Custom Sidebar Plugin

I’ve been actively blogging my brains out since about 2002. When I started, I had multiple web presences all over the place. Several on Blogger and several self-hosted installations of traditional ground-up HTML web sites I had built after leaving my corporate gig at the end of 2006.

In 2009, after Rope Swings & Avalanches, I was kinda tired. Especially at the thought of starting over again. And, I didn’t want to give up on my dream of doing what I love. So this time around, I wanted to focus on introducing more ease and grace into my own web presencing process and my next design.

I took all the expert blogging advice I had ever received (which was really good), threw it out the window and gave myself permission to consolidate everything under one web presence. I choose my name, not some business-ey name, like my original coaching web presence which was called Cognizance Coaching.

I had discovered that not only did people not know how to pronounce Cognizance, they didn’t really know what it meant, it was hard to remember and would put more search engine optimization “heavy” on me, the biz owner, in order to get discovered.

I had always had my name secured at Godaddy in my domain name repository. So I took the consolidation plunge, switched over to the god of all content management systems, WordPress and began using the Thesis theme; acknowledging that my name won’t likely change, even though what I do and what I call it will.

What does this have to do with the Custom Sidebar plugin?

Well, it’s a little bit of back story, to help you understand, why you may eventually need it yourself.

Right out the gate, I’m going to probably discourage you from doing this. Mostly because, you need to understand some basic web presencing terms like evergreen.

All the widgets and banner ads, etc. in your sidebar are considered evergreen because they are always on (displayed). Like in nature, those trees that stay green forever, even in winter. Also always on, will be your static pages that are available from the primary navigation bar of your web presence.

But just recently in the spring of 2011, I realized my two sidebars were increasingly cluttering up my web presence. Creating way too many options for you the web visitor to look at and decide which one to click on. Not good in the Usability world. Not good at all.

Remember, you always want to make it easier for your visitors to know what to do next. You want to guide them to the most important thing you need them to do… which is usually subscribe to a list (start watching as you move around on other blogs and you’ll see this call-to-action usually always near the tippy top of the web presence).

After that, it’s really up to you, the biz owner, to decide what’s most important. For me personally, I want to give visibility to my product offerings and then perhaps my “best of” article links.

Problem is, when you do many things in several categories like I do (astrology, life coaching and web presencing for women), one evergreen sidebar will not do.

I don’t want to be telling you about my astrology products when you are reading a how-to-guide tutorial on Setting Up Your Free GoDaddy Email Account, right? I’d rather be showing you my technology products instead.

So when you visit my website, you’ll notice as I continue with my redesign (live and unfettered by the possibility of showing you the imperfections that occur along the way) that my sidebars change as you navigate through the major categories of my site.

WordPress Plugin

I’m doing that with a plugin called Custom Sidebars. And this post is really for those of you who have been blogging for a while and maybe going through a major overhaul to re-presence yourself; like several of my latest clients.

You’ll see from the link, the developer of the plugin does a great job at showing you some basics about using the plugin. And if you need some personal one-on-one help, you can always set up a WordPress consulting session with me and I’ll give you my expert feedback on whether or not I think you’re ready for it and help you get started using it.

I plan on doing some regular posts on the plugins I’m personally using and the ones I install in my custom wordpress web design package. Because generosity rocks and I love empowering you to use technology to help you do that thing you love.

Until next time,

 

 

Your Web Presence & Showcasing Your Art

mar·quee [mahr-kee –noun

  1. a tall rooflike projection above a theater entrance, usually containing the name of a currently featured play or film and its stars.

I’ve noticed that many more women are showing up asking for a very specific requirement for their web presence. They want a marquee style header.

At first, I thought this would be the exception. And it was, for a little while.

Most of my previous clients are coaches. Early on, I had one ‘typical’ artist show up and say yes to me and my way of webifying. And after analysis of what she was presenting to the world, and upon my recommendation to her, we designed her web presence using a different WordPress theme than is my usual standard. And Thesis is a standard in today’s web presencing universe.

I looked at what she was doing, and I decided it needed a different focus. Not that Thesis couldn’t handle her and what she does. Enough mystery, yeah? Please meet Laura Jacquemond from BlueTerracotta.com.

