Using Forms to Gather and Track Info

Written: March 17, 2014

I’m a member of the Tualatin Chamber of Commerce and we used WordPress to build most of their web site. Next month there’s an annual award celebration, so this month we needed to gather nominations for the awards. In WordPress we used the Form feature in the Jetpack plugin. Here’s what the form looks like in WordPress:

After I defined the form in WordPress, I viewed it in a browser to double-check that it looked OK:

Once a web visitor fills out this Form, then feedback is sent by email to the Tualatin Chamber, and they can also go into WordPress and see this one nomination or even export all nominations into a CSV file for use in Excel.

So it’s quick and simple to add forms to your WordPress site, view the results, and automate the process to save you time in organizing your association or business.

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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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