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This Week’s New WordPress Plugins

It’s no secret that a large part of the WordPress publishing platforms power comes from its modular design and the ability to extend the systems core functionality with plugins. With the number of commercial and free plugins available, there’s almost nothing that’s impossible. WordPress has been used for everything from blogging to content management, from a social media platform t ao project management application. The only tough part is keeping track of all the great new plugins which are added to the mix on a weekly basis. So, with that in mind, here’s a rundown of some great new plugins which launched recently.

Ultimate Member Profile

If you’ve ever wanted to add community features to your existing WordPress site, the Ultimate Profile Widget may be worth looking at. According to the author, this widget is the easiest way to create powerful online communities and beautiful user profiles with WordPress.

You can find more information here

Recent Posts Slider Responsive

If you’re currently looking for a way to display your recent posts in an attractive slider, then you’ll want to test the Recent Posts Slider Responsive plugin. It allows you to display your recent posts in a flexible carousel, which is also mobile friendly. The slider displays via a shortcode and comes with a plethora of customization options which are all available via the slider’s settings panel.

You can find more information here

WP Portfolio Gallery

If you’re looking for a way to display a filterable portfolio of gallery and your theme doesn’t support it, then WP Portfolio Gallery may be the plugin you’ve been looking for. WP Portfolio gallery allows you to categorize your gallery images and then allow them to be displayed on the front end with handy filtering options. The most notable feature is the support for Pretty Photo and the developers say there is plenty more cool stuff in the works.

You can find more information here

Site Assets

If you collaborate on projects, and need to share assets with contributors or collaborators, then Site Assets is worth taking a look at. The Site Assets plugin allows the sharing of assets on a per page basis and also supports the ability to set permissions on who can add or view the assets. The plugin comes with a set of predefined styles, or can be customized to integrate neatly into your existing front-end design.

You can find more information here

Simple Post Info Widget

The final WordPress plugin worth noting is useful if you need a way to display the post info of a specific post, or set of posts, in the WordPress sidebar. You can easily do this using the post ID’s.

You can find more information here

Conclusion

With these plugins above, you’re able to add some pretty swanky enhancements to your existing blog or website, so crack those knuckles, grab a coffee and put some of these plugins to work. But, as always, avoid diving straight into deploying them on a live installation. Always test them on a development server first, or at least make a backup of your site before testing them in a live environment.

What other new plugins should be added to this list? Let us know in the comments!

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6 Web Design Trends for 2015

When it comes to doing business online, your company website is the virtual face of your business. It should be engaging prospecting clients and converting them into customers. But websites, as with fashion, are subject to design trends which tend to be driven by advances in technology as well as changes in user preferences. Let’s examine some of the trends in web design which have been gathering momentum and are definitely here to stay in 2015 and beyond.

Interactive Scrolling

With more users moving to mobile devices, designers have been forced to revisit the act of scrolling through pages. The two biggest trends in interactive scrolling are the use of parallax effects and infinite scrolling. Parallax scrolling employs layers which scroll at different rates and can be used to great effect for user engagement and improving the user experience. Infinite scrolling allows website pages to load additional content when users reach the end of a page. It also prevents users from having to navigate to a new page in order to continue browsing.

Flat Web Design

Flat web design is characterized by clean 2-dimensional designs which feature plenty of open space, crisp edges and bright colors. The example of a Flat UI most people will be familiar with is the design of Windows 8 interface. When used for the web, flat design gives websites a clean, polished look. It is user-friendly, works well with responsive design  (mobile devices) and results in quicker loading times for web pages.

Responsive Design

Responsive design refers to a mobile-friendly website design. Although this seems like a given, there are still millions of commercial websites out there who have yet to embrace the mobile revolution by offering up a mobile friendly version of their websites. If you’re not catering to mobile users, you’re leaving money on the table and leaving the gate wide open for your competition. Don’t present an opportunity for competition to steal your customers.

