Category Archives: Local Sponsor Posts

Sponsor Post: Frustration led FoxyCart founders to build flexible shopping cart

Today’s lesson in perseverance comes from WordCamp Nashville Gold Sponsor FoxyCart. Founders Brett Florio and Luke Stokes hated – hated – the ecommerce carts available to developers. They were rigid, or ugly, or both.

So they built one they like. It gives developers all the power and customizing options they’ll ever need and gives merchants faster check-out and higher conversion rates.
To date, FoxyCart has processed more than $500 million in transactions worldwide.

FoxyCartWith FoxyCart, developers create flexible, powerful custom e-commerce in less time. Merchants see more sales with high conversions and lightning fast checkout.

Basic HTML knowledge to create a link or a form gets you started – even with no prior experience building an an ecommerce site. FoxyCart can be integrated into anything, whether hardcoded HTML, a dynamic CMS, or a custom framework.

On the design side, styling stores, carts and checkouts creates a seamless experience for shoppers.

FoxyCart is a frequent WordCamp sponsor. FoxyShop and FoxyPress, plugins developed by WordPress community members, integrate the platform with our favorite open-source content management system. Both have been very successful.

A developer, Luke considers himself somewhat of a WordPress “newbie,” though recently worked on a WordPress site at a 2-day Hack-a-thon event.

“WordPress makes complicated things easy,” he says.

So does FoxyCart.

It allows sale of physical goods, downloads, subscriptions, one-offs, products with dizzying options – and donations – all in the same cart during the same transaction.

Curious? Take FoxyCart for a test drive.

Top WordPress Myths Debunked

by the MetaCake Team

Today many people use WordPress like your grandmother drives a Ferrari.

First gear works great, no doubt. But unbeknownst to grandma, there are 7 more gears in the crank.

200x200-squareThis is largely because of the various myths (stigmas) about WordPress many have come to accept. Yet, as a creative agency that strives to get the most out of all 8 gears of the platform, we think it’s about time to begin debunking.

Myth #1: WordPress is for blogging only
This myth came from the fact that back when it first came out, WordPress was much more focused on self-publishing and didn’t have even a fraction of the features it has now. People used it mostly for blogging because it was simple to install, you could download various themes, and it was easy to use. However, blogging is just updating a site with fresh content, which if you think about it is what we do now to all modern websites.

WordPress is a robust web-based content management system (CMS), developed by over 20,000 geeks over 10 years, that can handle, manage, and secure virtually any web project you throw at it. It has available to it every feature that any other web CMS has and a quarter of all websites built today are built on WordPress.

Here at Metacake alone, we’ve built more than 300 websites and many web applications on WordPress. We’ve even used WordPress to power some mobile apps. Why? Because it’s a versatile CMS. It’s more than a blogging engine. It makes content management easy.

Here are a few of our recent creations that run on WordPress:

You’ll Get Through This Prayer Wall
NDS Devices

Myth #2: WordPress isn’t for primetime
Something happened recently that made me chuckle at first, but then made me worry…

Someone showed me a site that had (and I quote) “Wordpress busting at its seams.”

It was obvious that this person didn’t quite understand his website.

If his simple website, which was chock-full-o-plugins, had pushed the extent of the ability of WordPress, then someone might want to tell NY Times, Yahoo, Wired, Sony, CNN, & Mashable, because they are just a few of the sites with millions of visitors that use WordPress.

The truth is that WordPress, as a CMS, doesn’t have built-in limitations. Any limitations lie with the business objectives and the skill level of the implementers. Such as the following:

· Experience and visual design
· Code (especially if you hired a “WP theme hacker”)
· Database architecture
· Server infrastructure
· Etc.

Basically the same limitations that plague any digital product. The way around these limitations is hiring a skilled team. Don’t mistake WordPress limitations with a lack of solutions to your WordPress problem.

Myth #3: There are “WordPress-only” developers
One of WordPress’ greatest strong points may also be one of its most dangerous pitfalls for those looking to hire someone to build a WordPress site. That is, its ability to be easily extended and customized through the extensive network of themes and plugins. WordPress runs on code just like any other piece of software. It’s PHP, MySQL, and a bit of JavaScript. That means that if you’re going to hire a developer to build your WordPress site, they need to understand all those languages. They also need to understand how to develop within the WordPress framework.

