WordPress 5.0: The Pain, the Gain, and Why You Shouldn’t Update Just Yet

This post is especially for my beloved folks out there whose professional websites are built in WordPress – about a third of the world’s websites by some estimates.

Today is the day the benevolent geeks in charge at WordPress released their spiffy new version, WordPress 5.0. You’ll start seeing the graphic above (absent my embellishment…) when you log into your site.

I see you yawning out there. Software update? Dull!  But bear with me for just a second.

It’s not like most web software updates, which just replace the old with the new, in a calm and orderly fashion, like the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. This one has the potential for causing some mischief that could be, shall we say, “stressful.”

It’s all about “Gutenberg,” the editor. That screen you’re on when you’re creating or editing website posts and pages? That. I wrote about it this past Fall and posted a little introduction to it here in my post, “Guten-who?

The good part:

It’s pretty neat. The new one uses a system of blocks to let you arrange things on the page in ways you sometimes couldn’t before, embedding different kinds of content (pictures! text! columns! yay!). For non-technical folks who would love to be able to easily create and edit their own pages, and do more than just the one-long-column-of-text thing, it’s going to be awesome.

The bad part:

Many website designs, frameworks, plugins, add-ons are not compatible with it and thus your site might spit up hairballs when it’s installed. That could mean anything from “no effect whatsoever” to the white screen of death, with no way into your site. Especially if your site is more than a couple of years old and hasn’t had any sort of updating of its “guts,” it could be messy.

It is already causing a bit of mayhem, the same sort of mayhem you might expect if you decided, for example, that you wanted your own personal pet rhino. It’s very possible upgrading to 5.0 right now will break your existing website into smithereens unless you follow some special procedures – and who has time for that right now right before the holidays, seriously?

For the do-it-yourselfers:

But okay, to stay solution-oriented: I’m going to list these procedures below for those who care for their own sites. Before updating, you’ll want to do things like:

  • Take a complete backup of your site and download it to your own computer. NOT just your files and database. The whole directory. Your website host can point you in the right direction there.
  • Update your website’s “theme” – the design framework that it’s running (in your Dashboard, go under Appearance>>Themes to see what I mean) – to the newest version available.
  • Also update your site’s “plugins” (Dashboard >> Plugins) which are the little programs that enable your site to do things like cool contact forms, shopping cart, security, automatic backups, etc.
  • Install a little plugin called “Classic Editor” to switch your editor back to the way it was.

See what I mean? Who has time? Even after all of that, it may still alter your finally-beautiful website, so have your web person’s email handy and consider letting them know before you plan to do that (or have them do it for you, and save a few brain cells).

BUT once the WordPress gods get the kinks worked out, it’ll be a pretty nifty little update to WordPress that’ll help zillions of people work with it more easily and create more beautiful things with it. Totally worth it. No, I mean it, it’ll be good for a lot of people.

They are already apparently working on a revision to fix some of the bugs, and should be publishing a cleaner version (or two, or three) of it in January 2019.

SO, TO RECAP:

  • Don’t push that blue “update to 5.0” button. Just don’t do it. At least not for a month or more.
  • If you can’t resist, take all of the steps above FIRST and light a green candle, burn some incense, recite some incantations from the Necronomicon, etc. If you’re not a WordPress geek, coordinate with your web person before you do.
  • Wait until late January at the very earliest. There’s no compelling reason to upgrade right now. None. So let the dust settle, let the geeks pick it apart and let WordPress fix all the bugs.

If you are hosted by Hostgator, and here are all the reasons I still advise against that, you may want to check with them to make sure it’s not going to automatically update itself.

I’ll update this post as things get sane again.

Peace, all.

P.S. If you’re interested in having us do regular updates to your website so you don’t have to worry about this (including security, backups, updates, and all those geeky things), please reach out.  Learn more about how to buy an hour, or five, or ten, to make sure you can focus on doing the work you love rather than trying to be a website expert too.

25 things I do to preserve energy, time, and optimism for my work

There are a zillion vampires that will rob your business of energy, time, and optimism if you let them. Here are 25 things I do to keep them at bay.

