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WordPress plugins can power essentially any feature or functionality you need, making them a powerful add-on for any site. But despite how helpful plugins can be, they’re often at the center of site errors, bugs, crashes, performance issues, and even the dreaded white screen of death.

In fact, if you haven’t yet faced a white screen of death or logged in to see pixelated artwork where your gallery slider or buttons should be (all thanks to a plugin), you should give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back!

The truth is, we’re already aware that bad plugins can be problematic. That’s why there are plenty of guides out there to help us choose the right plugins, keep them updated, and learn what to do when plugins stop functioning the way they’re supposed to.

What’s not as straightforward however, are plugin conflict situations and how to fix them!

Since each plugin comes from a different developer, it’s almost impossible to guarantee that the code behind one plugin won’t conflict with that of another plugin, a theme, or WordPress version! As a result, if you work with an arsenal of plugins, it’s almost inevitable that a conflict will sooner or later (if it hasn’t already) end up causing visual or functional errors on your live website.

So, even if you’re not in the middle of a disaster right now, it’s in your best interest to adopt both preventive measures and troubleshooting skills to tackle conflicts, if or when they happen.

In this ultimate guide, I’ll teach you:

  1. What are plugin conflicts and why do they happen?
  2. How to recognize conflicts: What do plugin conflict errors look like?
  3. How to fix plugin conflicts when you have access to your admin panel
  4. How to fix plugin conflicts that make your site crash
  5. Prevention tips: How to avoid plugin conflicts
What are plugin conflicts and why do they happen?

As the term suggests, plugin conflicts are a result of two or more WordPress plugins clashing with each other. Besides that, a conflict could also surface between one of your plugins and your theme, or sometimes even your version of WordPress. (You’ll learn to diagnose all three types of conflicts in this guide!)

Typically, the more complex or important the conflicting parties, the more implications that might have on your website. If one of your main plugins or primary theme gets involved in a major conflict, the aftermath is bound to be visual or functional chaos.

So, why do plugin or theme conflicts happen?

Technically speaking, a conflict happens when both parties try to execute code that either restricts or directly contradicts each other.

Although every plugin and theme is responsible for their own distinctive duties, this could happen for a number of reasons:

  • A resource conflict could arise between two major plugins because of their extreme code complexities, like your eCommerce inventory and billing plugin!
  • One bad fish spoiled the whole pond, aka the poorly written code behind one plugin might have restricted others, bringing everything down.
  • After updating a plugin, the latest version could turn out to be incompatible with your theme.
  • A batch auto-update might’ve started a functionality war between two (or more) plugins where both tried to execute conflicting commands affecting the same working part of your live website!

…and the list goes on.

In short, a conflict could happen due to one of many reasons. It all boils down to the code behind each plugin or theme and the steps their developers have taken to avoid potential conflicts!

Recognizing conflicts: What do conflict errors look like?

Since plugin conflicts can happen due to a number of reasons, the errors they trigger can also take a wide variety of shape and form.

From making parts of a website look and act funny to dropping the dreaded white screen of death, conflicts are more often than not the cause behind it all.

Although plugin conflicts are a common cause behind errors on WordPress sites, it can be hard to identify a conflict just by looking at the error!

So instead of focusing on the error as such, for the purpose of troubleshooting, you want to look at the level of access and control you’re left with on your own website.

In other words, conflicts can affect your website in two primary ways. They can:

  1. Cause errors on your live website but still leave you with access to your admin panel and website.
  2. Cause the White Screen of Death (WSOD) where your site crashes and you get locked out of your admin panel.

Keep in mind, both these errors can be caused by other factors. For instance, a masterpiece of visual bugs could be a result of an outdated plugin or incompatible theme, or a WSOD might have happened because your server reached its memory limit.

Nonetheless, whenever anything breaks on your website and basic troubleshooting doesn’t seem to work, you can be almost certain that a conflict is the real culprit.

How to fix conflicts when you have access to your admin panel

Regardless of the issues you’re facing on your website, if you still have access to your admin panel, then hell is far from breaking loose!

Through the following troubleshooting steps, I’m going to show you how to identify conflicts, find the conflicting plugins (or theme), and fix conflict errors – all from your WordPress admin panel. I’ll go into more detail about each step, but here’s a quick summary of what you need to do.

To fix plugin conflicts while you have access to your admin panel:

  1. Clear your browser cache.
  2. Make sure your plugins are updated.
  3. Determine if it’s truly a plugin conflict by ruling out a WordPress version or theme conflict (a staging site is recommended for this).
  4. Track down the plugins causing the conflict with help from your browser console or manually deactivating & reactivating each plugin, one by one.
  5. Replace one or both of the plugins, and then report the bug to the developers.
1. Clear your browser cache

It’s common for your browser’s cache to hold on to older code and fail to reflect new code, especially after plugin updates. Clear your cache just to be sure that’s not the case.

If you’re on Chrome, press ‘ctrl+shift+del’ → Select ‘cached images and files’ → Select ‘Clear’. On Safari, press ‘option+command+E’ → Select ‘Empty’.  

2. Make sure your plugins are updated

Log in to your admin area and check to ensure that all your plugins are updated to their latest versions.

3 Check for plugin vs WordPress version conflicts

First, we’ll check if your active plugins are compatible with your current version of WordPress. You can either do this:

  1. With the help of a plugin like Better Plugin Compatibility Control which pinpoints compatibility issues, important pending updates, and more.
  2. Manually by visiting the plugins section in your WordPress dashboard and checking each plugin’s compatibility one by one.
Manually checking compatibility for each plugin.

Deactivate the incompatible plugins, if any. Go back to your website and check if everything is back to normal. If yes, clearly a conflict between a plugin and your WordPress version was behind the issues on your website.

If the errors still persist, move on to the next step.  

4. Check for plugin vs theme conflicts

Next, we’ll check if everything is okay between all of your plugins and theme.

Note: Before you proceed, set up a staging site if you haven’t already. It’s much simpler than it sounds and will help you make changes and test things out properly without affecting your live website. 

To start detecting a theme conflict, switch your (preferably staging) site’s theme to a WordPress default.

From your admin page, go to ‘Appearances’ ‘Themes.’ Once there, ‘Activate’ the popular TwentySeventeen theme. Now check your website, if the issues disappear with the theme change then you’ve found yourself in the middle of a theme conflict. For the time being, change your live website’s theme to a default too.

Now to find the conflicting plugin, go back to staging, reactivate your previous theme, and deactivate your plugins one by one till you see the error disappear. If it does, then you will have isolated the guilty plugin, too.

Now it’s your call, you can either keep the plugin or the theme. In either case, get in touch with the developers to report the issue, they might just fix it!

On the other hand, if the errors persist even after a theme change, than your original theme is also not at fault. Your website is most likely experiencing a conflict between two plugins. In this case, reactivate your preferred theme and move on to the next step.

5. Check for plugin vs plugin conflicts

Now that you’ve ruled out possible theme and WordPress version conflicts, you want to dig into your plugins. Start by deactivating all your plugins.

Go to the Plugins page. Select all plugins by checking the empty box next to ‘Plugins’. From the ‘Bulk action’ drop-down menu, select ‘Deactivate’.

Now go back to your website and check if the issues are still there.

If the error disappears with the deactivation of all plugins, then voila! You’ve just isolated and identified a plugin conflict! If not, then it’s safe to say that none of your plugins are at fault. In this case, you might want to check for htaccess errors or contact your hosting provider and in-house developers.

*Note: Don’t feel like you can turn to your hosting provider for help? It may be time to switch to a managed WordPress host.

6. Find the guilty plugins   Pro tip. Your browser console can give you a headstart into finding the conflicting plugins without any troubleshooting whatsoever. Go to the page that you’re facing issues on and open up your console (Right Click → Inspect → Go to the ‘Console’ tab). Don’t get bogged down by the red error messages, just scan through them and hover over the underlined file paths to see if any of your plugins are mentioned.

If your console isn’t helpful, you’ll have to manually identify the guilty plugins. For this, we will reactivate your plugins one by one to check when the issue reappears.

Instead of starting with a random plugin, either start by reactivating your key plugins first or the plugins that could be directly related to the issue. Reactivate one plugin at a time and keep checking your staging site.

When the issue reappears, you have found one of your guilty plugins.

To find the other, keep the first conflicting plugin activated and deactivate the previously reactivated plugins, again one at a time. In this case, when the issue disappears with the deactivation of another plugin, said plugin is obviously the other conflicting plugin.

7. Replace and report the guilty plugins

Once you’ve found your guilty plugins, you can choose to either deactivate both or the lesser important one. You could also try and find alternative plugins or code snippets to replace either of the guilty plugins.

