WordPress Design and Development in AshevilleWordPress Design & Development

WordPress is a great way to create robust, good-looking websites. We’ve got some tips, tricks and resources to help make your site kick-ass.

With WordPress being one of the fastest-growing platforms for web development, and with our vast experience in designing, developing and maintaining great-looking, super-functional WordPress sites, we have a little bit to offer in the way of expertise.

This is where we’ll blog about the sexiest open-source web platform – and why you should care about it.

It’s (semi)fascinating stuff. Give it a read:

21 Days to Search Engine Optimization on WordPress

21 Days to Search Engine Optimization on WordPressSo, you’ve got a WordPress site. It’s your pride and joy (especially if we designed and developed it) and you’re really excited to show it off – but you’re not quite sure what to do to get traffic. The brass ring here is good placement with Google (and to a lesser extent, Bing and Yahoo.) How do you do that? You optimize your site – SEO. Search Engine Optimization. There are a few steps – and they can seem a little daunting, but for the next 21 days, we’re going to walk you through how to really SEO your WordPress site, get it set up right and get some asses in the seats.

3 weeks. No guarantee that you’re going to dominate Google, but in those three weeks, you’ll learn what to do and what not to do to set your site up for success with search engines – and more importantly, how to set it up for long term, sustainable and legit traffic.

Why do you want to SEO your WordPress site?

  • Search engines (especially Google) are a hugely important traffic source.
  • Usually, before someone decides to use your goods and services, they’re going to Google you.
  • You’ve got a website – don’t you want to generate leads and sales? If folks are out there searching for the products and services you offer, don’t you want to stand up and be counted? Yes, you do.
  • Google is ubiquitous, and they control much of the search (and hence, a lot of the business) on the web. It’s a fact.

As good as dominating Google can be, you don’t want to put ALL your eggs in that basket – and you don’t want to design and develop your marketing strictly on the merits of good SEO.

Search Engine Optimization should be a part of your total marketing strategy. An important part – but a part, nonetheless.

There’s 3 reasons for that thinking:

  1. SEO Can Take a Long Time to Work Optimally: You’re not going to see overnight results. The stuff you do during these three weeks could take months to pay real dividends. SEO is a long, slow burn – but that burn is important.
  2. SEO Changes: Google is the consummate tinkerer. They change their algorithm more than Rue Paul changes wigs – and your traffic and placement can go up and down. Your competition makes changes and improvements. There are so many variables, but the constant is change. If you stay on top of it, though – you WILL see long-term benefits from good SEO practices, regardless of what Google does.
  3. SEO Can Make People Sick: An over-optimized site can be irritating. If your site and your posts and pages are set up to first and foremost make Google happy, you’re going to alienate the folks that visit your site. Getting them there is important, but you can’t present them with something that is ugly or confusing and stuffed with keywords. Always think user experience FIRST – SEO second.

So – don’t put all your eggs in the SEO basket. It’s important, but you need an overall marketing plan for your business (and your site.) Don’t neglect content, social media and traditional marketing efforts. SEO is part of the gestalt of good marketing. In this day and age, it’s enormous – but it’s not the only place to look.

Stay tuned for the next (now) 20 days. You’ll come away with a better understanding of what good SEO is, a little more intimate knowledge of your WordPress site and a bit of a plan to keep it up and get more visitors, more clicks and more sales. It’s gonna be fun, kiddies!

Tomorrow: Installing Yoast SEO and Setting Up Webmaster Tools

And, for your auditory pleasure, a vaguely relevant reggae tune…

Wordpress Site Design for Penny Cup Coffee Company
Photo: Katie Bailey/bkbailey@citizen-times.com

Photo: Katie Bailey/bkbailey@citizen-times.com

Bill and Amber are the King and Queen of Coffee in West Asheville, as far as I’m concerned. Not only do they roast and brew a damned fine cup of coffee, they’re damned fine people to boot.

We’ve had the pleasure of working with PennyCup on their site (BattleCat’s, too,) and each step of the way, they’ve supplied us with killer beans and countless cups of coffee. Now THAT’S our kind of client.

