Where Did Our Tech Support Content Go?

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, Reich Web Consulting was just Reich Consulting.  I came from a background in IT and continued to take IT and support clients for several years.  Since then, we’ve narrowed our focus to web development and web marketing.  We’re no longer in the tech support business.

With that in mind, we want our website to reflect the services we offer today.  We’ll be moving all of our tech support content out to Medium, so those articles that are still helpful remain available to those who need them.

Our site at reich-consulting.net will focus on the topics in which we specialize, specifically web developer and web marketing.

Your WordPress Hosting Is Upgrading to PHP 7.2

Are you a Reich Web Consulting WordPress Hosting customer?

We don’t want to bore you with technical details, but we want you to know that some changes are coming to your web hosting platform that may affect your website.

Your site runs on WordPress. WordPress is written in a language called PHP, which has gone through many versions. Your site currently runs on PHP 5.6.  This version will reach its end of life on January 1, 2019.  This means that it is no longer supported software, and will become a security problem if not upgraded.

Don’t worry! You chose to host with Reich Web Consulting because we’ve got your back. We still do. If you trust Reich Web Consulting to do right by you, well, there’s no need to keep reading. Go enjoy this beautiful summer day! If you’d like to learn more, continue on.

The Benefits

There’s a reason we’re not asking if you want this upgrade, and that reason is SECURITY. Not performing the upgrade would eventually leave your website open to attack.  Every web host that supports WordPress and PHP must make this transition within the next 5 months, or willfully choose to leave their customers vulnerable to hackers.

As an added benefit, PHP 7.2 is significantly faster than PHP 5. Some benchmarks indicate that PHP 7.2 can run a WordPress page request over 2x faster than PHP 5! Faster page loads mean more users will stay on your site longer, and may even help search engine ranking.

Our Upgrade Plan

We’re upgrading to the latest version of PHP, which is 7.2. Most sites will work without any modifications, but some may require additional work.

In order to upgrade our sites without causing service interruptions, we’ll go through the following process.

  1. Run a Compatibility Tool Against Your Site to Determine if the PHP 7.2 upgrade is safe.
  2. If it’s not we’ll determine what components are incompatible.
  3. If those components are free and won’t affect your site performance to upgrade them, we’ll go ahead and update those components.
  4. If making your site compatible with PHP 7.2 will include any costs, we’ll contact you before we do anything. This could be due to premium plugin upgrades, or significant labor involved in more complex scenarios.

Only after all the sites we host are tested and confirmed to work with PHP 7.2 will be “flip the switch.

Our Upgrade Timeline

We plan to begin testing immediately.  We plan to complete the process and finalize the upgrade to PHP 7.2 at the end of August.

2016-08-31 How to Take Your Life Back From Social Media Featured Image

How to Take Your Life Back from Social Media

Everything wants your attention and almost nothing deserves it. There are moments when the noise generated by the Internet seems to drown out the things that matter.

Count how many notifications your phone generates in an hour. How many of those distractions really deserved your attention? On my average day, I’d say somewhere close to zero.

Our modern mobile obsession didn’t bother me until recently. I figured it’s a social change and that we’ll adapt to it in time. But as I struggled to meet a deadline I realized the speed of Darwinian evolution wasn’t going to fly for me.  Five different social networks screamed for attention as dozens of blogs were actively nagging me with Push Notifications to read new posts.

Each time something tugs at our attention, it takes time to get it back. Some studies show it can take over 20 minutes.  Reading a new comment on Facebook only takes a minute, but getting your brain back into the task you just abandoned could take longer.

Whether you’re self-employed like me or you work for somebody else, your time is money to somebody. And more importantly, your time is your time. Take control of it.

I don’t suggest you stop using smart phones or social media.  I love this stuff. I’m suggesting you use technology intelligently to make it your bitch and not the other way around.

Disable Unnecessary Phone Notifications

I’ll cut to the chase: here are instructions on how to disable notifications on the two major types of smart phones, iPhone and Android:

If you have a smart phone turn off notifications from apps that aren’t that important. For me this included Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, shopping apps, news apps, and others. If anyone expects you to be instantly available through any of these apps (looking at you, mom!) realign their expectations and suggest contacting you a different way if they really need your attention.

