WordPress 4.1 Features

WordPress Logo

With the folks over at WordPress getting ready to release the latest and greatest version, I’ve been taking it for a test drive to check out some of the new features.

Focus Mode

There has been a lot of arguing back and forth about Focus Mode, but, personally, the improvement on ‘Distraction Free Writing’ is my favorite feature in the new release. I love distraction free in WordPress, but find it cumbersome to keep turning on and off. Now, you can set it to activate and deactivate automatically whenever you start typing or move the mouse. No need to turn it on and off.

Visual Mode

Another nice new feature is the ‘Visual’ image mode. For new users, one of the least intuitive tasks to complete in WordPress was getting your images aligned the way you wanted them. With Visual Mode, clicking on an image will provide you with a floating menu that allows you to quickly change where the image is positioned in the post. You can also open up an edit dialog to change the image’s size, too. I thought that the previous method of aligning images was fine, and wasn’t initially excited when I heard about this change, but after having tried it out, I have to admit it’s handy.

Language Pack Installation

One of the great things about WordPress is how many different languages it’s been translated into, but it’s always been a pain to install language packs. With WordPress 4.1, language packs can be installed directly from the settings page; all you need is the proper write permissions (which, chances are, you have), and installing a new language is a breeze.

Under the Hood

Developers will find some new fun stuff, too, including improvements to the Query classes; the updates allow for nested queries based on date, metadata, or taxonomy. For example, if you had posts with ‘author’ and ‘genre’ metadata assigned to them, the following would grab all Horror by Stephen King and Tragedy by William Shakespeare:

$query = new WPQuery( 
        'metaquery' => array(
            'relation' => 'OR',
            array('relation' => 'AND',
                 array('key' => 'author', 'value' => 'Stephen King'),
                 array('key' => 'genre', 'value' => 'Horror')
            ), array('relation' => 'AND',
                 array('key' => 'author', 'value' => 'William Shakespeare'),
                 array('key' => 'genre', 'value' => 'Tragedy')

 Twenty Fifteen

Also worth mentioning is the release of the latest default theme, Twenty Fifteen. It is a blog-first design, featuring Google’s Noto Serif font, which displays nicely with a variety of language and devices. Very nice and clean; screenshots can be found here.

And that’s about it. Overall, a nice release, but no doubt some will find more use for the changes than other. I especially like that there are good improvements for both new users and seasoned developers. The 4.1 release candidate was released on the 11th; WordPress 4.1 is expected to ship on Tuesday, December 16th.

Reasons to Avoid Website Builders

OK, I don’t often link to other web design companies blog posts, but this one was too good to not share. It’s from a web design company over in London, England called Four to the 4. The company’s owner, Geoff, takes a look at how discount website builders don’t give you your money’s worth, even when they are free.

His major points include:

  • Their designs are typically not very good and are usually built using outdated technology.
  • They use a very small number of designs for their customers, making thousands of websites look almost exactly like your website.
  • Free doesn’t usually mean free. It means free for the trial period.

Anyway, it’s a good, quick read if you are considering going with a do-it-yourself type website, so head over and check it out.

Open Source Alternative: Firefox Web Browser

It never fails; when I tell people that my computer is filled with software that can be downloaded from the Internet, they assume that it’s all stolen. Then the open source software discussion begins.

I reassure them that, in fact, it is 100% legal and that people give their software away for free all the time. I tell them that, yes, I am serious.  I explain that it is, in fact, very high quality, secure and, yes, legal. When all else fails, I tell them that, chances are, their web server is running open source software now; occasionally, they ask me if they should upgrade their web server.

If you didn’t know that there is software out there that you can use legally, free, you are not alone. And if you think that you’re not technologically savvy enough to use it, you are most likely wrong. We’re going to take a look at some open source alternatives with a series of posts spotlighting just a few of the ones that I use.

Today’s entry: Firefox Web Browser.

Firefox is probably one of the best known pieces of open source software around, so you may have already heard of it. Firefox is the second most used browser out there. It’s been around for a long time (its first release was way back in the Bronze Age of the Internet… 2002), and actually grew out of the old web browser Netscape Navigator, which was first released in 1994. If we consider that the true birthday, it pre-dates Internet Explorer by almost a year.

So, with almost three times as many people using Internet Explorer, why should you make the move to Firefox?

  • It’s more secure. Security bugs are fixed in a matter of days, compared to weeks or sometimes months for Internet Explorer. Another security advantage is that anyone can look at the code of Firefox, so it is easier to discover security issues.
  • It runs on basically everything. Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iPhone/iPod/iPad. Pretty much you name it.
  • It comes in a crazy number of languages. Currently over 80. Even Esperanto.
  • Hey. It’s free.

If you are ready to give it a try, you can download Firefox from their website. Give it a try, and let me know what you think.

Outernet: Open Information and a Great Idea

For someone who makes a living helping companies and non-profit organizations build their small corner of the Internet, I spend a good bit of time thinking about people who don’t have access to the Internet.

