Best practices: Manually upgrade WordPress websites

Why would you manually upgrade WordPress websites?

The importance of maintaining a website, a WordPress website particularly, needs no more advertising. There is enough material in our article The importance of maintaining your website” as it is. With the proliferation of tools out there, a website owner can always find new ways of automating any of these processes. When it comes to upgrading WordPress websites, there are indeed many shortcuts. There are businesses such as mine that will take on the work for you. But even then, I will still have the tendency, as part of my project delivery cycle, to report on the processes that are used to accomplish such work. I find that It empowers my clients to know what is going on with what is effectively THEIR website. There are also ways such as the JetPack WordPress plugin, the WordPress wp_config changes instructions, Advanced Automatic Updates and more that will allow you to do automatic upgrades. The only issues you will find with automatic updates are the likes of the following:

  • They do not always update every plugin and WordPress version
  • When they would, they do not have access to all plugin updates
  • There are many reasons why you might not want to upgrade
  • You will not be able to downgrade to your previous version if the upgrade does not work
  • A safe user will want to but won’t be able to backup before an upgrade. Backing up before an upgrade allows you to restore if tests fail.

Where the user wants a reliable site that is quality tested for every upgrade, one of the best things to do is actually just to upgrae manually. If you think that is a lot of work, try having a look at trying to fix the issues that come with a WordPress website that is constantly automatically updated without any possibility to restore at any point because of lack of knowledge of where any issue might have arisen.

There are developers tools that allow some control over the process but the only one I have come across and that has truly got me excited might not be as ready as we would all like it to be. In the meantime, this is the ideal manual process for upgrading your website.

How would you manually upgrade WordPress websites?

For each upgrade (i.e. each upgrade of a plugin or WordPress), do the following:

1. Backup your website

The best backup tools include the WordPress plugin Updraft Plus. The advantage of a WordPress backup as opposed to a backup of everything else outside WordPress is that the upgrade you are performing is a WordPress-related upgrade (WordPress version or plugin). Always make sure that the backup includes everything, from the database to the plugins to the content. Also make sure that you download the backup files onto your computer, just in case!

2. Upgrade the plugin or WordPress

3. Carry out your testing

Make sure your pages’ layout is fine, your e-commerce still sells, your e-learning still teaches, your forms still send, your branding is intact, your files still show…

If all is well, you are done. If not, you must make the decision as to whether:

  • * The issues are manageable: this means that they can either be fixed manually without requiring a downgrade or they are accepted as a downside to the upgrade. This happened to me more than once but the following occurence gave me a choice of either a manual fix or an acceptance of the issue. I use the theme called Parabola on the worldsingersongwriters.com website. One of their upgrades changed the menus to be left aligned rather than center aligned when they were marked as center aligned. Yes, it changed my favourite layout but I accepted that it was not a big enough issue to downgrade back to a less secure theme. I did not even have to tell them (I normally contact developers to report issues), as they had fixed it within days! To be honest, all I would have needed to do (beware jargon) is force the child theme’s css to center the menu, but I reckoned it was not worth it at all.
  • * The issues are causing some trouble or bringing changes to the website or one or more of its features: It is up to you whether those changes are acceptable to your business or not. But note that communication to your users (newsletter, notices on the website, notifications) are one way of dealing with this. One upgrade changed the way one of the features displayed and worked, mainly because the plugin developers wanted to make their system more accessible. For me, it was a question of making the users aware that the functionality will work slightly differently, although it would produce great results as usual. Sometimes, changes are just evolution and refinements rather than mistakes, no matter how unsettling they might at first appear. It is a question of managing the change: I test major changes before deploying them, in order to manage users’ expectations; however, such staging and piloting of changes might arguably be a bit of an overkill when your clientele is only in the less than hundreds.
  • * The issues are categorically unacceptable or even risky: If an upgrade brings security issues or a main functionaliity ceased to work as a result, this might be considered a good time to “undo” the upgrade. In this case, it is time to restore the backup and maybe liaise with the developers to explain the issues. Sometimes, incompatibility or interference between plugins might be the cause. Whatever the issues, they are sometimes known enough that the developers or other users might recommend specific settings or alternative plugins.

What difference does it make to manually upgrade WordPress website?

Being in control of what happens on your website is essential in reducing unplanned downtime, bug reports and performance issues. Being on top of your digital presentation reflects a business for which details matter and shortcuts, at least for the sake of shortcuts, are not an option.

In settings where you have and know your clients, I find that communicating the changes to your users nurtures and strengthens the relationship. After all, the reason you have a website in the first place, is for your clients. Whether they are prospective or established clients, knowing that changes are coming, what changes have been done, to a lesser extent how these have been done, how long they will take and when they will happen prepares them an manages expectations, I would explain the enhancements brought in, whether it is security, performance, functionality or look and feel. I will particularly relate them to the feedback they send, making sure I encourage in parallel their constructive suggestions, bug reports, and new ideas submissions.