You won’t lose notifications: most apps just present them the next time you open the app.  Disabling app notifications ensures that you see them on your schedule and not when the app wants your attention.

Social networks and app developers know that once they have your attention, you’ll likely waste a few minutes scrolling through your feed, reading junk, and generating ad revenue. Your wasted time equals their money. Don’t play their game.

This simple step has simplified my life considerably. Disabling phone notifications has improved my productivity, and when I’m spending time with friends and family I feel more present.  Now I only check my phone when they start to bore me!

Disable Browser Notifications

As if mobile notifications weren’t distracting enough, now the web has push notifications too. While the technology has cool implications for web applications, it’s currently being used to nag users to revisit social media and blogs.

Embrace RSS

RSS is a web format that’s popular among geeks but never caught on among the unclean masses.  Bear in mind: I call you unclean as I sit here typing with orange Cheeto fingers.

Think of RSS as push notifications in reverse. So… pull notifications?  Kind of.

A website’s RSS feed is updated whenever the website has new content to share.  But the website doesn’t blast this information to all of your devices. Instead it quietly updates it’s RSS feed, and it’s up to the user to refresh the feed and see what’s changed.  I use a program called Feedly to view and manage my RSS subscriptions to about 30 blogs. When I open Feedly it provides me with a list of unread articles from all my favorite news sources.

I’m not sure why this model isn’t more popular.  RSS isn’t annoying. It doesn’t beg for your attention. It’s the information you want, when you want it, and not a moment before.

No Self-Control? Lock Yourself Out of Social Media

If you really want to level-up your productivity, install a browser plugin to lock yourself out of time-wasting websites and social media. I use a plugin called StayeFocused to keep me away from Facebook during my office hours.  Of course there’s always a way to circumvent the system, but it prevents turning knee-jerk moments of boredom or frustration into a spiral of pointless scrolling and clicking.

Summary

Nobody is suggesting you give up social media. The productivity suggestions above are deceptively simple, but on average I’d say they’ve saved me an hour every work day. That’s an additional hour of billable time. Or an extra hour to spend with my family, or on hobbies and projects I’d rather be working on. Try it out. If after a week you don’t feel better about life, you can always go back to donating a portion of your day to Mark Zuckerberg.

Schedule Meetings with Doogle and Save Time Featured Image

Schedule Meetings with Doodle and Save Time

I know, I know: Tim Ferris said it first. Use Doodle to schedule meetings. It’s out there now.  You can stop reading if you’re that busy or that lazy.

I don’t need to schedule meetings often and for that I consider myself very lucky. In my past careers meetings were never a tool to move the work or the company forward. I’m not a fan of meetings, but sometimes they’re necessary.

Yesterday I had to schedule a meeting for me, a freelance designer, and a local business owner I’m hoping to earn as a client.  I have a flexible schedule.  My designer works a regular nine-to-five so he’s limited to evenings and weekends.  The potential client runs a brick-and-mortar store and three e-commerce sites in addition to manufacturing much of her product so her time is precious too.

Why Scheduling Meeting Sucks

Getting two or more busy people to agree to a single place and time is like herding cats. Endless email exchanges waste your time and theirs. Normally the meeting organizer suggests a time and prays that the attendees can make it. Thus begins a seemingly endless cycle of,

“I can’t do Wednesday morning. I’ve got yoga. But I can do 3:00 on Tuesday!”

“ooh, I’ve got a thing then! Can we do Thursday?”

“My kid has a piano/soccer/jujitsu recital/game/death match then. How about next Monday?”

 and so on and so forth until all parties desperately need for this meeting to take place at a marijuana dispensary.

How Doodle Works

Doodle flips the script on scheduling. It flips the script straight into the trash can in fact, and then explains in a calm but convincing tone that if you don’t like it you and your whole bloodline can go suck eggs. (Not hyperbolic at all.)

Rather than suggesting a meeting time and waiting for attendees to tell you why it sucks, Doodle lets you suggest a bunch of possible meeting times and lets your guests choose the times that work for them.

