Filter: WordPress CMS

website banner ideas

Ideas For Designing Website Banner Ads

We come across banner ads everywhere, so much so that they have become intrinsically linked with our web experience. Banner ad clicks may be dropping but we can’t afford to ignore the power of this prolific online advertising format in spreading the brand message to a large audience. Just seeing a web banner ad creates recall and user preference for that product or service. But our senses get assaulted every day with some really obnoxious examples of banner ad designs so it is time to turn the tide. Lunarpages would like to arm you with some basic design guidelines so that you can create web banners that will make a favorable impression and bring in clicks.

Apply Standard Banner Sizes

Banner ads work within the specs of the site where you plan to advertise. And since most sites use a set of common sizes, it is advisable to design in the size you will use the most. Google AdWords, lists the most popular standard banner ad sizes on the web as –

  • 728 by 90 pixels for leaderboard at the tops or bottoms of pages
  • 300 by 250 pixels medium rectangle, either embedded in text elements or floating on the right
  • 336 by 280 pixels large rectangle
  • 300 by 600 pixels half page
  • 320 by 100 pixels mobile banner

You can take elements from the design in your most preferred banner size and reflect it in other sizes too. When you don’t take the time to resize or recreate your ad specific to the networks specs, your creatives become distorted and displeasing to the eyes of your target market.  Check out the banner ad for FatCow to see how your layout can work for a number of different banner sizes.banner sizes

Create Hierarchy

All banner ads need to have a brand logo, clear message within 2-10 words about your offer  (High quality, Free Signup, Limited Time Only) and encouragement to click (Watch Now, Click Here, etc). The real challenge lies in the fact that there is not much room to do this so there has to be a right balance between these elements. Create a simple hierarchy of elements using size, space and color to draw attention to each.jumpcloud

This banner ad from JumpCloud showcases the company logo first, followed by the value proposition which calls attention to itself and the CTA button is smartly placed right at the bottom inviting clicks.

Pair Stylistic Typography With Images

Banner ads only have small spaces to play around with so make the most of it by using strong, easy to read typefaces with striking images. Make sure to use tight images and detail shots as there is a lot of competition for eyeballs. This banner ad by Cavender’s pairs playful text, handwritten type and great photography to effectively announce the brand and product.

Use Colors And Texture Appropriately

Color is generally the first thing we notice in banner ads. Different colors have distinct associations, and your choice of color will depend on the kind of emotions you want to evoke in your audience. Look up this great resource on color theory to know how best to use color in ads. Banner ads do not always have to be subtle so feel free to use contrasting and bold colors to draw the eye in. In this banner ad, the bright yellow rectangle ties in with the National Geographic logo and is highlighted even more against a black or blue background. The yellow CTA reinforces the brand and also invites quick action.nationalgeographic

Incorporating texture within a banner ad can also create interesting dimensions, movement and depth to drive home the brand image. Check out the unique geometric polygon pattern in the limes of this ad for Corona by Vasiliy Yusov. The angularity of the fruit adds in dimension and edge to the product being advertised that you just wouldn’t get from a simple image or illustration.

Incorporate Stylized Illustration

Adding in illustration to your web banner ads can be simple or detailed depending on the message you are trying to deliver. Illustration can often speak volumes, especially if you add in animation to it. Illustration can be edgy and modern or fun and playful. Adidas ran a Line Runner sidebar ad campaign where the viewer was provided a black pen and prompted to draw a line which became a course for the runner with trees, buildings, hills, lamp posts popping up for an interactive digital adventure.

Focus On The Product

The ultimate goal of an ad is to sell so it helps to shine the light on the product. Tell your story using the product. Ikea is known for its space-conscious furniture and it highlighted this point by making the most of banner ad real estate too. Hovering over the ad would bring a product into focus and a click would send the person to the site to purchase.

Better Banners

Banner ad placements can certainly help users connect with your brand. And following some of these design guidelines will definitely improve your click-through rate and help you achieve your campaign goals.

wordpress seo

Top WordPress SEO Tips To Stay Ahead Of The Competition In 2017

What is the point of having a beautifully designed WordPress website without any traffic? It is possible to skyrocket traffic on your site and dominate your competition through search engine optimization. If you believe that “SEO is dead,” then you may have already lost the SERPs game. With the Google Panda update, Google may have brought down the hammer on black-hat methods and loopholes but white-hate SEO practices are still encouraged. The SEO landscape is constantly evolving and the goalposts may have changed but it certainly is not dead. Organic search is alive and well. Knowing what notable search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing care more about can help your business take unique approaches to ensure a perfect search-engine optimized website that is focused on; clean code, keywords, alt tags, XML sitemaps, links, good content and more. If you’re running a WordPress-based site, you do not have to scratch your head anymore about what to do from an SEO standpoint. In this post we are going to share the top trends in WordPress SEO to help improve your visibility in search engines page results for a winning play in 2017.

WordPress Search Engine Optimization Trends In 2017

Avoid cutting corners and taking back alleys for better and faster ranking. Also remember that search engine optimization is more than a plugin; it is a continuous process. So, even though you can use popular WordPress SEO plugins like, WordPress SEO by Yoast Plugin or All-In-One SEO Pack to get the work done, you also need to put in effort to analyze and improve the optimization of your WordPress site. The aim of all SEO strategies is to deliver a high-quality web experience with interesting and relevant content. Here are some of the SEO trends that you can use to come out on top in the New Year.

SEO HTTPS For WordPress

From 2017, Google has made HTTPS mandatory for all websites, including WordPress powered websites. Because of the aggressive push from Google in the direction of secured websites, it may be more work for website developers but it will ensure better security for users. If you are building a new WordPress site in 2017, you should implement HTTPS for your WordPress site before launching because switching from HTTP to secure versions or HTTPS is not easy.