Tech2Gether ICT training

Tech2Gether ICT Training – Apr, May, Jun 2017 – ~12 hours

Tech2Gether ICT training is a quick introduction to ICT that consisted in a basic introduction to ICT, hardware vs software, the internet and the world wide web. We foused on web technologies, in particular HTML markup and CSS styling.

The focus was decided by the pupils, aged 10 to 16. This page is aimed at providing additional resources that might help the students to create a complete set of web pages in the hosted space provided.

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Tech2gether ICT Course handbook and Hosting details

We used the following content and structure in this particular course. Right click on the following link to download the Techgether ict session handbook. Your hosting details for uploading your content to the web are below (don’t pay attention to the ones in the handbook).

Hosting details

We created a space for you to host your pages. It is not a full website but a little space on our website for you to view your web pages.

  1. You can contact us using the contact form below to get your username and password if you don’t have it as yet
  2. Open File Explorer
  3. Type in ftp://tech2gether.evosoft.co.uk/yourusername and press Enter.
  4. It will prompt you for a username and password
  5. You’ve logged in to the server now so you can upload your files. One way of doing the upload is to open your local folder in another window where your files are being created. You put the windows side by side and all you need to do is to drag your files from one window to the other.
  6. You will notice that when you go to your web pages e.g. http://tech2gether.evosoft.co.uk/yourusername will just list your files rather than showing your page. This is because you will need an index or default page, generally used as the homepage for your web pages. For our particular hosting, this would be index.html.

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Web editors

  • A simple editor like NotePad is the best way to learn HTML and how to write the markup language: NotePad can be found free on your Windows computer.
  • More sophisticated HTML editors will allow you to see your code more clearly (using e.g. different colours), auto-complete code, preview your content and more. The best ones are NotePad++, Brackets, They require some familiarisation with their environment. There is more sophistication in the likes of Eclipse (including the Web Tools Platform) but at least it is free. This is not the case for the likes of Dreamweaver.

Other free tools that you might find interesting include:

  • The HotPotatoes freeware includes six applications, enabling you to create interactive multiple-choice, short-answer, jumbled-sentence, crossword, matching/ordering and gap-fill exercises for the Web. It creates an html file with JavaScript, see the example of a Music crossword created.
  • A number of tools make it easy for you to generate stylesheets, CSS so you don’t have to write the code yourself. CSS 3 gen, CSS 3 Generator, JDStiles generator and CSS creator.
  • There are also tools that allow you to generate JavaScript code. Some examples are JavaScript Source generator (simply choose on the left menu the type of code you would want to generate), JavaScript Kit ready-made scripts,

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Internet statistics

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Further Web development training courses

  • Among the best web development courses are the W3 courses are the go-to set of online web tutorials and references on web technologies as varied as HTML, HTML5, CSS, JavaScript but also PHP, SQL, Bootstrap and JQuery.
  • There are some free HTML courses on Udemy if you prefer video-based courses.
  • lynda.com

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Contact us

The web is full of information but not all of it is good or contextually appropriate. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email us using the form below:

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Test your skills

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Why have a website: Real benefits and uses Series – 10. Conclusion

Why have a website? Real benefits and uses Series help organisations and individuals reconcile their professional goals with the many solutions offered by digital platforms. So these are real benefits and uses of a website?

  1. A digital presence in the digital age
  2. Getting to your audience everywhere
  3. Visualising a Unique Brand
  4. Multimedia, multisensory experience
  5. Control and ownership
  6. Understanding visitors and customers
  7. Eco-friendly and money-saving
  8. Optimising the efficiency of operations
  9. Showcasing your expertise
  10. Conclusion

Why have a website: Real benefits and uses Series – 10. Conclusion

We have listed a number of ways that a website can be beneficial to a brand beyond just having their presence online. This list is by now way exhaustive not least because the digital realm is merely at its infancy and is constantly growing and innovating. However, it gives a brand the main idea: that going digital presents a plethora of opportunities that only work when they are tied to the corporate, product and marketing strategies. Digital media become more than a ticking-the-box exercice. They are a powerful all-round set of business tools to achieve goals at the different levels of a company’s aspirations and expectations for their brand, their product and their existing and future customers.

According to Internet Live Stats, 75%  of websites are inactive**. A survey conducted by Internet company GoDaddy in 2015 reports that a number of small and medium business cannot see the point of having a website***. It seems an online presence has been reduced more into a peer-pressured trend than a real necessity. And with a lot of business drowning their Unique Selling Points in lookalike graphical user interface, forgetting to plan their digital strategy in line with their corporate goals, it is difficult to not agree.

The only way to be have an active website is to have a website whose implementation digitally deploys the elements that help the business attain their strateic goals. To have such an effective website, it is extremely important to hire a professional digital specialist. What a brand will be looking for is not just a web or UX designer who can make your website lookk good. It is not simply after a web developer who can build a website using great state-of-the art tools. It does not ony want a digital marketer that understand how digital media can be use to optimise brand exposure, share the brand’s messages and attract customers to the products or services.

