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  • Add Blog Writers

    Adding writers is a great way to bring more fresh and diverse content to your blog. Whether you’re running a small business or a large magazine publication, add multiple writers to grow your content and keep it fresh and diversified. You know what they say, content is king so bringing more contributing voices to the topic at hand is an effective way of turning your blog into a thriving online community. You can turn any existing member into a writer for your blog and manage them. Writers can create new posts and manage their comments. Here’s how to do it: Head to your Member’s Page Search the member you want to make a writer Click on the member’s profile Click the 3 dot icon on the Follow button Select Set as Writer

  • How to Delete This Post

    Ready to delete this post and add your own? You can do it when you’re logged in to your live site or in Preview Mode. Simply click on the More Options icon (the 3 dots that appears on the post) and hit Delete Post. You can also head to Settings > Manage Posts and delete any post from there. We recommend you first explore what you can do in this blog layout. Click through the category pages to discover some of the great features this blog has to offer and learn a few blogging tips along the way!

  • What does it take to scale WooCommerce?

    Can you scale WooCommerce? One of the most common questions I hear a lot about WordPress and eCommerce revolves around the notion of WooCommerce and it’s ability to scale. “Can you scale WooCommerce?” people ask me. And my answer is always yes. But it’s never as simple as that, right? People want to know if you’re just being nice, being hopeful, or just not experienced enough to know if WooCommerce can really handle a high amount of traffic. For me, working with WooCommerce and customers for a few years now, scale has been a moving target. At one point, watching a store get thousands of hits an hour was a talking point around scale. Then, it was tons of concurrent orders. And finally it really was insane scale requirements, late in 2015. To step into the topic, we first have to define some terms. How do you define “scale?” Scale can mean a lot of different things to different people. Some people will talk about scale in the pageview world. How many pageviews per day (or hour) are happening on a WooCommerce site. The truth is, with the right kind of caching strategies, this is a metric that won’t help us much when it comes to scale. Unless you can’t cache any parts of your pages, pageview counts aren’t a great indicator of scale. Others will use revenue per day as a metric for scale. Unfortunately, this ends up being an apples to oranges comparison because revenues from sites that sell sand paper at $0.40 per sheet and stores that sell backpacks for $300 each can’t really be compared. You get closer when you talk about order volume. But the problem with orders is that people can start and order and then quit you – you know, cart abandonment. And that means it won’t be counted in your assessment of that metric. Because most people, when they are talking about orders, are talking about closed orders. So what metric do I use (and recommend)? Add to cart events per hour (or minute). This puts every site on equal footing. Unfortunately, this isn’t a metric that appears straight out of the WooCommerce reporting system. You’ll have to do a little bit of work to capture and monitor the metric. But I think it’s the best way to evaluate the behavior on a site, while also looking at the correlation with traffic and order volume. Once you have the right metric, you can get started on measuring where you are, and determining what kinds of things you want to do to get to where you want to be. For my client back in 2015, we spent a year working with them and their site (and code) to get them to 2,000 add-to-cart events per minute. That’s what I call scale! What areas need to scale? Post-Store Browsing One of the most common mistakes people make with their WooCommerce site is believe that after an order is complete, people will leave the site. It’s a common misconception because we all like to think transactionally. So you go to the store, make your purchase and then leave. But some people end their purchase and may stick around, browsing the store again. Only this time, they’re still logged in. And that means nothing is cached. And every click and page they visit is making calls to your database. So the first thing you need to look at – that’s really simple – is to make sure that after an order is complete, you log folks off, so that they can browse the pre-cached store without causing scale issues. Caching Strategies for category pages and menus Because it’s an eCommerce site, many developers just skip caching all-together. They don’t want to worry that they may misconfigure something like Varnish. So in the end, nothing is cached, and that’s another mistake. A ton of the site can still benefit directly from a caching perspective – even an aggressive one. Much of the catalog can be cached and you only need to update things if someone makes a change to the product definition. And instead of using WooCommerce to create your category pages, you can create whatever pages you want, and eliminate more queries there. And if we’re talking about caching and limiting query calls, look at your menus and see how much of them need to be dynamic. The Postmeta table Every order that is written to your database is putting all the order data into your postmeta table. This table gets big quickly and the query counts get large. One thing you might consider is intercepting the orders and writing them to a single, multi-column row. But if that kind of change scares you (and I totally understand why it would), you might also look at making a table change in the database that helps indexes run better. This can have an immediate impact! You can read more about it here. The My Accounts page I know we’ve often found the My Accounts page to be a place where tons of performance optimization can happen. Think about it for a second – customers are coming here to check to see stuff about their orders, but the calls are querying everything – all their historical data. And that’s happening why others are trying to order stuff. What we saw was that working on these calls and scoping them would translate into a massive reduction in performance delays – and that resulted in immediate increased scalability. Change the query engine completely Here’s what I know – it’s not one thing. Scaling WooCommerce is tons of little tweaks.Click To Tweet What if you could change how the queries were running altogether? What if you could make everything faster? With a single change? That would be almost too good to be true right? Well, you’re right, it’s never just one thing. But rolling in ElasticSearch and having it do a lot of the querying for you could provide huge gains. Does scaling WooCommerce require a lot of custom code? It’s not tons of custom code that is the issue. The real issue in getting your WooCommerce site to scale is experience. If you’ve never done it, you likely don’t know how to do it. In fact, you don’t even know what to look for. So while yes, you may need a little bit of code, what you likely need is some recommended resources. Let me help you with that. I know each of these companies well and trust you in all their hands. Elastic Search: Zeek Interactive, 10up WooCommerce Sites: Zao, webdevstudios, Crowd Favorite WooCommerce Scale: Mindsize One last thing…. Of course I should also mention that if spending a lot of time thinking about how to scale WooCommerce isn’t what you want to spend your time on, I’m building a new hosting product that will help you run your WooCommerce site at scale. Automatically. Some of those tough things above are going to come included in my new product at Liquid Web. So stay tuned….