Here’s a little write-up and interview with Bill about all things roasting.

And here’s a Mountain X article about the opening of their Cafe.

They’ve recently opened up a roasting & tasting room in the River Arts District – right in the middle of Depot Street. Click to get a map – and then go get a terrific cup of coffee, roasted and brewed right here in good old Asheville, and have a chat with a few truly sterling people.

Wordpress Site Design for Penny Cup Coffee CompanyWe built a simple, elegant WordPress site using Woocommerce for the ecommerce portion of the site. With a custom design and a super-simple interface, the site’s easy to look at and easy to use.

As I write this, I’m finishing off my third cup of a custom roast from PennyCup. Delicious. If you come by the office, you won’t get any. It’s my home stash. That’ll tell you all you need to know about how good it can be to have friends in West Asheville!

PennyCup Coffee Co., at 362 Depot St., is open 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday.

crying baby

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.

How?

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:

UPDATE YOUR SITE AND PLUGINS!

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!

HITCH HIKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXY LOGO

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…

Choose Your Company Website Design

We’ve been developing sites at a furious pace, and we’ve recently launched a couple of sites using WordPress and WooThemes. The sites use the same back bone (Canvas by WooThemes,) but have totally different uses. This is an abject demonstration of the power and versatility of WordPress as a web development platform.

First, Choose Your Company. We’ve worked with Eli on a number of projects, but he never had a site for his development company. He contracted with us to develop an easy, quick site that he can use to display his Yahoo! stores development and custom coding ability. We developed his sweet new logo and then moved on to build a great, flexible site with a portfolio segment that makes it simple to display his great and diverse work. Check ’em out!

Choose Your Company Website Design

Next up is Stylish Minx. This is a simple blog-style website for a style blog (see what we did there?) MaryAnn has a great fashion sense and a real passion for sharing her budget-conscious tips and outfits. Simple, gorgeous and super-functional. Built using Canvas by WooThemes, this site is easy to use and super search engine friendly. Go by and get some tips to beautify your grungy self…

Canvas by WooThemes Development

Neigh Savers Logo Design

We worked with Bev Greene at Matchpoint Projects to develop a sweet new site for NeighSavers. We’ve worked with Bev on numerous occasions – she manages projects, we do the work, the client wins! It’s a great match. See my point? See what I did there…

Anyway – Neigh Savers Foundation is a great cause that helps re-home retired racehorses. The racing lifespan of a horse is very short when compared to the average length of a horse’s life, and often these magnificent animals are allowed to languish when they’re no longer able to race. So, Neigh Savers steps in and helps find homes for the horses. Very nice.

They’ve been scuffling with an outdated website, and along with Bev, we helped develop a new and feature-rich site. Some of the features…

  • Built with WordPress, so it’s easy to maintain, super search engine friendly and highly configurable right out of the box.
  • Built around WooThemes’ Canvas, so you know it’s got all the slick features a modern site needs.
  • Easy donation buttons to help drive conversions in the right direction.
  • Integrated “Horse Portfolio” so it’s easy to display horses for adoption, as well as equines who have found their forever home.
  • Fully responsive, so it looks and functions great on every device.

It’s a great cause with, if we do say so ourselves, a pretty terrific website. It’ll function well for years to come, and Neigh Savers will reap the benefits of a truly modern, functional and attractive website. We designed a logo and identity package for Neigh Savers previously, and it’s nice to be able to launch a website that displays their new look, logo and identity.

Working with Bev as a project manager was a blast as always, and knowing that our work was going to help animals in need felt really super.

WordPress site for Neigh Savers

Human Resources in Asheville
Look! A happy client! Go, Jamie, go!

Look! A happy client! Go, Jamie, go!

HR Designs offers on-call human resources solutions to businesses big and small – outsourcing what can be a difficult job, and one that can be personal and uncomfortable (and unpleasant if handled improperly.) HR Designs partners with businesses and helps them in many areas – hiring, firing and personnel strategies. Everyone wins – and if someone decides to be butthurt about being canned, the company can say “Hey, HR Designs fired you. Wasn’t me!”

