WordPress – 1stWebDesigner https://1stwebdesigner.com Helping You Build a Better Web Wed, 02 Oct 2019 16:08:58 -0400 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3 Defend Your WordPress Website Against Brute-Force Attacks https://1stwebdesigner.com/defend-your-wordpress-website-against-brute-force-attacks/ Wed, 02 Oct 2019 16:08:58 +0000 https://1stwebdesigner.com/?p=150220 Whether you’re fairly new to WordPress or an experienced developer, you might be surprised at just how often your websites are under attack. You might also be wondering who, or what, is carrying out this type of activity – not to mention why they’d target you.

The answers are simple. In most cases, the bad actor is an automated bot. And you’re being targeted simply because you happen to be running WordPress. As the most popular Content Management System (CMS) out there, it is directly in the crosshairs of malicious actors.

While there are all sorts of different attacks floating around out there, the brute-force variety are among the most popular. And that happens to be our subject for today.

Let’s take a look at what brute-force attacks are and some ways you can better protect your WordPress website.

What Is a “Brute-Force” Attack?

A brute-force attack, according to Wikipedia:

“…consists of an attacker submitting many passwords or passphrases with the hope of eventually guessing correctly.”

In the real world, this means that a malicious script runs repeatedly, entering usernames and passwords into the WordPress login page. It’s possible to see hundreds or even thousands of attempts like this per day.

Of course, if this were all completely random, it would be pretty difficult to successfully log into a website using such a technique. But there are two major reasons why these attacks can sometimes work:

  1. The use of weak login credentials, such as using an ultra-common username and password.
  2. Using credentials that have been previously leaked elsewhere.

If either of these scenarios are in place, that raises the odds of a successful attack. And once the attacker has access to your WordPress dashboard, they can wreak all sorts of havoc.

But even if unsuccessful, these attacks can be both an annoyance and a drain on server resources. Therefore, it’s important to put policies in place that can help mitigate their damage.

Binary code on a computer screen.

Ways to Fight Back

Thankfully, there are a number of things you can do to better protect your WordPress website against brute-force attacks. The most basic being instituting common sense security measures, such as using strong passwords and virtually anything other than “admin” as your username. These steps alone will at least make your site more difficult to crack.

However, there are some even stronger actions you can take, including:

Limit Access to the Login Page

Depending on your web server’s setup, you might consider blocking out access to the WordPress login page to all but a specific group or range of IP addresses. On an Apache server, for example, this could be done via the .htaccess file.

The caveat is that this strategy depends on administrators having a static IP address. In corporate environments, this would likely be the case. However, other scenarios may make this method more difficult. The official WordPress documentation has some further advice that is worth a look.

Another approach is to password-protect the login page at the server level. While this adds a bit of inconvenience, it does help to ensure that only authorized users gain access to the dashboard.

Utilize a Plugin

There are a number of WordPress plugins that are dedicated to security, with several offering features designed to protect against brute-force attacks. Some of the more popular options include:

Jetpack’sProtect” feature, which will block unwanted login attempts.

Wordfence employs several login-specific measures, such as two-factor authentication, reCAPTCHA and brute-force protection. There is also a companion plugin that solely focuses on login security.

Login LockDown is a plugin designed to limit brute-force attempts. It automatically locks out offending IP addresses after a set number of failed logins.

iThemes Security offers several login-related protections, including brute-force protection, two-factor authentication and the ability to rename the /wp-admin/ folder in order to thwart bots.

Employ a CDN/Firewall

Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) not only improve the performance of your website, they offer the side benefit of serving as a barrier between malicious bots and your WordPress install.

CDN providers often include methods to block out IP addresses or even entire countries from accessing your site (or, at least your dashboard). Depending on the service you use, there may also be protections specifically targeted at stopping brute-force attacks.

The beauty of this approach is that you can significantly lighten the load on your web server. How? Attackers are stopped by the CDN’s firewall before they ever reach your site. It’s kind of like having a giant flyswatter out in front of your house, rejecting pests before they make it to your front door.

A hammer smashing glass.

When It Comes to Security, Be Proactive

Unfortunately, doing nothing to combat brute-force logins is not a viable option. These attacks are both ubiquitous and relentless. And the landscape certainly doesn’t look like it will get better on its own. Therefore, it’s up to us to take preventative measures.

Thankfully, it’s not really that difficult. The options above, while not 100% perfect, are fairly easy to implement. And each one makes things that much tougher on the average bot.

Plus, when you think about it, the relative cost of mitigating these attacks now is much less than having to deal with a hacked website later on. That alone makes being proactive more than worth the effort.

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Building More Accessible Websites with WordPress https://1stwebdesigner.com/building-more-accessible-websites-with-wordpress/ Wed, 11 Sep 2019 15:17:47 +0000 https://1stwebdesigner.com/?p=149956 If you’re a web designer, you probably see the term “accessibility” mentioned quite a bit. And that’s a wonderful thing. The industry has become very much aware of the need to ensure that what we build can be accessed by everyone.

While some locales (the United States being a prime example) don’t have crystal-clear laws pertaining to accessibility, there are a lot of great guidelines for implementing it. So, even if there isn’t necessarily a legal imperative, there certainly is a moral one. Better still is that we have the technology to do it.

But, if you’re building sites with WordPress, there are some additional challenges when it comes to accessibility. By itself, WordPress is accessible (although the Gutenberg editor still has some work to do in that area).

However, we don’t just use WordPress alone. We implement themes, plugins and our own customizations into the mix. This can muddy up the waters when it comes to ensuring our websites follow best practices.

And although we can’t snap our fingers to instantly make everything accessible, there are some common sense actions we can take. Here are a few tips for putting accessibility at the forefront of your WordPress website.

Use or Build an Accessible Theme

Choosing the right theme is about so much more than looks or fancy features. Since it provides the outward face for how users interact with a website, accessibility has to be baked in from the start. Make the wrong decision here and it’s akin to having a beautiful house with a faulty foundation.

If you’re building your own theme, the process is a little easier. Since you’re not reliant on a third-party developer, you can implement only the features you need and test as you go.

But for those looking at either free or commercial themes, it can take some research. You’ll need to look for themes that claim to be accessible. The trouble is that many themes either don’t mention this or are very vague when it comes to details.