Guten-who? What to do when WordPress makes its big change

Folks who have websites built in WordPress will see a big change this Fall with the new “Gutenberg” design/editing system. Not time to worry yet though…

Six fun and powerful little tools that are day-makers for people like us

This morning I had an email from a client who was stuck in techie purgatory. She needed to find a way to have just some of her blog posts appear on her website’s home page, but have the whole collection appear on her Blog page, and to top it off, her blog images weren’t displaying when she tried to share them to her Facebook page…basically, everything was misbehaving for her.

Typical of many of my self-sufficient clients, she didn’t want me to wave my geek wand and fix it; she wanted to understand it and know how to fix it herself.

I could’ve sent her a lengthy tome about this-and-that setting, do this/do that, but this is the kind of situation that is best solved by showing, rather than telling.

If you’ve ever had trouble explaining to one of your clients how to get on your webinar, how to make one of your products work for them, or even just what it is you DO, then you understand this—sometimes, video is best.

Enter one of my favorite little tools, Loom. It’s a free service that lets you capture short videos with just one click of an icon in your web browser. You click, start the video, say/show what you need (screenshare, or you talking, or both), and send them the link, all in the blink of an eye. I’ll show you a teensy video at the end of this post I made in Loom and embedded in my blog post in just under two minutes total.

Whenever I use it, it brings to mind all of the small tools that make formerly-time-consuming tasks so easy and fast now, creating more time for me to work with the people I care about (and have a free evening to read books on the back porch). I wanted to share a half-dozen of them with you here that I really couldn’t function without. None of these are affiliate links, by the way; I just think they’ll rock your world:

Privacy Badger

Not technically a time-saver, unless you count not having to deal with ads shoved in your face every time you turn around. I should confess that I hate being tracked by marketers when I’m online. (It reminds me of the scene in the film Minority Report, when Tom Cruise is walking through a sea of customized virtual ads popping up in front of his face.) Privacy Badger is a little gizmo you add to your web browser with a click that “…stops advertisers and other third-party trackers from secretly tracking where you go and what pages you look at on the web. If an advertiser seems to be tracking you across multiple websites without your permission, it automatically blocks that advertiser from loading any more content in your browser. To the advertiser, it’s like you suddenly disappeared.” Perfect. It has cut down on a huge amount of ad clutter and junk for me, and I’m grateful. Check it out.

Boomerang for Gmail

I’m a Gmail user, and I have to confess that I probably couldn’t get through the day without Boomerang (or something just like it). Boomerang is a little extension you add to Gmail that lets you do magical things like:
schedule the redelivery of emails back to you if you’re busy
schedule outbound emails for a certain day/time
set reminders for yourself to respond to an email/look for a reply
undo the email you just sent (!!)
attach notes to yourself to an email
pause your inbox for a while so you can breathe
…and a lot more. I love it so much I wrote a gushy post about it here last year: https://websitesforgood.com/tools-for-tiny-businesses-i-heart-you-boomerang/

Zoom

I have lost track of the number of people who’ve said to me, “Oh, Zoom, right — I’ve been on a group call on Zoom but figured it was too complicated to use for my little business.” It’s a videoconferencing tool anybody can use to connect with people all over the world with just a couple of clicks. With a very short learning curve (think minutes) you can expand the reach of your service business from your town to the entire planet. Even in the Free version, you can host an unlimited number of online meetings (think one-to-one or one-to-many coaching, workshops, webinars, trainings…), with 2 to 100 participants if your session is less than 40 minutes, and unlimited session time if you’re just doing one-to-ones. Try a free account and check it out. I’m happy to show up and be your guinea pig, or you can check out my quickstart 1-to-1 session on using Zoom to grow your business here!

Acuity Scheduling

It would take me 500 words to explain how much Acuity has transformed my business, my productivity, and my stress levels. Without it, I used to spend a lot of time doing…well, the tasks to the right. With it, my people (clients and inquirers) can quickly view my availability, self-book their own appointments, reschedule them with a click, receive reminders, fill in intake forms, make payment for paid services, and about a hundred other things that used to take time and bandwidth. For…$10 a month. (or free if you choose that kind of account.) If making appointments is part of your work, it’s worth a look…they’re also amazing at the art of very personal and entertaining support. Check it out.

