Author Archives: Rod Weston

RSS Setup



    • 1

      Determine where to locate the RSS feed button. In most themes, RSS feeds are pre-installed in the sidebar — “sidebar.php” — or footer — “footer.php” — file.

    • 2

      Open the desired file with a text editor. Find either file in the “\wordpress\wp-content\themes\ThemeName” folder.

    • 3

      Insert the following code in the file before the closing “</div>” tag:


      <a href=”<?php bloginfo(‘rss2_url’); ?>” title=”<?php _e(‘Syndicate this site using RSS’); ?>”><?php _e(‘<abbr title=”Really Simple Syndication”>RSS</abbr>’); ?></a>


    • 4

      Save the file and close the editor.

Read more: How to Create an RSS Feed for a WordPress Blog |


Upgrade Your Site’s Typography

Recently there have been some very exciting developments in website typography. We are no longer limited to the fonts currently installed on the viewer’s computer! We’ve always used different fonts within images, but these are not accessible by search engines such as Google or Yahoo, so they are of very limited value. For the great majority of copy we were limited to so-called “web-safe” fonts which is a very limited list indeed.

Today we have no such restrictions. There are many paths now to a cornucopia of fonts that may be used freely throughout the website… well, freely may not be the correct term, as some of these sources charge for use of the fonts though several do not. But before we look at fonts, let’s consider the concepts and techniques involved in producing a website with great typography. The Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web (yes, that’s the website title!) offers great advice on how to properly use fonts to their best advantage. Read it carefully – there’s a lot of great advice there.

Now, for using non-websafe fonts. Non-websafe fonts must be setup on a font server. There are several font servers available – here are the best font servers:

Each font server has fonts available but you can also upload additional fonts to most of them. Be careful that the fonts you setup on your font server are legal to use. Here are a few sources of free, legal-to-use fonts.

Major News That Could Affect You

There were two major news items reported today with potential for affecting you.

First, 450,000 Yahoo accounts were hacked today. If you have a Yahoo account,  you need to change your password now. If you use that same password anywhere else, you need to change those passwords as well. While you’re doing that, make sure you’re using proper password management. DO NOT use the same password everywhere. Your most sensitive accounts – banking and other financial records for example – should not share a password with any other account. You should be using a password manager program that offers secure storage and the ability to safe backup all your passwords. You can read more about these and other personal security measures on this blog post.:

Second, the sun emitted a huge flare today. Granted, no electronic damage is expected from today’s flare, but there may be a flare in the future – perhaps the not-so-distant future – that will wipe out your computer. Are you properly backed up? See the blog post referenced above for more information.


Personal Computer Security

Personal computer security is essential – and even more so if you access administrative functions for your website. Viruses and trojans on your personal computer may lead to compromised security on your website – especially if you are not careful in your selection and maintenance of passwords.

For this reason and many others, it is essential that you practice diligent personal computer security practices. Please note that these recommendations are suitable for home or a small office, but some of them are not adequate for more than a three or four person office. Please Contact Us for a free analysis that will provide the best fit for your situation.

Full disclosure: Please note that I will be recommending several products within this article. These are products that I have selected through a long and on-going research process. I use these products myself. I have established affiliate relations with some of these companies so I receive compensation when someone clicks on those links and purchases the associated product.

Personal computer security starts with proper maintenance of your computer operating system. If you use Windows, that means subscribing to the automatic Windows security updates. There are several options within this service – we recommend that you automatically download the updates, then install them yourself. Unless there is an especially urgent security patch, it can be beneficial to wait for a day or two before actually installing the files – there have been a few patches that caused problems themselves, requiring a patch to the patch. Apple offers a similar automatic operating system update service.

Next, it is essential that you utilize an effective anti-virus program. We recommend Avast (free) or Kaspersky (not free). There are advantages to the Kaspersky program, but the Avast program is very effective as well. Anti-virus programs work in two ways – they interactively protect against viruses as they occur and they also scan the computer, looking for viruses. A complete scan should be performed at least once per week, ensuring that the anti-virus program has updated its definitions – the files that tell it how to identify viruses. The full scan can be setup to run automatically according to your preferred schedule.