What a brand needs in order to harness the real benefits and uses of their website is a digital specialist who can:

  • Analyse and understand their business needs (from corporate goals and USP to product strategy to stakeholders’ expectations and needs and marketing plans)
  • Identify the resources needed to achieve the deliverables and create a prototype to help the stakeholders visualise these and help refine their requirements
  • Develop the website as well as the social media and any other aspect of the company’s online presence as required
  • Test and Publish the company’s website
  • Help the business transition the project to service by providing clear documentation, training, suggestions for future enhancement, maintenance plans and more

This model is 3E Web Media’s own proven digital project management model. It has allowed us to successfully plan, manage and deploy digital projects for years and it can guide you in your choices as you choose a specialist such as us or decide to do the work in-house.

End Notes

Why have a website: Real benefits and uses Series – 9. Showcasing your expertise

Why have a website? Real benefits and uses Series help organisations and individuals reconcile their professional goals with the many solutions offered by digital platforms. So these are real benefits and uses of a website?

  1. A digital presence in the digital age
  2. Getting to your audience everywhere
  3. Visualising a Unique Brand
  4. Multimedia, multisensory experience
  5. Control and ownership
  6. Understanding visitors and customers
  7. Eco-friendly and money-saving
  8. Optimising the efficiency of operations
  9. Showcasing your expertise
  10. Conclusion

Why have a website: Real benefits and uses – 9. Showcasing your expertise

We talked about this briefly before but it requires its own section, this is how important this is. Businesses must always think of making money, more speciically profit. However, one of the aspects that are not always emphasized enough is that the foundations need nt only be laid bujt also maintained so that the customers that help make that money become and stay more than cash cows but a community whose interests the business faciliates through their services and/or products. One of the most important things to do for this is to demonstrate the brand skills, not just as a great player in the field but one that constantly evolves with the inevitable changes within the discipline. One way of doing this is to maintain a blog. This is a great way to announce (whether or not they are exclusively from your brand but never when they are from your competition) innovation in the field, new rules or regulations, related news, how tos, case studies putting your customers’ implementation at the centre of your work and a lot more.

One of my favourite brand, Elegant Themes, does this extremely well. Although they are primarily a WordPress theme creator, they create blogs  about anything WordPress, helping their users and visitors who would not have known them otherwise, to make choices for extension, better use WordPress, alongside example of uses by their own customers.

The showcase of skills can extend to webinars and so-called online courses whereby you can teach, train in a subject, introduce and showcase new products, services or service, answer questions related to your expertise in real-time or as a pre-recorded set. You can even offer practice questions, diagnostic assessment and other ways of guiding the customer in their decision making process, their understanding or their knowledge acquisition.

Why have a website: Real benefits and uses Series – 8. Optimising the efficiency of operations

Why have a website? Real benefits and uses Series help organisations and individuals reconcile their professional goals with the many solutions offered by digital platforms. So these are real benefits and uses of a website?

  1. A digital presence in the digital age
  2. Getting to your audience everywhere
  3. Visualising a Unique Brand
  4. Multimedia, multisensory experience
  5. Control and ownership
  6. Understanding visitors and customers
  7. Eco-friendly and money-saving
  8. Optimising the efficiency of operations
  9. Showcasing your expertise
  10. Conclusion

Why have a website: Real benefits and uses – 8. Optimising the efficiency of operations

As a business, I know how important the efficiency of operations translate to smooth service, cost saving and most importantly price reducing or more special offers to the customers. As a sole trader, I know how much a personal assistant is primordial. A website can become just that in a few but essential ways.

  • A website can be updated instantly and easily. While in printing, both the costs and the logistics meant that a great loss both in time and in money, the digital realm comes with easier and most cost-friendly attachments. Now there are a very few exceptions of course: this works if your website developer did not create a Flash website which requires a professional Flash web developer to make the complex changes, just to add an ‘s’ at the end of that 3rd word in the second paragraph, that you happen to have missed. That is not cost efficient. The importance of a well-planned maintenance-friendly web development is primordial here but most of the time, this is the case.
  • A website can manage the authentication of your visitors, making sure that users register, check that they own the email address they register with and are the correct people who log in by checking their password. So where you would have your bank manager spending 5 minutes asking you a number of questions to identify you and whether you are who you say you are, you get an automated online version that saves your business time  and is convenient and straigthforward feature available 24/to the customer.
  • A website can manage orders and sales: e-commerce features allows for complete online sales, from browsing services and products, choosing the preferred items and even customising them according to different options to ordering, paying and receiving confirmation. For so-called virtual items such as digital downloads or online course, the functionality can even give instant access to the content or service. With such functionality being common place today, customers are more likely to be able to do it themselves and easily. A brand will need to ensure that everything within the sales process makes the customer confident to proceed, including proof of the security, smoothness and friendliness of the transaction as well as feedback from previous customers and positive ratings from consumers associations. Some of the many other advantages offered by this functionality include order analysis and the management of promotions.
  • A live chat allows you to communicate with your potential buyer in real time and directly on the site as they arrive. Here and there, you can ask them if they require help and you can even follow take care of more than one client at once, which you could not do in a physical shop without having to be in two places at the same time!
  • Many more operations can be automated online beyond sales, not least the distribution of a title, link to and featured image of your blog post to all your social media and your newsletter when it is published.

