A Quick Way to Clean-Up Your CSS

clean-css

When I’m working with a WordPress template or plugin’s CSS there is nothing that drives me crazier than messy and/or poorly formatted CSS. It’s hard to read and skim quickly. It’s even harder to make edits in a timely fashion.

What does poorly formatted CSS look like? A big clump of text with no line breaks at all — between elements or individual lines within elements.

I’ve used a variety of quick-fix formatters in the past, but this one that I recently discovered is my favorite, CleanCSS.com. You dump in the ugly CSS into the CSS Input box, make any necessary selections in the Code Layout and Options panels and poof! Beautiful CSS outputting in about half a second.

Lately I’ve had a ton of ugly CSS in plug-ins and this has been my go-to tool.

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Friday Freebie: Free Simple Social Media Icons

free-simple-social-media-icons

I came to a total realization recently when searching for free simple social media icons for a client: these babies are not easy to find! I totally get why the watercolor social media icon post we did a few months back is crazy popular — they are fun, neat and a little different. But, sometimes, you just want something super simple and sleek. Am I right? That’s why I’ve dragged myself back to this blog (we’ll be regular again soon, I promise!) to share five of my favorite free icon sets. Enjoy!

1. Free Simple Social Media Icons from Pixeden:
Like a breath of fresh air, these ones!

free-simple-social-media-icons

2. Free Simple Social Media Icons from Robert McElaney at BostInno:
Square beauties with no muss or fuss
free simple social media icons

3. Free Icons from Sergey Alekseev at DeviantArt:
A great simple set with lots of networks available.

free simple social media icons

4. Free Simple Social Media Icons from Graphic Design Junction:
Because sometimes you just want monochrome freakin’ icons.

free simple social media icons

5. Free Social Media Icons from Land of Web:
And, because sometimes you just need white icons that you can put on your own design.

free simple social media icons

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A Friendly Follow-Up: The Switch from SquareSpace to WordPress

Switch from SquareSpace to WordPress

I guess that I shouldn’t be surprised that one of our most popular biz posts ever was the one on why we made the switch from SquareSpace to WordPress. It is way more popular than the one on how we actually made the move, which tells me that a lot of people are looking for first-person stories on why others decided to take the leap. Now that we’ve had this and our personal blog in WordPress for 6+ months, I wanted to write a follow-up post with updates.

As I mentioned in that first post, we actually design and develop just about 100% of our client sites in WordPress, yet for over two years we had our personal blog in SquareSpace. It was fun for us — we spend all day in one CMS and the ability to experiment with another helped keep our personal blog from feeling like work. But, as the blog grew — and we decided to start this business offshoot — it became clear that SquareSpace just couldn’t grow with us.

No surprise, making the switch from SquareSpace to WordPress has allowed us to…

  • Add important “bells and whistles” and functionality to our site that SquareSpace makes difficult or impossible.
  • Have greater control over our photo URLs — heck, our URLs in general
  • Make amazing customizations with limited effort thanks to WordPress’ amazing community
  • Explore the use of e-commerce without having to worry about strange or unfriendly workarounds

But, that was all expected. What I didn’t expect was this..

As a code/design nerd I really missed being able to tinker with WordPress themes and functionality. As such, when we moved to WordPress I assumed I’d be spending a ton more time tinkering away in CSS and PHP. Not so, my friends. Turns out a lot of the stuff I wanted to accomplish was so much easier in WordPress.

Here’s the final word on our switch from SquareSpace to WordPress: I see and know why SquareSpace rocks the socks off of a lot of people. If you have a very modern, clean aesthetic, but lack the confidence and skill to create that look in WordPress (or Joomla or Drupal), SquareSpace offers a way to create a beautiful site with limited effort. I encouraged more than a few people not to switch from SquareSpace to WordPress for just that reason. They think that playing in WordPress will be *fun* but they aren’t ready for it yet. A few that haven’t taken my advice have ended up with weaker sites, IMHO.