  • How to Hire Amazing People

    I believe anyone can hire amazing people – recruiting takes time and effort but I don’t think it’s an exclusive skill that only few people have. How to Hire Amazing People In the last few months I’ve been recruiting and hiring a lot of really incredible people. If you don’t know, last December I joined Liquid Web to help them build out a new and innovative managed WordPress hosting product. So one of the topics that’s come up multiple times is recruiting. The thinking is that I must have some special tricks to bring together and nab some of the amazing people that have recently joined our ranks. And yet, it’s not true. The people are amazing. That part is true. But my approach to recruiting high performers is easily copied. So today I thought I would lay out the 10 specific things I do to hire amazing people. 1. Target big and tough problems While it’s true that many smart and accomplished people had, at some point in their lives, a regular and routine job like working at McDonald’s, almost none of them pursue routine work today. Smart and talented people don’t choose ordinary or routine jobs. It’s not exciting to them. So one of the first things I recognize about recruiting amazing people is that the challenge has to be worthy of their talents. Even if people are making a lateral move, or maybe especially if they’re making a lateral move, the thing that attracts amazing people is the work. Sure everyone can be lured by a huge title change, a big promotion, and tons of money. But truly incredible people can get excited about the challenge faster than (or even before) talking about compensation and titles. If you don’t have any tough or big problems, I don’t know how much my advice will help you. Because for me, I’ve only ever gone into companies where I believe the challenge is big, complex and worthy of my time. And those are the same challenges I put in front of the folks I’m recruiting. 2. Design roles based on people The second thing I do is build a team around people, not job descriptions. If that doesn’t make sense, think about the situation you normally see at work. A person leaves and you have to backfill the role. Or you convince the organization that you need more headcount. At that point, what’s the first thing you see happen? People start writing job descriptions. And then they start looking for people to fill that role. And as a result, you may miss some truly amazing people simply because they don’t fit the box you just defined by crafting that role. Instead, and I’ll talk about this more in the next step, I’m constantly networking because I know there are a lot of incredible people I don’t know. And I listen to their stories. I ask about what they’re doing and what they’ve done. And in so doing, I may discover some amazing people that I want to work with. For me, that’s when I start crafting a job description. After finding amazing people, not before. 3. Regularly build relationships I make a simple rule of never recruiting people who are happy in their current role. I always ask the question, “Are you happy there?” and if the answer is yes, I move on to other topics. More on that dynamic in rule 6. But if someone is happy, it doesn’t mean I walk away from them. I still want to know their story. I want to ask questions. I want to hear what they’re doing and what motivates them. Because you never know when the timing will work out to work together. Before I go further, let’s agree that to constantly build relationships and to always be networking, you have to genuinely want to get to know people. This isn’t one of those – let’s connect on LinkedIn in case one day I need something from you. Your genuine curiosity and interest in a person is something they can discern immediately. And the more you build a network of amazing people, the better the chances that you’ll be able to connect them to each other – even if the timing isn’t right for you and them to work together. I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve introduced to others and watched them get hired, only to wish I had the opportunity to hire them at that minute. But more than once, I’ve talked to someone who has just taken a position elsewhere. While personally bummed, I’ve been happy for them and offered any help I can for them in their new role. Then, weeks, months or years later, I’ll get a call asking me if we can talk. And that’s when I hear they’re looking. This brings me to the subtext of networking. It’s not about getting. It’s about giving. The more I help, the more I connect people, the more I offer advice or simply come alongside someone who needs a little advice – the more I do all that, the more I get back. But it’s never a quid pro quo. It’s networking karma. 4. Build organizational flexibility The thing about recruiting amazing people is that they sometimes have particular needs. Some need jobs that only span 75%. Others need jobs where they can work from home – in a company not used to remote employees. Or they live in a state that your company hasn’t ever hired from. Hiring amazing people often requires that you work within your company just as hard to create the ways to make things work. It’s just as much inside work as recruiting work. And you have to understand that going in. There are a lot of things to think about when dealing with the internal dynamics of hiring amazing people. One time I sent an amazing employee of mine to another business unit in another state to help them out. In this particular case, my Michigan employee was visiting Miami for the first time. In his mind, everything was sunny. So he showed up to the Miami office in shorts. Within minutes I got a call from the GM of that business unit complaining about his attire. I simply asked him to give the employee a day to do the work and help that GM’s team. I promised we would talk again later that afternoon. At 5 pm I called the GM to see what we needed to do. His response went something like, “This guy is so fast, and so amazing, and was so incredibly helpful to our team that he can wear anything he wants.” My job was managing the discussion with the GM so that the employee never even know that an issue had come up. My job was the internal dynamics. He just needed to demonstrate his awesomeness, which I was certain would happen. 