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Hold on to your web design hats, WordPress is about to change the way we edit and publish content with Gutenberg, the newest update from the WordPress coding crowd. The plugin is aptly named after Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press, and is set to democratise publishing so that it becomes more user-friendly and accessible for all, including those who are a bit shaky on their HTML code.

Gutenberg is currently in its open Beta stage and is being tested by Beta users to crease out any pesky bugs. The WordPress developers are hoping to get 100,000 active installs to test out the system before they roll it out to the wider community and completely change the way people create, edit and publish their content.

All shook up

WordPress coders and designers are currently nervously whispering in various coworking corners of the world because Gutenberg could aggressive overhaul the old WordPress editing system and eventually mark a new phase for WordPress.

Much like its namesake, Gutenberg is going to revolutionise the way users create content, which means some integral changes to the old system. Gutenberg is going to bring editing out of the darker realms of shortcode and into the easy-as-pie functionality realm.

And like any drastic change, it’s polarising the community. Some think it’s what WordPress needs to stay ahead of the game and swim past its modular competitors, but others are worried it’s going to provide colossal problems for older websites and Plugins and mess with something that doesn’t need to be tinkered with.  Most WordPress designers also feel that this may mark the start of a move away from HMTL and CSS focused web design.

So what’s actually going to change?

Gutenberg is set to launch this summer and is going to make publishing and editing much easier and hassle-free by stripping down design and increasing usability. In WordPress 4.9 you can add and format text including headings, links and pictures but if you want a more detailed layout you need to do that via shortcodes, which require basic HTML and CSS knowledge or the right Plugin. For new or less HTML savvy users, this can seem fussy and overly-complicated.

WordPress is traditionally a coding focused and Plugin loving platform where content is created via TinyMCE text windows. Gutenberg is going to mix things up and created ‘blocks’ of content for WordPress 5.0. The blocks can be text, headings, pictures or quotes and are going to act like various pieces of a puzzle which create an entire post. Once you’ve created a block you can also save it and use it again in the future to save on time and reduce unnecessary, repetitive design work.

With Gutenberg’s new blocks, users no longer need to use widgets, embeds, custom post types or theme options. As the WordPress team put it –

By allowing rich customization without deep knowledge of code, blocks make good on the promise of WordPress: broad functionality with a clear, consistent user experience”

Gingerbread goals

The Gutenberg update is basically laying down the breadcrumbs for the Hansel’s and Gretel’s of the WordPress world who get too easily lost in the coding forest.

Gutenberg will mean change for everyone, from the more experienced coders to the shiny new users. The updated user interface will take time to get used to and will most probably involve more clicking and scrolling to accomplish more tasks. For those who write shortcode with no more thought than taking a deep breath, this might seem annoying and unnecessary when they got the job done just fine before. But for those who feel the wind of change blowing towards modality and hassle-free usability, it’s a necessary adjustment to keep the masses loyal and push WordPress into the right publishing future.

One thing’s for certain though – a big old change is gonna come.

 

It’s fair to say that there’s been quite a lot of scaremongering about the upcoming GDPR laws flying about the internet and running across offices. You’ve also probably received an Armageddon of email spams from every company under the sun asking you to agree to be spammed for many more years to come.

But before you fall to the ground and raise your hands to the sky and ask what to do, don’t worry all is not lost – and you most certainly don’t need to do a ‘Wetherspoons’ and delete your entire database just to protect yourself.

All shook up

Let’s rewind for a second and talk about why GDPR is coming around the bend and what has triggered the EU government to act.

There is currently a bit of a shakeup going on between businesses and governments, especially when business is done online. Before, the internet was thought of as a boundless and utopian information sharing tool. The very essence of the internet was to have plateaued and free information. But our technological advances have been moving so quickly that governments have been struggling to keep up and protect citizens properly. And so with all this freedom came a darker side to the internet, and one of those murkier realms has always been data collecting.

It’s common knowledge that companies have been collecting personal data records from us without adequate consent for years. We never really liked it but what could we really do about it?

Well, the EU government has now stepped in to push for more transparency and auditing trails from companies to protect the privacy rights of its citizens. And GDPR is the practical application of the EU government’s wish to create a stricter version of our data privacy laws, which will unify EU member state laws and give more power to the people.

The law will come into action on the 25th of May 2018 and will specifically protect EU citizens from organisations using their data irresponsibly and gives citizens more visibility about what information is shared, as well as where and how companies use their data.

Pretty good stuff right? So why is it sending jitters across the business world?

I think we all agree more data protection for citizens is a good thing, but the challenge now for many companies is to understand what GDPR actually is and how they can become 100% compliant. Any businesses found not following the regulations could be fined up the 4% of the company’s global annual turnover. Although this penalty will be reserved for serious breaches, it is understandably a huge risk to be taking if you don’t swat up enough about how to handle your data properly.

