Category Archives: Reviews

How to Manage Your WordPress Site from an iPad

I’ll admit, I use my iPad more than my laptop. Equipped with a ZAGG keyboard case and 4G, this little puppy does almost everything I need it to. With the exception of bigger word processing jobs and more complicated image editing, the iPad meets my needs. I did, however, have trouble managing my WordPress sites using Safari on iOS/the iPad. For some reason writing posts was nearly impossible because the WYSIWYG did not work correctly. I had to switch to HTML mode in the editor to get anything done. In the WYSIWYG mode you can’t scroll or add the cursor to the text field.

I struggled to find a good iPad solution for a while, quickly testing the official WordPress app. On first glance, it looks to only work with WordPress.com, not self-hosted installations. It turns out, it works for both. In fact, I’m writing this post from my iPad, although I will need to switch to the laptop for some minimal photo editing stuff.

This post is a review and summary of the official WordPress app for iOS/mobile devices like iPad and iPhone.

The official WordPress app

This app is smooth and easy to use, but it is extremely limited. It is clearly made for writing and editing text content and not much more. You don’t have access to most administrative tools.

  • You can insert images from your camera role or take an image. This would be really handy for flash bloggers that are writing on the fly.
  • There is a very interesting WYSIWYG editor that integrates the HTML and “pretty” text. I actually quite like it.
  • Tags include bold, italic, link, quote, strikethrough, unordered lists, ordered lists, code and more.
  • You can choose tags and categories from pre-existing ones.
  • You can add a featured image but can’t manipulate them.
  • Saving is a little tricky. You only see a publish link, but tapping “Cancel” and choosing “Save Draft” works. This is actually smart, mimicking the iOS email interface.
  • There doesn’t appear to be any other features such as word count. And needless to say, any plugins you utilize that affect the post writing screen in the full WordPress are not available in the mobile app.
  • You can also edit pages, access stats (if you have Jetpack installed) and admin settings which are very limited.
  • There is a nicely integrated comment moderating interface. This is another time saver for people running busy blogs with a busy life.
  • The folks at WordPress did a great job utilizing the rotating feature of the iPad. Tilting the iPad switches the interface based on what you’re probably doing with a vertical vs. horizontal orientation.
  • The last major feature is for WordPress.com users. If you have an account (umm, you do, right?) with WordPress.com, you can read blogs you follow within this app. It’s easy and fast.

Overall, this is a really simple, efficient app. I will need to go into the full WordPress interface in order to clean this post up, add images and do some other things I do to each post I write. But it let me more comfortably put this content together.

Of course, the whole thing will rely on your theme to drive styling. But for a simple blog post, it works very well. It’s important to note that this app does not give you access to publishing features like scheduling. So you can just save and publish.

wordpress ipad login
The simple WordPress iPad app login interface.
wordpress ipad writing interface
The WordPress iPad app writing interface. Simple and clean.
wordpress ipad admin dashboard
The WordPress iPad app “dashboard”.

I was unable to find any solid third party solutions for managing one’s WordPress site. But maybe I missed something. What do you use? Or, if you use the official app, what do you think of it? Perhaps there is room for a premium/paid third-party app.

Free Viral Launch Theme

Launch Effect was recently brought to our attention as a solution for pre-launch and early launch applications.  Launch Effect is a one-page WordPress theme intended to help developers and new businesses generate buzz before launch.

The theme is incredibly customizable and serves one very important function.  Users visiting the site can enter their email address to receive future updates.  That’s something many themes can do.  But here is where Launch Effect stands apart.  Users who sign up are provided with a custom generated URL they can use to share with friends.

You can then track referrals so top performers can be rewarded, or just thanked with a kind email.  The following are screenshots of the signup and sharing screens.

As you can see, users can share the launch in lots of different popular ways.

The free version of this theme has all the features described above including a powerful design dashboard and lots of customization options.  It also comes with a small footer linking back to the developer.

The design dashboard allows for complete color and style customization from top to bottom.  All colors, fonts and text is customizable through this dashboard.