5. Be honest and transparent Not everything within your company is going to be stellar. Not every manager will be great. Not every product will be perfect. The truth is the truth. And the worst thing you can do is not be clear and honest about it. High performers don’t really handle BS well. They don’t like lies (not that anyone does), and they have low tolerance for betrayal. So I’m much more inclined to make sure they understand everything as it is, not just how I hope it will be. Many years ago I was being interviewed for an executive role when the CEO invited me to meet all the folks I’d be working with and the ones I’d be managing. I assumed it was another more extensive interview, and said as much. He corrected the notion. He said, “I just want to make sure you fully understand the magnitude of the challenge you’ll be facing.” To many people, that might sound horrible. To me, it was not only honest, it was a statement that almost felt like a dare. Like he was saying, “Are you really sure you have what it takes to pull this off?” and that’s exactly the size of a problem that was attractive to me (and what I was talking about in rule one). 6. Understand timing Another truth about hiring amazing people is that you can’t hire them all. Sometimes the timing just doesn’t work. A few months ago I was talking to an amazing woman that I wanted to hire. But her timing didn’t fit my timing and she ended up going somewhere else. I was super happy for her but wished the timing had worked out. But that’s how things work. The trick here is never to burn a bridge. Because I have no idea how that new gig is going to go for her. I have no idea if the company showed her the truth of that business, or if she’ll be learning about it over the next few months. So the last thing I’m going to do is make a fuss. I chalk it up to timing and continue to build the relationship so that at some point in the future we may work together. One of my most recent hires came that way. I wanted to hire him when I first joined Liquid Web. But when I called him I found out he’d just taken a new job and that he was happy. So I left it at that. And then, a couple months ago, there was an email in my inbox suggesting that maybe now the previous timing issue had disappeared. Never burn a bridge. Did I say that already? It bears repeating. 7. Invest deeply in your existing staff I’m going to use a word here, and if you’ve never heard me say it, you need to give me a second to flesh it out, so you don’t think it’s a creepy term. But here it is: don’t be a collector. I have known people over the years who put on a big chase to recruit someone. They put a ton of energy and work into getting someone to say yes. The hunt is intense. The value is clearly communicated simply by how much work the recruiter is putting into things. But the moment the candidate says yes, the employer moves on to their next conquest. They collect people, simply because the chase and collection is fun. Don’t be a collector. Instead, invest deeply in your existing staff. Especially the top performers. Because not only are they a great component of your recruiting, but because people will reach out to them to get the inside scoop. It’s easy to be amazing in the recruiting process. You’re smooth. You tell great stories. You stay calm. But if you ignore people once they’re hired. Or you run around yelling at people all day long, trust me. You won’t be hiring any amazing people that way. One of the best ways to recruit amazing people is to invest in the amazing ones you have already. They’ll tell their amazing friends and help you create amazing teams of people. 8. Differentiate your company Great people often have great options. They aren’t only talking to you. They have their pick of places to work. So this rule is really simple. Make sure that you can tell a compelling and differentiated story about why your company is a great place to work. It might be the culture. It might be the executive team. It might be the founder. It might be the products. It might be the team. But it better be something more than just a title and comp plan. Because everyone will have those. Differentiate your business from the rest. 9. Articulate a potential new future One of the most exciting things I get to do when recruiting amazing people is ask them what they would like to do. The smart ones come opinionated. They have their own sense of what I’m missing, or what we need to do, or ideas that they’ve been thinking about. Together, what I want from our time is the ability to co-create a future. A new potential with them in it. One where they’re excited to contribute. Because if I have everything figured out for them, where does their own passion and creativity fit? So as we start crafting a role, part of the work is creating a sense, a vision, of what we can do together and how they can contribute. Now, I should add a tiny warning here. If you co-create a future and then don’t live up to it, plan to watch them vote with their feet. They may not stick around if they determine that that shared vision they helped create isn’t becoming a reality anytime soon. 10. Handle insecurities directly The last one is one that I don’t think people think about enough when hiring amazing people. From the outside amazing people look amazing. But on the inside, they have their own insecurities just like everyone else. They may fear that the role is bigger than they’ve ever had. They may fear that they’re not ready to manage or lead others. They may fear that there’s a part of the job they’ve never done before and worry that they might screw it up. They may worry that they’re not as smart or skilled as you clearly think they are. Whatever they are worried about, the best way to deal with it is directly. While I have a high set of expectations for amazing staff, I never start there. I want to make sure that I understand it will take them some time to acculturate and find the best way for them to add value. Sometimes it’s easy to see where they’re insecure. I then bring it up, see them nodding up and down, and then explain why I’m not worried about their worries. Other times I need them to bring it up because I can’t predict it. But again, the results are the same – it’s my job to deal directly with their fears and calm them down. Here’s what I know – everyone is amazing in some way. And everyone is insecure in some way. And my job is to highlight that I recognize what they’re worried about and that I’m not worried about it. And if we need to create processes, mechanisms or safe words to deal with it, I’m more than happy to put that on my plate. Hiring Amazing People In the end, maybe the most important thing to know is that your recruiting strategies don’t make you or your prospective employees amazing. Those folks were amazing before you ever met them, and will be long after you no longer work with them. What you have to focus on is building a consistent life of getting to know and hanging out with amazing people. And that means doing the work of finding out what makes each person you interact with amazing. Another way I say this is simply this – when getting to know someone I need enough of their story to brag about them when I introduce them to someone else. If you do that, all the time, with everyone, you’ll soon discover all the amazing people out there. And then your job is just to make sure you don’t screw things up. 🙂

