Category Archives: Blog

Author Experience in WordPress

Let’s Fix This

WordPress has achieved its mission to democratize publishing, so any blogger, writer, editor, or content manager has access to a powerful publishing platform on the Web. So, how do you put all of the awesome capabilities of WordPress to best use?

ax-wp-wcwpg-skarjune
David Skarjune presented on the topic “Author Experience in WordPress” at WordCamp Winnipeg 2015.

It’s a myth that a CMS is a silver bullet for online publishing. While incredible strides have been made for content management and user experience, the Author Experience has lagged in comparison. AX ≠ UX. We need to customize the implementation of WordPress to create a better workflow for authors and editors.

Content managers have even more needs. In addition to managing AX and editorial workflow, we need to work with typography, digital asset management, and even content strategy. Can WordPress do this? Let’s fix this.

Word & Image 2015

Happy New Year from Word & Image

We hope 2015 brings you opportunity and rewards. Word & Image is tooling up this year to better support client web needs and to help achieve your goals.

wordpress-logo-notext-b2014 was a year of transition as Word & Image added services for WordPress Managed Hosting and Support to meet the growing needs of clients. With WordPress as the leading Content Management System (CMS) solution for websites, there is no shortage of designers, developers, themes, and plugins for the ever-expanding WordPress platform. But, we noticed two areas where WordPress users needed assistance:

Managed Hosting

WordPress started as a simple blogging system that anyone could launch and easily use. Now as a full-featured CMS, WordPress is complex and requires professional administration.

What happens after a web developer finishes their work and hands off a WordPress website to a site owner? The site owner often winds up on a commodity web hosting solution with only basic support, and users must handle administrative tasks for updates, backups, and security. Commodity hosting solutions run hundreds to thousands of websites on the same web server leading to slow performance, malware infections, and hacking takeovers.

In recent years a new industry emerged for Managed WordPress Hosting to handle many of the administrative details along with providing high performance. These services bring good benefits for a higher price, but they still require technical skills to set up and manage.

WordPress Support

The goal of WordPress has always been “to democratize publishing” by making it easy to use web software. WordPress emerged early on as the leading blogging tool for it’s reliability and simplicity. Today, WordPress keeps up with current web trends, but can users keep up with all the things we can do with websites?

A friendly learning curve is still a strength of WordPress, but mastering the roles of author, editor, moderator, and administrator takes time, practice, and good resources. In addition to free resources from WordPress, there’s a vast market of third-party add-ons and services. There’s no shortage of knowledge, but working through tech support systems and nerd forums can be challenging or even frustrating.

managing wordpress wordup

Word & Image Solution

Word & Image offers a solution for these challenges with a complete service for both Managed Hosting and WordPress Support. You don’t need to worry about administrative overhead to keep your website up to date, secure, and running with high performance. We handle all those details, so you can concentrate on working with your content and constituents. Our Help Desk provides timely assistance for all your needs working with WordPress, along with training options for new skills.

While Word & Image is operated by a sole consultant, “we” are a big virtual team. We partner with WiredTree for our web engineers, as they are leaders in professional WordPress hosting. We use ManageWP for professional WordPress management. We use FreshDesk as our help desk portal to automate tracking website and user needs. We collaborate weekly at the CoCo coworking facility with other Twin Cities WordPress professionals, we meet monthly at the Minneapolis St. Paul WordPress User Group, and we work on the teams for WordCamp Minneapolis and WordUp! Minneapolis.

Best Wishes in 2015 as you create your web content, engage your followers, share your vision, and achieve your goals!

Managing WordPress

WordPress is one of the easiest Content Management Systems to set up and run, but what happens after a web developer finishes their work and hands off a WordPress website to a site owner?

Designing and developing in WordPress are beginning stages in the lifecycle of a website. There are additional stages for content development, training and support, administration and maintenance, statistical feedback, and software upgrades.

What happens after a web developer finishes their work and hands off a WordPress website to a site owner?

Fortunately, there are best practices for WordPress configuration, backups, security, performance, and other aspects of website management. And, just as with witches, there are good hosts and bad hosts that will affect how well or how terribly WordPress performs.

In recent years a new industry has emerged for Managed WordPress Hosting that handles many of these details, making the job much easier. This presentation for WordUp Minneapolis reviews the key areas of WordPress website management from the basic setup on the frontend to complexities on the backend plus supporting users throughout their content lifecycle.