If you don’t need fancy things like reminders, rescheduling, etc., check out other systems like Calendly or Setmore from this page: https://zapier.com/blog/best-appointment-scheduling-apps/

Loom

Finally, circling back to Loom.

I explained it above, but I’ll show you the results here:

From the moment I clicked the Loom icon on my browser to posting it here, 1 minute 45 seconds elapsed. The videos can be longer, shorter, or much more elaborate if you like (you can include screen captures, videos, etc.), but Loom’s strong point is the ability to just knock out a quick visual and share it with very little effort, so you can do more of it. Check it out.

FB Purity

Oh, what a life saver for those of us who want to use Facebook for business or personal reasons…  F.B. (Fluff Busting) Purity is a browser extension that lets you customize Facebook in amazing ways. It alters your view of Facebook to show only relevant information to you. It lets you remove the annoying and irrelevant stories from your newsfeed such as game and application spam, ads and sponsored stories. It can also hide the boxes you don’t want to see on each side of the newsfeed.

CNET described it better than I ever could: “The interface is extremely intuitive. Apart from having the option to hide a multitude of stories including profile updates and tagged photos, you can hide the suggestions box, sponsored box, and the “get connected” box in the right-hand panel of the screen… Facebook has the ability to hide some of this for you (not the side panel though)… having all these options clearly marked in one place with checkboxes is very practical.”

The ability to hide the more annoying and useless-to-you aspects of Facebook, while still having the option to display them, is an incredible time- and energy-saver. You can even filter out posts by keyword (to avoid politics, celebrity news, so-and-so’s tweets, etc.) so you never see them and have to cope with the associated emotional distraction. I couldn’t work without it.


Those are my favorite tools today, though I’m discovering new ones every day. I would estimate that using these tools has helped me recapture at least three hours every week–and BAM, there’s three hours I can spend on working with the people I love, exercising, meditating, building income, or just playing with the dog if that’s what I need for my mental health.

Got any great little tools that YOU use and couldn’t do without? Please share with me! I’m always in the market.

Love,
Margaret

 


LEARN SOMETHING NEW AND SAVE A BUNDLE

Looking for a fast, friendly, personal way to learn how to manage those online things you’ve been paying others hundreds of dollars to do? Reach more of the people that matter, start offering online workshops, finally start using video on your website, and more!  Save some money, time, and brain cells: I offer one-hour, 1-to-1 sessions to self-employed folks who’d like to do more, but without the pressure of a webinar or the geek-speak of online classes. Choose one from the course list, or request a customized session for exactly what YOU want to learn.
Let’s have some fun. What do you want to learn? >

Building blocks of a healthy web presence for your thoughtful small business

I’m forever tinkering with my own biology. From what/when/how much I eat, to how much physical activity I engage in, to what sorts of chemicals I allow into my microbiome and home, I’m a fun-loving scientist using my own body as the test subject. (If I ever try to do something like graft on a second brain or install bionic hands, I’ll get permission from you guys first.)

I’m stacking up blocks, taking them down, stacking them another way. I’m experimenting, noticing, tracking, and adjusting. What works? What keeps me joyful and what weighs me down? What has no effect and isn’t worth the trouble, and what gives the most gratification and reward?

As you might guess, I often put on my Fun Scientist lab coat when it comes to websites for my self-employed kindred spirits too.

I’ve noticed over the years that, just as there are a handful of simple things we can do to make our bodies/homes/lives happier and healthier, so too there are a handful of simple things we can do that make promoting our work easier, more effective, and less likely to cause headaches and heartburn. Below are a few of them. I’ve divided them into “public facing” (the part the public sees) and “behind the scenes” (the part that’s mostly invisible to the public).

Basic website elements: Public facing elements

HOME/LANDING PAGE: As my teenaged friends would say, “No duh.” Yes, you need a home page. Make sure you have one that doesn’t take forever to load, and that acts as a warm, welcoming anteroom for all the wonderful goodness inside.

