Why You Should Use WordPress

So you started your online business. Maybe you opened and eBay or Etsy store and now you want to expand your business. You shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket after all, right? Right. You want to have your own presence on the internet. It means control. If you only have a shop on another website (in this case, eBay or Etsy), you’re always at the mercy of the site owner.

Just take Etsy, for example. Do a search in the fora and you will find a plethora of posts about how much people dislike the changes Etsy has made to its site and the way stores are displayed. But no one can do anything about it because it is Etsy’s playground and they make the rules. They want to give their website a certain look? They do it. And that is okay! It is their brand after all.

Then we have blog sites like Blogger and WordPress.com. You are again at the mercy of the owners of these sites (Google and Automattic, respectively). You can customize Blogger sites and have your own theme, but you can’t do the same on WordPress.com. You have to choose a theme from the WordPress theme repository. This means that you are limited in the design of your blog/website (even if there are a gazillion themes in the repository).

Let’s look at another option to create your own site. A lot of people who have online shops use Shopify. I think Shopify is great and I definitely wouldn’t tell anyone to not create a website with them. However, through the paid model, you are, once again, at the mercy of Shopify and their IT people.

If you want to get away from other people controlling your business, I would recommend that you create your website with WordPress.org. It is the basis for WordPress.com and powers up to 25% of the internet today. Biggest perk: It is completely your own! You can do whatever you want with WordPress.org because of its GPL license and the possibility to create plugins and themes for yourself (or you hire a developer and designer).

So, as you can see, it’s not that WordPress.org is better than the other options I have mentioned and I am definitely an advocate of employing more than just on option. But, with most other options, you don’t have the amount of control you have with WordPress.org and I think that is one of the major points why you should build your website on WordPress.org.

5 Things That Turn Me Off Your Website

Imagine you’re having this awesome conversation with someone online and then you’re visiting their website. You want to support them. Maybe even sign up for their newsletter. But when the page loads, you’re a little bit horrified and question who would have advised them to design their blog or website like this. We have all had that moment. Of course, you can’t argue about someone’s taste and maybe it is only your own perception that makes you dislike that design

So here are five things that turn me off your website and which are usually easily fixed.

1. Too Much Content on the Sidebar

You want to give your reader some kind of direction around your blog. So you put your archive links, your category links on your sidebar. That’s great. But you also want to let your reader know about your social media profiles. And to which blogging clubs you belong. There’s also this other network that you’re a part of and it really needs to go there as well. Plus, some affiliate links… Stop! Do a ranking of the things on your sidebar and decide which ones are the most important to you. The rest needs to go somewhere else. Put a link in your navigation to page on which you can let your readers know about all your networks and connections. If the reader wants to know, he or she will find out.

2. Too Many Colors and Patterns

This is another big thing on this list. If you’re using too many colors and different patterns in your design, your reader won’t know where to look first. Colors and patterns are, as design elements, extremely important in guiding your reader through your content. You don’t want to lose your reader (remember what we’ve said about simple views). Instead of choosing a multitude of colors, try to focus on a simple color palette and use those colors to enhance your design rather than overpower it. The same thing goes for patterns. You can, for example, choose a simple pattern for your background. This is already a step to making your website your own.

3. No White Space

This one goes hand in hand with the previous two points. You want your reader to take something away from your content. However, if your design is completely overpowering your awesome posts, your reader will click away without engaging with your content. What you need to remember is that white space (space where there is nothing) is just as integral to your design as any other element that you want to include. It also makes your reader focus on the most important aspects of your sit.

4. Flashing GIFs

I absolutely adore GIFs. I love using them because they sometimes capture what I’m trying to say way better than words ever could. But imagine you’re visiting a site for the first time and the very first thing you see is a flashing GIF. Not only do you have to keep in mind readers with health problems who could suffer from it, but you also need to remember point 4. You’re turning away your reader and this is the one thing we definitely don’t want. Use GIFs in your blog posts, but use them sparingly. Then you’ll be able to unleash their full power.

5. No Dates on Your Posts

Admittedly, this is not necessarily a deal breaker for me. I will still be able to enjoy your blog and your content. But when I’m looking for something, I would like to know that I’m not reading content that is four years old and not relevant anymore (for example, if you’re looking for a WordPress coding tutorial). That content is, in most cases, not really relevant anymore. So, try to find a theme that, in some way, displays the date of your posts so that I can always tell what your newest content is.