In that case, try contacting the theme author and find out what (if anything) they did to ensure that the theme doesn’t get in the way of screen readers or other assistive technology. You might also want to run a demo version through one of the validation or simulation tools out there. Then, try navigating the site via a keyboard.

Since many themes allow you to choose colors and typography, it’s also important to keep contrast and readability in mind. Is the text too small? Do the colors provide enough contrast to allow text to be read? This is something that should be relatively easy for you to control.

A laptop screen.

Determine the Effect of Plugins

WordPress plugins are another area worth paying attention to. While some simply adopt your theme’s CSS, others add their own markup. Both the accessibility and quality of this code can vary.

This means that, even if you have a theme that follows best practices, the wrong plugin could cause unintended issues. And the bigger the plugin’s front-end footprint on your website, the more potential it has to negatively impact accessibility.

For example, a page builder plugin could theoretically add a ton of HTML, CSS and JavaScript beyond your theme. If it’s not been built with accessibility in mind, that could be a problem. But this goes for any plugin that injects its own markup.

If you can’t avoid using these types of plugins, that’s okay. But it is recommended you run tests with and without plugins active to gauge the impact. You can also utilize your web browser’s inspector tools to pinpoint any troublesome code.

Web page source code.

Have an Existing Site? Add Accessible Features

For websites that are already out there in the public space, retrofitting can be difficult. Factors such as a site’s age and how it was initially built can play a role in just how much work is involved. In some cases, a full-on revamp may not be within a reasonable budget.

Certainly, if you’re working on a site that has so many challenges, an argument can be made for a redesign. That might well be the best path forward, as you can establish accessibility as a primary goal. But it’s understandably not always realistic, either.

In these situations, there are still some things you can do:

Make Small Enhancements

Maybe those big, all-encompassing changes aren’t going to happen. Instead, look for little things you can change without too much trouble. For instance, bumping up the font size and increasing line spacing will offer a cleaner look and allow your content to be more easily consumed. The same goes for colors.

Other possibilities include making sure that images have descriptive ALT text and that hyperlinks have a :focus state defined. There are any number of small changes that can add up to a better user experience.

Provide Users with Options

Another way to make an existing site more accessible is by empowering users make some choices for themselves. By allowing them (within reason) to adjust things such as font sizes or color contrast, you’re helping to meet their needs.

One simple and cost-effective way to do this is by installing a plugin, such as WP Accessibility. It adds font and contrast features in a handy front-end toolbar. Plus, it can optionally add :focus states to your links, add a skip link to your pages, along with other goodies.

A font style chart.

Awareness Is Half the Battle

Because the WordPress platform offers so many possible looks and functionalities, we often take things for granted. It’s easy to pick a theme or install a plugin and not think twice about how they affect accessibility. Yet, each decision makes a difference.

Just having an awareness of the potential impact makes us better designers. It encourages us to take that extra step of testing and to be more discerning about what we use.

The result is that we start putting users first – in front of unreadable color schemes and special effects that hurt usability. Once we do that, accessibility becomes just another feature we build in by default.

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The Best Multipurpose WordPress Themes for Designers https://1stwebdesigner.com/the-best-multipurpose-wordpress-themes-for-designers/ Thu, 05 Sep 2019 13:03:33 +0000 https://1stwebdesigner.com/?p=149859 Unless there’s a special need for a specialty theme, a multipurpose theme is usually a safe bet and a good choice. Multipurpose themes typically excel in the number of design aids. They feature the flexibility needed to take full advantage of them. The best multipurpose themes, like the WordPress themes described below, are known for clean code, speed, 100% responsiveness, and are SEO friendly.

Normally, it takes some searching to find a theme that can do the job without having to put up with troublesome constraints or limitations. Sometimes problems are encountered when using certain popular plugins as an example. Searching, testing, and trial and error activities take up time you can spend on more productive activities. Not to mention the stress and frustration encountered along the way.

A better approach is to take a few minutes to browse through the themes described below. You can do some further research to test one or two that especially appeal to you, and that should do it!

Happy shopping!

Hello Theme

Hello Theme WordPress Theme

Any WordPress theme can be used with the Elementor open-source popular website building tool. Open source tools are noted for their potential, limitless extendibility and flexibility. Pair a high-quality multipurpose theme with Elementor and you have a website design capability worth bragging about.

The best match of all happens to be the Hello multipurpose WordPress theme. Hello is a theme without boundaries, and the fastest and lightest theme ever created.

An excellent reason to pair Hello with Elementor is that every time a new version of Elementor is released, the bulk of the testing conducted on the new version is done using Hello. A by-product of the testing is your assurance that the Hello theme will always be up to date and fully compatible with its host.

It’s also worth noting that Hello fully supports every one of the popular WordPress plugins, there’s no non-essential code in Hello to slow things down, and Hello is SEO friendly as well. It’s an ideal choice for both designers and developers.

Be Theme

Be Theme WordPress Theme

One way to ensure a multipurpose theme will provide all the tools and flexibility you’re ever likely to need, in addition to providing excellent performance and user support, is to look for the biggest of them all.

You don’t have to look far. Be Theme, with its more than 40 core website building features and tools and its library of more than 450 customizable pre-built websites places everything you’ll ever likely need at your fingertips.

The pre-built websites are professionally crafted, they cover every major website type as well as 30 industry sectors. Better yet, each has UI and UX features you’ll want in your site built right in. Use one as a starting point for your project and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can have a quality, client-pleasing website up and running. Website building does not need to be difficult!

TheGem – Creative Multi-Purpose High-Performance WordPress Theme

 

While TheGem is ideal for building portfolio websites, its massive toolbox of features, options, and design elements makes it a truly multipurpose theme. TheGem was created with bloggers, agencies, online businesses, and creative entrepreneurs in mind. It would be an excellent choice for you if you seek maximum creative freedom in your website building without having to delve into the intricacies of the latest design trends and you would prefer to avoid coding.

Thanks in part to this multipurpose theme’s collection of 200+ website styles and 50 content elements, you should have no problem at all creating a unique, attractive, and search engine friendly website in a matter of minutes.

It’s really that easy, and your site will be fast, user friendly, and fully optimized for displaying your content on screen sizes ranging from desktops to hand-held devices.

