All posts by Andrea

My name is Andrea; pronounced "On-Dree-Uh." My biggest pet-peeve is being called, "AAAAndrea." My other pet-peeve is poor spelling and grammar! I enjoy reading and writing, and I'm a bit of a cat lady (though, I only have one cat). Laughing is the best thing in the world, and I love to make people smile when they're having a hard day. WordPress is COMPLETELY new to me, but I'm excited to jump in and learn it. I have had experience maintaining a website with a Magento platform while I worked for an e-commerce flower company for 5 years. I really enjoyed that and am pursuing a career in web design.

WordPress Plugin Review: Random Backgrounds

Are you needing to revamp your WordPress site? Are you not the most tech savvy? I have found the perfect Plugin for you: Random Backgrounds. With this easy-to-use Plugin, your WordPress site will automatically change the background image each time your blog visitor clicks on a new Page or post. This can be used by just about anybody wanting to freshen up their site; whether it be Molly’s personal blog or Miss Fashionista’s Handbag website.

Here’s How it Works:

  • Search for Random Backgrounds in the Plugin Repository, download it, then activate it.

Screen shot of Random Backgrounds Plugin download page.

  • On your WordPress site, hover over “Appearance,” and click on “Random Backgrounds.” You’ll then see this page, where you can upload your own images, using the WordPress Media Uploader. The defaulted images are purposely unattractive, as to inspire a need to customize your own backgrounds.

Screen shot of uploading images.

  • Once you’ve uploaded your backgrounds, you can set them to either tile or stretch across the background. Click “Save Changes,” and take a look at your new changing backgrounds.

A Sample of my Random Backgrounds:

 

Screenshot of background #1Screenshot of background #2.Screenshot of background #3Screenshot of background #4.

Random Backgrounds is very simple to install and use on your WordPress site. It enhances the professionalism of your site, which positively catches the attention of your visitors.

For More Information

 

 

Interview: Cheri Calvert, WordPress Web Designer, Web Developer, & Incredible Artistic Talent

WordPress gives women a voice. WordPress gives women an opportunity to better integrate meaningful income-producing work into their family life. I especially enjoy helping young mothers grow a business out of their talents and passions.

WordPress supplies Artists of all kinds – from authors, musicians, and actors to painters, photographers, and sculptors – with a platform to showcase their work and preserve their memories. WordPress enables graphic designers to include complex functionality at an affordable price through the use of its vast assortment of Plugins. Cheri Calvert

The Interview

It was the first significant rain and wind storm this fall: Mother Nature was angry, and I had the greatest opportunity to meet with Cheri Calvert, Web Designer, Developer, and Artist, at her breathtaking Hayden Island work office. The wind was whipping my scarf around my face and rain pelted my glasses as I approached Cheri’s front door.

After a soft knock, Cheri opened the door; her friendly face appearing with a smile. She was so stylishly outfitted as well as accessorized with a beautiful black and silver scarf.

Andrea: Cheri, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to meet with me! This is such a pleasure, and your view is amazing!

Amazing view from Cheri's home office on Hayden Island on a very stormy day.
Cheri’s home office view onto the Columbia River on an especially stormy day.

Andrea: How long have you been working with WordPress, and do you have any other experience with non-WordPress website design?

Cheri: I’ve worked with WordPress for the last 8 years, but I started out hand-coding an HTML site back in 2002. I purchased Adobe Suites shortly thereafter, and worked in DreamWeaver and Flash. I worked for a couple of years for a company that was a pioneer in the field of virtual tours. One of their contracts was to film and create virtual tours for all the Best Western properties in the US. One of my jobs in 2006 at VRNational was to research blogs along with some of the cutting edge virtual environments of Second Life. This was my first blog, still published on Blogspot (she said to me as she pulled the website up on her computer).

Andrea: Why do you prefer WordPress, and what is your favorite feature?

Cheri: I really like the WordPress culture; it was created to share. It is affordable: a platform for the people, not designed just for corporate elitists. It is a supportive International Community that works together to create something that is bigger than merely the sum of its parts. I once had a question that I posted within the WordPress Community, and a young man in Belgium responded to me immediately with a solution.

Andrea: How did you get into Web Design and Development?

