Testing out MainWP

We have been managing multiple WordPress websites for many years now. We have tried different tools over the years and new ones continue to evolve {insert list of tools here}. However we have settled on ManageWP for it was one of the first professional tools to offer a full suite of functions to handle everything needed for maintenance and updates of multiple WordPress installations across various hosting platforms.

I first heard of MainWP at a local WordCamp (I believe they were sponsors at WordCamp Orlando 2015). Today I am going to take their platform for a test run. All of the WordPress management services claim to do everything you need, but some of them do not do it correctly while some do not even work at all. I do recall going through growing pains with ManageWP while they could not get the sync to work correctly with Godaddy servers for a few weeks, but that was several years ago and has been corrected ever since.

So here we go with MainWP.

A few minutes on their website it was evident that the install would be simple and setup very similar to that of ManageWP. Although ManageWP is a hosted solution and MainWP would require us to use our own WordPress installation to host the dashboard plugin.

I created a new WordPress installation on WPengine (my favorite hosting platform) and was up and running in a few minutes with a clean install. I then downloaded the MainWP Dashboard plugin from the WordPress repository and activated it. From there I was guided through some basic settings and prompted to add my first site.

MainWP Plugins
A quick search for MainWP brought up the necessary plugins

To add my first site, I choose a test site that I periodically use as a sandbox. I logged into the dashboard (through ManageWP, as I always have the past several years) and installed the MainWP Child plugin. Once activated, I went back to my Dashboard and added the new site. You are prompted to do this quickly as it does pose a slight security hole if you leave the plugin activated and not connected. But this is the same process as ManageWP and works just fine. Once connected I could see everything that I needed in my dashboard.

Stay tuned for my next post as I go through the MainWP Dashboard…

Getting Started with Heat Maps

So I finally decided to try using heat maps to gain some insights into my clients website conversions (and some of my own).

For those that don’t know, Heat Maps are visual representations of data points on a matrix. In terms of a website these are generally used in mapping movements of a users eye (which is complex and expensive to implement) or more recently movements and clicks of a mouse or scroll of a page. Using an overlay on top of a web page, a heat map can show the “hot spots” where users are actually clicking on the page (whether there is a link there or not). Heat maps are a fantastic tool to assist with conversion rate optimization and can assist in making educated design decisions based on real data.

Heat maps have intrigued me for some time and I have been skeptical of their usefulness. But over the past few years they have become more advanced & easier to use and at the same time, the industry standard, Google Analytics, has become more and more complex.

I have decided to start my trial of crazyegg.com today and setup several sites with a snapshot.

Sign up was a breeze and since I am using WordPress on my websites, I just installed the crazyegg plugin and was up and running in less than 30 minutes with several websites homepage’s being tracked.

Now we just have to wait and see what the data will bring over the next 30 days.

The Psychology of Color in Web Design

This past January I attended my first industry conference of the year (NMX 2014). While there were many great takeaways from the weekend event (more on that later), I wanted to make sure and not forget certain key points. I used a combination of browser tabs, Evernote, Twitter, Facebook, and even umm… pen and paper.

So now, as weeks have gone by and I still have tabs open in my browser on my laptop because I want to read an article or not lose a reference, I am finally documenting one of the posts referenced by an excellent presentation by Michael Hyatt: 5 Elements of a Personal Brand

He discussed the use of color and psychology and referenced an excellent article by vandelaydesign.com which includes usage of color in web design. While I do not necessarily adhere to all of the ideas presented in this article and will easily find fault in some of them, I still consider the article excellent. It is excellent because it is written and I can reference it, for better or worse.

I cannot stress how many times we discuss colors with clients and I take it for granted that they will understand the influence of one color vs. another or a contrast or different effect.

This article provides a simple reference point for me and anyone else to jump into the conversation. No need to go through a formal dissertation on color theory, just read a short blog post and move forward.

After this, if we want to continue to discuss color, we can talk all day, but at least we have some idea that we are speaking the same language.


My latest project

It is nice to have a personal blog where I can post freely without the pressure of marketing and analytics constantly looming over the content that is created. I can write what is on my mind and not have to worry about the end result.

With that being said, I am excited this week to have finally posted our new logo for our latest project. While the logo was created several weeks ago, we have stalled on the project for about a month while we were completing other client work. We have finally set some deadlines and completed most of our documentation for OnlySmallPlaces.com.

Our new project for Bed & Breakfasts, Inns and Small Motels will start development in the next few weeks and be completed by the end of the year. Looking forward to helping promote the niche small properties and small lodgings across the United States.

Found a cool plugin to hide the WPengine tab

WPengine.com has become my new favorite host recently and this post by Aaron Vanderzwan pretty much sums up my whole experience with hosting and provides a nice solution to effectively utilize the WPengine staging functionality.

WPEngine lets you easily (with one click) setup a duplicate copy of your current website whenever you need it. It is great for testing themes, plugins and other functionality. I am actually going to setup a staging site for one of my clients this afternoon to install WPML and begin implementing several translations on their site.

Aaron has create a plugin which will avoid another admin user from accidently overwriting your staging site while you are working in it. Aaron writes,Hide WPengine Tab plugin

So I wrote a plugin called Hide WP Engine Tab which hides the WP Engine tab from all users except a select few.  It also has a way to lock the staging environment so that users who attempt to rebuild the staging environment get a notice:

“Staging was locked on 2012-12-18 12:49:20 by admin.
Please contact the web administrator to schedule a time to recreate this environment.”

I will have to try this out. We actually just remove the WPEngine admin bar and quick links completely. It is done by implementing some code in the functions.php file following this aricle: http://support.wpengine.com/how-to-remove-wp-engine-quick-links-from-admin-bar/

Be removing the WPengine quicklinks from all users except our own, we are sure that a client will not accidentally overwrite our staging area. They will never even know it exists since they cannot see the WPengine admin menu. However if you do have multiple developers and admins on the site, that may need to access these functions, Aaron’s plugin may be useful in that you do not have to edit the function.php file every time a new user needs access.