Beware of the “WordPress Theme Hacker” for hire.

What is a “WordPress Theme Hacker”? They may call themselves a WordPress designer or developer but in truth they have very little real development experience, if any at all. They may think they do because they know how to install a theme and add a few plug-ins, but this person is likely not qualified to do anything more.

We’ve had many clients conclude that WordPress just isn’t right for their needs after unknowingly hiring “WordPress Theme Hackers.” However, WordPress is only as functional as the code it obeys. And that code is entirely dependent on the developer you hire to write it.

So next time you need to build a website, save yourself some time. Skip the “What platform should I build it on?” question and invest your time and energy in the real factor that determines that site’s success: “Who am I going to hire to build it?”

Don’t be the one driving a Ferrari down the interstate in first gear. Put the right driver in the seat and experience its full potential.

NOTE: This is one in a series of posts by our local sponsors. 

Pantheon provides WorkFlow for WordPress

By Cal Evans, GetPantheon

Hosting is dead, workflow killed it.

Hosting is dead, workflow killed it.

Many developers these days still work by FTPing files up to the server to deploy. Some of the lucky ones have a full development environment on their laptop, but that doesn’t help much when you need to show your progress to a client across the country. Most of us have created work-arounds, but in most cases they are inelegant or down right kludgy. Pantheon solves your workflow problem. Pantheon gives you a platform to both develop and deploy your websites.

PantheonWith Pantheon, you get 3 identical environments with every website you set up.

  • Development
  • Testing
  • Live

No more keeping multiple servers in sync. No more maintaining a server, even for development. No more explaining to the client “it will run better on the live server.” All of your environments on Pantheon run on the same infrastructure – not just similar – as the production environment.

A click of a button sets your new sandbox. You use either SFTP or GIT to push code to your new development area, and see your results immediately. Once you are happy with everything, another button click will move you code and/or data to your testing area so that you can show your code to your client. Your client can test everything, even share it and show it off. All while you continue to develop in the development environment.

Once everybody is happy, you can push your new site to production. Voila, you are done, right? If only life were that simple.

Time marches on.

  • Your client will have new requests
  • Plugins will release new version
  • The core will release security patches

Thanks to Pantheon’s workflow, you always had a development area where you can pull all these together and make sure nothing breaks. Once you are satisfied, you pull data from production and you push code from development into your test environment. Now you can ensure all your changes work well with your production data, before pushing everything live.

Finally, each of your three environments has it’s own backup schedule. You set how often each environment is backed up. Because regardless of our best intentions, sometimes things go wrong and you need to back up a step or two.

Stop hosting your website. Put it on Pantheon and enjoy the freedom of developing it.

Note: This is one in a series of guest posts from our local sponsors. Cal Evans is a developer advocate at GetPantheon. Pantheon is the sponsor of the WordCamp 2014 after-party at the Flying Saucer, from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday, May 3.

Worship Times – About Our Clients

by Emily Morgan, Worship Times

The Worship Times community includes a variety of groups from small churches to large nonprofit organizations.

Some have been established for hundreds of years, and some are just starting out. Some just need the basics like Forest Grove Presbyterian Church. They wanted a simple website that highlights the most important information about the church.

Worship Times WebsitesSome members of the Worship Times community, like the First Presbyterian Church of Nashville, want a traditional look with a compelling platform to be able to share their ministry with their worshipping and local communities. We also pitched in to provide high quality photography.

And some groups just need something specialized like LEAD–a non-profit focused on church leadership development. They needed a site to that combined the 4 colors representing the 4 main areas they work in in order to showcase the resources they have for all these areas without having an overcrowded or over-complicated website. We made a colorful but distinct homepage and Pinterest-style boxes on their resource pages so that users can quickly scan for all the info they need.

Working with Worship Times is joining a community. We’re pretty active on Twitter joining in conversations and linking to useful resources. All members of our community are encouraged to jump in on conversations, ask questions, and share ideas. The combined creativity of our community and our staff inspires us to constantly do things we’ve never done before.

Together our community helps small churches and big nonprofits and every kind of ministry in between. We know the pressures of 21st century ministry at the small church level, the big nonprofit level, and lots in between. We have the skills to handle any size job. But at the end of the day this is a ministry for us to support the ministries of others.

Note: This is one in a series of posts from WordCamp Nashville 2014 sponsors.