See our Managing WordPress Resources
 

WordPress Images

WordPress media processing just moved up a notch with the release of version 3.9, called “Smith” for the famed jazz pianist Jimmy Smith.  WordPress has long had powerful image functionality built into it’s core, but it was neither obvious that it existed nor how to employ the features. Now that has all changed.

When you want to create a visual portfolio in WordPress, you might think that needs a special theme or plugin or both to add the functionality for working with images.  Indeed, there are a plethora of portfolio themes for photographers and artists to use, and there are plugins like the popular NextGEN Gallery for managing and presenting image collections.

However, we’ve long had a smart gallery function built into WordPress. When you upload images into a post (or page), they become an attachment of it. A group of images attached to a post become a gallery by default. Who knew? Few knew or cared because it was a hidden feature, and even if you noticed or learned that you could insert a gallery of images into a post, the mere result in the edit view was an icon of a camera and snapshot—not the images:

wp-gal-wid

Not cool, or inviting, or very useful to most. The results on the viewing end were nice, as you could arrange the grid layout of the gallery with shortcodes or launch a slideshow or lightbox with simple jQuery plugins. For WordPress geeks, this worked fine, for everybody else used to WYSIWYG editing, it didn’t work much at all.

All that has changed with WordPress 3.9. Now when you add a group of images to a post, you can see the gallery of images in the edit view just as you’d expect, such as with this group of photographs shown below. By default, WordPress displays a caption with a user hover, and clicking an image goes to an attachment page displaying just the image. Plugins could launch a lightbox experience.

There are a host of new features for working with images in WordPress:

  • Drag and drop images into posts
  • Scale image size directly in the edit view
  • Jump to the Edit Image window from post edit view
  • Toggle from a gallery layout to a slideshow

WordPress 3.9 also includes new features for working with and previewing audio, video, and widgets. This is a definite move towards a more seamless visual editing experience in WordPress, and there’s more to come in upcoming releases.

These What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (WYSIWYG) features may seem trivial or even pathetic to hard-core web geeks. Really? WordPress wants to be more like Wix or Weebly or SquareSpace in the Content Management System (CMS) space for automated generation of websites? Is that a good or bad thing?

Joomla was the first popular CMS that worked easily out of the box and offered basic visual editing of web content. Joomla is no longer in the lead with WordPress ahead of everyone and Drupal offering more extensive backend power than Joomla. Still, Joomla proved that having a smooth frontend experience for authors and an extensible. programmable backend engine for geeks was the holy grail for CMS user experience at both ends of the spectrum.

This new release elevates WordPress to a higher balance of frontend and backend capabilities for CMS users at all levels.  Besides, it honors Jimmy Smith, one of the jazz/blues  greats!

People Marketing

People Marketing Is …

the backbone of all Direct Marketing.  These days, one might think that social media had become the primary means for direct marketing with people sharing tweets, posts, and links of companies on Facebook, Twitter, and the rest. But as any social media marketer knows, social connections can be fleeting, frivolous, and challenging to convert to active B2C sales relationships.

It’s easy to confuse the media with the marketplace. Sure, it’s all online today, on Facebook or Amazon or just a click away. We do have a universal marketplace on the Internet, and it seems that the degrees of separation are decreasing as we network online more and more. Yet, we still have real people as marketers and customers in a real-world marketplace, beyond all the digital interactions that media provides. How does this affect direct marketing?

A century ago traveling salespeople went from town to town and door to door peddling goods out of a suitcase. That’s quite direct when someone knocks on your door. Today, you probably wouldn’t answer a door knock for such solicitations, unless it was a neighbor kid hawking cookies or candy bars for scouts or sports.  Still, do you favor a certain coffee shop or store where the staff treat you well? Convenience and pricing are strong factors in today’s marketplace and economy, but sometimes we want a nicer experience than that of the self checkout line at a big box store.

Direct Marketing can be defined as any systematic method of selling products with direct communications and transactions between companies and customers. It’s tried and true from direct (junk) mail to telemarketing to direct response advertising on late-night television.  Long before the web and social media, direct marketing had leveraged metrics and ROI with predictive results. Direct mail response rates average 3.4% and telemarketing response rates range from 8% to nearly 13%, although the costs are higher. (The Average Success Rate of Direct Marketing)

An issue with direct marketing (or any marketing today) is that the media and technology that deliver results can become an end-all, trumping the roles of both seller and buyer at the outer ends of the process. And, when the traditional methods don’t deliver as well over time, as media, technology, and user behaviors continue to evolve, how can we adapt better engagement strategies?

