Blog, News, Tips & Tricks

Blog categories:
  • CMS (2)
  • E-Commerce (1)
  • General (4)
  • Security (3)
  • SEO (4)
  • Tips & Tricks (8)
  • Web Hosting (1)
  • WordPress (11)
  • Choose your WordPress plugins carefully

    One of the great strengths of WordPress is the availability of a vast amount of ‘plugins’ that can add almost any functionality that you can think of or change the way WordPress works. With so many plugins available to enhance a website, it can be tempting to over-use plugins but there can be downsides to using plugins on a website.

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    SEO resources for our clients

    Here I include some hand picked online resources intended for our clients to educate themselves on SEO. These are resources that which we feel are suited to small New Zealand businesses.

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    What is Website Hosting?

    In a nutshell, website hosting (or web hosting) is a service that stores a website (which is made up of computer files and sometimes databases) on a special purpose computer and delivers it to anyone who requests some information from your website.

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    Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Basics

    Note: this an excerpt from our Web Site Management Instruction Manual

    Search engine optimisation is all about improving how a website performs in the results returned by the search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing/MSN, etc.) for related keywords and phrases. There are 2 main aspects to it – 1) On-site SEO and 2) Off-site SEO.

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    Simple fix for WordPress “The response is not a valid JSON response” error

    On a new WordPress site that I was working on I got an error message “The response is not a valid JSON response.” when I attempted to upload an image to a page via Gutenberg block editor.

    After Googling it, I found a myriad of different solutions and troubleshooting steps to take but in the back of my mind I remembered encountering this before and remembered that it was a simple fix. One solution suggested using the Media Library upload button instead of the direct Upload button. This did actually did allow me to upload the image but when I went to save the page I got the error “Updating failed. Error message: The response is not a valid JSON response.”

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    Why WordPress Page Builders Suck

    In the context of WordPress, page builders are add-ons that provide an alternative interface for creating and laying out web pages. I have concluded that page builders are not a good solution for me or my clients. Here I discuss why.

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    My Top 8 WordPress Advances in the last 12 years

    In the last 12 years I’ve witnessed the evolution of WordPress from a blogging-centric system that could be adapted to work as a basic CMS into a full-blown CMS and even a web application framework. In this post I identify 8 of my favourite WordPress advances.

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    How to adjust zoom on embedded Google Maps

    Update May 2023: This solution still works in 2023!

    I was embedding some Google maps and was having trouble setting the initial zoom level. But after playing around with it for awhile, I figured out the simple trick for how to do it. I thought I would share it here in case it helps someone.

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    Design and Enhance Your Website for a More User Friendly Experience

    When designing and maintaining a website, user experience is a simple, foundational concept that is often overlooked.

    User experience is about how easy or difficult it is for visitors to your website to interact with the website to achieve their goals (and your goals). A good web site user experience requires:

    • easy to find and access content and use the functionality on the site (ease of use)
    • visual impact of the site is engaging and consistent with the brand identity
    • suitable functionality and features which engage the user and make it easy to complete the tasks appropriate to the site (e.g. purchase products, book a room, interact with other site visitors)
    • the website contains compelling, up-to-date content, appropriate to the needs and goals of the visitor
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    4 Steps to protect your website investment

    Step 1: Backup your entire website

    Make sure you have a worst case scenario backup plan. Sure any web hosting service worth it’s salt will keep backups of your website but don’t just rely on that. What if they went out of business and shut down operations suddenly, would you be able to get your website back online with another hosting provider? What if your website was hacked but you didn’t notice it for several weeks, would your hosting provider have a clean backup to restore? Take these matters into your own hands and have a backup plan in place. Make sure you have your own backup of your website. Make sure your backup includes everything needed to get your website back online. If you update your website regularly you should save a new backup at regular intervals.

    Step 2: Keep your website software up-to-date

    Cyber-criminals and hackers are constantly scanning the web for websites with security vulnerabilities. Popular CMS software such as WordPress is scrutinised for any security weaknesses that can be exploited. If any security holes are exposed the WordPress team responds quickly with a security update. But you must update your website software to the latest version of WordPress to make sure you have all the security updates. If you are running an old version of WordPress, it may have known security holes which leaves your website vulnerable to attack. So make sure you regularly update to the latest version of WordPress (or whatever CMS software you are running). Beware that updating the software can have it’s risks – the upgrade could fail leaving your website inaccessible or there could be incompatibility issues, so it is important to backup your site prior to upgrading. WordPress plugins should also be kept up to date for the same reason. You can read the release notes for WordPress and plugins to determine if the latest release includes any security updates.

    Step 3: Use strong passwords and keep them safe

    A weak administration password could be the biggest security hole in your website. It is best to use passwords of at least 10 characters. They should contain a combination of upper case, lower case, numbers and symbols. It is safer not to use the same password for multiple different purposes. It is also recommended to change your passwords from time to time. That can mean a lot of passwords to remember so a secure password storage utility such as KeePass (Win), KeePassX (Mac, Linux) or Password Safe (Win) comes in handy for keeping track of all those passwords in a secure manner.

    Step 4: Ensure your website is configured as securely as possible

    Certain measures can be taken to add an extra layer of protection from hackers scanning your website beyond what is provided by the out-of-the-box content management system. e.g. Certain information that does not need to be displayed but could be of help to hackers can be hidden. For WordPress websites there are security add-ons that assist you with making your website more secure. One that we use and recommend is Better WordPress Security.

    Solution to WordPress adding br and p tags around shortcodes

    The Problem:

    Sometimes I find stray p or br tags appearing inside a block of content that I’ve enclosed in shortcodes and this can mess up the layout by adding extra spacing where I don’t want it. It occurs because of the default order in which WordPress processes your content – wpautop (the function which converts line breaks to p or br tags) is run before the shortcodes are processed.

    The Solution:

    1. Change the execution priority of wpautop so that it executes after the shotcodes are processed instead of before. Add this in your functions.php file:

      remove_filter( 'the_content', 'wpautop' );
      add_filter( 'the_content', 'wpautop' , 12);

    2. Now there will be no extra p or br tags added inside your shortcode block. In fact there will not be any automatic conversion of line breaks to p and/or br tags at all. So if you want the legitimate line breaks to convert to p and br tags, you will need to run wpautop from inside your shortcode function, e.g.:

      function bio_shortcode($atts, $content = null) {
         $content = wpautop(trim($content));
         return '<div class="bio">' . $content . '</div>';
      add_shortcode('bio', 'bio_shortcode');

    Hack Attack

    Flicking through Time Magazine on the plane back to NZ, I came accross an interesting read regarding website hacking. It is astonishing how organised these hacker organisations are, so much so that some of them even offer customer support!

    Here’s the article: Read more »

    An alternative to storing passwords in FileZilla or other FTP clients

    One of my client’s websites got hacked recently but fortunately he was able to restore the website and tighten up security. He also discovered how the attack happened – his own computer got infected with malware which got access to a file created by the popular FTP client, FileZilla. That file contained his FTP connection details for his website, including password in plain text. Yes, FileZilla stores all the site connection details that you save in the site manager in a plain text XML file. This seems very unsecure. The FileZilla developers contend that it is the job of the Operating System to keep your information secure and that even if they encrypted it, malware authors would easily decipher it. However, I am of the opinion that encrypting the passwords would make it more difficult for the hackers and therefore would improve the security.

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