A website can do a lot more but these few examples give you how you can make your operations more efficient!

Why have a website: Real benefits and uses Series – 7. Eco-friendly and money-saving

Why have a website? Real benefits and uses Series help organisations and individuals reconcile their professional goals with the many solutions offered by digital platforms. So these are real benefits and uses of a website?

  1. A digital presence in the digital age
  2. Getting to your audience everywhere
  3. Visualising a Unique Brand
  4. Multimedia, multisensory experience
  5. Control and ownership
  6. Understanding visitors and customers
  7. Eco-friendly and money-saving
  8. Optimising the efficiency of operations
  9. Showcasing your expertise
  10. Conclusion

Why have a website: Real benefits and uses – 7. Eco-friendly and money-saving

One of the advantages of the digital world is that your brand can save print and post expenses. However, this needs to be managed in a smart way. This is not about passing your costs to the customer, especially if you are willing to develop a special relationship such as the one we talked about in the previous section. A business must remember that it is made up of people and that these people too are customers of other brands. So my question to you as that customer is: would you like to pay for printable materials every time?

The obvious answer is NO. We are reasonable as customers and we will pay for what we think is reasonable to pay for. If a brand puts together a booklet that helps me manage a part of my life better, and offers this for free, YES I will print the booklet myself if I don’t want to read it from the screen. So the questions we must ask ourselves to be eco-friendly and help ourselves as a brand but also as a customer is: Have we created the digital content in a way that faciliates reading, that makes it attractive and easy to read on-screen? If it must be printed, do we offer an alternative version with a layout that faciliates such format? Should the printing of that material be our responsibility or that of the customer?

So YES, you can make printed materials downloadable from your website. This gives your visitors instant access to the documents rather than having to wait for it to arrive in the post, while It saves you print, package and post costs. However, it is your responsibility to take great care of facilitating the visualisation of the content in a way that it is easy to read online and to print if necessary. Just like accessibility helps make a website usable, eco-friendliness can help both you and your customer save money.

Why have a website: Real benefits and uses series – 6. Understanding visitors and customers

Why have a website? Real benefits and uses Series help organisations and individuals reconcile their professional goals with the many solutions offered by digital platforms. So these are real benefits and uses of a website?

  1. A digital presence in the digital age
  2. Getting to your audience everywhere
  3. Visualising a Unique Brand
  4. Multimedia, multisensory experience
  5. Control and ownership
  6. Understanding visitors and customers
  7. Eco-friendly and money-saving
  8. Optimising the efficiency of operations
  9. Showcasing your expertise
  10. Conclusion

Why have a website: Real benefits and uses – 6. Understanding visitors and customers

An effective website can meet and foresee the needs of its visitors. It can easily be found, interacted with and accessed with the goal of not making only one sale, but fostering a relationship with customers. This relationship can create up-sale opportunities and repeat business. After all, it is easier to make money from a repeat customer who knows and trusts you than to continually have to source new business.

Your website analytics will be able to help you understand who is coming to your website, when, why (what pages they visit), the retention, their least favourite pages, the blog posts that are most attractive and a lot more. To even make this more effective, surveys and feedback forms can be drawn to interact with customers (a great incentive is a coupon or voucher in exchange for 5 minutes of a user’s time).

This type of action and many more can only be done efficiently on your own website or based on data taken from your website (although social media analytics will enrich that data, no doubt). The data will help you enhance your digital presence which is the presentation of your brand as well as improve Customer Relations.

In addition, this strategy can help you target specific visitors. Every visitor is different and each visitor’s needs can be met with a targeted web strategy. With proper targeting, you reach precisely the right consumers who have a particular need, desire specific products, or make suggestions that create opportunities or services for your brand.

Last and definitely not least, one of the most important and effective digital marketing tool is email marketing. As a result the collection of customer email addresses is essential in the building of mailing lists. These are the customers who receive our newsletters, a regular aggregation of our news, offers, and the set of marketing content that aims to attract customers, retain their interest and make them want to share your website link with their friends and recommend your products.

Why have a website: Real benefits and uses Series – 5. Control and ownership

Why have a website? Real benefits and uses Series help organisations and individuals reconcile their professional goals with the many solutions offered by digital platforms. So these are real benefits and uses of a website?