The Big Bad Wolf

There is also a shed load of misconceptions about GDPR laws and it’s sending a lot of companies into a bit of a kerfuffle. The regulations aren’t as scary as most will have you think, and they definitely aren’t a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

So, what can you do?

You can lawfully process personal data without consent if it is necessary for:

A contract with the individual: for example, to supply goods or services they’ve requested, or to fulfil your obligations under an employment contract.

Compliance with a legal obligation: if you are required by UK or EU law to process the data for a particular purpose, you can.

Vital interests: you can process personal data if it’s necessary to protect someone’s life.  This could be the life of the person in question or someone else.

A public task: if you need to process personal data to carry out your official functions or a task in the public interest or you have a legal basis for the processing data under UK law

Legitimate interests: if you are a private-sector organisation, you can process personal data without consent if you have a genuine and legitimate reason (including commercial benefit), unless this is outweighed by harm to the individual’s rights and interests.

Wash my sins away

Providing consent is being talked about a lot for good reason. Companies now need an audit trail or record of when contacts in your database give consent (or permission) to marketing, being contacted or having their information shared. If the reason you are contacting someone doesn’t fit in the above list or you don’t have any tangible proof of consent for your current contacts you need to go and get it.  And when I say tangible proof I mean that you need the date, time, source, IP address and consent statement.

How? Most companies are directly emailing their contacts to ask them to confirm they still want to be contacted and are using a ‘double opt-in’ process. It’s crucial that the consent is freely given, traceable and that they have a choice to not give it.

Another good tip is to give your database a good cleanse. This prep work will mean that you can delete any irrelevant contacts, eroded data or contacts that appear twice. Doing a data cleanse will save a lot of time in the long run because it will stop you or your team contacting an unnecessary amount of people.

It’s also good to keep in mind that 80% of your business comes from 20% of your contacts. Spending time analysing your contacts and sorting them into importance will help with prioritising your GDPR campaigns and help build stronger relationships with your core customers. It’ll also give you a planned strategy and stop you and your team running around like headless chickens.

Hallelujah

If you haven’t sorted out your contact consent by the 25th of May you could be subject to penalties, right? Yes, but don’t panic.

The 25th of May is a cut-off point, but if you haven’t sorted out all your contacts and you aren’t 100% compliant by then just ensure that you have proof that you are enacting the requirements and that you are finalising your data consent or ‘opt-in’ plan. Showing that your data processing is ongoing could stop any infringement fines from occurring. So get your finger off the ‘delete all’ button and start sifting through your database.

Another crucial basis of the GDPR law is that you can send contacts (who haven’t given tangible consent) information if it is in their ‘legitimate interest’. If you can prove the information you are sending could be useful or could interest the person you are contacting, then you are legally allowed to and will be compliant with GDPR. Or in other words, you can choose between double opt-in consent or legitimate interest – music to all marketeer’s ears.

But what does the wonderful vague term ‘legitimate interest’ mean? Can you send adverts about your dance classes to anyone in the vicinity who has two working limbs? No. What you can do though is contact people based on their industry and job title. So what you are emailing them has the potential to benefit their business, themselves or be of interest to them.

As clear as day

There are some things that we all don’t know or can’t predict because the law needs to be alive and kicking to see how the regulations will come into action and how that will affect businesses and individuals. Questions like how does the right to erasure affect archives, how high will the fines be and will suppliers need to raise their prices to account for the loss of lead generation? The fog can only start to lift after the 25th of May when the law becomes a practical day to day regulation that we all work with.

What we all do know though is that GDPR is going to completely change how we receive information and how customers view their own data. GDPR is giving back ownership of our information in a time when information has never been more valuable.

What businesses now need to do is buckle up and except that we aren’t in Kansas anymore, but that Oz might not be such a bad place to do business in. If we accept that we might have to lose a lot of contacts but that we actually gain insight into our most loyal customers, we can actually use the changing times as a way to nurture existing relationships and create valuable content. GPDR will hopefully create a much stronger two-way bond between your business and your contacts, who have opted in to still listen to you.

If you would like to find out more, you could do a lot worse than start with the ICO’s guide for small businesses.

Why are website designers giving us simpler and more stress-free user experience?

If you’ve already had a scroll through our site, then you’ll know that we are WordPress website builders who love nothing better than coding and designing our way through the cold winter nights and building some pretty decent websites along the way.

Something that we often get asked from our clients is whether they should have a custom built or Premium theme-based WordPress site. So, we thought it was high time to explain the differences between the two options, and why a custom-built site is probably the right move 80% of the time.