Meanwhile, get in touch with the developers behind both plugins via email and support threads and share details of the conflict with screenshots of the troubleshooting you just did.

Most plugin and theme developers strive to make their code perfect, so they should be happy to resolve the issue or provide helpful information, at the very least.

How to fix a conflict that causes your site to crash

The infamous white screen of death or a site crash is hands down the most dreaded nightmare among WordPress site owners. Plus, site crashes generally result in losing access to the admin panel, which can be quiet scary!

However intimidating, good news is that there are several ways to access your website and admin panel, even when they’re down!

Through the following steps, I’ll show you one such method: the Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) method, which even the most amateur users among us can follow to access our websites and resolve the conflict with ease! I’ll go into more detail about each step, but here’s a quick summary of what you need to do.

To fix plugin conflicts while you do not access to your admin panel (or see a white screen):

  1. Install an (S)FTP program, like FileZilla.
  2. Connect your website.
  3. Access your files via SFTP to disable themes and plugins.
  4. If you regain site access, log in to begin troubleshooting from the admin panel.
  5. If your site is still down, contact your hosting provider.
1. Install a simple (S)FTP program like FileZilla

SFTP clients like the popular FileZilla let you access your site files remotely from your system by simply downloading the standalone software and logging in with your credentials.

Head over to the FileZilla website and install the latest version.

2. Connect your website

As you open the FileZilla program, you will see a QuickConnect option button.

Click on it and enter your site’s credentials to connect your website and get access to its files. Here you will need:

  1. Your host name
  2. Your username
  3. Your password

This information should have been given to you by your hosting provider along with your initial setup document. For Flywheel users, here’s the information you need to access your site via sftp.

For everyone else, if you don’t have this handy, get in touch with your host’s support.

3. Access your files to disable plugins and themes

Once you’ve connected your website, you will see the ‘Remote Site’ panel on the right-hand side. Here, navigate to the ‘public_html’ folder. This lists your website’s files and directories on the server you are connected to.

Under that, find ‘wp-content.’ Here’s where you will find both your plugins and themes files.

Simply rename the plugins folder to anything you wish like plugins-deactivated or plugins-renamed to deactivate all your plugins at once. Do the same with the themes folder.

Your website will automatically roll back to your default theme and zero activated plugins.

Clear your cache and check your website again. If a conflict was behind the site crash, then your website and admin panel should be back up!

Once you regain access into your WordPress admin area, troubleshoot like you had access all along by following the steps discussed in the previous section.

If in spite of deactivating your plugins and themes, your site is still down, then something else is behind the site crash. Contact your hosting provider as you might have saturated your server’s memory limit.

Prevention tips: How to avoid plugin conflicts

Now that you know how to troubleshoot your way out of a plugin conflict, you should want to prevent it from rearing its ugly head again!

Although, as I was saying, if you’re working with a ton of plugins, it might be quite difficult to avoid conflicts entirely, but there are basic preventive measures that you can adopt to keep conflicts to the bare minimum.

To prevent WordPress plugin conflicts and the white screen of death:

  1. Take regular backups of your website (or make sure your hosting provider does this.)
  2. Never make changes to your live website. (Use a staging or local site instead.)
  3. Keeps plugins updated and avoid outdated ones.
  4. Avoid batch or auto-updates.
  5. Limit the number of plugins you use to number of plugins you truly need.
1. Establish a healthy backup practice

Think of backups like failsafes against any kind of disaster on your live site. The moment you decide to get into the habit of creating regular backups of your website, you automatically give yourself a huge advantage over any potential conflict error.

As a backup solution, you can choose to:

  • Pick a reliable backup offering by your hosting provider.
  • Install a third party backup plugin.
  • Manually backup your files.

Needless to say, if you have a backup handy, you can easily restore it whenever anything does break on your website.

2. Never make changes to your live website

When it comes to installing or updating plugins, themes, or your WordPress version, it can be tempting to do it directly on your live website, especially if nothing has gone wrong, yet!

However, to truly avoid conflicts, you should consider setting up a staging or local site, aka a clone of your live production site where you can safely make changes and test them out before pushing them to your live site!

Doing this is much simpler than it sounds and like backups, should be enabled by your hosting provider.

3. Stay updated and avoid the outdated

While new updates do cause the rare bug (that’s what staging is there to detect!), it’s much worse to run older versions of your plugins, theme, or even your WordPress version!

Not only for the general health of your site but also to avoid bugs and conflicts, make sure everything is updated.

This also means that you should steer clear of outdated plugins or plugins that have not had any recent updates in say, the past six months.

4. Avoid running batch and auto-updates

Sure, automation has its appeal and undoubtedly scheduling or selecting a batch of plugin updates to run simultaneously can save you time, but it has its own pitfalls!

For starters, conflicts most frequently follow batch updates. Plus if they do, then you have to go through the time-consuming ordeal of finding the conflicting plugins.

To keep conflicts to a minimum, update each plugin individually and check for any signs of errors after each update. This way, you will immediately know which plugin is causing conflict, if at all.

5. Less is more

One of the best ways to avoid plugin conflicts is of course, to avoid plugins all together! This might not be entirely possible, but you should only consider keeping plugins that you absolutely need.

In most other cases, plugins can be replaced by snippets of code and it’s advisable to sit down with a developer to get the job done rather depending on third party plugins.

Wrapping up!

Long story short, plugins can be life-savers but they bring their own baggage. I hope this article has not only helped you successfully isolate and resolve a plugin conflict on your website but also understand them a bit better.

Other than that, as long as you keep growing your troubleshooting skills and keep to best practices, you should consider yourself one step closer to an error-free website!

That’s it! I’d love to hear about any conflicts you’ve faced on your..

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Layout, Flywheel’s official blog, was first launched in 2014 as a publication for designers. Since then, it’s evolved into a community of thoughtfully-written and curated content for busy creatives of all types. From articles and videos to specialized courses, you’ll find a range of resources for a variety of skills: site design, web development, marketing, business growth, client management, and so much more!

Today, I’m delighted to share that our site design has evolved to make all of this content more discoverable, easier to experience, and hopefully more enjoyable!

The short version: We have a brand new site design, and I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below!

The long version: We spent a lot of time thinking really intentionally about this redesign, and made some important decisions along the way. Keep reading for the strategy behind it all, details about our favorite features, and a look at the process from sketches to production!

The Flywheel team that helped launch the new site! From left to right: Kimberly (Photographer), Morgan (Content Manager), Nicholas (Art Director), Jamie (Head of Brand and Content), Laurel (Project Manager), Josh (Front-end Engineer), and Rese (Design Intern).
Why the change?

Flywheel has evolved a lot since the company was founded in 2012. I’ll let you read the details of Flywheel’s history here, but to sum it up: Our products are more advanced, our audience is wider, and our mission is greater.  

To help creatives do their best work.

Our content strategy evolved with the rest of the company, but other than a couple bug fixes, we left Layout the same. (The one exception being a purple logo that showed up in 2016, which we never really acknowledged – sorry about that!)

Essentially, we were forcing something that was originally built as a design publication to also start speaking to developers, marketers, agency owners, and more – and simply put, the user experience was not great.

We were using the age-old “reverse, chronological” layout, with zero tags and only five categories: Business, WordPress, Inspiration, How-to, and Freebies. (How-to? Inspiration? For who?)

This made it hard to highlight our most helpful resources, and put a lot of responsibility on readers to create their own content journey. Engagement was low, our bounce rate was high, and people asked us for content we already had – they just couldn’t find it.

User experience was lacking, and on top of that – the experience for our own internal team wasn’t great, either. We were still using the WordPress Classic Editor, and while that does work just fine, we’ve been excited about the Gutenberg Editor and its potential for a long time.

Morgan is the wizard with the words! She’s the brains behind our content strategy and publishing process for Layout.

On the visual side of things, our team had to work with a feature image size that was 1800 px wide by 500 px tall. While they were good sports about it, it’s not easy to tell stories in photos that long and narrow.

Plus, we always create our own images for articles – but you’d never know it!

We’ve been stock photo free since 2018.

We’re super proud of that fact, but the traditional site design for blogs only highlights the author – not anyone behind the visuals.

Kimberly, our incredible photographer, keeps us looking fly!

So, to sum it all up, we felt that we weren’t helping our readers do their best work, nor were we letting our own team do our best work.

Queue: This redesign!

We’ve kept the best parts of Layout (like the actionable content and inspiring imagery!), but in a way that’ll help us all do better work. You’ll be able to find the content you care about most, and we’ll be able to further our craft to give you even better stories.

A few new features

There are so many things we’re excited about with this design, but I wanted to highlight a few of our favorites!