We recently had the pleasure to work with Jamie at HR Designs in developing a logo, website and marketing materials.

Very cool company with a great concept and an owner with a great passion for human resources and for enabling business growth. Jamie was a lot of fun to work with, and the logo, website and collateral turned out great! Take THAT, Toby.

Visit HRDesigns.com to check out the logo and the HR goodness. The site features:

  • Built using WordPress, so it’s easy to keep it all updated and humming on along.
  • Theme based on Canvas by WooThemes, so it looks great and functions like a champ.
  • Contact forms, content toggles and all sorts of bells and whistles.
  • Responsive design, so the whole shebangabang looks great on all devices – phones, pads, laptops and desktops.

Thanks to Jamie and the crew at HR Designs for a fun project. Even Michael Scott would approve…

WordPress Site Design for HR Designs, Asheville NC

WordPress Asheville

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…

chick

Spring in Asheville is a wonderful time – everything is budding and going green, gardens are being tilled up, the days are bright and warmer, the nights are crisp and we’re all pleased to virtually no end. We’ve welcomed ten feathered beings into our family, many new clients into the fold, and we’re going full steam ahead on some exciting and varied projects. Of course, all this great action has caused us to neglect our blogging duties – but, heck, new starts abound…

We’ve also got some pretty big news on the Woo Themes front. We can’t let it out of the bag at the moment – but let’s just say that  your favorite WordPress and Woo Theme developers are being recognized for general awesomeness. We’ve known it, you’ve known it – but now it’s becoming official. We can neither confirm nor deny that it’s US – but we can say that it’s someone very close to us. Stay tuned for an announcement.

We’re also working hard on a great WordPress knowledge hub. Videos, customization tutorials, links, reviews and resources. We’ll be offering access to the whole kit & kaboodle to our clients first – but it’ll be free and it’ll be something you want to bookmark. Or, you might want to tattoo it on your forehead. Up to you.

So – in the words of the inimitable David Yow, “I feel carbonated. I feel spring-loaded.” Yep. There’s a lot going on, and we’re excited. Only pop music can save us now!

Rick Flair - WOO Theme Development

WooTheme CustomizationWe’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – we love Woo. WooThemes, to be more specific. So – we’re pleased to virtually no end to announce that we’ve been added to the Affiliated Woo Workers army.

What are WooThemes? They’re killer WordPress themes that just work. They’re super-flexible, super robust and super feature-packed. With WooThemes, you get a great underpinning for your site, and with Blue Dozen’s experience with WooThemes, you get killer design and the ability to customize your site to suit you, your business and your precise needs.

We use WooThemes (especially Canvas) as a backbone for our design. With this backbone, you get great stuff like:

  • Portfolios – photos, products, you name it.
  • Contact forms that send mail to you without compromising your actual email address.
  • Short Codes that make it easy to add buttons, dividers, toggles and all sorts of nifty features.
  • Sliders on multiple pages, so you can have a product/service slider on your home page, or an article rotator on your articles page.
  • Easy ecommerce integration. WooCommerce is KILLER. Really. Sell real products, downloads or virtual services. Nice.
  • Massive customization options – and with us and our extensive knowledge of WooThemes, we really help you take advantage of them.

Since we’re Affiliated Woo Workers, we have access to scores of support options, including direct questions to the theme developers and an army of code ninjas. We’ve got access to libraries of info – and that helps us take care of the design and know that no matter what we want to do with your site, we can get it done.

We’re excited to be included in a pretty select group of web designers and developers. Check out Woo, and we think you’ll be excited, too!

(Note – not all of our sites are developed using WooThemes. We also do straight up HTML sites, Magento sites, Shopify, ZenCart, Joomla, Drupal and all the other stuff out there. Woo is great – but if it’s not for you, we won’t shoehorn you. We build what works.)