Defining moments

Before we delve into the murky realms of website coding, let’s start with the basic differences between Premium and custom built WordPress themes.

Theme-based WordPress sites are basically a set of page templates that you can choose from and which form the visual skeleton of your website. Each theme has different visuals and layouts which create a specific website look and function.

The beauty of a theme-based option is that you can find a template that is already built, which you can then download, replace the images and rework the content to suit your own branding. The template themes are flexible and are open to slight modifications, you can also can add plug-ins to build-up a more layered website.

Custom-built WordPress sites are basically built completely from scratch and have no set template that you need to work around. A custom design is a one-off theme, that is specifically created for that individual or company.

Crucially, they can look like theme-based templates, but all the various parts of the custom website are integrated in one go, to work seamlessly together. Kind of like the difference between using a pre-made cake mix or just getting the ingredients yourself and making your own Victoria sponge – working on the base always makes the cake taste better.

Dream me a dream

Ask a website designer what their dream question from any client is and it’d probably be ‘can I have a custom website build?’.

Why? Firstly, with a custom build we are free to generate a website from scratch that is unique and fully adapted to the client.  The sky is the limit with custom design. The opposite can be said with Premium, because you are limited to the configurated structures set up for the template. A bit like consigning yourself to playing in a box garden when you know there’s a whole field over the hedge.

A premium theme-based site can also turn into a coder’s worst nightmare, especially when things get a bit complicated. Although it can be simple to create a Premium theme-based site, any advanced site modifications or plug-ins that automatically update can run the risk of crashing your site or a producing a bug which will, at the very least, affect your websites functionality.

Premium theme-based sites typically have many layers of design and much more code. So when something goes wrong with a theme-based template it can feel like crawling through a coding jungle or trying to find a pebble in a desert. Sifting through streams of coding chains to find out why a site is bugging and then repairing the problem can often take longer than just custom building an entire site from scratch.

Template themed sites can also be much slower to load and have reduced page quality because of the additional coding structures and the way they are built. The speed at which your site loads has a detrimental effect for user experience and is even penalised by Google Search Ranking bots.

Tick Tock

Premium theme-based sites have their uses and are a great option for people who:

  • want a very simple site
  • have a tight budget or deadline
  • find a theme that is perfect for their website goals
  • want a theme that has built-in features such as animation (which take a long time to code)
  • are not planning to modify or evolve their site

Quite a few people also think that building a custom-built theme takes more time and money than a Premium theme. It’s true that when you first set up a Premium theme-based WordPress website it can be a lot quicker and cheaper, and will have your website singing and dancing on Google in no time.

But where this logic falls down is with the maintenance and general upkeep of your site. If you end up having a coding problem or want to turn your site into something more complex (i.e. turning it into an e-commerce platform or an interactive forum) it can often be more expensive and time costly to sort out than building a custom site in the first place.

In the end, the decision boils down to knowing what you want from your site and what you are prepared to invest. Once you’ve seen the light, you can then decide whether you need a quick and simple fix via the Premium route, or an integrated and long-lasting solution which would point you to door number 2, the custom WordPress build.

PSST! Did we mention our boundless love for all thing WordPress? If you want to have a chat about how we can help you sift through noise and build a sleek and functional website, we are a short phone call away or can be found pouring over our Apple Macs at Ziferblat Edge Street.

WordPress is arguably the most successful and influential blogging and website platform there is, and is estimated to power 14% of the world wide web today. A large part of its success is due to its rich set of features and its highly adaptable and powerful plugins.

For those of us who are still getting to grips with the mysterious digital realm of building blogs or websites, plugins are basically bits of software that can be added onto your page by uploading them.

Plugins tend to either extend or expand how your page functions and in many cases, provide a complete solution for the user, i.e. most of the background work is done by the plugin builders.

Plug me IN

‘Which WordPress Plugins should I be using?” has to be the most existential and googled WordPress user question out there.

So before jumping head first into frenzied google searches for Top 5 WordPress Plugins to use, the most logical thing to consider before setting off is whether you actually need one in the first place.

To answer this, ask yourself the following 4 things –

  1. Can the issue be solved without a plugin?
  2. Does the theme I’ve chosen have a built-in solution?
  3. Do I want to find a plugin to perform a specific task?
  4. Is what I’m trying to change or improve actually necessary?

If you’ve brushed the first two off with a no and answered the last two with a firm nod of the head, you are on the right path and do in fact need a WordPress plugin. Next step on the road to your plugin holy grail is to decide whether to use free or premium plugins.

To pay or not to pay

A large part of the WordPress community actually believe all plugins should be free. There are a lot of free WordPress plugins already out there which are great because they do what they say on the tin and, if you are strapped for cash or don’t believe in paying for plugins, are a more than viable option to solve your WordPress building woes. Some popular free plugins include: Contact Form 7, WordPress SEO, Google Analytics and WP Super Cache.