Uncode – Creative Multiuse WordPress Theme

Uncode WordPress Theme

With sales to date in excess of 55,000, Uncode has become one of ThemeForest’s all-time top-selling themes. This creative, multipurpose WordPress theme has every design aid you’re ever likely to need, plus it’s designed to give you extraordinary control over your design layouts and your site content.

You’ll want to visit the website and browse Uncode’s user-creative website library to get the best possible picture of what you can accomplish with this theme. Be prepared to be impressed!

Bridge

Bridge WordPress Theme

Its 110,000-strong user base has made Bridge the best-selling creative theme on ThemeForest. Created by Qode Interactive’s development team, this multipurpose WordPress theme gives you a whole host of design options to work with.

The package includes 376+ prebuilt websites and a huge collection of modules, plugins, and design elements plus you get open-ended customizability that enables you to create designs exactly as you visualize them. You can also expect to receive 5-star support.

Movedo WP Theme – We DO MOVE Your World

Movedo WordPress Theme

MOVEDO is different. Try it out and you’ll understand what its authors claim: It was created with awesomeness in mind. MOVEDO is clean, modern, and super flexible with thoroughly enchanting special effects like moldable typography and images that appear to be moving when they actually aren’t.

This multipurpose theme lets you break away from sameness of design; and have fun while doing so.

Pofo – A Multipurpose Portfolio, Blog and eCommerce WordPress Theme

POFO WordPress Theme

While Pofo places a significant emphasis on portfolio, blogging, and eCommerce website building, it’s more than suitable for users ranging from creative design teams and agencies to corporations.

This multipurpose theme’s features include an outstanding selection of home pages and demos, custom shortcodes, 150+ prebuilt design elements, and the popular WPBakery page builder.

Pofo is fully responsive, flexible and highly customizable using WordPress customizer, optimized for SEO and page loading speed.

Why Multipurpose Is the Way to Go

Multipurpose themes are always among the best-selling WordPress themes for a reason. They give their users plenty of the flexibility they need to build virtually any type of website with relative ease.

Most multipurpose themes feature a generous selection of ready-made, ready-to-go templates you can choose from. They also include the ability to customize any of them with the help of a drag and drop website builder. The result; you get precisely the design you had in mind.

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Quick Tip: How to Increase the WordPress File Upload Limit https://1stwebdesigner.com/quick-tip-how-to-increase-the-wordpress-file-upload-limit/ Mon, 26 Aug 2019 13:56:01 +0000 https://1stwebdesigner.com/?p=149709 One of the biggest conveniences of a website is having a place to easily share files with visitors. Items such as printable forms, eBooks, videos, music and images come to mind.

For those of us who use WordPress as our content management system (CMS), adding these types of files is relatively easy via the Media Library. There’s even a built-in way to embed multimedia files, galleries and playlists.

But, depending on your particular setup, you may run into rather restrictive file upload size limits. This makes it difficult to post, say, a full screen HD video or a .ZIP archive of high-resolution PDF files.

Thankfully, the upload limit can be increased in most situations – and it’s fairly easy to accomplish. However, the method for doing so greatly depends on your web hosting environment. Let’s take a look at what settings need changed, along with a few different approaches for making them.

UNLIMITED DOWNLOADS: 500,000+ WordPress & Design Assets




What You’ll Need to Change

To increase the WordPress file upload limit, you’ll have to change some settings within your hosting account’s PHP configuration. Of course, web hosting companies vary greatly when it comes to server configurations and their own policies for making changes.

Therefore, the approach you take depends largely on which method your host supports. Check out their documentation or ask a support representative to find out what is recommended.

But regardless, we’ll want to change (or at least review) the following settings:

We’ll get to what they do in a bit. For now, it’s important to know that each of these items (particularly the first three) have a role to play when it comes to uploading files. The last one has a say in processing them (like an import file full of posts, for example), which can also be relevant.

The WordPress Post Editor screen.

Methods for Changing Upload Limits

Now that we know which settings we’ll want to change, it’s time to do some research. Talk to your web hosting provider regarding which method(s) they support for tweaking PHP settings. It will likely be one of the options below.

Just note that editing these settings is serious business. Therefore, be sure to make backup copies of any files before making changes. One false move could potentially cause your site to go down.

With that, here are some of the most common methods for increasing your WordPress file upload limit:

In Your Hosting Control Panel

One of the easiest possible ways to adjust these settings is by changing some numbers around in your web hosting control panel. Hosts that use cPanel or a similar GUI may allow you to change PHP settings directly in your browser.

Directly Editing the php.ini File

Some hosts (or if you’re running a local hosting environment) enable direct access to your account’s php.ini file. This can be accomplished by downloading the file via FTP, making changes, then uploading it back to its rightful spot on your server.

Alternatively, you may be able to access it via a command line. This is expert territory, though, so be careful!

Creating and Uploading a .user.ini File

Many hosts would rather you didn’t have direct access to the full php.ini file – and for good reason. As an alternative, they’ll allow you to create a file called “.user.ini”, which lets you manually add and change just the settings you need.

From there, upload it to your server (usually the root directory of your website) and your new settings will override the defaults. This method offers an extra bit of safety, as even if you make a mistake, you can quickly fix or remove the file altogether.

Modify Your .htaccess File

On some hosts, you can tweak PHP settings via your site’s .htaccess file. This is a hidden file usually found in your site’s root directory. You may have to adjust your FTP software settings in order to see it.

However, use caution when editing this file and keep backups. .htaccess can be used for a number of different server settings, and WordPress depends on it for its Permalink structure.

A web hosting control panel screen.

Setting Values

Once you know how and where to change the PHP settings for your website, it’s now a matter of implementing them. But what are the right values?

This really depends on your specific needs. In most cases, you’ll have some flexibility when increasing your file upload limit. However, the higher the limit, the more potential server resources you’ll use. So, keep that in mind when making changes.

For our purposes, setting the limit to a healthy 24MB should fit most needs – but you can set yours to whatever you like. Here’s how it’s done.

