Archives for July 2013

Fake See-Through Backgrounds with CSS

Here’s a little bit of CSS to create a cool “see-through” effect, which is particularly fun when using fixed-position background images.

Try scrolling me!

Check out this Pen!

Considerations

This method utilizes the :after pseudo-element, which doesn’t work so well on inputs, but if you want to apply the same effect to form elements you can just create a lighter/translucent version of the same background image and apply it to the <input>‘s. Anybody have a way to do this without creating a second image? We’d love to hear about it.

WordCamp: San Francisco Edition

Free t-shirt? Yes, please.

Free t-shirt? Yes, please.

This past weekend saw WordCamp SF come to town, and it pretty much rocked my socks off. Though MIGHTYminnow represented last year, it was before my time so this was my first WordCamp. I think I’m totally hooked now. Below are some highlights:

Speakers

The sheer number of hugely talented presenters was astounding: WordPress core developers, prolific theme/plugin authors, and generally a ton of high quality people working on cool stuff. Some of the sessions that stood out include:

  • Confident Commits, Delightful Deploys by Mark Jaquith
    Tons of useful info regarding version control, code deployment, and loads of helpful tools to check out. Bottom line: do version control!
  • (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Themes, Love, and Understanding by Ian Stewart
    A full-on inspiring talk about WordPress, theming, and the amazing potential that is yet to be tapped in this field. Note to self: time to start theming!
  • State of the Word 2013 by Matt Mullenweg
    And. . . of course. . . the State of the Word. Cool to hear the man who (co-) started it all speak candidly about the strengths, weaknesses, and future of WordPress. End result: WordPress rocks!

Learnings & Doings

It was an information-filled 72 hours, and my brain feels like it just ate way too much knowledge-spaghetti, but here are some of the noteworthy takeaways:

  • Cool tools:
    • Grunt – cool automator, I’m thinking we can use it to quickly set-up plugin and theme files.
    • Jetpack – we’ve used this do-it-all plugin for a while, but it’s time to dig a little deeper into it all of it’s features.
    • WP-CLI – sweet-looking command line tool to expedite all things WP.
  • This crazy retina image technique – TLDR: you can blow images up to 2.2x their display size and export them at low-quality in Photoshop and BAM – you’ve got retinized images. Need to play with this one some more.
  • Got introduced to WordPress Trac and submitted my first patch!
  • query_posts is not so good.
  • The new post revisions interface in WP 3.5 is niiiiiice.

Shout Outs & Thank You’s

Me with Devin Price

Me with Devin Price, the man with the plan

I have to give a huge shout out to two people who made the weekend possible: Devin Price (@devinsays) and Chris Lema (@chrislema). As of one week ago, I had no ticket to this sold out event. I got in touch with Devin (rockstar themer and plugin developer) to see if he knew anything I didn’t. Devin put word out on the twitters, and Chris Lema (author, speaker, and lover of fine cigars) came to the rescue. A sincere “thank you” to both of these gentlemen for an awesome weekend.

Why WordPress?

Sometimes MIGHTYminnow gets the question, “Why do you guys use WordPress?”

First, CMS (Content Management System) based websites are easier to maintain than “static” websites. WordPress is one choice of CMS and there are tons of other CMSs on the (open source) market. While no CMS is the perfect answer for every website, we find WordPress to be a great fit for most of our clients. The why is simple:

WordPress is easy for developers to use

In the old days, we used to write out in prose what content of the home page for a new website would be, and give that straight to a designer to draw. We used to create an outline of the pages in MS Word to show the site structure. We used to do sketches in OmniGraffle of what the various content blocks would be. In those good / bad old days, there were a lot of documents and a lot of extrapolation happening about how a site would be architected and how it would function. But now, with WordPress, it is just as easy (or more so) to do all of that planning work and architectural sketching by creating an actual, working website. We get a development website up and running at the earliest possible point we can in the website project process, so that everyone can see how it will be organized and what content will be included. From there, it is really easy to make changes in real time so that we can collaborate effortlessly with our clients on something that they can actually see and that feels like a website to them from the start. This process leads to better communication and *way* fewer design revisions later in in the process.

WordPress is Easy for clients / business owners to use

Our clients want to maintain their own websites. Since most of them write their own content, it makes sense for them just to add that content to their websites themselves. In the old days, we used to have to train our clients on complex web development software (over a course of *days*) in order for them to be able to make simple content changes. And then we had to worry because it was so much easier for things to go haywire. With WordPress, web editors don’t need days of training, nor do they have to be HTML experts to be able to update their websites. The visual editor within WordPress allows even computer novices to easily edit and change the content and images on their websites using a word processing approach that feels familiar. In other words, WordPress gives users the power to maintain their own websites without the ongoing (and unnecessary) expense of a web developer.

