October 11, 2021Comments are off for this post.

Selecting the right host for your WordPress site: What you need to know

Choosing the right host for your WordPress site is not an easy task. There are many factors to take into consideration, and it can be really confusing. I want to help simplify the process and walk you through all of the different options available so that you can make a more informed decision about your WordPress hosting needs.

First, note that there are several types of hosting that WordPress does well on. Typically it's Linux (an open source operating system), though it can run on Windows, I find it to be a bit of a pain to keep WordPress running well on Windows servers.

Let's review the types of WordPress web hosting out there:

different types of hosting

Shared website hosting

Shared hosting is the simplest and least expensive, but it comes with tradeoffs. Your site will share resources like disk space, bandwidth and memory with (sometimes, hundreds of) other sites on that one server.

In other words, it's like sharing your computer with dozens or hundreds of other people at the same time: Inevitably it'll get very slow, and you have fewer resources to do anything.

I've seen some shared hosting that hosted torrents (sometimes illegal file sharing) and pornography sites, which ran the risk of others getting pinged as unsafe.

You can easily see how many other sites are hosted on your site with services like Domain Tool's Reverse IP Lookup.

On the up side, if you're just testing an idea, shared hosting can be a quick way to get a site up, often with one-click WordPress installation. I tend to recommend this sparingly, especially if your website is vital to your business.

Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting

I used VPS most often as I find it easy to spin up new sites quickly, and I find they're more nimble and quicker without major cost. VPS hosting is a virtualized hosting solution that is a bit more flexible than shared hosting because VPS provides the ability to run multiple isolated servers on a single physical machine.

VPS can also be less expensive, depending on which host you use and how much power/resources your site requires. It's perfect for folks who have limited budgets or want more control over their server. You can even choose a particular distribution or version of Linux if you want, and it's still cheaper than going with dedicated hosting.

Dedicated Server hosting

If your site is getting more serious traffic – 25,000 up through millions of hits per month – then a Dedicated Server might be the best solution for you. Dedicated servers provide the power and storage of a full machine all for you, so your site can run as fast as possible.

Most often these are used by businesses who have high traffic sites who want to minimize latency in their hosting environment. In a network, latency measures the time it takes for some data to get to its destination across the network. So, the lower latency, the better.

Dedicated Servers also provide more flexibility. Typically, dedicated hosting providers will give you full root access to the machine(s), which gives you complete control over your hosting environment. This is ideal if you're a developer who's very hands-on, and wants to control the whole environment.

Managed WordPress hosting

This is becoming more popular all the time as folks are moving away from shared solutions and wanting better performance while keeping costs down, and don't want to manage their own servers.

Managed WordPress hosting is exactly what it sounds like: Much of the server and site controls are handled by the host, so you have less controls to play with; on the flip side, they do handle issues like speed, security and backups, so there's less to worry about.

These tend to be a bit more expensive than shared solutions; however, they're optimized for WordPress, so you don't have to worry about security or performance issues.

There are several companies that offer Managed WordPress Hosting, but I'd stick with one of these top-rated providers:

WP Engine



What sort of WordPress hosting do I need?

You will need to consider factors such as:

How much traffic do you get on your website?

If you get less than 25,000 views to your site per month, you should consider managed WordPress hosting or a VPS. Each host has different levels of service and add-ons they provide, so compare carefully with your other considerations, such as:

What kind of support does your host provide?

Do they offer 24-hour customer service, or just email and phone support during business hours? I personally prefer to chat with customer service vs. phone calls, and email can sometimes take forever.

How fast is your website loading?

Test out your site with a service like GTMetrix. Though there are many factors that go into how slow a site is, cheap, slow shared hosting can certainly be fixed.

What kind of WordPress hosting features does this company offer?

Are they on the cutting-edge and always improving their platform, or do they just care about getting you signed up and earning money off of you? In the past I've checked out tiny local providers who didn't actually provide any server security, and they shrugged it off when I inquired about it.

Now, security is huge for WordPress sites and should be a major consideration, as it is for the hosts I've mentioned in this piece.