One Page Designs

There was a time not too long ago when one page websites were a novelty, but not anymore. One page websites are not suited for every kind of business. However, when used well, they offer several benefits over traditional designs including easier navigation, mobile friendliness and a move towards visual storytelling.

Larger Images

It’s not only website text which is increasing in size, images are too. In the past, bandwidth limitations and screen size put some severe restrictions on the use of large bold imagery, but those days are long gone. With modern devices supporting higher resolutions and internet connectivity becoming increasingly quicker, designers are able to employ bold imagery in a number of creative ways. Use them as background textures, or as big bold hero images which take center stage in many modern layouts.

Infographics

Although infographics have been around for some time, they’ve continued growing in popularity. They have showed value as a communication tool, in lower production costs and in the proliferation of tools and service providers who are available to help facilitate their production. The new trend in infographics is a move towards WebGraphics, which are essentially infographics which offer varying degrees of user interaction.

Conclusion

If your web site design is not moving towards incorporating any or all of the above elements, you’re very likely going to be seeing a decrease in the metrics which matter; declining conversion rates and organic search rankings. If you want your website to be effective and relevant in the marketplace, and prevent losing ground to your competition, incorporate these elements into your existing site or redesign, you’ll be glad you did.

Are there any tips that you want included? Let us know below!

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3 Tips To Streamline Your Small Business

It’s no secret that small businesses live and die according to the profit and loss statement. So, as a small business owner your primary focus is going to be generating and sustaining long-term profitability. Profitability, simply put, is all about increasing revenue and minimizing expenses.

In the modern internet-driven economy, there are many opportunities which exist for small business owners to leverage technology and streamline their companies. Outsourcing and automation can be used to great effect for lowering operational costs, while simultaneously growing revenues.

Below are three top tips for streamlining your small business, which will definitely save you time and money in the long-run.

Utilize managed web hosting

Websites have come a long way in the few years. No longer are they simply digital brochures. They’re virtual marketing machines that work to build your business. If you’re not doing so already, utilize a quality managed web hosting service to ensure that your marketing machine runs like a dream.

The benefits of outsourcing your web work include enhanced security, improved performance and absolutely no downtime. Additionally, benefit from expert technical support and daily backups. The best part is that all these services and benefits are available at a fraction of the cost of traditional in-house IT departments.

Automation of Email and Social Media

Although you can never replace real-time replies, personal engagement and genuine conversations with prospective customers, you can utilize social media to engage them online. A smart inbound marketing plan can automate and streamline parts of your customer acquisition process. Let social media automatically identify and engage your prospects online and initiate the process of converting them into customers. Two great social media tools worth checking out are Hootsuite and Buffer for Business.

Don’t forget about good old fashioned email marketing either. The reason it’s still around is because it works. Although it may not be as current as social media, it’s a proven strategy which can provide a significant ROI and sustainable contribution to revenues in the long-run.

Analytics

Knowledge is power, and nowhere is this more evident than in business. Numbers are important, and analytics can help you see the effects of your efforts on revenues and profitability. Tools such as Cyfe, allow small businesses to track all their important data, by aggregating information from multiple platforms into one centralized dashboard. The insights to be gained by combining data from web, social, accounting and any other platforms are endless. Smart businesses are leveraging this data for everything from creating more compelling product offerings, to building better buyer profiles. These are essential for lowering customer acquisition costs and improving conversion rates.

Conclusion

Save time, money and your sanity by streamlining your small business in 2015 using these three tips. The time, effort and money you invest now, will pay handsome dividends for years to come. By streamlining your business, you’re making an investment in your own long-term success, and freeing up resources which could be invested into your business to fuel more growth. Just remember that any systems are only as good as their weakest link, so pay attention to your people, your processes and your products in the pursuit of profitability.

What do you think? Do these tips hold true to you and your business? Let us know if you have any more to be added in the comments below!

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Haunting Your Server: The Newly Discovered “Ghost” Vulnerability

Software security researchers have recently identified a bug in the Linux GNU C Library (shorthand: glibc) that provides hackers with the ability to take remote control of an entire system without having any prior knowledge of the system’s credentials. Qualys, a security firm out of California, identified GHOST and disclosed their discovery Tuesday.

