Reverb Studios Design 10 Years Old Today!

On this day, 11th of the 11th, exactly 10 years ago I registered the business name “Reverb Studios” with the Companies Registration Office having finally realised that the Photoshop and Web Design hobbies I’d had for a couple of years might actually have some potential to provide a full time job. I’d only just moved to Leitrim a couple of years before and hadn’t been able to find a job in my field which at the time would have been Electronics/Engineering so in my ample spare time I messed around on the computer, teaching myself Photoshop, Dreamweaver, HTML/CSS, Music Editing and other programs that I still use regularly today.

I had registered a small PC Repair business the year before and got a few jobs per week fixing people’s computers. Mostly virus removal, optimisation and hardware upgrades but I didn’t enjoy it all that much and income was minimal. I built a few websites for myself, then friends and family who in turn recommended me to friends of theirs and before I knew it really, I was a web designer and my web design services were in demand! Luckily, around that time it was beginning to dawn on people that marketing your business on the web as well as offline was becoming a bit of a necessity so there seemed to be plenty of work. I got some mentoring and funding from the local enterprise board in Leitrim, wrote a business plan (at their suggestion) and basically professionalised my skills and offering and got started in earnest.

Since then I’ve gradually increased my clients list and income year on year and I’m glad to say that today I have a well known and respected business with over 120 repeat clients and have become recognised locally as an expert in both WordPress Web design and Photoshop as well as general IT solutions.

I plan to be in business for another 10 years at least and to continue expanding my skillset, services and client base and hopefully expand employee numbers or partner with other companies at some stage.

The moral of my story is that it’s absolutely possible to make a career out of a hobby or something you love doing and to achieve that on your own steam starting with no experience or qualifications. All it takes is some common sense, hard work, good organisation and great communication.

Leon – Reverb Studios

 

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Fix for WordPress Jetpack Not Activated: Site Inaccessible

I’ve noticed on some website hosts including my own old one that there are issues enabling the WordPress Jetpack plugin. Some hosts basically block access to the WordPress xmlrpc.php file in the root of all WordPress sites for security and performance reasons. The same file is a target for hackers so I guess you can’t blame hosts too much. However, Jetpack is a pretty cool plugin from WordPress themselves that allows all kinds of functionality on your website including Image CDN, Email Subscriptions, Security, Share icons and my personal favorite, Auto-posting to Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin etc.. so I’d really prefer if it wasn’t blocked!

The WordPress Android and iOS apps both use the xmlrpc.php files to work too so that in addition to all the great functionality the Jetpack plugin offers makes it worth the risk for me to allow access to it.

When you add the plugin and activate it, you will be asked to connect to your WordPress.com account but while doing this you may see the error “Your website needs to be publicly accessible to use Jetpack: site_inaccessible” or “Jetpack not activated: site inaccessible”. After talking with my host they reluctantly suggested I add the following code to my site’s .htaccess file:

<files xmlrpc.php>
Order allow,deny
Allow from all
</files>

Adding this to a few of my client’s sites worked perfectly.

You can make this a little more secure by changing the “Allow from all” line above to allow from a specific IP address but the server IP Jetpack tries to connect to seems to change frequently and just adding WordPress.com wont work either.

 

How to Update Gravity Forms on Multiple sites with InfiniteWP

I use the FREE InfiniteWP to update WordPress core and plugins across about 40 of my own and client’s websites. It’s a real time saver. It works perfectly with plugins hosted in the WordPress repository but I use a few commercial plugins not hosted there and it can’t update these. Gravity Forms for example is one I use across nearly all my sites and that can’t be updated automatically with InfiniteWP. They have assured me that they are working on a fix to allow auto updating of Gravity Forms but for now here’s a workaround suggested by InfiniteWP:

Login to your InfiniteWP admin and click “Plugins & Themes” under “Manage” top left. Then select “Install” and pick some sites to install the new/updated plugin into.

You can choose to install a plugin from the following sources:

  • WordPress Repository
  • Your Computer
  • Remote URL

I chose My Computer because Gravity Forms is hosted in a private account with login so I just logged in, downloaded the latest version and used that file.

There are further options you can tick including: Activate plugin after install” and “Overwrite if plugins already exist” which you’ll probably want to select if you’re updating an existing plugin.