Setup Pretty Permalinks

Permalinks are the unique addresses of your website pages, blog posts, images, etc. For SEO purposes, your permalink structure should be readable so that crawlers can easily access your website’s content. By default, WordPress creates permalinks (URL structure) that are not efficiently set up for SEO. It currently inserts the day and name into the URL by default, which makes it seem dated to Google. There is a need to adjust the URL to post name manually to maximize the potential of your website for SEO. Google prefers URLs that contain your title and or keywords in the post, and shorter URLs fare better. Although (Post Name) is an ideal option, some prefer using (Category Name) though there may be issues with optimization of contents of categories in the latter case. The “Post name” permalink setting is both clean and you can reap the benefit of using the title or your keyword in the URL If you are changing the permalink structure after your posts go live, all your previous links will be useless so make sure to redirect previous URLs to the new permalink by editing the .htaccess file or through a third party plugin like Change Permalink Helper.

Links Help

Search engines rank authoritative domains higher and the best way of building this authority is through quality organic links. This will remain highly important through 2017 and you must work hard on building your links strategy.

· Canonical URL

Canonical links are important in building smart link hierarchy for search engines indexing the same content that is available under different URLs.

· Affiliate Links

Affiliate links help track a commission or referral of product/services or signup between websites. Since Google generally frowns upon affiliate links, they should always be nofollow. Nofollow links do not give your website any link juice, but can still generate natural traffic. Use a WordPress affiliate plugin such as Pretty Links to track your affiliate links and make sure they are nofollow.

· Interlinks

Work on adding more internal links between one page of blog post, or even a product page to another on the same site. This will ensure that you keep the users within your site for longer thus spreading link juice throughout your site. It helps to establish hierarchy of information and structure within your site. Moreover the Google spiders should have a clear way to reach the internal links so make sure to reline all possible related pages.

· High Domain Authority External Links

Work on adding some external links to high domain authority sites within your content to improve your WordPress SEO. This helps Google know that you are linking to an external high quality content to provide users with additional information. You can make the link open in a new tab or window so that people can come back and browse your site later on if needed.

Evergreen Quality Content

Even in 2017, content will still be king. Search engines and users love high-quality content and longer-form content. To be able to rank high on the search engine pages, you need to ensure that your top articles are detailed and contain the right keywords, including long-tail keyword variations. Check out Neil Patel’s article on how long-form content can boost your SERPs. But there is a place for short posts like reviews and other brief articles too, as long as the content is well-researched and appealing. It is hard to overestimate the importance of evergreen content for the website SEO as it stays relevant for a longer period of time and keeps delivering new traffic and social shares. WordPress offers plenty of resources to help improve your content and make it more optimized for the search engines, such as the Readability option of the Yoast SEO plugin.

Website Speed

Website speed is hugely important when it comes to WordPress SEO. Page speed matters to visitors and search engines alike. Website owners have less than 5 seconds to engage visitors before they abandon the site and over 74% of users accessing the mobile site will click out if it takes longer than 5 seconds to load. The best way to fix this is by using a fast such as Lunarpages, implementing a Content Delivery Network like MaxCDN or Photon option from Jetpack , and optimizing your site to boost page speed accordingly. For example, by using cache plugins for a WordPress powered site, such as W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache.

WordPress- The Only Way Up

SEO trends keep growing quickly but you do not have to spread your resources for everything all at once. Just keep up with the current trends, and filter out the rest to build your SEO strategy slowly. Follow simple steps like embracing Google Analytics for tracking your performance, changing the default media settings, focusing on updating and enhancing the quality of your content to make your WordPress site rank high in search engines.

Most web hosts offer some form of optimized or managed WordPress services with site-friendly features, including automatic data backups, page caching, and automatic CMS updates. You can get online support 24/7/365 via the Lunarpages Help Desk or check out our WordPress tutorial guide for beginners.

WordPress Design Trends

WordPress Design Trends For 2017

WordPress is an incredible Content Management System for website content creation and design, cornering over 59% of the market share. WordPress-based websites are more dynamic with built-in blogging features, news feeds, sliders, ability to re-design ‘on the fly’ and easy interactive social media integration. Design choices are a vital part of every web development project and your layout is just as important as elegant code, so be sure to have an outstanding WordPress web design expert to maximize returns on your investments. In 2016, new web trends such as hamburger menus and one-page themes relegated old styles such as sidebars and sliders to obscurity. While some of the most popular WordPress design trends of last year will still influence web fashion in 2017—including mobile-friendly designs, vertical split screen, custom illustrations, extraordinary navigation, bold typography and more—it is time to embrace the latest design trends too. WordPress is only getting better with fantastic new features and improvements. Following some simple design rules can turbo-charge the overall design sensibility of your WordPress website in 2017 to make your website discernible from the competition.

Get To Know Current Design Trends

Research and analyze major design trends to stay current and create visual engagement. There is the effective motion design technique of parallax scrolling for added depth and infinite scrolling which have become popular because of the scroll-heavy design trend in favor at the moment. Instead of flipping from page to page, readers can scroll through the site, reducing the number of clicks needed for the user to get the information they need. Parallax creates visual interest in the page design. Another trend that is gaining popularity is material design, which is an effort by Google focused on a mobile-first approach. The idea is to provide a seamless design experience across platforms, products and services. Then there is the card-based design which emphasizes the eye-catching visual display of condensed information to draw in readers.

Importance Of Stylized Fonts

The days of limited fonts are thankfully gone and improved browser support for web fonts means that the focus is firmly on fonts, font sizes and font styles. The ideal stylized fonts and font sizes should draw attention to the content itself and it should suit the overall design of your site. No more safe and boring Comic Sans, Times New Roman and Georgia. Designers are flexing those design muscles to find the perfect font that will make the text in your site more interesting. The way we view text on the web is changing with easily accessible web fonts from Google Fonts, FontArk or Typekit. The coming year will be about making a strong statement with dramatic fonts such as Matthew Butterick’s Typography for Lawyers.