  • Demonstrating Progress on Website Projects

    Demonstrating progress was easy In the old days, when I would work on a website project, there were some natural phases to the work I did. Your process may have been different, but mine went something like this. Phase One: Define project / Agree on Scope Phase Two: Create Thumbnails of Design Concepts Phase Three: Create Photoshop Files of Final Design Phase Four: Turn Designs into Code Phase Five: Fine Tune Everything Phase Six: Launch If this feels very “waterfall” to you, and you’re more of an “agile” person, know this: I did a lot of iterating in each phase with customers until they were happy. Does this sound familiar? I’m ok if you had a slightly different approach. But I’m guessing it was more similar than dissimilar. And it used to really work. How did people understand progress? Well, once I laid out how things were going to go, they understood both the process and the deliverables they would expect. They’d get a scope document, wireframes, design files and then there would be a bit of quiet during the coding part, and then they’d see everything. Did you catch that? There would be a tiny phase of silence in stage four where I would work and they’d wait. And it was short enough to not worry anyone. These days I use different tools The good old days didn’t include iPads and iPhones – know what I mean? Things were so simple when Photoshop allowed me to paint a picture or two and not stress. But the moment clients wanted to know what things would look like on phones and iPads, things got harder. Suddenly you’d make a modification to one screen and they’d want to know what it would look in landscape mode. People were still talking about “above the fold” even though there was no fold on a mobile device. So I had to stop using Photoshop. And I spent a bit more time with thumbnails. But clients didn’t really love the lack of polish. They just couldn’t “see” it. Today I do most of my design directly in the best Page Builder for WordPress, called Beaver Builder. It’s a different tool completely. And it helps people see things better. But the process has changed dramatically. Reusable Design Components Change Everything In the old days, what I would do is create a full and complete image of the entire home page and other key pages. I may have created artifacts in my design tools (my libraries in Aldus Pagemaker and Adobe Illustrator were incredible!) but clients didn’t see those parts. They saw the final image all put together. Today’s sites are a bit different. You see a lot of designs with panels of content, and design concepts that are shared across the site, but with different content. These are re-usable parts that help a design feel connected, which is powerful. But it changes how I design sites. Today I design a panel. A design component that is re-usable. It’s a bit of code (is CSS really code?) and some graphic elements. And once I have it, I know I can use it in multiple places. Look at this simple design, used in different places on a site to see what I’m talking about. What you’ll notice is that there’s an image on the left side (with lots of white space around it), a title on the left in all caps, a colored line that sits under the title for a bit, and left aligned grey text under it. That’s a panel. A row. In Beaver Builder, it’s a saved row. And it can be used a lot of times, in a lot of different places. And that means one big change. The site is assembled more than it’s coded. Assembled more than Coded If you’ve designed, let’s say, 5 core layout structures for pages, and created 6-10 saved rows or partial templates, then when it comes time to build the site, it’s not really about code. For a client a year ago, I did the design work and they approved it. I then created the partial templates – the saved rows and modules. And then I asked the client for their content. They sent me PDFs of lots of content. (This was a business that had all their content ready!) Then I gave my assistant the content and she didn’t do any coding. She literally assembled their small business website. Simply by using those reusable design components in Beaver Builder. Help clients feel confidence But did you catch what changed? If you’ve worked with clients in this way, you know immediately what happens. The client doesn’t ever see what it will look like until really late in the process. They don’t get the full Photoshop file. They don’t necessarily get tons of finished page designs at all. They get partial template designs. They get hints of parts of the site. And they may not “see” it. And that creates risk. So how do you help clients feel confidence? In this new approach, what’s your approach when it comes to demonstrating progress? I’ll tell you what I do. Hopefully it helps you. I create the first few templates or saved rows. Enough to create two very different pages on the site. I show them the templates or saved rows. I link it back to the wireframes so they see the connection. I then demonstrate the assembly of two pages. The power here is that they see the abstractions at work. I create a list of templates and a list of pages. This is our checklist of work that needs to be done. I iterate on templates and pages, constantly updating the list. I keep them updated on progress of the list. I invite them to meet regularly. This way they can see the site’s progress any time they want. You know what the crazy part is? Most of them decide after one or two meetings that they just want the checklist emailed to them weekly and that’s enough for them. Once they learn this new approach, most don’t want to waste their time watching me assemble pages. But they have the freedom to do so at any time. And that’s what helps them feel confidence. The Power of Beaver Builder Can you do this with other page builders? I’m sure you can. Or at least I assume you can. I have stopped using any others for any work I do. But the real power of Beaver Builder is the ability to export these saved panels. To take what I’ve created on one site and export it so that I can potentially use it elsewhere. It’s my library of reusable parts all over again. And that ability to export templates makes Beaver Builder an incredible tool in my arsenal because it helps me speed up development. And you know the other thing clients really love, other than knowing progress is happening? It’s the ability to move faster than they thought possible because you’re using the right tools. That’s why I regularly recommend Beaver Builder.