We might try getting back to the notion of People Marketing. I don’t mean knocking on doors in the real world—but I do mean that when we knock on digital doors, we act as real people.  For example, sometimes when I engage with someone as mutual followers on Twitter, I quickly receive an automated Direct Message saying:

“Thanks for following. I will surprise you with interesting tweets!”

Really? It’s interesting that you have robotic software that churns out a canned tweet on your behalf? You knock on a door that is normally reserved for friends and associates to exchange text messages in real time, but you as a person aren’t involved?

In your B2C communications, don’t let 1-to-1 become a 0-to-1 formula. Remember that as marketers and customers, we’re real people who can have real digital interactions.


Do you have Digital Content and Direct Marketing needs? Contact Word & Image to find our how our services can help.

Sandbox City

Word & Image has been in Sandbox City, as we dumped our old site while moving to a new server. No worries, our best old content will be back shortly along with new content.

Working with the default Twenty Fourteen theme is a demonstration of what WordPress can provide out of the box.  Automattic’s JetPack and some Twenty Fourteen theme-related plugins were added to extend the basic options. Let’s see what this actually provides a typical startup user.

There will be some gaps, and we know there are lists of best-practice plugins still to add for a robust WordPress platform. So, we’ll share the results of our testing, and document how to fast-track WordPress out of the box in a straightforward manner.

Let’s see what WordPress can do—out of the box.

Update

We’re testing the WordPress Front End Editor in our Sandbox service at SandPress.com. We expect to see this role out in WordPress 4.1 later this year, and we’ll keep you updated.

Content 101

101 Ways to Publish Content

This post was updated with video content on June 18, 2013.

No way you say, but there are 101 and more ways. The publishing world is in transformation, the means of publishing content have become freemium solutions on the web, and the long tail of content gets longer every day. Let’s look at the forms, formats, media, channels, and rights available for content publishing. From creation to production, from targeting to consumption, there are opportunities to consider and choices to make.

  • Got a story, artwork, song, movie or idea to share?
  • Wondering how feasible it is to get your content out to the world?
  • Have you considered the whys and hows for managing and distributing your work?
  • Perplexed by the explosion of genres and options available?

The following talk was given by David Skarjune on April 6, 2013 at BestBuy HQ for Minnebar,  an annual technology and software conference held in Minneapolis.

Slides

Video

View our Resources on all sorts of Content Publishing topics.

World Brain

Originally posted February 9, 2013. Updated April 16. 2013.

“The time is close at hand when any student, in any part of the world, will be able to sit with his projector in his own study at his or her convenience to examine any book, any document, in an exact replica.”

—H.G. Wells, World Brain, Metheum & Co. Limited, London, 1938.

Wells’ futuristic series of papers and addresses collected in the World Brain were not a matter of science fiction—the noted author of The Time Machine and other sci-fi classics was not some thought leader taking a shot at the top of the heap for a breakthrough book. Wells hoped to save the world from itself. His vision was no less than a path to world peace, rather than the paths of empire and fascism leading to another world war.

“Our world is changing and it is changing with an ever-increasing violence. An old world dies about us. A new world struggles into existence. But it is not developing the brain and the sensitiveness and delicacy for it s new life…. We are big-game hunters without weapons of precision.”

—H.G. Wells, Ibid.

He envisioned an all-encompassing World Encyclopaedia spanning the globe via electrical wires and radio waves connecting every library and bringing any book or document to a desktop projector for any world citizen. His Brain Organization of the Modern World would create “a sort of mental clearing house for the mind, a depot where knowledge and ideas are received, sorted, summarized, digested, clarified and compared.” Wells proposed a newly emerging hybrid of education and media beyond stuffy academia and yellow journalism.

The Internet and Wikipedia have been compared to Wells’ World Brain and Al Gore borrows the concept to mold his Global Mind chapter in The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change, positing it against the corporate Earth Inc., in a struggle for globalization. “The history of civilization is a story of evolution in our ability to build complex ‘multicellular minds,’” says Tim O’Reilly (Tim O’Reilly, “Birth of the Global Mind,” September 5, 2012, The Long Now Foundation, Seminars About Long-term Thinking.). Indeed, from Wells to Toffler’s The Third Wave and on up to über-futurist Gore, we have a Long Tail of collective intelligence that leads right up to our age of ubiquitous computing. Still, one has to wonder how every world citizen will be able to find useful information about any subject, anytime, anywhere, in any context. The fire hose of information is unstoppable, but how useful is it? How controlled are the floods of content? Everybody says “Content is king!” But could it really be that we are subject to kings of content? Those information overlords of Earth Inc.