If you’re editing existing settings in your php.ini or creating a .user.ini file from scratch, your settings will look something like this:

upload_max_filesize = 24M
post_max_size = 26M
memory_limit = 28M
max_execution_time = 300

If you’re editing an .htaccess file, your settings will look like the following:

php_value upload_max_filesize 24M
php_value post_max_size 26M
php_value memory_limit 28M
php_value max_execution_time 300

Now, let’s provide a little context as to what these settings do and how we arrived at these specific values.

upload_max_filesize = 24M
This setting will allow for uploading a file that is up to 24MB in size (note that the setting itself uses “M”, rather than “MB”). It can be changed to any number you like, within reason.

post_max_size = 26M
In general, post_max_size should be set to a higher number than upload_max_filesize to ensure some breathing room. As shown here, the setting doesn’t have to be significantly higher – just a little bit extra will do the trick.

memory_limit = 28M
Subsequently, memory_limit should be set even higher still. Following this formula will help to keep things running smoothly.

max_execution_time = 300
This one is completely optional. It sets the number of seconds (300, in our case) that a PHP script is allowed to run before terminating.

However, it does come in handy when a file upload is being processed by a PHP application, such as WordPress. For example, if you’re uploading a really large file to the Media Library, WordPress (and potentially a plugin) will then need to process the file. That can take a significant amount of time.

Increasing max_execution_time will help to ensure that the process doesn’t time out before it’s had a chance to finish. Again, you’ll want to check with your host to see what is recommended here.

Sublime Text Add New File menu.

One Size Doesn’t Have to Fit All

The beauty of WordPress is that is offers great flexibility. Not only can themes and plugins help you build a website to match your exact needs, but there are a number of “under-the-hood” customizations you can make as well. Many of them tie in directly with PHP.

For those of us that need to upload large files, a quick change to the PHP settings is all it takes. It’s just one more way to make a WordPress website your own.

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Proven Strategies for Building Creative Websites That Get Results https://1stwebdesigner.com/proven-strategies-for-building-creative-websites-that-get-results/ Wed, 21 Aug 2019 17:44:37 +0000 https://1stwebdesigner.com/?p=149722 Good news, not so good news, fabulous news, and a bonus.

The global market is getting bigger and bigger. That’s good news.

Clients, meanwhile, are getting more selective and demanding in their drive to share their messages with the world through the use of highly creative websites – that may not be such good news if it means a heavy dose of arduous work for you.

The fabulous news? Be Theme’s size and versatility make it the perfect web design tool for meeting the challenges brought on by the need to design creative, eye-catching websites that will pass muster with the most selective and eagle-eyed client. This is your opportunity to cash in by showing these clients what you can do for them.

The bonus is 5 simple steps to create a website your client will love and a website that converts.

5 Steps to Building Amazingly Creative Websites

Step 1: Choose a Mesmerizing Color Palette

There are 3 simple rules you need to follow when choosing your color palette.

  • It needs to immediately attract attention;
  • It needs to be on brand, and;
  • It needs to be compatible with and supportive of your messages;

Artist’s BOLD color touches immediately attract attention.

Artist WordPress Theme

This Be Theme pre-built website offers an excellent example of an attractive, eye-catching color palette.

BeCreative WordPress Theme

Carbon8, with its shades of green and contrasting colors perfectly aligns the color palette with the brand to produce a visually remarkable website.

Carbon8 WordPress Theme

The BeInsurance color palette is crisp, yet subtle; just the right combination of factors to reinforce a message and attract more clients.

BeInsurance WordPress Theme

The BeFestival color palette is a perfect example of an approach you can take to appeal to a larger audience.

BeFestival WordPress Theme

Step 2: Display Crystal-Clear Pictures

Presenting crystal clear images should be a no brainer. It’s the best way to let people know precisely what your business offers; as opposed to artsy, somewhat out of focus images that keep them guessing.

Flair and clarity always triumph over mystery and ambiguity when it comes to marketing a product – or a service for that matter.

BeStylist makes excellent use of both flair and clarity in its images. Color schemes are easier to figure out when images are sharp.

BeStylist WordPress Theme

See if you can come up with a website design similar to RansomLTD.  This website was built from scratch to display sharp, pixel-perfect digital images.  Check this one out against what’s currently out there.

RansomLTD WordPress Theme

Or, you can go with a more conventional website like Zajno.

Zajno WordPress Theme

The Design Shop offers a no-nonsense approach to displaying your products with flair, dignity, and creativity. Compelling and crisp would be a good summary description.

The Design Shop WordPress Theme

Step 3: Show Visitors How Your Creativity Benefits Them

Showing people what’s in it for them is always a powerful marketing tactic, and one way to do that is to help them imagine themselves as being actual customers.

BeMarketing’s video on the homepage shows visitors how they can expect to benefit from using your product.

BeMarketing WordPress Theme

Lane, on the other hand, expresses a structural design perspective with its example of flexibility and functionality in workplace design.

Lane WordPress Theme

BeSimple demonstrates the power of a minimalist view; attractive, yet to the point.

BeSimple WordPress Theme

If you’re a travel blogger this one’s for you. BeTravelBlogger’s graphics layout makes it a travel blogger’s dream.

BeTravelBlogger WordPress Theme

Step 4: (Over)Use “White” Space in Even in Creative Websites

“Overusing” white space is actually difficult to do. After all, it’s the #1 visual element found in many, if not most, successful websites. Don’t be hesitant about using it to highlight your creativity.

Makespace has a clean design that makes it oh-so-easy for the eye to focus on what’s most important.

Makespace WordPress Theme

You can accomplish the same with either BeSketch or The Drive New York (or both). White space is used in these two websites to enhance the overall visual experience in addition to highlighting the page’s key elements.

BeSketch WordPress Theme

The Drive New York WordPress Theme

BeIceCream might well be THE most extreme example of effective use of white space. Its use definitely supports the brand while effectively driving the message home.

BeIceCream WordPress Theme

Step 5: Make Your CTAs Grab Visitors by the Eyeballs

If a CTA button doesn’t command immediate attention, why use one at all? Why not just let the visitor try to figure out what to do next?

Not a good idea. You want big, bold, bright buttons that are impossible to ignore, buttons that compel visitors to click.

Look at BeDrawing. It has a CTA button that clearly stands out. It’s centered nicely right below the sub-headline, where it acts like a welcoming invitation to step forward.