Also consider if they offer:

  • Website backups (a must, in my opinion, though not a dealbreaker),
  • Free SSL certificates (Godaddy does not offer this, and it's a major detractor for me),
  • Free CDNs (Content Delivery Networks, which offload your images to make your site load quicker; CloudFlare is a common one),
  • Free site migrations (again, not a dealbreaker, but a nice-to-have),
  • Staging sites (so you can test updates and changes to your site before taking them live),
  • Dedicated or priority support,
  • A money-back guarantee, and how long is it for?

Some hosting companies offer only a 30-day money-back period, which means that if your website isn't quickly loading or has downtime after this time span you won't get your money back. But it can be a great testing ground. Others have great guarantees such as SiteGround's 45 day risk-free trial with full money-back guarantee.

Personally, I've used WPEngine, Dreamhost, Siteground and WPX Hosting for years, and find them all to be above-board and reliable.

But what about email?

Email accounts are often provided with many shared hosts, and I've a couple clients who won't use anything else.

However, I'd advise against this and use a separately-hosted solution like Google Mail. Separately hosted email has several advantages:

  • Most, like Google, have superior spam controls. Often host-based email has manual spam controls, and I never found them to be adequate to keep out most spammers while keeping your good emails;
  • It's not that easy to move years of backlogs of emails off a server; it's definitely doable, but it can be a huge pain and costly. I'm a fan of BitTitan, which is pretty darn comprehensive on the various mail systems.
  • Some hosts are more focused on their website hosting and their email support is terrible.
  • Check out the hosting company's reputation.
  • This is a highly individualized thing, you will get a dozen answers from a dozen developers.

Why don't you recommend Bluehost, HostGator, GoDaddy…?

It's an open secret that many of these once-great hosting companies were purchased by EIG Hosting, who then came in and made many questionable changes. According to this great treatise on EIG, "some customers have noticed a significant reduction in the level of customer/technical support following the purchase of a hosting company by EIG."

Also of note: "Since the purchase of HostGator, some customers have become frustrated with the quality of service. Some have noticed a delay in response time when submitting tickets. Also with accounts being moved from SoftLayer to the EIG data center in Provo, UT there has been an increase in customer complaints."

So while there were some great hosting companies out there, I don't find them as compelling as they used to be. I've had terrible experiences with BlueHost and HostGator support, trying to fix issues that I'd normally be able to do easily on any other service without ever contacting support.

And as for Godaddy, I've had long waits on their customer service, again, for issues that would be easily solved on my own. And, I have found a lot of their products have less useful features than hoped for, for the price.

I also have clients who were on old Godaddy products who were not grandfathered in to updated product packages, and must upgrade to much more expensive products just to upgrade their PHP (the software that WordPress is based upon and needs to function). In short, it's a huge pain.

I still keep my domains with Godaddy because it's as good a solution as any these days, and I'm also part of an advisory panel that will hopefully guide future products. So, I'm hopeful they'll change, as it's an easy go-to for a lot of folks.

This doesn't mean that there aren't fabulous hosts out there, who will help your site run smoothly and with minimal fuss.

Hosting is an integral part of your website's health and well-being, and picking a great host will save you headaches down the line, so choose wisely!

Note: Some links are affiliate links; I may receive some compensation if you purchase from these providers.

August 26, 2021Comments are off for this post.

Finding free stock photos for your website

Updated August 2021.

Finding free creative stock photos for your blog posts usually feels tougher than writing the actual post.

What's more, you want to be sure you're not stealing images and that you are respecting the license (if not, it can get costly down the road!). So first, a guide to Creative Commons and its various licenses.

This comically bad stock photo is from a stunt to promote the movie Unfinished Business back in 2015. Photo via Adweek.
This comically bad stock photo is from a stunt to promote Vince Vaughn's movie Unfinished Business back in 2015. Photo via Adweek.

Creative Commons licenses

Creative Commons is "a nonprofit organization that helps overcome legal obstacles to the sharing of knowledge and creativity to address the world’s pressing challenges."