  • When pitching new business, ask this question

    Advice for Pitching New Business If you’re a digital agency or freelancer, you’re continually pitching new business. And there are tons of valuable tips that you’ll hear from a lot of people. You’ll hear advice like: Have a unique value proposition. If you’re pitching website development like everyone else, it’s hard to differentiate yourself. So you’ll hear people talk to you about doing the hard work of finding what makes you unique. This is valuable advice and you should do it. Make sure you understand what you’re good at. Another piece of advice you hear is that in order to find the right customer, you need to start with understanding who you’re right for. And that means you have to know what you do, and what you’re good at. Again, this is critical stuff you definitely need to do. Know who your target is. Once you know what you’re good at, and what your unique value prop is, it makes logical sense to narrow your focus so that your messaging is tailored to your prospects. Knowing your target is a no-brainer, so don’t skip this step. Be realistic with your prospecting list. I know freelancers or agencies who feel sure that they’re ready to pitch Apple, IBM, or some other large enterprise, before they’ve demonstrated an ability to work with large enterprises. So for sure, you should be realistic with your prospecting list. Practice your pitch. Not the last of the advice you’ll hear is the need to practice your pitch. Prepare your presentation. Prepare your material and slides, along with the story you’re telling. As a story guy myself, I can’t ever state how important practice is. All of these tips are practical and useful. So I don’t want to take anything away from the folks that have given you these tips. But today I want to talk about the meeting itself. The moment when you’re sitting in front of someone and getting ready to pitch your case, to explain why you’re a good fit for them. The Normal Discussion When you get into a discussion about new business, if you’re like most of the people I know, the conversation normally exists in an exhange of 7 parts. You ask the client to tell you about their situation You tell the client about your skills & experience The client asks you specifics about their specific challenge You share some historical projects that help flesh out your experience They ask about your capacity, timelines and maybe even pricing You share your capacity, eagerness & either skip or anchor on pricing You both talk about next steps I’m not saying this is the only way to have this meeting. I’m simply saying this is, with some small substitutions, what I’ve seen and experienced over the years. If it matches your experience, we can move on. What you notice happening is that you’re both trying to better understand each other and determine if there’s a good fit. It’s a perfectly valid approach and one that works for a lot of people. It works so much that no one asks if there’s a missing question that was never asked. The Challenge The challenge when using a structure like the one above, is that you don’t know what you don’t know. And because of that, the most common dynamic when you’re back at home or back at your office is that you spend a lot of extra time and energy trying to figure out what you should charge. If you lack a deep understanding of value for the prospect, you’ll struggle with value-based pricing. And as a result, you’ll often punt to time & materials, the most common way people price projects. Now, if you’re using a time & materials approach, and everyone else is too, then the reality is you’re likely going to win a bid based on how much you missed in your evaluation (leading to a lower price for less estimated work). Alternatively, if the client likes you, but is anchored by someone else’s low bid, you’ll be fighting for every change order to get your margin. I’m using sweeping generalizations here, so I know you’ll comment on all the nuance I missed. But work with me here, I’m simply trying to make sure we’re on the same page. Things would be easier if you had a better grasp on the value of the work you were pursuing – from a customer’s perspective rather than your own. The Big Question to Ask This brings us to the question I almost never hear asked, the one I never hear discussed, and the one I never read about in articles on pitching for new business. It’s the one I most ascribe to helping me understand the value from a customer perspective. And no, it’s not, “What is your budget?” which I really like and find very useful. This is a different question. How have you tried to solve this already? | How are you solving it today? Those are two forms of the same question, which is asking, in essence, “how much are you spending or have you already spent to work on this issue?” And that goes to the heart of the value from their perspective. I’m not lying when I tell you that I’ve been toying in my head with a quote around $20,000 for some custom work, when the client begins walking me thru what they’re currently spending on solving the problem today. As I better understand the challenge, the nuances, the other players involved, one dynamic that immediately changes is that I have a better grasp of the situation than before I asked the question. The other dynamic is I have a much better sense on the project’s importance, context, and value. And that has let me push my number up 2,3 and even 5 times higher. All because of a simple question that you may not have been asking. I hope it works for you and brings you the value it’s brought to me.

