Websites

How To Pick The Best Wordpress Plugin Or Joomla Extension

The great thing about open source website building platforms like Wordpress and Joomla? They come with a lot that works out of the box. In both these systems, you can create pages, menus, and manipulate the basic site template.

Most people, however, want their websites to do something with this software. They want to sell products, have a form that collects information, or display Flickr photo albums.

These ‘apps’ that work on websites and allow them to do more then the standard software allows are called plugins in Wordpress and extensions in Joomla. Here’s where you can find them:

Joomla Extensions Directory (JED)

Wordpress Plugins Directory

As you see, you have options. Want a Facebook like button that works with Joomla?

facebooklikebuttonOh I’m sorry. Were you not looking for 116 options but simply the best option for you? You are reading the right blog then!

Here’s how to find the best plugin or extension for your Joomla or Wordpress site (I can’t speak for Drupal but I bet these same rules would work there as well):

1) Is it in the directory?

Both Joomla and Wordpress review the listings of plugins/extensions in their directories. Now if I wanted, I could create a plugin and just put it on my website. But getting something that is listed in the directory means you are already more likely to be getting something that is peer tested and reviewed.

2) Is it compatible with your software?

When you log into your website, you should see the version of the software you are running. Let’s say you are running Joomla 2.5. You will need an extension that works with this software. (Not all extensions work with every software.) Wordpress updates more frequently than Joomla so look in the directory and see when the plugin was updates and what versions of Wordpress it’ll work with:

wordpressplugincompatibility

 

As you see, if you are running version 3.4 of Wordpress, you can’t use this gallery… so you’ll have to find another gallery or upgrade your software (we recommend upgrading in general- prevents hacking and all kinds of other nonsense).

3) What else does it need to work with?

Let’s say you want people to be able to leave blog comments while logged into Facebook or Twitter. When you look for a commenting plugin, you know to look out for compatibility with Facebook and Twitter.

By understanding how you want something to work (and as importantly, how you don’t want it to work), that’ll eliminate some potential plugins.

4) Is your design responsive?

If so, you’ll find a lot of plugins/extensions are not responsive in nature so this will limit you. Like a lot. (Try finding a responsive business directory that doesn’t look like crap or cost a ton of money for example.) Tip: If it doesn’t say it’s responsive, it probably isn’t… but if you are in love, it’s worth installing and testing it out.

5) Are the reviews good?

Now granted, everyone has one to six haters out there but in general, I like something where at least a majority of the people are not completely angry in their reviews. A quick look at the star ratings and some forums will let you know what people really think of the plugin.

reviewsjed

6) Is this from a reputable developer?

Great companies tend to have great reputations. Checking into the company that has developed the plugin will give you a look into how (and if) the extension/plugin will be supported and how customer service will be handled. Trust me, as important as having an awesome piece of software? Having the service to back it up. (I recommend a Google search on this since this will turn up forum posts and other places off the beaten path people may have left feedback.)

7) Does it work on your site?

So you download the extension and install it… does it work? Sometimes, it is not as simple as find, install, and tada. (If it was, not sure if I’d have a job.) If the plugin doesn’t work, try disabling all other extensions/plugins and see if there is a conflict. If it still doesn’t work, try it with another theme or template. If you find it works elsewhere and just not on your website, you have to decide whether it is worth your time getting it to work, or trying something similar.

The great news is people are developing extensions all the time that’ll make our lives easier and our websites better… but we still need to develop the skills to find and use the best of them.

 

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

New Site Launch: Abbe Museum

abbehomepageThe Abbe Museum contacted us about a year after their new website had been designed. They realized their website also needed a mobile counterpart in an increasingly online and on the go culture.

They were thrilled of the work of their web designer but the firm didn’t do mobile work, so we stepped in to help.

Since the Abbe Museum had a style guide we could work from, the work went more smoothly then it would have otherwise.

A style guide is document showing how logos, fonts, colors, and other design elements should be treated in all communications. If you don’t have one, you should consider making one for your business or organization because it means anyone producing communications for your organization will create something that is consistent and branded well- anything from a company event flyer to your website redesign two years from now. (I have seen these guides be anywhere from 4 to 25 pages- get as detailed about what you want but it is worth having a conversation about with your team!)

A style guide saved a lot of back and forth and meant we only had to do two design drafts to get the look and feel of the mobile site right.

Because the Abbe Museum’s website is coded in HTML, that meant we had to chose which pages would be mobile friendly since they would have to be individually coded. Based on the amount of web traffic they got and the importance of the information, the following pages were coded for mobile friendliness:

  • Home page (obviously)
  • Visitor information
  • Calendar
  • Current and Future Exhibits
  • About
  • Donate (just linking to their Paypal donate page)

In case users wanted to see one of the other 80ish pages on the site, we also have a clear link on the bottom of each of these pages to the full (not mobile friendly) website.

Besides creating and linking to the most important pages on the mobile site, we also made sure the most important marketing messages were front and center. The Abbe Museum’s marketing is driven by a strong email list as well as Facebook and Twitter.