Essentially, it's a tool for creators to provide access to creative works without having to waive their rights, and limit liability. There are a variety of licenses they can choose from, and I've highlighted those used by the services below.

CC0 - The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication

According to Creative Commons: "CC0 (aka CC Zero) is a public dedication tool, which allows creators to give up their copyright and put their works into the worldwide public domain. CC0 allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format, with no conditions."

Attribution 3.0 United States

According to CC, "You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use."

Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

From CC: "You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.

You may not use the material for commercial purposes.

If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you may not distribute the modified material."

Free stock image resources

Here's my ever-growing list of stock photos that you can use for free:

Burst: Provided by Shopify, these feel a bit more staid. There is some diversity, though, that's being added. Available under CC0 license.

CC Search: This image search engine is perfect for finding what you need, all CC0 images. And, they are working with WordPress to combine this into the WordPress ecosystem. I can't wait for this! 

Cupcake: All images are by Jonas Wimmerström and focus on nature. All under a CC0 license.

Foodies Feed: Just what it sounds like! These also have a CC0 license.

Foca Stock: This site includes photos, videos and even social templates! Also under a CC0 license. There's a wide variety here, less focused on having people in the frame.

Getty Images: Yes, it's true, there are free options here! The catch is, you have to embed the image on your blog and the imagery cannot be used commercially.

ISO Republic: These are licensed under CC0 license, which means they've donated the work to the public domain.

Negative Space: Interesting range of imagery. CC0 licensing.

New York Public Library Public Domain: It's a treasure trove of images of photos, illustrations, architectural drawings, menus, stereoscopic views, pamphlets and more from the 11th century to present day.  

Pexels: Free for commercial and personal use. There's also a WordPress plugin to simplify adding images.

Pic Jumbo: I do love the genesis of this site: The creator, Viktor Hanacek, started it when he was rejected from big stock photo sites because of "lack of quality" but today, there are 2.5 million downloads of images on the site! These are free to use commercially, but they all do not have model or property releases, and some photos may also contain copyrighted brands, logos, objects or personal properties. So 'buyer' beware, I guess!

Public Domain Archive: New images added weekly, and you can use them as you wish; the creators of these images have donated their rights to CC0. 

Stock Snap: A nice variety of images, both nature and office. CC0 license.

Startup Stock Photos: Not a huge collection or overly diverse, but they may fulfill your startup photo needs. These appear to be able to be used commercially, though attribution is appreciated.

Styled Stock: More "feminine" images—meaning lots of white backgrounds, flatlay images, and bright colors. Licenses give you a lot of room for usage.

Unsplash: You can use these commercially. It even has a plugin to make it easier, Instant Images. There's a wide variety here but it can stray into boring stock.

Find free diverse stock photos

Almost every client asks for diverse photos, whether it's in ethnicity, gender, body positivity... you name it! Here are some free diverse stock photo resources:

Body Liberation Guide: If you're often looking for body-positive, fat-accepting imagery, these illustrations and photos can be a great resource. Licences vary, but you can check out the overall terms.

CreateHER Stock: A great, more lifestyle-focused set of images of black women. These are not licensed for commercial use, only personal. Check out their full license.

Gender Spectrum Collection: From Vice of all places, this huge set of photos features trans and non-binary models in a variety of settings. Really inspiring and hopefully where stock is going! They use the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license.

Nappy: What a great name! Billing itself as "Beautiful photos of Black and Brown people, for free," you really can't go wrong. There's a real variety of work, from office to just life. These are CC0.

WOCinTech: Diversity! Women of color in technology. A really nice set of images under the Attribution 3.0 license.

Got one you love? Share it! 

August 22, 2021Comments are off for this post.

10 signs it’s time to redesign your website

As technology and the internet evolves, so do the expectations for your website. A website today should be easy to use, aesthetically pleasing and have a clean layout that is responsive across all devices. Users should be able to find what they need quickly and easily. But there are many more clues that it's time to redesign your website.

You're embarrassed to share it

I hear this all the time! If you're ashamed to share your website, it's obviously doing you and your brand no favors.