  • Managing WordPress timed content by membership levels

    Timed Content in WordPress If you talk to people about scheduling and managing timed access to content in WordPress, people will often talk to you about scheduled posts. It’s the idea that you write something and then give it a date for when you want it published. Alternatively, sometimes people will talk to you about dripping content – the idea that you can delay access to content in membership programs based on when they initially signed up. Some content is available right away. Other content takes weeks or months to see. But what if those aren’t what you want. Imagine this scenario: Timed Content by Membership Level Consider the situation where you run a two-level membership site. The first level is free. The second level is paid. And on top of that, you run an event – which requires you to sell tickets. But in this world, you want people who are paying members to be able to buy tickets right away. And you only want to let free members have access to the remaining tickets later. Like 10 days before the event. In that world, you need to manage timed content, but you also need to tweak it via membership level. Know what I mean? The Tools The good news is that this kind of managed access based on a given membership level and date / time is totally doable, if you have the right tools. In this example, I’m going to show you how to do it with four tools. WordPress Ninja Forms (with Stripe add-on) Restrict Content Pro Restrict Content Pro’s Restriction Timeouts Add On Restrict Content Pro As I mentioned before, RCP is fast becoming one of the top, and one of my favorite, membership plugins in the WordPress ecosystem. One of the things I appreciate about the plugin is that it keeps things simple. More importantly, as the team behind it has put much more focus on the plugin in the last few months, their add-ons have been coming out quickly – each one solving a critical dynamic for different membership sites. Restriction Timeouts This add-on is exactly what you need to make this whole thing work. I can’t say enough nice things about such a simple add-on that does exactly what we want it to do. You’ll see below. Ninja Forms & their Stripe Add-On While the Ninja Forms plugin is free, the Stripe add-on has some cost ($49). But I don’t recommend you only buy the Stripe extension if you’re doing a lot with forms. I purchased one of their bundles and recommend you check them out – because their Conditional Logic, Layout, and Stripe add-ons are all awesome. Putting it all together WordPress timed content, like what I show you here, doesn’t have to get complicated. First, create two membership levels using RCP. This is as easy as going to Restrict > Subscription Levels and adding two different levels. The first is free. The second has a cost. Once you have both of these membership levels created, you’ll be ready to go to the next step. (Note: You don’t have to worry about the ‘Access Level’ setting on this page.) Second, create the form to collect payment and the page it goes on. Some people think you need a full ticket solution to sell access to events. Most of the time it’s overkill (in my opinion). So for stuff like this, using Ninja Forms is easy. Notice since the date, the price, and all that is page content, I am not putting it into the form itself. This means when I configure the payment action, I can put the price there – available because I’m using the Stripe add-on. At this point, I’m ready to drop this onto a page. But before we do that, let’s step into this page we’re creating. What I’ll be creating is an event ticket purchase page. That means I can create lots of other pages that promote my event. The specific page with this content (the payment form) is not the promo page. It’s the purchase page. So this is the page I’m going to protect. Make sense? And what I want is to make sure my paid members get immediate access to it. And I want to delay my free members to get it later. Like XX days before the event. And since I know the event date, I know exactly when I want to give others access to it. That’s what step three is all about. Third, place the payment form on the page and protect it, with timed access for free members. So let’s walk thru what you’re seeing here. This appears at the bottom of the page. It is available because of the Timed Restrictions add-on from RCP. First I can say that I want to control access via Subscription levels. Then I determine that only paid members get immediate access. Lastly, I set the Restriction Timeout for the date when free members get access. And suddenly timed content feels pretty easy, doesn’t it? Because this add-on links member levels, content restriction, and time. And that’s what we needed to make this work. So there you go. Hopefully, if you’re looking to do something like this – where you control access by date and time, where you delay access for certain levels – now you know how to pull it off.