New categories and tags

One of the most important elements of the new design was to make it easier for you to find more of the content you’re interested in, so we have five new categories plus more than 50 tags! You’ll see these in several places, making it much easier to explore the site.

Along with all the actionable advice and technical tutorials that Layout specializes in, you’ll now also find categories for Flywheel product updates and company stories! For customers and fans of our brand, it’s a nice holistic experience of all things Flywheel-related.

Powered by the Gutenberg Editor

While this is technically under the hood, we’re excited about the storytelling possibilities Gutenberg will give our team. Featuring new image sizes, layout options, and custom Gutenberg blocks, we have lots of ideas we’ll be experimenting with to give you higher quality content.

Coming soon: Highlighting authors, designers, photographers, and more!

We’re thrilled to give credit to everyone behind an article, not just the primary author. While we decided to launch without this feature, we’ll be rolling out additional credits very soon. Here’s a sneak peek!

Coming soon: Table of contents

Skip what you know and jump straight to the information you’re looking for. We’ll be rolling out a sticky table of contents soon, so you can easily navigate each and every article!

Behind the scenes

Because our audience consists of all types of people related to websites and the creative process, we wanted to share a little behind-the-scenes look of how we accomplished an update of this scale! I’ve already talked about some of the marketing strategy behind the redesign, but wanted to showcase a few of the design and development decisions we made along the way.

The design process

For this project, we actually worked with a talented friend and freelancer, Adam Nielsen. He took a very messy Google Doc with a bunch of marketing strategy notes and turned it into the design you’re looking at now!

Adam’s eye for design and space brings the “layout” to life!

Before the design was finalized, Adam spent a lot of time talking to Kimberly Bailey (our in-house photographer) and Bryan North (one of our designers) to make sure their vision for Layout’s imagery could come to life.

Mockups of the blog redesign.

Fun fact: For a minute, we almost decided to change “Layout” to “Flywheel’s blog.” (Notice the logo in the upper left of the mockups!) We decided we wanted Layout to maintain its own identity, however, just with a closer connection to the Flywheel brand. (Hence, altering the logo slightly and switching it to Flywheel blue!) Our in-house Art Director, Nicholas Petersen, was behind this.

Development decisions

Once the design mockups were finalized, they were passed off to Josh Masen, our in-house developer, to turn it all into a functional website!

As you can probably guess, we use Flywheel’s hosting infrastructure, so the development process was super streamlined. The redesign started in Local by Flywheel, moved into a staging environment, and finally to production.

To create the custom theme, Josh used the Timber WordPress plugin and the Gutenberg Editor to create custom blocks.

What’s to come

The best part of all of this is that we have even more planned! Over the next few months, we’ll be rolling out more features to create a better reading experience, share unique stories, and help you do your best creative work.

This also means that we’d love your feedback! Tell me in the comments below: What should we do more of? What should we change? What can we help you learn this year?

We’re excited to build a community of creatives furthering our craft, and can’t thank you enough for joining us!

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Novella Brandhouse is a boutique branding and design firm that helps companies define, launch, and grow their business. They are a certified women-owned enterprise located in the Crossroads area of Kansas City, with a quirky mix of a team that includes designers, strategists, copywriters, and their favorite employee, Hugo the dog!

We sat down with three members of the Novella Brandhouse team (well, four, including Hugo) to chat all about their creative process, managing clients, and how a rock-solid hosting partner helps them do their best work.

A huge thank you to:
Elizabeth (Liz) McFadden, Founder & Director of Brand Strategy
Clare McClaren, Founder & Creative Director
Scott Shorter, Developer
Hugo the dog, Chief Welcoming Officer

Novella’s ideal client

Liz and Clare have grown up in the industry and worked with all kinds of big brands and large corporations in Chicago, Los Angeles, and beyond. Ultimately, the two found themselves back in Kansas City in 2009 and bonded over a mutual love for passionate business owners and wide-eyed entrepreneurs. They prefer to be in the trenches with people who have a personal stake in the company’s success, refuse to rest, and still operate like kids with a dream.

“We typically work with scaling businesses,” Liz said. “Our sweet spot is that 50-100 employee firm, so maybe a company that doesn’t have their own in-house marketing, or they might have one person but that person has to fill a lot of expertise and a lot of different kinds of roles. So we’ll come in and be their complete marketing agency.”

The Novella Brandhouse team, likely laughing about Flywheel’s random password generator The branding and design process

Novella’s offering is comprehensive and gives clients an opportunity to truly level up their success. They have a pretty strong branding-first mindset, but are keenly aware that in almost all cases, a rebrand is likely going to include a stunning new (and quite possibly award-winning!) website. Their process typically looks a little something like this:

Deep dive!
The team at Novella Brandhouse will sit down with their client and dig into all the details: what their business is all about, what their specific role is, what they love about it, and what parts of it is stressing them out. They’ll take all that information and roll it into proposed design concepts; once those are finalized, it’s straight into building!

The first look!
This one is a fan favorite, because during Novella’s process, their client actually gets to see a beta site. (Many times, when people work with agencies, they tend to not see much, if any, progress along the way.) But, since Novella uses Flywheel to host their sites, they can send the demo version to their clients every step of the way. This allows their customers to get a real look and feel at their virtual business, which is an awesome perk!

“When we are working with a client on a new website, we know that we can introduce Flywheel into the picture and be absolutely certain that it’s going to be a great fit for our client,” Clare said. “Once we’ve gotten design approval and we know where we are headed with the website, we bring them right into the loop with Flywheel so they can check what’s happening with their website in real time.  They absolutely LOVE how accessible it is to them in the process; it doesn’t feel like something that’s happening behind closed doors where they every once in a while get a sneak peek.”

“We know that we can introduce Flywheel into the picture and be absolutely certain that it’s going to be a great fit for our client.”

-Clare McClaren

The handoff!
Pending the client’s final approval, they launch the site live (which typically only takes 24-48 hours) and let the client sit with it for a bit while they finish working out all the last little details, like testing on devices and adding SEO. Novella Brandhouse also gives their clients training so that when the website is officially handed over, they’re comfortable with how it works and are left empowered to love and own their new brand and digital experience!

*Impatiently waiting for Hugo to start his own Instagram account* Their agency goals

One of Novella Brandhouse’s goals is taking the overall process they’ve developed and fine-tune it so they can move forward faster and at an even greater scale.

“One of our big goals for this year is getting us on the way to $1 million dollars in revenue,” Liz said. “As part of that we are improving our processes, and we are really working on extending our scope outside of the Kansas City area and growing regionally. Utilizing partners such as Flywheel really increases our scope of what we can offer, and we can be more efficient and handle more clients.”

“One of our big goals for this year is getting us on the way to $1 million dollars in revenue.”

Liz McFadden
How hosting plays into it all!

“I decided to try Flywheel after meeting a Flywheel employee at a local WordCamp KC meeting,” Scott said. “I gave it a shot and tried it out. What I found I really liked immediately was the fact that I no longer had to worry about security. It was my number one problem with some of the bulk hosters, and it simplified the management of the sites. As a small business, I didn’t need to hire staff to do server maintenance stuff.”

At the time, Novella Brandhouse’s clients were coming to them with stories of horrible hosting experiences they had with their website. It became a client experience issue for them; after all, the team was putting all this work into building a beautiful brand and WordPress site, and to have it then be offline, hacked, or who knows what else…well, it became pretty clear that they wanted to find a partner to recommend who was going to take care of their clients as well as they would.

We interrupted Scott’s regularly scheduled programming to bring you this photo.

“After the first 4 or 5 websites, we kind of made the decision to collectively say, ‘We are working with Flywheel only.’”

-Clare McClaren

From there, they became a part of Flywheel’s Agency Partner program, which provides a lot of great education about how to package and resell services, earn sweet perks for your business, and provide an incredible service for your clients.

“We continue to work with Flywheel and we have yet to be disappointed,” Liz said. “Flywheel has exceeded our expectations at every turn and it’s become such an integrated part of our business. As a small business we can’t be an expert at every single thing, so having that partner that is an expert at that thing is so indispensable to us and it’s part of why we’re successful.”

Flywheel helps agencies, like Novella Brandhouse, do their best work by making it easy to manage hosting, collaborate with their team, and bill clients under their own brilliant brand. Learn more about Flywheel for Agencies here!

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Behind every successful website is a powerful hosting provider, and WordPress sites are no exception! If you want your website to have blazing-fast performance, rock-solid security, and stop causing you and your team headaches, you need to move it to a managed WordPress host.

In this guide, I’ll cover everything you need to know about managed WordPress hosting, including:

Ready to become an expert in managed WordPress hosting? Let’s dive in!