It's not really about having the "latest" design, but ensuring that everything on your site makes sense and the content is purposeful (so users can find what they're looking for quickly).

You can accomplish this with a full redesign, taking content and user flow into account, so that it's optimized and a healthy part of your marketing mix. But you can also refresh your design as a stopgap to update the look of your site and revive content, without overhauling it entirely.

time to redesign your website

It takes too long to load

The first sign your site may be due for a redesign is if it takes too long to load. Test it out on a site like Pingdom to see how long it takes; ideally it's under 3 seconds, but many factors can influence how fast your site is. Is your hosting too slow (meaning it has too many sites on it, slowing yours down)? Good hosting doesn't have to break the bank. Is it a "heavy" site with a lot of imagery and videos? It all can be optimized! Is something else, like outdated software, keeping you behind? It can be fixed!

Regardless, if your website does not load quickly, visitors will lose patience and leave. And that's the last thing we want!

slow website

Small changes are difficult or impossible to make

Another sign your website may be due for a redesign is if it's difficult to make small changes.

If your web designer created a pixel-perfect site, any minor adjustments or small changes will be difficult or impossible to make. I see this a lot with custom themes that don't allow others to edit without a lot of time digging into code. This can also indicate that the design you are working with is outdated and needs to be updated.

It does not work across all devices

Another sign your website may be due for a redesign is if it doesn't function properly on different devices and screens. This is an "old" issue as mobile responsiveness has been around for years, but I still see many sites struggling with it.

If users cannot access your site because of device compatibility, they will leave and not return. It's necessary for your website to function well on all types of screens so that potential customers can find what they need without their experience being compromised.

Users get frustrated while trying to use it

If users get frustrated with your site or spend more time trying to find what they need than is necessary, it could be a sign that you need to update your design.

Your website should help visitors quickly and easily navigate through your content without confusion or frustration. Give them exactly what they are looking for the first time so that they convert to being a customer, or at least will return!

Not sure how your users feel? You can ask your clients, but a great method is to utilize heatmaps, along with your analytics. They're an integral part of my website audits, too.

When you feel that your website is no longer meeting your needs or user expectations, think about a redesign to ensure it stays relevant and as up-to-date as possible.

Customers bounce immediately

If your site takes too long to load or is difficult to use, customers do not stick around. Or perhaps your content doesn't really reflect your business, or is uninspiring.

There are, of course, contradictions to this rule. There is plenty of Google Analytics spam out there, and it's easy to see your numbers jump because of bots.

google analytics bounce rate

Your site is not SEO friendly

If your website was made a few years ago, you may have struggled with SEO at the time and didn't put enough focus on it, which means your site might be buried in search results.

This doesn't necessarily mean you must redesign, but you can adjust content (and keep it up-to-date, along with blog posts if possible) and utilize SEO best practices to make your site more findable.

Your site is cluttered

If your site's design is too busy, it can confuse users and prevent them from finding what they need. If you have multiple calls to action on the same page, there may be too much clutter which will create confusion for your visitors.

cluttered ugly website

It's more than 5 years old

You may feel your site is great despite its age, but your users may not feel that way (and they're the ones we're trying to keep coming around!). They may not know if you are still a trusted source, or even who you are.

And if your content is also this old, how relevant is it to your business or your potential clients? You may be missing out on business opportunities.

Even minor updates to your site can help you stay relevant and boost traffic, which leads to more conversions (and hopefully revenue).

You've redesigned or changed your brand.

If you've recently changed your brand, or even if it's just been awhile since you last updated your site, make sure it speaks to your new image. Brands are growing and changing all the time so be sure that your website is consistent with that.

Web design has evolved a lot over the years, and it can (and should) play an integral role in driving conversions. If you’ve been considering redesigning your site or making any minor tweaks to ensure that it meets user expectations (especially if they are quite high), but don't know where to start, I can help! Redesigns are one of my favorite types of design work, and they can truly impact your organization and be a driver for growth.

August 14, 2021Comments are off for this post.