BeDrawing WordPress Theme

Stuart has the same idea; two CTA buttons, with the main one at the bottom.

Stuart WordPress Theme

Here’s a great example of having the CTA match other elements on the page. Even though BeKids uses blue to match other blue elements, the CTA button still stands out.

BeKids WordPress Theme

Surefire Ways to Build Creative Websites

These 5 surefire tactics will take you a long way in your quest to building eye-catching websites that will convert. You should find the examples helpful in selecting your color combinations, positioning key elements, understanding the power of the generous use (or overuse) of white space, designing and placing CTA buttons that practically demand to be clicked, and of course showing your visitors, through your creativity, how they will benefit.

You’ll find the web’s most comprehensive and visually impressive gallery of fully-functional, professionally-designed creative websites on Be Theme. There are currently more than 450, and counting, pre-built websites to choose from and customize to your needs and to your liking.

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A Guide to Selling Digital Products with WordPress https://1stwebdesigner.com/a-guide-to-selling-digital-products-with-wordpress/ Tue, 13 Aug 2019 20:05:32 +0000 https://1stwebdesigner.com/?p=149501 Looking for a highly-customizable way to sell your digital goods online? Chances are you can do it with WordPress.

The jack-of-all-trades CMS offers a number of different plugins that will help you distribute software, eBooks, music, stock photos and just about anything else that can be downloaded. And you can build a simple configuration with free tools.

But because there are a number of options available, it can be difficult to figure out which path to take. You’ll want to adopt a strategy that allows you the flexibility you need without adding a whole lot of unexpected costs and/or roadblocks.

Sound daunting? No need to worry! Today, we’ll show you a few different possibilities for selling digital products. While they won’t cover every possible need, they should at least help you determine the path that’s right for you.

A person viewing a sales report on a laptop computer.

Scenario #1: Single Product Sales

If you want to sell digital products on a one-off basis, a shopping cart is the way to go. A free plugin such as WooCommerce or Easy Digital Downloads can do all of the heavy lifting for you. Configure your products, set pricing and you’ll have a basic store up and running rather quickly.

What’s more, each of these shopping cart plugins have a wide variety of free and paid add-on components. They provide extra functionality such as the ability to tie in with specific payment gateways, offer product bundles and allow for affiliate sales – to name just a few.

The biggest decision here may be which cart to use. Each has its own strengths when it comes to digital products.

Easy Digital Downloads

As its name suggests, Easy Digital Downloads (EDD) was built specifically for selling downloadable goods. Thus, it offers a whole lot of features dedicated to this purpose.

You can, for example, use the built-in function to limit access to downloadable files by download attempts or expiration date. And if you’re selling software that requires a license key, you can add this functionality through an available paid add-on. If you’re distributing large files, there is even an add-on for storing them on Dropbox.

Or, start a community site by allowing users to post and sell their own items. Need a way to provide users with sales commissions? It’s just another plugin away.

However, at its core, EDD is also a shopping cart. Out of the box, the plugin includes things like discount codes and customer management (including front-end account profiles). About the only feature missing is the ability to ship physical goods – but again, there’s an extra piece that can allow for this as well.

Easy Digital Downloads Home Page.

WooCommerce

By now, just about everyone knows WooCommerce. It’s the dominant shopping cart in the WordPress sphere. It’s feature-packed, highly-customizable and you can use it to sell just about anything – including digital products.

This functionality is built right into the core plugin, so you can start selling right away. Like Easy Digital Downloads, the ability to limit downloads based on attempts or an expiration date is included.

Downloads also work with variable products. For example, if you’re selling images, you can allow users to pick from a number of different sizes or formats. This also enables you to price them accordingly.

Of course, WooCommerce is also famous for its large number of extensions. You’ll find a few that are specifically geared towards digital goods, including one aimed at professional photographers and another that enables you to offer downloads on subscription-based sites (we’ll get to that in a moment).

But since the plugin is used to sell so many different types of products, those who have very specific needs when it comes to digital goods may be a bit disappointed. There aren’t a lot of extra bells and whistles in this category.

That being said, if you don’t need some of the extras that EDD offers, or you’re selling a variety of physical and digital products, WooCommerce is still a great choice.

WooCommerce Home Page.

Scenario #2: Subscription-Based Service

Another typical scenario is in offering digital downloads to customers via a subscription. This is frequently becoming the preferred method for sites that sell stock photography, illustrations, icons and other types of assets. Customers pay monthly, yearly or even a single lifetime fee in exchange for access to files.

The good news is that both Easy Digital Downloads and WooCommerce have add-ons that enable subscriptions and recurring payments. Just note that you’ll need to work with a payment gateway that supports this functionality.

Making Your Site Members Only

Beyond the ability to sign up subscribers, you’ll also want to think about how you’ll protect your files from unauthorized users. This functionality is available for either of the aforementioned shopping cart plugins. But again, it will require a combination of commercial add-ons if you want to stay within their respective plugin ecosystems.

Alternatively, you could also work with a full-on membership suite. Plugins such as Paid Memberships Pro or S2Member Framework, among others, could be a good fit if you are just looking to sell access to restricted content. This may limit you quite a bit when it comes to features like download limits and licensing, however.

There may be some cases where combining both a cart and membership suite makes sense. This is a piecemeal approach, though, and could make implementing features a little more difficult. Therefore, you’ll want to weigh your options carefully.

A login form displayed on a tablet computer.

Dealing in Downloads

Setting up a basic store to sell digital products is well within reach. With the help of a free shopping cart plugin, you can go from installation to selling online in a few short hours.

If you’re looking for something a little more robust, that’s also possible through the plugins mentioned above. But it will most likely take some commercially available add-ons to bring the desired functionality to your website.

Either way, you’ll have a solid foundation for your store that can grow along with you over time.

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Thoughts (Plus a Eureka Moment) from a WordPress Website Builder User https://1stwebdesigner.com/thoughts-plus-a-eureka-moment-from-a-wordpress-website-builder-user/ Tue, 13 Aug 2019 13:38:58 +0000 https://1stwebdesigner.com/?p=149576 I’m not usually the one to write reviews about products or services I’ve used unless they prove to be very good or very bad.