This is Kristin, a Happiness Engineer at Flywheel!
What is managed WordPress hosting?

Imagine a world where you don’t have to think about servers. A place where you can unravel yourself from the hassles of web hosting, and focus your time on the things you’d rather be doing: designing sites for clients, developing custom WordPress themes, or growing your agency.

That’s what managed WordPress hosting allows you to do.

This type of web hosting is focused on WordPress sites (as you might’ve guessed from the name). That means everything a managed hosting company does is optimized for WordPress, the best content management system (CMS) in 2019. From the way they structure their servers to the people they hire for support, you can trust that a managed WordPress host is truly an expert in your site’s CMS.

On top of the hardware and WordPress-expertise, a managed host typically includes additional services and features designed to simplify the burden on site owners. (That’s where the “managed” part comes into play.)

I’ll dive into those specific advantages in the next section, but at a high level, managed WordPress hosting is ideal for anyone building a business on WordPress (such as creative agencies, freelancers, or eCommerce owners) or anyone who’s ready to free up their time by trusting in a reliable hosting partner. Managed WordPress hosting is a great solution for enterprise sites and in-house brands, too!

This is Madison, a Happiness Engineer at Flywheel!
The benefits of managed WordPress hosting

Choosing the best host for your WordPress site may seem like an overwhelming task, but once you know some of the pros and cons, it’ll start to get a lot easier!

Here are 11 reasons why managed WordPress hosting is the best choice for your website:

1. Support from WordPress experts
This is Tyler, a member of Flywheel’s 24/7 support team! He loves helping customers get their site’s back up and running.

Most hosting companies offer some type of support, but with a managed WordPress provider, you can trust that their support team fully understands WordPress. And not only understand it, but are experts in it.

This means they’ll be able to recognize the difference between a potential plugin conflict, a tricky theme, or a server-level issue. They’ll know exactly what settings a WordPress site needs to run at optimal performance. And they’ll have reputable recommendations if you have other WordPress-related questions.

Because a managed hosting provider is focused on a single CMS, the people behind the product will be more experienced in it and able to help with a wide variety of WordPress questions. That’s not to say you can’t find great support with other types of hosts, but your odds are a little better when working with a company that knows WordPress inside and out.

Plus, managed hosts tend to prioritize the support they offer their customers, meaning you’ll find things like 24/7 chat, in-app ticketing, or community forums. Using a managed WordPress host is kind of like having an outsourced IT department full of experts that you can tap into at any time. A pretty nice perk when you’re running a business!

2. The best WordPress security practices

Even if your website has never been hacked before, security is something that should always be on your mind. While using a managed WordPress host isn’t a fool-proof way to protect your site (spoiler: nothing is!), you’ll reap the benefits of built-in security enhancements. For one, most managed hosting providers offer nightly backups of your site that you can easily restore, should something go awry. On Flywheel, you can access these backups right from your dashboard and restore with a quick click.

Beyond backups, managed hosts also optimize their servers for WordPress security, so you never have to worry about security plugins again! You’ll also find features like strong password enforcement, two-factor authentication, and limited login attempts.

Perhaps the most important security feature a managed host can offer, however, is their ability to remove malware. If your site does get hacked, often a managed WordPress host’s support team can help you clean it up. (Something you probably want done quickly, but don’t want to learn to do yourself.) Just make sure you know the process for malware-removal, so you can act quickly when it happens. Some hosts charge for this as an extra fee, while others like Flywheel actually include it for free with any hosting package.

3. Faster sites and better performance
This is Dylan, a site performance expert at Flywheel!

With a managed WordPress host, you’ll find a major benefit in the fact that their entire tech stack is tailored to the WordPress experience. This means your site will likely have better uptime, load faster, and see less hiccups than it currently does.

Take Flywheel’s Cloud Platform (FCP), for example. It includes FlyCache, our custom caching engine that takes into account the most common WordPress themes and plugins for an optimized setup, with absolutely no work on your end. It’s common for other types of hosting providers to talk about caching, but it’s not common for those caching tools to actually take into account the specific needs of WordPress sites. With a managed WordPress host, you’ll see major benefits from the fact that they understand how to properly optimize your servers based on the types of themes and plugins you’re running.

Managed hosting providers will also offer performance enhancements like a CDN, server locations around the world, and even instant-scaling technology (if you choose a provider powered by the Google Cloud Platform, like FCP).

Overwhelmed from all those terms? Don’t be. Since you’re working with a managed host, these powerful features (that are traditionally tricky to configure) will be super simple to set up! (And there’s always that knowledgeable support team you can turn to, should you get stuck.)

While you can certainly optimize your WordPress site on other types of hosting providers, it requires a lot of tinkering on your end. This is where the value of a managed host really to starts to show itself, because it’ll help you avoid the hassles of server maintenance and instead, allow you to focus on your clients and your business.

The security and performance benefits alone make a managed WordPress host worth it. Between reliable infrastructure and accessible experts, your brand will be protected from the pitfalls of downtime or hacked sites.

4. One-click staging sites & local environments

Hopefully you’ve heard the golden rule that you should never edit your production site. To avoid the risk of a white screen of death, you should always make small changes in a staging environment.

What is a WordPress staging area, you might be wondering? It’s a copy of your website in a development environment, making it a great place to safely experiment before pushing changes to production. It’s a great addition to any site owner’s workflow, even if you don’t label yourself as a developer.

Most managed WordPress hosts include a staging site with your plan or offer it as an additional add-on. Typically, it only takes a few quick clicks to set one up and take changes live, making it easy for anyone to keep their production site safe.

Like a staging site, a local environment is another piece of the development workflow that allows you to make important site updates outside of the production server. Ideally, you would:

  • Develop your site in a local environment
  • Push it to a staging site for testing
  • Push it to production when you’re ready to go live!

Managed hosting providers understand this ideal development workflow, and will provide you with  the tools to help you follow it while also collaborating with teammates and clients.

5. Features that go beyond server setups

While fast and secure servers are critical for any high-performing website, one of the major benefits of a managed WordPress host is all the other things they..

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You put all your hard work into creating a new brochure you’re proud of, producing an inspiring booklet for a client to sell their goods, or designing a full brand package for a company you admire. After you hand it off, what’s typically next? For a lot of designers, the dream would be to document the process, show some behind-the-scenes, photograph your work, and then add to your print or digital portfolio.

But for many, photography may seem cumbersome and hiring a professional could cost hundreds of dollars for a few simple shots. But good news –it can be easy and even FUN to capture your own work if you know where to start and how to use a few pieces of equipment! Taking the DIY approach with a few tips and some extra guidance, you can be well on your way to photographing your own work without the heavy hit to your bank account.

Here’s a list of quick hits to help you start photographing your designs for your beautiful portfolio!

Go inspiration hunting

Similar to the beginning of the design or creative process, the best place to start is searching for inspiration. In the same way you look to Dribble, Behance, and Pinterest to inspire your designs, take to these platforms with a different perspective and see how your favorite designers and creators showcase their work. Pay attention to color, lighting, angles, symmetry, contextual elements (like hands, location, or environment), and the overall feeling you get from their design work showcased as final product images.

Then in true designer form, keep in mind what feels good and matches your personal brand when photographing your portfolio work. Narrow it down to the elements that best represent your work and get to photographing!

A beautiful portfolio image from Mateja Kovač on Behance.
Set up the scene

Consider your product and design portfolio images an extension of your brand. Although the pieces were either made for yourself or for clients, the designs and how you arrange them can speak a lot to the style of work you like to do.

Choose a backdrop or scene that highlights your work. Whether it’s to complement the designs through color-coordination, exude a certain feeling by the aesthetic you’re developing, or to show scale and context of how to use the design, setting a scene is pivotal in deciding the best way to showcase your work!

A seamless setup

A majority of portfolio work is shot on seamless backgrounds. This means there is no crease or edge to the background and gives you the ability to eliminate shadows. If you’re unsure of what color scheme to choose, shooting your work on a white seamless background is a good place to start.

Looking to branch out? Be careful to pick complementary colors that don’t overwhelm the design or take away from it. After all, the goal is to show off your amazing work, not the seamless background!

To display our first-ever company culture book, we used a seamless backdrop in our primary brand color to complement the exterior and interior of the book.
A contextual approach

There are a lot of pros to creating an environmental or lifestyle setup of your portfolio images. If you’ve created 3D pieces, showing them in the spaces they’ll be used or seen can help show context and scale.

If designing apparel or swag, it’s fun to show it off in the wild, like this Design Matters shirt we created for a giveaway.

