & bolts: Google released a new algorithm on April 21, and it favors sites with a mobile responsive or mobile-specific architecture – but only on mobile searches. Searches from desktop machines (and laptops) won’t be affected. That’s sort of good news to the majority (~70%) of searches. But, if you’ve got a site that relies heavily on mobile/tablet users and traffic from mobile sources, you really need to pay attention to Google’s latest update and get your site in order.

See, with 30% of ALL internet traffic using solely mobile devices, you stand the chance of being ranked lower in (not eliminated from) searches from those devices. How much lower? Google doesn’t really say – but a couple of spots can make or break a search. If you were #8 and still on the first page of Google searches, and you drop to #11, you wind up on the second page – and your click-through rates will die off. Second page listings get about 5% of clicks – distributed amongst the whole of the second page. If you were already on the second page, we need to talk – but that’s a conversation for another day.

So – is it worth panicking over? Well, maybe…

Go to Google’s Mobile Friendly Test. If you run your site through and the tool says you’re mobile-friendly, you’re in the clear. Kick back and relax.

If the tool tells you that you’re not mobile friendly, it’s still not time to freak out. Check out your site stats – if you’re not getting a lot of mobile traffic, you might not need to be too concerned about the rankings hit. If your primary traffic isn’t using mobile devices, you can wait and deal with it later – although not catering to 30% of potential users probably isn’t a great idea. If, however, your stats show that you’re getting a high percentage of users coming in on mobile devices, NOW is the time for action…

Step 1: Give us a shout. We can help your site be mobile-friendly. If you’re still not sure of how Google’s latest shenanigans will affect you, reach out and we will help ease your fears (or help whip you into a proper panic.) We can take a look at your audience and your traffic. It might be less painful than you think. We’ll shoot straight with you – and if you need a hand, we’re happy to help.

Step 2: Relax. It’s really not the biggest deal in the world. Yes, you might see your rankings suffer a bit in mobile-only searches. But, if you’ve got a good, functional and well-optimized site that just happens to be afoul of Google’s newest birthing, you can recover. All things considered, the numbers of even worst-case scenario “penalty” just don’t add up to a massive freak out. It’s a percentage of a percentage of a percentage – it’s not like your site is going to disappear from the rankings. Small hit – possibly. Big hit – highly unlikely. But, still – it’s worth paying attention to. Get responsive, get happy, get back, JoJo, to where you once belonged.

Now, the “don’t panic” mantra comes with a warning: Any time Google rolls out a major change in how they rank sites, you really need to pay attention. It might not affect you in a major way at the time of the roll-out, but you can rest assured that these changes will at some point come back to bite you. If it’s a small problem, it can wait – but there’s a cumulative effect with minor problems. It can snowball, and you can wind up in trouble. If you’ve got red flags with Google, you don’t know when it’ll add up to a legitimate penalty. Staying “clean” with Google is never a bad thing. If you find a gap in your site, how it’s constructed and how it looks to Google, it’s best to stay in front of it. Fix it BEFORE it has a chance to make a massive impact on your rankings/SERPs. Playing catch-up after a penalty from Big G is not a winning proposition.

So – carry on, good people. It’s not the end. The world has survived massive shakeups at Google, and we’ll all be on the other side of this one soon enough. Until then, enjoy a little music with your coffee. We are…

Help! I’m Getting Arrested!

JAILBIRDYep. I’m getting arrested on June 26, and I need to raise bail. Do you have any idea how hard it is to smuggle a McGriddles into jail? I’ll wither.

Am I getting arrested for insanely great design? Nope. Building excellent websites? Nuh-uh. I’m getting arrested to help raise some brass for muscular dystrophy. They’re coming by my office, putting me in shackles and taking me downtown. I might get beaten, water boarded or tickled profusely. No matter what happens, it won’t be pretty. Mainly because I’m pretty unattractive*, and most everything I do isn’t pretty because of it.

How can you stop this? How can you assure that I will make it out alive? How about a little help in raising bail to keep my carcass out of the county jail? Please? I’m begging – don’t let them take me away.

Muscular dystrophy isn’t funny, and I certainly don’t want to make light of the need here. I have a healthy family, and for that, I am truly blessed. But MD is very real, and it affects many folks in many different ways. If we can raise some coin to help fund research, summer camps for kids with MD, purchase medical equipment or keep a clinic open, I’m happy to go to the klink.

