Take Your Website Beyond What the Eye Beholds—How to Have a Truly Unique Website

Unique website or a place in the crowd. Which is yours?
Unique website. Is yours one? Or does it look like all the others? With a few tweaks, yours can be a standout.

This is an article about having a unique website. But before we get to that, first we need to talk about cars.

The magazine Popular Mechanics ran a story about how cars in recent years have come to all look the same.

The article explained that this uniformity comes from the need to strike a happy balance among multiple competing demands.

These demands include interior space requirements, powertrain packaging, federal regulations, production feasibility, and gas-saving aerodynamic efficiency.

These demands are consistent from one car maker to the next.

Since they all face the same set of demands arising from the same sets of rules and marketing data, it’s easy to see how car manufacturers often come to same conclusions about aesthetics and functionality.

You can only be so creative in the face of that much constraint.

Uniformity of Design

This also holds true when it comes to today’s websites.

For just as with cars, there are technical, creative, and market forces conspiring to promote website uniformity.

There exists an entire web industry focused on tracking what users find attractive, observing how they interact with elements on a page, and discovering the approaches that spur the most conversions.

(This is similar to the market research conducted on behalf of car makers to figure out the interior features most loved and valued by consumers.)

The insights gleaned by these analysts drive the next iterations of product, be it digital or physical.

As a result, you’re now seeing a lot of the same visual styling and interactions on many of the websites you visit lately.

A Brilliant Approach

So what can you do if you want a unique website (or brand, for that matter)?

For starters, you can utilize complex and novel features in scrolling or overlay unique logos and color schemes on your theme.

You can take all the typical parts of the website and throw in artistic flare.

Or you can remove certain portions of what users expect to see.

But just as amphibious cars never became a thing, novel website tricks can only take you so far. They get you noticed, but lack staying power.

We can take another cue from our example of the auto manufacturing industry here. Next time you watch a car commercial, pay attention to how they get around the fact that their shiny, four-wheeled transportation device looks like everyone else’s.

Notice that they give the automobile a story, a persona. They do this by adding context. They put the car in a certain environment. Or they put a particular type of person behind the wheel.

This is smart. In fact, it’s brilliant. And it’s an approach easily mirrored when it comes to website properties.

Creating Context for a Unique Website

To add context and give your website a persona all its own, try these tactics:

Update your content often. Freshening what’s on your pages will serve as a breath of fresh air for visitors—and for Google’s indexing crawlers. Frequently changing your content also gives you a chance to strut your best stuff, which likely will be projects you recently completed.

Use images taken by you. Resist the temptation to resort to stock photos. Sure, stock is easier than snapping your own pictures (or those taken for you by a pro). But remember that the stock image you buy probably appears on hundreds, maybe even thousands, of other websites.

Give your menus and navigation buttons better titles. The experts at Forbes say you can make yours a more unique website by using titles that convey a value-proposition. The fewer words you use in that title, the better. They gave the example of a page titled “Classes” and recommended changing it to “Learn.”

Best Way to Make Your Website Stand Out

Then there's also this one. It will require more effort and discipline than the others:

Speak with a distinctive voice. Basically, you should strive to offer content available nowhere else. One way to do that is by presenting your personal insights about issues of interest to your audience. Express them passionately and with conviction—no other website will have quite the same voice as a result.

When all is said and done, it's possible to have a unique website in a world where so many rival sites seem undifferentiated.

Do you want to be able to focus on your content and not worry about the nuts-and-bolts of running your unique website? Drop us a line! We're Valet, and we can help.

Weekly WordPress Update - August 9, 2019

Here is your quick Weekly WordPress Update from Valerio. If you would like us to cover something specific, please let us know!

Hello and welcome to the Weekly WordPress Updates by Valet.io for the week of August 9th.

There's a new acquisition in the WordPress ecosystem.

Ninja Forms acquired Caldera Forms, another form plugin with more than two hundred thousand free installs. Nothing will change for now for either plugin operation, and we'll continue to update both plugins as soon as they release new code.