The premium version adds functionality to include a progress bar, countdown timer, brandable footer, and full theme functionality to use as a regular WordPress site.  In development for future releases is the ability to add extra form fields and sell single products with Paypal support.

Launch Effect can also integrate seamlessly with Mailchimp (my personal favorite), Google Analytics, AWeber and PressTrends.

The stats are also impressive, allowing the site admin to track signups and conversions each person has generated.  This is great for content entries and true viral launches.

Launch Effect is in use by lots of exciting new concepts right now.  One nice feature of Launch Effect is that no theme ends up looking the same so you don’t have to worry about lots of other sites using the same design.  Check out some of these cool designs:

Go ahead, check out Launch Effect for yourself.  If you’re experienced with this theme, we would love to hear your feedback in the comments below.

An Inside Look: Victory Framework

The Victory Framework for WordPress is a new political campaign platform built specifically for WordPress.  And Pingable got an exclusive inside look at the powerful tool.  On the surface, it is clean, professional and stylish.  Inside, it is versatile and highly customizable.  You may also enjoy our review of the best political WordPress themes.

The Design

Pre-packed designs

The Victory Framework political WordPress package comes with three complete designs for your customizing pleasure.  In the vein of omnipartisanship, you can choose from red, blue and white themes.  Of course, these are completely customizable in a completely new way (see color-match technology).  The themes are all professional and different enough to ensure the competition isn’t using the same design.

The best part of the pre-packed designs is that the framework is ready out of the box, with minutes of setup.  Candidates can choose to use an image based logo, or enter text for instant customization.

Color-match technology

One of the coolest features of Victory Framework is the color match system.  Campaigns often choose color schemes very carefully to reflect their districts, beliefs, even the tone of their campaigns.  The color match system lets the webmaster enter colors in the control panel which instantly customizes the design.  Now that is a powerful feature.

Layout

The power of Victory Framework is not in a groundbreaking front-end layout or user interface, it’s in the ease of use and back-end features.  Even well funded campaigns could use Victory Framework with a completely custom design, while taking advantage of the functional features.

The layout is clean and functional while reflective of the traditional campaign site layout.  Content and media are prioritized (see media management) and lead/conversion is a close second.  All three designs that come with Victory Framework have top navigation featuring dropdown menus.

Below the fold the layout mimics the WordPress powered blog we all know.  This is where a traditional campaign website often falls short, communicating real information beyond position statements and tweets.

The Features

Powerful Dashboard

Victory Framework comes with a powerful dashboard that lets you customize Victory Framework in almost every conceivable way.  This includes the design, slider, footer, blog options, featured news, announcements, events and even custom CSS and tracking codes.

Custom widgets

The Victory Framework comes with some custom widgets that help the out-of-the-box readiness.  They include a “Take Action” widget that inserts buttons with any links you choose.  This is helpful for signing up users for events, donations, etc.  The buttons direct to pages of your choosing.  From there you can use any plugin you see fit to provide the actual feature.  Our hope for a future version includes built in functionality for these things

Other custom widgets include social media sharing, Twitter and Facebook widgets to build a true community using Victory Framework as a hub.  These can be infinitely expanded upon by leveraging the massive WordPress plugin repository or, our favorite, the Themeforest Plugin Marketplace.

Pre-packed framework

Rather than filling the content structure from scratch, you are prompted to run a “quick setup” after installing Victory Framework.  This quick setup fills in sample content, pages, posts, etc. so you can hit the ground running.  Just don’t forget to update each piece of content lest people will know you’ve used a pre-set solution!

Media management

Victory Framework (all three pre-packaged designs) comes with a powerful media management feature.  This includes an incorporated media slider with tons of customization options.  You can select the width, slider engine, transition effect, transition speed and lots more.  This is an indispensable tool for campaigns that need to showcase candidate faces and photo ops.

