Month: July 2014

WordPress 4.0 is coming

Its four years ago, WordPress 3.0 had been published. In around one month WordPress 4.0 will be released. Of course, everybody is awaiting quite a huge release, since it is a point-zero-release, but:

Anyway, I thought there are enough interesting new features, which should be presented.

Google wants Pagespeed, but is not using browser caching for its fonts?

Since quite a while I am wondering:

Since the first time I was using the Google Pagespeed tools to increase pagespeed, I didn’t get it. You do everything you can to get the 100, but if you are using Google products like the Google Font API or Analytics, Google remains complaining:

Google suggests to optimize Google
Google suggests to optimize Google

Who gets it? Isn’t this at least awkward? Why is Google preaching pagespeed and not caching resources like the fonts, which are used widely over the Internet? Since Google fonts and scripts are used so widely over the Internet:

Wouldn’t caching the Google fonts, the Google scripts and so on not increase the Internets pagespeed all together?

What to do about Spelling?

English is not my mother tongue, but still I want to write my blog in this language, first to train my eloquence and second to reach a wider audience. After writing some posts, I came to the idea, well maybe you should start and check your spelling. I did a quick research and came up with Respelt, an online spell checker. And, I was bummed out… Somehow it felt like back in school.

I started to do some spell checking on my blog and repairing some of the bloody mistakes. Who writes “completly“? I do. Completly stupid! I know, how annoying it is to read blog posts full of spelling mistakes and what – like it or not – you think about the author of such blog posts. Bloody idiot!

I started to wonder, if there are some WordPress plugins around, which might help me.  Well one comes along with Jetpack. But I didn’t want to use Jetpack since its quite a huge plugin and I like them slim. After some research I found TinyMCE Spellcheck, which is a fork of the plugin, which was incorporated into Jetpack.

TinyMCE Spellcheck at work:
spell-checker-at-work2

 

TineMCE Spellcheck inserts a new button into your WordPress editor, like one of the buttons in Word or OpenOffice. By clicking this button, your text will be searched for spelling errors.

It is a great plugin and I will use it from now on to get rid of at least the worst mistakes I do. If you look for the reviews, you will find mainly five-star reviews. Only the user “Bike” finds a critical point:

Great to have a non-Jetpack spellchecker and the basic functionality works great. However since 3.9, the spellchecker leaves all kinds of < span class=”hiddenSpellError” > references in the HTML, the moment you switch it on; bloating the code, breaking shortcodes and embeds and much more.

Therefore currently unusable unless you remove all of these Spans manually, which is a ton of work as all unknown words are marked as well.

So, I had a look into my source too, in order to find out.

spell-checker-html

Indeed TinyMCE Spellchecker leaves some HTML elements, which nobody wants. But in the moment, you turn off the spellchecker, the plugin removes these SPAN elements. What I will do from now on:

  1. Write my blog post
  2. Turn on the spellchecker to get rid of the mistakes
  3. Turn it off again
  4. Publish the corrected blog post with no SPAN elements in it.

 

A bucket of best wishes to Matthew Muro, who made this plugin available. 5 stars.

 

Photo Credit:

  1. Craie1“ von Jean-Jacques MILAN – Created by Jean-Jacques MILAN. Licenced under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

 

Advanced Search plugin review over at WPLift

Almost four years ago, Oliver Dale started his blog WPLift, where he writes about anything WordPress related. Since I started to work intensively with WordPress, developing plugins, themes and so on, WPLift became one of my main resources for news related to WP. And not just for me. Over 10,000 user subscribed to the newsletter and thousands of readers return to this page every day, to get the latest stuff.