This security issue is a critical one and affects an enormous number of systems on the Internet. Due to its seriousness and its widespread possible affect, there is a large amount of media coverage that you can look to if you would like to find out more information about Ghost:

or simply do a search for “Ghost vulnerability”.

We want to let you know that at this time, all shared servers, as well as Cloud VPS and Dedicated Servers that we have access to have been patched for this vulnerability. As long as you have not manually/by choice removed our access keys, your server will have been patched in our update and you don’t have anything to worry about.

If you manage your own server and have removed our access, we are unable to secure your machine for you. We encourage you to patch this issue immediately, as the security issue is a critical one. If you have any questions, or would like to add our access back so that we can secure your server against this vulnerability for you, please contact support.

If you would like to verify and test your server yourself, there is a pretty comprehensive article over at the nixCraft blog on how to test and patch a variety of Linux Distributions.

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What Small Business Owners Would like to see in 2015

The start of a new year always brings with it fresh hopes, and this is especially true for small business owners. 2015 seems to be no different. Small business owners are in a difficult position and are often hard pressed to find a balance between managing business and making a profit. They often look to Washington for new bills, laws and developments which can ease the load.

Recently, the Washington post published a rather interesting and insightful piece based on a survey conducted by On Small Business. On Small Business invited small business owners and entrepreneurs to submit the headlines which they’d most like to see coming out of the Capital in 2015, and below you’ll find a small selection of the one’s which should resonate with you if you’re in the SMB category.

JOBS Act Implementation

Jason Holstine, owner and chief executive at the home improvement store Amicus Green Building Center, said that the headline he’d most like to see in 2015 would be “SEC implements JOBS Act; businesses free to crowdfund”

Jason went on to explain that they regularly receive queries from customers about whether or not their business is interested in accepting investors. However, current regulations require these people to be accredited investors in order to be in a position to accept such offers. Jason indicated that he saw a huge opportunity to use crowdfunding as an avenue to leverage community support to fuel growth.

Immigration Reform

Mike Moloney, founder of FilterGrade, an image editing software start-up in Boston had a response which is sure to set the comments section alight. Mike indicated that the headline he’d most like to see in 2015 would be “Immigration reform finally announced for start-ups”

This reform would see an attempt to bring the best talent to the US by making it easier for foreign workers to obtain green cards and visas. Mike believes that the move would contribute positively to the growth of the U.S. economy by attracting top entrepreneurs, designers and engineers and in so help both small business and start-ups alike.

Obamacare Reforms

And of course Obamacare reform requests were also submitted. Tim Wulf, President of JJ or Reno wanted to see the headline “Affordable Care Act Defunded by Congress” as some economists anticipate the cost of implementation of Obamacare to be at least $1 per labour hour – which places a massive strain on small businesses already struggling to survive. Although many small businesses are positioning themselves to minimize the impact of this law, they remain hopeful that it will be defunded by the Supreme Court when the case comes up later this year.

Tax Reforms

Finally, tax reforms also seemed to be a popular topic. More than a couple of respondents wanted to see tax reform related headlines. One submission in particular, by Donna Partin, president of Merry Maids was probably one which many small business owners would like to see. Donna would like to see the headline where the Federal government cracks down on businesses cheating on their taxes.

Donna said that abiding by the tax laws is expensive, and that those who cheat on their taxes run up the federal deficit and ultimately place greater strain on the businesses playing by the rules. Donna asked people to consider the tax implications if the government would place a greater focus on aggressively pursuing tax dodgers, rather than harassing those small businesses that were playing by the rules and already paying their fair share.

Conclusion

What would you as a small business or entrepreneur like to see from Washington in 2015 Tax reforms? Improvements to Obamacare? The ability to crowdfund? All of the above? Let us know below in the comments.

While it seems like 2015 is already off to a busy start, we will see if congressional leaders and President Obama heed any of the voices from the small business community.

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