Our conclusion

Overall, Victory Framework is the best solution we’ve seen short of completely custom systems.  If you’re on a tight budget (read: every campaign except national) then Victory Framework can deliver all the features  of the expensive solutions, in an easy to use format.  All for less than $200.  The features are there, the coding is clean and the designs are fresh.  Here’s what we’d love to see in upcoming versions:

  • More designs
  • Integrated features like event management, donation management and constituent capture

When asked about their intentions with Victory Framework, the developers had this to say:

Our intention is to help local politicians be more effective online.  This goes beyond just having a pretty looking- Victory will soon incorporate tools to manage all the data collected from these sites.  Ultimately, we want campaigns to spend less time managing an online campaign and more time listening to and engaging with voters.

In a way, our customers are really the voters themselves.  We want to make it incredibly easy for you to know who your candidates are and what they stand for.  And if you're up for it, to get involved.  We believe that the more information and transparency a candidate offers, the better those candidates will serve the public.  We aim to help those types of candidates get elected with our tools.

We think they hit the mark.  You can check out Victory Framework here, including a full working demo download.

RocketPress Hosting Review

I like to review WordPress hosting because a) they’re topical and interesting to our readers and b) they tend to focus on the needs of WordPress users over those of the general population.  Web hosting providers are a dime a dozen.  Especially when you consider reseller accounts.  Hell, I’ve got a reseller package that more than pays for my hosting costs.  But when it comes down to the nitty gritty details, there are only a handful of super high quality hosts out there.  RocketPress is one of those hosts.

Cost

Let’s get to the first thing on your mind, how does it compare in cost?  The cheapest plan, if paid annually, is $3.95 per month.  That’s not a lot of money, as long as you can front the $47.40 once every year.  If you want to pay monthly, the cheapest plan is $6.95.

Platform

RocketPress is using Cpanel combined with a piece of software called WHM (Web Host Manager).  Both of which are very stable, regularly supported frameworks.  Cpanel is a ubiquitous software package that many many web hosts use.

RocketPress is hosted on servers managed by a company called FDC Servers.  They DO NOT offer reseller hosting which is a good thing for you.  This means RocketPress has invested in their hardware and co-located with a company who makes their business managing server farms.  This is a very smart move.  Picture this: a business that buys and manages all their own hardware sounds great.  Now picture this “business” in someone’s garage, with a $400 Windows desktop acting as a “server”.  It’s supervised when this person is home, but when they’re away, anything could happen.  Outsourcing server management seems like a pretty sweet deal now doesn’t it?

Support

They offer Live Chat which is a great resource.  Although they weren’t online while writing this review, there is also a toll-free phone number which says a lot about this company and their intentions to be there for you when needed.

Security and Reliability

Their servers are backed up nightly, so you can trust your data can be restored if something goes wrong.  RocketPress claims to have never been hacked, ever.  That’s 17 years of zero-tolerance.  They claim to never overload their servers but do not back that up with numbers which, to be fair, is hard to quantify.  Hopefully, they follow through on this expectation and their hosting accounts are sound, solid and secure.

WordPress Specific

RocketPress claims to have been built by WordPress coding experts with significant IT security experience.  They will automatically install WordPress on each new hosting account within 10 seconds.  I’m not sure that’s necessary, but it’s a nice feature if you want this hosting account for a very specific website.  The hosting plans are designed to support WordPress installs, and RocketPress offers free WordPress consulting and advice.  Because RocketPress runs Cpanel, it supports Fantastico, which offers two-minute WordPress installations without any database work.

Extras

RocketPress will transfer your existing WordPress site for free which is a really nice perk if you only run one WordPress site.  There’s no mention of how many websites they will migrate.

Each new account gets a free domain.  That’s worth $10/year so it’s not like you’re getting a primo parking spot or anything, but every little bit counts.

Summary

We tried to be both honest and fair in this review of RocketPress.  Whichever host you choose, consider how it will meet your specific needs, and try to ignore flashy sales and gimmicks.  There are so many web hosts out there, you can be a very discerning customer.  If you love WordPress as much as we do, you’ll want to choose a web host that specializes in supporting the most powerful blogging platform on earth.

Disclosure: Pingable was not paid to write this review, however we are part of their affiliate network, clicking through and signing up for an account will result in a kickback for us.