A router and firewall keep hackers out of your computer. The protection is somewhat redundant, but it’s better to have two layers of protection. A router is hardware; a firewall is software. We use and recommend the D-Link DIR-655 Extreme-N Gigabit Wireless Router. We recommend two firewalls – Comodo (free) and an integrated Kaspersky package that includes anti-virus and firewall applications.

Additionally, you will want to install a good spyware/malware program as well. We use and recommend SuperAntiSpyware which is a freeware product. We have also utilized MalWareBytes which sometimes identifies and resolves malware that the other programs just don’t find. Run them both! We do. Unlike AntiVirus programs, the free versions are not real-time programs which means they won’t interfere with each other. Just don’t run them at the same time!

When all else fails – and it will, eventually – you will most definitely want a good backup! There are several ways to accomplish this – we use MozyHome backup service. It backs up the files you select to the internet and is painless to use – I schedule my backups for 1:00 AM, so it happens as I sleep. If your system fails or is damaged by malware, just restore it from MozyHome. There are some aspects of this, however, that can fail, so it’s good to have another system as a backup – contact us for further discussion. An office of more than three or four people will definitely need a more robust backup solution.

Finally and most importantly… use good password practices! Use good strong passwords with at least 8 characters including upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. They should not be guessable, like your family’s birthdays. Use a service such as to create your passwords and DO NOT use the same password for everything. You should have separate passwords for different categories of services – one for online banking, another for administrative functions, a third for casual surfing sites, etc. Naturally, you will not be able to remember these. Use a program that stores the passwords in a secure database. The program will automatically fill in the username and password for each website for you, making it easy. The program should allow you to export the list to a separate file. Do that at least weekly and save that file to a secure location, using encryption software to make the file unreadable by anyone but you. We recommend LastPass (free), PasswordSafe (free), or RoboForm (not free).

To further protect yourself, use SSL(Secure Socket Layer) for your e-mail connections and ftp (file transfer protocol) connections.

It seems like a lot to deal with, but the penalties for not dealing with personal computer security are far greater. Oh, and don’t forget to provide malware security for your web-enabled phones, too! Contact us for further information and/or assistance in securing your computer.

Recommended WordPress Templates

There are literally thousands of WordPress templates available. A template presents a structure into which you place your own copy and images to build your website. The structural work is done for you, saving a great number of hours (and dollars!). Developers create templates with a specific purpose in mind, so the key is to find a template that matches your purpose.

I have presented here three templates that I can recommend. The developers are known to produce good quality work. These templates are also responsive, meaning that they will present a good appearance whether the website is viewed on a desktop PC, a tablet or a telephone.

Optimizing Web Pages

This article discusses some of the basic concepts of optimizing a web page to make the web page load quickly – or at least, more quickly. It is for the benefit of those who are not technically oriented, but need to have a means of discussing these concepts with their web developer.

Reduce the amount of data required to display the page

A web page consists of html, scripts, style documents, and media such as images and videos. These components should be reduced in size as much as possible to shorten the time required to download them. Images typically represent the greatest opportunity for optimization. Browsers cannot display image resolutions higher than 72 dpi, so there is no point in loading anything of higher resolution. Additionally, the images should be sized to the size being displayed rather than having html resize them. The html code itself should be concise and correct. The code should be validated to ensure that it meets the requirements of the document type. All presentation elements should be moved to an external css style sheet. On a website with many pages, there should be a fundamental style sheet and then a separate style sheet for each page. Smaller websites should have only one stylesheet. Finally, css and javascript files should be ‘gzipped’ (compressed) and/or ‘minified’ which removes non-essential characters without changing the functionality. If you have a WordPress site, the W3 Total Cache plugin will do that for you.

Reduce HTTP Calls

The next important key step to increasing web page loading speed is to reduce the calls to the internet within your web page (reducing HTTP calls). There are several aspects to this issue: combining scripts and style sheets, using image sprites, and avoiding redirects or frames. These are critical areas in which your website performance can be improved.