Making anything we wanted users to click look like buttons was one way to achieve a simple streamlined page while creating some visual interest with colors.

If you want to check out this site, go to www.abbemuseum.org on your mobile phone or you can go to www.abbemuseum.org/mobile on any device. (When you access the Abbe Museum’s site from a device, it’ll automatically redirect you to the mobile link.)

Since the mobile site files are on the server (in a different folder), the Abbe Museum can update the information in them like they are updating their regular website.

We thank Cinnamon and Julia for being super easy to work with and hope the mobile site brings even more visitors to downtown Bar Harbor to the museum.

 

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Three Google Analytics Metrics I Care About (And Three I Don’t)

On Facebook awhile back, Breanna asked about reading Google Analytics:

breannaquestion

I’m sure she’d want me to say she sent that from her phone and it typed it for her. She’s normally a very clear sentence writer. But I totally get what she’s saying. And since I’ve never written about it before I thought this would be a good time to do it.

If you have ever looked at Google Analytics, you know it’s enough to be overwhelming. And while I am writing this from my business point of view (year round, service-oriented business not doing ecommerce) it might give you a few good places to think about (or not think about)

Three Metrics I Care About

These are items I look at when I figure out how I should be spending my time.

Social Overview

socialmediagoogleanalytics + Read More

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

New Site Launch: Jeremy Frey

Jeremy Frey is a rock star in the basket world. His one of a kind creations go for thousands of dollars (or tens of thousands in many cases). They take months to make and every detail is perfect. When I saw them in his workshop I was blown away.

When we began working with Jeremy, orders were a little slow and he was gearing up for summer shows. He had applied for and gotten a grant to develop a website and some branding materials, knowing that these tools would take him further then he could go at several yearly shows and with his current client base, many who collect his work.

He wanted to reconnect with people he had lost touch with and find new customers who were specifically searching for him online (and clearly not finding him).

We took care of the website part while Jason at Loop Design Group worked with Jeremy on the logo/branding. Since this was finalized earlier this week we can write about the project (we had a stand in header so Jason and Jeremy could work without pressure and so in the meantime so Jeremy would have the site to use for his shows).

jeremyfreyhomepage

I like to joke with Alice about having an inherent bias against black background color websites. (I had a proto-hipster boyfriend about ten years ago whose blog was black with white writing as were the black and white photos he posted. He wrote deep thoughts on this site and it makes me roll my eyes to this day to think of it.) But this website really changed my mind about the whole ‘black background is a moody teenager’ thing.

Alice is right, done properly it can look artistic, and depending on font choices and other design elements can look either ‘boudoir’ or ‘masculine’. In this case, clearly masculine.

Alice also wanted to incorporate lots of basket textures since Jeremy’s work is so intricate. (Loved the Facebook icon she came up with!) These were only used as touches since we didn’t want it to seem over the top.

jeremyfreyportfolio

Since Jeremy’s baskets are made to order (with custom colors, etc.) a shopping cart was not necessary but we did want to communicate that people could order with the website. ‘Baskets Available For Order’ in the menu as well as a custom inquiry form below each basket type meant that people understood they could order without us having to actually show every kind of basket that Jeremy could make (hint: a lot, like hundreds).

But most importantly is Jeremy happy with this site? “I”ve already gotten a lot of inquiries from it.” he said. He says mainly in the way of people he’s lost touch with over the years that have found him and his work again as well as some new customers.

I know many artists who hesitate to spend money on their websites… but  I think people would be surprised that they’d make their investment (if not more) back by just having somewhere online people could see their craft.

Check out Jeremy’s site if you want to learn more: http://jeremyfreybaskets.com/

jeremyfreyportfoliopage

 

 

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Buying Online: Getting Your Customers To Do It More

So you’ve gone ahead an invested in the creation of an ecommerce website, a place where your customers can buy your products online. Good for you!

What happens sometimes, with a lot of smaller stores especially, is you’ve built it but yet the people are not coming. Why is that?

buymystuff

Do people offline like your stuff?

Here’s a reality you might not want to face but…. is your stuff cool? Useful? Do people buy it at trade shows, craft shows, in your store, etc. but just not online? If so, it’s probably just your actual setup and not your product.

But if no one has ever bought from you and they aren’t buying from your online store, you might have a reality check to cash.

The very smart Ramit Sethi said this example once in a seminar (I’m totally paraphrasing.) Show a room full of people your product, tell them the specs and the price and you’ll have a room full of people who say they want it. Now tell them you have a  supply with you and you’ll sell it to them right now. The people with their hands still raised after the second question are your customers and the people you actually care about pleasing.

Do people know you have an online store?

You can have the prettiest little website but if no one knows it’s there, you will get no sales. What are some simple ways to raise awareness you might not have gotten around to yet?