PSD to WordPress – A Review of Wpfrompsd.com

WPfrompsd.com is a service that will convert your Photoshop site designs into a fully functional WordPress themes. In this article I will review their PSD to WordPress service.

WP to WordPress

What is the service?

This service is aimed at designers. The sort of designer that can produce amazing site designs in Photoshop, but maybe isn’t as comfortable programming. The idea is that the designer produces an amazing design in Photoshop, WPfrompsd.com takes that design and produces a fully functional WordPress theme, that is fully standards compliant and cross browser compatible.

What is the process?

  1. You submit your project details and Photoshop file using their request a quote form.
  2. They will contact you if the project is approved and work with you on the details of your project.
  3. The development team creates the theme.
  4. Once the design is complete, you are provided with access to a demo site to ensure the final design is what you asked for.
  5. You pay for the service, and once payment has been received, they will send you the completed theme in a zip file.

What we did to test their service?

To test out the quality of their work, I put together a simple Photoshop design. The design was a concept I had to make it easy to produce simple Niche WordPress sites. I gave them very specific instructions, such as the need to have a selectable logo, a selectable background for my header, and a selectable niche graphic.

What was the result?

The theme I received was well coded, clean and exactly what I asked for. The theme has an admin option section so that I can select various graphics for my niche sites. Communication was good, and they asked appropriate questions to ensure they were creating what I was after.

We will be sharing the theme they created for us for free in an upcoming post. I want to source a few niche graphic sets to provide with the theme to make it more useful for people. Once I am done it will be yours for free.

Final word

Their pricing looks very good. If you give them a week to produce the theme they will have it to you for as little as $190. Also, as you get to see the theme in action before for parting with your cash, you know that you are going to get what you ask for. From my observations, this is a very professional service that will be ideal for many Photoshop designers out there.

Disclaimer: This is not a paid review, and this post contains no affiliate links. We were given 1 free theme conversion for the purposes of reviewing this service.

Zyma – Cheap Webhost Review

2012 Update

We have received a lot of comments saying how bad Zyma have been, constant down time, and poor service. Zyma were meant to provide us with a free account for life, and they did not renew our account after 12 months, so all I can say as I would not trust these guys. Over the space of the year, we found that our site was down more often, and that it was slower to respond. So if you are considering Zyma, I would not go with them as a provider.


Original review

As far as cheap webhosts go, you have a few options to consider on the market that drops to around just under $4US a month. This seems pretty cheap right? Zyma.com, a new player in the market, have just released a hosting offer for £4.95 per year. Yes, you read that right, PER YEAR! Zyma.com is a very new UK based hosting company, and this deal looks like a very good price, that will give the market a bit of a shake-up if successful; so I wanted to check it out, see what the catch was.

What they Offer:

  • Unlimited Web space
  • Unlimited Traffic
  • Unlimited Email Accounts
  • Unlimited SQL Databases
  • 99.9% Uptime Guarantee
  • Free Google Vouchers
  • Free Transfer & Setup
  • Moneyback Guarantee
  • Free Tech Support
  • cPanel Web Hosting + Fantastico De Luxe for easy WordPress installation.
  • Attracta seo tools via cPanel
  • Unlimited Addon-domains

This is a shared hosting account which means your site will be hosted on a server with other websites, and will share resources with them. So if all the other sites on the same box as your use up all the resources, your site would start loading more sluggishly. Shared hosting is common place on the internet, and all the other cheap hosting options comparable to Zyma.com are also on shared hosts.

Are there any hidden costs?

Not really. There are some add-ons which other shared hosts will give you for free, however, these other hosts cost significantly more. So if you need these add-ons, you pay for them, and you are at no loss.
These include:

  • Daily Backups – £2.99 per month
  • Private SSL Certificate £24.99 per year
  • Whois Protection – £4.95 per year
  • Unlimited Addon-domains

The daily backup option being something that might be worth considering. You don’t want to lose all your website data. However, if you are using a CMS like WordPress, you can get free plugins which will email you a copy of your DB’s regularly, so if you know what you are doing this isn’t necessary. Other cheaper shared host will give you a free domain, this is not the case with Zyma, and the £4.95 per year only entitles you to host only one domain.