In the United States, we often take access for granted. Our cell phones have access, our laptops have access, even our iPods can use the Internet at most any restaurant or hotel, usually for free. Even for those people who don’t have the means to buy a device, the entire world is at your fingertips at your local library. Let’s face it, we’re pretty connected here; the 81% of our population that uses the Internet makes up the second largest number of users for any country in the world.

It is easy to forget that there are countries where Internet access is too expensive (or too dangerous to the established government) to allow for widespread use. A full 72 countries have under 25% of their population using the Internet; that’s more than a third of this list.

The sad part is, that’s not even an exhaustive list, as North Korea, a country of 24.5 million people only known to own 1,278 heavily censored IP addresses, is noticeably absent. Even if each of those IP address gives access to 100 citizens, which I’m sure it doesn’t, that’s still only ½ of one percent of the population.

Globally, there simply isn’t enough people being able to find out what’s really going on in the world, take free on-line educational courses, or do the really important things, like look up cute pictures of cats wanting cheeseburgers.

So, how to you get all those crazy cats (and news and educational resources, too) delivered to those who can’t afford to, or are not allowed to, access it? You give it away for free from space, of course. At least, that’s what a newly formed non-profit Outernet plans to do. Their initial plan is to launch a set of low-orbit satellites that will broadcast a loop of information including local and international news, crop prices, online courses, all of Wikipedia, and emergency notifications. Long term, they want to turn the satellites into a full, free, two-way, global way to get access to the Internet, so everyone can enjoy all the cute cat pictures they can stand.

Three things make this non-profit amazing:

  1. Their engineer has two of the three coolest names ever.
  2. Unrestricted, free access to information raining down on everyone…
  3. …from space.

Happy Birthday, Sir Berners-Lee!

Wanted to take a moment to wish a ‘Happy Birthday’ to Sir Timothy John “Tim” Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, which was born with the first communication between a ‘web browser’ and a ‘web server’ in mid-November of 1989. Sir Berners-Lee is also a director of the World Wide Web Consortium, the founder of the World Wide Web Foundation, a senior researcher at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT, and, naturally, a knight.

Everything on the web today, and everything we do here at 10T Web Design, builds on the Hypertext Transfer Protocol designed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee over two decades ago.

Thank you, Sir Berners-Lee, for getting this crazy thing we call the web going, and have a very happy birthday!

New Year’s Resolutions for your Business

So, how are your New Year’s resolutions coming along. Good, I hope. How about your business’s New Year’s resolutions?

What? You haven’t set resolutions for your business in 2013? Why not? It’s a great time of year to start fresh and see if you can attract new customers. Here are a few on-line based resolutions you might want to consider.

Give your business a new website. Been thinking about taking the plunge and going on-line? The first of the year is a great time to start a website before you spend the year’s advertising budget on something else. (You really should consider the costs as advertisement, because that’s exactly what it is.) More and more people are making buying decisions based on what they find on the web, and if you don’t have a website, you are missing out.

Update your business website. Already have one, but haven’t even looked at it yourself in the last year? You should. Out of date information turns customers off, and with a properly designed website, even a technophobe can post updates. I tell my customers that if they can Facebook, then they can learn how to post to their website, provided the website is well-built from the start.

Get social! Speaking of Facebook, does your business have a Facebook page? If not, get cracking! It’s totally free and a great way to build your customer base. Post about your specials, new products, or even industry news, just keep your business in front of your customer’s eyes. Once every couple of days is a good start. If you want to post updates every ten minutes, then you should go with a Twitter account instead.

Buy some advertising. Ever notice those ads at the top of your Google searches? You can do that, and they are probably not as expensive as you think, especially if you are already advertising on other media. Even a budget of a few dollars a day can make a huge difference in the traffic that your website gets.

The Scoop on Facebook Giveaways

It’s a popular thing to do these days, running a promotion or a giveaway on Facebook. After all, it seems like a simple and cost effective way for a small business to advertise. The problem is, most every small business owner doesn’t know that there are very specific rules that you must follow in order to keep the powers that be at Facebook happy, not to mention to keep them from permanently removing your business’s page.

Yes, you read that correctly. If you don’t play by the rules, Facebook can take down your page, and there really isn’t anything you can do about it. So, what are the rules? Well, as of September 24th, 2012, here they are.

If you use Facebook to communicate about or administer a promotion (such as a contest or sweepstakes), you are responsible for the lawful operation of that promotion, including the official rules, offer terms and eligibility requirements (e.g., age and residency restrictions), and compliance with regulations governing the promotion and all prizes offered in connection with the promotion (e.g., registration and obtaining necessary regulatory approvals). Please note that compliance with these guidelines does not constitute the lawfulness of a promotion. Promotions are subject to many regulations and if you are not certain that your promotion complies with applicable law, please consult with an expert.

This part is simple enough: If you are going to use Facebook to run a promotion, it is up to you to make sure that the promotion you are running is legal and is administered legally. If it isn’t, then it’s your fault, not Facebook’s. Let’s move on.

i. Promotions on Facebook must be administered within Apps on, either on a Canvas Page or a Page App.