It should use colors, images, and language that makes people feel the way you want them to feel (calmed, excited, curious, hopeful). It should give them a topline view of how you can help them shift from where they are now to where they want to be. It should have clear next steps to reach you or get more information.

Oh, there’s a ton I could write about the elements of a successful homepage, but for now, just remember this mantra and make sure your homepage says it: I’m glad you’re here. I see you and know why you’ve come. Here are some things I can offer for that. Here’s what you can do next.

ABOUT: Include an About page that helps people know, like, and trust you. People visit About pages for several reasons, but it all wraps around learning whether you’re the best person for what they’re hoping to achieve, have, fix, or become.

Tailor your About page to your ideal client. If you’re offering a service to an audience for whom credentials=credibility, detail those. If you’re offering something where being a good-hearted, wise listener is most important, show me that. Show me your face. Show me your humanity. Show me that you “get” me.

A CLEAR VIEW OF WHAT YOU OFFER: Don’t just list what you do a Services or Products page. Give me the full details on what you offer, how much it costs, and how it’s going to change me. Let me see/hear the voices of other people who’ve experienced the service. Describe the “new story” it’s going to create for me. Give me a next step (buy button, ‘more information’ button, sign up button).

There’s a thousand mile difference between “Here’s what I offer” and “Here’s what I offer and here’s why it’s going to light up your day/life/work/health.” Make sure you’re putting the effort into creating the latter.

TIERED OFFERINGS: Many folks sell very expensive services and/or products, and they are usually worth every penny. But although your prices might be perfectly fair, when you’re starting out, you may find that you have trouble building a client base. It’s not that you’re not worth it, because you absolutely are; it’s just that many people need to be eased into feeling confident and comfortable enough to spend their dollars working with you.

Offer a variety of entry points to working with you or buying from you, at different price points that give them a staircase rather than a ladder. The easiest first step is to offer lots of free content (articles, blogs, etc.) that show you care about them. The next might be a free consultation. After that, a low-priced offering such as an ebook, workshop, or mini-session helps them to get a taste of working with you. Then a mid-priced offer…are you seeing the staircase now? If you offer all of those, your high-price-point coaching packages no longer feel like such a risky endeavor. They know you. You’ve proven your mettle and have been honest, helpful, and generous.

BE PAINFULLY CLEAR ABOUT NEXT STEPS (CALLS-TO-ACTION): Check and doublecheck that you’ve provided a path to a next step toward you on every page, perhaps one for every option you present to readers. (If you make readers burn calories trying to figure it out, they will assume you’ll also make them burn calories if you they choose to work with you.) Calls-to-action must be very clear and obvious – buttons of contrasting colors are particularly useful here. If you have any doubt as to whether your call-to-action is clear, have someone unfamiliar with your website walk through it and give you feedback.

DON’T NEGLECT CONTACT DETAILS: Be sure to provide clear and persistent contact information and a way for your reader to reach you if they have questions or want to explore further (such as a free consult). Persistent? Remember that, while they are meandering in your site assessing your offerings, the YES of inspiration can strike them at any time. Make sure there’s always something in view that aids and abets them in following that inspiration; don’t make them go hunting for it.

BLOG: Hey! Come back here! I know all the reasons why this word makes you recoil (see my blog post “10 Reasons to consider writing a blog, even if the thought of it makes you cringe“)

But I can’t overstate the value of including something on your website that has new juicy material added to it regularly. If it helps don’t call it a blog. Call it Articles. News. The Latest. What’s Up.

It says several things about you: I know my stuff. I am out here paying attention. I am always thinking of how I can be helpful to my people. I am generous with my time and wisdom. I am trustworthy and I show up for you. I am someone valuable to have in your life.