But my past clients were mostly going to be using their words to connect with their audience of right people. And I do believe, Thesis is a really great broad based solution for what most people starting out need in their first few years of online business making.

However, the earlier exception is now becoming the rule. And even in my own online business growth process, I personally am finding I need a different approach to how I’m showing my stuff to the world.

You & your art

I talk a lot in my main webification sales page about being a creator. Being an artist of some type. And that at our core, we all are. I think the importance of being able to express our own personal forms of creativity is so germane to the expansion of life.  To having a feeling of deeper meaning, satisfaction, joy… all the good stuff. I believe it’s what will save the world actually. Or make Heaven on Earth.

Expressing our personal forms of art heals us.

And artistic expression is everywhere. In every thing. Because it all begins with thought. An inspiration or desire. It begins there.

What I had been wanting for my own web presence was a way to showcase my gallery. I’m an artist, and I need a gallery. Right now, I have a list in my sidebar, of clients I’ve worked with and am working with (well not this very second, because I’m writing this now, but there they are… see? look in the sidebar).

I have all the right ingredients, including testimonials, screenshots… ya know, the whole she-bang. All the things I think you’d like to see in order to make the decision of whether or not you’re going to visit my contact page and set up our chat about your web presence.

The information coming easily, in a naturally-feeling organized manner… like “uhuh uhuh uhuh…” click click click. Easy. (Emphasis on easy… ya feelin’ me?)

I’ve played with a few plug-ins (I plan to share that with you another time soon). I built galleries in several of them. Just not satisfied. Not feelin’ it.

So I’m bopping around Facebook and I notice a certain something that calls to my attention… drag & drop WordPress theme. “Oh?” I muse.

You see, I’m always thinking about you. Well not always. But you know what I mean. I want it to be easier for you… the whole technology thing. And I strongly believe that if technology doesn’t make itself easier to use, it will not be around. It must build ease-of-use into itself to thrive and expand. If it’s too challenging to use, nobody will use it.

May seem counterintuitive because in a sense, I undermine your need of my services. But I don’t see it that way. My bottom line is empowerment. I say that right-off-the-bat on my web presencing sales page.

What a marquee styled header is…

Marquee, marquee, marquee… what the hell is it?! Ok, well… read the definition again at the top of this post and then visit my client Megan Matthieson. It’ll be like bam! I promise…. Go quick…

So drag & drop WordPress theme, marquee based header. If you like it and it’s right for what your sharing… still with me?

If you are strictly biz and not an artist, then this is where you showcase your latest product or just simply sell what you do with imagery and some verbiage. It’s your billboard people. It’s your electronic billboard.

I say this all the time. If you’re a client, you’re gonna nod your head. Ready? You’ve got 2.5 seconds.

That’s it! If they don’t see what they want to see, they click the back button (or hit backspace on their keyboard like I do.)

So you gonna make’em read it or are you gonna show it to them?

My new theme choice is…

My new theme is called PlatformPro from Pagelines.com (yes, that’s an affiliate link). I’ve already sent them a lil love note… I really want them to come on by, pay me a visit (yes, it’s a secret wish). This is what it looks like when you fly-by-the-seat-of-your-optimystical-designer-ass… and it feels fun and free and wild to be… me. FINALLY!

I’m redesigning my website. I’m gonna share it with you in hopes that’ll it will help you turn your own corners about webifying and what you’re doing online, with your business.

My need for redesign is not about dissatisfaction in how my web presence looks or feels, it’s about needing to present the information in a more dynamic way. And it’s about growing and expanding myself into technology as-I-go, not all at once. Which is crazy to think that we could or can, but we do it nonetheless.

You and your web presence may not need PlatformPro now. And you might be an artist like me; needing flexible, easy & dynamic. A showcase for your art. And if your art is your writing, Thesis is still (really), more than good enough to get you going.

That’s it for today. Stay-tuned for more… where hopefully I’ll have a few shorter installments. Right now, I gotta a redesign story to tell. And I’m excited to tell it.

Till soon,
mm.

Got redesign questions?

Use the form on my contact page and just ask!

Trusting The Call of Your Expansion

Redesign.

Go ahead, BE A FOOL! Expansion is worth it :)

It can be a scary word or an exciting word, when you’re a web presencer like me.