VoxMD delivers WordPress solutions to healthcare companies

By Dick Pepper, Vice President VoxMD

VoxMD is a healthcare marketing and technology company based in exotic, tropical Hendersonville, TN.

We are unique for a healthcare marketing company in that we all come from medical backgrounds, as caregivers, device company directors, etc. as well as a long history of online development.

VoxMD HendersonvilleVoxMD specializes in digital marketing and uses WordPress for all of our solutions and products. We use WP in a number of ways.

We deliver WordPress solutions to Fortune 500 customers, as traditional websites, but also integrated with custom technology to provide real-time solutions for medical device company needs, such as scheduling surgeon visits, ordering bone models and samples, and other uses not typically thought of when one thinks of WordPress.

Also, VoxMD delivers its original medical content through a unique WP Plugin and backend database that actually uses a separate WordPress database. This allows us to syndicate our content.

Our background is PHP and MySQL, long before WordPress showed up, and we recognized how well WordPress allows us to leverage these skills more quickly than creating sites and technology from scratch.

And even though we have a long history in development, we’re smart enough to recognize how little we know. That’s why we’re an avid supporter of the WordPress community, and a first-time sponsor of WordCamp. We recognize how much everyone, regardless of skill level, brings to the table, and how we need to support efforts to bring everyone together.

WordPress is at once simple and complex, and it takes a lot of eyes and brains to figure out the never-ending ways in which we can use – and benefit from – WordPress.

VoxMD is proud to be a sponsor of WordCamp Nashville 2014 and upcoming WPNashville events.

Note: This is one in a series of guest posts from our local sponsors.

About Us: Sponsor Worship Times

by Emily Morgan, Worship Times

When was the last time you saw an ugly website? Like, a really ugly website? What was the website for? A business? A community event? Maybe a church?

Let me tell you, there are a lot of ugly church websites. Outdated, stagnant, rotating gifs, you name it. It’s a running joke within many church communities about how bad their website is. Three years ago Michael Gyura and the web design professionals at Poka Yoke Design decided that they had seen enough ugly church websites.

Worship Times was launched in the spring of 2011 as a joint venture between Poka Yoke Design, people in training to become church professionals, and pastors to meet the growing online needs of churches and church-based nonprofits. With most the staff coming from ministry backgrounds, we know the importance of an online presence to churches and nonprofits in the 21st century.

Churches and nonprofits don’t function the same way as businesses and neither should our websites.

Although the company builds websites, we’re also growing an organic community. We realized that a sustainable model of website design for churches, especially smaller ones, must use the strengths and talents of everyone possible. Scripture speaks of faithful communities as various parts of a single body–we may have different functions but we are all in this together. Members of our community combine their resources with others across the world so we can build cost efficient websites together.

Worship Times WebsitesWe have found many partners in our journey. We use the open source WordPress content management system so thousands of people are helping us develop better and better ways to be in community online. We work with denominations such as the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to provide bulk discounts for fledgling communities. We hired three new staff members in the past year and are continuing to expand our services.

Our goal is simple–we don’t want any church’s website to be the butt of a running joke. We create economically sustainable, user friendly, not ugly websites for churches in a community that will support these ministries for years to come.

Note: This is part of  a series of posts from our sponsors. Check out the theme showcase from Worship Times.

WP Site Care takes the Stress Out

Ryan Sullivan started WP Site Care three years ago and the WordPress maintenance, support and development company quickly grew to a six-person team.

wpsitecareWP Site Care became his full-time job in June 2013, less than a year ago. The company, based in Salt Lake City, offers three packages as well as al a carte services designed to free site owners from maintenance, WordPress core and plugin updates, security breaches and, with more aggressive options, ongoing SEO, so they can focus on their businesses.

  • Starter: Provides 24/7 security monitoring; daily cloud backups; WordPress core, theme, and plugin updates; and WordPress video training
  • Specialized: Includes the Starter Plan plus site performance optimization; premium theme and framework updates; premium plugin updates; SEO optimization; and a 1-hour support ticket.
  • Business: Includes everything in both the Starter and Specialized plans plus site migrations, real-time uptime monitoring, SEO analysis from Moz, phone support and 2 hours of design and development.

Al a carte services include migrations, plugin setup and configuration, security audits, site speed optimization, disaster recovery and SSL certification installation and setup.