Basic website elements: Behind-the-scenes stuff that’s still super-important to have:

A SECURE CERTIFICATE that lets you have “https.” Google has already started to scare the heck out of your site visitors by warning them away from any sites that don’t have this, and it will become fairly universal in the coming month. Please don’t postpone. Learn more in my Facebook post: https://www.facebook.com/websitesforgood/posts/2155915141307233

A PRIVACY POLICY that includes your cookie policy, information on what data your site collects from them (GDPR stuff), and terms of use of your site. Contact me if you need to have this created for you. Not only does Google use this as a factor for search engine listings, but you really don’t want to run afoul of the GDPR/data privacy laws.

If you use WordPress, PLUGINS FOR SECURITY (such as Wordfence or iThemes Security) AND FOR AUTOMATIC BACKUPS. Unless you relish the possibility of throwing your website investment of time and money down the drain due to hacking or system failure (plus the cost of having a new one built), you really can’t go without these any more. And there’s no reason not to. They are free, and just need to be installed and set up with basic settings.

GOOGLE ANALYTICS (or other systems of tracking visitor statistics): This is very simple to set up, free, and allows you to receive reports showing who’s coming to your site, how they found you, where they go, where they DON’T go, and a lot more.

AT LEAST A LITTLE SOCIAL MEDIA: Basic presence on at least one social media channel can help most of us, and it’s nothing to fear. A Facebook business page (NOT your personal page) or a LinkedIn profile are natural choices for many. The ability to reach millions more of your people for free is not something to dismiss just because it sounds hard. But because it DOES sound hard, I’m working on two bite-sized private training sessions to just sit down with me for an hour on Zoom and get it done. We’ll have fun. There will be music and poetry and cold drinks 🙂 Write me if you’d like more information on that.

There are many more things I can list, and of course I could wax poetic about telling your story, being a changemaker, choosing the right photos, etc.

But like the basic building blocks of keeping your body healthy, we’ll start with these…then experiment, notice, track, and adjust.

Enjoy!


P.S. Remember, if you don’t have these things, you can always drop me a line and ask me questions about anything. I’m here.

Ten bite-sized things to do now that will reap benefits in 2018

Like many of my clients, my office will take a break this year for rest and reflection. I’ll be away from December 22 to January 3 for my annual year-end retreat. Most emails will wait until I return (apologies in advance for that annoying holiday autoresponder). The phone will go to voicemail. I’ll get more than six hours of sleep per night. And I’ll sink into planning What Comes Next.

It’s a great time of year to make sure our online marketing stuff is working and tidy and ready for a new year. Here are a few things you might consider doing now. If you would like instructions or direction on any of these things, drop me a line and I’ll happily guide you.

1. Make an offline backup copy of your website and store it somewhere safe to be ready in case of emergency. Most sites built by us will have the plugin Updraft Plus Backups installed which makes this a one-click job. Email me if you need to know where to find that.

2. Update your website’s guts (WordPress and all the bits and bobs that make your website ‘go’) to be sure they’re up-to-date and healthy. Those who have a maintenance agreement with us don’t need to worry about this–we will do that for you. For others, when you go into your site’s dashboard, you’ll see the left column littered with red dots indicating what’s out of date. Be sure to back everything up (see 1 above) first.

3. Run a malware scan on your home page. Just go to this link and plug in your domain name: https://sitecheck.sucuri.net/

4. Type up a new page with all of your online marketing details on it. This would include the logins & passwords for your website, for the company where your domain name is registered, for your website hosting company, and for your social media logins. Keep a printed copy and give another copy to someone you trust.

5. Change your website’s password (the one you use to get into it to edit). Make sure it registers as “strong” when you type it in…you’ll see what I mean when you do that. Hacking is a huge problem these days, but simple things like this can help avoid 90% of the problems.

6. See how fast–or not–your home page is. Google is getting very touchy about slow home pages, so knowing where you stand is a good start. Visit https://tools.pingdom.com/ and plunk in your domain name. Let it run, then click “Share Result” to share it with your own email address. If you have concerns, forward it to me and we’ll make plans to help it in 2018.

7. Have a friend visit your contact page to send you an email as though they were a client/prospect. If you have a form, have them use that, or just use an email link. Make sure that no glitchy things are keeping people from being able to reach you!