  1. A digital presence in the digital age
  2. Getting to your audience everywhere
  3. Visualising a Unique Brand
  4. Multimedia, multisensory experience
  5. Control and ownership
  6. Understanding visitors and customers
  7. Eco-friendly and money-saving
  8. Optimising the efficiency of operations
  9. Showcasing your expertise
  10. Conclusion

Why have a website: Real benefits and uses – 5. Control and ownership

Social networking tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (and the many other that seem to pop in every few weeks) are unbelievable assets for digital marketing. However, one thing they are NOT is a website, your website. For one, you don’t have as much control over them as you would think. They can change their layout, show as many of your past messages at once as they wish. Although they offer various tools that allow you a level of input as to the content, photo, poll and video you want to showcase and when, there is a limitation as to the look and feel, in particular the layout, the reuse of the content you use.

In addition, every time you advertise your content on the social media of your choice, what you are first and foremost advertising is the social platform. The number of visitors, the retention generated by the time it takes to read your content, the other content that is bound to attract or distract your viewer from what you are showing them does not belong to you and you seldom choose what it is. These are only some examples of what happens and that you should be concerned about.

On your website, the terms and conditions you have drawn  applies to all your content. As users come to read one blog post, whatever else is shown, such as other content, sales , news, advertising, is what YOU have chosen to be there, not a third party. You also can more easily analyse the people who visit your digital presence if you own it.The secret lies in getting your social presence and your website to work together. The social medium is one for marketing and reaching further into our audience as well as networks of their networks.  While the idea is to always start the conversation there, the point is to draw them back to the website where all is happening for your brand. The effective ways of doing this includ announcing promotional offers, new items, giving tips that are of interest to your audience thereby also demonstrating your brand’s expertise.

Remember that with the proliferation of networks, it would be a shame for potential customers to miss out on a service or news because these did not appear on their feed at the time they were on their social page. On your website, the content will always be there (if you let it). More importantly, if you make it searchable (a must, by the way), they can always find it and without the distraction of other similar content from your competitors as it would be on a social platform.

Why have a website: Real Benefits and uses Series – 4. A Multimedia, multisensory experience

Why have a website? Real benefits and uses Series help organisations and individuals reconcile their professional goals with the many solutions offered by digital platforms. So these are real benefits and uses of a website?

  1. A digital presence in the digital age
  2. Getting to your audience everywhere
  3. Visualising a Unique Brand
  4. Multimedia, multisensory experience
  5. Control and ownership
  6. Understanding visitors and customers
  7. Eco-friendly and money-saving
  8. Optimising the efficiency of operations
  9. Showcasing your expertise
  10. Conclusion

Why have a website: Real benefits and uses – 4. Multimedia, multisensory experience

The flexibility and power of a website comes not just in innovately implementing your Unique Selling Point. It is particularly in the multiplicity of ways it helps you visualise your brand. You can create content in a way that creates greater impact by using multiple media to appeal to different customers’ senses.

Your website can create more of a multisensory impact because you can illustrate further than text and images by adding processes, events and stories by way of animation, simulations, video, audio and more, ideas that cannot be implement as well two-dimensionally. A visual tour of the premises, an online flipping catalogue are but a few examples.

In addition, a website can manage content release: it can allow a brand to present the same content many times, release it at specific dates/times, show it to a selected number of people that verify particular criteria, look different at different times of the year or of the day and so on. These selective releases personalise the users’ experiences and contribute to customer retention.

It is not just multimedia that enriches the site and appeals to multiple sense. A website owner, a brand, have the opportunity to make their visitors more than a spectator or a consumer. They have the power to empower their visitors into equal partners by adding interactivity and call to actions into their website. They can create a sense of community with registration, communication and login features. Users can be asked to vote for their preferred product, slogan, given the opportunity to make suggestions. These are as a few of the many ways of embarking your users in a mutually beneficial journey and help them become emotionally attached to your brand.

Why have a website: Real benefits and uses Series – 3. Visualising a Unique Brand

Why have a website? Real benefits and uses Series help organisations and individuals reconcile their professional goals with the many solutions offered by digital platforms. So these are real benefits and uses of a website?

  1. A digital presence in the digital age
  2. Getting to your audience everywhere
  3. Visualising a Unique Brand
  4. Multimedia, multisensory experience
  5. Control and ownership
  6. Understanding visitors and customers
  7. Eco-friendly and money-saving
  8. Optimising the efficiency of operations
  9. Showcasing your expertise
  10. Conclusion

Why have a website: Real benefits and uses – 3. Visualising a Unique Brand

A brand is more than a name and a logo. Sticking those using respectively a domain like mybrand.com and a logo no matter how nice unfairly under-represent the brand. Most of the rules that govern the brand in the physical world apply to the digital world and a lot of the time, they will apply even more on that platform, as the attention span is even shorter on the screen. The digital world has its own rules also though which have to be factored in. So carrying the brand online also means that certain factors must be taken into consideration.