Writing about something that’s “OK” seems hardly worth the effort.

The past few WordPress builders I’ve been using have been “OK”, with at least one of them rating 3+ stars in my mind, but still nothing to write home about.

Two of the three didn’t have all the features I wanted in a WordPress builder. The best of the bunch did, but it could be difficult to use at times and product support wasn’t the best.

I should add that I work as a freelancer and mostly in a lone wolf capacity. Although, I do correspond and sometimes collaborate with several of my peers on social media.

One of them suggested I share my experience with others; hence this article.

The suggestion was made when I told him about my new WordPress builder and why it was not only far greater than “OK” but has proven to be a game changer.

I’m sure most of my peers are in the same boat, making do with tools that range from OK to very good indeed, and occasionally coming upon a game changer.

Like the Eureka moment that happened to me.

A person using a laptop computer in a cafe.

What I Always Wanted in a WordPress Builder – Even When I Wasn’t Always Aware of It

I look for several key things in a WordPress builder. The first ones I used appeared to be satisfactory until I found something missing or less than ideal. What I looked for and wasn’t always there generally involved one of three things:

Ease of Use

I like a learning curve that’s flat, or at worst has a very gentle slope. A steep learning curve can make it difficult to complete a project fast.

Responsive Preview

I like to see what I’ve done as soon as I’ve done it, and I like to see how it will appear on any device.

Free Templates and Elements

The more the better. But at least enough of them so I don’t have to code anything from scratch. The templates need to be easy to customize and I need to be able to place the elements (buttons, video players etc.) with ease wherever I want.

An eCommerce website on a laptop computer screen.

The Other Builders

I won’t name the 3 others I’ve used since they may work well for others.

After all, it’s not uncommon to find a product that receives both a 1- and 5-star rating and everything in between. What’s been OK for me could be a real game-changer or a terrible choice for someone else.

Like I said earlier. None of my choices made it much past a 3.

All three were easy to use, although one of them could not be described as “intuitive” and lacked helpful documentation.

One of them lacked a true WYSIWYG feature and neither of the others provided what you would consider to be a genuinely responsive live preview.

Only one of the three, the one I liked best, had templates and elements to work with. The customizable templates were fine, but the elements weren’t all that helpful.

My Deal Breaker – the Visual Composer Website Builder Free Version

Screen from Visual Composer Website Builder

I’ve heard about Visual Composer – the Page Builder used by so many WordPress themes and now known as WPBakery.

Yet, I knew nothing about the Visual Composer Website Builder – the reason being that it was only released a year ago.

Looking for something better I gave the VC Website Builder a try.

And that was my Eureka, Aha, Game-Changing moment.

I can build a website top-to-bottom (header and footer included), and since it doesn’t use shortcodes it allows me to generate clean code.

This helps avoid crashing or other nuisance problems when I disable the plugin.

I started by downloading the free version and it surprised me how intuitive and easy this website builder is to work with. The learning curve isn’t flat, but it’s not steep either. I’m sure almost any beginner could pick up on how to use this tool rather easily.

It also seemed to me that VC’s free version has more features than any other free website builder.

For example, I don’t need a third-party tool to test the responsiveness of my designs. Nor do I have to resize my browser window or check the design on my phone and waste precious time.

Responsive Views in Visual Composer Website Builder

Everything can be done in Visual Composer, with a mouse click.

The Visual Composer Website Builder isn’t perfect.

Although it seems nearly so when a project consists of building a simple, basic page or website. For more complex projects, the 10 free customizable templates and 50 free design elements that you will find in their Hub are not enough. But heck, it’s free after all.

The Visual Composer Hub does set it apart from other website builders. It’s a cloud-based marketplace of web design assets that makes unnecessary the need for extra plugins or custom coding. And it’s the place where you can search for the design templates and elements you need.

Oh, and the stunning parallax effects I could achieve were pretty cool too.

Screen from the Visual Composer Hub

Give It a Shot

Maybe someday something even better will come around. In the meantime, give the Visual Composer Website Builder a try. There’s a free version you can download.

Here’s the download link. Let me know what you think.

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Visual Composer Hub Lets You Create WordPress Pages with Ease https://1stwebdesigner.com/visual-composer-hub-lets-you-create-wordpress-pages-with-ease/ Thu, 11 Jul 2019 13:57:22 +0000 https://1stwebdesigner.com/?p=149048 You can be working with a first-class drag-and -drop website builder, but the results will only be as good as the content you can access. On the other hand, if you’re using the top-rated Visual Composer Website Builder, you have access to the Visual Composer Hub. As we shall see, the combination is a potent one.

The Hub’s massive library of content elements and templates makes anything possible, and in tandem with the Visual Composer builder, web design is faster and easier than ever.

As enormous as the library is, you don’t have to settle for “what’s there”, because every element and template is editable and customizable. With respect to what you want to build, the sky is literally the limit.

What is Visual Composer Hub?

The Visual Composer Hub is a cloud-based marketplace of web design goodies. It’s connected to your Visual Composer account, so you can use it to search for the content elements, page and block templates, and images you need.

Using the Hub is a much better deal than having to rely on a selection of plugins, or worse yet, custom code to get the results you’re looking for. It’s simply a matter of finding ready content and downloading it directly to your Visual Composer Website Builder account.

Screen from Visual Composer Hub.

Pick what you want and once it’s downloaded it will be sitting in your account waiting to be put to good use.

The Visual Composer Hub Library

The Visual Composer Hub library content is huge. Its content elements and templates work with any theme and can be used on any project. You’re free to view all the content, but a Visual Composer Premium account is required for total access to the content and unlimited downloads.

To make things easy, access to the cloud-based Hub and downloading is built right into the live-preview Visual Composer Website Builder.

What’s Inside the Visual Composer Hub

There 4 main types of Hub content:

  • Content Elements
  • Page templates
  • Block templates, and
  • Stock Images

1. Content Elements

With these content elements you can build your site without coding. With Visual Composer Premium the number of downloads you have is unlimited, and the Hub’s Content Elements are constantly updated.

Visual Composer Hub Content Elements screen.