Mobile Usability

Mobile is the future, with more people already using mobile devices to browse the web than desktop devices makes mobile optimization no longer optional, but rather required. Even Google just announced testing of mobile-first websites in November 2016. Google algorithms will soon be indexing content primarily using the mobile version of a site to rank pages. So having a responsive site design is of utmost importance. Check to see if your WordPress site passes the test using Google’s mobile-friendly tool. Mobile-first WordPress themes that are fully responsive and optimized for all mobile devices will be popular in 2017.

Vibrant Hand-drawn Iconography and Illustrations

Icon trends this year will directly impact web design especially WordPress design trends. So, put your sketching skills to use in website design framework—from the site’s background to hand-drawn icons or other web design elements. Vibrant and bold illustrations can be really effective as contrast against clean and simple typography. How about adding a touch of whimsy to your otherwise formal site with illustrated outline icons? Designers also prefer using hand-drawn illustration for Call to Action pointers such as ‘Contact Us’ as a contrasting visual lead-on to increase conversions. This style works seamlessly with almost any design.

Video Headers

WordPress recently introduced Twenty Seventeen in 4.7 or “Vaughan,” as the first default theme for business websites. This new theme has four customizable panels on the front page for displaying content, custom logo upload and extends the Custom Header feature to introduce core support for video headers. Video headers are decorative header images with motion. They play automatically and loop by default. Video headers and video backgrounds have been around in the web design industry but it was rarely seen on WordPress themes. But WordPress developers are now looking to adopt this new WordPress design trends to attract the attention of visitors. Locally hosted mp4 and mov files, as well as YouTube videos, can be used for video headers by default, but it is possible to create custom video handlers for additional sources as well. 2017 will see more WordPress themes with video headers for an enhanced visual experience.

Multipurpose WordPress Themes

Multipurpose themes are going to get even more popular among WordPress users and developers in 2017. Multipurpose themes are extremely customizable and offer more freedom for users to build a more personalized theme for their websites no matter what type of brand, company, organization or cause it may be. WordPress theme frameworks, such as Genesis are set to become trendy. Check out some of the most popular multipurpose WordPress themes including Uncode, Impreze, Brooklyn, Kallyas or Kalium for unparalleled ease of use, flexibility and robust creative power.

What Else?

Designers continue to develop visually captivating and bold styles to convey the brand message, while improving ease of use for the visitor. These are just a few of the WordPress design trends that can help you build a modern and trendy personal or business website also there are may web builders available as plugins for WordPress such as Beaver Builder and Page Builder by SiteOrigin. If you think that there are other WordPress design trends or web design techniques that should have been mentioned in this post, please Tweet your reflections with us using @Lunarpages

Start Your Dream Blog In 5 Easy Steps

Blogging is a hugely popular means of communicating and disseminating information and news nowadays. There are millions of blogs online as more people are taking to it to express their ideas and creativity. Your blog can be exactly what you want it to be from a simple web log, or a public journal to even a collaborative space for people with similar interests. The only roadblock in the way of aspiring bloggers is not having adequate knowledge about the technical basics of how to go about getting their first blog up and running. We have put together a simple Blogging 101 guide to help you get started right away.

Guide To Create a Dream Blog

Here’s a quick look at the few simple steps you will need to run through in order to start your dream blog:

  • Choose your blogging platform
  • Get a domain name and set up your own webhosting
  • Configure and design your blog
  • Start producing content for your readers
  • Marketing your blog

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of each step in the guide to help you start your first dream blog.

Step 1- Choose Your Blogging Platform
You first need to select a blogging platform so that you can get your content up onto the web. There are many open source platforms around for building your blog and they are supported by most web hosting companies. The main blogging platforms you can choose from are:

WordPress – is a massively popular blogging platform with countless plugins/add-ons and customizable content management system (CMS) offering superior features built for bloggers so that they have complete control over how their blog looks

Ghost – is the new kid on the blogging block and it has created a lot of buzz in the blogosphere

Drupal – is a popular blogging platform but it is difficult for novices

Joomla – has a great CMS but there is a steep learning curve involved
For those who want to avoid paying for a blogging platform – however small the cost—you can grab one for free from Blogger, WordPress.com or Tumblr. But before you take a decision, know that free blogs have downsides too, including:

  • You won’t be able to get a custom domain name with many of the free blogging platforms, which can seem unprofessional to potential subscribers and customers.
  • There are many limits to free blogs such as level of customization or available bandwidth for uploads. Moreover you will not be able to fully monetize your blog.
  • With Blogger or Tumblr or the free version of WordPress you don’t actually own your blog and they can shut you down anytime without any prior warning. All your site content can be deleted with no way to recover it for even minor indiscretions such as using copyrighted images by mistake.

Step 2- Get a domain name and Set up Webhosting
Next you will need a domain name, which is the URL or the site address for your blog online. Every blog should have its own domain but it can be hard to find a domain name that isn’t taken! For your blog, choose a short name that can be easily remembered. Also consider its uniqueness and what the domain says about your brand. Do remember to take into consideration copyright and trademark factors when selecting your domain name.  Once you have a domain for your blog, you need to think of where your blog will be stored online. Selecting a reliable webhost is essential because this company will be responsible for putting your website up on the internet so that anyone online can see it. All the content for your blog will be saved on there. Investing a little money on domain registration and a good webhost will ensure that your site gets backed up regularly and you can recover your website for any reason. It is wise to get your domain registered from the same place that you get your blog hosted to save you from future headaches.

You can get your dream blog up and running with the Starter Blog Hosting package from Lunarpages at a super affordable rate of $3.95/mo. Lunarpages offers fast and easy setup for WordPress installation, intuitive control panel for easy website file management and 24/7 technical support.  If you already have a domain registered, Lunarpages will provide you with the necessary information to easily transfer your domain. You can install WordPress on your blog in just a few clicks through Lunarpages and then make changes from the WordPress administrator area.