How good is the Zyma Host Performance wise?

I did some tests to evaluate the speed of Zyma. I used host-tracker.com to check the response time of the site I have hosted on Zyma, I then compared this to three popular hosts, one in the UK, and two in the US.

  • Zyma – Average response time was: Global Average: 0.85 sec, UK locations:0 .55 secs. US Locations: 0 .85 secs
  • Dreamhost – Global Average: 1.27 sec
  • Clear Host – Global Average: 0.98 sec
  • 1and1.co.uk – Global Average: 0.32 sec

These are just spot tests at one point in time. Results will vary depending on peak times in different parts of the world. But they give an indication that Zyma doesn’t stake up too badly when compared to other shared hosts. A ping time around half a second for a shared webhost is pretty damn good.

Zyma guarantees 99.9% uptime. In the few days since having my Zyma account, I have had it monitored every minute using my Pingdom account. What this does is ping the site every minute to ensure it is up, and emails me it is down. So far, it has been up the whole time. This is a fairly short period to test the host thoroughly though. But, so far, so good.

How good is the support?

If you have a support question, they have phone contact numbers, email support, but more importantly, live chat via the website. They also have a good range of FAQ’s to answer common support questions. I was purposely pretty lazy when setting up my WordPress site on Zyma, as I wanted a support query to test their service on. The support person was very helpful, answered my question easily, and emailed me all the details I needed to help me with the problem I was having. So, from a one off spot check, the support was very good.

Who is Zyma best suited for?

Zyma.com is hosted in the UK, which makes them an ideal option for a small UK business. The sort of business that doesn’t have a huge budget for online marketing, but is looking to get a website online for a good value price.
Zyma.com is also a great cheap option for online markers, web developers and SEO types like myself. Why? It’s a cheap way to add more IP diversity to your site portfolio. If you understand SEO, you will know that you need lots of links to your sites. But the catch is that you can’t really link to your own sites that effectively if they are hosted in the same account, in the same IP C class range. However, if you were to host one of your sites on Zyma, for the cheap annual cost, you can then effectively link to other sites you own, without it appearing as though you are linking to your own site. Make sense? This was one of the main attractions for me, and why I was keen to get an account with them.

Conclusion

So from my small review, and some basic tests, I really see no reason what so ever to be nervous about committing to hosting a site with Zyma. They offer a very good service for a ridiculously cheap price. £4.95 per year is about $7.80 US per year. Add to that the cost of a domain… $7 to $10, and you have a very cheap website. The next cheapest option I could find easily was more than $50 US a year. And the standard shared hosting price is around $100- $120 a year. So this really is a great deal and well worth checking out.

Disclosure statement

A Zyma.com employee approached us to review their service. For this we received a hosting account from them free of charge for which we used to evaluate the service. If you would like me to review your webhost on Pingable, get in touch using the contact form.

Easy WordPress Online Store Option

Wazala is a new service that allows you to insert a secure online store on any WordPress site without bulky plugins or sketchy security measures.  You can also forget about awkward forwarding and checkout pages.  Wazala creates a seamless integration with slick overlay interactivity.

Some key features include the ability to sell both physical and digital goods, Paypal and Google Checkout support and support for inventory and coupon management.

This is not your momma’s shopping cart.  It also includes product options (like shirt size), a smooth backend dashboard, multi-language support and tons of design customization options.

Wazala uses it’s own secure connection via a jQuery overlay which makes for a secure integration.

Here are some screenshots.  If you want to check out Wazala for yourself, they offer a free trial.

Introducing the Pingable collection on Themeforest

We are constantly watching for amazing new WordPress themes that are both free and commercial.  One of the places we look for new talent is ThemeForest, a marketplace for all sorts of web themes.  When we find something exceptional, we add it to the Pingable collection.  Check out the Pingable collection periodically for new, stunning WordPress themes.

Check out the Themeforest collection here.