You could also do this by creating a scene. For example, let’s say you just worked with your local cinema to create all their print collateral. You might consider using film strips or movie stubs as vignettes of your setup. Or maybe you just did the new branding package for a local coffee shop and bakery. Consider using their coffee cups, beans, or elements of the ingredients they use in their baked goods to enhance the branding you’re showcasing. Or if you’re of minimalist style, you might consider simple pastel colors in stark lighting.

To showcase Flywheel’s 2016 summer internship, Camp Flywheel, we wanted to display the whole set themed gifts our interns received on their first day. The Moonrise Kingdom-inspired campaign influenced not only the website and gifts, but the way we arranged the photos to showcase everything together.

No matter what your theme is, consider the styling of your work and how you want it to speak to not only the work you did but the type of work you want to do more. And if you need help finding physical assets to complete your theme, you can always consider adding vector scene creators in post.

Use the gear you’ve got

Whether you’re using a DSLR or your phone’s built-in camera, work with what you have! They both have their pros and cons. With a DSLR, you’ll  have the ability to change focal range (with different lenses and their abilities), detail, aperture, shutter speed, and ISO (if working with limited sources of light). But on the other hand, phones are just as great because they’re simple to use.

(Left) Shot on a Canon 5D Mark IV with a Sigma Art 35 mm f/1.4 lens. (Right) Same setup, same light, shot on iPhone 8+ with built-in camera.

No matter what equipment you decide to use, here are some camera basics to help you achieve greatness!


Before you even worry about camera settings, I recommend using a stand or a tripod for your work. (Or anything to stabilize the shot, really!) A tripod is definitely not necessary, but if consistency is what you’re looking for, a tripod will work wonders.

Focal point

Focus is key, so choose your focal point wisely. An image that’s out-of-focus will not suit anyone well, but there are also style choices to be made when focusing on your piece. If it’s a wide angle shot of the whole design, make sure to shoot at a higher f-stop (consider starting at f/4.5 and going up from there), to get every ridge of your design focused.

We took a tight, centered shot focused on the hands to showcase the print treatment and texture of this Agency Partners poster.

Consider where your light source is, what style of image you want, and move around. Yes, a straight-on shot of your design is a must, but just as you would take on different perspectives when designing, take on different perspectives when shooting for your portfolio.

Taking a slightly isometric angle and placing the key light above the layout helped show the glimmer of the type-treatment and thickness of these hiring cards for Flywheel’s recruiting team.

If you’ve never used a DSLR before and are hesitant to enter that world for just a few quality portfolio images, have no fear! You can create amazing images of your work with your phone, you may just have to pay a little more attention to using a quality light source. Which brings me to…

“Shine a light” on your work

Lighting is key to beautiful portfolio images, no matter what type of camera you’re using. When possible, I recommend natural light, but I’ll share tips for studio light, as well!

Natural light

Find a window in your house, office, or studio, and wha-la, you have the cheapest light source of them all! If you’re going to use natural light (i.e. the sun), consider turning off other ambient lights. Try to avoid mixing light sources so you can achieve an accurate white balance and color representation of your designs/products.

Just a few feet away from my desk, I took a piece of solid colored paper from a nearby print shop, used available window light, and had a shoot setup in minutes.
Studio light

Working with controlled lighting is great because you have complete control! Studio lights can seem intimidating, but certainly don’t have to be. While playing around with your lighting setup, try moving things around. Try placing light directly above your subject, at an isometric angle, and at an eye-level angle, and watch how the shadows change. Depending on the aesthetic you’re looking for, continue to move the lights around until you reach the style that feels best.

Take advantage of simple tricks!

Even the most polished portfolio pieces sometimes use the simplest (and silliest!) tricks. Here are a few of my favorites.

When photographing small paper goods…

We all love that slightly-elevated and shadowed look that comes with quality images of paper goods. I’ll let you in on a secret – we’ve used everything from bottle caps or ketchup packets to stacks of quarters to elevate our products just the slightest bit to add that effect. As long as they’re replicable in size and are smaller than the piece you’re shooting, you’re golden!

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We believe it’s profoundly important to support organizations working to further the field of technology. Embracing one of our company values, “We are productive community members,” we decided to celebrate some of the incredible work being done to support women in tech. Discover (or re-discover!) some of the non-profits, events, and resources we think are making a real and positive impact in the space this year.

Here are 20 amazing groups helping women in tech in 2019!

Black Girls CODE

Black Girls CODE introduces young girls from underrepresented communities to programming languages such as Scratch or Ruby on Rails. Their mission is to prove that girls of every color have the skills to become the programmers of tomorrow. Black Girls CODE’s ultimate goal is to provide African-American youth with the skills to occupy some of the 1.4 million computing job openings expected to be available in the U.S. by 2020, and to train 1 million girls by 2040.


Working to diversify speaker line-ups at conferences, CallbackWomen encourages gender diversity through advocacy, education, and resources. They also help conference organizers create more diverse and inclusive events and connect with a large network of talented speakers.

Canada Learning Code

By creating educational programs for historically underrepresented people in the tech industry, CLC works to diversify and increase digital literacy. They have several programs focused on children and teens, plus resources for teachers and educators.

Female Founders Fund

Traditional venture capitalism often ignores female entrepreneurs, so F3 was founded to make a difference by investing in female-led companies in key tech sectors. They have an impressive portfolio of companies they’ve helped fund (if you’re looking for some female-led businesses to support!), or this might be a great resource to bookmark if you’re working on a business of your own.

Girl Geek Dinners

What started as one women wishing more women were attending tech events, this organization has gone global, with events in multiple countries. Want to join an event or start a group of your own? Learn more on their website to get involved.

Girls in Tech

This National non-profit organization is making strides in efforts to eliminate gender inequality in technology fields and startups. By hosting events, competitions, and learning opportunities, Girls in Tech hopes to support women however they see fit in order to make a difference for generations of women to come.

Girls Who Code

Girls Who Code was founded to close the gender gap in technology and is helping to build the next generation of female engineers. They offer a variety of programs for young girls in all 50 states and have worked with over 90,000 girls since it was started!

Grace Hopper Celebration

The largest global conference for women technologists, this event produced by AnitaB.org is a joyful celebration of female accomplishment! Last year’s conference featured more than 400 sessions and 900 speakers, so it’s a great place to network with other women and find inspiration.


This organization’s sole purpose is to help female tech marketers grow their careers. From online communities to free online workshops, they offer a variety of educational resources to promote the leadership of women in technical marketing fields.

National Center for Women & Information Technology

The NCWIT is a national non-profit that “convenes, equips, and unites” women of all ages to take action. This group consists of universities, nonprofits, companies, and other organizations that are working toward empowering women to grow in the technology industry and as entrepreneurs.

Project Include

A practical resource for CEOs, Project Include advocates for diversity and inclusion in hiring. It’s a non-profit organization that offers a community for company leaders to connect with others learning and making improvements for diversity and inclusion.


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If you’ve been in the online business space for any length of time, you’ve probably heard about the importance of your email list and .

As the exhortation goes, you need to be building a list, always. This is where your profits lie! This is the only communication channel you can control! You can make money even with a small list!

Email lists are indeed important for all kinds of businesses, especially those selling digital products and services (like web design!). And one of the nitty-gritty email list philosophies you’ll bump into time and time again is that of segmenting your list.

Segmenting your email list is basically what it sounds like — taking your list and splitting it up into different bits. It can be a really powerful tool in your marketing toolbox once you understand the basics of segmenting, especially when you’re in a profession that has two potential audiences — your clients and prospective clients, and any other people you might want to build into an “audience.”

But even if you’re a client-work-only kind of business, segmenting is a fundamental digital marketing strategy you should understand. There are always things you can do with email segments to make your emails more valuable…and when you’re a service provider (or really, any business at all!), value is one of the goals.

The huge benefits of email segments

Segmenting your list is a form of efficiency, and I (personally) am all about efficiency. Here’s how that works.

When you segment your list, what you’re doing is applying specific labels (actual labels within your email service provider, or even separate lists, depending on how your ESP works) to different “populations” within your email list. If you’ve only got 200 people on your list, this might seem like a dumb thing to do, but it becomes more and more important as your list grows.

What segmenting allows you to do is speak only to the specific people on your list who would be interested in whatever you’re sharing. This leads to all kinds of great marketing KPIs, like higher open rates and bigger conversions, which is nice to see.

But – and this is important – the act itself of only sending out relevant emails to your readers is good for business. Your email deliverability will go up, your engagement will go up, and you’ll build all kinds of good rapport.

Nobody likes to be on an email list that sends out all kinds of mass broadcasts that clearly aren’t relevant. If I’m a client of yours, for example, I don’t really want to hear about your course for new designers. I’m not a new designer, it’s not relevant to me, and dealing with this irrelevant email in my inbox is annoying and a waste of my time. It might even make me not want to work with you again.