The importance of regular WordPress maintenance

WordPress websites are relatively easy to set up, but can pose problems if they are neglected or don't get regular updates. A website that's too slow, is peppered with broken links, or doesn't load properly could cost you time and money. There's also the risk of downtime and lost customer revenue. Sound familiar? Then consider getting regular WordPress maintenance: It can be your best bet to make sure your site is up-to-date and running smoothly.

WordPress is always changing

I know what you're thinking: why would I want someone updating my site when I already know how to do it? There will inevitably be security issues as new versions of WordPress core, plugins, and themes are released (daily!), plus they all must interact with one another on your particular site. Updates can negatively affect your site's functionality, and you need to be able to roll back to previous versions to counteract this.

Too, you want to ensure that the design aesthetic and functionality of your site are right, no matter what. To do all of this properly you need someone who knows WordPress inside and out—not just the basics. Your website is a reflection of who you are as an individual or company—it needs constant upkeep!

wordpress maintenance fail

Hackers are ever-present

Hackers are everywhere, and they're persistent, and WordPress is a perfect target because it's such a popular platform. To ensure your website is safe, you need maintenance on a regular basis.

Or if the unthinkable has happened and you've been hacked, how do you fix it? This is where many find themselves paying exorbitant rates just to fix their sites, and you should have follow-up on how to keep this from happening again. I've noticed many hosts and developers don't share this information, but rather ask you to sign up for a pricey security package that may not offer much.

Your site needs to be backed up—offsite, daily

Backups are ideals when something goes wrong, so we can revert back to a working version. I set up an automated backup, hosted off-site and made daily. I host off site, which means it's on a different server than the website, so that there is no chance of the backup also being compromised. Utilizing backups is much easier than trying to fix your WordPress site if something goes wrong, but you'd be surprised by how many large entities don't even have a simple backup!

You want to work with a WordPress expert

You want to work with someone who is an expert in WordPress—we spend day-in and day-out in WordPress, and are well-versed in fixing errors, optimizing and securing the site. I'm always reading insider blogs and attending WordPress conferences to keep up to date on all the latest news, trends and changes, so website maintenance is second nature to me.

Consider also that you need a fresh eye who can suggest ways to improve user flow, or a better plugin, or search engine optimizations you can make. A WordPress professional can usually offer many, if not all, of these suggestions, so that your site doesn't stagnate. It's far cheaper to improve your current site than to do a redesign, so your can have a longer shelf life.

You can work on other things

It's an age-old business adage: You need to focus on the things that you are good at. If your site is running smoothly, you can focus on building relationships or improving your product. And as an always-on part of your brand, it's important to keep your website working well so you don't have to think about it.

I've often told my clients that websites are living, breathing things. Neglect them and you will quickly see them fall into disrepair. Working with a WordPress professional who spends their days working in the platform will give your site an edge, and it'll also be healthy and looking great. Check out my relaunched Chicago Web Support as an option!

July 29, 2021Comments are off for this post.

BuddyPress for building your social network

Updated July 2021.

Back in 2013 I talked about a client's success in moving a Ning community to WordPress and, inevitably, BuddyPress. It seems like BuddyPress never had its moment of glory with all social media platforms sprouting up left and right, but then again, it's still relevant for WordPress-powered websites.

BuddyPress is a great option for those who want to build a social network themselves. It's powerful, flexible and free software that makes creating a private social network easy.

It is just a plugin, but BuddyPress creates so many new features for your website, it's actually quite a bit more. I like to think of BuddyPress almost as a social networking application, in a plugin. Its features almost make it a Facebook clone. But it's not Facebook.

Buddypress features

A quick rundown of its features:

  • User groups
  • Friending, profiles
  • Discussion profiles
  • Private messaging
  • Blog tracking [for multisite networks]
  • Status updates
  • Activity streams [which are an aggregate of the above]
  • The wire [feedback wall, separate from the activity streams]

Keep in mind, BuddyPress is not the same thing as multisite. Multisite WP is for multiple blog sites in a single WordPress installation, and BuddyPress can be multisite or just one blog.

Forums v. groups

The confusion I found when starting a BP site is the difference between forums and groups. Groups can have forums and blogs, but forums can stand alone. And, groups can be made private — i.e, for membership or board members who need a private area.