WordPress is extensible

WordPress uses a plugin architecture that allows for developers all over the world to create and publish new features and designs for anyone to use. Open source (read “free”) and premium (read “paid”) plugins and themes allow WordPress users to quickly and (in most cases) simply, expand the functionality of their websites. For instance, if you have a restaurant with live music and you would like to post the events you host on your site, there are plugins that easily allow you to add, manage and promote these events, provide event details, and even sell tickets. (We recommend Events Manager / Events Manager Pro, which we use for class registrations on this site!) And because this is a smart CMS, you can even set events to stop showing up after they have passed, thus lessening the number of things you have to remember to go in and update on an ongoing basis. As another example, if you are a photographer and would like to include galleries of your work on your website, there are plugins upon plugins that allow you to create beautiful and easy to navigate showcases for your work. (We recommend Nextgen gallery to start.) There are even themes that specialize in presenting portfolio pieces. There are plugins and themes that accomodate just about any type of website or feature you can imagine, and there are thousands (mostly free) to choose from.

WordPress free and open source

WordPress is an open source CMS. This means that the software is available to use for free, the code is public, and the contributors to the software do so (mostly) out of the goodness of their hearts. The creation and continuation of the software is a collaborative effort of a vast community, and it is actively enhanced, maintained, and made more secure by that community all the time. And because the core software (and most of the plugins and themes) cost nothing, you can build your own custom WordPress site for just the cost of web hosting and your domain name.

WordPress is SEO friendly

WordPress has many features that you can use to make your site more SEO friendly. Since WordPress makes it easy to expand your site by adding new pages and blog posts, most WordPress sites grow over time, which Search Engines like. Because most theme code is light and clean, pages tend to load quickly and be easy for Search Engines to understand. Because analytics tools like Google Analytics and Jetpack Stats integrate easily with WordPress, you can see how people are finding and interacting with your website and you can make changes based on this data to draw more visitors to your site (and to encourage more conversions). WordPress makes it easy to use keyword rich URLs, called “permalinks” that add archivable content to your site to give you a higher ranking in search engines. On top of all that, there are many plugins and methods to allow you to enhance your SEO through meta data and also to connect your site to social media to foster sharing and encourage visitors.

WordPress is well supported

WordPress is very popular – 53.8% of CMS based sites are built in WordPress (followed by Joomla at 9.2% and Drupal at 6.7%). Over 72 million sites around the world are built using WordPress, including this one. This includes popular companies like Mashable, The New York Times, UPS, CNN, and many more. 22 out of every 100 new domains created in the US are running WordPress. This popularity is not just in the US, as WordPress is has officially been translated into 40 different languages, with more being translated every day! All this love means that if you encounter any problems with your site, there are literally thousands upon thousands of qualified developers who can come to your aid, including us!

So, to recap, WordPress is awesome. We use it and so do a TON of other people. It is a sound technology choice for most websites – either theme based sites or custom designed sites – and there is a world of support available to WordPress website owners. You can use it for free, you can maintain your own site, and you can get up and running quickly. And if you need help getting startedfixing a problem, or making something beautiful, we can help. Feel free to reach out to us or sign up for a class.

(Statistics are from Yoast.)

Hacking the Hood

Hack the Hood and Panelists

Hack the Hood participants and panelists

Oakland gets its fair share of negative press, especially when it comes to the political demonstrations we have hosted surrounding Occupy Oakland, the shooting of Oscar Grant and the more recent murder of Trayvon Martin. But anarchists smashing widows is, contrary to the media coverage, only a tiny part of what happens here. What these news stories miss and what is often overshadowed is the immense sense of community Oaklanders feel and how many great organizations have boots on the ground here, working to help Oakland reach it’s full potential.

Panelists speaking to Hack the Hood participants

Panelists speaking to Hack the Hood participants

Hack the Hood is one such program. They pair local youth webmasters-in-training with local small business “clients,” and train the youths to create websites for the businesses. These neighborhood businesses are un- or under-represented online and the youths help each business get on the map (like, specifically, Google Maps), and create for them a high quality web presence. The training is run out of an amazing nonprofit called United Roots and the trainers use a very concrete and skills focused approach that helps young people gain real world skills – both digital and interpersonal.

Particpant asking the panel a question

Particpant asking the panel members a question

Last week we had the pleasure of visiting United Roots to talk about MIGHTYminnow and our work, in a panel about “real world practitioners.” The students had a lot of smart and thought-provoking questions. This was our favorite: “How does your work facilitate change?” (which is a topic for another blog post, another day).