Step 3- Configure and Design Your Blog
Take your time to configure WordPress themes as it controls the look and feel of your blog. You do not need coding expertise or design knowledge to design your dream blog. WordPress theme is a pre-designed template for you to customize your blog exactly how you want it to look. There are two aspects to every theme: the framework and the design element. To make your blog standout in the crowded blogosphere, first impressions with an impressive design theme count for a lot. You may select from thousands of free themes available online, but investing in a premium theme can help improve your brand image. Additionally, they are secure, fast, easy to navigate, and responsive designed for both mobile and desktop. You will find that they are also easy to customize and install. You can find themes for your blog at Themeforest, StudioPress or the WordPress Library.

Installing your theme is even easier as it comes in a .zip file format and you can upload it direct to your WordPress Dashboard by logging into your WordPress blog. If it is a free theme, you can click Install on the preview screen of your WordPress dashboard. WordPress also allows you to switch themes or go back to your old theme with just a few clicks and without fear of losing any precious content or images.

WordPress allows you to install and use plugins through its dashboard to make your blog feature rich and more functional. Do keep your added plugins to a minimum and install just the best ones you need.

Step 4- Start Producing Content For Your Readers
The soul of a successful blog is in its writing. If no one wants to read your content then your blog will not get too many subscribers. The two main types of content that you can create for your blog in WordPress are ‘Pages’ and ‘Posts’. Pages are static pages that will not see much change and it helps link to and from your navigation area/menus on your blog, such as the ‘About Page.’ Regular posts are what appear on the front page of your blog, with comments and the date of publishing.

The aim of a blog is to ultimately provide valuable content that people actually want to read and share with their friends. To create great content, you need to put thought into more than just words. Blogs should not be huge block of text without any visual breaks (such as bulleted lists). Posts should include images or videos and you can use stylized fonts and colors to make your content stand apart from the rest.

Step 5- Marketing Your Blog
You may have setup your blog properly and published great content but this is no guarantee of anyone ever discovering it online. For your blog to grab more eyeballs, you need to promote your blog correctly. There are several methods you can utilize to properly market your blog including:

  • Social networks– When you publish your blog post do make sure to post a link on your Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn account. Promoting your post on social media platforms improves your chances of getting more shares and you may also see an increase in traffic to your blog.
  • Commenting on other blogs– You can access people with similar interest areas by leaving a comment on other related blogs with a link back to your own blog. Make sure not to abuse this method and only submit a useful comment to get people interested in wanting to learn more from your blog.
  • Guest posting– You can also get readers of other blogs to hear about your blog by writing guest posts. Get in touch with other blog owners and offer to write a post for their site with a link to your blog.
  • Online forums– Make sure you join popular online forums related to your topic to make helpful posts on the site. Most forums do allow you to post a link to your site in the signature at the bottom of every post you write. If your forum posts are high quality and informative, people will surely want to click on your blog to read more.

Now that you know the technical side of setting up your blog, let the fun times roll. There will be a lot of learning along the way but don’t let that overwhelm you. Welcome to the blogosphere and enjoy expressing yourself in your new blog.

How to Effectively Manage Your Website

When investing in a new website, many people mistakenly believe that designing and launching a site is all the work that is needed to maintain a presence on the Internet. Unfortunately a website is never a finished product because it needs to be constantly evolving in order to keep up with advances in the fast-paced digital world. Visitors will click out of your website disgruntled, if there are broken links, pages load slowly, or content on it is not updated regularly. The lack of proper web management also gives the impression of a business not paying attention to its customer experience. On a security point, hackers too are regularly trying to exploit sites by stealing data.  The fallout from a website hack can be huge.  The costs of a hacked or broken website far outweigh the investment on regular site management to stay secure within its operating environment. Therefore, websites cannot work flawlessly without regular maintenance to keep everything up-to-date and secure.

Whether you do the tasks yourself or hire out the work for website maintenance, it still needs to get done. To effectively manage your site, you need to consider five key areas:

  • Content
  • Code
  • Performance
  • Backups
  • Security

1. Managing Your Site Content

It is so important to keep creating fresh and relevant content for your site—which can include text, product information, images, videos, free giveaways and more—to draw in new visitors and engage existing customers to read, share and comment. It will benefit you to publish regularly, support content sharing, and manage comments on your site to encourage people to check back often because it will give you a boost in your search engine rankings. To stay on track, decide on a publishing schedule and the types of content to publish. Consider the following types of content for your site-

  • Product updates– Announcements for launch or discontinuation of products and price changes. You will need to update navigation and create a new page for the product or remove the pages of discontinued offerings.
  • Company News – Update all information about your company and employees, whether it is media mentions, news articles related to your site or products, new staff announcements, etc as social proof to build trust among visitors.
  • Feature Addition– Go over your site and make improvements to features as and when necessary, such as adding a blog or buttons/links to social profiles, FAQ section, etc.
  • Giveaways – Consider including free downloads, giveaways or running a contest periodically to create buzz around your site.

To get your content noticed by visitors and search engines, you need to get the word out using available tools discussed below.

  • Subscription – You can lure subscribers to your site with free offers of downloadable e-book or whitepapers.
  • RSS Feeds – Create an RSS feed for your regular readers and use a widget to make subscribing easy.
  • Social media – Identify the right social media platforms for your target audience and build your presence on these networks by scheduling regular posts.  Use available social media plugins like WP to Twitter, Postcron and Share This to post new content and prompt readers to share it through their own social media accounts.

If you are running a blog or a community site then it is absolutely essential to enable comments so your readers feel more engaged with your content. Even though you want your readers to voice their opinions, you still have to moderate comments before they are published and decide on how to respond to them.

2. Managing Your Site’s Code

None of the content will be displayed in browsers without some code to power your site. All websites, particularly those with databases and built on Content Management Systems, depend on complicated lines of code and specific software on your web host. Third party software, like WordPress and Joomla are always updating their software for bug fixes, security patches or feature enhancements. Your website may quickly become outdated if the code, database tables, or software is not upgraded regularly with the latest patches and security releases. The plugins, extensions and themes on your site should also have code that is efficient, reliable, and compatible.