But if you set up a segment that contains ONLY the people who might be interested in your course for new designers, and you send the email only to those people, everybody is happy. The non-designers are blissfully ignorant, the newbies know about this great new opportunity, and you’re not that annoying person who keeps sending irrelevant emails. Everybody wins!

Step 1: Identify your target audience

The first step to getting your segmenting off the ground is to identify your audiences.

(Yes, for the realists among us: It can be weird to think about clients and such as an audience, but the use of “audience” in this sense is just business jargon. It doesn’t mean you’re performing and it doesn’t mean you’re stuck-up; it’s just the word that gets used for this specific concept.)

Your target audience can mean any number of things, but basically it boils down to “the group(s) of people you want to talk to.” When it comes to your email list segments, you can think of the “target audience” as the different types of people who will be on your email list, and go from there.

If you’ve been focused on services you provide but you want to start branching out into new territory, either by developing courses, becoming a speaker or consultant, or otherwise developing a part of your business beyond the actual services you provide, you’ll have multiple distinct target audiences. The main work at this step is identifying all of them.

Clients and prospective clients would obviously be one of your target audiences, but then newbie developers might be a target audience, or experienced designers who want to move into high-end design. Marketing professionals might be an audience, depending on what you want to do. Get clear on the right person you want to reach, and that will inform your target audience as a whole.

Step 2: Identify your different segments

Once you’ve got a list up and running — maybe it’s your client database, maybe it’s that plus a bunch of email opt-ins you’ve picked up from a free download, maybe you taught in an online summit and you’ve got all those interested registrants…whatever it is, you’ve got a list! Now it’s time to come up with the segments.

There are quite a few different ways you can structure your segments, and you should go into this knowing that some people will fit into multiple segments. That’s not a bad thing! Just don’t get the idea that one email address can only be in one segment.

The first step is to think about the different ways people came to your list. What were they looking for? What are some of the natural groups they might fit into? It might be that some have signed up for a specific free download. Maybe you have one segment for each service you offer. It might make sense to have segments by location, company size, or even length of time they’ve been on your list.

The next step in coming up with the right segments is to think about what exactly you want to share with your audience(s). If you want to announce a new service you’re offering, who will that service be most helpful for? The answer to that question is a segment. For example, if you’re offering a new retainer service, you might want to announce it to clients from the past six or 12 months and exclude everyone else on your list.

Other possible segments you might use:

  • Level of skill or knowledge, including participation in a course or courses you offer (those who have participated, those who haven’t)
  • Purchasers of a specific product
  • Profession (a segment for designers and a segment for developers, for example)
  • Type of business entity (law firm, medical office, non-profit, school. etc.)
  • Work “type” (like freelancers, traditional employees, small business owners, and students)
  • Demographic information
  • Location in your marketing funnel (or the flywheel framework)
Step 3: Use the segments for great positioning

Once you’ve got your segments set up, it’s time to start using them! This is how you can make the most out of your email list.

As you continue to grow your business and come up with new services and offers, you’ll be able to send those things specifically to the people who will be most likely to be interested in them. And in that scenario, again, everybody wins!

Over time, you’ll get used to segmenting and it will become a natural consideration every time you send an email. You’ll begin to see new segments that already exist in your list, and you’ll also be able to establish new segments you want to develop.

Next: Streamline your marketing efforts with these WordPress plugins!

If you’re a marketer working with WordPress sites, plugins are the perfect way to streamline your efforts! Finding the perfect one to help you meet your goals, however, can be a little like A/B testing a CTA – it takes research, testing, and tracking results to know exactly what pays off. Now multiply that by all the useful options in the plugin directory, and you’re looking at a laundry list to prioritize.

So, where do you start? How do you know which WordPress plugins will help your marketing efforts, and in turn, help your business thrive? Step one: Download this ebook for our favorite list of plugins for marketers!

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WordPress 5.0 is out, and with it comes the new block-based editor, Gutenberg. Out of the box, it packs in a decent selection of blocks you can use across your pages and posts. However, since this is WordPress, there’s always room for more custom functionality.

In other words, it’s possible to build your own custom blocks. To do so, you’ll need to know at least a bit about coding, but the process itself is relatively straightforward. Plus, creating custom blocks for functionality you want to reuse can save you a lot of time down the road!

Note: When testing the Gutenberg editor or creating custom blocks, be sure to make changes in a staging or local environment, like Local by Flywheel. Click here to learn more about testing WordPress 5.0!

For this article, I’ll talk a bit more about the current state of the Block Editor. Then, I’ll go over how to create new blocks manually, and introduce you to a couple of plugins that can simplify the process. Let’s get to it!

Why you might need to create custom blocks for the new WordPress editor

Of course, blocks are central to the functionality of the new editor. The idea is that you can add blocks anywhere you want and arrange them usings rows and columns. Here’s what the editor looks like without any makeup:

Here’s what you’ll see when you add a new block to one of your posts or pages:

While the functionality of each block is different, adding and editing them usually works much the same. The problem is, at the moment, the Block Editor is still relatively new – so the selection of blocks at your disposal isn’t too impressive right now.

Of course, the collection of blocks available to you will surely increase over time. WordPress’ core will add new elements, and plugin developers will fill in the blanks (as they usually do). In fact, there are already a handful of plugins that add new blocks to the Block Editor, including Atomic Blocks and Stackable.

However, if there’s a particular block you’d like to utilize but can’t find, there’s only one option at your disposal – creating a custom block you can use with the Gutenberg Editor.

How to manually create custom blocks (in 2 steps)

The Gutenberg Editor’s Block API is the tool you’re going to need. In this section, I’ll help you set up a new plugin to add a block to your editor. To do so, all you’ll need are two files (and some code).

Step 1: Create a plugin to call up your block files

The cleanest way to create a custom Gutenberg Editor block is by setting up a plugin that ‘enqueues’ or calls up your block scripts, and adds them to the editor.

To get started, access your website via SFTP using a client such as FileZilla. Once you’re in, navigate to your WordPress root folder and into the wp-content/plugins directory. Inside, you’ll find folders for all the plugins on your website:

Now, right-click anywhere you want within the directory and create a new folder. I’ll call mine test-block, but yours can be relevant to you:

Open the folder, create a new plugin.php file (which can be given a more relevant name), then open the empty file, and add the following code:

 * Plugin Name: Test Plugin
 * Author: John Doe
 * Version: 1.0.0

function loadMyBlock() {
    plugin_dir_url(__FILE__) . 'test-block.js',
add_action('enqueue_block_editor_assets', 'loadMyBlock');

This creates a function to enqueue your block script – test-block.js, in this case. Of course, this file doesn’t exist yet (but will soon).

In addition, the function also includes two script dependencies – wp-blocks and wp-editor. The former handles block registration among other functionality, whereas wp-editor includes several basic components you might need, such as Rich Text.

Step 2: Register your block and configure its attributes

With the PHP file ready, it’s time to set up the test-block.js JavaScript file. Go ahead and create this file within the same plugin directory as plugin.php:

When the file is ready, open it using a text editor, and prepare to code! This example is a very simple block to let you add a text box with a border to your pages:

/* This section of the code registers a new block, sets an icon and a category, and indicates what type of fields it'll include. */

wp.blocks.registerBlockType('brad/border-box', {
  title: 'Simple Box',
  icon: 'smiley',
  category: 'common',
  attributes: {
    content: {type: 'string'},
    color: {type: 'string'}

/* This configures how the content and color fields will work, and sets up the necessary elements */

  edit: function(props) {
    function updateContent(event) {
      props.setAttributes({content: event.target.value})
    function updateColor(value) {
      props.setAttributes({color: value.hex})
    return React.createElement(
        "Simple Box"
      React.createElement("input", { type: "text", value: props.attributes.content, onChange: updateContent }),
      React.createElement(wp.components.ColorPicker, { color: props.attributes.color, onChangeComplete: updateColor })
  save: function(props) {
    return wp.element.createElement(
      { style: { border: "3px solid " + props.attributes.color } },

As you can see, this uses JavaScript with React to set everything up. I also added a couple of comments to the code, but to summarize, it registers and configures the basic block attributes. After the initial section, I configured the way the fields would work. This example included a text field and a color picker for the border.

After saving the test-block.js file, activate the plugin from within WordPress:

Next, open the Block Editor and add a new block in order to check how it displays:

Here’s what the block’s interface looks like:

This simple block comprises of the most important fundamentals to take forward into your own projects. Of course, you can make your blocks as simple or complex as you want, but broadly speaking, this is all you need to publish a block.