7 alternatives to Google Analytics

We all use Google Analytics to track visitors to our WordPress sites.  Right?  Not necessarily.  There were several services before Analytics was the standard, and even more have popped up in recent years that compete with the big G!  Here are some of the best options out there, with a little analysis of our own.

But first, some critique of Google Analytics which has caused some webmasters to look elsewhere.

  • Delay.  Have you ever found yourself checking your stats at 12:01 AM?
  • Reliability. Analytics isn’t supposed to count bots and spiders, but have you ever found a massive spike in traffic with no real explanation?  Or perhaps you’ve wondered how a search term of “green chili recipes” brought someone to your blog about rugby?
  • Ease of use.  There are some very powerful features built into Analytics, but for 90% of webmasters, they’re overboard.  Sometimes I just want a simple, stylish graph of traffic.

Here are several alternatives to Analytics that address some of these issues.

Woopra

  • Real Time
  • Easily compare and manage multiple sites
  • Tons of trackable information
  • Promises additional features soon

Clicky

  • Real time statistics
  • Free and paid plans
  • Most of the popular features of Analytics
  • A graphically pleasing layout
  • Offers a WordPress Plugin to integrate with your site.
  • Has an impressive client list including Mashable, SmashingMagazine and BuySellAds.com

Piwik

  • Real Time
  • Simple
  • Open Source
  • Plugin powered so you can add/remove features
  • Installed on your server so you have complete control and ownership of the data

Sitemeter

  • One of the originals
  • Free and paid plans
  • Easy and fast to set up
  • Easily share your stats (or secure them from) visitors

Chartbeat

  • Real time
  • Simple interface
  • Traffic alerts
  • $9.95/month at press time

Reinvigorate

  • Real time
  • Event tracking
  • “Heat map” technology
  • Desktop integration

Mint

mint-analytics

  • Self-hosted for full control
  • Search support
  • Feed subscription patterns
  • $30 per domain – One off

Do you know of another alternative to Google Analytics?  Share it below with your comment.

WordPress Hosting Guide

There is a lot to consider when looking for WordPress hosting for your site.  Of course, you don’t have to self-host your site as outlined in this post on How to Install WordPress.  If you do choose to self-hosted WordPress Hosting, you’ll need a hosting provider.  However, not all hosts are created equal and there are a number of parameters that need to be considered. WordPress.org has a hosting suggestion page which currently includes:

If you choose to look further than the WordPress sponsored hosting partners, use the following criteria to make your selection.

Meet the basic server requirements

Many hosts meet the minimum requirements for hosting WordPress, but not all.  They include:

  • PHP version 4.3 or greater although version 5.2 is recommended
  • MySQL version 4.1.2 or greater although version 5.2 is recommended
  • Mod_rewrite Apache module
  • A Linux based platform with either Apache or NGINX

The official WordPress Hostingrequirements page suggests sending an email to hosts you are considering working with to make sure they meet the requirements.

That’s all WordPress.org has to say.  We have more suggestions when searching for a host.

Excellent Support

  • Peruse the forums and see what kind of support is given.  Dead threads and complaining customers is a big red flag.
  • Look for 24/7 support, an indication the host is dedicated to the business they’re in.
  • Live chat support is a big help and suggests the host is there to help and backs up their service
  • Give them a test.  Send a pre-sales support question – maybe asking how their servers meet the WordPress hosting requirements and note the response time and tone of their response.

Site design

We don’t mean to be design snobs, but if a web host can’t even manage their own website, how can they be expected to support you in managing your own?

Look closely

Does the web host have advertisements, unrelated text links or skeezy operations meant to build links but not necessarily customers?  These are all signs of a host that is not operating ethically.

Hosting other WordPress sites

Look at your favorite WordPress powered blogs and use this tool to find out who’s hosting them.

Look for these key features

  • They offer one-click WordPress installation like Fantastico
  • They offer unlimited MySQL databases (for running lots of WordPress sites)
  • They support WordPressMu (just ask them)
  • They support AJAX

Based on everything, we recommend these hosts in addition to the ones listed above:

Our Recommended WordPress Hosting Options

Additional resources:

Image credit: Verseone.com