I’ve had clients joke around about it immediately after launch. I’ve had clients seriously reconsider everything right at or just before launch (fear rears it’s ugly head in the form of self-doubt). And, in many more situations, I’ve had clients who feel in desperate need of a redesign because their existing web space feels terribly incongruent for who’ve they become today.

That is why this word, redesign, is both scary and exciting. Scary at the thought of “starting over again” and exciting because renewal has energy. An energy that can help propel us to the next place we want to go.

Which ties in directly to one of my main intentions for helping coaches and artists presence themselves online… which is, to create a place they can fall in love with and pour more of themselves in to it.

My whole she-bang is about expansion. Expanding yourself. Expanding your world. Your outreach. Internet and technology are primary resources for doing it in today’s new and interesting economy.

My big news.

I came to Thesis in the summer of 2009. I’ve steadily grown into my theme. Expanding it here and there. Adding (and removing) elements to my design as my business grew and evolved. It is a process… and it’s never finished. Really.

And not unless you’ve already been out here for a few years doing it, will you have one of those sites. When you begin, it’s sparse at first. And little by little it becomes more as you invest time and energy into growing your business.

Because redesigns rarely happen simply because you don’t like the look and feel anymore. And if they do, then you’ve got time & money to burn. For me and my clients, that is not where we are (and I’m not sure any serious, successful online entrepreneur is either or they wouldn’t be successful.)

My big news is I’m redesigning my website. I want to share this with you because my hunch is, you’ll want to know because every online biz owner will face a moment similar to mine… and it’s always so comforting to know we’re not alone, right?

Maybe you’ve been thinking about it yourself. You’ve got questions. And throughout the entire process of a redesign, many more questions arise and will need direction and input from the steering committee which is you.

Most redesigns happen behind-the-scenes and then are “revealed” like a magician’s re-appearing assistant in the spinning wardrobe. Ta-da!

It’s all cool and nice. But when I look around, I don’t recall seeing anyone who’s ever shared the process. Not that that’s bad. It is about relevancy too.

If your niche is not technology or web presencing, sharing your redesign would seem completely irrelevant to your audience… or, only relevant to them in terms of “what’s in it for me?” Will it be easier to navigate? Will I be able to find the content I’m looking for more easily? Stuff like that.

Maybe you’ve been thinking about doing it yourself. Maybe it would nice to understand my reasons for doing it and my decision-making process. And, get a sense of the kinds of  decisions that you might make along the way. That any online biz owner might have to decide for their own redesign.

Starting now, I’m sharing whatever I want to (those are the rules when it’s your web presence) with regard to my redesign. From the why’s to the how’s.

I’ve got some surprises too. I’m leaping off the precipice, like the Fool in the tarot deck. Away from my comfort zone of Thesis (gasp!) and following the call of my own expansion.

Because the call for expansion in life and business always requires taking some risks. Besides, I’ve got my “A” story and I’m willing to drink my own kool-aid here and fearlessly face the threats of making a mistake or even failing completely because the ride of expansion is always worth it.

Everyone loves a sexy reveal, but I’m opting for the strip-tease instead…

I hope you’ll come along for the ride. I’d love to hear your questions about redesigns. What’s scary about it, what’s exciting about it. How to know when it’s time for you to do it.

Subscribe if you haven’t and you want to follow along.

How To Fix Bloated Paypal Buttons in Thesis WordPress

Help! My Paypal Buttons Are Fat & Ugly

Ok, this is one of the most frequently asked “help” questions I get from clients. For some reason, the base code of the Thesis theme effects how your Paypal buttons display on your web pages.

I say “some” reason, because the developers of the Thesis theme I’m sure have some logical reason behind it. But for where you need to go, this isn’t important.

For this trick, you’ll simply be doing some cutting and pasting (like many other tasks that have to do with making your web presence go, right?)

From your WP Admin dashboard, you’re going to visit your Thesis sidebar menu and click “Custom File Editor.” Hopefully, the default file selection will be your custom.css file. You can tell by what’s displayed in the heading “Currently editing:…” It’s bold. Right up top, under the main navigation of your WP Admin dashboard. If it doesn’t say “Currently editing: custom/custom.css,” select it from the dropdown just below the heading.