However, getting to the publishing stage will require you to develop your coding skills. For example, you’ll want to brush up on your JavaScript, since the Block Editor uses the language extensively. It’s a bit of a change from working mostly with PHP, but you can do some equally great stuff, and maybe more!

2 plugins you can use to create custom blocks

Learning how to manually create custom blocks is great if you want to understand how the Block API works. However, there are WordPress plugins you can use to help you create blocks more quickly. Here are two top contenders!

1. Block Lab

Simply put, Block Lab enables you to create custom blocks directly from your WordPress dashboard. The plugin lets you set up as many blocks as you like, and you can set a name, category, icon, description, and indicate what fields you want to include for each of them.

However, be aware that you still need to do some light coding to set up each block’s template. Even so, you do get to skip most of the legwork of registering each block and enqueueing its script.

2. Lazy Blocks

If you’d rather not deal with any code at all, Lazy Blocks might be up your alley. This plugin enables you to create custom blocks using a list of pre-built elements, including text, password, and image fields, as well as color and date pickers, among others.

The selection of useable elements is broad enough that you can put together some cool blocks, but if you want to create something highly specific, you’ll likely be better served with a more advanced solution.


If you’ve been using WordPress for a while, chances are you’ve tried to expand the now Classic Editor’s functionality with plugins. Creating custom Block Editor elements is a similar situation, only there are new tools and languages to leverage. In any case,..

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While I’m sure any of us with siblings love them to the moon and back, most of us couldn’t imagine going into business with them. This wasn’t the case for brothers Chuck and Rob Pearson, the CEO and CMO of Rareview, a digital marketing agency located in Newport Beach, California. These two view their relationship as advantageous, and that working together brings elements of family and familiarity to every client relationship. Merging a decade of corporate experience and agency success, Chuck and Rob’s unique style creates a truly one-of-a-kind agency.

After working with huge companies like Toyota, Bosch, and Sony, we thought we’d sit down with the Pearson brothers and learn the secrets about building an incredible agency together!

How did Rareview grow from a small operation to an award-winning, design-driven marketing agency?

We started Rareview in 2002 as a web design agency with just a few people. The intention was to build fun, engaging, and well-designed websites with cool people and exciting brands. We had a real passion for digital design, so this work was a natural fit. Over the first few years, Rareview specialized in design and web development and often would use Flash to enhance the experience. Before terms like UI and UX became popular, we were trying to create a better, more immersive experience for users with whatever tools were available at the time.

It took many years to build our agency, as growth is never as easy as it sounds. Each year, we’d grow little by little. Then, in 2006, we built our own project management app called Projecturf. We weren’t satisfied with any of the tools available at the time, so we built our own and used it internally to manage client projects. It was well received, so we released it to the public two years later. Shortly after that, a Senior VP at Oracle found Projecturf and got in touch with us. We worked with Oracle for years, and that helped spur additional growth.

Projecturf, Rareview’s project management software

Over the years, it became apparent that our clients wanted more than just a beautiful website or digital product, so in 2016 we launched our marketing and performance division, which is led by Rob Pearson. Once his team was up and running and working closely with our design division, we immediately saw results for our client partners in several major industries. Over the last few years, we’ve continued to grow by combining design and marketing in everything we do.

Essentially, our growth came from doing high-quality work, building our own products, and identifying lines of business that could extend our value through new channels.

Rareview is still run by the Pearson brothers and has a true results-culture. Our style, the brotherly banter, and being able to perform for our clients has become part of our DNA as an agency.

Does Rareview gravitate toward a specific industry or type of client?

We’ve made sure that over the years we take on projects in all the major industries so we can stay relevant and challenged. By doing this, we’ve been able to stay away from being pigeonholed into only certain niches. That said, lately we have worked a lot in these five industries: Fashion, Retail, Technology, Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG), Pet Care.

Rareview often works with clients in the fashion industry

Outside of industry work, we’ve found a nice sweetspot with the type of clients we work with. We think it’s important that an agency selects their clients, just the same way a client selects an agency. We look for a good fit on both sides because these relationships are like marriages. For us, a good client has some knowledge of design and marketing, has realistic budgets and expectations, is responsive, and values our work. Hopefully, they’re just plain cool to work with, too.

It’s important that an agency selects their clients, just the same way a client selects an agency.

How do you select new clients?

This is one of the most difficult things to do well on a consistent basis, which most agencies will probably tell you. In a sense, we’ve been fortunate because 90% of our business comes directly from referrals or repeat business. That’s why it’s very important to us and our business to do quality work. If you provide a high-quality service and can deliver time and again, that’s a recipe for good word-of-mouth marketing.

It’s tough to sit back and just wait for referrals though. So in addition to that, we source leads online, engage our networks, run our social and PR accounts, speak at events, and respond to the occasional request for proposal (RFP).

What happens after you bring a new client on?

That’s when all the fun starts! Almost always we kick things off with a team meeting of some sort, whether that’s in person or a video conference; it’s important that our team’s meet. Then, we start discovery. We never do any design or marketing work without a discovery period or business audit (for marketing). This gives our team the foundation for our work, aligns everyone, and ensures that the correct objectives are in place.

If it’s a design project, we go through our typical phases; from IA and wireframes, to visual design, and then development. For marketing projects, we dive into audiences, funnels, social, and performance marketing.

Chuck Pearson, CEO of Rareview, diving into a design project

Reporting and communication are paramount to a successful process, in our opinion. Clients want to know what’s working and what isn’t, so reporting is an important part of being results-oriented. Communicating with our clients on a daily or weekly basis helps to alleviate any concerns or gaps. Communication is so critical to a smooth process that most projects have unaccounted hours, but it’s a cost we’re willing to absorb to guarantee we are all on the same page.

There are a lot of agencies out there. How do you set yourself apart from your competitors?

This is becoming increasingly more difficult with the explosion of talent in our industry and our global economy. That said, there are still too many agencies that promise more and deliver less.

We’re different in a few ways. First, we’re run by a designer and a marketer. We believe that exceptional results lie at the intersection of great design and conversion-based marketing, which is a delicate balance. We call this design-driven marketing. Our design team and marketing team work hand-in-hand to develop designs based on marketing principles and create marketing campaigns using strong UI/UX practices, aimed to increase conversions.

We believe that exceptional results lie at the intersection of great design and conversion-based marketing.

An experience-focused mobile app for SWEETWORXX

Second, we deliver. Last year we had a client tell us verbatim, “I’ve worked with a lot of agencies in the past and none of them have delivered each and every time like you guys have.” We value results, trust, transparency, and skill. To accomplish this, we only hire senior people, so projects are never handed off to a junior staff member. In that way, we’re bucking the larger agency model for a stronger, more intentional approach.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to a new agency or freelancer?

If you’re just starting out, it’s prudent to build your freelancing career with the stability of a day job. That’s how Rareview was started.

The other important thing is to build up a portfolio. Without work to show it’s going to be very difficult to get any jobs. That probably means you are going to have to do some work for free, or on the cheap, to build up a few solid case studies. But you need them to get new work.

Rareview re-designed Swell’s eCommerce platform

Also, use your network regardless of how big or small it is. Tell your friends and family what you’re doing and ask for work. Don’t be bashful. You have to go get it and there’s no shame in asking for work. Do this over and over, kick ass and deliver, and you’ll start to build a name for yourself. Be smart with your growth and find really good people. Human capital is the key. You can’t build a solid business without good people.

How does Flywheel help you do your best work?

We partnered with Flywheel a few years ago and have been thrilled with the performance and toolset. As an agency, we only build on the WordPress and Shopify platforms. When it comes to WordPress, Flywheel is our favorite. Our development team uses Local by Flywheel in our workflow and we enjoy the UI. Flywheel has allowed us to manage websites with ease; we can enable CDN, SSL, and recover backups in seconds, which allows us to focus more on design and development and less on server configuration.

We’re here to help agencies do their best work. Click here to learn how Flywheel can help you do yours!

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As you surely know by now, goal-setting is a critical process in every business. You can’t hit goals that you don’t have, after all. And if you have a plan to reach your goals, getting there will become a much more straightforward process than you’d otherwise face without the plan.

Now that 2019 is upon us, it’s time to set up your marketing plan for 2019, establish the KPIs you want to measure, and then develop the strategy to support it.

To help you establish your marketing strategy this year, I’ll talk about:

  • How to establish marketing goals
  • What KPI stands for
  • Common marketing KPIs
  • Other valuable metrics to measure

Who’s ready to talk strategy?!