We have InterWeb. We have Kindle. We have iPad.
We do not have
World Brain.

The impetus that drove Wells had no political, capitalist, nor philosophical gains to advance. “I can talk with exceptional frankness,” claimed Wells. “I occupy no position from which I can be dismissed as unsound in my ideas. I follow no career that can be affected by anything I say. That’s all over. I have no party, no colleagues or associate who can be embarrassed by any unorthodox suggestions I make.” Traveling between the continents in 1937 and 1938, Wells was a one-man TED talk—with no clever slide deck, he challenged humanity to evolve a virtual brain across a universal realm, lest power and ignorance exhaust the body of the species.

“You see we are beginning to realize not only that the formal political structure of the world and many of the methods of our economic life are out of date and out of scale, but also another thing that hampers us hopelessly in every endeavor we make to adjust life to it’s new conditions—our World Knowledge Apparatus is not up to our necessities…. We are not being told enough, we are not being told properly, and that is one main reason why we are all at sixes and sevens in our collective life.”

—H.G. Wells, Ibid.

We have InterWeb. We have Kindle. We have iPad. We do not have World Brain. But we can and we may. We do have the footings. The Internet provides a global network built upon the Open Web Platform that should be hosting the concept. The market offers mobile devices for ubiquitous computing. Publishers can produce digital content and ebooks that quickly and cheaply travel the network to the devices. So what’s missing?

Greetings Earth People
Some rights reserved: break.things

Accessibility

“In EPUB 3 we have an ebook format that embraces that there is no single universal way to access information. Any reader may switch between reading modalities at any time. Sighted readers, for example, will switch and listen to books to read in many situations not amenable to visual reading… Nonvisual readers may switch between tactile and audio for many of the same reasons.… It’s time to toss aside the ability/disability labels and embrace choice and difference. Accessibility is critical for some and universally beneficial to all.”

—Matt Garrish & Markus Gylling, EPUB 3 Best Practices,
O’Reilly, Sebastopol, CA, 2013.

No, not everyone can afford an iPad. No, not everyone can subscribe to a 4G network. No, not everyone lives in a country that has unfiltered Web access. And, net neutrality will be debated and taxed for years to come. Publishers erect paywalls and pray that digital rights management deals will fall to their favor. Not everyone has access to a World Brain—yet.

EPUB 3, along with the W3C open standards and Web Accessibility Initiative are the real harbingers that a World Brain might come to be and offer an edge to Global Mind beyond the limits and greed of Earth Inc. Besides the hardware, software, markets, and politics, there is a path to a world where any reader enjoys unfettered accessibility to information.

Inclusive Publishing Conference: Accessible EPUB 3

A ‘progress report’ on the Accessible EPUB 3 Content Guidelines, sample content, Media Overlays, EpubCheck and other EPUB 3 developments was presented. Matt Garrish (timestamp: 19:50) spoke about the symbiotic relationship between rich data and feature-rich reading systems, and stressed the importance of content validation and checking.

—The DAISY Consortium’s Monthly Newsletter – June 2012,
The DAISY PLANET

10 Tips for Independent Authors

Indie Authors do more than write books, they manage the entire process from creation through production to distribution. As Guy Kawasaki puts it in his book APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur—How to Publish a Book:  “These roles are challenging, but they are not impossible—especially if people who have done it before explain it to you.” As an Indie Publisher, Word & Image is dedicated to helping writers in this challenge. We believe that you can manage your book project successfully as an entrepreneur when you partner with the right professional team and get the right resources. See our Authoring Resources and here’s ten key tips to get you started.

Know Your Rights

You own the exclusive right to copy, adapt, and distribute your work for the period of your life plus 70 years for the inheritors of your estate. Don’t bargain your rights away by signing a contract with a book agent or publisher without consulting a lawyer. What sounds like a good publishing deal could lead to losing royalties, digital rights, or film options. Remember to register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office, or you may lose some legal rights in any court case.

Know Your Audience

Your ability to identify and connect to potential readers is your author platform, a lookout tower that scans your social, professional, community, and online networks. With publicity and digital marketing, you can extend your platform much further. Blogging, social media, podcasts, and other channels are available for self-promotion at a minimal cost.