Brand guidelines are a set of rules that provide a company, their website developer and their content creator with a framework within which to create their digital presence. They go from making sure that the style (colours, font, etc) used are consistent with the image and identity of the company to ensuring that the language used (e.g. professional, cool, jargony, etc) corresponds to the laguage used and expected by the company’s audience or the company’s convoited public. The guidelines can also offer templates that dictate the structure of content, especially regular articles and posts such as a movie review in an online magazine, news in a corporation, how-tos in an informational or instructive blogs, and so on. They allow consistency throughout the digital presentation and presence of the company, giving the user a sense that they are within a particular organisation. When well written and enforced, they create a psychological link between a certain way of looking and doing things and the company. Therefore they are not just important, they are an essential strategy to presenting the company in the light that fulfill its main goals, and at the very foundation of its marketing.

One of the rules of the digital medium is that customers can stumble upon or purposedly visit your website at any time including when you are not in service. This asynchronicity means that you cannot always reply to any concerns or further questions immediately, although companies are increasngly employing round the clock support and such ways of bypassing this. The argument though is not about having someone there in case there is a further question: this has its use but should not cloud the opportunity underlying this apparent disadvantage. The digital medium requires the branding exercise to be more thorough, plan more, test a lot and anticipate as much as possible through those means.

Providing thus a visual representation of your business gives your potential customers an idea of whom you are, what you do, where you are and how they can start having a conversation with you. But more than that, it forces the company to thoroughly strategise and to review itself through actual user testing. Such an appropriately branded website reflects the brand’s unique story, unique selling point and their place in the market and appeals to their exact audience, reflecting exacting why they should be buying from them.

Why have a website? Real benefits and uses Series – 2. Getting to your audience everywhere

Why have a website? Real benefits and uses Series help organisations and individuals reconcile their professional goals with the many solutions offered by digital platforms. So these are real benefits and uses of a website?

  1. A digital presence in the digital age
  2. Getting to your audience everywhere
  3. Visualising a Unique Brand
  4. Multimedia, multisensory experience
  5. Control and ownership
  6. Understanding visitors and customers
  7. Eco-friendly and money-saving
  8. Optimising the efficiency of operations
  9. Showcasing your expertise
  10. Conclusion

Why have a website: Real benefits and uses – 2. Getting to your audience everywhere

An increasing number of people are working, playing, communicating, releaxing digital. More and more people are online, even more are mobile, harnessing the immediacy and practicality of the medium. 40,000 searches a second on Google at the beginning of 2016 attest to this, and Google is only one of the search engines. The message is this: people are searching for answers, companionship, purpose, guidance, products, service every second, anywhere in the world, any time of the day, and that is only increasing. The Internet opens up to a worldwide market, people who correspond to your company’s user persona and are located beyond where your physical marketing can reach.

It is also part of your average customer’s expectations for you to be online. That expectation goes beyond a domain name and a list of services. A company should demonstrate they do more than just the minim by the digital example of their website. In the way you present yourself to your audience, you can establish who you are (brand and USP), your innovative nature (using the latest technologies and practice), your level of care (responsiveness, accessibility and usability in design and in customer service). Your digital presence must be a digital projection of your company’s vision, attracting a customer to want to join a driven, maintained, supported and visionary train. Understanding this varied audience and reflecting it digitally makes your website an open door to online visitors.

Why have a website? Real benefits and uses Series – 1. A digital presence in the digital age

Why have a website? Real benefits and uses Series help organisations and individuals reconcile their professional goals with the many solutions offered by digital platforms. So these are real benefits and uses of a website?

  1. A digital presence in the digital age
  2. Getting to your audience everywhere
  3. Visualising a Unique Brand
  4. Multimedia, multisensory experience
  5. Control and ownership
  6. Understanding visitors and customers
  7. Eco-friendly and money-saving
  8. Optimising the efficiency of operations
  9. Showcasing your expertise
  10. Conclusion

Why have a website? Real benefits and uses – 1. A digital presence in the digital age

Having a digital presence and succeeding online have become a necessity. Search engines are now default go-to places for finding information, services, products, advice, friendship and even love. The business that Google, Bing or Yahoo does not list loses out. This is particularly relevant when you consider that Google alone counts 40,000 searches every second*! This has forced companies to have a website and ensure they are listed on search engines as soon as possible and as highly ranked as possible to get more clients. In today’s world, a company’s position is increasingly judged digitally.

The emotional blackmail and the fashionable pressure of needing to be online could never be the right way of getting a business into the real benefits and uses of having a website. As a result, it could hardly be the right premises for a business to create the digital presence that would indeed make the right difference for the brand. There is so much more to presenting one’s venture in a relevant manner without drowning one’s Unique Selling Point (USP), marketing it correctly and harvesting its advantages. In fact, many a time we have stumbled upon websites that just scream of having checked the box of the necessary online presence and indeed stopped right there.

So what more is there to a website than having a domain name, a logo, and some information about business services? Well this article argues that a Website is more than just displaying company’s information and brand. It is a global medium of interaction with existing and potential clients and is about continually attracting and retaining your client based on what your business does best, uniquely in a manner that satisfy your clients.