Britt and Rese, two members of the Flywheel marketing team!
Establish your goals

The first step to any marketing plan (or really any business strategy plan at all) is to decide your goals and figure out how you’ll measure your progress toward them. For a marketing plan, your goals might include any of the following:

  • Enter new markets
  • Raise brand awareness in existing markets
  • Launch a new product or service
  • And, of course, increase sales and revenue

That list is by no means exhaustive, though! Every business and every agency will have their own goals. You might even need to consider a goal that’s client-facing (improving the customer journey, for example) or even internal (like establishing systems, processes, and communication channels within the marketing department).

Next, it’s time to figure out your KPIs.

What does KPI stand for?

Once you know where you want to go (in other words, your goals), you need to decide how you’re going to measure your progress. Frequently what’s used to measure progress is a metric called the KPI, or key performance indicator.

There are all kinds of KPIs you can use to measure your goals, some of which are accepted industry-wide and others of which are sometimes overlooked but incredibly valuable.

The primary thing to consider as you select the KPIs you want to track is what the results are that you’re driving everything toward. You can collect all the data you want, but if all you’re doing is putting stuff in motion so that it can spit out numbers on the other side — rather than defining The Prize and then keeping your eye on it — your KPIs won’t do you any good.

With that in mind, let’s take a deep dive into some of the most common — and most commonly overlooked — KPIs for your marketing plan.

Marketing KPIs about money

The purpose of a business is to make money, plain and simple. If a business isn’t primarily concerned with making money, it’s not a business (and it won’t be in business for long).

So for that reason, you’ll want to keep an eye on some performance indicators around your revenue and sales. These are the main ones:


Revenue is the amount of money that comes in the door. Many marketers and business owners see that number and stop there, but revenue is hardly the only money number you need to know. It’s sometimes called gross profit, and it’s the money you make before the expenses come out. You could be making a 7-figure revenue, but if your expenses eat up the majority of your revenue, the business might still be in jeopardy. That’s why you also need to look at …

Net profit

Net profit is how much money is left over after your expenses are paid out. Net profit and revenue work closely together, and ideally you’re making the space between your revenue and your profits as big as possible. (This is called your margin, and the fatter your margin is, the more money the business is actually making.)

Sales growth

Sales growth marks the increase or decrease in sales between two points of time. You might want to measure a few different time periods, such as total sales growth this year vs. last year; this quarter and last quarter; this month and last month; this month and the same month last year, and more. You measure growth by using the “percent change” calculation — (new – old) / old x100 (and that final number is the percent change, or sales growth).

Revenue per client (a.k.a. lifetime customer value)

LCV is the total number of dollars a customer spends with your business over the entire course of your relationship with them. Most marketers will have a goal to raise this number over time.

Revenue per employee

This is fairly straightforward in theory but can get a little muddy in practice, depending on how your agency is set up. You can calculate the total revenue and compare it to the total number of employees regardless of their role in bringing in that revenue, and/or calculate how much revenue any given employee is responsible for bringing in.

Average contract value

What’s the average price attached to the contracts you sign with clients? (In eCommerce language, this is equal to average cart value — the average value of the transactions in a given period.)

Marketing KPIs about clients, customers, and leads

A lot of the lead and client acquisition numbers play into the advertising puzzle. The idea is to figure out how many customers you need to find in a certain timeframe (the year, for example), and then work backward to determine how much traffic you need to be driving based on previous experience. These are the KPIs to measure (and thankfully, many ad platforms help you track and export them fairly easily).

Leads generated

How many leads did you generate in a given timeframe, whether or not they became clients?

Cost per customer acquisition

Once you know the cost of customer acquisition, you can set targets and budget accordingly.

Cost per lead

Measuring your cost per lead will show you what’s working and what’s not in your ads. Cost per lead, combined with other critical data, all play a part in advertising decisions to keep you profitable and scale.

Lead to customer ratio

Knowing how many leads become customers will let you figure out how many leads you need to get to hit your customer acquisition targets. It’s one of the string of numbers that goes into lead generation advertising decisions.

Traffic to lead ratio

Traffic to lead ratio is another piece of the advertising puzzle. It tells you how many views/clicks/hits you need before someone becomes a lead. When you know how much each lead costs, how many leads become customers, and how many customers you need, you can use the traffic-to-lead ratio to figure out how much traffic you should drive to hit your customer goals.

Average client tenure

How long do your clients stay? Do they tend to be a once-and-done project, or have you developed ways to keep your clients with you over the long run? Things like maintenance packages and other ongoing services can increase average client tenure.

Number and source of client referrals

Who’s referring clients to you? What can you do to improve this?

Marketing KPIs about conversions, content, and social media

Conversions and leads go hand in hand. Ultimately you want all your conversion statistics to be a high as possible, but it’s a lot to track! The more you know, however, the more you’re able to make adjustments at any stage of the funnel. (Or the flywheel, if you’re following Hubspot’s new inbound marketing framework.) These are some of the critical statistics you’ll need to monitor for your content distribution and audience.

Inbound marketing ROI

ROI is the holy grail of KPIs, right? Well…maybe. You have to make sure what you’re putting into marketing is coming out the other end with positive results. Sometimes ROI can be tricky to nail down and identifying the specific marketing efforts that are bringing in positive returns can take some time, but always keep an eye on ROI as you make adjustments.

Landing page conversion rates

Generally speaking, landing pages should have at least a 20% conversion rate, though many times they’ll convert at 50% or higher (especially if your ad targeting is spot-on). If your landing pages aren’t converting at 20%, the page needs to be examined and adjusted.

Email open rates

There’s no one universal email open rate, but generally speaking you’ll want your open rates to be hanging out around 30% at least. Larger lists tend to veer lower in open rates. If you’re nowhere near 20-30%, bulk up on subject lines and see what you can discover.

Email conversion rates

What percentage of the people who open your emails become leads or clients? There’s no standard benchmark for this figure, but keeping track of your internal conversion rates can inform policy and give you something to target in your marketing strategy. (I personally like to see my email conversion rate be somewhere in the ballpark of 10% of the open rate. In other words, if the open rate is 30%, I’d expect the conversion rate to be anywhere from maybe 2% to 4%.)

Social media traffic stats

These numbers can help you pinpoint where your ideal leads and clients are hanging out online, which means you can target your advertising more finely. It might also show you which platforms are under-performing over the long haul, so you can consider revamping or eliminating your company presence there.

Mobile vs. desktop leads and conversion rates

While this seems a bit like splitting hairs and getting too far into the nitty-gritty, it’s actually very helpful to know whether your leads and conversions are coming from desktop or mobile. This gives you some good insights into the behavior and preferences of your clients, as well as some demographic suggestions (younger buyers tend to buy on mobile more frequently). But more importantly, it gives you an idea of how well your mobile site is doing. Many websites aren’t optimized for mobile, and they’re leaving lots of potential leads and conversions on the table as a result. If your mobile conversions are flagging, the first thing you can do is work on the user experience of your website on mobile.

Valuable customer service KPIs you might be overlooking

There’s seriously no end to the number of KPIs you could track. These are some of the most frequently overlooked ones, but I wanted to include them because they do offer some key insights and some low-hanging fruit as far as things like customer retention and profitability go.

These aren’t necessarily directly marketing-related, but happy customers are the best social proof you can ever ask for, and social proof is a massive part of the marketing picture. Once you can be assured you’ve got happy clients and customers, you can begin to think of ways to include them in your marketing efforts.

Things like referral programs, online reviews, and case studies or success stories can become a huge part of a booming marketing department, and it all starts with knowing how happy your customers are.

Sales team response time

How long does it take your sales team to respond to an inquiry? This could mean email reply time, message return time, or even how many times the phone rings before they pick up.

Client satisfaction

This metric measures overall satisfaction a client or customer has. You can target specific areas (like salesperson responsiveness, number of rings before answering, satisfaction after a specific customer service interaction, etc.) or just ask for overall satisfaction periodically.

Net promoter score

This is when you follow up after a customer service interaction and ask how likely that customer or client is to recommend the company to someone they know, based on the interaction they just had. This is a great customer service metric to measure, as it gives you information “straight from the horse’s mouth” about how highly your clients perceive your company.

Ready, set, measure!

They say knowledge is power, and they’re right. Once you’re measuring your KPIs and comparing them to the goals you’d like to hit, you can start making adjustments.

Each area of your marketing budget should have its own figures to measure. Ultimately it all points to customer acquisition, and each bit has its own role to play. One of the most expensive parts of marketing is the advertising, so it might make sense to nail down your customer targets, your customer journey conversion rates (traffic to lead, lead to customer, etc.), and then allocate your resources in support of that customer journey.

The other pieces of the marketing puzzle will start to fit together more easily once you’re clear on that customer journey and the numbers associated with it.

Ready for that marketing degree?

If you’re new to the KPI arena, this list might be overwhelming. If that’s you, don’t..

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