The moral of the story is that there is no perfect CMS. For some folks, SquareSpace is the best choice. For others — myself included — WordPress self-hosted is best. If I can offer you one piece of advice it’s to do your homework and figure out what your needs our and compare it to what the different CMS offer.

Are you a solopreneur or small business owner looking for strategic insight on how to DIY your company’s website?

Check out Kate’s Tech Talks, our weekly video series dedicated to helping the website DIYer figure out how to make a smart, savvy and strategic site for their business.

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Premium Plugin Review: Smart Post Lists for WordPress Featured Posts Widget

wordpress-featured-posts-widget

Regular readers of this blog know that I’m a fan of free and paid WordPress plugins alike. Heck, I’m a fan of any plugin that gets the job done and I’m more than willing to pay for it if that’s what it takes! Today, I’d like to share a quick review of a WordPress featured posts widget plugin that I recently paid for, tried and loved.

WordPress Featured Posts Widget
Recently, I decided that I wanted a sleeker option in my Kate’s Tech Talks sidebar to showcase the five most recent tech talk posts. I tried a few free options, but nothing that I found worked out of the box with my theme and they all required significant customization to make look really nice in my theme.

Whenever this happens I always stop and ask myself this question: is purchasing a $15 plugin going to save me an hour or two of custom coding time? If the answer is yes, the decision to buy the plugin is a no-brainer. As a self-employed gal, I know the value of my hours. And a $15 plugin in a steal.

Enter Smart Post Lists Widget for WordPress, an easy-to-use plugin that allows you to create fancy schmancy post lists based on options that you quickly (and easily) select in the widget. You can create photo-only lists, text-only lists, lists with excerpts, etc. You can really create a post list that works perfect for you in that particular instance. Because it’s a widget you can create multiple lists that all work independently of one another.

Another great thing about the Smart Posts Lists Widget for WordPress? It comes with a very bare CSS file. That means you don’t need to spend time wiping away CSS that doesn’t match your site. You can jump right into customizing the CSS to fit your needs. I had the plugin installed, the widget setup and a few lines of custom CSS all done in about 10 minutes. You can’t beat that.

Check it out here at CodeCanyon.

 

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Great WordPress Plugins: Click to Tweet

Customize Tweets on WordPress

After making fun of Twitter relentlessly for the first year it existed, we gave in and have been regular tweeters for years now. Most bloggers/business owners also have Twitter these days and are always on the lookout for ways to customize the content that people use to share stories and articles from their site. Our favorite? Click to Tweet.

We love Click to Tweet for three main reasons:

  1. It’s free.
  2. It uses shortcodes.
  3. It’s easy to customize.

With a simple shortcode you can plug any text you want anywhere you want on your post or page. Here’s an example:

The “code” for getting that quotable to show above was this simple:

[Tweet "Customizing tweets on your blog is super easy. Learn how here!"]

Is is ever possible to have total control about what people say when they share your content? Of course not. But with Click to Tweet you get the option to point them in the right direction and help disseminate your carefully crafted message.

How to Install Click to Tweet and Start Customizing Your Tweets:

  1. On your self-hosted WordPress blog, click to your Plugins menu and hit “add new.”
  2. Search for Click to Tweet and click the “Install Button.”
  3. Activate the plugin, enter your Twitter name and start shortcoding away!

Yes, it’s that simple to customize your tweets on your WordPress site.

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3 CSS Resources Worth Knowing About

css-resources

Popping in for a quick post today to share three great CSS resources I’ve used in the past few days that have helped immensely on a few different projects I’m juggling.

Here’s the deal: when I’m busy, I don’t want to spend 5 hours “reinventing the wheel” for certain things. Building certain elements totally from scratch is fun (I’m a weirdo) when I’ve got the time, but when I’m short on hours I like to use resources available on the interwebs that get me halfway to totally custom in about 5 minutes.

For some of you, you’ll be able to use these resources to do all of the work for you. That’s not the case for me because I’m doing some pretty detailed/custom CSS work, but even getting halfway there is a huge time-saver.