3. Managing Your Site Performance

For a high-performing site, you have to identify areas of improvement in your website ranging from design, user interface, and content. You have to constantly manage the performance of your site against its specific goals—such as generating more traffic, increasing conversions, etc.—to encourage visitors to return. To maximize your website performance, you also need to manage the following tasks:

  • Search Engine Optimization to help your site appear on the first page of the search results for the keywords/phrase your target audience may be using to look for content.
  • Conversion optimization to encourage visitors to take action such as consuming your content, joining your community, making a purchase, subscribing, or calling your business.
  • Gain a better understanding of your site, stats and conversions, and how people behave on it using plugins such as Google Analytics.
  • Track in-site activity like bounce rates, referring sites, geo-location of visitors to your site, etc. through your web hosting account.

Optimize your site through responsive design for all platforms your visitors may use, including mobile and touch devices as well as desktop PCs. Not only should the site’s layout automatically resize on smaller screens, navigation should be easy too. Alternatively use an adaptive theme to ensure responsiveness for layout across platforms, through the use of CSS and also server side techniques with the use of PHP.  You also have to ensure fast page load times by testing site speed regularly so that it does not impact traffic adversely.

4. Managing Your Site Back-Up

You can avoid potential headaches by backing up your website regularly. Even if your web host provides backup services for your site on their servers, it is wise to take a few minutes to create and store back-ups as soon as you make changes or edits to your site. Do not rely on doing this job manually.  If you do, Murphy’s Law says that you will forget to back-up your site the day before it goes down or is hacked. Rather install and configure a plugin to take regular automatic back-ups of your site and store them securely. Consider the times and days when you do most of the work on your site, and schedule backups accordingly.

5. Managing Your Site Security

People with malicious intent often trawl sites to discover vulnerabilities in code and backdoors to gain access to your site.  Therefore, it is vital to manage the security of your server and website software by implementing the latest patches and new security releases. It would be wise to take some additional steps to guard against hackers and spammers on your site, as outlined below:

  • Have secure site administration
  • Ensure correct configurations for added security
  • Use SFTP instead of FTP when editing or loading site files
  • Use strong passwords for access to admin directory
  • Only use plugins and themes from trusted sources.
  • Lock down parts of your site or restrict access by including Restrict access by IP address

If you’re running an e-commerce site or multisite installation, use SSL for added protection to encrypt data between the browser and the server.

Be sure to monitor your site for attacks so you can take action as quickly as possible. Once an exploit has taken place, hackers often leave depository code to continue manipulating your system for their benefits, so you also need to address the source of the hack and fix any damage it has caused, and then upgrade the website code.

Website Management Made Easy

For a high-performing and secure site that engages successfully with its audience, you will have to actively manage the following major tasks on an ongoing basis:

  • Creating content to engage with readers
  • Keeping your code and software up to date
  • Monitoring your site’s performance to improve reliability and page speed
  • Improving search engine optimization and conversion optimization to make your site valuable to visitors
  • Setting up regular automated back-ups so that you can restore your site anytime and anywhere
  • Enhancing your site’s security to protect from hackers and spammers

Your web designer should provide you with a bug & glitch-free, professional website and your web host should ensure a secure and reliable hosting environment with updated software, security patches, and backups of your website. But ultimately it is your responsibility as the site owner to ensure regular attention and maintenance for your website.

website design

Freshen Up Your Website- 5 Trending Website Design Tips

In the dynamic web design industry, trends are forever changing with advances in technology, tools and web platforms. Though some ongoing trends may prevail for longer, many keep changing to align with expectations of the target audience. But good web design, either when conforming or challenging current norms, will always incorporate principles of visual design, perception, and the human-computer interaction. Last year was all about user experience, responsive design and minimalist approach in websites but with developments in the most popular web frameworks, you can expect exciting and cutting-edge trends & styles in web design for 2016. Read on to know how you can use current web design trends in vogue to liven up your website.

1. Color Trends – Bold is Beautiful

To make your website stand out among similar looking sites, with the same WordPress themes and borrowed UI elements like buttons and menus, it is imperative to bring in variation. Use bold colors! The use of color is the most powerful and engaging design practice to easily grab the attention of the user. Breathe new life into the design of your site with vibrant, bright pastel color tones. Do not ignore the rich color palette any longer. Replace dull, understated and overused tones such as metallic chrome or muted blue with solid bold accent color shades like lilac, web green, cherry red. Do not be shy of using happy, rich colors to define your brand and help enrich the user’s journey online.

2. Make a Statement with Graphic Text

Typography has always been a vital component of great web design and branding.  The creative integration of texts and other graphic elements of images, textures and patterns can have a massive impact on the visitor’s perception of the overall site look. The way we view text online is changing with the focus on fonts, font sizes and styles moving from safe, plain and boring to bold, large fonts. It has become easier to make a design stand out with use of different web fonts due to its easy accessibility, thanks to Google Fonts and Typekit. It is possible for designers to make customizable changes by tweaking default designs from stroke thickness, character width, and serif typefaces, using Prototypo, and FontArk. Be adventurous and harness the power of artistic and dramatic fonts to make a strong statement.

3. Design Around the Customer Journey

Designers and site owners should preferably be guided by the customers’ journey through the website. Customer-centric web design does just that, with its emphasis on structuring and optimizing the site in order to make that journey better. Instead of focusing just on promotional offers and sales, concentrate on implementing a web design to attract your ideal buyer to further support them, speak to them and provide solutions to them as they go through your site. The goal is to allow the content on your site to speak to your audience in order to effectively convert visitors to valuable leads and sales. The customer-centric website design elements have to be in tune with the prospective customers. Most importantly, keep in mind Google’s algorithmic changes and customer behavior data. Your website has to load fast, be clearly organized & easy to navigate, have well-defined product/services, and contact information can never be more than a click away.