  • Put up the web address in multiple places at your physical store location (maybe even on your shopping bags or flyers you put into bags).
  • Tell each person who leaves your store to visit your online store.
  • Put ‘Check out our online store’ with the QR code linking to your website in your window.
  • Do the same in your print advertising. (Note: If you don’t like QR codes, you can create a custom shorty link by using a website like bit.ly)
  • Once a week or so link to a product in your online store from your Facebook page, Twitter account, Pinterest account, etc.

Tell people until you think you sound like a broken record. Because you might hear yourself talking about it all day but your customers don’t.

I bet the day you start this stuff, you will have one regular customer who says to you ‘Oh, I didn’t know you had an online store!’

Look at a website like LL Beans:

llbeanshop

 

As you see, you can say ‘buy stuff; without flashing red letters. Make this idea of you having an online cart super obvious on your website and at your store location.

Is your store easy to find online?

If you Google some of your well known products, do you come up? Here’s a screenshot when I do a search for Dansko shoes in Maine (a kind of popular clog like shoe in these parts):

danskoshoesmaine As you see, below the ads comes an online clog store then Lamey-Wellehan, a Maine shoe store that sells Danskos in their stores and online. (JL Coombs shows you want they have in the outlet store and you can stop by and buy at their location.)

Can you compete with Zappos if your Lamey-Wellehan? If you’re local and have what I want you can!

Search engine optimization (getting your site ranked high in search engines like Google) is a whole field, and something you can pay lots for. But let’s go for some easy wins here:

  • Getting more links into your site: Try to get more links. Are your vendors listing your website as a place to purchase their products on their website? Many retailers have something like a store locator and will list you for free. You can also use social media, blogs, online directories, and more to get more links into your website.
  • Make your website search engine friendly: Do you have unique page titles? Detailed product descriptions with keywords people are searching? Search engine friendly links? A blog you update regularly?

I can’t explain it all here but there are steps you can take to make your site more findable by search engines. If you want to learn a bit more about SEO, I’ve written an intro blog post about it here: http://breakingeveninc.com/web-tech/better-seo-in-less-than-one-hour/

Is your store easy to navigate and use?

Find three people who would be your target customers (fitting age and other demographics) and offer them a gift certificate or some other small offering in exchange for watching them navigate your online store. Is there one point which they get hung up on, like the product search or how to get back to the shopping cart after they’ve been browsing? It may be (and probably will be) painful to watch but you will learn a lot about your website.

If you can’t bring yourself to do this, look at your website analytics (statistics). Is there some page on your site a majority of people are exiting on? Do you have a lot of abandoned carts (people who have put things in the online shopping cart and never finished the checkout process)?

Take steps to make your website easier to navigate based on the feedback you get from real people and/or your stats. Adding a search box, linking sizing charts to every product, streamlining your checkout process are just a few ideas. You will generate ones that are useful for you in watching your three people and looking at your web analytics.

Why should someone buy from you?

This might be the most difficult idea for any small business. In a world of Amazon.com, how are you supposed to compete?

Free shipping over a certain order amount and offering excellent customer service is pretty standard in terms of what people can expect online. What are some other ways you can stand out?

Do a bit of detective work (what the industry is doing) and soul searching (what you want to do) and see what you can offer in addition to your unique products without killing your bottom line.

Please note your offering doesn’t have to be expensive, just unique and unexpected. I once got a handwritten thank you note from our payroll company which probably took them all of two minutes to write but it was so memorable and nice). So pick your unique thing then publicize the heck out of it.

I (and many consumers like me) don’t mind paying a bit extra to get something unique or even just to support a smaller business… I just don’t want to have to pay $25 in shipping on a $25 purchase to do it.

So use your online store to its full advantage and you too can make your money in your online store!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

The Oldest Websites We’ve Seen

After running into a website designed in 1999 (a vendor for a client we have), I realize it’s been awhile since I’ve seen an Internet 1.0 site.

For fun, I posed the question to the Breaking Even Facebook page. And boy, did our friends deliver! Here are some gems they found.

Matt suggested WizWorld.com. While designed in 2003, he’s right, it looks about ten years older than that:

wizworlddotcom

Hope found SpaceJam, which clearly hasn’t been touched since the movie was released in 1996:

spacejam.com

A moment later, she beat herself and found a 1995 gem Victor Engle’s homepage:

the-lightdotcom

Breanna found CenterPlace.org from 1999 which is apparently still having fundraising ads to help the website stay open:

centerplacedotorg

But Mike found the winning website, Slash’s Fan Page website:

snakepitdotorg

I still remember coding my first website, in 2002, and how much work it was to just get a blue background with white writing and a picture displaying to the right of it all. …So what can we learn from our older website relatives still hanging around the internet?

Websites weren’t always dynamic. Websites didn’t have information feeds, search boxes, videos, slideshows, or interactive quizzes. They just had information on them. If you were lucky, there was an animated gif.

Websites were simple. Plain background, one color text and maybe some borders around some photos. That’s about as fancy as things got.

Websites have come along way (as has the technology to make them) but the basic function of the website is still the same: Content is still king.

Or maybe more accurately, Slash is king.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22