  • Comparing conditional logic in WordPress forms

    Conditional logic is the key to online forms Physical forms don’t ever feel as imposing as web forms. I don’t know why that is, but when I get a form at a doctor’s office, for example, that form collects tons of data on a single sheet of paper and I don’t feel stressed. But when people design forms on your websites, because of the way most forms are designed, the form that might collect the same data ends up taking up the virtual space of three pages. How do you get around this problem? You only show the fields that you need to. In other words, you do the thing that you can’t do on paper forms – you dynamically present (using conditional logic) only the fields that are appropriate to each user. Because this is a critical feature of online forms, it’s no surprise that many WordPress form plugins support conditional logic. These plugins offer it as a key part of their main features: FormidablePro Gravity Forms Caldera Forms These plugins offer it as a part of their “pro” offering, or as an add-on: Ninja Forms WPForms Regardless of whether it’s an add-on or as part of the plugin, you’re going to want support for conditional logic in your WordPress forms because they make everything better. The Cost of Conditional Logic in WordPress Form Plugins Here you see the cost of the plugin (and added add-on, if needed) to do an apples-to-apples comparison.Plugin Name Add-on/License required? Plugin Cost Add-on/License Total PriceNinja FormsAdd-on$0$49$49WPFormsLicense (Basic)$39$0$39Formidable ProLicense (Personal)$49$0$49Gravity FormsLicense (Personal)$39$0$39Caldera FormsNone$0$0$0 (Note, this is not a sponsored post but some of the links above are affiliate links which means if you buy a product from these links, I will receive a small thank you, in the form of affiliate revenue. As I’ve articulated before, this doesn’t impact my stated opinions in this post. If you’re uncomfortable with these links, you can type the names of these plugins directly into your browser and find them via Google.) Comparing their support for conditional logic The good news is that each of these WordPress form plugins support conditional logic in one way or another. Some offer more nuance than others, and I’ll show you that below. But let’s start with the good news – if you use any of these plugins, you’ll be in a pretty good spot – especially because the cost of buying them is under $50. There are three kinds of conditional logic I normally look for. Here they are. Displaying Questions (Fields) Conditionally As I started this post, I talked about the need to show or hide fields based on another question that was answered. All of the plugins supported this feature. Some of them did it directly in the form field control, while others did it in a central place. WPForms did it directly as you were building the field in your form. This approach makes it easy to configure and also ensures that I can understand the logic really well. It supports both “and” and “or” functions (show this field if this option says this AND this other field says that, OR show this field if this option says something else). This approach is the one multiple form plugin vendors choose and the rule groups that WPForms supports is powerful because it supports a lot of variable expressions. Another way to do the “or” statement is how Formidable Pro does it, with the option for “all or any” in their conditional logic processing. What you notice with the “any” option is that you can mix and match multiple fields. In this case what I’m doing is saying that I want a particular field / question to show up if a) the initial question is answered one way, or b) a different sub-question is answered a specific way. This kind of logic chaining between multiple questions is powerful (as in the case of the example I’m using for all these forms) because I can daisy chain the logic to fields that may not even be visible to everyone. It looks like this: Who you trying to contact > sales > show sales question Who you trying to contact > product > show product question Who you trying to contact > support > show support question, also show if product was selected with support option chosen Of course, this brings up a challenge dynamic that wasn’t solved by many of the plugins. When a person changes an earlier option, and starts the logic again, do you support a way to hide the previously shown question? Most of the plugins create a single “show” or “hide” logic at the start of their conditional logic articulation. This means you don’t have the ability to create a secondary “hide” path once you’ve started with the “show” logic. Only Ninja Forms supports this – because they aren’t doing the conditional logic within the field creation. They have it centrally managed like Caldera Forms, but with more advanced capabilities. Sending Email Notifications Conditionally All of the plugins let you manage conditional emails based on form field selections. WP Forms, Ninja Forms, and Formidable Pro all make it pretty easy (see wpforms below). The UI for Caldera seems a bit more complex than it needs to be. Mostly because they separate the form processing from the actual email notification. So you have to create a form processor and then work out the body of the email separately. But it’s Gravity Forms that adds a tiny bit more to the process. At the bottom you see the standard conditional logic to determine if you should process this email or not. But at the top, they add some additional conditional logic for the recipient. This means you could say, not only send it if it goes to sales, but based on other fields, send it to different sales people. While you could do this with the others, you’d be creating a lot more entries in a more complicated way. Form Completion Routing Conditionally The third conditional logic feature I like is what I get to do when a form is completed (or submitted). It’s post-form processing and while every plugin gives me the ability to either show a message, redirect to a url, or show a specific page on the site, almost none of them let me use conditional logic in that selection. They just give me those three options. And of course, I want more. Thankfully, Gravity Forms does this and after lots of conversations almost a year ago with the Ninja Forms guys, they have delivered the power I like. This is where you see the advantage of centralizing your conditional logic. They can offer me conditional logic on form fields, on emails, and even on routing – making it really powerful. How do you choose? The question of which plugin you choose for your WordPress forms is always going to be based on a variety of factors that are important to you. If you want to spend absolutely no money, you could go with Caldera Forms, but I find the UI the least pleasing of all of them. That said, some people would make that trade-off every day. If you want to get the most for the money you spend, while also being really price-focused, WP Forms offers a ton of value at $39 and their conditional logic is really solid. Outside of page routing on completion, it’s UI is clean, easy to read and use, and beats everyone else on price. If you want all the conditional logic I like, then you’re going to want to take a look at Ninja Forms. But you should note that when you start down this route, you’ll end up needing to pay for other features (because many of their features come as paid-for add-ons). The best news is that you can use any of these and still get most of the conditional logic you want or need.