So then why part with your hard-earned coin when you can just upload something for sweet nothing? The two main reasons to air out your wallet when it comes to choosing the right WordPress plugin are –

  • Range – in some cases the issue you are trying to solve hasn’t been developed by charitable plugin builders and premium can be your only option.
  • Reliability – support teams from premium plugins actually work on issues reported by users, maintain security and compatibility with the latest WordPress version and ensure the plugin is compatible with other plugins you might also want to use on your site. This can also happen with free plugins but isn’t as widespread.
  • Saves time and effort – the support team works on issues flagged by users which saves time and effort trying to work them out yourself and means you don’t even need to manually monitor your plugins for vulnerabilities.

Don’t forget that after you pay for your initial premium plugin you usually need to pay extra for any major upgrades!

The final hurdle

In the end choosing between free or paid WordPress plugins depends on your budget, whether there is a free plugin for what you need, the complexity of your issue, your knowledge of plugin set up procedures and how much time and energy you are prepared to invest.

Now all that’s left for you to do is to find the specific plugin for your issue. If you know your stuff, go straight to the WordPress directory and have a good, long search. If you are a little bit wary of making the wrong decision and love expert advice then there are plenty of great bloggers out there that can help you choose the right one for you. Type in your specific issue and let the magic of the internet guide you to the right plugin for you.

PSST! The team @Bamboo Digital Manchester might be the genie to your lamp. We also create our own WordPress plugins!


Sara is a freelance writer based in Manchester. She owns the commercial and creative content company Fraiche Ink, focusing on think pieces and marketing content.

Bamboo Migration does what it says on the plugin.

A week ago we released Bamboo Migration, our eighth plugin for WordPress. This plugin is a bit of a departure from the type we normally release, in that it’s of more use to developers than users.

In keeping with our usual ethos for creating plugins, Bamboo Migration  does one thing, and does it as  simply as possible – it makes moving a WordPress site from one domain to another really easy. It does this by generating a custom .sql export file of the entire WordPress database, with all references to the old domain name replaced with the new one.

A nice surprise side effect of releasing a plugin for developers is that it attracts more attention than a normal plugin. In this instance the plugin has been listed by Web Designer Depot in  ‘The Best Free WordPress Plugins For November 2014‘. While we don’t normally chase accolades and awards (its just not what we’re about), we’re really chuffed when somebody finds one of our plugins useful.

We’re planning to release our ninth plugin before Christmas, and I’m sure we won’t be too far into 2015 before our tenth one sees the light of day. We just hope that the WordPress community find them as useful as our other plugins.

Taxonomies vs permalinks.

If you are creating custom taxonomies in WordPress, either as part of a theme or a plugin, you may encounter 404 errors when navigating those taxonomies on your website.


What on earth
is going on?

It generally only occurs if you are using the taxonomy within your permalinks, i.e. if your permalinks are set to something like this:

/%category%/%postname%/

At first glance everything will seem to be OK, until you navigate to page 2  of the archive page in question. At this point WordPress will send the browser to a URL looking something like this:

www.your_site.com/your_taxonomy/page/2

The appended ‘/page/2’ will conflict with the custom permalink setting, resulting in an a 404 error.

Don’t give me problems,
give me solutions.

We need to achieve two things to solve this problem. Firstly we need to remove the offending parts of the URL before WordPress tries to process the URL. Adding the following code to your functions.php (or as part of your initialisation code if you are a plugin author) will do just that:

function bamboo_request($query_string )
{
    if( isset( $query_string['page'] ) ) {
        if( ''!=$query_string['page'] ) {
            if( isset( $query_string['name'] ) ) {
                unset( $query_string['name'] );
            }
        }
    }
    return $query_string;
}
add_filter('request', 'bamboo_request');

Yeah but
what about the paging?

Assuming you would still like to have paging for your custom taxonomy, the follow code will take the page number from the URL and append it to the WordPress query in the required format. Again the follow code should be added to your functions.php or your plugin initialisation code:

add_action('pre_get_posts','bamboo_pre_get_posts');
function bamboo_pre_get_posts( $query ) { 
    if( $query->is_main_query() && !$query->is_feed() && !is_admin() ) { 
        $query->set( 'paged', str_replace( '/', '', get_query_var( 'page' ) ) ); 
    } 
}

That’s great but
do I really have to do all that?

If you don’t like the idea of writing all that code, or you’re just feeling a bit lazy, there is also a plugin available to fix this problem automatically available here: http://wordpress.org/support/view/plugin-reviews/category-pagination-fix (but where would the fun in that be!).