One you’ve got the file pulled up in the editing box, scroll to the bottom and paste the following code in.

/* fix bloated Paypal buttons */
input[type=image] { width:auto; background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% transparent; border: none; }

Then, click the Big Ass Save Button.

Now, return to your webpage with your Paypal buttons and refresh your view of the page in your web browser, like a visitor would.

Paypal buttons now svelte and sexy? YAY!

Lovin’ easy.

Here’s the video for the visual learners. Full screen version.

http://content.screencast.com/users/CStars4U/folders/Jing/media/ba3188c8-2871-43db-bc70-80604e21c53d/jingh264player.swf

Need this kinda video help?
Check out The Video Library.

 

The Care & Feeding of a Baby Blog

So you’ve created (well really, you and I created) this nice new place on the web, that’s all you. Your brilliance. Your thing. For sale. And most likely for free, are your thoughts, expressed in the form of writing.  All hanging out there naked. For other people to read. And sometimes react or respond to (comments, emails).

It can be a lil nerve-wracking. In the beginning. And getting over and around your pressing-publish-button fears can be a very necessary distraction. You’ve got to see if you can do this. If you can bare your soul to win your ultimate freedom… getting paid to do what you love!

And this post is actually about something even more important. It’s about taking care of the baby once it’s born. Keeping its immunization records up-to-date. So it can become a nice healthy blog, stable for the receiving of all your good creative mojo and optimystical expansion.

This week, I discovered a gigantic gaping hole. And that was, that I haven’t really been telling you the whole story behind the importance of keeping your baby blog immunized or….. updating.

You know, you land on your WordPress admin panel and there is a little circle next to the plugins nav (just like when you have a comment) or this nagging message at the near-top of your admin screen that says something like “Upgrade to WordPress 3.0.1. Please update now.”

Yes, I’ve done this video post on how to upgrade your WordPress software. And talked about backing up your WordPress installation regularly, especially right before a Mercury Retrograde. I’ve also tackled showing y’all how to update your Thesis theme (plus covered several other very helpful topics) here in my video library.

But I think somewhere in translation, while having fun & taking it slow and easy with you, I forgot to emphasize the point of this here post:

If you don’t upgrade your WordPress software, your blog will go poof.

Updating WordPress

WordPress isn’t asking us to upgrade to their latest & greatest simply to introduce cool new features & functionality. They are patching security vulnerabilities in the WordPress software core. Not because WordPress sucks (WordPress is actually god. Period), but because more and more people are using WordPress which makes it a big target.

Updating Plugins

Right after WordPress software upgrades, come plugin upgrades. I’ve also done a video tutorial on what they are and how to upgrade them. Super easy. And again, hackers are looking for vulnerabilities and plugins are one way into the core of your blog, and so become another target of said malicious intentions.

http://content.screencast.com/users/CStars4U/folders/Jing/media/1ba1b143-6fc4-464e-8986-68c6c1017b85/jingh264player.swf
Click for full screen version.

Looking for video help like this?
Check out the Video Library

Updating Your Thesis Theme

After plugins, your theme files are also a target. Make sure your theme is always up-to-date and upgrade it regularly. The creator of the Thesis theme will email you when introducing a new version. (Those emails are often forwarded to me… with a “please help me” distress call embedded in them).

In my custom Thesis web design package, I offer 90-minutes of online teaching/training/showing. I’m thinking going through the steps of learning how to upgrade & backup your blog are things you can definitely do. Once you know, what to do.

Wanna know what to do? Set up an online training session with me for some hand holding through the maze (or gawd forbid, to perform blog resuscitation… Which I did this weekend. The babe was in ICU for the first few days of the week, doing well now and we expect will have a full recovery).

Happy optimystical endings!

And… perform upgrades promptly & plan regular backups for your blogs ladies!

Another Thesis Theme Review

What is Thesis?

Thesis is a theme for your self-hosted WordPress website or blog.

the Thesis framework for WordPress

A theme is part of the inner workings of your web presence that introduces flexibility and efficiency when it comes to stylizing your unique web presence. By stylizing, I not only mean the colors, fonts, etc. (referred to as the look & feel) but also how you share information on your website (referred to as Information Architecture).