  • CSS Arrow Please! This is a great example of a site that saved me hours of time. I needed my arrow to look a little different and be in a non-standard location, but even having Simon’s basic CSS was amazing. Would I love to learn how to make CSS triangles on my own at some point? Yup. Right now? Not so much.
  • CSS Menu Builder I tried a few other menu builders before I found this one. The reason this worked for me if because I needed a builder that didn’t try to do too much for me. Otherwise, I spend time stripping out unnecessary CSS. I wanted something pretty basic and this one did it. I’m not crazy about the fact that it uses images for gradient backgrounds in menus, but I know how to make CSS gradients so changing it up was super easy.
  • ColorZilla CSS Generator Speaking of gradients, sometimes it’s nice to have a wizard available to make those gradients in a jiffy. This generator from ColorZilla is easy to use and quickly generates the CSS for all different browsers.

If you are looking for a more one-size-fits-all CSS menu generator check out CSS3 Generator, CSS Menu Maker and UberMenu for WordPress.

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How to Attract Customers with Your First Paragraph

how-to-attract-customers-blog-posts

When we teach a client how to blog for their business we typically emphasize two critical pieces above all else: post titles and the first paragraph. We’ve covered post titles in the past, so today lets talk about that other important element: how to attract customers with your first paragraph. It’s easier than you think to write a great first paragraph that attracts customer and engages readers.

Your first paragraph needs to do three key things:

  • Convey the benefit of reading the post.
  • Repeat the key points from the post title.
  • Entice the reader to keep reading in as few words as possible.

Generally speaking, I believe that first paragraphs should be very short — maximum two or three sentences. That’s because most people don’t read posts anymore! Instead, the average person simply scans, looking for key words and phrases that let them know this post or article is worth taking the time to read. As such, as short first paragraph packed full of juicy info is the best chance you have of roping in potential readers/customers.

How to Attract Customers with Your First Paragraph: Convey the Benefit
One trick you may notice if you’re a regular reader of this blog is that we typically make our post titles benefit-oriented. A “How-To” or other list-type post title insinuates that you will leave the post with important tools to help improve your business/life in some way. The benefit is the new knowledge.

How to Attract Customers with Your First Paragraph: Repeat the Post Title
We think about every single word that goes into our post titles. Why? Because we see value from content and SEO perspectives in repeating the post title in the first paragraph. By using repetition so early we are able to engage our readers and keep them on the page. That strategy doesn’t work, however, if your posts titles aren’t written in a way that makes them a natural fit — so, you need to be sure your post titles make sense in the context of the first paragraph.

How to Attract Customers with Your First Paragraph: Entice the Reader
In this post, for example, we’ve emphasize that “it’s easier than you think…” as a way to get folks to keep reading. This method of enticing you the reader is great because (1) it’s true! (2) it lets the reader know that even if they have basic knowledge they can probably make these strategies work for them. Enticing the reader also means making them feel comfortable and confident that what they read and learn will have a practical application in their life or business.

Are there exceptions to the short first paragraph rule? Certainly. But, generally speaking, if it takes you 10 sentences to explain what your post is about and why someone should keep reading, you haven’t properly outlined and/or edited your post.

Read every sentence and after each be sure it’s conveying a benefit, echoing the post title and/or enticing the reader to keep moving forward. If it’s not ticking one or two of these items, cut the sentence completely and see if the paragraph suffers as a result. If it still reads fine…keep it out!

Are you a solopreneur or small business owner looking for strategic insight on how to DIY your company’s website?

Check out Kate’s Tech Talks, our weekly video series dedicated to helping the website DIYer figure out how to make a smart, savvy and strategic site for their business.

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Friday Freebie: Free Watercolor Social Media Icons

5 free sets of watercolor social media icons

Today’s list of freebies is one of my favorites to date: free watercolor social media icons. Sometimes, you just want your social media icons to have a little pizzazz to them — what better way than the feminine touch of watercolor?