When You Write — Just Type

While there are many approaches to creative and nonfiction writing, there is one rule that always applies—Writing is writing. Writing is not formatting. Don’t get distracted by the look of your manuscript, as that may impede your process. Sure, chapter titles, paragraphs, punctuation, maybe even footnotes all matter. Those are all necessary semantic elements for a good story or treatise. Concentrate on getting the words down, and leave the look of the book until the production stage.

Get Feedback

Of course you like what you wrote; you wrote it! But, no writer can read their work as someone else might. You can benefit from the feedback of how others respond to your writing. Fellow writers can share their impressions and interpretations, and they understand how important your work is to you. Don’t rely on friends who might refrain from honest feedback in fear of damaging a relationship. Seek out writers’ groups and workshops where others share your needs and goals.

Get Edited

Copyediting is not an admission of needing help—it’s an affirmation of seeking professional quality. Editors can keep your style consistent and eliminate glitches that might impair readers unnecessarily. Proofreaders can catch minute grammar, punctuation, and typography errors; including mistakes made during production that differ from your manuscript.

Look Awesome

Don’t judge a book by its cover? Well, with the current explosion of self-published authors in the marketplace, first impressions do count. A professional book cover and book design will increase your chances of success by creating a look and feel that enhances your title to attract readers and deliver a reading experience they will enjoy. Consider your book cover as branding and packaging for your product. Don’t settle for a generic format that fades into the back of the pack.

Get Noticed

Discoverability is a two-way street. One way is your audience platform, where you know the extent of your network and continue to discover more prospective readers. Another way is to be discoverable with inbound traffic. Use Content Marketing as a strategy to leverage your book as content that people are seeking. A website using a content management system that provides search engine optimization (SEO) is a good start, along with external author profiles, book reviews, and other links.

Go Digital First

Save time and money by publishing an ebook first. Traditional print publishing takes one to two years, can be expensive, and does not come with a guarantee of success. Ebooks can be launched for a fraction of the cost, and you can spend more time on building your platform and marketing. Target the fastest growing segment of the book industry, as ebooks continue to grow in sales while print books decline. You can always follow up with a print on demand or print distribution edition.

Make a Plan

Even though self-publishing can speed up the process of publishing a book compared to traditional publishing, there’s still work to do. Make a long-range plan that starts with goals and objectives. Why are you publishing your book? What do you want to accomplish? How will you achieve success? Then chart all your steps, resources, and budget into a detailed plan.

Find Resources

Want to learn more? There’s a vast world of online communities and resources for self-publishing. You are not alone. You’ll benefit from seeing how other authors have managed their publishing projects, and you’ll discover professional services to help you out. Follow Word & Image on the web and twitter to find resources to help you determine your own path as an Independent Author.

See our Authoring Resources.

eBooks Shape Publishing

eBooks now shape publishing more than any other factor for the industry. You may have noticed that E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy has been leading the eBook bestseller list for much of 2012, and that’s just one indicator of eBook trends that are changing both how consumers are reading and how publishers are distributing books.

Not only are most publishers releasing most books as eBooks as well as in print, 36% of eBook publishers are realizing double-digit annual eBook revenues according to Revealing the Business of eBooks: The Fourth Annual eBook Survey of Publishers by Aptara and Publishers Weekly. In an industry wracked by technology changes, bookstore closings, pricing model lawsuits, and thin margins, this is good news.

“As mobile device adoption rises and consumer reading habits change, so does publishing’s competitive landscape,” says Dev Ganesan, Aptara’s President and CEO. “While publishers continue to ramp-up production to meet the eBook market demand, they are finally starting to make money in the process.”

Amazon is the most popular sales channel with both readers and publishers, and Amazon now sells more eBooks than print books. But that’s not the end of the story. The shape of the future of publishing is still in flux. Publishers have been slow to adopt digital publishing workflows and most tend to outsource conversion of eBooks—even for new titles! As authors move to self-publishing models and independent publishers explore new publishing and distribution models, the nature of books, how we publish them, and how we read them will continue to evolve—with authors and readers handling the reins more and more.

 Buy the Book infographic by Aptara

Publishers jumping on the eBook bandwagon
Aptara – Transforming Content into Knowledge

Source: Revealing the Business of eBooks: The Fourth Annual eBook Survey of Publishers, Aptara, September, 2012.