What Are Things That Turn You Off Other People’s Site?

How Often Do You Check Your Stats?

Are you obsessed with stats? Do you check them repeatedly throughout the day? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. It doesn’t matter whether you have a simple blog or your own website. You just need to know what kind of stats your site has. Because views mean a lot, don’t they? Well, yes and no. Of course stats matter. But simple views that are not converted to some kind of action are just that views. The person on the other side of the screen, probably didn’t do anything other than look at your content. What you want to do is to engage your reader/viewer with your content.

How Does My Reader Engage With My Content?

Well, for one there could be a call to action. Offer some kind of freebie in your blog posts for example and, when you’re reader clicks the link, ask them to sign up for your newsletter. If you don’t have a newsletter, you should definitely consider creating one. A newsletter is the kind of one-on-one contact you want with potential clients. And offering them something in return is the way to collect their emails and deliver great content each week.

Another way for your reader to engage with your content is to make your blog post so interesting that they will comment on it. You might even be bit controversial. As long as you’re engaging with your readers, it’s a win. The simple views you had in the beginning have turned into a valuable connection that no one can take away anymore.

But I Like Looking At My Stats!

I totally get you. I love looking at my stats as well. Even when they’re not great. But, thanks to stats, you can see how well someone receives your content. You only have to keep in mind that, in the end, views mean nothing if they don’t convert to sales. You need to somehow entice your reader to stay on your site and perform some kind of action. Start with the newsletter and you will see that your stats will be soaring high like you’ve never seen them before.

One Last Thing

I know stats can be a pitfall and you could spend hours just looking at them and comparing them. However, if you want to do that, you need to do an in-depth analysis of your stats so that your time looking at them is not wasted. Because, while you’re looking at your stats, your competitors might be launching their new product. They’re not constantly monitoring their stats and forgetting about their actual purpose. To help you create content that people want to read.

So Take a Break from Checking Your Stats and Get to Work!

Find Free Stock Images

So, you want to get into design – maybe even web design specifically. You look around at what other web designers are doing and you wonder, where do they get these amazing images for their previews and their blog? When you do a search for “free stock images,” you mostly get to sites that lure you in with the offer of free images, but, if you actually want to download the images, they want you to sign up and pay a fee. However, you’re not yet ready to make such a financial commitment in your endeavor of creating your business. That is why it’s good to know some sites where you can get images for free which you can also use commercially (always read the licensing of the images!!).

Picjumbo

Picjumbo Example
Picjumbo – by Victor Hanacek – is, by far, my favorite site to get free stock images. The images all have a modern feel to them and it’s just an amazing site to get inspiration. One thing you have to keep in mind is that the site is powered by ads and the premium packages (you can download more images at once and not all separately). So try to turn off your adblock when you visit Picjumbo. You can also sign up for the newsletter and get the newest images in your email.

Unsplash

Unsplash Example
Unsplash – anyone can upload images to Unsplash and be part of this community. The good thing about this site is that you can get a large variety of images because of this diversity in photographers. Again, you have the option of signing up for the newsletter and getting the images directly to your mailbox. This site is definitely a place you need to check out and find your next stock image for your own website or demo site.

Barn Images

Barn Images Example
Barn Images is the third option that I use in my own design business. It was created by Igor Trepeshchenok and Roman Drits, two photographers from Latvia. They really amazing imagery that you definitely need to check out. If you sign up for their newsletter, you get a free photo pack of 50 high-resolution images. So give them some love and check out their photography. I really could get lost on their site and just look at their images for hours.

The Must-Have Plugin When You Install A New Theme

Imagine this: You have found the perfect theme for your blog. You’re looking at the theme demo and you’re simply in love with the design. The theme maker sounds great and you just have to have this WordPress theme. You buy and install it on your blog. You’re giddy about giving your blog a complete makeover and then this.

Your post thumbnails are all screwed up!

The images don’t look great and they’re all squished together. All the work you have put into your blog graphics has gone to waste. What now? Are you going to go back to your old theme and just forget about your new beautiful premium theme? No, and you shouldn’t. There is usually a very simple fix for this and your images will be as beautiful as before.

You have two options to remedy your stretched images. If you only have a few images on your blog, you can go ahead and reupload them. Once you have done this, the images will accept the dimensions set forth in your new theme. However, the more images you have already uploaded to your site and used in posts, the longer this work will take. It is not only reuploading the images but also reassigning the images to the specific blog posts.