Here are five of my favorite free watercolor social media icons available for download (for FREE!) for personal use:

Crab + Fish: 140 Watercolor Social Media Icons (so many color options!)free watercolor social media icons

The Shoppe Designs: Free Blue/Beige Watercolor Icons (so pretty and delicate!)

free watercolor social media icons

Verve and Sass: Free Social Icon Download (Bonus: she make a glitter version, too!)

verve-and-sass-social-icons

PSD Explorer: Free PhotoShop Watercolor Icon Download (you’ll need PhotoShop to use)

free-psd-watercolor-social-icons

AngieMakes: Free Watercolor Icons in 7 Pastel Colors (love how each one is so unique!)

free watercolor social media icons

When you start searching for social media icons to use on your site, I suggest downloading a few FULL sets and browsing the complete collection. Don’t get your heart set on a certain “look” until you confirm that there are indeed icons in the set for all of the different social networks that you need.

Are you a solopreneur or small business owner looking for strategic insight on how to DIY your company’s website?

Check out Kate’s Tech Talks, our weekly video series dedicated to helping the website DIYer figure out how to make a smart, savvy and strategic site for their business.

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Great Plugins: WordPress Custom More Link

Today’s post may be short and sweet, but it’s to share a great plugin available for WordPress: Custom More Link Complete. If you are looking for a great solution for a WordPress custom more link, this is the plugin for you (and it’s FREE!).

Even though we don’t use the “More” functionality on this site, another site I’ve been working on does use it and I found the default text super boring. I wanted a quick, easy way to change the text without hard-coding it, as I may want to change it on a whim in the future and don’t want to have to search it out again.

Enter this great plugin! Once you install the plug-in you simply go to your settings and type in the text that you’d like to use, click save and the new text is there.

WordPress Custom More Link Text Example

 

In this example, I’m using it to emphasize that in addition to reading the rest of the post, there is also a video that you can see. Even though the text is nice and short, I’m able to convey two big actions available by clicking through.

This plugin isn’t fancy, but it gets the job done in a very intuitive and user-friendly way!

Are you a solopreneur or small business owner looking for strategic insight on how to DIY your company’s website?

Check out Kate’s Tech Talks, our weekly video series dedicated to helping the website DIYer figure out how to make a smart, savvy and strategic site for their business.

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5 Blog Post Title Types that Drive Traffic

5 Blog Post Title Types to Drive Traffic

Hi everyone! We’re back to the biz blog after a little hiatus for travel/work purposes. And, we’re jumping right into a topic that I know our clients love hearing about: blog post title types that drive traffic and engage readers.

Blogging is equal parts art and science and it’s important to test out post types that will work for your business. A big part of discovering what content your current and potential readers are most interested in is to test out blog post title types. Your post titles are one of the most valuable SEO tools that you have at your disposal. Why? Because the titles that best engage readers are also usually the ones that are the most search engine friendly. Pretty good bonus, right?

These are five of our favorite blog post title types:

  1. Numbers, numbers, numbers: Have you noticed that our posts typically start something like “5 Top Tips…” or “3 Things to Know…” Readers typically love lists because they are easy to scan and read.
  2. How-To:  Do you have expertise you want to share with readers? You might be surprised just how many things you know how to do that can be broken down into short and sweet how-to posts. No how-to is too simple or too complicated. Someone is always looking for it.
  3. My Experience with…: Our posts about moving from SquareSpace to WordPress are some of our most popular. Why? Because they mix lots of “How-To” knowledge with our personal experience. It makes technical posts much more relatable.
  4. Behind the Scenes: Similarly, our Working with Your Spouse post is also hugely popular. That’s because people love reading about the “behind the scenes” action that goes on in running our business. Try out something similar on your blog.
  5. Lists of resources: The most applicable to all industries, the good ol’ fashioned list is a tried and true blog post title type. You can use a list type post to highlight people, places and products that you recommend.

There are, of course, plenty of other post types to try out, but give these five a whirl on your site. If you like this post, be sure to check out 5 Tips for Writing Better Blog Post Titles.

Are you a solopreneur or small business owner looking for strategic insight on how to DIY your company’s website?

Check out Kate’s Tech Talks, our weekly video series dedicated to helping the website DIYer figure out how to make a smart, savvy and strategic site for their business.

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