Designing Your Process (For Fun and Profit)

What is design? Design solves problems. If you aren’t solving a problem, than your design is making it pretty. Whether it is a website, an app or service, your design must do something. Pretty is not the goal of design.

How do you go from pretty to design?

  • Understand your clients needs. Whether its an app, service or website, work with them to learn what they want.
  • Know who the audience you are designing for. Who are they? What problem to they need solved? Why would they use your solution?
  • Define the problem. What is the problem that you want to solve?
  • Solve the problem. Develop the solution to your problem.

In order to do this, you need to develop a process that help you get from idea to solution. Chris Ford at WordCamp Orange County 2016, talks about Designing Your Process.

You can also find the presentation slides on Slide Deck.

By developing a design process, you can see where you are going, choose the right tools and deal with unexpected surprises and failures when they occur. What have you included in your design process?

How Do I Manage Multiple WordPress Websites?

When you have a single WordPress website, managing it is easy. You log in update plugins, WordPress or your theme. Once you start making more WordPress websites whether for yourself or clients, you’ll need a more effective way of managing them.

Manage Multiple Sites

With WordPress, you have a number of solutions to choice from that help you manage multiple WordPress websites from one location. No more logging in and out and switching between websites. Here is a quick overview of three of the best WordPress Management solutions.

MainWP

A WordPress Management plugin that allows to manage multiple WordPress sites from one location. You can manage your day to day WordPress tasks from posts to updates. MainWP is a free plugin with many features.

You can:

  • Manage Plugins and Themes
  • Manage Unlimited WordPress sites
  • Manage Users
  • Host on Your Own Server
  • Manage content, upgrades and backups

What do you get with the paid version?

  • Article Uploader
  • Advance Uptime Monitor
  • Bulk Settings Manager

Infinite WP

A self-hosted, multiple WordPress management platform that simplifies your WordPress management tasks. You can backup and update multiple WordPress sites from one location without having to login to each site.

  • Written in PHP; not native to WordPress
  • Free
  • Self-hosted
  • Master Login
  • One Click Update
  • Back Up and Restore
  • Doesn’t matter what server you install it on

What do you get in the paid version?

  • Scheduled Backups
  • Manage Users
  • Publish Posts and Pages
  • Security Plugins like WordFence and iThemes Security
  • WP Maintenance
  • Cloud Backup
  • Staging

CMS Commander

A powerful dashboard that allow you to manage all of your WordPress websites in one solution. CMS Commander also provides tools for bulk posts articles and pages to your blogs simultaneously, create a new WordPress site with all the settings that you need to get started and more.

  • Free to try
  • One Dashboard to Control All WordPress Websites
  • Full Overview of Traffic and Statistics
  • Copy Entire WordPress Sites for a New Project
  • Complete Control to Manage Posts, Comments and Users
  • Easy to Update All WordPress Sites
  • Automatic Backups of All Your Sites

Summary

Managing multiple WordPress websites individually is both time-consuming and unproductive. By using a WordPress management tool, you can be more productive by streamlining your maintenance tasks and save time. Each tool has different features, benefits and pricing. Pick the one that fits your needs.

Building a theme based on a photo

Where do you get ideas for a theme? Do you start with a color palette, photo or website? I decided to use a photo to create a theme for my blog. I found a free stock photo and started design my new theme.

cropped-CurcuitBoard.jpg

How Did I Create the Theme?

  • Found a free stock photo
  • Generated a color palette from the photo
  • Start with an HTML Theme
  • Build the Theme in WordPress
  • Test and fix issues
  • Upload and apply the final theme

Generate Color Palette from Photo

I uses Adobe Kuler, now called Adobe Color CC, to create my palette. Here is my palette:

Curiosita Labs Color Palette Choices

Start with an HTML Theme

Using the color palette, I choose a color for the background, heading and more. Next, I built a test page in HTML. HTML makes it quick and easier to design in the browser. You can see your results quickly.

Test Theme In HTML

Once I had the page made, I evaluated the results. Do the colors look good together? Does the overall design do what I want it to do? I had some issues with the colors. They didn’t work well together. I changed out the colors and reevaluated the results. Once I got a design that worked, I started building the theme.

Building the theme

WordPress has starter themes. I wanted a theme that was responsive and simple to work with. At a WordPress meetup, they talked about using Underscores. This starter theme is recommended by local WordPress designers.

Next, I started adding my CSS to the starter theme’s CSS. I had to make adjustments to ensure that the CSS works with WordPress. If you don’t, your theme may have unexpected results. Then, I added my theme to WordPress and started testing. I had to make additional changes. A few tweaks to fix things that didn’t work that way I had planned.

What was the Result?

The result was ok. I went back to tweak the colors because the original colors didn’t work well for me. Working with colors from that photo was challenging. The colors work well in the photo. When interpreted to hex colors for CSS, they didn’t seem to look as good. The challenge was learning how to get the right mix of colors. Some choices worked better than others. The colors may look good in a photograph, but they make not work well in designing a theme.

This was an experiment. Not all experiments work out. From every experiment, you learn something. You learn what to do, what not to do and how to do better the next time.

Have you had success in designing a theme from a photo?

Making Money with WordPress and WooCommerce

At East Troy WordCamp, Andrew Wikel, talked about Making Money with WordPress and WooCommerce.

Notes from Andrew’s Talk

  • 1 in 3 uses WooCommerce
  • “Make it as easy as possible to get people to give you money.”
  • Your eCommerce platform is just the start

Why you need one platform:

  • Compatibility
  • Maintenance
  • Ease of finding someone to maintain or modify

You need to plan out what you need and express what you need clearly.

Practical Tips

  • Ease of checkout
  • Reasonable shipping with alternatives
  • Multiple payment options
  • Mobile Friendly experience
  • User Trust

Do

  • Have a privacy policy
  • Use SSL on every page with a form
  • Foster trust with other methods of communication
  • Lets encrypt.com

Checkout

  • Don’t force users to create an account
  • Use a process indicator
  • Match checkout to your website’s look and feel
  • Never send a customer to the outside of the checkout process
  • Visually Reinforce Sensitive Info

More Tips

  • Payment Options: Stripe, PayPal or Amazon Payments
  • Shipping: Have Options, Show Calculated Rates and People Like Free Shipping
  • Taxes: Ask Your Accountant and Manage Taxes with TaxJar

Summary

When you setup your eCommerce, you want to make it as easy as possible for people to give you money. Your design, payment options, shipping and security should work together to make the customer feel good about giving you money.

How do you build a better WordPress Widget?

When you first create a new theme for WordPress, you may forget about widgets. WordPress comes with widgets that you can use. But what if your clients wants to add a widget? Will it work with your design? What if they want to add something that isn’t offered? Josh Leuze at WordCamp Milwaukee talked about how to build better and more interesting WordPress Widgets. In his talk, he explains how to design widgets, plan out your widget, make your widget responsive and how to upgrade your widget with a plugin.

Watch his talk to learn how to build a better WordPress Widget.