Content Elements consist of the following:

  • Buttons
  • Media
  • Post Grids
  • Social Compatibility Elements that can be integrated with MailChimp,Ninja Forms, Envira Gallery and more.
  • Advanced Elements including logo sliders, tabs, hover boxes, and more.
  • and, an E-Commerce Plugin

With Content Elements:

  • You can edit any element and there are multiple editing options, including editing Element CSS Animations to create exciting transitions.
  • You can easily replace elements and switch between them as well. With the Smart Replace option you can change the look of your content in an instant.
  • You also have access to some important advanced features that include turbo-powered flexibility, creating content “types” to organize and build hierarchies of elements, and leave notes to others. Certain advanced features are only accessible on Visual Composer Premium.

To get an even better idea of all the designer content elements available, take a peek at everything you can access with a Visual Composer Hub Premium account.

A selection of Visual Composer Content Elements.

2. WordPress Templates

A significant portion of the Hub library is devoted to page templates. You can find them for any WordPress theme, and when you find one you can edit it.

As you start building your site, you’ll want to be searching for templates that will fit your website’s look and feel. When you find one, click download. You’ll be notified with a pop up that it has been placed into your account, ready for you to adjust as appropriate to create a beautiful page in a matter of minutes.

WordPress Templates within Visual Composer Hub.

You can add templates to the WordPress Template section of the library and even save your own pages. Any page or template you save can be used again and customized if need be. Global templates can also be applied, and template widgets can be added and stored.

3. Block Templates

You have Content Elements for detailed design and page templates to make building your website quick and easy. What about the middle ground; something that offers a bit of both worlds?

Block Templates fill that “sweet spot.” For the best of both the custom design and easy drag-and-drop functionality worlds, Block Templates are the answer.

Visual Composer Hub Block Templates.

Unlocking the Block Templates section of the Hub requires a Visual Composer Premium subscription. If you feel brave enough to take a next step and savor the added flexibility you’ll experience, you’ll want to try building pages in sections.

4. Stock Images

The Unsplash library of stock images is seamlessly integrated into the Hub, which enables you to download images directly into your Visual Composer Website Builder. Searching for these high-quality images can be done directly from the Frontend editor, and once downloaded they are placed in your account, which is about as easy as it gets.

Stock Images within Visual Composer Hub.

When you find an image you like and would like to view others by the same author, all that’s required is to hover over the author’s name and click; a good way to give your website a unified look and feel.

The Resources You Need to Build Top-Quality Websites

Yes, it’s indeed true that a top-rated website builder isn’t enough if you don’t have the resources to feed it. The Visual Composer Website Builder and Visual Composer Hub combination gives you everything you need to create one awesome website after another.

We’ve covered the Hub library’s Content Elements, Page and Block Templates, and Stock Images. It’s indeed a colossal resource to have access to, and there are add-ons and other premium hub elements you can check out too.

Why not log in now to the free version of the Visual Composer Hub? You have everything to gain, and nothing to lose.

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A Look at WordPress Plugin Ecosystems https://1stwebdesigner.com/a-look-at-wordpress-plugin-ecosystems/ Wed, 03 Jul 2019 19:07:55 +0000 https://1stwebdesigner.com/?p=149003 Among the many strengths of WordPress is the massive number of available plugins. There are tens of thousands, and those are just the free offerings. They handle all sorts of functionality, from security to image galleries to forms. Just about everything you could possibly want for your website is only a download away.

But it is the rare plugin that is so well-crafted and useful that it inspires a number of companion offerings to use along side of it. In many cases, they are among the most popular plugins out there. So popular and well-liked, in fact, that they have developed their very own ecosystems.

Today, we’ll take a look at the concept of WordPress plugin ecosystems. Along the way, we’ll show you some examples and discuss the advantages (and disadvantages) that come with adopting them into your website.

Prime Examples

Before we dig too deeply into the pros and cons, let’s see what a plugin ecosystem looks like. For our purposes, we’ll define it as such:

  • A “base” or “core” plugin that works on its own, but also has multiple add-on plugins available;
  • Add-ons may be created by the original author, or by outside developers within the WordPress community;
  • Can be free, commercial or any combination thereof;

In short, this means that the term “ecosystem” is rather flexible. It might be that a plugin’s author has created the base and all add-ons themselves. Or, other developers out there may have decided to build their own extensions. Either way, we have a group of related plugins that can scale up functionality based on need.

Here are a few prime examples we can use to better illustrate the concept:

WooCommerce

Perhaps the most well-known plugin ecosystem, WooCommerce turns your website into an online store. The core plugin adds shopping cart functionality and related features that go along with it for things like shipping and accepting payments. However, it is capable of so much more.

Through the use of add-ons (WooCommerce refers to them as “extensions”), you can leverage the cart for all sorts of niche functionality. Among the more basic features are the ability to work with a wider variety of payment gateways and shipping providers. But you can also add some advanced capabilities such as selling membership subscriptions or event tickets.

Gravity Forms

Here’s a great example of a plugin whose ecosystem has taken a core concept and expanded it immensely. Gravity Forms is a form-building plugin, which already includes a lot of advanced functionality. Yet add-ons allow it to perform tasks well beyond what you’d expect from your standard contact form.

Through a community that both includes and goes beyond the plugin’s original author, add-ons allow for a number of advanced tasks. You can accept payments, run polls or surveys, connect with third-party service providers, view and manipulate entry data and a whole lot more. It may one of the best examples of how an ecosystem provides nearly endless flexibility.

WooCommerce and Gravity Forms

Something to Build On

One of the biggest advantages to buying into one of these plugin ecosystems is that you can add what you need, when you need it. Think of it as a building. The base plugin provides you with a solid foundation (and maybe a floor or two). Then, you can add as many floors as it takes to fulfill your needs.

Sometimes, that first core plugin is all you need. But even then, you still have the blueprints to build upon should you want to expand later.

Another potential benefit is that these plugins tend to have been built with expansion in mind. That means that you don’t necessarily have to rely on official or even community-based add-ons. If you have some programming knowledge, you might be able to add functionality by building it yourself.

Plus, by utilizing a related set of plugins, you can avoid one of the more frustrating parts of WordPress site development. So often, we attempt to bring many disparate pieces together to form some sort of cohesively functioning website.

