Blog, News, Tips & Tricks

Why WordPress Page Builders Suck

In the context of WordPress, page builders are plugins (add-ons) that provide an alternative interface for creating and laying out web pages. Page builders are primarily aimed at DIYers who want to build their own websites but don’t have the HTML & CSS coding skills to create web page layouts with raw code. I have concluded that page builders are not a good solution for me or my clients. In this article I discuss six reasons why page builders are problematic.

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My Top 8 WordPress Advances in the last 12 years

The evolution of WordPress

I started building websites with WordPress in 2007. Since then WordPress has been my content management system of choice. Over the years I’ve witnessed a lot of great advances in WordPress. But even back 12 years ago WordPress was a great platform for building websites. I found that I was always able to customise or hack it to achieve what I wanted. For example, WordPress didn’t have navigation menu management features built in. But I was able to write a simple plugin that converted the Blogroll Links Manager feature into a navigation menu manager.

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. Here are some of my favourite WordPress advances:

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E-commerce credit card payment options for New Zealand online businesses

(updated Aug 2019)

If you are setting up an e-commerce web site (shopping cart, online store, online shop), one of the decisions you will have to make is what system you are going to use for collecting payment. Payment can be handled off-line (by bank deposit, cheque, etc.) or automatically at the time of purchase by real-time credit card processing. In the case of off-line payment, the customer is provided with instructions for making a bank deposit or posting a cheque and the order is processed after payment is received. It is the simplest and least expensive system to set up but may present a barrier to some customers who are looking for the instant transaction that can be had using a credit card.

We should also mention POLi at this point. POLi allows instantaneous transfers from the buyer’s bank account to the merchant’s bank account. It can allow an instant transaction to take place with out as much cost as a credit card transaction. It requires a little more effort than a credit card purchase in that the customer has to log in to their bank account to complete the transaction but it’s much cheaper than a credit card transaction (at least 40% and more than that for larger transactions as fees are capped at $3).

When it comes to collecting credit card payments online in real time, there are two main types of systems:

  1. Third party (all in one) payment solutions
  2. Payment gateway linked to your own business merchant account
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Is WordPress any good?

Ok, first things, first, who am I to write a review of WordPress? Well, I’m an independent web designer/developer who lives in the small city (pop 50,000ish) of Nelson in New Zealand. I mostly build websites for small local businesses in the Nelson region, sometimes for businesses in other parts of New Zealand and occasionally for clients in Australia, USA and Europe. I’ve been working in this area (small business websites), since 2007 – about a dozen years. I’ve worked with a handful of popular content management systems over the years – Drupal, Joomla, Silverstripe, a funky Apple OS X based one called Manila, some e-commerce specific systems – Magento and Prestashop. I’ve also encountered and worked on a few websites (just a few!) built outside of content management systems – static HTML/CSS, ASP (the old pre-dot Net Active Server Pages), JSP, PHP and, God forbid, even Dreamweaver! But WordPress has been may mainstay since I researched and trialed content management systems back in 2007 and picked WordPress as the CMS that I would focus on.

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Design and Enhance Your Website for a More User Friendly Experience

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. Read more »

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. Read more »

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! 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. Read more »

Which content management system? Why it’s important

I was recently having a beer and a chat with a fellow Nelson web developer and discovered that we shared the same favourite content management system. That got us on to talking about what CMSs the other local web design companies here in Nelson build their websites on. My mate told me of a job he turned down because it was an existing website that was built on a content management developed in-house by the original developer of the website and quick look at the structure of the code showed that it was a complicated mess that he didn’t want to get involved with. This reminded me of how important the choice of CMS platform is. Yet very few of my clients have ever asked me about what type of CMS I would use to build their website on. I guess most people are not aware that there is a choice to be made. Read more »

Mind Maps – A great approach for planning a website

The idea behind mind maps is that you start with a central concept, write it down in the middle of a page, then add nodes as you think of different ideas around that concept. You can further develop any of the ideas by branching out more nodes from these ideas and so on. On paper it might look something like this:

Example of a hand drawn mind map

This approach can be used for planning a website – structure, functionality, features, content, business model and what ever else you can think of. While it can be done with pen and paper, a good software tool offers much more flexibility as you can easily move things around, change them and you never run out of paper. Read more »

Getting video from a DVD onto your web site – easy if you know how!

Ok, so you’ve got some video on a DVD that you want to put on your web site – should be easy enough to do you would imagine, right? Well it can be easy if you know what tools to use but if you’re trying to search on Google to find out what you need to accomplish this task you can end up chasing your tail or chasing up on many bogus leads. Read more »

Our content management system of choice

A content management system (abbreviated CMS) allows non-technical people to update and manage a web site without requiring technical knowledge.

At Stellar Web Works we specialise in building web sites on content management systems. We have worked with a number of different content management systems and have come to favour using the popular WordPress platform as our CMS of choice. WordPress is well known as the most widely used blogging platform but what is less well known that it is also an excellent general purpose content management system that makes a great platform for building a wide variety of web sites. WordPress, built with the PHP programming language and MySQL database platform, is very extensible and can be customised to add any special functionality and features that a web site might require. Here are some of the reasons why we think WordPress is a great choice for a CMS:

  • Easy to use – the administration interface is logical and intuitive. Even a person with very limited computer skills will have no problem using WordPress to update and manage a web site.
  • Search engine friendly – WordPress provides the tools and features that can be used to build a web site that is well optimised for search engines
  • Powerful extendible platform – WordPress is designed to be customised and extended by means of building ‘plug-in’ components that can add functionality to cater for the specific needs of a particular web site
  • A mature stable platform – WordPress has undergone more than 5 years of active development with new and improved versions being released on a regular basis
  • Large active developer community – Many developers create and make available plugins that add new features to the platform so for many special web site requirements, chances are that a plugin has already been created to handle it
  • Full flexibility of design and layout of web site – WordPress has a very flexible templating system that allows the web developer complete freedom in designing the web site.
© 2019 Stellar Web Works Ltd.