Take WordPress Live Smoothly — A Launch-Day Checklist

You’re so close you can taste it. The design process went smashingly, the development team translated it beautifully into a working site and all the content is in place. It’s time to take your new WordPress site live!

When you’re so close to the finish line, it can be tempting to sprint the final distance, but in the web world, it’s critically important to make sure you have all your ducks in a row as you introduce your new site to the world.

The last thing you want is for your first impression to go sour because some little detail got overlooked. Instead, follow this launch day checklist to make sure that you have your bases covered, and you can debut your new online home with confidence. Continue reading

The Myth of Simple Custom Design

Today, I’d like to address something that comes up in conversations with clients quite a bit — the myth of simple custom design. The proliferation of “get it done quick and cheap” web builders like Squarespace and design marketplaces like Fiverr have led to a growing public assumption that high-quality custom designs and “simple” websites can be had for a pittance. This is just not the case.

Think about buying a custom website or design like buying a one-of-a-kind dress from a fashion designer, custom-made to fit your figure. You wouldn’t go with whomever could provide you with the cheapest dress, ask for it to be completed hastily or farm it out to a tailor who is too far away to take your measurements. The same is true of custom design and site development!

So let’s break it down and look at some specific reasons why you shouldn’t use your bottom line as your guiding light when making decisions about custom design. Continue reading

WordPress Plugins We Love: Gravity Forms

One of the reasons we love WordPress so much is the vast number of plugins it has available to extend the built-in functionality. But since there are over 40,000 plugins available in the repository, we thought it would be fun to help you sort through the pile by recommending a few of our favorites. These will be plugins we use all the time, have thoroughly tested and highly suggest using if you are looking for what they offer.

Websites need forms. It’s a fact, whether it’s a contact form, and opt-in form, a quiz, an on-boarding questionairre, or a million other things. Sure, you could build those forms manually, or use the embed code from a multitude of third-party services, customizing each so that they look harmonious when used together. But why do that when a high-caliber plugin like Gravity Forms exists?

Gravity Forms is hands down our favorite form management solution for WordPress, and has been for a very long time. Constantly updated, improved and expanded upon, it can easily handle anything form-related we throw at it. Stick around, and we’ll go through some of its best features. Continue reading

How to Pick the Best WordPress Plugins

We’ve been building WordPress websites here at Solamar for a long time now, and as such, we’ve curated our own internal list of the best WordPress plugins to use for a variety of functions we need our sites to have. There’s BackupBuddy for site backups and migrations, iThemes Security to protect against intrusions, Yoast SEO for Search Engine Optimization, and so on.

But what about after we hand a website over to the client? What happens when they discover a need for a functionality and have to implement it themselves? WordPress plugins are the easiest way to do this, but you can’t just go about installing any old plugin you find on the web. A poorly coded plugin can open you up to vulnerability, break your site, slow it down or just be a pain to use.

So how do you know which plugins are the best to pick? Stick around, and I’ll drop some knowledge on you. Continue reading

How to Get Your Twitter Account Verified

It’s a social world, and one in which it is getting harder and harder to make any sort of a splash. That’s why the “verification” badge on social media services like Twitter is so highly sought after. Having that little blue badge next to your account name marks you as official, a person or brand of interest with enough clout that Twitter itself has deemed you worthy.

So how do you go about getting one of those tasty little blue checkmarks? It requires a little legwork on your part, but the steps aren’t all that difficult. Stick around, and we’ll walk you through the process. Continue reading

It’s Time To Style Your Google Maps

Google Maps have become so powerful and so ubiquitous that they’ve almost become a default element to include in website designs, even if it’s just to display the location of a single business on a contact page. Users know how to interact with them, and they look great.

But….they could look better! As a designer, it’s always been one of my pet peeves that it wasn’t easily possible to match the colors of the Google map to the brand colors of the website that it was living within. Sure, the maps looked great, but wouldn’t it be even greater if the blue of the water matched the blue of the design exactly? Yes. Yes it would.

Well, good news! Over the last year or two, we’ve seen the rise of a few tools (including one from Google itself) that make the styling of their maps possible, and they provide a degree of control over the map display that I had never dreamed possible.

So stick around, and we’ll color some maps! Continue reading

How To Easily Make an Animated GIF

Love them or loathe them, animated GIFs have become part of the way we communicate with each other in the digital age. Though they have seen regular usage as a way to inject fun commentary into a chat or social media feed for a while now, we are also beginning to see animated GIFs used for marketing purposes as well. Email newsletters are using them to add a little life to a relatively static medium, and their use in social media has grown to include more than memes.

But how do you make one? Animating things is complicated, right? Weeeeellll, sometimes it can be! But even the technically challenged can start creating and using animated GIFs in their marketing (or just for a little fun), with the help of some online tools that make the creation process a snap.

So stick around, and we’ll have you popping out animated GIFs in no time! Continue reading