Content Distribution

If your audience is widely distributed geographically and you make extensive use of graphics and/or video files, you should be using a Content Delivery Network (CDN). These are systems with widely distributed servers that are optimized for content delivery. Also, loading your videos and images on a different domain (such as a CDN) allows browsers to load your content more quickly. Amazon S3 is the most widely used CDN and certainly the most cost-effective. You might also use a second domain on your webhost to store the style sheets and javascript elements to allow them to load faster, especially if you use cookies. Content should always be delivered from a domain that does not use cookies.

In violation of concepts above, the home page will benefit from having style and javascript elements within the page. This works because it reduces the http calls, but it should only be used on the home page. In this case, a gzipped version of the style elements must be placed at the top of the html page within the head section and the javascript elements – just those required for the home page – placed just above the closing body tag.

Network Issues

If your optimized website still loads slowly, you will need to evaluate your webhost and your ISP. If your webhost is slow, your website will load slowly. You will need to upgrade your webhost. Or it may be just that your ISP speed is slow in which case other people will see your website load quickly, but you will always see it load slowly. Time to shop around for a new ISP.

These are just a quick general discussion of the aspects of website optimization. Please contact us if you have further questions.

Hiring a Web Developer Part 04

Interviewing Your Prospective Web Developer

Effective techniques in interviewing a web developer can make the difference between success and disaster for your website project.

If possible, interviews should be performed on a face-to-face basis. In my case, most of my current clients were referred to me and I have met only a few of them face-to-face because they are spread all over the US and Canada. I have, however, participated in several face-to-face interviews and much prefer them to telephone or Skype interviews. All the individuals who will be involved with the project should participate during the interview, both to add their perspective to the hiring process and to evaluate the quality of communication between the web developer and the project members.

Working with a web developer covers a broad range of communication issues. Design concepts and ideas, copy concepts, SEO keywords and phrases… all are areas which require effective communication to produce the desired result. A common complaint among those who have hired web developers is that they never hear from their developer. Be specific in stating your expectations and preferences in the level of detail, means of communication and frequency of status updates. This is an essential aspect of the RFP, but it must be addressed during the interview as well.

Discuss the developers’ level of experience with the specific requirements of the project and their ability to accomplish the project within the timeframe specified in the RFP. Determine whether they work alone or as a team. With whom do they work and what kind of relations do they have with their associates? What associates or groups do they belong to?

Discuss their primary tools, languages or technologies. Ask them to discuss how that particular technology is suited to the project at hand.

Discuss their working standards. Do they observe the W3C standards? Are they familiar with them? How do they comment and/or document their work? If they get hit by a bus, is someone else going to be able to pick up the project and continue on, based on their documentation and comments?

Discuss methods they use to reduce the load time of a web page. If you are not familiar with these methods, please read our blog post on Optimizing Web Pages. Also discuss their techniques for cross-browser testing to ensure that your browser is properly presented regardless of what browser your audience may be using.

Ask about post-development support. What hours are they available for support. What communication processes do they provide for addressing updates and other issues. If your website goes down for some reason, how quickly can they respond?

After the interview, discuss the interview with your team and ask each team member for their thoughts and feelings about the prospective developer. Score the prospective developer. As a starting point, utilize the Basis for Award of Contract portion in the RFP. We recommend using a spreadsheet laid out so that you can compare the prospective web developers side by side on each point.

Finally, Contact the owners of the websites that are in the web developer’s portfolio for their thoughts about the developer and whether they have continued their relationship with that developer. Ask about the topics discussed above and how effective the developer has been in each case. Update the spreadsheet with their feedback.

After all the prospective web developers have been interviewed, assemble the team for a detailed discussion of the relative merits and demerits of each developer. If one of them appears to meet the requirements for the project, hire that developer. If you are still not comfortable with the developers you have interviewed, do not hire anyone. Invite more developers to participate and continue the process until you find someone in whom you have confidence.