My bail has been set at $2400. You can help by donating any amount. Little, small, giant, extra-large – anything helps.

MDALOGOTo donate towards my bail, click here. You’ll be taken to MDA’s donation site, and your donation will be applied towards my bail. All donations are tax-deductible, plus you’ll get that warm feeling knowing that you helped a great cause. Of course, keeping me off the streets might seem like a good cause, but helping those with MD is an even better cause.

So – donate to my bail. I’d appreciate it, and you’d be doing a really, really good thing.

*I’m gorgeous. Just trying to be humble to raise a few shekels for charity.



I’ve decided that beginning tomorrow, May 1, I am embarking on a campaign of petty annoyance. I will tweet, daily, one complaint about any of the number of consumer products in which I am routinely disappointed. Big places, little places – anyone who gets (or has gotten) my goat will be fair game. I’ll keep track of it all, respond when I’m responded to and make a general nuisance of myself.

Why? Why not. I’m good at complaining, and there are limitless things to complain about. I’ll try to make it entertaining, but my main goal is to waste the time and resources of the crappy places that I complain about. It’s nothing personal (except when it is,) and I hope to have a little fun and propagate my ill will upon the Twitterverse.

I decided that I would start with McDonald’s – and I started this morning. I posted about how the McGriddle sucks. I was nice. I compared it to an Adam Sandler flick – interesting at first, but ultimately tasteless and lame. Nothing bad, no curse words, nothing “attacking.” I went back to check on it, and my tweet was gone.

So – I posted the same thing, more or less. And – 3 minutes later, the second tweet was gone as well.

Why was this removed? Why was I censored? For my opinion? If so – Twitter has some explaining to do. They allows misogynistic, hateful and ignorant stuff all over the place, but – complain about a crappy sandwich, and you get pulled?

I see a few scenarios:

  1. McDonalds is powerful, and they have a direct line to Twitter. If this is the case, I think there should be disclosure. Who got my post pulled and what was their rationale?
  2. Twitter is specifically pulling posts for complaining about McDoo. Why? I can make all the racist comments I want, but if I talk critically about a multi-billion dollar pusher of crap food, tweet gets killed. Hypocritical much?
  3. My account was hacked and ONLY those posts were deleted. Probably Russians.

Personally, I think it’s #1, all day long. And if so, that’s wrong. Plain and simple – wrong.

Game on, Twitter. Game on, McDoo. In the words of the late great Rusty Shackleford, “I am your worst nightmare! I have a three-line phone and plenty of time to kill!”

I’ll be complaining about every menu item. At least once per day, and I will keep track of what gets deleted and what stays. I will contact and pester Twitter until I get an answer as to why my posts were pulled. I will waste more of their time than I waste of my own.

I feel like I owe it to humanity to use my God-given gift of irritation to better the planet for all of us. Follow the idiocy on Twitter.

Oh – and the McGriddle sucks.

Image from Shutterstock. Not endorsed or affiliated with McDonalds or their crappy food. Also, for the record, I worked at McDonalds for a summer when I was in college, so I’m an expert.

WordPress 3.9 “Jimmy Smith” and WooThemes – Updates…

WordPress, our web development platform of choice, has been updated to 3.9. There are some great features – drag-and-drop images, in-editor image scaling and more real what-you-see-is-what-you-get editing for everything. It’s a good, solid update that will make the whole experience a little easier and more intuitive. Check out the video.


UPDATEIn order to update your site, log in to your dashboard and find the “WordPress 3.9 is available! Please update now.” banner at the top left. Click on “Please update now.” and then hit the “Update Now” button on the following screen. Wait a second or three, and – DONE

NOW – When you update to WordPress 3.9, and you’re using WooThemes, something kind of breaks. You’re used to having the little WooThemes Shortcode button in your editor, but after 3.9, it might disappear. OH NO!

But, the fix is pretty easy. Navigate to your dashboard, hover over the name of the theme (in this case, Canvas,) and click on “Update Framework.” Make sure you’re using the latest Woo framework – as of this post, 5.5.6. Now, you’ll have a slightly nicer-looking Woo Shortcode button.

Follow the 3 steps shown:

WordPress 3.9 and WooThemes

The only issue is that it doesn’t appear that the WooCommerce shortcode button isn’t appearing in the editor. So – if you’re running WooCommerce, it’s a good idea to wait until there’s a fix or workaround in place. We’ll keep a running update list here in this post, so be sure to check back in.