The importance of regularly maintaining your web presence

There are over 1 billion websites in the world (you should see them counting up every second!)1, a number by far different from the real total once the number of inactive websites are added. It is easy to see why, with all the work that is required not just to develop a website but also to keep it running. Digital developments, web x.0, Internet enhancements, hacking, bugs, patches, competition are as many words that any online presence has to deal with on a regular basis. For that, a website, an online course, a digital application requires on-going maintenance to keep up with the changes prompted by the opportunities as well as the threats thus presented by the Internet. This “oiling of the machine” involves Website Monitoring, Website Updates, Website Security, Website Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Content Refresh.

Monitoring

It is by monitoring your website that you can find out about its availability and access to it. A number of extensions provide monitoring features, many for free within reason. They will allow users to monitor their website’s availability and even sometimes to identify the source of the downtime. Knowing where to find the problem, how to tackle it diligently is paramount to reducing disruption to your digital presence and to the services that you offer and therefore to your customers. There is no automatic functionality that provides this kind of functionality or in fact skills and it is highly recommended to employ the services of a knowledgeable business such as ourselves.

Updates

Website updates are an important part of keeping your website fresh and active. To ensure those updates do not adversely affect your website settings or content, you need to follow a rigorous process of maintenance that requires backing up, staging, upgrading, testing and sometimes restoring. This needs to be done for each application that requires updating and can take time and be precarious.

There are four common types of updates:

  • The core upgrades that relate to the framework itself on which your website is built e.g. WordPress, Joomla, Drupal…
  • The extensions upgrades that relate to any additional codes that you add on to perform more specific functionality. In WordPress for example, these are the both common essential plugins pertaining to security, monitoring and performance, and business specific ones e.g. e-commerce or booking.
  • The user interface upgrades keep the look and feel upt-to-date. These are for example the WordPress theme updates or Bootstrap updates
  • In WordPress, there are also Translation file updates

WordPress core alone has had 19 updates in the 8 months just between Jan and Aug 20162, an average of over 2 updates a month. WordPress minor and security updates are automatic and JetPack lets you setup automatic updates for extensions in your website. Nevertheless, not all can or should be automatically updated and you must ensure you can still go back (restore your website to its pre-upgrade state if the update goes awry) and therefore allow yourself time to backup your website before the change. In addition, you will need to test your website to ensure that all upgrades have been successful and that your extensions and website functionality and look and feel continue to work with the new core codes the way that you expect them to. The more extensions you have, the more upgrades you will need, each preceeded of course by a backup for safety, and each followed by a test for quality assurance. You can see how the work can slowly but surely escalate your maintenance time.

Security

Security is the most obvious requirement of a website on-going maintenance and yet it is often taken for granted. There are a lot of applications that will help website owners ensure security. Yet again, it is a question of identifying a security issue, preventing it in the short term but not analysing the issue behind the symptom. You can get to the bottom of issues on your own or you can get a security service such as ours to help.

Search Engine Optimisation

Search Engine Optimisation tends to be forgotten once a set of keywords have been chosen for the content and the website has been submitted to search engines. It remains important after that to maintain the website’s visibility and competitive edge. Regular analytics inform strategic digital marketing and this is something that keeps your site active, search engines aware and your digital business competitive.

Content Refresh

Although last, content is definitely not the least and in fact might just be the most important aspect of maintaining your web presence. Unlike other maintenance aspects discussed before, content refresh concerns not just websites, web applications or online courses but also other digital presence such as social media, email newsletter and digital marketing such as banners and guest postings.

Keeping a blog or a way to continually speak about your business, its stories, its successes, its lessons, its news, what others say about it clients and press alike and a lot more is the best way to tell potential clients, current customers, competition and search engines that you and your business are active, knowledgeable, constantly fresh and highly competitive.

There are integrations that can be done between your website and your social media to allow every new article to be advertise on your social media. However, these types of automation won’t do is to choose the right content to re-advertise, to personalise messages to each social media, to find what people want to know about and refresh the content to answer specific questions and much more of what only the human touch and digital skills can do together.

Check Refresh

One of the most time-consuming but nonetheless enjoyable parts of my work is to ensure that I am aware of the latest changes in technology. Now systems you use might alert you to security or bug fixes, enhancements or new features but one thing they might not always do or at least not completely is to let you know about new or best practice, new processes or just tips that make your life as a consultant easier. Don’t get me wrong, they do: they send newsletters, tips… Some of them even have announcements, notifications and other such little messages within their software. However, what I am talking about is the fountain of knowledge that is so often buried in super long forums, barely has the time to completely fit within the timely walls of networking events. When I go to the Adobe Articulate community forum, I feel saturated with information, great ones, but still staturated. Reading the WordPress news, going to its ‘codex’ and thousand and one place where the information exists is just, well work, specialised work.