Cheri: As the world changed, I felt I needed these new tools to effectively market my own artwork. I fell in love with the creative possibilities and loved the fact that I could keep all my messes tidily on a couple of hard drives. I foresaw the freedom it would give me to earn a higher hourly rate, work from just about anywhere, and make my own schedule. When the sun comes out and it’s a glorious day, I want to be able to take a “Sun-Day” off and go out and worship our amazing Earth! I’ve found that living in the Pacific Northwest, Mother Nature usually supplies me with sufficient inclement weather for me to make a living. When it’s rainy like this (as she indicates out the window), it’s perfect weather to cozy up to my computer.

Andrea: How do you go about generating new business?

Cheri: I have participated in BNI, networking groups, several Chambers of Commerce and done numerous pro bono work for non-profits. However, most of my work comes from Word of Mouth. Existing clients have recommended friends from across the country that I have never met. I think any group that you are consistently involved with creates a feeling of trust. If you let them know what you love doing, they will seek you out if that need arises for them. In the past few days, I have had four new projects come in. One is an Artist who just moved here from Hawaii and has seen some of the work I’ve done for our HOA. Another is an Actor who’s appeared on Law and Order and Grimm who is in my cardio class at the Marshall Center. Another is a single Mom who is growing her personal chef business. My daughter is her food photographer and recommended me.

Andrea: How do you deal with clients that are difficult or resistant to change?

Cheri: I just let them go. I know the relationship won’t work, and perhaps there’s someone who can better accommodate them.

Andrea: How do you make a website mobile-friendly?

Cheri: I let the Theme do the basic heavy-lifting and tweak it with a Child Theme’s custom CSS. To ensure compatibility on all mobile devices, I test them out on my Windows desktop, Apple Notebook, Tablet, and Android phone.

Photo of Cheri Calvert with a Windows desktop, Apple Notebook, Tablet, and Android phone.
Cheri Calvert tests her sites with a Windows desktop, Apple Notebook, Tablet, and Android phone to ensure compatibility.

 

Andrea: How do you feel about Web Accessibility?

Cheri: In 2003, while working for Lewis-Clark State in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, I had the opportunity to participate in a workshop introducing the importance of accessibility issues. Although the screen-reader technology was rather crude back then, it was a good tool to help understand how information would be extracted for the visually impaired.

Andrea: What would you change about WordPress?

Cheri: Nothing. I can’t think of anything I’d want to change.

Andrea: It seems that this line of work requires constant education to keep up with all the upgrades. How do you go about continuing your knowledge?

Cheri: WordPress Meetup Groups, WordCamp, Online User Groups, solving problems through researching. When things don’t work, I try to look at it as a game. I’m “Cherlock” Holmes, searching for clues to solve the mystery. When something breaks, it is oftentimes trying to determine what is different. Sometimes I find that it’s just a comma in the code…

Andrea: What do you enjoy most about your career?

Cheri: Flexibility. Plus, there’s always something new to learn! I am an introvert (meaning that groups of people drain my energy). I need solitude, like a nutrient, to keep me balanced. Web Development gives me a voice and allows me to connect with the world from the comfort of my own office!

Andrea: Do you have any advice for those who are pursuing the same line of work?

Cheri: You’ve got to love it!


Cheri’s Story

Cheri is not just a Web Designer/Developer, but she has also worn many, many hats. She went from processing crab in the Aleutian Islands in the 70’s to Head of Wardrobe for Bobby Vinton and the Glen Miller Orchestra at the Blue Velvet Theatre in the 80’s, and spending the majority of her time as a self-employed artist. 

She had her own line of sheepskin outerwear and hand-laced deerskin clothing. Cheri used the scraps to create hand-sculpted dolls, with faces made of deerskin. These dolls were featured on the cover of Better Homes & Gardens and Early American Life. She sold these little dolls, as well as elves and Santas, while featuring them in illustrated booklets.

Screen shot from Cheri Calvert's theleatherdoll.com.
Cheri Calvert’s Woodland Fantasy Elves, photo courtesy of http://www.theleatherdoll.com.

In the 90’s Cheri developed her own line of hemp clothing called the Cannabis Collection. She created beautiful clothing and bridal gowns, all made of hemp.