4. Layout Design- Centered Content or Split Content

Be goal-centric when choosing your layout design. Centered content layout is a powerful style, ideal for content-light pages, that is fast becoming an established practice on homepage designs. Centered content places the main message of the page right at the center of the screen with eye-catching visuals or smooth textures around it for a spectacular effect.  But if your pages are content- heavy, offering many products, services or categories, the preferred design layout is split-screen. Split content divides the content into wide sections, sometimes with a distinct look for each. Designers have more room for creativity, without endangering the clarity of content hierarchies. Split content gives users the choice of immediately heading where they want to, bringing them to the correct landing pages, thereby increasing the chance of converting.

5. Get Clever with Hidden Menus

There are many users that hate the omnipresent Hamburger Menu or navicon.  Help is at hand with the more intuitive navigation of clever menus. You can latch onto this new trend of using clever menus as it makes the user interaction simple and efficient through a clean design and by removing distracting menu objects. Hidden navigations only appear when the user is ready to move on and take action by clicking on the appropriate icon. Hidden menus work really well for responsive web design too, which is the standard for small screens. It may soon be fully responsive to even multi-directional scrolling.

Go From Drab to Fab!

These major web design trends along with essentials of flat design, material design, card layout, grid pattern and symmetrical sites are all going to change our web experience. Businesses should not shy away from updating their online presence to keep up with the demands of the modern, younger and more mobile consumer. Make sure your website is still hip and relevant in 2016. Incorporate these 5 hot design tips and your website will be sure to go from drab to fab!

10 Popular WordPress Plugins You Should Be Using

WordPress is the most popular and easy to use content management systems (CMS) utilized by millions of entrepreneurs, businesses and webmasters across the globe. Because WordPress is a free open source platform, it allows developers to contribute themes and plugins that extend the design and functionality of your website. The best part for many businesses is these added features come without the need to know how to code. Developers have generated thousands of useful free WordPress plugins in addition to premium plugins that carry a price tag. This article will guide you in making the best plugin choices for your website.

1. W3 Total Cache

Your site’s speed plays an important role in search engine rankings. W3 Total Cache helps you optimize your WordPress site for speed and performance. It allows you to easily setup page and browser caching, compress pages for quicker downloads, and setup a content delivery network for your static files.

2. Hello Bar

HelloBar is one of the more popular lead generation tools available.  It allows you to add eye-catching notification bars to the top of a webpage which can be used for driving traffic to a designated landing page. Any WordPress blogger can easily integrate HelloBar onto a blog with this simple WordPress plugin.

3. Akismet

Say goodbye to content spam.  Akismet is a content spam filtering service that is able to identify anything that appears to be spam and automatically moves the content to WordPress installation’s spam folder. You can look in your dashboard to check Aksimet Stats for a breakdown of your spam, missed spam, real comments, and false positives that have been mistaken for spam by Akismet that you can flag as genuine.

4. WordPress SEO by Yoast Plugin

Yoast SEO is an absolute must to boost any WordPress site’s search engine optimization; enabling more potential customers to find you. This plugin allows you to manage page titles, add meta descriptions, homepage descriptions, sitemaps or keyword stuffing. There is also a premium version with many additional, helpful add-ons.

5. Gravity Forms

Gravity Forms is the most beginner and developer friendly contact form plugin for WordPress. It can be used to add almost any kind of online form to your WordPress website. It comes with powerful add-ons which allow you to create online survey, user submitted posts, web directory, or almost anything where a user input is required.

6. Broken Link Checker

Broken Link Checker is a great plugin that can help improve the user experience on your website. Why? Because clinking on links that don’t work can be frustrating and often times a visitor will just leave the website. This plugin will check your content for broken links and missing images and notify you.

7. Google XML Sitemaps for videos

Google XML sitemaps is the best plugin to help you in submitting a XML sitemap of blogs containing video to search engines so that the search engines can easily recognize and index them.  Your Video Sitemap will include web pages which embed videos from YouTube or which links to videos on YouTube. If a YouTube video that you have in your blog has been removed from YouTube, the record in the Sitemap file will be ignored by Googlebot.

8. Floating Social

Social media share buttons are a must have for every site, but they can significantly impact your site’s speed. The floating social bar was created to maximize your social media visibility without impacting your site speed.Floating social bar is a light-weight WordPress plugin that adds a horizontal floating share bar to your blog posts, pages, and other post types. The floating ability allows this eye-catching social media bar to get you maximum shares.

9. Disqus

Enabling comments on your blog is one great way to engage with your readers.  Disqus makes commenting easier and more interactive, while connecting websites and commenters across a thriving discussion community.

10. Sucuri Security

Everyone wants to keep their WordPress site protected and secure from hackers. Sucuri Security is a useful web based security toolset plugin for security integrity monitoring, activity monitoring, malware, malicious coding scanning, or bug detection, blacklist monitoring, security hardening, and security notifications. This plugin is the best way to ensure your site is secure, especially if you are running an online retail store or if you store sensitive customer information. Sucuri Security works in the background to actively monitor your site for potential threats and warns you immediately to take post-hack security actions.

The List Doesn’t End There

There are many more useful WordPress plugins such as WordPress Importer and Next Gen Gallery. The one caveat is more is not always better. Sometimes plugins can conflict with each other or your theme, and the possibility of this happening increases with the amount of plugins you use. Your best bet is to use only the plugins you need. The good news is, if you do find that a plugin conflicts, there is probably a similar plugin that works perfectly with your set up.  This flexibility is one of the features that makes WordPress and its plugins such a popular platform.

Choosing the Right WordPress Plugins for Your Site

Quality plugins for WordPress websites are more than simple, useful codes written to fill in temporary feature needs. Plugins can add a social component to a blog or business and have a serious, quantifiable effect; they can enable global content sharing, build loyal communities and even make the smallest of websites a viable commerce center. So choosing the right plugin and knowing how to make that choice is quite important.