How do you feel about WordPress Dashboard notifications? If you're like us you feel that the software can handle them much better. It turns out that many people think like you and me and are trying to improve the dashboard notification system. If you would like to contribute to this effort there's a call in the link below for designers, developers, and general feedback!

https://make.wordpress.org/core/2019/08/05/feature-project-proposal-wp-notify/

This week we launched a new article: 24/7 Website Support. Mandatory or Myth? We discuss the common belief that you should have a support & maintenance team available 24/7. It's one take on a subject some folks feel strongly about. What do you think?

That’s it for the week, have a wonderful weekend!

EU Copyright Directive Could End Fair-Use Rights You Currently Enjoy

EU Copyright Directive is the brainchild of the European Union Parliament
The Euorpean Union's Parliament approved sweeping legislataion aimed at stopping online copyright infringement. It's not yet a done deal, though.

The European Union in mid-September approved a tough new package of internet regulations. It’s called the EU Copyright Directive and it proposes to curtail some of your most cherished online freedoms.

The EU Copyright Directive contains two particularly nasty sections. They are Article 11 and Article 13.

Article 11 gives European news outlets the power to stop you from linking to their content. They can stop you if you don’t first ask for permission and pay a licensing fee.

So, for example, let’s say German news agency DPA ran an article about government regulations to curb your fair-use rights. This article made you angry and you decide to express your outrage by writing a post for your blog. Or maybe you opt to Tweet about it. Or perhaps you plaster across your website homepage a statement of opposition to the new regs.

In this writing of yours, you used two words that DPA also used in its own article. Guess what? You’re in trouble under the EU Copyright Directive if you fail to get DPA’s permission and pay the fee.

By the way, DPA also gets to decide how much to charge you. The fee you pay is entirely up to DPA.

EU Copyright Directive is Sweeping

But here’s the thing. The EU Copyright Directive applies to more than just content created by European news organizations.

Say you go see a pro soccer game during a visit to Madrid. Using your Smartphone, you capture 15 seconds of footage showing the winning play. You post it to Facebook.

Boom. You broke the law.

“How did I break the law?” you ask. Well, it seems that the action you captured during the soccer match is owned by the soccer league.

Sure, your creativity went into taking the footage (and possibly editing it as well). Doesn’t matter. Under the EU Copyright Directive, you just infringed on copyrighted material.

The copyrighted material in this instance is the game and everything related to it.

How They Plan to Catch You

Don’t think you can ignore Article 11’s rules and get away with it.

The other big piece of the EU Copyright Directive is designed to stop that sort of thing.

It’s Article 13. It calls for Big Data to develop a database of every copyrighted work under the sun.

This database will include books, movies, broadcasts, podcasts, images, and even programming code. Anything and everything copyright-able goes into it.

As part of this database, Big Data must also develop upload filters. Done right, the filters will allow authorities to easily determine whether your use of another’s work infringes on his or her copyrights.

Why They Might Not Catch You

Critics of the EU Copyright Directive say the Article 13 database will prove unworkable.

They offer the example of YouTube to demonstrate why.

YouTube runs a copyright-infringement detection system called Content ID. This system launched over 10 years ago at a cost of $60 million-plus.

Supposedly, Content ID is the best-of-breed when it comes to preventing YouTubers from uploading videos copyrighted by someone else.

But there are ways to fool Content ID.

Indeed, lots of YouTubers upload lots of copyrighted videos everyday without getting ever caught by the system.

Worse, Content ID makes mistakes. It sometimes blocks videos the copyright owner wants to upload.

Silver Lining to EU Copyright Directive

So, all of that is the dark cloud. Here’s the silver lining.

The EU Copyright Directive is not yet in effect. And it faces plenty of challenges ahead that may prevent its enforcement.

For starters, representatives of the EU Parliament and of the member EU states must still hash out various details. During that process, the EU Copyright Directive might end up watered down.

Of course, the opposite can happen too. It might end up tougher.

However it ends up, it also must undergo another vote before the full EU Parliament.

After that, each EU member state must pass laws of their own so that they can comply with the EU Copyright Directive. That promises to be a slow process.

Lastly, the EU Copyright Directive must survive lawsuits.
Given all these hurdles ahead, it could be a long time before you lose any of the fair-use rights you currently enjoy.

