Gathering Feedback after a Purchase

Written: March 14, 2014

Since September of 2013 I’ve been on a fitness kick and started to bicycle every week, which means that I visit my local bike shop Performance Bicycle on a regular basis.

Performance Bicycle

One really smart thing that Performance Bicycle does is to follow up your purchase with an email, asking you to write some feedback on their website about what you just bought. This feedback allows other cyclists to hear what you have to say about your purchase, and that in turn impacts their decision on what to buy or even avoid in some cases.

The theory of this is quite sound, and I’ve followed through and posted a handful of times on their web site about my experience with a new pair of cycling shoes, shorts or gloves. One area that Performance Bicycle needs to improve upon is the email message sent out, requesting feedback on a recent purchase, because their email has broken links to images that make the email look just awful:

One of the essential rules in email marketing is to run a test message, to double check that all is well, prior to sending out an email blast to everyone on the list. I’ve told my local store about this broken email message, however I’m not sure that they are telling their management about this glaring error. If you send out emails to customers, please double check that all is well in order to stop an embarrassment like this.

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Mac Computer Woes Resolved

Written: March 12, 2014

I enjoy using a MacBook Pro laptop in my business because of the unique ability to run both OS X and Windows 8 apps, side by side. This ability allows me to view a web page in both Internet Explorer on Windows 8, plus Safari on OS X. All is well when the laptop is operating properly, but this week that pleasant reality was quickly shaken when my laptop started rebooting.

At first I thought that the rebooting was caused by Google Chrome, so instead I started using Safari for web browsing, but the reboots kept happening even with Safari. After each reboot I had to use the Disk Utility to do repairs on the hard drive, and sometimes I could go for an hour or two before rebooting. Eventually my backup hard drive became broken, and my Windows 8 with Parallels would no longer work.

I searched the Apple support forums and found that others were having rebooting issues, but their solutions didn’t really work or apply to my situation. Finally, this morning I found one useful suggestion – try testing the RAM (Random Access Memory). According to Apple there was something called the Apple Hardware Test, where I could reboot my laptop and press the D key to get some hardware diagnostics running. Oddly enough, pressing D while rebooting did nothing.

Ready for Plan B, I found a wonderful little free App called EtreCheck that quickly identified that my RAM chipset was defective.

I was excited to finally identify the cause of my reboots, but then again I was saddened that my 16GB of RAM had already failed after only a few years of use. How could RAM go bad so easily?

Jumping into the car I made my way to Fry’s in Wilsonville and purchased 16GB of replacement for $159.99, returned home and installed it. The good news is that when I reran the memory test, it now passed everything with a clean bill of health:

The moral of my story – do a RAM test if your computer is randomly rebooting. My 2011 MacBook Pro still allows me to change my own RAM, however starting in 2012 Apple decided to solder the RAM to the motherboard, so this repair would not be possible with the newer MacBook Pro laptops – which is a big mistake on Apple’s part.

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Who Knows WordPress

Written: February 25, 2014

WordPress as a Content Management System

WordPress is my favorite content management system for developing web sites and I discovered it in 2008 after a friend from the American Marketing Association recommended it to me. Prior to that I had written my own content management system and installed it at a handful of businesses. Once I saw how WordPress had separated content from the look of a site, and how I could customize and extend the looks or features to do anything, then it really convinced me that this CMS was the one to specialize in.

Today when you hear that someone “knows WordPress”, you really should stop and think for a minute, because there are no regulatory bodies or associations out there to say that you are “WordPress certified”. That prompted me to think about a list of questions to ask your WordPress expert, just to find out how much they really know about WordPress:

  1. Can you install WordPress manually by uploading files, creating a MySQL database, and running the install script? Not all web hosts have a single-click install feature.
  2. Have you migrated a WordPress site from one domain to another domain?
  3. Do you know how to backup a WordPress site?
  4. Is my web hosting company using the right version of PHP and MySQL for WordPress?
  5. Can you manually upgrade to a newer version of WordPress when the automatic upgrade isn’t working?
  6. Can you setup an SEO-friendly permalink structure to help search engines find content on your pages?
  7. Do you know how to setup the Home page to be a static page, not filled with blog posts?
  8. Do you know how to harden WordPress to make it more secure from attacks?
  9. How would you restore an infected WordPress site?
  10. How do you make a slow WordPress site faster?
  11. My WordPress theme has Javascript and HTML errors, can you fix those?
  12. How may WordPress sites have you built?
  13. Can you create a custom theme from scratch, or do you only know how to install someone else’s theme?
  14. Can you create a custom plugin from scratch, or do you only know how to install a plugin?
  15. What is your experience in creating a child theme?
  16. Are you a WordPress theme designer, or a WordPress plugin developer? Design and development are very different skill sets.
  17. Are you active in the WordPress discussion Forums?
  18. Can you customize my theme using CSS, HTML, PHP, Javascript and jQuery?
  19. Have you used Custom Post Types before, and why did you have to?
  20. Do you provide a Web User Guide to explain how I can update my own WordPress site?
  21. Are you involved with the WordPress community, like on Meetup or at WordCamps?
  22. What are your favorite plugins and themes, and why?
  23. Have you migrated any web sites from Joomla or Blogger into WordPress?
  24. When you upgrade a plugin and it breaks WordPress, how do you fix it?
  25. Have you built an e-commerce site for WordPress and how complex was it?
  26. What is AJAX and how is it used in WordPress? Have you programmed with AJAX?
  27. Have you developed responsive themes for use in WordPress, so that I can view it on my desktop, tablet or mobile device?
  28. What is the difference between a Page and a Post in WordPress?
  29. Can I see your portfolio of WordPress projects?
  30. May I contact your WordPress references?
  31. Is my theme SEO friendly?
  32. Can you add a new sidebar to my theme?

The vast majority of people that use WordPress are content to update pages or posts, and on occasion click the Update link when there are new versions for their plugin, theme or WordPress. Using WordPress and developing or designing for WordPress are very different tasks, so ask a few questions of your WordPress expert to see if they are a good fit for your next web project.

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Migrating from Joomla to WordPress

Written: February 20, 2014

A few weeks back author Roland Smith referred another author Peg Kehret to me for a web site remodel project. I spoke to Peg by phone and discovered what she wanted to be done:

  1. Her present site was built with Joomla and it was hard to make updates to her web site.
  2. She had an older WordPress blog.
  3. She wanted to keep her blogs from Joomla, and page content.

I recommended that we continue using WordPress, because it is the number one Content Management System (CMS) in the world, is Open Source, has been around for 10 years, and is easy to use and learn. With that in place, I set about to migrate all of that Joomla blog info into WordPress, and in a few minutes I located a free plugin to do all of that work for me.

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That plugin allowed me to import hundreds of Joomla blogs into WordPress, very nice. Next, I looked for a responsive theme that would work well on the desktop, tablet and mobile devices. I found a theme called Expound and added a custom logo.

The logo in the Header area is a real bookshelf that showcases all of Peg’s work so far.

I knew that we wanted each page to have one, two or three columns, so I found a handy plugin that supported multiple columns. Now her new Home page uses three columns.

Two of her pages make use of photo galleries, so I used the handy JetPack plugin to add this visual feature.

On the Contact page I needed a form, so my favored plugin called Contact Form 7 was used.

I created a 25 page Web User Guide so that Peg would understand how to update her own web site, then we followed up by phone yesterday to review each page of the Web User Guide while I remotely controlled her desktop using TeamViewer. Now Peg is more comfortable with keeping her own web site updated.

 


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