This often means using plugins that were never meant to necessarily work together, which can lead to problems when attempting to make it all run seamlessly. In theory, this shouldn’t be an issue when you tap into an ecosystem.

A skyscraper building.

Potential Drawbacks

Despite the many advantages to using a set of related plugins, there are some possible downsides to consider. Among the most common:

It Can Get Expensive

For plugins with commercial add-ons, you may find yourself being nickeled and dimed for each and every piece of added functionality you’d like to add. WooCommerce is a classic example, where each official add-on requires a yearly investment. That’s not to say it’s not worth the cost – it very well may be. Rather, it is a potential obstacle for the budget-conscious.

Not Everything You Want Is Available

This is something you’ll want to check before making any decisions as to how you’ll build your site. It may be that a base plugin and a selection of add-ons will get you 90% of the functionality you need. However, that missing 10% could be a big deal.

If a companion plugin doesn’t cover this, you might have to either look elsewhere or build it yourself. That could lead to some unexpected issues when it comes to both compatibility and cost. Short of those options, a lack of that one piece of functionality can result in a long wait in hopes of it being added in at a later date.

Unofficial Add-Ons May Not Keep Pace

Plugins are updated with new features and bugfixes all the time. Sometimes, those updates can be major – and that poses a risk when using unofficial add-ons built by community members. It could mean that updating the base plugin means that you have to abandon a particular add-on.

One way to avoid this potential issue is to stick with official add-ons only. If you do utilize those from unofficial sources, look for plugins that are frequently updated. They are more likely to adapt to any major upgrades.

Broken glass.

A Compelling Option

In the right situation, a WordPress plugin with its own ecosystem can be your best option. This is especially so in cases when you are building a website in which a plugin fulfills the core part of your mission.

For instance, an eCommerce site will want to use a shopping cart that can be expanded to meet the specific requirements of the store. This provides the best opportunity for future growth and will help you avoid a costly switch later on.

Of course, there are some potential negatives to consider. But with some due diligence, you may just find a collection of plugins that will successfully power your WordPress website for years to come.

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Comparing Popular WordPress Form Plugins https://1stwebdesigner.com/comparing-popular-wordpress-form-plugins/ Wed, 26 Jun 2019 14:16:36 +0000 https://1stwebdesigner.com/?p=148914 There are a lot of WordPress form plugins out there. And we mean a lot. If you’ve found yourself lost in a sea of forms, we’re here to rescue you with this comparison of the six most popular, general-purpose form plugins.

These are Gravity Forms, Contact Form 7, WPForms (Lite), Ninja Forms (Free), Formidable Forms (Free), and Caldera Forms (Free).

We’ll help you get much closer to making a decision by collecting the top features of these popular plugins here – so you don’t have to go sifting through their sites yourself.

Price

Contact Form 7 is the only plugin in this list that is fully free, but WPForms, Ninja Forms, Formidable Forms, and Caldera Forms all have a lite version. Of these free versions, Caldera Forms contains the most advanced features like conditional logic and multi-page.

Here’s a breakdown of the minimum to maximum prices for each premium plugin:

  • Formidable Forms: $99/year – $449/year.
  • Gravity Forms: $59/year – $259/year.
  • WPForms: $79/year – $599/year (not including introductory pricing).
  • Ninja Forms: $99/year – $499/year.
  • Caldera Forms: $164/year – $549/year.

Coins

Payment Integrations

Gravity Forms integrates with a variety of payment processors starting at the Pro license including PayPal, Stripe, Authorize.net, and 2Checkout. Caldera also supports numerous processors from the Individual license onward.

WPForms supports PayPal and Stripe at the Pro license. For Ninja Forms, the Personal license supports PayPal and Professional Stripe and Recurly. Formidable Forms’ Business license includes PayPal while Elite nets you Stripe and Authorize.net.

Contact Form 7 contains none by default. However, it’s the only form plugin that enables you to accept payments for free, albeit with third-party addons.

Person swiping a credit card.

Features

All these plugins except Contact Form 7 use a drag and drop live interface, and are responsive by default. You can use plugins and CSS to make CF7 responsive or have a different interface than the markup it uses to generate forms. All also come with some form of anti-spam protection.

Conditional logic, multi-page, and file uploading are among the most wanted features in a form builder.

You can find them in the base plans of every plugin – except Caldera Forms, which provides them in the lite version instead. Contact Form 7 includes only file uploading by default but – you know the drill – third-party plugins can add these extra features.

Conditional Fields for Contact Form 7

As for customization, Gravity Forms comes with 30+ form fields and plenty of options to configure. Contact Form 7 has various tags you can include, like text, email, URL, and checkbox input. WPForms offers pre-built templates as well as various helpful fields and addons that include more form types.

Ninja Forms also offers 30+ field types and templates to base your forms off of as well, plus plenty of fine-tuning options. The Personal plan includes extra layouts and styles to customize with.

Formidable Forms includes flexible layout design and a visual styling tool that lets you change colors and appearance on the spot. There are lots of custom fields as well. And Caldera Forms is built to match your theme styling, and there are dozens of field types to work with.

Out of these, Ninja Forms and Formidable forms include the most visual styling options, while WPForms, Gravity Forms, and Ninja Forms win in flexibility with many field and form types to choose form.

Final Comparison

Now that you’ve got the basics, let’s do a quick summary of these six form builders.

  • Gravity Forms is geared for businesses and professionals. It has a ton of useful integrations and is cheaply priced.
  • Contact Form 7 was made for individuals who need a no-frills form plugin, now. You’ll need to use third-party plugins to get the most out of it.
  • WPForms is designed for an all-around audience, beginners and advanced. It’s the most balanced of these with a good number of features and integrations. Simple but powerful.
  • Ninja Forms is defined by the sheer amount of addons available for it. Purchasing plans are centered around those addons – but its free version makes a decent simple form builder even without them.
  • Formidable Forms is great for developers as well as general users. It’s powerful, cheap, and devs will love using its API to extend it.
  • And Caldera Forms is a great one for beginners and businesses both who need an easy-to-set-up plugin. It has the most expensive entry price, but this is balanced by the advanced features available in the free version.

Armed with this knowledge, you should be able to choose a form plugin that perfectly suits your needs. We hope this helped you find what you were looking for – now get out there and start building your first form!

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