Cheri continues to play with the creative features of WordPress, which fits well with her Artist clientele. Her current favorite Theme is Elegant Themes DIVI to create fun special effects and layouts. One of the biggest joys of her career is being able to help promote her fellow creative-types and their work.

 

WordPress Engine Disallowed Plugins & Alternatives

With over 36,000 plugins in the WordPress plugin repository, we only forbid a relative handful. There are pretty good odds that if you want to use a plugin on our infrastructure, you should feel free to use it! It’s your blog after all.
WP Engine Support Garage – Disallowed Plugins

Those listed as “forbidden” are as follows:

Caching Plugins

Caching Plugins aren’t needed since WordPress already has a built-in caching system to increase speed called EverCache.

These caching Plugins below clash with WordPress’ own caching system and will be removed automatically:

  • WP Super Cache
  • WP File Cache
  • WP Rocket
  • W3 Total Cache
  • WordFence

Batcache and other similar Plugins aren’t banned, but they also will not work with WordPress.

Backup Plugins

Backup Plugins simply aren’t needed, as WordPress performs automated backups on an efficient nightly basis, and is available to each user as a download (if they wish).  Backup Plugins are very much discouraged because they duplicate WordPress’ already functioning backup methods, they have been known to store large files insecurely, and run backups at very inconvenient times, causing significant delays on the server.

These Backup Plugins are not allowed on WordPress sites:

  • WP DB Backup
  • WP DB Manager
  • BackupWordPress
  • VisionPress

Though, if you must, WordPress permits VaultPress as the best backup Plugin option. However, VaultPress is not free. You may also use InfiniteWP and Dropbox in congruence with each other to effectively serve the same purpose for free.

Server & MySQL Plugins

These types of Plugins have been known to overload WordPress servers or send an alarming amount of MySQL queries, while interfering with other built-in WordPress systems.

This banned list includes:

  • Broken Link Checker
  • MyReviewPlugin
  • LinkMan
  • Fuzzy SEO Booster
  • WP PostViews
  • Tweet Blender

To check your site for broken links, you can either visit Online Broken Link Checker, or download Link Checker onto your computer.

Screen shot from brokenlinkchecker.comWordPress suggests the Jetpack Plugin or Google Analytics as safe alternatives to track website traffic.

Plugins That Duplicates WordPress’ Functionality

WordPress already has built-in systems that behave exactly like these Plugins, so not only are these non needed, but they’re also banned to allow better server flow:

  • No Revisions
  • Force Strong Passwords
  • WordFence
  • Bad Behavior

Email Plugins

While sending emails in WordPress is encouraged, email Plugins aren’t a great solution because they don’t offer the best service that WordPress strives for. This email Plugin used for email blasts has been added to the “bad” list:

  • WP Mailing List

Third-party services, such as MailChimpConstant Contact, and AWeber are excellent alternatives. For further information on how to conduct an email blast in WordPress, be sure to check out WP Engine’s Q & A emailing article.

Other Disallowed Plugins

  • Hello Dolly!
  • WP phpMyAdmin
  • Sweet Captcha
  • EWWW Image Optimizer

For Further Information

 

 

 

Web Accessibility: Designing & Developing for Older Users

As of April 2012, 53% of American adults ages 65 and older use the internet or email. Though these adults are still less likely than all other age groups to use the internet, the latest data represent the first time that half of seniors are going online. After several years of very little growth among this group, these gains are significant.
Pew Research Center

Within that 53% of American adults of at least 65 years of age, 70% use the Internet on a daily basis.

Since these statistics were recorded in 2012, it is believed that the numbers have risen significantly. It is important for web designers and developers to factor this information into their designs to cater to this group of regular Internet users in these ways:

Text Size

Select a larger font and allow the text to be resized up to 200% by the user without creating an issue with the function of the website.

Legible Text Style & Layout

Create a site that is easy to read by selecting a legible font, spacing your lines accordingly, and keeping your lines short.

Contrast & Color

While some color and contrast looks great to young eyes, older eyes can lose the ability to see text on a high-contrast page. At a minimum, your contrast ratio should be 4.5:1 with the involvement of images and text.

A screenshot of a very high contrast website.