WordPress plugin expert Brian Lis says the key is to choose only a few plugins that fit your needs. Standard plugins can run for free and premium versions vary in price, but all are implemented in the same way a mobile app is: You download the plugins to your hardware, file them in your content directory and then activate them. The best plugins — often the premium ones — are consistently updated by their engineers and are easy to troubleshoot because of their large, collaborative user base.

Premium plugins perform reliably and minimize problems, such as website downturn, that can come with running a site. Functions such as defining “security vulnerabilities, conflicts, and increased load times,” are most important, because they prevent system crashing. It’s ironic, then, that certain plugin combinations will cause a site to crash, especially when developers use too many of them at the same time.

The nature of plugin development is the cause of the challenge. Anyone can build a WordPress plugin, and sometimes official instruction documents that detail build conflicts aren’t available. For these reasons, Lis says, top developers often use fewer than 10 plugins per build. “Anything over 30 plugins is generally an invitation for problems.”

Even if a plugin seems like it’s optimally useful, thorough testing and analysis bears out the truth. Lis says he once worked on a site using a single stat-tracking plugin that “took over 1.5 gigs in [the site’s] database [while] their website was only 50 megs. The speed difference once that stat-tracking plugin was removed was significant.”

The factors that go into load times can be varied and include what type of server or provider you use, whether your site is multimedia heavy or uses slow caching or whether it is connected to a content-delivery network. It might also be a signal that the website is coded poorly. In any case, a select combination of premium and standard plugins that work well together and offer serious benefits, like security and reduced load times, while unsexy, are more important than checking off every box of possible site functionality.

 Plugins Every WordPress Site Should Use

Before adding plugins, businesses should back up all files. Lis says plugin failure rates are at 1 percent, but that tiny percentage can cause serious damage to the infrastructure.

Here are the plugins no site should do without:

Security: Limit Login Attempts (standard)

Hackers can brute-force their way into WordPress software because it allows unlimited login attempts. The best way to prevent this is by locking the number of attempts, and this plugin does it cleanly and efficiently. Users have noted the great customer service.

E-commerce: WooCommerce (premium)

This is a fully featured suite of great plugin applications. The software offers extensions that help both small and large businesses provide a variety of product options, including shipping choices, recurring payments, CSV product importing, one-page checkout and even a deep suite of marketing features.

Forms: Gravity Forms (premium)

Managing forms is a breeze using this plugin. You can create order forms with pricing fields, add PayPal for add-ons, create configurable entry lists, and a lot more. It’s also easy to customize any form, including CSS column layouts.

Membership: WishList Member (premium)

WishList Member is an awesome membership curator that can grow with your site. If you’re a major blogger who wants to offer a few paid articles in between tons of free content, you can offer free, trial or paid memberships, or you can create member upgrade levels for each of paid post.

Backup: WordPress Backup to Dropbox (standard)
You need to back up your whole system on a server, but your content also needs backup. WordPress Backup to Dropbox takes your files and SQL database and sends them to your Dropbox account folder (subscription required). The plugin uses the OAuth (authorization standard), so your account details are secure.

Analytics: Google Analytics for WordPress (standard)
A lot of people use Google Analytics, and this is the best plugin incorporating it. According to load-speed analysts, this tracking software is swift. It also comes with a wide variety of customizable demo options, such as categories for page views per user.

Social Sharing: Sociable (standard)
A customizable plugin that makes icons easy to see on a webpage is also one of the most popular. With two different choices for styling (including Skyscraper, which incorporates commenting data), it nicely features the big networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Digg and StumbleUpon.

Despite the many ways plugins can help, it’s important to temper expectations. Lis says the difference between hugely successful sites and modest ones comes down to execution of content, not necessarily plugin use.

The best sites “have meaningful content followed by a community of advocates for that website,” he says.

As a result, the best practice for beginners vetting plugins is to keep things simple and use the free ones “until you’ve perfected the core functionality. Once your core functionality is tested and true, [you can] begin adding in the bells and whistles [of the premium sites].”

Website owners with modest budgets can easily build out a site with plugins for analytics managers, file trackers, SEO enhancers, XML sitemaps, social sharing, social feeds and graphics software. cleardot

[image: nyengendadi/iStock/ThinkStockPhotos] 

 

Why WordPress Makes Sense for Your Company Website

According to its official website, WordPress (WP) now powers more than 17 percent of the World Wide Web. The content management system (CMS) far outpaces other CMSs, such as Drupal and Joomla.

Despite its success, however, many companies write off WordPress as “just another blogging tool.” Many people wonder whether this consumer tool can really deliver the complete online experience for their businesses.

Word on the Street

Thousands of companies use WordPress. The New York Times, CNN, UPS and Sony all use WP to power their blogs, which are read by millions of users worldwide. The idea that WordPress is confined to blogging remains pervasive, but WordPress use is changing. As the WordPress Showcase page notes, the Canadian Olympic Committee and Sweden’s official website are powered entirely by WordPress; so are technology websites Gigaom and TechCrunch, along with InStyle.com and the New York Observer.

The Amazing Evolution of WordPress

So how did this humble CMS make the jump from personal use to industry standard? It started in 2001, when Michel Valdrighi launched b2 cafelog, a stylish, streamlined blogging platform. In 2003, Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little “forked” b2’s source code to create WordPress version 0.71 (Gold). It had no dashboard but allowed users to assign a status — Publish, Draft or Private — to a post. Compared to other platforms available at the time, WP was a godsend.

The year 2004 saw the release of version 1.0 (Miles), giving users the ability to assign multiple categories to posts and to include search-engine-friendly permalinks. Version 1.2 (Mingus) was released the same year and introduced plugins. In 2005, version 1.5 (Strayhorn) featured the first iteration of WP’s popular dashboard. Version 2.0 (Ellington) also went live in 2005 and gave users the advanced TinyMCE editor and the ability to upload images. By 2008, the platform was being used by thousands of bloggers worldwide; versions 2.5 (Brecker) and 2.7 (Coltrane) included support for multiple image uploads and a sidebar of links to essential WP tools, along with a one-click plugin installer.