8. Find a few new photos or illustrations: Visit one of the free photography banks like unsplash.com or pixabay.com to find some fresh imagery that better represents where your business is now. This blog post on finding images without pain & suffering might be handy.

9. Revisit who you’re trying to reach with your business. I know that my definition of the perfect client for me has changed significantly since I started my business. Take a few minutes and a piece of paper and sketch out in words the traits of the person most likely to benefit from working with you—and vice versa.

10. Read your home page out loud. Yep, I said that. The best way to make sure your website doesn’t have the personality of a glossy online brochure is to be sure it sounds like you: Human, welcoming, helpful. Reading it out loud (bonus points if you record yourself reading it, then play it back) helps identify where your language is too formal, too stiff, too impersonal.

 


 

Thanks for stopping by!

If you have a small business and this message resonated with you, I’d love to have you keep in touch (in times like these, having a community of people who ‘get’ us can make all the difference between a great day and “I’m just going back to bed”). Here are some ways:

  • I send out a monthly email missive with stuff of interest to people like us – from non-geeky tech tips, to new resources for small businesses and freelancers, to feelgood stories of what’s working out there. Give it a try and see if it’s of interest to you.
  • I’m on Facebook at https://facebook.com/websitesforgood and we have some great conversations there. It’s also a great place to see new writings of all kinds.
  • Think about a free 30-minute consultation with me to tell me what you’re up to, talk through new ideas or directions for your work, or talk about how to better tell your story online.

 

Tools for tiny businesses: I heart you, Boomerang

The email tool for “inbox Zero” at the end of my day. No, really, it works.

In his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World,  Cal Newport talks about his end-of-day “shutdown ritual,” and the importance he puts on clearing his mind of lingering distractions from projects-in-progress and from unanswered or unread email.  His advice is that we do everything we can to “…ensure . . . every incomplete task, goal, or project has been reviewed and that for each you have confirmed that either (1) you have a plan you trust for its completion, or (2) it’s captured in a place where it will be revisited when the time is right.”  For me, part of that is the holy grail of “inbox Zero.”

Are you overwhelmed with email sometimes?  I know I am, regardless of my attempts to stay off junkmail lists and direct my subscriptions to a separate email address just for them. That just means I’m inundated with email that I actually WANT to read, which is arguably even harder to cope with.  I honestly don’t know what I’d do without Boomerang.

Boomerang lets you schedule the redelivery of emails back to you, schedule outbound emails, set reminders for yourself to respond to an email or look for a reply, attach notes to yourself to an email, pause your inbox for a while, and a lot more.

This is what is looks like in action:  I open my inbox in the morning to my bazillion emails, am immediately overwhelmed, and go back to bed.  No, not really. I just check the checkbox next to the ones that don’t need an immediate response (notifications, for example) then click “Boomerang” and choose whether I want them to be redelivered to me in an hour, or four hours, or four weeks.


That brings up a pane of possibilities for times (and conditions) to return the email to your inbox…

 

…and they are out of my hard-working brain until I need to address them. You can even write yourself a note or a reminder about some aspect of the email:

 


On the sending side of things, Boomerang lets you schedule outbound emails, so if you need to write someone first thing tomorrow morning and are worried you’ll forget, you can simply schedule it. Note the groovy new red SEND LATER button for setting a time and date you want the email to go out:



….as well as the ability to ‘boomerang’ the email back to the top of your inbox if a particularly important email doesn’t receive a reply:

 

There is also a “Pause Inbox” feature that lets you stop emails from arriving in your inbox for a set period of time so you can focus better, and a new feature called Respondable that helps you write better emails—emails that are more likely to get a good response—by scoring the language you use on factors like positivity, politeness,  and more.

For years I thought that whole “inbox Zero” aspiration would always be out of my reach.  But by managing the function of my poor tormented email inbox, I’m looking at a clean slate almost every night, and am able to enjoy the brain-mending rest of turning off my computer/mobile and taking some joyful downtime. This is the most indispensable $5 I spend all month.

Anyway, I’ve gushed enough. If you think might help you focus and get more mental rest too, you can learn more and get your own Boomerang here: http://www.boomerangapp.com/