But regardless of when or even if that day comes, please know that Valet is here for you in the here and now. We can help you ensure that your website satisfies all applicable legal requirements. Drop us a line to learn more.

Do You Wonder If the New WordPress Editor Will Break Your Website? The Answer is….Maybe

Editor’s note: WordPress 4.9.5 will arrive next week. As a Valet client, you can look forward to receiving in your admin area a notice of this arrival as soon as it happens. We invite you to try out the new editor plugin that will be offered to you in this or a subsequent release via the admin—but first be sure to read this very informative article by Joe Casabona, who you’ll be hearing from many times in the weeks ahead. Joe is a writer, developer, and instructor (his WordPress teaching videos are among the best you’ll ever see). He really knows the ins and outs of the new WordPress editor and for that reason, we are honored to have him contributing to the Valet blog.

BY JOE CASABONA

WordPress is getting a brand new editor. Soon. 

But while it is very exciting to see a big evolution of the popular content management system, current WordPress users are justified to have concerns over what this change will mean for them.

One of the most common questions being asked is “Will my website break when I upgrade?”

The short answer is….maybe.

The new editor fundamentally alters how some things work. Your content, as well as compatibility with other plugins, could be affected.

These effects may occur in four very important areas of every WordPress website. I’ve listed them here for you along with the answer to that all-consuming question about whether your website will break.

Issue 1: Current Content

Your current, existing content can be categorized two ways— as content you will:

    1. Leave unedited after the upgrade
    2. Edit after the upgrade

That first category of content is the best. Because unedited content is content you don’t have to touch. And if you don’t have to touch it, nothing will break!

Understand that WordPress isn’t changing how it stores your content, just the editing experience around how you build that content.

So, if you have a 3-year-old post that does really well in search rankings, it will continue to do really well. The reason is nothing will change about that post. In order for a change to take place, you will first have to open it in the new editor.

But let’s say you have content you want to edit after the upgrade. There could possibly be an impact on your content formatting and any code used in the original version.

The new WordPress editor delivers a different experience in that it is primarily driven by “blocks” of content. That means when you open an older post in the new editor, your content will be pushed into blocks that may or may not resemble the original format.

When you open your post for the first time in the new editor, it’s going to be contained in one large block. This is not a bad thing; it can be very convenient for the reason that it allows you to fix small things like typos without having to change the entire format.

Additionally, as part of that initial opening, you will be given the option to convert your post to multiple blocks. If things are going to go haywire on you, this is where it’s most likely to occur.

Pro tip: If you choose to convert content, be mindful of the fact that blocks handle certain elements—images, for instance—slightly differently than does the current (or Classic) editor.

The current beta version of the new WordPress editor that I’m using allows me to keep all of the formatting and content in place when I convert older posts to blocks. However, your own mileage may vary! So it’s important to test, test, and test some more if you’re going to do this.

Issue 2: Content Generated from Plugins

If you’re using a WordPress plugin like Advanced Custom Fields or another plugin that adds options to your editor, you may run into issues regarding the way you create content—as well as how that content displays to visitors.

Unfortunately, resolving these issues is not as easy as it is for resolving issues related to converting existing content.

Your ability to solve plugin issues depends solely on whether the developers of your plugins have the ability to keep up with the changes involving the editor.

While the WordPress Core team is doing everything they can to ease the transition for users and developers alike, it’s ultimately up to the plugin developers to make sure their plugins work with the new code.

Note that many plugins for WordPress add their own admin areas, or have their own settings outside of the editor screen. These will most likely remain unaffected by the change. However, you’ll find it a good idea to check any plugin that specifically displays when you create a new page, post, or custom post type.

Issue 3: Customized Editors and Page Builders

Customized editors and page builders are the third area where you’re likely to run into problems. This is also the area in which potential issues will be the most varied.

The new editor completely changes the way the editing experience in WordPress looks and functions. Consequently, the customized builder-features that depend on the current code structure are the ones that will change the most.

Some tools (Beaver Builder, for example) are being proactive by testing and implementing new-editor compatibility solutions. They’re doing this to ensure that nothing breaks on Day 1 of WordPress 5.0.

Even so, if you’re using a different page builder, such as Divi, you’ll want to check with the developer to see how they are handling the changes.