Most people get stuck on thinking design is merely colors, font choice, and use of imagery or custom design artwork (i.e., branding elements such as logos, header banners, sidebar buttons & banners). However both look & feel and Information Architecture comprise Design.

Why is this important for you to know?

One of the things I stress a lot on my own web presence, is the inevitability of change. Whether I’m helping women get their tech-savvy on or people in general discover alternative strategies for helping them improve their quality of life, it all revolves around that one important word. Change.

“The only constant is change.” Heraclitus, Greek philosopher

I won’t go all philosophical on you. But it’s true. The biggest “attachment” my clients come to the table with is the idea that once they create it (a web presence or whatever), it’s done.

And after years of working in Corporate America and trying to live by that standard, I nearly drove myself crazy until I embraced the idea that it’s never done. In fact, this is my number one guideline for staying optimystical during your webification process.

Learning how to detach from the outcome “it is finished” will help introduce the space for your creativity to emerge. A space that is undefined and in the process of becoming more defined as it oozes out of the artist.

Because change is the only constant, you’ll want a web presence that is flexible; able to grow with you and your business. And along with flexibility, you’ll want to keep in mind scalability. How easy will it be for me to continue extending myself or business on the web?

Thank the blogging gods for WordPress for providing a powerful foundation for managing your web presence. And then, hold the door open for a wide-welcome of the Thesis theme.

The Thesis theme makes it easy for you or a designer to make simple-to-radical changes almost effortlessly.

So let’s break it down even more, shall we?

Information Architecture

Today, you want three columns on your web presence. A big juicy “content” column and two “sidebars.” No problem.

Tomorrow (or next year), you change you mind and decide two columns is better. One juicy content column, one sidebar. Again, no problem. A few clicks on your WordPress dashboard at your Thesis options. Done!

Or let’s say you decide you want to keep three columns, but you want the layout to be skinny sidebar, juicy content, skinny sidebar. A very popular approach. Again, click click click. Done.

In the past, when a web site was built from the ground up… meaning every last bit of code is custom, these simple changes would mean a significant overhaul. Or, paying a skilled technician (web coder) to rearrange the code for you to get it to display the way you want. Time + money.

Because Thesis makes these types of changes so easy, you can do it yourself (really); saving yourself (you guessed it) time and money.

Look and Feel

From the look and feel side of the house, changing fonts and colors is, again, as simple as a few clicks. Whether your want the body text or sidebar text affected, those options are provided for with Thesis.

Introducing a custom header banner… again, once you have the artwork, it’s a matter of cutting & pasting the code into the right place on your WordPress dashboard.

But Mynde, what about free templates all over the web?

Yes. There are free themes and templates all over the web. It’s true! So why spend $87 bucks on Thesis?

Free templates are great. Really. I used a few of them for WordPress and many, many more for Blogger.

I encountered three big problems when I was using free templates.

#1 – A free template is too cookie-cutter for most people who want a unique web presence that represents who they are, what they do. They feel constrained by certain limitations that come with each individual free template. You invest some time and energy into making it un-coookie-cutter only to run into some very real blockages for growing forward that can only be solved using a more flexible content management system and/or template.

Thesis solves all of this. Simply scroll to the top of this article and begin reading from “What is Thesis?” :-)~

#2 – Any code tweaks I made to the free template, and believe me, you will have some because there is always something on the free template that you need modified or changed slightly. Rarely have I seen the free template utilized in its entirety straight out-of-the-box (or, after you’ve downloaded and installed it).

When WordPress introduces upgrades to its platforming technology (which happens all the time because the people at WordPress are constantly working to maintain their state-of-the-art content management system with security upgrades and functionality enhancements, to name a few), this can wreck havoc to your custom free template tweaks. Many times causing complete re-work of the tweaks. Or basically, re-investing the time, energy, resources that made your free template custom for you, all over again!

Thesis is built with this very thing in mind. Every custom tweak you implement on Thesis is saved in a way that helps minimize the need to re-customize everything all over again when WordPress (or the Thesis template itself) introduces an upgrade.

#3 – Support. When a free blogging template is born, it’s usually been created by a single developer who may or may not have the time to answer your specific questions about how to use it, how to fix issues that are introduced as a result of upgrades. This varies from free template to free template, of course.