A little more complicated here, and unless you are familiar with Facebook development, you might not understand exactly what they are saying. Basically:

  • You must use a Facebook application, either developed by you or a third-party, to run your promotion.
  • You must not run the promotion with just posts on your page.

You can talk about the promotions on your page, but if a developer has not created an application for your Facebook page, then you are in trouble.

ii. Promotions on Facebook must include the following:

a. A complete release of Facebook by each entrant or participant.

b. Acknowledgment that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

c. Disclosure that the participant is providing information to [disclose recipient(s) of information] and not to Facebook.

Again, this one is pretty straightforward and is basically Facebook just covering its own butt.

  • You must tell your participants that they are giving you their entry information.
  • You must tell your participants that it has nothing to do with Facebook.
  • Your participants must agree to both, and release Facebook from any responsibility associated with the promotion.

iii. You must not condition registration or entry upon the user taking any action using any Facebook features or functionality other than liking a Page, checking in to a Place, or connecting to your app. For example, you must not condition registration or entry upon the user liking a Wall post, or commenting or uploading a photo on a Wall.

This rule seems to be broken a lot.

  • You can require the participant to like your page, check in at your place, or use the application you have created as a condition to winning.
  • You can not require the participant to like a post, share a post, comment on a post, upload a photograph, take about your page, or anything else they can possibly do on Facebook, apart from the three actions mentioned above.

You can make them like your page, but you can’t make them like your status. You can make them check in at your place, but you can’t make them upload a picture of themselves at your place.

iv. You must not use Facebook features or functionality as a promotion’s registration or entry mechanism. For example, the act of liking a Page or checking in to a Place cannot automatically register or enter a promotion participant.

This rule is broken most of all.

  • Liking your page or checking in at your place must not be the only requirement to enter the promotion.

If you are going to randomly pick the winner from people who like your page or check in at your place, you are breaking the rules. You can require them to like your page or check in at your place, but they also have to use your application, presumably to fill out an entry form, in order to win.

v. You must not use Facebook features or functionality, such as the Like button, as a voting mechanism for a promotion.

Facebook, in general, doesn’t allow ‘Like Farming,’ which is what this is preventing. If you want to ask people to vote on different things, you must ask them a question (a little used function on Facebook), not require them to like a page or a status.

Because of item iii above, answering a question can not be a requirement to enter the promotion.

vi. You must not notify winners through Facebook, such as through Facebook messages, chat, or posts on profiles (timelines) or Pages.

Last, but not least, how can you tell the winner they have won?

  • You must tell the winner(s) they have won outside of Facebook by whatever means you see fit.
  • You must not notify the winner(s) within Facebook by any means.

Based on this statement, you may announce the winner(s) on Facebook after you have contacted them outside of Facebook, provided that you have their permission to do so, but doing so is risky, as Facebook may see this as ‘notifying’ them. The better way would be to post it on your website, and then link to the announcement on Facebook without using the participant’s name within Facebook.

So those are the rules. Like them or not, if you do not want to risk the chance of Facebook permanently removing your page, you should make sure you follow them. If you have any questions about what you can or can not do, or if you are looking for someone to develop you an application to run a promotion, feel free to contact us. We’ll be happy to sit down and discuss your options.

How Fast Is Your Website?

Let’s face it: when it comes to having a website, speed is everything. Slow websites get lower rankings from search engines and frustrate your potential customers.

So, just exactly how fast is your website? With all the factors involved, this can be a tricky question to answer. Vertain Software has a free website speed test that lets you see just how fast your site is from an ideal connection. If your page takes more than 6 seconds to load on this test, you should be concerned. If it takes longer than the 13 seconds the test is limited to, you have some serious problems.

And where exactly does a website from 10T Web Design check in? In two tests, our main page checked in a 1.30 and 1.62 seconds. To put that into prospective, the super-speedy Google home page loads in about 1.1 seconds, and the only somewhat slower Facebook home page loads in about 1.7.

Not too shabby.

So, what is net neutrality, anyway?

Lifehacker has a really good article up, giving you the lowdown on net neutrality, what it is, what it means to you, and what you can do about it.  It’s a bit lengthly, but is really well written, so if you want to educate yourself, I highly suggest it.

Net Neutrality Win

There looks like there will be a win tomorrow in the battle for net neutrality.  The Washington Post is reporting that the FCC is expected to pass rules tomorrow to prevent Internet providers from deliberately slowing down access to any given web server.  However, charging a premium fee for faster website delivery is not prohibited, although it would be “frowned upon.”

From the article:

The FCC’s proposal will receive support from a majority of the five-member commission, after intense lobbying. Telecom and cable companies have said that the new rules could deter them from expanding broadband Internet connections and bolstering speeds. On the other side, Internet giants such as Google and Skype, along with public interest groups, have for years pushed for such regulation, saying the increased importance of the Internet calls for clear rules to ensure that consumers get equal access to all legal Web sites and applications.

The article does note that wireless carriers are not as strictly limited by the pending rules.  Still, tomorrow looks like it’s going to be a pretty good day.