If you’d like us to update your site and make sure it’s all running like a champ – give us a shout. We’ll get you updated and enjoying that cup of coffee in no time…

Goodbye, 2013. It’s Been Real…

Goodbye, 2013
2013 is coming to an end in just a little less than 12 hours. Thanks to the great clients, great friends and great family that has made 2013 a year to remember. But, really – aren’t ALL years “years to remember?” I hope so. I’m proud to say that I’ve never had a year that I wanted to forget. Every year has great moments and moments that suck.

2013 was a year of changing, stretching and growing. In the words of Jake Bugg, “some things to be proud of, some stuff to regret.” Mostly, stuff to be proud of. Our beautiful son was born. I did a LOT of work. I laughed a lot. I worried too much. Mostly, I learned a lot in 2013.

What did I learn?

  • SEO is important – but not equally important for all sites. We’ve got a bunch of blog posts concerning SEO in the can – and we’ll be putting some of the voodoo and misconceptions to the test. SEO is good and important, but it’s not the be-all end-all for your site.
  • I still don’t like parallax scrolling. And it’s EVERYWHERE. Just stop. Please.
  • The Asheville Mall sucks. Bad.
  • I need to work out more and eat less.
  • I need to worry less and laugh more.
  • I have amazing children, an amazing wife and a life that most folks would envy. I have always been aware of this – but this year has really, really brought it home. I’m a blessed man. Well and TRULY blessed.
  • I miss drawing. I get to do a bit of it, but I need more.
  • My main competitor is myself.
  • Blue Dozen Design is a better name than Independent Studios. was a weird domain name that had very, very little to do with the actual business name.
  • I still really suck at playing guitar, but I’m getting better.

2013 was good – but also a little bittersweet. After 14 years, Independent Studios was shuttered. A lot of great memories, a lot of great clients – but also a need for change. 2013 brought immense change – and change for the better. In my personal life and in my professional life – everything has shifted. Exciting, anxious and ultimately terrific changes. I want to carry that excitement forward, and really enjoy 2014. It’s setting up to be a brilliant year.

What’s on my 2014 list?

  • More fun clients, fewer not-so-fun clients.
  • Play guitar more, and better. Maybe lessons. Probably not.
  • No more Cook Out cheeseburgers. Except when I really, really need to have one.
  • Push my design – personally and professionally. This means more drawing, more printing, more weird stuff.
  • Blog more. I enjoy writing.
  • Get a better hair cut. Really – this one is just embarrassing.
  • Be a better service provider – personally and professionally. I want to develop my servant heart. I promise to serve my family more and with more love. Same for my clients – but with less hugging.
  • Travel. Somewhere. Anywhere. Asheville is great – but I want to see more

2014 will bring change – and I’m very, very excited to see that change. Some will be great, some will be good, some will probably be bad or uncomfortable. Good and bad is all in how you handle it and how you perceive it. In 2014 – I will embrace change, and I will perceive it as good. And it will be.

So – goodbye 2013. Don’t let the door hit you where the good Lord split you.

Hello, 2014. You look marvelous.

*Jake Bugg is playing a Patrick Eggle custom guitar. My dad designed the logo for Patrick Eggle, and it adorns the headstock of Bugg’s drool-worthy guitar.

Shutting Down 2 Successful Businesses at the Same Time. Yes, We’re Nuts.

On December 1, there were 2 deaths in our family. And we couldn’t be happier. The deaths were 2 successful businesses – Independent Studios and Lily Giggle. Were they mercy killings? Were there troubles? Eh – sort of. Read on, intrepid design fan…

Mister Terwilliger

One of 5 Reasons to Shutter LilyGiggle

First – Lily Giggle. Beth (my wife and one of the principles here at Blue Dozen,) shut down her very successful PDF sewing pattern business. Why would she close doors something that was working? Why leave money on the table? The answer here is very simple: family. Beth decided that it was time to refocus. Lily Giggle had grown far beyond her (or anyone’s for that matter) expectations and had started taking too much time to maintain properly. She faced a decision: Keep the business rolling the way it was and be forced to spend too much time with admin, upkeep and all the trappings of success, or go on hiatus and risk being unable to fire the boiler back up. The first choice was the easy path. “It’s business. My family needs the money, and it’s my job…” It’s what the world tells you is the right. It’s what most folks would do. It was successful. It was rolling. It was good. But, it was hard – and it kept her from what she really wanted to focus on: her family. Our family. The second choice was hard: stop, breathe, refocus. Beth decided to take the path that requires a lot of explanation and sacrifice. She pressed pause, not knowing if the tape would resume. It might, it might not. We don’t know right now – but what we do know is that she made the right choice. She put her money where her heart is – family. She had a sale and shut it all down Saturday night. It was hard. It will be hard. But now, she has the time to stop, breathe and refocus.

