Zeus Admin Theme WordPress Plugin

The Zeus Admin Theme WordPress plugin extends the WordPress Dashboard and cleans up the UI for a more modern approach.

Click here to download the Zeus Admin Theme on WordPress.org

As I’ve recently been diving into other CMS platforms, it was hard to not notice how the WordPress Dashboard was slowly falling behind. While the stand-alone dashboard itself isn’t awful, it definitely is lacking some features compared to other modern CMS platforms. As my debut plugin launch for WordPress, I decided to create a plugin that would help bridge the gap between where WordPress is and where some of the new guys are.

Improved UI – To start, this is not your typical “admin theme” that makes WordPress un-recognizable. Instead, I simply cleaned up the look with a minimal approach. I noticed a lot of other “admin themes” attempt to completely change how WordPress looks and functions. Instead, I’m not trying to re-invent the wheel,but make it better. With basic markup I improved the aesthetic and readability. Without diving too deep, I was able to improve the admin area while keeping 3rd party plugins unified.

Hide Front-End Toolbar – The WordPress Dashboard is also seriously lacking some basic features. Shopify, for example, also has a front-end toolbar for admins when viewing the site. But if it gets in the way of your view, you can click an anchor link to minimize it. I loved this feature and wanted to bring it to WordPress. Included in the plugin is my own version of this. In WordPress, it allows you to move the admin bar off to left and out of the way. If you need to get back to the Dashboard, just click the arrow again and it slides back in. Simple, easy.

Global Admin Search – WordPress also has about 10 different search features within their Dashboard, but all of them are compartmentalized… there is no global search that runs across them all. This is another major setback so I included a global admin search that remedies this. With AJAX, it becomes really easy to instantly navigate to a specific area in the dashboard.

Menu Editor – Finally, WordPress has a reputation for it’s main menu to get extremely messy. This is because every plugin is fighting for real-estate in your dashboard. There’s really nothing you can do about this when you install a plugin. The Zeus Admin Theme solves this by allowing you re-organize the menu and clean up the clutter. Simply drag and drop menu items to move them around. This feature greatly improves productivity when managing your website.

The 6 Most Important Web Metrics to Know for Your Business Website

When you log in to Google Analytics, you’re faced with a sea of numbers, charts, and menu items. It can be downright intimidating to anyone but a seasoned analytics professional.

But, it doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as it looks. If you are new to web analytics, the key is to start with tracking some basic numbers. Once you get a handle on these key metrics, you can expand your data portfolio and build your expertise.

Here’s my list of the top six metrics you should be looking at on a regular basis:

1. Visitors

Specifically, I like to focus initially on unique visitors. This is the number of people that visited your site during a specific timeframe (e.g., yesterday, last week, last month). Unique visitors represents the count of individual people that visited your site regardless of the number of times they visited your site. So, if person A visits your site once and person B visits your site five times, you will have two unique visitors and six total visits.

These numbers are important because they represent the size of the audience that you are reaching. As you expand your marketing efforts, you will want to see if they are effective. This is especially true if you do offline marketing that can’t get tracked explicitly in Google Analytics. So, if you run a magazine ad in the October issue and don’t see a corresponding jump in visitors during that month, perhaps that portion of your marketing budget could be better spent somewhere else.

As you get a handle on tracking unique visitors, you can expand to look at repeat visitors. If your number of repeat visitors is growing, this means that people are visiting your site once and then deciding to come back again to shop or read. This means that your site was compelling and useful, or “sticky” in online marketing lingo.

2. Referrals

As you get a handle on your visitor numbers, your next question will be, “Where did these people come from?” The referrals report is the answer to that question.

Referrals track users as they click on links in search engines, on other blogs, and other websites to your web site. The referrals report will show the number of visitors you are getting from social sites as well.

Understanding where you traffic is coming from is the key to understanding how the work you are doing to promote your business is working. Are people mentioning you on their blogs and linking back to you? Are your social efforts paying off?