Many business clients use the design/development time for custom landing pages, graphics, page templates and post layouts, Ryan says. Clients at all levels come to WP Site Care after developers/designers wrap up their new sites because their shops aren’t set up for ongoing security maintenance and support.

WP Site Care has sponsored other WordCamps, and if Ryan isn’t here in person on May 3, he’ll be here in spirit. He likes the “laid-back vibe” at WordCamps and how the community-organized events break down barriers. “At a lot of conferences you’ll have industry leaders and they’ll be partitioned off from everyone else who is there to learn,” Ryan says. “At WordCamp you can literally be standing and talking to someone who is giving the keynote and won’t even know it.”

“The whole format is designed to help everyone involved and supposed to be an environment of learning,” he says.

Note: This is part of  a series of posts on our sponsors. WP Site Care team has people in Salt Lake City, Seattle, Portland, Austin and Kalispell, Montana.

The problem with off-the-shelf WordPress themes and SEO

by Jon Henshaw, Raven Tools

One of the best things about WordPress is that you can get a great looking website without doing too much work.

WordPress makes this happen with a feature they call Themes. Themes control the overall look and feel of your site. You don’t have to change any of the core WordPress code to use them. Plus, most WordPress software updates don’t affect the themes. Just press a button to upgrade to the latest version of WordPress, and you’re done!

sponsor raven toolsThe ease of use and popularity of theming abilities helped create an entire market that focuses exclusively on making and selling WordPress themes.

At one time, WordPress theme makers didn’t concern themselves with search engine optimization (SEO). They would use Flash, table based layouts and other coding methods that interfered with a search engine’s ability to fully comprehend a page’s content.

Today, almost every reputable theme provider touts its themes as SEO friendly. In reality, most are just SEO friendlier.

The Top 4 SEO issues with off-the-shelf WordPress themes are:

  1. Self-Promotion: Many themes include a hard-coded footer link back to their site. Those links are usually unrelated to the website using the theme and can be seen as unnatural (spammy) links by Google’s algorithm. Other themes include additional elements that aren’t as obvious to the site owner, and they only exist to serve the interests of the theme maker.
  2. Too Much Code: To make the theme do the cool looking things that got you to buy it, theme makers often include large JavaScript libraries. Depending on the theme, this can adversely affect the speed and load time of the site. Search engine algorithms devalue websites that are slow to load.
  3. Lack of Focus: Search engine algorithms consider the context of the content on your page. The more focused the experience, the better. Therefore, themes that use three columns and/or enable the display of a multitude of widgets and navigation items are not optimized for SEO (or a good user experience). Website navigation should be limited and focused, and the main content should be at the forefront — preferably in a one column layout. Everything else is a distraction and could dilute the context you’re trying to communicate to search engine algorithms.
  4. Cookie Cutter: There’s a very good chance that a theme — even a theme that passes all of the items on an SEO checklist — is being used by spammers. While this may not affect your site’s ability to perform well in search results, it may affect the first impression and trust level of first time visitors. That’s especially true if they subconsciously identify your theme design with the spammy sites they’ve visited.

Ultimately, the most SEO-friendly WordPress theme is a custom theme. Not only can you control the code, design and focus of your website, your website won’t have spammy looking links by default.

Also, you can take steps to improve the SEO of your website. For example, when writing the HTML, you can label your content with microdata. This microdata is invisible to humans but helps search engine machines determine whether they’re looking at a movie review, a recipe, an event and much more.

The best place to start with a custom theme is with a starter (a.k.a. barebone, blank or naked) theme. The start theme that I recommend is Roots, which incorporates Bootstrap, Boilerplate and Grunt. Bootstrap gives you a mobile ready framework; Boilerplate provides modern HTML5 code; and Grunt minifies and concatenates the CSS and JavaScript for faster loading times.

In my experience, custom themes almost always outperform off-the-shelf themes when it comes to search engine visibility and organic traffic. And while it’s true that creating your own theme can take significantly more time than using an off-the-shelf theme, the long-term SEO benefits often make it well worth it.

Note: This is one in a series of guest posts from our local sponsors. Jon Henshaw is a founder and chief product officer at Raven Tools. He will be speaking in Track 1 at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 3. His talk is delightfully called “How to SEO the crap out of WordPress.”