With Thesis, a gynormous community of people who are already using the Thesis theme comes with it. This means forums for getting your questions answered and in some cases, by the Thesis developer himself (@pearsonified on Twitter and http://www.pearsonified.com/ on the web).

Not to mention, so many professional web designers are using Thesis for their clients, you can easily find other people in the same space I am (providing custom Thesis designs) to help you take your Thesis theme to the next level.

For me personally, I’m a starter-outer. I get you going without breaking the bank plus teach you how to use your WordPress dashboard including your Thesis options.

Why am I writing about Thesis?

Thesis Theme for WordPress:  Options Galore and a Helpful Support CommunityWell, it’s true, that throughout most of my articles, I’ll provide an affiliate link. That means, I get a small kick-back from people who decide to purchase (in this case) Thesis for their WordPress blog using my Thesis affiliate link.

Yes, affiliate income generation is a popular strategy on the web. But it seriously does not pay my bills. It does, however, offset my overhead. And this is a good thing!

So my intention with my blog and anything I write about is not to make money by writing about the product itself. Yes, I’m here to make money, no lie. However, I enjoy making money by being in service to others. Leveraging my own life experiences to help you round corners and jump out of window ledges.

I wrote this article because so many of my best clients really need some support with the language of web technology, i.e. domain names, URL, hosting, Thesis theme, etc. All words you hear, but may not comprehend when you are just starting out. Which is my ideal client.

So Thesis is a theme. It’s utilized to make changes to your web presence more efficient. It’s flexible and scalable. Helping your web presence grow with you and your biz. It’s not free, but you get what you pay for. And the $87 bucks is a wise investment in a theme that is widely used and supported. And all upgrades to the Thesis theme are free after you purchase it.

It’s why I choose Thesis for my own WordPress web presence and why I recommend it to my best clients. Not to make money by selling it to you. But to help you make the best decision for you right now. So you can take the first step to getting webified more easily and confidently head in the direction you are wanting to go with you and your biz.

Thanks for reading and I hope this has helped to demystify some of your webification process. If you like my optimystical approach, I’d love to help you get your tech-savvy on. You can find out more about that under the Expand Your Biz tab.

And one last time, here’s where you can get Thesis. And if you’d like to contribute to lowering my overhead, Thank You and use this link instead.

Optimystically Yours,

Why This WordPress Sugar Mama Recommends Godaddy

Yeah upsells suck, but at the end of the day, GoDaddy makes the web stuff of my life so much easier.

This is really simple. Godaddy’s rates stay extremely competitive while providing the best customer support & service around.

When it comes to choosing a place to get your domain name or set up your custom Thesis WordPress installation for your web presence on their network of hosting servers, GoDaddy is the one-stop shop that just makes my web life (and my clients) easier.

GoDaddy Domain NamesManage all your domains. Yes you may have multipes. And did you know you can point several domain names to a single web presence? Godaddy domain management makes this super easy to do.
Grow your hosting needs as your business grows. With Godaddy, you can upgrade any time to more space, so you don’t ever have to bite off more than you can chew (raise your hand if you’ve ever done that.) Yeah, it’s a big deal when you’re just starting out. You don’t need a huge hosting package. Just a place to get your garden growing so your business can show you what it needs and then you can make choices from that place.

When you purchase your Godaddy shizzle, make sure and get auto-renew on everything! This way, you will avoid any service interruption. And the longer you can extend your term when you purchase with Godaddy, the more you’ll save. If you have the budget resources from the top, and you’re serious about getting your web presence on, commit to a five year plan, if you can. You can always review where you are later and make necessary changes then (cancel, extend, switch domain name service providers).

The biggest con for using Godaddy is Upsell Hell. And for all the benefit of having a live person to talk to 24/7 that helps me get exactly what I need, it’s a more than fair trade-off for doing business with them. So just say no to the upsells. You can always get whatever they are offering later.

And here’s more honest truth… most of my clients don’t know what they are doing when they begin. That’s why they need me. And why Godaddy is such a perfect match for both of us. Whether they’re helping you complete your purchase transaction or helping me work out a complicated DNS issue and every place in between…

Bottom line: yeah upsells suck, but at the end of the day, GoDaddy makes the web stuff of my life (and my clients) so much easier.

So I say GoDaddy! (yes, that’s an affiliate link)