The referrals report is also useful to find other companies or blogs that you might consider forging a stronger relationship with. If you are getting traffic from a specific site, you might want to consider reaching out to that site and establishing a more formal relationship.

3. Bounce Rate

A “bounce” is when someone visits your site and immediately clicks the back button or closes their browser tab. What this usually means is that that user didn’t find what they were looking for on your site and decided to leave. This is the equivalent of someone walking in the front door of a store, taking a quick look around, and immediately walking back out the door.

Obviously, sometimes people just end up on the wrong site by accident, so getting your bounce rate down to zero is impossible. But reducing the rate is critical. Every lost visitor is a lost opportunity, so you’ll want to figure out why people are leaving and try to add the right content or navigation on your site to keep users around.

If you combine the referral report with your bounce rate data (Google Analytics does this for you) you should be able to see what sites are generating the highest bounce rate. Unfortunately, Google is no longer sharing search term data, so you don’t get to see what search terms have a high bounce rate.

4. Exit Pages

People often confuse “bounce” and “exit,” but they are very different metrics for you to measure. Unlike a “bounce”, when a user visits your site and barely views one page, an “exit” is when a user visits multiple pages and then leaves your site.

Some pages on your site may naturally have a high exit rate, such as your order receipt page. After all, a visitor is probably done with their purchase if they have reached the order receipt page after successfully completing a purchase.

However, having a high exit rate on other pages on your site may indicate that you have some problems. Take a look at your pages that have high exit rates and try and hypothesise why a higher number of people than average are leaving your site from that page. Are they not finding the information they need? Why are they choosing to leave?

5. Conversion Rate

Of all the metrics you might track, conversion rate is probably one of the most important. Conversion rate is the percentage of people who achieved a goal on your site. Goals are things like completing a purchase, filling out a contact form, or viewing a certain page on your site.

The reason conversion rate is so important is that it is the ultimate measure of how successful your site is. If your site has a low conversion rate, you are either attracting the wrong kind of visitor to your site or your site is not effective at convincing your visitors that you offer the right solution to their problem.

Monitoring conversion rate can also tell you if something is broken on your site. For example, if your conversion rate suddenly drops, that might mean that there is an error in your shopping cart or a problem with your sign-up form.

6. Top 10 Pages

Finally, it’s important to know what pages your visitors think are the most important on your site. By viewing your top ten pages report, you know which pages to focus on as you look to improve your site and which pages will have the most impact if you make changes.

If you run a content site, your top ten pages report may change frequently. In this case, the report will tell you what types of content your visitors find most useful and engaging, and which headlines you’ve written were the most successful. Use this knowledge to help determine what kind of content to create as you move forward with growing your site.

Start Small

Web analytics and metrics can be overwhelming. The key to avoid drowning in the sea of numbers is to start small. Pick a metric that matters to you and your business and track that one metric and try to improve it. By focusing on only one thing as you get started, you’ll get a better feel for the numbers and how you can impact them. As you get comfortable, you can expand the metrics that you track.

For much more detail and help with web metrics, I highly recommend Avinash Kaushik’s books: Web Analytics: An Hour a Day and Web Analytics 2.0.

What web metrics do you track in your business? Let me know in the comments.

Do I Own My WordPress Content?

As a WordPress specialist, I get asked this question from time to time by clients that are interested in using the Content Management System.  The short answer is YES, the WordPress software is open source which is free to use, distribute and modify.  You own all the work you put into it.

So why is this question being asked?  It’s because there is a BIG difference between using the free open source WordPress software and using WordPress.com

WordPress.com is a web hosting solution running the WordPress software.  They offer free hosting and premium upgrades.  It is all setup and maintained by the WordPress team.  In return for using their hosting platform you must agree to their Terms of Service, which gives them a license to use the content you create.  You still retain ownership, however, your content is license to WordPress.com for their distribution.