Second – Independent Studios. I started Independent Studios waaaaaaaaaay back in 1999. It grew and shrank and changed and suffered through good choices and bad choices, great clients and clients that could politely be described as nosebleeds. But, it was good, and it was heading in the direction of big success. Why would I shut down a successful business? Easy: passion.

Our Passion for DesignMy passion got lost along the way. It wasn’t my passion for design and marketing and advertising and websites and all that. That’s NEVER changed, and I don’t see it changing in my lifetime. The thing that changed was passion for the business itself. I made some bad choices. I made some people mad. At the same time, I also made great choices and I made a lot of people very, very happy. Success wasn’t the issue. The trajectory of Independent Studios never really pointed downward – that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that I had grown ambivalent towards the business itself. I found myself daydreaming too much. I found myself looking at what I was doing as more of a job and less of my passion. I didn’t really have that burning need to come to the office and design something. It was kind of old hat. That was bad, and the business was suffering because of it. There were also some (very boring) reasons to restart – SEO, forming an LLC with a licensable name, domain names, etc., – but the real reason is that I needed a way to jumpstart my passion for the business. The reason for the new name is in another post – but the reason for the business change was very deep and personal. I (we) needed to stop, breathe and refocus. Focus on what made this company good (excellent.) Cut out some of the stuff that made this business suck. The new name was a demarcation. The date was a cut-off point, mentally and functionally. It had to be done. It feels as if an elephant has gotten up off my chest and wandered back into the woods, a la the tiger in Life of Pi. (You didn’t think you’d get out of a blog post without a movie reference, did you?)

I know that through the years, Independent Studios pissed some people off. I’m sorry for that. I also know that I can’t please everyone, and that there are jobs that just don’t fit. I took on a lot of jobs and clients that I shouldn’t have, jobs and clients that just didn’t fit, and that’s when my passion would really slip. That’s my fault, and I take the blame. No excuses. No finger-pointing. Those jobs and the way we handled those hurt me, hurt the business, and hurt the people who rely on this business. From the bottom, top and sides of my heart, I apologize. My solemn oath is that I will do everything in my power to avoid those mistakes in the future.

We also had (and have) a lot of great clients that fit well and feel like family. To them, I say: “Nice to meet you again.”

It really is a new day. I look forward to working with the folks who really understand who and what we are and how we do stuff. We’ve cut a lot of low-hanging fruit away. Cut out clients that were draining our time and passion. It hurt (we’ve been in the process of weeding for a few months now,) and it will probably continue to sting a little. Leaving money on the table is hard – even if it’s for a good reason. I (We – Beth and I) have 5 kids to feed and clothe and hug and cuddle, and having money helps. But – money is the least of our worries. We need passion more than money.

Things are being rebuilt differently. We’re rebuilding Lily Giggle and will relaunch bigger, badder and better than ever. And, it will be done in such a way that it’s easier for Beth to maintain and grow. Blue Dozen Design is launched, and with it a new ethos. We’re actively more selective and we’re only taking on jobs and clients that fit. No more low hanging fruit. We’re still rebuilding the site and some of the branding and what-not. In a lot of ways, it’s not a massive departure from Independent Studios – but the mindset has changed and the passion is back. Look out. It’s gonna git all krazee up in here…

So – what does this all mean for you? Functionally, not a whole lot. We’re still in the business of delivering great design and killer websites and terrific marketing ideas. Beth will reopen and continue to make unbelievably adorable clothes. That much has NOT changed, and it never will.

What we hope you take away from this (excessively long blog post) is simple: Find your true passion. Find what moves you and motivates you. Then, stop, breathe and refocus on that. Rebuild if you need to. Relaunch if you need to. But find your passion and stoke the boilers. Full steam ahead…

It’s amazing what happens when you take honest stock of where you are. When you stop. When you relax and refocus. We have decided to do that every day, several times a day. Not just December 1. EVERY DAMNED DAY.