Luckily, there’s a plugin for that!

This is your second option. Go to the Regenerate Thumbnails plugin site and install the plugin. Once the installation is complete, activate the plugin and navigate to Tools > Regen. Thumbnails in your dashboard. You’ll get an introduction to what the plugin does and then you can, with a single click, regenerate all of your thumbnails. The plugin does all the heavy lifting for you and you can relax and enjoy the way your new theme looks with your thumbnails.

Suffering From Impostor Syndrome

Impostor syndrome? What is that? Do you pretend to be someone else? In a way, I am. No matter what I do, I keep thinking that I am pretending to be something that I am not. My success in whatever I do in life is based on purely lucky circumstances. My success is not actually merit-based.

That is what impostor syndrome feels like. It is also something that a lot of successful women experience. It is completely irrational and, no matter how often people tell you that you deserve your success, you don’t believe them.

I have personally come into contact with this feeling as I am simultaneously a grad student and have my own web design business. On the one hand, people expect me to be an expert in my field of study – literature. I am getting a PhD after all, so why would I not be an expert? On the other hand, I have my own business. I am accountable for everything that happens at Preschiato Design. I am responsible for my customers’ happiness because I am taking their money for my services.

Impostor syndrome is a difficult thing. Most of the time, you’re laughing about it. I laugh about it a lot because I do not consider myself to be an expert in literature or web design. However, I have to be. Otherwise, my career choices would never work out. I would forever be unhappy with everything I do because I think I don’t deserve it.

So what should you do?

Since it doesn’t help when other people tell you how much you have achieved in your job and in your life, you need to tell yourself how far you have come. But simply telling yourself is usually not enough either. What can you do? Write it down. Write down every single you have achieved and make it a reoccurring thing. It doesn’t matter if you do it daily, weekly, or monthly. It all depends on what you need.

Once the period of time you have chosen has passed, sit down and write down everything you have achieved in that time. If you have it black on white, you’ll see how much you can do and you will be reassured that your success is based on your actions. To take it one step further, you can also create for the upcoming days or weeks and measure your actions based on this list.

Do you suffer from impostor syndrome? How do you deal with it?

Tumblr’s Theme Options Explained

Tumblr is the place to express yourself. You can style everything in a unique way and make your blog completely your own. Sometimes you even want to create your own Tumblr theme to be the only person to have one particular design. In some cases, you even want to share the code that you create. Or you just want to be able to easily change colors or layouts in your own theme. This article is supposed to give you some insight into Tumblr Theme Options which you can employ to make your theme more customizable.
Tumblr Theme Options are those fields you see on the customization screen where you can enter custom links or change colors. All in all, you can enable these different options:

  • colors
  • fonts
  • booleans
  • drop-down lists
  • text
  • images

All of these seem pretty forward and you can use them to make your theme really your own. That is usually the ultimate goal. You do not want something that looks just like everyone else’s blog.

You can use these theme options in the CSS and the HTML part of your theme. (A little sidenote: If you plan to host the CSS file yourself and load it remotely to your Tumblr theme, you have to make sure that everything containing theme options is within the theme itself and not in the external file. Otherwise, Tumblr won’t load those options.)

Let’s take a look at the different options Tumblr offers us in more detail.

Colors

In order to use the color options, there are two steps you have to take. First, you need to go the CSS ID or Class and add the color (you can style both the color itself and the background color). This is a example on how to do this:

.sample {
    background-color: {color:Sample Background};
    border: 1px solid {color:Sample Border};
    color: {color: Sample};
}

As you can see, there is a structure to the option. Tumblr theme options (and blocks) are always put in curly brackets in the place where you want to use them. For the color options, you start the block with color, followed by a colon, and then the name you want to give the color and which appears in the customization screen later on.

The second step is to make the option actually accessible to the theme user. For this, you need to go to the head section of your theme.

<head>
     <meta name="color:Sample Background" content="#ffffff" />
     <meta name="color:Sample Border" content="#333333" />
     <meta name="color:Sample" content="#333333" />
</head>

Tumblr code offers you the option to include meta tags whose names start with color and then offers a color picker for your theme users. I have included the full HEX code in the content part of the meta tag. This is the theme’s default color for that particular instance. What Tumblr is doing with this is that it is replacing the block {color:Sample} with the HEX code you have defined in the content in the meta tag. You can, of course, also include the option in inline styling:

<div class="sample" style="color: {color:Sample}">Content</div>

Fonts

Font options in Tumblr themes work similarly to the color options. The only thing you need to do is replace “color” with “font” in your blocks. Just to make sure, we’re going to take a closer look at the font options as well.