If you are using the WordPress software with your own hosting then there is nothing to worry about.  You own all content and are not giving WordPress.com a license to distribute.  Most websites using WordPress are using their own hosting, and this is how we build all of our WordPress sites at Gravity UX.

Things got a little tricky since WordPress decided to use the same name for their hosting and software, however they are two different solutions from the Automattic team.

Summary

  • You own all content when using the WordPress Content Management System
  • If you are using WordPress.com hosting, you still own the content, but give WordPress.com a license to distribute
  • If using your own hosting and WordPress, you own all the content and are not giving WordPress a license to distribute

Hope that cleared some things up about WordPress content ownership. If you have further questions, or are considering using WordPress, please reach out to us and we’d be happy to chat.

Keep Hackers Away – 4 Easy Steps to Keep Your WordPress Site Secure

There’s nothing worse than getting hacked.  I’ve dealt with several situations where a site was hacked and the clean-up is never fun.  Sometimes critical business assets are lost or compromised, and other times the site was destroyed completely.  If you are selling products, your reputation can be tarnished if your customers data is exposed.  Fortunately, there are a few steps that can be taken to ensure your privacy and security.

1. Use Strong Passwords

This one seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how insecure the password you are using might be.  Using your maiden name with a number is not a secure password.  The amount of data that is out there about you is unnerving.  In fact, this is how the latest iCloud celebrity hacks happened, hackers guessed passwords based on available personal information until they hit the mark.  Instead, I recommend using a password generator and saving these in a spreadsheet.  I use http://passwordsgenerator.net/ which generates random characters.  These passwords are very secure and will keep your information sealed.  Use a different password for each account you own.

2. Keep WordPress and any plugins you use up-to-date

Nothing will leave you more vulnerable to hackers than using out-of-date software.  This is because most of the time, new versions are released to patch holes in security issues.  This is especially the case with WordPress core and plugin updates.  A regular schedule to update software should be followed to ensure you are closing doors on preventable security threats.

3. Frequent Malware and Security Scans

Many times your site could already be hacked and you wouldn’t know it.  Hackers take advantage of small business websites to further distribute their malware.  This could mean your site becoming blacklisted and losing all of that hard work on your SEO.  To prevent this, I recommend using iThemes Security Pro WordPress plugin.  They recently partnered with Sucuri to improve their robust platform even more.  If you need assistance with setting this plugin up, give us a call.

4. Automated Weekly Backups

I really can’t stress this point enough. In times of need, backups can be the single most important asset to have on hand. Your web hosting company should also have backups on hand, however it is a much longer and larger process to restore these versions. Instead, I highly recommend installing iThemes BackupBuddy. This plugin is really easy to use and comes with all the features you would need in a backup solution. I set my options to backup twice a week and send to an off-site location (Amazon s3 storage), that way if my site ever goes down, my back up doesn’t go down with it. If I ever need to restore my site, BackupBuddy comes with a migration feature called importbuddy. In fact, it is so easy to restore sites with BackupBuddy, that I usually use this service to move sites and create development environments of live sites.

How To Customize Page Animations and Transitions WordPress Plugin

page-animations-and-transitions-wordpress

I was working on a client site recently and needed to implement a fade animation transition between pages.  Whenever a user would click a link, the old page would fade out and a new page would fade back in.  Page transitions are really nice effects that are giving sites a polished, modern feel to them – I love how they can provide a seamless experience throughout a domain.  It’s one of those new web trends where, if done right, it can take the site to the next level, however when done wrong, there’s nothing more annoying than browsing a site that’s flipping and spinning at you in every direction.