Once you upload the file you can hit “Install Plugin”.

infinitewp

Leon

Switch Your Whole WordPress Website to Secure HTTPS SSL

I had cause recently to purchase and install a Secure Cert for this website so I could accept credit card payments securely but since then I’ve seen a few people mention the benefits of fully securing your whole site, not just payment sections. There are benefits for Forms pages and communications with other sites too. Here are some of the steps necessary to switch a whole WordPress site to SSL  as I’ve just done successfully with this one.

Purchase an SSL Cert

These have always been expensive but I found an affordable “Domain Validated” RapidSSL one at €7.85 per year that should work for most small to medium sites at NameCheap.com. There’s a bit to purchasing it and installing it on your server but tutorials are available online and it can be done in a matter of minutes if you’re familiar with the process.

Dedicated IP Address

If you are on a shared hosting server you may need a Dedicated IP address for your site. Mine was on a private VPS so I’d nothing to do. Dedicated IPs should be pretty cheap from your hosting company.

HTTPS Plugin

There’s a great plugin for WordPress that allows you to make certain posts or pages use HTTPS or turn the whole site HTTPS including the admin section. It’s called WordPress HTTPS. It does a pretty good job of converting any urls it finds, including those in your content, to HTTPS automatically.

WordPress Settings

A quick way of switching all the internal urls to HTTPS once you have your secure cert installed is to add https:// to the WordPress URLs in Settings – General.

Theme/Template Tweaks

You may need to go into your theme’s code and convert any absolute http:// url references to relative urls. Especially if it’s old or custom made like mine. I found the following WordPress functions very handy here as it kinda future proofs your site if you ever switch urls again:

bloginfo( 'wpurl' );
bloginfo( 'template_url' );
bloginfo( 'stylesheet_url' );

301 Redirects

Technically search engines may view your HTTP and HTTPS site as 2 separate sites and cry duplicate content. You could sort this by using a 301 redirect in your .htaccess file and using a “Canonical” tag.

Speed Issues

One barrier to switching to HTTPS was that it can slow your site considerably as the encryption processes involved take time and cpu power but I havn’t noticed too much of a slow down. Bigger, busier sites may notice more. Here’s a Response report from Site24x7 for the changeover period (around May 7th). It looks bad but is only a slowdown of about 500ms on the previous weeks report:

HTTPS Speed Report

You may be required to update your website url with other services providers like Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools but that’s a bit beyond the scope of this article!

Leon

Add Rich Snippets to your WordPress Site and Improve Visibility in Google

The Rich Snippets thing has passed me by a bit recently and I only decided to look into it when a client of mine asked about it after having done some kind of SEO course. Here’s a full description of what Rich Snippets are on the Google site but basically it’s a way of controlling how you appear in Google search results.

You can have your result stand out from the rest and therefore have a better chance of being clicked simply by adding extra information to the result. In the example below, I’ve set my WordPress blog post to use the “Review” rich snippet which means there’s a star rating on my result in Google. It also includes breadcrumb links to different sections of my site under the main link “www.reverbstudios.ie > Blog > Reviews” as well as adding links to my Google + profile at the bottom. Catches the eye a bit more eh!?

Rich Snippets To set this up on your WordPress based website, first install the “All In One Schema.org Rich Snippets” plugin, activate it then go to Posts – Add New. You’ll see a new box on the post editing screen called “Configure Rich Snippet” which allows you to fill out the info that appears in your Google result. You can currently choose from the following formats:

  • Item Review
  • Event
  • People
  • Product
  • Recipe
  • Software Application
  • Video
  • Article

Whichever format you choose will show a different set of options to be filled in. Simple!

To test if it’s working correctly, use Google’s own Rich Snippet testing tool at – Google.com/webmasters/tools/richsnippets or just Google yourself in a few days!

Leon

Can’t Edit Posts in WordPress

A friend was asking advice on an issue he was having with his WordPress Blog whereby since upgrading to WordPress 3.5.1, he couldn’t edit any posts. He would try to edit the text, then save but none of the changes were saved. The only strange thing he’d done was to add a new user and delete the old one. Posts were showing as un-assigned to any user and refused to allow themselves to be re-assigned.

After a bit of messing around with the usual fixes such as de-activating plugins, re-uploading WordPress files manually etc..I decided to do a Check and Repair on the database in Cpanel and after a couple of goes, all was working again.

In Cpanel click on the “MySQL Databases” icon and then Check & Repair as below for the database in question:

Corrupt Database