Perhaps you’re using X Theme or some other theme that changes the editor experience. If so, you may be most at risk. This will be particularly true where your theme is closely tied to the current editing code architecture.

Issue 4: Your Theme

Now we come to the area that has the highest likelihood of breaking.

The new editor will be adding the ability to create new types of content with minimal styling. Your current theme will need to take these new styles into account, using custom styles or code, in order to maintain the current look of your website.

A great example is the cover image on a new post or page. This is a new type of content area. Sadly, themes are not pre-coded to recognize it. If your theme doesn’t have the right settings in place to account for this new content block, your site will look broken.

While the bad news is that your theme runs the highest risk of being affected, the good news is that it’s also the one thing over which you have the greatest control! So be sure to test new content blocks, and style them as needed.

Don’t Be Afraid

Knowing early the areas to identify will make upgrading to the new editor a much smoother transition.

If you follow Valet’s suggestions for testing and you follow the guides in this post, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how much of your website will continue working with little to no added effort on your part.

In my next article, I’ll dig deeper into how to test the new editor, what to look for while testing, and I’ll outline a test plan that will let you cover all the bases.

Google introduces new Search Console

A new Google Search Console.

Over the last few months, Google has been sending out invitations to their BETA version of the new Google Search Console to select users. If you are not among that BETA group, that's ok. They will be opening up the experience to all the users of the current Search Console over the next few weeks. Google is already starting to refer to the current version as the 'classic Search Console' in their articles.

The new Search Console focuses on helping users fix problems in areas that Google has been pretty vocal about in recent years. Things like Search Index, Index Coverage, and AMP Improvements are features you will see. These are all topics Google has a hand in shaping. From Google:

"The new Search Console was rebuilt from the ground up by surfacing the most actionable insights and creating an interaction model which guides you through the process of fixing any pending issues."

Google is not yet replacing the classic Search Console with the new one. These platforms will live side by side, with users using the navigation bar to toggle between the two. There will be more news on the lifespan of the classic tool once Google completes the transition of the existing tools into the new version.

What's so great about his new Search Console?

There are four new features in the initial release:

  1. Search Performance. Yes, you already have a version of this available, but the new version gives you up to 16 months of back-dated data. Search Analytics is likely the biggest area of requests for data improvement by users. The new Search Performance Report is likely to wow SEO marketers.
    Google Search Console offers up to 16 months of backdated data.
    Image from Google Blog

     

  2. Index Coverage. This feature is another you may feel like you have already seen. Google has managed to enhance the performance here with Index Coverage Reporting. You'll see a much faster turn around time on reporting issues to users. You also get tools to help you diagnose problems, fix them, and validate that they were fixed correctly. This is definitely a 'deep dive' version of the current indexing tool.
    Google Index Coverage offers deeper insights.
    Image from Google Blog

     

  3. AMP Status. Google is a big proponent of accelerated mobile pages (AMPs). They're backing up their support of the format with a tool that helps analyze the performance of these pages. You get the depth of the new Index Coverage reports but for AMP. Complete with Validation tools to test fixes.
  4. Job Postings. Last summer Google launched a Jobs search engine. It aggregates listings from job boards and careers sites and displays them prominently in Google Search. The Job Listings Report provides details on the specific errors and warnings that Google identifies in your listings. If you're interested in getting your jobs listed you can find some help on this link.

Final Notes.

The mobile experience on the new Search Console pages is a 'work in progress'. Through the BETA Google has shown enthusiasm for feature requests and is moving forward with this larger release encouraging feedback. They've even included a feedback feature in the new Search Console sidebar.

We're excited to see these new features and tools. As a company that is always trying to find a deeper understanding of digital ROI, we value the data insights Google is rolling out in the new Search Console. It's a great diagnostic resource for your site health.

The bigger picture of what this will do for SEO and Marketing is also exciting. Marketers will get better insights into trends, issues, and users than ever before.

Share your feedback with us on your experience with the new Google Search Console.

5 Challenges to Wake Up Creativity For Your Business

Have you ever felt paralyzed by a deadline approaching you like a fast freight train? You need ideas and creativity for your business—immediately!

When you’re under pressure to produce great work quickly, it can actually stunt your creative juices.

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