Since I’m building this site on a WordPress platform the easiest avenue to get this project started was to search for a plugin.  There’s a few out there that do the trick:  Page Transition, Page Animations and Transitions, and the premium WP Page Transitions.  All get the job done with plenty of options, however with all those options comes plenty of code that is useless.  If I had more time for this part of my project, I would have preferred to code up a more lightweight plugin, but since time was crunched I chose to install Page Animations and Transitions.  Of course it adds a parent tab to your WordPress admin bar (which is super annoying and why I always use Admin Menu Editor to move it under Settings).

Out of the box this plugin worked great and I had minimal conflict with the code that I already had in place.  The only problem was that it was applying the transition effect to my body tag, which meant the entire website would fade out and fade back in on every link.  This wasn’t the exact effect I had in mind as I preferred just the content to transition without the header.  I checked the documentation to see if the plugin could do this – nothing there so I checked the WordPress Plugin support forum.  After a very long run around by the Plugin author I decided to just dive into the code myself and make the modifications.  So, without further a-do, here is the answer to:

How to Exclude Header/Menu From Page Animations and Transitions WordPress Plugin

First thing first was to find the line of code that was adding the animsition class to our body tag.

Navigate to your Plugins directory via FTP.  This is located under wp-content/plugins.

Find your installation of Page Animations and Transitions and open page-animations-and-transitions.php

Here is the code that we are looking for on line 99

// Add specific CSS class by filter
add_filter('body_class','weblizar_page_anim_class_names');
function weblizar_page_anim_class_names($classes) {
// add 'class-name' to the $classes array
$wl_page_trans_options = get_option('wl_page_trans_options');
$weblizar_page_in_trans= $wl_page_trans_options['weblizar_page_in_trans'];
$weblizar_page_out_trans= $wl_page_trans_options['weblizar_page_out_trans'];
if( $weblizar_page_in_trans=="none" or $weblizar_page_out_trans=="none"){
$classes[] = '';
}
else{
$classes[] = 'animsition';
}

// return the $classes array
return $classes;
}

Side-note: Anyone notice the mistake on line 106?

This function is adding the class animsition to your site’s body tag by using the WordPress function body_class.  This is a useful template tag that gives theme and plugin authors the ability add css style more effectively.  You’ll notice this hook in your theme files next to your body tag:

<?php body_class( $class ); ?>

For our case, we do not want the plugin to fade the entire body but rather the content. Fortunately WordPress provides us with another function called post_class. This template tag is used in theme posts and pages to be able to dynamically add css styles to content.  You’ll most-likely find this template tag in your page.php template and any another page templates installed and will look like this:

<?php post_class( $class ); ?>

Depending on your theme – all we need to do to exclude the header from the page animations and transitions plugin is to modify the filter on line 100 of page-animations-and-transitions.php plugin file. Simply switch out body_class with post_class:

// Add specific CSS class by filter
add_filter('post_class','weblizar_page_anim_class_names');
function weblizar_page_anim_class_names($classes) {
// add 'class-name' to the $classes array
$wl_page_trans_options = get_option('wl_page_trans_options');
$weblizar_page_in_trans= $wl_page_trans_options['weblizar_page_in_trans'];
$weblizar_page_out_trans= $wl_page_trans_options['weblizar_page_out_trans'];
if( $weblizar_page_in_trans=="none" or $weblizar_page_out_trans=="none"){
$classes[] = '';
}
else{
$classes[] = 'animsition';
}

// return the $classes array
return $classes;
}

Save the file and take a look at your site. It should now exclude the header from transitions. If it doesn’t look perfect/if there is some content that are not part of transition you will need to modify where your <?php post_class( $class ); ?> is installed on your page templates. In my case, the titles were above the post_class tag, so I simply created a new div above the titles and moved my post_class tag there. Here is a simple version of what I ended up with:


<div id="primary" class="content-area">
<main id="main" class="site-main" role="main">
<div <?php post_class(); ?>>
<!-- All your content coding -->
</div>
</main>
</div>

Simple as that. Stay tuned for my own page transition plugin in the future. I am working on a much lighter and simpler solution than what is currently available.