Linking

Your website will have more than one link, including external links (pointing to other websites) and internal (pointing to webpages within your own structure). Part of maintaining your website involves checking that all these links continue to work as other websites might stop working, move things about and your own website might lose search engine credibility if it hosts so-called ‘dead links’. Part of maintaining your website therefore involves ensuring that none of your customers comes across a dead-end which turns your site into an amateurish presence and leaves the client wanting and definitely looking elsewhere for their answer. Tools like WordPress have such built-in or add-on functionality and this will reveal itself to be a great asset for the webmaster passionate about offering their customers a professional digital presence. It is worth feeding the results of such tools to strategy to help them minimise addition of such types of urls in the first place as this kind of exercise might not be feasible too frequently.
Check not only for dead links but also for redirects as those slow down the linking and do not in general look very good. In addition to verifying external links, it is definitely worth checking internal links. Finally it is an advantage to ensure that linking to your website is maintained. Having people linking to your website shows search engines that other websites trust you, but what you want to ensure is that the right websites point to you, and the right words are used to label those links. This is not about dictating what others should do with their websites but about ensuring that those you have a good enough relationship with can ensure that the backlinking is actually optimally mutualy beneficial. In fact, it should be part of the backlinking discussions in the first place to ensure that the other party understands what label you would prefer associating any link to your website with: there is such a difference between cheap websites and affordable websites!

Conclusion

The Internet offers great opportunities for today’s businesses. With 40000 Google searches a second, you cannot afford to not be listed among the first options. In addition, knowing that new businesses come only every minute, keeping your competitive edge with a consistently up-to-date fresh website business. You can do it yourself, no doubt, with all the digital tools available around, and distract yourself from the business of your own skill, preferring DIY to professional help in the midst of a competition that employs knowledgeable professionals. Or you can make sure you hire the services of the likes of website maintenance specialists such as 3E Web Media. We offer different options depending on how big the website is in terms of the number of applications it uses, to allow you to chose the relevant options for your needs or you can simply contact us for consultancy or custom requirements. Let us take care of your Website Maintenance or let us guide you at the very least, it would be our pleasure.

Notes
1. http://www.internetlivestats.com/total-number-of-websites/
1. https://codex.wordpress.org/WordPress_Versions

How to add icons to WordPress menus: the simplest way

How to add icons to WordPress menus: Some examples

Do you want to make your menu more attractive with icons, or just add some social icon directly in it, even your logo or any other examples or reason that you can no doubt think about that involves icons or images in menus? The simple answer in WordPress is that ‘You can’. There are many ways that you can do it, from the simpler ones to the most complicated ones that involve coding / programming. This article is about the simplest way of them all, that gives a standard site a straightforward and easy way to make its menu look more appealing or at least more visual.

How to add icons to WordPress menus: 2 examples in one menu

Examples How to add icons to WordPress menus

How to add icons to WordPress menus: There is a user-friendly plugin for that

Menu Icons Plugin Settings

Menu Icons Plugin: Settings

Menu Icons is a user-friendly WordPress plugin that allows you to do just that without the use of any coding!

  • Find the plugin by searching for keyword ‘Menu icons’ in the plugin search box of yor WordPress installation
  • Install the plugin and activate it
  • Go to your WordPress menu (Appearance > Menus).
  • The left-hand box should now have the item Menu Icons Settings. Check all icon sets, for ampler choice, under global and configure the default settings for icons.

Add your menu item with icon

  • Add your menu item as you normally would, making sure you always enter a navigation label (the name of your menu item) even if you don’t want it to appear because you only want to display the icon (otherwise you get a ‘(pending)’ as you see below and the item might not be added!
  • In this example, we have chosen a custom link menu item, we have not yet put a label to our menu item (to demonstrate the ‘(pending)’ and we are adding a link to a social medium, in this case the Facebook page related to the website being developed.
  • Under the navigation label, you will see the label Icon and a link immediately after to select an icon from the vast number of icon types you have allowed yourself before, including adding your own image. Click on Select to choose one for your particular The new meta box on the left with the link to select an icon on the right
Menu Icons Plugin - Adding a menu item with an icon

How to add icons to WordPress menus – menu item

  • The box that opens offers you a view of the sets of icons you have enabled as well as the image option if you allowed it so you can add your own uploaded custom images. You can choose a type of icon on the icon set menu, enter a keyword to search for a specific icon (e.f. facebook), and a chance to preview the result by slecting an icon so that you can also adjust the setting, for example not display the label or change the font size.
  • Click select at the bottom right of the box when you are done. You can always get back to modify your settings by clicking on the icon in the menu item box, or remove the icon by clicking on remove

Conclusion

The Menu icons WordPress plugin is the simplest, most straightforward way to-date that we have found to add icons to WordPress menus. The advantage, even for digital experts like myself, is that it is easy to train our clients to use it and they don’t have to learn any complicated code. There are of course limitations in spite of its  number of icons, its flexibility, its many configuration settings, and the additional add-on tabs and image option that allow you even more. Those limitations might occur in more demanding websites e.g. that require change of icons on hover. Some loss of display integrity might also occur in more complex frameworks and underlying themes, wich might interfere with the plugin display. Always test across browsers before deployment. If you require an even more flexible and configurable option, watch out for the sequel for this article coming soon.