Essential WordPress Plug-ins

If you have a WordPress site or are planning a WordPress site, there are some plug-ins that are just flat-out essential. That said, plug-ins are a mixed blessing. Plug-ins are susceptible to security flaws and are not always maintained properly. It’s especially frustrating to face an upgrade in WordPress with several plug-ins that have not been updated for the latest version of WordPress. For this reason, we rely on the absolute minimum number of plug-ins possible and select our plug-ins from reputable vendors.

Here is the list of our recommended plug-ins:

  • Ultimate Blog Security

    Secure your blog effectively. You can visit their website at Ultimate Blog Security.

  • Gravity Forms

    Not free, but very powerful. Certainly not always necessary. If you need only a simple contact form, use Contact Form 7 instead. But for long and/or complicated forms, you won’t find a better solution than Gravity Forms.

  • Sociable

    Social media sites play a key role in promoting your presence on the web. This plug-in places links to your preferred social media sites so people can share your content on those sites.

  • VaultPress

    Backups are essential and VaultPress provides the best backup for WordPress. Period.

  • WordPress SEO by Yoast

    SEO (Search Engine Optimization) determines how easily people can find you on the internet. This plug-in stands at the top of the heap of SEO plug-ins. Yoast offers top-quality resources and advice on all things WordPress.

  • W3 Total Cache

    WordPress generates html from a mixture of php code and its database. This takes time so your site will load somewhat slowly. Cache plug-ins resolve this in various ways, but W3 Total Cache claims our favorite spot. It builds the pages in advance, so the user just loads a simple quickly loaded html page.

Feel free to contact us about using these plug-ins on your site!

Hiring a Web Developer Part 03

Writing the Request for Proposal (RFP) Document

First, what is an RFP and why should you write one? An RFP represents an essential element in selecting and working with a website developer. Initially, the process of writing an RFP helps you define exactly what your website must do, how it must appear, and how it must function. It assists you in coming to a thorough understanding of exactly what your website project looks like. Even if you did nothing else with the RFP, this alone justifies the time and effort of developing an RFP. It also pulls all the members of your internal team together, unifying your vision of your new website. Primarily, it is the instrument of communication between you and your website developer, whoever that turns out to be. This is critical, because the developer will bid upon this understanding – anything that must be added or changed through the project will cost your company money! Finally, it is the means by which you will compare the companies bidding on the project. So this RFP document is very valuable indeed – and it must be properly designed before it is ever sent to a developer.

We have provided a template (click on the document image at left to access the template) but please understand that there is no one design for an RFP. The RFP must reflect your project thoroughly, so you will probably need to make some revisions to the template. The template offers a starting point.

The most important part of the document is the Functional Requirements section. Your prospective web developers will base their estimate primarily on the information contained within this section. Review this section carefully with all members of your internal team to ensure that it is complete and accurate.

Once the proposal documents have been returned, carefully evaluate each one, looking to ensure that they address each issue of the RFP document. The proposals will provide a good indication as to which web designers you should interview in the next stage of the process.

Hiring a Web Developer Part 02

Evaluating Your Prospective Web Developer

You have assembled a list of at least three web developers. You may have looked at sites you liked and obtained the name of the developer, or you were referred by people you know who were satisfied with their web developer or you just did a search on the internet… however you did it – preferably not the third option – you have at least three web developers you want to look at. Now, how to evaluate them prior to inviting them for an interview…

What Does Their Own Website Design Tell You?

First look at their own website design. It should offer a professional appearance and be free of errors such as misspellings and malfunctions. A web developer’s website should reflect their expertise. Based on their website, are they an actual business or is this something they do in their spare time?

Evaluate the Websites They Have Already Created

Do the websites in their portfolio appeal to you? Granted, their clients have dictated the styles and color schemes, but they should still reflect a high level of quality and attractiveness. Visit those websites – are the designs reflected in the portfolio still being used? Contact the site owner and ask for an honest appraisal of the web developer.

Special Requirements

If you have particular requirements such as e-commerce or that you be able to update the website yourself, does this web developer have experience with those issues? Look at the websites in their portfolio for examples of how they managed those issues.

Next step – Click Here to learn about preparing your RFP (Request for Proposal).