Multimedia

With older adults, eyesight and/or hearing can rapidly decrease. By offering multimedia with subtitle options as well as visual and audible, your website visitor will be able to enjoy the presentation.

Text-to-Speech

Some elderly people rely upon speech synthesis software when browsing websites. To make your website accessible, you’ll want to use more text instead of  images, especially on call-to-action buttons.

CAPTCHA

Completely Automated Public Turing tests are used to decipher a live human user, as opposed to a machine spammer by requiring the user to type in the displayed text. As you can see below, the text is very difficult to read, even for those who do not suffer from vision impairments.

It is suggested to offer an audible version of CAPTCHA as a second option, but the user may have difficulties enabling the audio on their computers or have a hard time hearing it if enabled. Removing CAPTCHA from your site altogether is a much better solution, as it doesn’t deter spammers.

Screen Shot of what CAPCHA looks like.

 

 

 

 

Links

Due to visual impairments and difficulty with mouse usage, links need to be created over more than two words, as well as providing alternative text that indicates the destination of the link. Links must be underlined and have other visual indications.

Keyboard Use

Many people aren’t able to use a mouse and rely open only utilizing a keyboard. Always allow your site to be functional by the use of keyboard navigation without a mouse. Also, it is important to allow the tab function to move onto different cells within an online form.

Distractions

It is imperative to provide the ability to pause, mute, or stop movement and sound within a website to avoid distractions from the web experience. People may not always want to watch a video on a website, but would just prefer to quietly read the article around it.

Screen Shot

Use of Forms & Instructions/Time Limits

Sometimes websites have time limits to complete a form for a transaction; if the time limit is reached, the website will time out and the user will have to start from the beginning. Older people may have a difficult time understanding how to fill out forms to complete the transaction. Does your form require a time limit? If so, it needs to be increased.

Out of Date Software

Not everyone is going to have up to date web browsers and new computers, so your site needs to be as compatible as possible with older software. A warning message indicating that the visitor must download a newer version of a web browser will most likely result in frustration and website abandonment.

Screen Shot of unsupported browser error message.

For Further Information

 

 

Tutorial: How to Contribute to WordPress

Are you interested in becoming more involved in WordPress? There are various ways in which the extreme coding extraordinaire, or even the most amateur of bloggers, can be a part of WordPress.

What is Your Interest?

Your choices are as follows:

By selecting one of the teams above, you’ll see a blog that pertains to that topic and the opportunities listed in the top portion of that post (if available):

Screen Shot from WordPress.org with links and options of how to contribute to WordPress.

To join the Core Team to help with the development of the site, you must start by reading the Core Contributor Handbook, and following the instructions to ensure you’re qualified to apply.

There are many options that you could contribute to any of the teams. Not only do you have the possibility of diving in and getting your hands dirty, but you can also attend  weekly meetings hosted via Slack , or simply just subscribe to the posts.

Beside each recent post, there will be an option to subscribe and receive email updates each time a new post is published on that topic:

Screen shot of blog in WordPress.org under Core opportunites.

Opportunities are just a click away, depending upon how involved you’d like to be.

For More Information

WordPress Words: JavaScript

JavaScript is a programming language commonly used in web development. It was originally developed by Netscape as a means to add dynamic and interactive elements to websites. While JavaScript is influenced by Java, the syntax is more similar to C and is based on ESMAScript, a Scripting language developed by Sun Microsystems.
TechTerms: JavaScript Definition

Example: A website that uses JavaScript has been proven to be more user-friendly by responding to the user’s commands more rapidly, and thus creating a more efficient site.

About The Word

JavaScript is a program that enables websites to be more interactive with the user. It continuously communicates with the server to quicken the responses, instead of having to wait for a whole new static page to load.

JavaScript is especially useful with online forms and can catch an error within a field before the user is able to proceed onto the next field. Online forms without JavaScript won’t catch an error until the whole form is completed and submitted to the server, in which case, the user will need to fill out the whole form again and resubmit.

JavaScript is also used for loading new images or scripts onto the webpage without having to refresh.

Though, not all visitors will have JavaScript, so you’ll need to make your site usable to those who do not have it installed on their computer.

JavaScript can be added to WordPress Themes, Child Themes, and template files. However, you’re not able to add JavaScript to your post content without a special Plugin.

For More Information