Some days ago, Oliver told the story, how everything began:

One thing that concerned me when starting WPlift was whether I would have enough to write about just focusing on WordPress

An unnecessary worry, as it turned out since “you could write 10 posts a day and still not be covering everything “. Some time ago, I contacted Oliver (who overs reviews for premium plugins and themes for a small fee in order to support his blog), if he thought a review about my latest plugin would fit into his blog and he wrote a very nice blog post: Advanced WordPress Search

In this review he explains briefly the functionality of the plugin and how you can set it up. Since WordPress comes with quite a simple search field, its capabilities for a good search experience is limited. This search might be enough for a small blog like mine, but as soon as you run a complex website, like an online store, this search functionality turns out to be too simple. At this point, my plugin Profi Search Form comes into place. With a simple drag and drop interface you are able to create your own completely customized advanced search for your WordPress page.

Oliver demonstrates this with an example of his blog. He is writing quite a lot of WordPress theme reviews (till today there are more than 120!), which he saves in a Custom Post Type called “Themes”. He is using custom taxonomies for this post type like “Theme Company”, “Theme Colors” and so on and custom fields like “Price”. In his review he is using these attributes to create a search, where you can select, for example all white themes which cost between 10 and 50 USD.

His conclusion:

This is a powerful plugin for improving the search capabilities of sites which make use of meta data / taxonomies.

But, of course, there are also some critical remarks. Not without a reason, Oliver states that he has seen more beautiful plugins, which is quite true. Until now, the first thing I want to provide is the functionality as such. A powerful yet easy to configure advanced search. The CSS and styling is rather basically and the ideal customer in my mind is someone, who knows CSS and knows how to adjust the HTML elements to his theme. Since most of the customers are WordPress agencies, this works fine. But of course I am thinking about theming my plugin. Since I am more on the programmers side of WordPress development, maybe I should have a look, where to find a good WordPress designer, so I can outsource this task a bit. One of the problems I see with theming a plugin is the different environments, it will be working in. If you read the comments for different plugins, one of the constant problems are CSS problems, where a beautiful theme meets a beautiful plugin and one CSS definition destroys the other. I always wanted to write a blog post about good and solid plugin styling. Maybe now its time to explore this issue a bit more.

Anyway, if you are interested in a second opinion about my plugin, please have a look for Olivers review over at WPLift: Advanced WordPress Search + Filtering by Taxonomy and Post Meta.

Rachel Andrews: The Profitable Side Project

Well, actually I never thought, I would write something like a book review on this blog, but Rachel Andrews “The Profitable Side Project” teaches me better. Most of you probably know Rachel Andrews, since she is one of the heads behind Perch and continuously writes articles about WordPress and other webtech related stuff.

“The Profitable Side Project” is an ebook she recently published, where she sums up here experiences in launching small business projects like “Perch” or even smaller. And – I have to say – I love this book! It is written for all these freelancers out there, who always dream about their own projects, which they will realize one day and somehow, it is written for me.

I don’t remember when I started programming, but I know, there was a time – around 16 years – when I started to wonder, if it wouldn’t be a good idea to become a shareware author as a grown up. Shareware – the 90th. I wrote (probably everyone, who started to program at this time did the same) an address program, which I actually started to sell and I was amazed, some people actually bought it. But, for some years, I’ve dropped the idea, started to study philosophy, history and politics. I came back to programming, when money to continue the studies was needed. And I came back to the idea of shareware authoring, well nowadays its about services, plugins and whatever. “The Profitable Side Project” is written just for these people, who are trying to make a dime. They will find themselves in this book with headings like the beautiful “Dreaming Small is Underrated”. Actually, I think Rachel Andrews has a real point here. Some of my projects, I wanted to lift, just became to heavy. There where too many ideas in my head, too many features I thought needed to be included. You start to program, you think again, start all over from scratch. And all this in a phase, where the project is the most vulnerable; in the phase, where you doubt it yourself. Rachel Andrews made quite the same experience:

However we had such big plans for it [the project] that we could never get to a point where we were happy enough to ship it. Every time we started to work on it, we were dreaming up new features and worrying about various perceived defects – all before anyone outside of our company had seen it. Ultimately we gave up on it. Our interest and energy had been sapped by endless revisions, and the product had lost all focus and momentum.