  • Three storytelling skills for business that you need

    If you think about how many times you try to convince your co-workers of something, or how many times you’re presenting a decision to your boss, or how many times you are trying to get coworkers to join you on a project or cause – most of your presentations don’t happen on stage. We tend to think about storytelling as something you do when you’re on a stage, PowerPoint presentation behind you, and you’re speaking to a large crowd. If that’s not the default context for storytelling, then you may think about it as you at the head of the table, PowerPoint presentation behind you, and you speaking to a table-full of people. But that’s not your default. That’s not the norm. Most of the time, your storytelling skills are needed in non-presentation contexts.Click To Tweet When you’re trying to pitch, to sell, to convince, or to challenge a decision, most of the time you find yourself sitting next to someone, standing with them in the kitchen, or talking with them via Skype. And that’s really when you need storytelling skills for business. Three storytelling skills for business that you need The first skill you need is the need to be interesting. People are busy. They’re distracted. They’re in a rush. And you can’t force them to pay attention to you. The only way you get their attention is by commanding it, and that’s not something you command. It’s an invitation. People who find your stories interesting commit their time to hearing it to the end. People who find your opening interesting invest their time with you and kill their own distractions to hear you. And that’s why it’s your job, when getting someone to consider your pitch or position, to get them interested in what you’re saying. On where you’re going. A couple months ago, I was asked a question about marketing and branding at a tech conference. My response started with, “In 1983 Microsoft was a tiny upstart at the Comdex conference in Las Vegas….” It wasn’t the direct answer. But for the most part, it got people leaning in. Paying attention. Investing their time to hear where this was going. And when I ended the story, the answer to the question was obvious. The second skill you need is the need to be illuminating. Your stories need to help people see something they haven’t seen before. They need to point a light onto a spot that was previously opaque. Let’s say you want to make the case for the company promoting you. Everyone makes the same case, “Please promote me. Please pay me more money. I’m ready for a new challenge.” That’s not only a boring story because it’s so common, it’s also not compelling. When a story reveals something that no one knew, it’s more interesting. More compelling. I once had an employee share her story with me. Three sentences. And it illuminated something I didn’t know about here. She was a writer who helped us create the release notes for our software. One day she said, “I bet you don’t know what I did this summer. I took a SQL class and passed it. My hope is that it will help my writing.” Do you know what a manager thinks when they hear that? My own three sentence story passed thru my head, “Oh man, I love that initiative. I had no idea she knew more than writing. I don’t want her wasting her time on release notes.” But you can be illuminating even when you don’t need or want a raise. You can make your case by sharing the insights others have already experienced. Learning the stories of others is a powerful way to shape how people see the current situation you’re in. The third skill you need is the need to be a little indirect. People think that everyone likes a straight-shooter. But when we’re talking about storytelling skills in business, you need to embrace the fact that if people know where you’re going, they have enough time to bring their walls up. In the business world, you don’t just have to make a good case. Sometimes you have to be good at making your case. And those are two different things. Getting past the early and quick rejections takes planning and preparation. That’s why I say you need to come at your arguments from slightly indirect positions. A masterclass in interesting, illuminating & indirectness I’ve never paid much attention to Rachel Maddow until the last few weeks. And not because of politics. Instead, I caught an episode that was pure genius when it comes to storytelling. And today she did it again. If you don’t know who she is, she runs a show on MSNBC. I can’t tell you much about it because I’ve only seen a few episodes / clips and mostly on YouTube. What I love about the episodes I’ve watched is how well she tackles all three aspects I’ve written about. She says, “I also think when you’re telling a good story, it sinks in more.”  (source: cbsnews) When you watch this, you’ll notice that she’s doing the exact opposite of what you expect of TV today. She’s not getting to her point. You don’t know where she’s going until you’ve discovered that the story she’s telling is interesting, and when she hits you with the illumination, it’s a bit surprising. She invests almost half the episode being indirect. Here’s what I mean. She spends almost four minutes talking about Seattle Airport, Tacoma, and a wacky bridge. At the 3:55 mark, she introduces us to Bechtel and all the things they’ve built. It’s not until the 6 minute mark that she mentions Bechtel and Azerbaijan and the high price of building highways. By 9 minutes in, you finally know that someone else was hired to build it for 3x the price. Only then does she tell you that if a financial deal doesn’t make sense on the surface, it likely makes sense below the surface. She takes 10 minutes to get there. And if you don’t like where she’s going, she still likely has kept your curiosity and engaged you. If she had started with a slam on the President, half the country would change the channel. I’m sure half the country doesn’t even watch her. But if you find yourself in a business context where you need to engage your audience, you could stand to learn these lessons from her, regardless of your take on politics. Conclusion Maybe the last thing I’d say about storytelling skills in a corporate setting is that you should learn from anyone who does it well. If you notice someone regularly making their case in meetings and getting people to agree (without positional authority), you should learn as much as you can from them. I don’t care if I learn storytelling tricks from politicians, lawyers, the dentist, my mom, or someone who works for me. What I know is that there’s always more to learn about telling a good story. #storytelling

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