.sample {
     font-family: {font:Sample};
}

Looks exactly the same as the color options, right? It is the same premise. The block in curly brackets is simply a placeholder for whatever content you put into the meta tag.

<meta name="font:Sample" content="Helvetica Neue" />

You have now defined the font that is to be used any time you put {font:Sample} in your CSS.

Booleans

Booleans in Tumblr theme options are those little buttons that you can toggle on or off and this triggers some kind of event/design option. If you only have two choices, booleans are the go-to-option for Tumblr. You can use them both in the CSS and the HTML parts of your theme. Let’s take a look at the structure of booleans:

.sample {
     display: block;
     {block:ifSampleLeft}float: left;{/block:ifSampleLeft}
     {block:ifNotSampleLeft}float: right;{/block:ifNotSampleLeft}
}

When you use booleans in your CSS or HTML, you always have to open the curly brackets with {block:if. That’s how Tumblr knows that a boolean is following. Then, with camelCase (the “if” is lowercase and every new word is capitalized while it’s all written in one word), the name you want to appear on the customization screen. One thing you need to remember is that you need to close the block again. You do this by copying the opening block and then just add a slash in front of block. To define code to be used when the option is toggled off, you include “Not” directly after the if.

In the meta tag, it’s a bit different. If you look at the name that you gave your option, you’ll see that it’s a bit difficult to read. You don’t want your option to appear like that in the customization screen. The meta tag can be written like this, then, because of the camelCase we used earlier:

<meta name="if:Sample Left" content="1" />

Now, the if moves in front of the colon and there is a space between the words in your name. That is how the option will appear in the customization screen. For the content, you only have two options. You can either put 0 or 1. 0 means the option is toggled off by default and 1 means the option is toggle on by default. In this example, the div with the sample class would float left by default. You do not need to define the {block:ifNotSampleLeft} in the meta tag.

Drop-Down Lists

If you want to offer more than two options and the use of booleans is not feasible, Tumblr offers the use of drop-down lists to customize the look of your theme. These lists can really contain everything: blocks of text usually, but also fonts or colors.

<div class="sample {select:Layout}">Content</div>

You can, for example, use the select feature to add a class to a div. Let’s say we would want to give our users the option to choose between a single-column layout, a grid layout, and a masonry layout. You define this in the meta tags again:

<meta name="select:Layout" content="single-column" title="Single Column" />
<meta name="select:Layout" content="grid" title="Grid" />
<meta name="select:Layout" content="masonry" title="Masonry" />

We have now defined the three options you want to offer. They’re all put together under the name “select:Layout”. That is what put in the HTML earlier. What happens is that, depending on the selection of your user, the block will be replaced with either, “single-column,” “grid,” or “masonry.” Now you can define the layout of your site with the help of these classes.

The first selection in the meta-tags will always be the default selection. In our case, the single-column layout would be the default for the sample div.

Text

Text blocks are, I think, the easiest of the theme options that Tumblr offers. Often, these are used for custom links or secondary descriptions. Usually, you put these blocks in the HTML part of your theme, because it’s something the user should be able to enter for the final look of the theme. The block itself looks like this (similar to the colors and fonts options):

<div class="sample">{text:Sample}</div>

Text blocks are pretty straightforward. Once you put it in the meta tags, there will be a text field for the user to use in the customization screen.

<meta name="text:Sample" content="Sample Text" />

The div containing the text block will now show the sample text you put in the content part of the meta tag.

Images

Images work almost the same exact way. The only thing is that you put the block in the source area of an image block in your HTML or in the CSS (when you define a background image for example).

HTML:

<div class="sample"><img src="{image:Sample} /></div>

CSS:

.sample {
     background-image: url('{image:Sample Background}');
}

The blocks are placeholders for the URL of the image you want to use and, to make it possible for the user to upload their own images, you need to put the block in the meta tags as well.

<meta name="image:Sample" content="" />
<meta name="image:Sample Background" content="" />

If you leave the content portion of the meta tag empty, then there won’t be an image by default. In the customization screen, the user gets the option to upload their own image.

We have looked at the different theme options that are built into Tumblr and that you can easily use to make your themes more customizable. To read up some more on these options, take a look at the documentation that Tumblr itself offers.