Love Asheville – Go Local

Go Local AshevilleWe are Asheville through and through. We serve a lot of clients in Asheville, but even more than that, it’s “home.” There’s a comfort here that we’ve been hard-pressed to find elsewhere. Not sure if it’s the mountains (said to be some of the oldest on the planet,) the people, the climate or all the memories we have. Asheville and this area have become so much a part of us that we have a hard time even considering being elsewhere. Who knows.

One thing we DO know – we LOVE Asheville. We also have a lot of kids. Kids need education. While we home-school our brood, we know that public education need everyone’s support. It’s not a matter of throwing money at it – it’s about making education a priority. Children (as cliché as this sounds) really are our future – and we need to take education seriously, and we need to put our money where our collective mouths are.

So – we support a great local cause – the Go Local card. With this card, you not only get great discounts at Asheville businesses, you help support and fund schools in the area. For $15, you support the Asheville Grown Business Alliance, Asheville City Schools Foundation and you get to choose which school your dough goes to. PLUS – you get some sweet discounts. We’ve been a supporter of the Go Local card since it’s inception, and this year is no different. We’re offering a 15% discount on our services – so, for $15, you can get a good chunk off your web or design services. SWEET!

Since December 1 is our “official” launch the timing couldn’t be better. It’s also “Small Business Saturday,” and the start of the new Go Local card cycle. Go get your card (you can buy them online or in person at various places,) and help support local Asheville businesses, Asheville schools and get a good discount on the bestest of the bestest web and design services. Everyone wins!

Now, I sincerely must get back to my coffee. It’s the only thing that keeps me going on Black Friday. That and pie. And napping. And more coffee. And more pie. And more coffee.

Independent Studios is Dead! Long Live Blue Dozen Design!

Blue Dozen DesignAs you’ve probably gathered – we’ve rebranded, relaunched and recajiggered our site and our selves. We had several reasons. But, really, the main one is that this identity will better match what we’re doing here. didn’t really match the name of our company, and Independent Studios had gotten a little stale. We’re not independent. We’re very much dependent – on several things. You, each other, our families. We might have separate offices, we might lead separate lives – but, we depend on each other. We wanted to ditch the Independent part – which would leave us with just Studios – and who wants to see that?

So – welcome to Blue Dozen Design.

What is Blue Dozen? According to James, our intrepid leader:

Blue Dozen was spawned from really considering what this business is, and why I do what I do with it and through it. I’m a married man with 5 children. They are why I work the way I do. They’re my “raison d’etre,” the reason I get up in the morning and do the work. They’re six beautiful, amazing, brilliant individuals. They all have blue eyes. Do the math. They’re dependent upon me to bring home the bacon, and I’m dependent upon them to keep me breathing and growing and stretching and striving. When I started Independent Studios waaaaaaaay back in 1999, I chose the name “Independent” as a way of thumbing my nose at the rest of the world that (at that time,) thought that it would be impossible to go it alone as a designer in Asheville. That was wrong, really. It’s never good to start something with a negative mindset. Blue Dozen is a fresh start, a new ethos, and an impetus to kickstart the business and design culture that I really want to see out of this business and this group. Blue Dozen is about my love, my dedication – and, just as importantly, my support system. I love my family. They come first – without excuses. I love design, I love the team here, I love our clients, and I love this business. But – without those 12 blue eyes, those 6 stars, I would really just be an independent weirdo, fiddling my way through life.

We’re still the same group of designers, artists, programmers, social media freaks and geeks that you have come to expect out of DesignAVL/Independent Studios. But – we’re reinventing the design wheel. Still too much caffeine, still plenty of joking around – just a fresh, new focus.

Plus – heck – it’s a catchy name and one that we can market a lot easier. Domain names are important (we’ve got a blog post about that coming soon…) and we dig the color blue.

Nice to meet you. Again.

Live Magazine Ad Design

Open for Business

Tshirt Design - Chick-o-Pig

Well, I threatened to bring back some of the Tshirt designs that were sold locally and through Etsy. Now, don’t get me wrong – I don’t have a problem with Etsy, but I am a control freak.

So, I opened up The Store of The Crassest of Commercialism.*

It’s only got a few of the “classics,” meaning the ones that I sold lots of and have had folks beg and plead for me to bring back – but I’ll be adding a lot more, including some one-of-a-kind models with swirled inks and weird crap.

Yes. I like to make money. All this coffee isn’t free, you know.

*For what it’s worth – it’s a WordPress ecommerce site. I do that kind o’ crap, too.