Once all of your guests have responded you’re left with a condensed list of times that work for everyone.  Easy-peasy! You’ll love how easy it is to schedule a meeting. Your guests will love how you didn’t waste their time with endless email. And if you’re a meeting addict and can’t get away with the free tier, you’ll love the price.

How to Add Social Media Icons to your WordPress Site Featured Image

How to Add Social Icons to Your WordPress Site

One of easiest and most effective ways to integrate your WordPress website into the world of social media is to add links to your social media profiles.  These links help your visitors find and follow your social profiles, and just about every website has them. There are a variety of ways to integrate social links or social icons into your WordPress website, and I’ll demonstate three methods in this article.

1. Choose a Theme That Supports Social Icons

If you’re in the early stages of developing your website, the simplest way to add icons for your social profiles to WordPress is to choose a theme that provides social links as a feature. Lots of themes have built in support for social media icons. All of my favorite premium themes support them including the theme I’m currently using on this site (Enfold). Lots of free themes in the WordPress Theme Directory support social icon, and even WordPress’ current default theme Twenty Sixteen has a social icon menu built in.

There are few things to keep in mind:

  • There are better reasons to choose a WordPress theme, and there are other ways to add social media icons. So if you’ve chosen a theme but it doesn’t support social media icons, you don’t necessarily need to discard it for that reason.
  • Make sure the theme supports all of your social media profiles, or provides a way to add new ones. I recently built a website for a well-known romance author and she needed an icon for Goodreads, a niche social network for authors and their fans. My theme didn’t support it directly but made it easy to add a new social network and icon.
Highlighted in this image is the social icon area built into Enfold, one of my favorite premium themes.

Highlighted in this image is the social icon area built into Enfold, one of my favorite premium themes.

2. Use a Plugin to Add Social Icon Support

You can use a plugin to add social icons to your website. Some plugins, like Social Icons, work by letting you manage a list of your social media profiles and then  the plugin displays the icons as a widget in one of your WordPress widget areas. Some like cbnet Social Menu use WordPress’ menu tool to manage your social icons. Choose a plugin wisely: make sure it has a high rating and good reputation, and that it’s author updates it regularly.

In this screenshot I've highlight the social icons that have been inserted with a plugin.

In this screenshot I’ve highlight the social icons that have been inserted with a plugin.

3. Manually Add Social Icon Support

If you’re not afraid of writing some code, adding your social icons to your WordPress theme is easy. You need to choose where in your theme you want to add the icons, insert some HTML code, and then add some styling to your theme’s style.css.  Here’s some sample code. Obviously your code will differ base on your theme and how you want to style your icons.

HTML Code

Add the following HTML to your theme to render a list of social icons. You could place this anywhere, but you’ll usually want your icons to appear in your header (header.php) or footer (footer.php):

<ul class="social-icons"> <li><a href="https://www.facebook.com/user"><em class="fa fa-facebook-square"></em></a></li> <li><a href="https://www.twitter.com/user"><em class="fa fa-twitter-square"></em></a></li> </ul>

CSS Code

Add the following CSS code to your theme’s style.css to style the list as a horizontal list of icons. You’ll need to modify the code to integrate the look and feel of the icons into your own theme.

/** * Load FontAwesome if your theme isn't already doing it. */ @import url(https://maxcdn.bootstrapcdn.com/font-awesome/4.6.3/css/font-awesome.min.css); /** * Style and position the list. */ .social-icons { top: 0; right: 0; margin: 0; padding: 0; list-style: none; text-align: right; margin: 10px auto; max-width: 1174px; } /** * Style the list items. */ .social-icons li { padding: 0; display: inline-block; font-size: 30px; } /** * Override the colors of the FontAwesome icons to be appropriate for the * social network. */ .social-icons li .fa-facebook-square { color: #3e5b98; } .social-icons li .fa-twitter-square { color: #4da7de; }
In this image I've highlighted the social icons that I manually added to my theme code.

In this image I’ve highlighted the social icons that I manually added to my theme code.

Summary

There are a number of ways to easily add social media links and icons to your WordPress website using themes, plugins, and custom code.  But adding links to your social media profiles are just one way to integrate your website with social media! Stay tuned for more tutorials on integrating your WordPress website with social media.