By 2010, the core components of WordPress were stable, useful and extremely popular. The next three years focused on making WordPress content easily searchable and manageable. The most recent version, 3.8 (Parker) introduced a new admin design and default theme named “Twenty Fourteen.”

What’s the Big Deal About WordPress?

Sure, WordPress has made a name for itself among bloggers and businesses alike. But with a host of website design tools available online, why use this blog-platform-turned-CMS? First, it’s free. No licensing fee, no purchase agreement. Free. Reputable web hosts support WordPress deployments, and many hosts have developed custom themes they make available to clients at no charge. The platform is easy to use, intuitive and browser-based, meaning any Internet-enabled computer can be used to manage content. WordPress also has clean and simple code, making it attractive to popular search engines.

But solid infrastructure isn’t the only benefit of WordPress. Plugins exist to make every aspect of site management easier; W3 Total Cache, for example, improves website speed for users by scaling down the size of CSS, JS and HTML resources. Meanwhile, the Google XML Sitemaps plugin generates an XML sitemap that helps search engines better index a company’s website, and the All in One SEO Pack helps optimize content.

The WordPress community is also extremely active, with resource sites like Woo Themes, WPBeginner and Lynda.com all offering tips on how to get the most out of a WP page.

Relegating WordPress to the status of “blogging tool” is easy to do because the platform is free, it’s simple to use and it focuses on general functionality, leaving third parties to create specific-use plugins. But many companies miss the true value of this CMS: flexibility.

WordPress empowers companies to create how they want, when they want, and frees them up to spend more time running, promoting and managing their businesses and less time haggling with the backend infrastructure of a siloed CMS.

[image: kalexanderson/Flickr]

Getting the Most Out of Your WordPress Site

WordPress is one of the most common content management systems (CMSs) available to individuals and businesses, but as with any solution, tweaks and optimization may be required to make it a perfect fit.

Brandon Sharp, a solutions specialist for web hosting provider Lunarpages, says that the worst thing you can do with a WordPress site is “install it and forget it.”

“A website is just like a car. It needs routine maintenance to ensure that it is going to run and function properly for years to come,” says Sharp. “What happens if you don’t change the oil in your car? The car breaks down, and you have a huge repair bill. Make sure that your WordPress core, themes and plug-ins are up to date.”

After all, if organizations don’t maintain and nurture their websites, how can they expect the sites to take care of their customers?

Here are a few best practices that will help keep your WordPress install humming along.

Limit the Number of Plug-Ins

First and foremost, reduce the number of plug-ins to a simple core set. While it’s easy to get addicted to the functionality that they provide, plug-ins consume resources and memory on the server that runs your WordPress site. “If your WordPress site is hosted in a shared environment, you have limited use of the resources. You’ll want to make sure that your site is able to load in a reasonable amount of time so that visitors do not abandon your home page,” says Sharp.

Optimize Your Home Page

If your website is a digital storefront, you want to ensure that the front door — the home page — opens quickly to allow customers in. WordPress offers the option to quantify the number of stories that appear on the home page, and you may want to consider posting abstracts of articles rather than the entire text. Sharp recommends sticking to five or six of the most relevant or new items.

Install a Caching Plug-In

Caching the content on your site is one of the best things you can do to optimize site performance. Caching saves an instance of your article locally on the server. This allows WordPress to load content more quickly because it doesn’t have to read the content from the WordPress database. Sharp has a video tutorial that walks you through the process of implementing WP Super Cache. Another popular caching plug-in is W3 Total Cache.

Keep WordPress Updated

WordPress frequently publishes updates to introduce new site optimization and security fixes. You should log in regularly to the administrative console within your WordPress install and check for these. When they do appear, run them! As a bonus, WordPress will alert you if any third-party items are incompatible with the update.

Prevent Spammers

Sharp recommends installing both Akismet as well as a CAPTCHA plug-in to reduce the amount of spam that appears in your comments. Using CAPTCHA for your comments “prevents hackers and bots from trying to gain access and wreak havoc on your blog,” he says.

Prioritize Backups and Database Optimizations

Always ensure that you have a regular backup routine in place for the physical files on the server and the database powering the site. Database backups can be automated using a variety of available plug-ins, many of which also offer optimization for routine maintenance of the WordPress database. Once you have a local copy of the database stored within your file structure on the server, back those database and PHP files up regularly to an offsite location.

Monitor Third-Party Scripts and Images

Another thing that can dramatically slow down the load time of your WordPress site is third-party graphics or scripts. If you are linking images from a site other than your own, you are at the mercy of how fast that site can deliver the images. Wherever possible, try to have images stored locally within your WordPress install. Similarly, running third-party JavaScript or analytics can increase load time, particularly if the script has to be processed elsewhere. If you are running advertising on your site, again, you are at the mercy of a third-party to serve those ads. Be selective with the ad networks you use and prioritize those that don’t hinder your site’s performance.

Hosting Considerations with WordPress

When considering a web host for your WordPress install, there are a few technical considerations to keep in mind:

  • How much memory, CPU and disk space will be allocated to your WordPress installation?
  • Is the hosting provider oversubscribing the number of sites on a server (meaning, are they jam-packing a server with too many sites)? If you are using a shared server, all sites will be competing for memory and CPU, which means that a “noisy neighbor” may affect your site’s performance.
  • How much control do you have over the server your WordPress site is running on?
  • Should you move from a shared server to a virtual private server (VPS) or a dedicated physical or cloud server? While it may be more costly, you will definitely have better processing power and more memory at your disposal if you do.

Take Your Time

While the web is a medium that allows for instant publishing, Sharp says it’s important not to rush — especially if you are installing WordPress for the first time.

“Take your time on installation and configuration,” he says. “A poorly installed or configured site leads to many issues down the road.”

[image: Silent47/iStock/ThinkStockPhotos]