We hope to have additional opportunities to work with these talented young people to share our skills and knowledge in the future, and so far, we are very impressed!

*All photos by Sophia Hussain, Hack the Hood’s documentarian

Dreamweaver Webinar for Adobe Tech Live

Adobe Tech LiveIf you missed out on Kristin’s talk at Adobe’s MAX conference, she presented a similar webinar this morning, July 11th, on Faster Theming of Dynamic, CMS Based Sites in Dreamweaver CC. It is posted in Adobe Tech Lives’s archives, so be sure to take a look and learn all about faster CMS theming workflows using Adobe Dreamweaver!

Check out the New Mailchimp!

If you use Mailchimp to send emails to your clients and customers, you may have become very lost when you most recently logged in! Mailchimp redesigned their interface in June, which is optional until July 15th. So, what’s great and different in the new Mailchimp?

Design

dashboard-MCMailchimp’s new design is much simpler than before. The designers took out as much clutter as possible which allows the user to focus on building, sending, and analyzing campaigns. When we first opened the new Mailchimp, we were a little confused about where everything was, but have found that the new design much easier to navigate and find your tools.

Tools for Teamwork

The new tools Mailchimp has created for collaborating on campaigns are pretty awesome. We have been trying them out around our office and have found them very helpful. When writing/editing a newsletter, you can comment on different sections to let your team know what you would like change. You can also write comments when sending test emails to your teammates.

Responsive-ness

Redesign2x_iPadMailchimp has made it much easier to work on your tablet. By making their Mailchimp responsive, they have eliminated the need to pinch and zoom with your fingers that can often be frustrated when trying to get something done on the go.

Subscriber Profiles

The layout of the subscriber profiles have changed pretty drastically. There is much more functionality within the subscriber lists which means getting work done faster and more easily! When scrolling horizontally through your lists, the user’s email is now always visible so you don’t lose track of which line you are on. You can also move around, hide, and toggle columns for a faster workflow.

Happy Independence Day!

Fireworks In observance of Independence Day, MIGHTYminnow will be closed Thursday July 4th and Friday July 5th. If you have any projects or issues with your website you would like to discuss with us, please plan accordingly! You can call us at 510.629.1440 or contact us to talk. We hope you will enjoy the friends, fireworks, and picnics this holiday brings!

What is Crazy Egg?

MIGHTYminnow recently came across a service called Crazy Egg. This tool helps you to analyze user interaction for various pages of your website. There is a heatmap (that shows clicks), a scrollmap (that shows how much of the page the user saw), and confetti overlay (to show where people did or did not click and read). We are using a 30 day free trial to evaluate the software (you can too) and have been using this software for about a week. We will let you know how valuable we found it at the end of our trial! For MailChimp users, you will find it similar to their campaign analytics feature, where you can view a click map for every campaign you send. The difference is that you use it on your website and it comes with a much more detailed analysis.

Screen Shot 2013-07-01 at 10.29.32 AMIn addition to the features above, you can also set up pages for comparison. This would be great if you are A/B testing landing pages for Adwords or looking to make some changes to the user experience on your site.

ScrollmapWe are excited about the 30-day trial, as well as their 90-day guarantee. After our 30 days are up, we plan to write a follow-up on how this impacted our analytics and our SEO/SEM strategy. Stay tuned!

Oakland City Workers on Strike Along with BART Workers

oakland strikeEveryone in the Bay Area seems to know that BART workers are officially on strike today, July 1st. But it isn’t just the BART workers, a large portion of the Oakland city government and services are on strike today. This has affected us at MIGHTYminnow headquarters in a few interesting ways:

  • One of the minnows took the ferry to work. This was fun (as a change of pace) but the normally 35-45 minute commute from SF to Oakland was instead a 2 hour commute using the Muni, Bay Ferry, and Broadway Green Bus. This minnow is hoping the strike doesn’t last long.
  • We have some additional co-workers today – people who were unable to find a reasonable way to get into San Francisco from Oakland. Also fun, we like having fantastic and smart people around!
  • Less fun, it is hard to concentrate on work. We are right across the street from City Hall and the picketers are right outside our window with whistles and kazoos encouraging the passing motorists to honk in support of the strike. There is quite a cacophony.
  • The City Center is shut down and many streets are closed off due to the workers’ protests. This isn’t affecting us now, but it may affect our commute home if the protest is still in the middle of the intersection at 5. We might be stuck at work. Fun?

Commuters and protesters alike, stay safe out there, and if you can’t find a way to work tomorrow, we have free wifi, fresh fruit and coffee, and really comfy desks and chairs.