Customizing BuddyPress also poses some new issues:

  • You can use any WP theme out of the box. But it's worth customizing member, login and registration pages so that they fit your design.
  • Most regular WP plugins work with BP, but as always, you need to check for compatibility.

Extending functionality with BuddyPress-specific plugins

There are specific BuddyPress plugins, adding functionality for users and admins alike. Here are some favorites:

BuddyPress spam beware

BP is a huge target for spammers, but there are some ways to combat, or at least cut it down:

  • It's almost required to use Bad Behavior and/or WPMU's Anti-Splog (quite effective but pricey) to shut down spammers
  • Remove the Buddypress & WP credit lines
  • Rename your registration slug to block “insite:register” searches

What's next for BuddyPress?

BuddyPress 9.0 was just released, with widget blocks!

BuddyPress resources

Some of my go-to resources on BP:

July 20, 2021Comments are off for this post.

8 ways to clean up WordPress and optimize your old site

Maybe your site is running slowly. Or you haven't looked at it in ages, so when you log in, you've got a slew of update notices. It may seen innocuous, but ignoring your WordPress site can result in being hacked, slower load times, and functions disappearing. The good news is that it's easy to clean up WordPress and optimize it with my WordPress cleanup checklist:

1. Double-check your backups

Check if your scheduled backups have been running, and restart them if not. If you don't have a backup solution, consider Backup Buddy or Updraft. Once you've scheduled backups, you can almost forget about them—just check periodically that no errors have popped up! Best practice is also to save backups offsite, such as on Dropbox.

2. Update everything

After you've backed up the site, begin by updating your plugins, your themes, and WordPress itself. The backup is key in case you need to restore anything the updates have broken. It doesn't happen very often, but you'll want to go back to your previous backup if errors come up.

3. Delete unused themes, plugins

Even if a plugin or theme is not activated, hackers can exploit them and gain access to your WordPress site. So delete those unused ones! I personally keep one fallback theme (usually twentytwenty one) in case your theme has an error, for testing.

4. Delete old users

Especially ones who haven't logged in for years! Be sure you save their data to another user, as you won't be able to retrieve those pages or posts unless you have comprehensive backups. While you're at it, update your password.

5. Optimize your images

Large images can slow down your site, despite how great they look! I recommend 1000px wide for many images, though any image will benefit from being compressed by plugins including Smush or my new favorite, WP-Optimize's Image function. Also consider running your images through TinyJPG.com (which also compresses PNGs!) before uploading, as their compression methods are excellent and you'll save a lot of space before it even hits WP.

Imagify is another great solution that's kept images high resolution yet compresses them beautifully.

6. Check for any 404 errors

If you haven't reviewed your site's broken pages for a while, install the plugin Redirection. After day or so, you can check it for any 404s you might have missed, and redirect them to the right pages.

7. Revive your evergreen posts

If you have evergreen posts that are as relevant as they were years ago, update and enhance them! Find popular keyword phrases by searching Google for your topic, and then use those same phrases in the content or titles of your evergreen posts.

Lengthen articles (1500 words is a great length these days), adding new insights and stories. Reshare on social media, using MissingLettr.com and Revive Old Posts, and get new visitors.

MissingLettr.com lets you set up a year's worth of posts to your social networks; you'd think it was overkill but it's not! My engagement on new and evergreen posts has gone up quite a bit since implementing it! I think part of the draw is that it can pull quotes into a graphic in your social posts, or images of your choosing. You can get 50% off any plan for 3 months with my link; note it's an affiliate link, so I get a commission if you become a customer.

Revive Old Posts actually takes the posts you want to reshare and sets them up to reshare on a schedule of your choosing; say, every 48 hours. It's also a great way to keep those great posts from being ignored.

8. Optimize your WordPress database

You don't know how big your database is until you've saved a few MBs of data. Every time you update a blog post or change any information on the site, it's added to your database. Imagine if this website was years old and full of spam comments!

WP-Optimize clears out that pesky data while also saving space for new content in an efficient manner with one click (or three).

