Tag Archives: Advice

Great Resources to Learn WordPress

WordPress is simple, powerful and easy to learn.  But it still takes some time to learn to be a pro.  And you will never know everything there is to know about this amazing blogging platform.  As each version comes out, there are new features and structures to understand.  There is always a new trick or tip, no matter how long you have been working with WordPress.

These are a few excellent resources help you learn WordPress.  These are targeted to both experts and newbies.

1. The official documentation.  This is regularly updated by a slew of editors and developers.  Most often, if you Google a WordPress term, the documentation is one of the first results.  There’s a reason for that!

2. WordPress Lessons.  Another official resource, WordPress lessons are targeted towards newbies and intermediate users with specific tasks in mind.

3. WPQuestions.  A Fiverr style website where you can ask a question, name a small price, and people will answer it.  The site takes a cut and the answerer gets paid.  Some people are making a modest living on this site.

4. WP Apprentice.  They are a paid site with a lot of free videos as well.  They will teach you mainly simple tasks aimed at beginners.

5. wp.Tutsplus.com. Part of the TutsPlus and Envato network, this marketplace has lots of tutorials about WordPress.  Some are free, many are paid or part of a membership plan.  But you can guarantee you’ll get quality instruction on WordPress.

What Advice Would You Have Given Yourself When You Started Blogging?

Looking back at the lessons you have learnt from blogging, if could give yourself advice when you were about to start blogging, what would you say? That does sound like a very teacher-ish question, apologies. Darren from Problogger is celebrating his 3rd birthday….I mean the blog is celebrating its 3rd birthday. He is giving away a lot of cool prizes, and all you have to do is write about blogging tips. Seeing as that is one of my main focuses here, that is not too difficult. You may have read some of these before.


Write articles not blog posts. I try to create as much timeless content as possible. I like the thought that all the work I do is ultimately creating a resource. If you have 50 articles which are all a resource in their own right, then you have something that is of value. Where as, if you have 50 blog posts about what was important at the time you have nothing of value later.

Make sure you have time to do a proper job. How much time do you have to commit, and is that going to be enough.

Set realistic goals, and strive to achieve them.

Don’t neglect your girlfriend, nothing on your blog is that interesting.

Write to an audience, even if you don’t have one.

Perfectionism may be a form of procrastination, but as long as you are aware that you just spent an hour and a half getting that feed burner panel looking just right it’s all good.

Don’t take mean comments to heart, it’s much easier for someone to rip into your work and say what is wrong with it, than for them to create something good themselves.

Focus on quality as much as possible. People say quantity is important. Maybe I am wrong, but I think you’re better to post 2-3 good posts a week, than to post 7-14 rubbish ones. People only have so much time to spend reading blogs. You want them to be impressed when they come to your blog. And you don’t want subscribers to have to read rubbish that you are just pounding out for the sake of posting regularly. That may mean it takes longer to become popular, but unless you have a lot of time to commit, posting good content every day is hard work.

Write well researched interesting content, the type of stuff you would read yourself. Learn to look at yourself from the outside, is what you have written really worth submitting to a social media site? Or Are you dreaming?

Be unique, you don’t always have to follow the crowd. Just because other blogs have become successful writing about a subject, it doesn’t mean you will.


Is Your Web Design CRAP?

I want to discuss some of the key principles of design. When I teach design to school kids I use the acronym CRAP for them to remember, which stand for: Contrast, Repetition, Alignment and Proximity. These terms come from the book The Non Designers Design Book. If you evaluate a design using these terms, you can see how they are almost always present in well designed sites and print.

Contrast – the difference in visual properties that makes an object distinguishable from other objects and the background. – Source: Wiki

Skelliewag Screenshot

Original theme used at Skelliewag Grid Focus

Skelliewag makes very good use of contrast. The dark text and page elements make them easily distinguishable from the background, and there is also a contrast in size used in the logo where the .org font is much smaller than that rest of the letters.

Repetition – repeat styles down the page for a cohesive feel. Source: Vitamin Features

Mosaiko Screenshot

Among other good design features Mosaiko makes good use of repetition. There is a button section in the side panel where the color of all the logos have been altered to keep the color scheme repetitive. The color scheme is consistent throughout. The article image header shape and size is repeated throughout. Font sizes and design are repeated also. Overall, a very effective site design.

Alignment – Everything on the page needs to be visually connected to something else, nothing should be out of place or distinct from all other design elements. Source: Vitamin Features

Brian Gardner Screenshot

A strength in Brian Gardner WordPress themes is that they all seem to have very good alignment. Have a look at his homepage and any of his themes to see good use of alignment.

Proximity – Proximity creates related meaning: elements that are related should be grouped together, whereas separate design elements should have enough space in between to communicate they are different. Source: Vitamin Features

John Chow Screenshot

One of the main strengths of John Chow’s new theme is the effective placement of page elements, which gives the site good proximity. The four blocks visible in the screenshot show related objects grouped together effectively.

Final Thoughts

Evaluating your design work using the CRAP design principles is good way to double-check your work. If you constantly question the details of your design work, good habits will develop.


Express Blogging – What Is Your Time Best Spent On?

Often during busy times I find it difficult to set aside time to work on my blog. For example the last four days I have been away on a road trip around England. Even when I am not on holiday, there are times when I just can’t make it to the computer. This got me thinking on what time is best spent on if you only have a little each day. 

If you only had 1/2 an hour a day to blog what would you time be best spent on? The two key aspects are:

One – Writing Content

If you are limited to only half and hour a day, you are not going to be able to write seriously good, well researched  articles each day, half an hour just isn’t long enough. So you are going to have to start using drafts. I think drafts are a great idea even if you have a lot of time anyway, but they are very useful to record you thoughts and progress if time is limited. When you are using a lot of drafts, The Clean Cut Blog suggests to Beware of  not to letting your articles go cold in the draft.

Two – Reading articles on other blogs with-in your niche + posting comments

It is important to read other articles and post comments for many reasons. Firstly, it is like research for your own work and this is important. Secondly, building relationships with other blogger’s by commenting on their blog may bring your blog to their attention, and you may also get the odd link through from your name signature in their comments. There are thousands of great blogs out there, and you want to know what they are blogging about and what topics are working well for them.

Ok, so what mix of the two?

I think most people would jump in and say writing content for your own blog is most important, and although I think that is true, when it comes to the ratio of time to spend on each, plenty of blogger’s would suggest you spend more time reading. This article by Chris Marshall: Read more – Write less – The Key to Blogging Growth goes into this subject in more detail. He uses the term BMI (Blogger Mass Index) similar to a weight index, and uses the analogy to suggest that you should be reading more.

Final make up – 12 / 12 / 6

Here’s what I think is a good final make up.You would be best to spend about 12 minutes working on content, not necessarily a single article, have a few drafts in progress. 12 minutes reading other articles from other blogs in your niche, making sure to leave comments if you have something interesting to say. And 6 minutes sorting out random bits. Perhaps moderating comments, fixing something, writing an email, checking statistics to see where your traffic is coming from.

A tool to save you time

If your blogging time is limited you are going to need to use some tools to help save you time. One that I would suggest is Google Feed Reader. You can easily subscribe to thousands of blog feeds, and use folders and tags to track blog articles. This will save you from visiting the actual blog site to read articles.

Final thoughts

If you really only had half an hour a day to blog, you may not be able to have an amazingly great blog as good things take time. However, ensuring you keep up with good practices like the ideas mentioned above, should at least keep your blog ticking over. Then when you do have a bit of extra time you may be able to really get things going. Good luck with your articles.