And this is, what it is all about. Most projects fail, because you loose the momentum. Rachel Andrews shows you, how to keep focused, keep the project small enough to be able to realize it as a sideproject. If your project hit something, you will start to enhance it. But you have to reach the moment to ultimately ship it, because “Small things can grow”. I do this right now with my latest plugin “Profi Search Form“. I am not 100 percent happy with the sales, but since I’ve launched it, I get a lot of feedback which I integrate and I see how this pushes the project sales more and more.

In her book the author gives the advice, not to start with some beta versions, which you ship for free, just to get users. For sure, she is right users are not customers, their feedback will be differently. But, when I’ve read that I thought about another way, I was using. Like always, I’ve putted a lot of energy into a project. It was a SEO service. In order to be an interesting service, it needed a huge database. The service itself was running but building up databases is quite boring work. And I saw my euphoria for the project disappearing. I saw, I will never build a database, if I don’t get some feedback people actually like my product. So I stopped the work and was thinking. I wanted users who pay but the service was not at a stage where I was able to say: Pay the full amount of money. At least I thought so. I decided to create a beta phase. I went into a SEO forum and announced “Well this service is not completely ready, but I want it to be tested. Everybody who comes during the beta phase just pays 50%” and the service lifted off. Actually, I was amazed and that gave me the energy to finish the boring database work. So, you could say, “Well, looks like you passed the moment of shipping without knowing”. Or you can say, without this betaphase I would have never come to this point. The good thing about a beta, it lifts your shoulders. Beta tells your client, well not everything will work 100% but it will be fixed as soon as you report it.

This SEO service was in technical terms an “SAAS”. In chapter two Rachel Andrews gives a brief overview about the different business models you can run for your sideproject. Software as a Service for example, or as “One-off purchases”. There are other models, which are discussed by the author. In the next chapters, you get a lot of tipps, how to increase your productivity (chapter 3) by special tools, techniques and outsourcing. Chapter four discusses ways to find a good price.

Selling products via Internet has its own advantages and disadvantages. For sure, it has its own rules, from hosting to legal questions. Chapter five discusses these matters and guides you through some of the questions.

To sum it up. This book contains a lot of ideas, how to realize small projects like the mentioned before. It helps you staying focused and points you to some easy solutions for problems which might discourage you just starting.

Rachel Andrews:
The Profitable Sideproject
339 pages, 39 US$
as PDF, mobi and epub

Table of Content:

Chapter 1: Why Side Projects?

Profitable Side Projects, Dreaming Small is Underrated, What defines success for your product?, Getting to the Shipping Point,  A Cautionary Tale, Minimum Viable Infrastructures, Small Things Can Grow, Take Action: First Steps to Launch

Chapter 2: Your Product

Software as a Service (SAAS), One-off Purchases, SaaS vs. one off purchases, Plugins, themes and add-ons, Putting Your Main Product on Hold, The Concierge Approach, Validating Ideas, Take Action: Your Product

Chapter 3: Productivity

Spend Time To Save Time, Tools and Techniques, Outsourcing, Take Action: Productivity,

Chapter 4: Pricing

The Pricing Model for Perch, Step by Step Pricing, Customer Acquisition and Lifetime Value, Card up-front or after trial?, Special Offers and Discounts, One Currency or Multiple Currencies, VAT and Local Taxes, Take Action: Pricing Models

Chapter 5: The practicalities of selling products online

Taking Payments, Hosting, Legal Matters, Stats and tracking,  Take Action: Infrastructure

Chapter 6: Identity and Brand

Visual Identity, Identity Through Voice, Writing Marketing Copy, Take Action: Identity and Brand

Chapter 7: Setting up for Support

Support as Marketing, Support as Product Research, Tools for Support, Public Forums vs. Ticketed Support, Social Media Support, Pre-sales and purchase support, Dealing with Difficult Customers, Take Action: Support

Chapter 8: Planning a Launch

Pre-launch Pages, The Slow Launch, Take Action: Next Steps to Launch

Chapter 9: We launched! Now What?

Adding Features, Balancing Client Work with Your Product, Marketing Your Product, Switching Focus, Enjoy the Journey