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 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.

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.

Read more

June 7, 2021Comments are off for this post.

Using Cart66, Gravity Forms & Zapier integration to ease complicated WordPress online ordering

Created 2014, updated June 2021.

One of the joys - and sometimes pains - of WordPress is API integration. And e-commerce. WordPress online ordering has grown and become very intuitive - but sometimes the client wants more than what just one plugin does. Read more

April 27, 2018Comments are off for this post.

Big & small steps to improve your website accessibility

Website accessibility is a huge topic these days, and the sheer amount of information out there can be overwhelming.

Here, I've assembled some steps, big and small, to make your site more accessible incrementally. Read more

September 26, 2014Comments are off for this post.

Combatting the WordPress spam monster

WordPress spam has been worsening lately for everyone: It's an easy in for hackers, especially on dormant sites or unmonitored sites. I've cleaned tens of thousands of spam comments out of clients' sites before, and those comments not only show an a doorway for more spammers, but also bloat your site's database and ultimately slow you down. Which Google doesn't like. It's a chain reaction. Read more

August 28, 2012Comments are off for this post.

When Tweet Old Posts won’t tweet… or goes haywire

I adore Tweet Old Posts for WordPress and share it with all of my clients who publish blog content. Lately, however, I’ve found that some accounts aren’t tweeting out posts, or it’s tweeting out a dozen at once. Not exactly what I want, eh?

Found a couple fixes via the support forums:

  • First, I try their suggestions:
    • If current URL is not showing your current page URL, copy paste the current page URL in Current URL field and press update settings button to update the settings. Then retry to authorize.
      If current URL is showing your current page URL, press update settings button to update the settings. Then retry to authorize.
  • If not, see if your Twitter profile is authorized within the plugin itself. If not, try it and Update Settings. If this doesn’t work, deactivate Google Analytics for WordPress as it seems to be blocking it. Then, reauthorize your Twitter profile in Tweet Old Posts.

Sometimes it’s hard to even notice if your account isn’t posting correctly till you go through your feed, but this is a great plugin and worth the recon.

Update: I’ve also found that downgrading to 3.3.3 works, until the dev works it out. First deactivate and delete the plugin, then grab the 3.3.3. version and upload it.

July 11, 2012Comments are off for this post.

Case study: Migrating from Ning to WordPress & BuddyPress

Definitely watch this space: One of my favorite clients, Chicago acupuncturist Mitch Harris, already runs a WordPress site and knows its ins and outs. But, he also had a Ning site with 300+ members for a growing Eastern nutrition and recipe site, Food From East, fed by his Pacific College students. As Ning kept increasing their hosting rates for an undoubtedly useful set of tools, it also became unwieldy and didn’t really fit Mitch’s needs. Too, he wanted to make it more of a resource on Eastern nutrition, for both practitioners and the public alike.

The Ning migration

Enter WordPress, BuddyPress and the awesome WPMU Ning to BuddyPress Importer plugin. BuddyPress, for the uninitiated, is all about making your WordPress site social. It can make it a sort of Facebook “lite,” and is ideal for education, your private or public niche membership site, or really, anything you might have thrown on Ning before.

Image representing BuddyPress as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

Now, this won’t solve all your problems: The taxonomies between Ning and WordPress are different, and everyone posts things in different areas depending on how they originally set up Ning. Though the migration was pretty painless, we are still cleaning up comments and posts that ended up in the wrong places, and are tagging and categorizing everything [which is no small task on some sites]. But, it also gave me a chance to create a better user experience: With just a “quick edit” of categories & tags, and with better labels for the user—there now are sections for disorders, symptoms, ingredients, and practictioner-speak. It’s a much better experience. With plugins like Mass Categorization, we can even create these en masse.

BuddyPress aftermath

This migration really gives you a chance to review where data is, where it will be imported, and how you want it displayed. Comments, for example, cannot have categories or tags, but if they’re correctly placed under a relevant post with the right tags and categories, they’re still findable.

I’ve written quick WordPress guides for members moving over to this new site, focusing on images, as Zemanta and PhotoDropper are instrumental and not obvious to new users. As easy as WordPress is, plugins are not always intuitive.

Now we haven’t set up forums or groups, as he doesn’t need them yet, but this again is a quick import over from Ning, and preserving your members’ conversations is incredibly important for a growing membership site, especially in terms of SEO. The best thing, IMHO, is every user and his or her avatar moved over to the new site with all of their information, and Mitch can send everyone a personalized email telling them where to find their new member site, and log in using their old login and password, or get new credentials. The connections between their posts and comments stay correct. This is what migration should be. And, as each user can create a full-fledged profile, instant message each other and generally have a much better experience, and it’s a clear winner over Ning, especially without the monthly fees.

Support & what they don't tell you

Boone Gorges of Teleogistic has been incredibly helpful in answering questions and an ongoing discussion with other users of this plugin—after all, no migration is perfect, so be prepared for flukes and figuring out data workarounds. But the data is intact, which is more than half the battle.

On the downside for BuddyPress: It’s incredibly popular among spammers. They’ll create accounts, post spam and generally create headaches. I’ve vacillated between Bad Behavior and WangGuard (July 2017 note: WangGuard is now discontinued, but check out WPMU's Anti-Splog. It's pricey but works.) for blocking spammers, and I’ve a few more tips in my BuddyPress presentation from May.

Overall, it’s a win: Improved user experience and less expensive & better WordPress admin. Features can be turned on and off at will, and you can encourage better engagement with a suite of tools. Now, where’s that next BuddyPress project?

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©2003-2021 Gizmo Creative Factory Inc. All rights reserved. Chicago area freelance designer & WordPress developer. Located in Long Grove.