If you're being hit with a lot of spam, check out my post on combating the WordPress spam monster.

Hire a professional

If you're not sure what to do next, or if your WordPress site is really slow and you don't know why, contact me about WordPress cleanups! I also offer maintenance plans, even for sites I didn't develop.

July 12, 2021Comments are off for this post.

6 hot web design trends you should know

When you think web design trends, what comes to mind? Flat design? (Super dated.) Animation? (Did you say 3D?) Whatever the case, it's important that your site stay current. In this blog post, we'll discuss 6 hot web design trends that have been seeing a lot of success lately and why they're so popular.

To be fair, most of these have been around for a while, but I think it shows they have staying power beyond the first flush of a trend.

Hero Typography

Big typography is characterized by using larger and more expressive fonts, which can be used to help express the mood or message of a site. It's usually found in headers, with large bold letters instead of a tired hero image.

I could use the site below for the next example too: Expressive illustration that complements your brand!

big typography

Hand-drawn illustrations

Hand-drawn illustrations can bring life to your project. They are great for adding personality or character to designs and they don't take up too many resources either—perfect if your site needs more interesting visuals without compromising the user experience.


Neumorphism is kind of a weird web design trend, but it can be very effective if done right. Basically, neumorphism gives an artificial 3D appearance. This doesn't mean you need to add any polygons or anything like that—just using gradients and shadows in the right way.

neumorphism example


Wait, neumorphism is dead? Glassmorphism or glass web design is also a popular web design trend. Unlike neumorphism, this draws on' the use of polygons and glass-like materials to give your site an immersive feel. Glassmorphic web sites are great for product showcases or galleries since they make it easy for visitors to see all the details.


Parallax animation

Parallax animation is a fun trend that create a more interactive and engaging experience for web users. It's a trick of the eye that gives web pages depth and makes them feel more natural to interact with. These days, it has been transformed into an animation technique and is used on websites all over the place as a way to create an interactive experience. Web design art history is a great example of this.

Parallax animation

Dark mode

Dark mode can be a good way to make websites more eye-catching. When you think "dark web design," this doesn't necessarily mean that everything on the website needs to be black—it could just refer to having darker colors in order to create contrast with lighter ones. Plenty of apps and platforms are already giving you this option—it really makes content, especially photography, pop.

dark mode website

Trends come and go, so consider using them with a light hand. I find classic design speaks clearly to your audience and lasts longer than the typical trend, and can be brought in to emails and social to freshen your brand.

July 4, 2021Comments are off for this post.

Women in WordPress, new site launches

Yes, there are definitely Women in WordPress:

I'm excited to share a new podcast episode with the great ladies of Women in WordPress, who've put together a 54 episodes of amazing women who are toiling away in all aspects of WordPress. And I'm #55!

Check out the episode, where I discuss my WordPress journey and looked back on sites where I've built custom solutions for clients. Hope to bring those to life in future talks.

Website launch: Catherine Johns

And a more momentous occasion, I'm so happy to announce the launch of speaker and coach (and you may recall her as WLS radio host) Catherine Johns' new website!

A long time coming, it's now mobile responsive, has an updated brand identity and really hones in on her vivacious personality and her true skills: Making you shine on stage and in person.

Website launch: Evidence Video

And another site a long time in coming, here's the new Evidence Video website. They create documentaries and day in the life videos for attorneys and have been instrumental in large settlements in Illinois and across the country.

Their new site highlights their video work and their staff, along with those settlements. Partner attorneys have their own pages, with their particulars and their attached news stories.

June 13, 2021Comments are off for this post.

Protect your content copyright with WordPress

Updated June 2021.

Protecting one's images and text online is an important topic, and one I tackled at my Chicago Creative Expo WordPress talk.

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May 7, 2021Comments are off for this post.

How to pick a WordPress theme

Updated May 2021.

We're already lucky to have 39.5% of the world's websites powered by WordPress. And WordPress themes are big business, with many developers and companies launching new themes every day. But what do you look for? Here's a checklist so you can pick a theme that addresses your technical and design needs.

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